Opinion: Palestinians are Not Numbers: On the Future of the Palestinian Discourse

By Ramzy Baroud

Palestine can never be truly understood through numbers, because numbers are dehumanising, impersonal, and, when necessary, can also be contrived to mean something else entirely. Numbers are not meant to tell the story of the human condition, nor should they ever serve as a substitute for emotions.

Indeed, the stories of life, death – and everything in-between – cannot be truly and fully appreciated through charts, figures, and numbers. The latter, although useful for many purposes, is a mere numerical depository of data. Anguish, joy, aspirations, defiance, courage, loss, collective struggle, and so on, however, can only be genuinely expressed through the people who lived through these experiences.

Numbers, for example, tell us that over 2,200 Palestinians were killed during the Israeli war on the Gaza Strip between July 8 and August 27, 2014, over 500 of them being children. Over 17,000 homes were completely destroyed, and thousands of other buildings, including hospitals, schools, and factories were either destroyed or severely damaged during the Israeli strikes.

This is all true, the kind of truth that is summarised into a neat infographic, updated occasionally, in case, inevitably, some of the critically wounded eventually lose their lives.

But a single chart, or a thousand, can never truly describe the actual terror felt by a million children who feared for their lives during those horrific days; or transport us to a bedroom where a family of ten huddled in the dark, praying for God’s mercy as the earth shook, concrete collapsed and the glass shattered all around them; or convey the anguish of a mother holding the lifeless body of her child.

It is easy – and justifiable – to hold the media accountable for the dehumanisation of the Palestinians or, sometimes, ignoring them altogether. However, if blame must be apportioned, then others too, including those who consider themselves ‘pro-Palestine’, must reconsider their own position. We are all, to an extent, collectively guilty of seeing Palestinians as sheer victims, hapless, passive, intellectually stunted, and ill-fated people, desperate to be ‘saved.’

When numbers monopolise the limelight in a people’s narrative, they do more damage than merely reduce complex human beings to data; they erase the living, too. Regarding Palestine, Palestinians are rarely engaged as equals; they persist at the receiving end of charity, political expectations, and unsolicited instructions on what to say and how to resist. They are often the fodder for political bargains by factions or governments but, rarely, the initiative takers and the shapers of their own political discourse.

The Palestinian political discourse has, for years, vacillated between one constructed around the subject of victimhood – which is often satisfied by numbers of dead and wounded – and another pertaining to the elusive Fatah-Hamas unity. The former only surfaces whenever Israel decides to bomb Gaza under any convenient pretext at the time and the latter was a response to western accusations that Palestinian political elites are too fractured to constitute a potential ‘peace partner’ for Israeli rightwing Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Many around the world can only understand – or relate to – Palestinians through their victimisation or factional affiliation – which, themselves, carry subsidiary meanings relevant to ‘terrorism’, ‘radicalism’, among others.

The reality is, however, often different from reductionist political and media discourses. Palestinians are not just numbers. They are not spectators either, in a political game that insists on marginalising them. Soon after the 2014 war, a group of Palestinian youth, together with supporters from around the world, launched an important initiative that aimed to liberate the Palestinian discourse, at least in Gaza, from the confines of numbers and other belittling interpretations.

‘We Are Not Numbers’ was launched in early 2015. The group’s ‘About Us’ page reads: “numbers don’t convey … the daily personal struggles and triumphs, the tears and the laughter, the aspirations that are so universal that if it weren’t for the context, they would immediately resonate with virtually everyone.”

Recently, I spoke to several members of the group, including the Gaza Project Manager, Issam Adwan. It was, indeed, inspiring to hear young, articulate, and profoundly resolute Palestinians speaking a language that transcends all the stereotypical discourses on Palestine. They were neither victims nor factional and were hardly consumed by the pathological need to satisfy western demands and expectations.

“We have talents – we are writers, we are novelists, we are poets, and we have so much potential that the world knows little about,” Adwan told me.

Khalid Dader, one of the Organisation’s nearly 60 active writers and bloggers in Gaza, contends with the designation that they are ‘storytellers.’ “We don’t tell stories, rather stories tell us … stories make us,” he told me. For Dader, it is not about numbers or words, but the lives that are lived, and the legacies that often go untold.

Somaia Abu Nada wants the world to know her uncle, because “he was a person with a family and people who loved him.” He was killed in the 2008 Israeli war on Gaza, and his death has profoundly impacted his family and community. Over 1,300 people were also killed in that war. Each one of them was someone’s uncle, aunt, son, daughter, husband, or wife. None of them was just a number.

“‘We Are Not Numbers’ made me realise how necessary our voices are,” Mohammed Rafik told me. This assertion cannot be overstated. So many speak on behalf of Palestinians but rarely do Palestinians speak for themselves. “These are unprecedented times of fear when our land appears to be broken and sad,” Rafik said, “but we never abandon our sense of community.”

Adwan reminded us of Arundhati Roy’s famous quote, “There’s really no such thing as the ‘voiceless’. There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard.”

It was refreshing to talk to Palestinians who are taking the decisive step of declaring that they are not numbers, because it is only through this realisation and resolve that Palestinian youth can challenge all of us and assert their own collective identity as a people.

Indeed, Palestinians do have a voice, and a strong, resonating one at that.

(Source / 24.09.2020)

Opinion: Thousands of Palestinian homes face demolition as Israel refuses building permits

By Dr. Belal Yasin

In the early 1990s, Wael Al-Tahan submitted an application to the Israeli authorities for a permit to build a house on his land at Jabal Mukaber in occupied Jerusalem. The application was refused with no reason given. After many such attempts, Al-Tahan had no option but to build his house without a permit. At that stage the Israeli-led municipality started proceedings against him and issued a demolition order.

Despite trying to get a building permit many times, Al-Tahan was fined $30,000 and, on 11 August, had to watch as the authorities demolished his five-bedroom house, in which 25 members of his family lived, most of them children.

This demolition was not an exception. Israel’s policy of rejecting building permit applications from Palestinians started many years ago and has led to the displacement of hundreds of Palestinian families following the demolition of their homes.

In 2019 alone, the Israelis demolished more than 140 houses in occupied Jerusalem. From then until mid-August this year, more than 100 more residential and commercial facilities were demolished in the city.

Palestinians in Jerusalem are subjected to many racist practices when attempting to get building permits. The bureaucratic administrative procedures can last up to eight years, and the cost of obtaining the necessary documents could be as high as $60,000. Moreover, the authorities are unwilling to establish structural plans for Palestinian neighborhoods. As a result, some Palestinians have to build their houses without getting a permit, only to get demolition orders later on.

READ: Israel to demolish mosque in occupied Jerusalem 

Israeli settlers, however, have no such problems. According to data from Peace Now, 48,000 building permits were issued by the authorities in favour of settlers from 1991 to 2018, whereas Palestinians were granted only 9,350 during the same period, less than a third of the applications made.

More demolitions - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]
More demolitions – Cartoon

In this context, the Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories has documented Israel’s efforts to hinder any Palestinian attempts to build homes, while the occupation authorities simultaneously allocate large funds to develop and expand the infrastructure of Jewish neighbourhoods and the illegal settlement blocs in Greater Jerusalem.

“Unauthorised construction in Muslim, Druze, Christian and Circassian neighbourhoods is not groundless,” explained Knesset member Nitzan Horowitz, “but rather a result of long years of facing hardship to obtain housing and planning permission due to discriminatory practices against non-Jewish citizens, and the authorities’ failed strategies.”

Denying thousands of requests made by Palestinians to obtain building permits, and implementing arbitrary measures that put their houses at risk of demolition, is a violation of international law, including Article I of the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (ICSPCA). This confirms that apartheid is a crime against humanity and that inhuman acts resulting from the policies and practices of apartheid and similar policies and practices of racial segregation and discrimination, as defined in article II of the Convention, violate the principles of international law, in particular the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, and constitute a serious threat to international peace and security.

Israel’s policies and practices against the Palestinian presence in Jerusalem are a flagrant violation of human rights laws and conventions. A legal campaign is needed urgently to condemn Israel’s occupation and stop its discriminatory policies.

Report: Israel demolished 51 structures in Jerusalem in August 

(Source / 24.09.2020)

Raising funds for criminal Jewish settler exposes deep-rooted Israeli racism

Arson attack, carried out by extremist Israeli Jewish settler Ben Uliel, on 31 July 2015, killed 18-month-old toddler Ali Dawabsheh and his parents Saad and Riham

By Robert Andrews

It has become a norm in Israel that any Israeli soldier or extremist Israeli Jewish settler, who kills Palestinian civilians, to become a national champion.

Deep-rooted anti-Palestinian racism is endemic across large segments of Israeli society. This was demonstrated yet again when an Israeli crowdfunding campaign raised over 1.38 million NIS (equivalent to £310,000) in just five days last week for the legal appeal fund of Amiram Ben Uliel, the Israeli terrorist who received three life sentences for killing three members of the Palestinian Dawabsheh family five years ago.

Ben Uliel’s arson attack on 31 July 2015, killed 18-month-old toddler Ali Dawabsheh and his parents Saad and Riham. Ahmed Dawabsheh, the sole survivor of the attack and only five years old at the time, was left with second- and third-degree burns on over 60 per cent of his body.

The racist campaign fund, set up by Ben Uliel’s wife Orian and the far-right legal aid group Honenu after his sentencing last Monday, passed its campaign goals in just five days. To date, the campaign has received money from over 4,900 contributors and has been supported by a number of prominent Israeli personalities, including more than two dozen rabbis from across the national-religious spectrum and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s eldest son, Yair.

“In preparation for the appeal to the Supreme Court a defence team of first-rate attorneys is being formed at a particularly great cost,” wrote the rabbis in a joint statement urging Ben Uliel’s release. “We call on the public to contribute generously [to this crowdfunding campaign], everyone according to individual ability, for this life-saving campaign.”

In a separate statement, Rabbi Elyakim Levanon, the Chief Rabbi of the Shomron and the head of the Elon Moreh Yeshiva noted: “All of Am Yisrael is in a crisis. I call on each and every one to join the campaign to release this innocent man and to free him from all guilt, both with prayers on Rosh HaShana and with substantial contributions.”

The rabbis’ joint statement and such clear support from Israelis for Ben Uliel’s appeal to succeed exemplifies a growing tide of anti-Palestinian sentiment across Israeli society that increasingly regards Israelis who attack and kill Palestinians as heroes.

The social media clip that went viral showing scores of Israelis dancing in celebration of the news of Ali Dawabsheh’s death illustrates the elation with which such news is received in Israel.

More recently, an Israeli soldier shot Palestinian Abdel Fattah Al-Sharif in the head as he lay on the ground wounded and unarmed. Elor Azaria was released in May 2018 after serving only nine months of his 18 month sentence for manslaughter. Azaria executed Al-Sharif 11 minutes after he was shot and brought to the ground; the soldier was originally charged with murder only for this to be dropped hastily by the Israeli Military Police.

Unsurprisingly, Azaria’s conviction for manslaughter caused uproar across Israel and led a diverse range of social and political leaders to express open solidarity with him and call for a pardon.

According to Knesset Member Yifat Shasha-Biton, the entire case was “fundamentally distorted” from the outset, while Netanyahu, upon learning of Azaria’s conviction, noted that it was “a difficult and painful day for all of us”. Mass protests calling for Azaria’s release were held across Israel; according to police estimates, as many as 5,000 people gathered in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, with “death to Arabs” being chanted.

Since his release from prison in 2018, Azaria, who shot the Palestinian in the head, has gone on to become a celebrity in Israel, receiving large popular support and even being paid to feature in Likud political campaign advertisements in 2019 alongside Deputy Environmental Protection Minister Yaron Mazuz.

Azaria’s increasing fame comes against the backdrop of a justice system in which, for example, the then 17-year-old Palestinian Ahed Tamimi was held in a military prison for eight months for slapping an Israeli soldier after her cousin was shot in the head with a rubber bullet, while the cold-blooded murder of Palestinians attracts minimal jail sentences or, in many cases, none at all. “Without the images that went viral in the country and around the world…” wrote Allison Kaplan Sommer in Haaretz, “nobody would have known his [Azaria’s] name.”

The damning indictment of racism within Israeli society, exemplified by the widespread calls to release the murderer of the Dawabsheh family and the lack of accountability afforded to soldiers who murder Palestinians, is likely to surprise those still preoccupied with the myth of an egalitarian, democratic Israel.

It serves as a wakeup call that forces reasonable people to grapple with the reality of Israeli society in 2020, which is so unlike the image promoted by its apologists. Far from the social contract laid out in its founding declaration, Israel has become a place in which even the convicted killer of an 18-month toddler and his parents is defended vehemently and supported financially both openly and, to Israel’s eternal disgrace, enthusiastically.

(Source / 23.09.2020)

A brother and a sister, pending a DNA test

By Rasha Herzallah

Sometime following the death of his mother in June 2004, Ayman was tidying the clothes inside the wardrobe of his deceased mother, Samira bin Abd al-Salam, when he broke into tears, unable to believe that she was gone.

In the blink of an eye, everything changed, and Ayman bin Hadia was shocked after he found an old document in the wardrobe proving that Samira was not his mother. The document had been obtained by his father, Abdelkader bin Hadia, a Tunisian national, from the representative office of the Palestine Liberation Organization in Damascus in 1982.

The document reads: “The representative office of the Palestine Liberation Organization in the Syrian Arab Republic hereby certifies that the child Ayman Abd al-Rahman Al Dirawi was born in Beirut, Lebanon on 11 June 1982, and that his parents are among the martyrs who were killed during the Zionist invasion of Lebanon.”

Astonished by the new fact, Ayman headed to his father Abdelkader and asked him about the matter. The father broke into tears, fearing that Ayman would leave him after knowing the fact that he was not their son, and that he adopted him from the PLO office after his Palestinian parents were killed in the Sabra and Shatila massacre, which was committed by the Israeli occupation army and the Phalange militia on September 16, 1982.

Abdelkader, who once worked as a director at the Tunisian Institute of Culture and had a strong relationship with the PLO at the time, told Ayman the truth and narrated to him how the fighters of the PLO detected him following the massacre, after his mother Aisha had hidden him in a pot while he was three months old, together with his identification papers, for fear of getting killed during the massacre. The PLO fighters then took him to the organization’s headquarters in the Syrian capital, Damascus, with the rest of the children whose families were massacred. Ayman remained there in the PLO office for three months, before the Tunisian spouses Abdelkader bin Hadia and Samira bin Abd Al-Salam came and asked the organization to adopt him.

Abdelkader and his wife obtained the necessary papers and documents from the PLO office, and the necessary measures were taken by the Tunisian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to facilitate the entry of Ayman into Tunisia, who was then granted the Tunisian nationality.

It was not easy for Ayman to discover the truth, but he promised his father, Abdelkader, to stay with him, as in the end he was the one who raised and took care of him. “I never felt that I was not their son at all, they did never let me feel this, they did their duty to me to the fullest,” says Ayman.

The couple had not informed Ayman about the truth because they feared that he would leave them and go to search for his Palestinian family, as the former were so attached to him. However in September 2012, Abdelkader passed away and Ayman got married, and then began the journey to search for his Palestinian family.

In 2016, Ayman obtained a visa to travel to Lebanon, and the moment he arrived, he went to Shatila refugee camp to search for his parents’ grave. But the people of the camp told him that his parents were buried in a mass grave with those who were killed during the massacre, and they guided him to the road. Ayman walked with heavy steps and a shaky body until he reached the mass grave, where he fell on his knees. He spoke to them in tears, placed a wreath for them and went away.

“It is difficult to describe the feeling. I cried a lot. I was very sad, but at some point I felt proud that I was the son of two martyrs. I started to imagine how they looked, and I wished I had found a picture of them,” Ayman, 38, says.

Ayman’s search for his family’s roots did not stop, and the search led him to find people from the Al Dirawi family living in the Gaza Strip. After communicating with them it became clear that they were his uncles. They told him that his father Abd al-Rahman immigrated from Gaza in 1969, heading to Jordan and from there to the Syrian capital, Damascus, and then to Shatila camp in Beirut, where he married Aisha and later had the baby Ayman.

“I wish to speak with my sister, I was told that her name is Huda and that she lives in Gaza and is 50 years old. She is married and has children, but the family has reservations. I must do a DNA test. This is what the family is asking for, despite them welcoming me,” Ayman adds.

The blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip, the closure of the border crossings, and the difficulty of Huda’s travel to Egypt to conduct a DNA test still prevent the meeting of the two brothers. “Once the test is carried out, I will obtain the Palestinian nationality, this is what the Palestinian embassy in Tunis told me, I want my three daughters to meet their aunt,” says Ayman.

We reached out to Huda Al Dirawi, a mother of five sons and four daughters, who lives in in Nusseirat refugee camp, who confirmed that she had a DNA test in Gaza, but failed to obtain a result due to the fact that the available medical equipment is limited in capabilities.

The idea of ​​having a brother seemed strange to her, but she says: “I am a realistic person. I do not want to hope much, I don’t like sensitive and sad situations because I have been deprived of my parents and have lived hard situations enough. I do not know if he [Ayman] turns out to be my brother how I will deal with him.”

Despite her fear, Huda often asks her children to communicate with Ayman, and they like that, but at other times she is afraid of her children being attached to Ayman or vice versa.

We asked her, do you really wish he was your brother? She replied, “I wish to have a brother, this is a beautiful thing.”

Ayman, who is currently working in a car showroom in Sousse, Tunisia, is also concerned whether he has siblings from his Palestinian parents or not, or where they are. He is always in touch with official Palestinian authorities and with anybody from the Al Dirawi family in an attempt to once reunion with his family.

(Source / 21.09.2020)

Occupying Palestine is rotting Israel from inside. No Gulf peace deal can hide that

Israel has twisted its laws and contorted its politics to protect the occupation. The UAE and Bahrain deals won’t create peace

Israeli soldiers repressing West Bank peaceful protest

By Raja Shehadeh 

More than a quarter of a century after Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat shook hands on the White House lawn, Israel has managed to turn its occupation of Palestinian territory from a burden into an asset. What was for so long a liability – the flagrant violation of international law – has now become a valued commodity. Understanding this development is key to explaining why the Israelis are making peace with two distant Gulf states but not their closest neighbours, the Palestinians – without whom there can be no real peace.

Israel has learned in recent years how to manage the occupation in perpetuity with minimal cost. But from the very beginning of the occupation in June 1967, Israel has been unwilling to recognise the Palestinian nation or cede control of the Palestinian territory occupied in order to make peace.

The evidence to support this claim is easily found in Israel’s own archives. Two days after the occupation began, Israel passed military order number three, which referred to the fourth Geneva convention relative to the protection of civilian persons in time of war – mandating that military courts apply the provisions of the convention to their proceedings. Four months later, this portion of the order was deleted.

In September 1967, the legal counsel to the Israeli foreign ministry, Theodor Meron, was asked by the prime minister, Levi Eshkol, whether building new settlements in the occupied territories would violate the Geneva convention, which prohibits an occupying power from transferring its civilians into the territory seized in war. He answered in the affirmative. But his advice was rejected and the government proceeded from that moment to establish illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Over the following months, Israel began a process that would continue for many years: amending laws governing Palestinian land – from the periods of Ottoman, British mandate and Jordanian control of the territory – to construct a false “legal” basis for the acquisition of land and other natural resources for the establishment of Jewish settlements.

I spent much of my working life, from 1979 until 1993, investigating and resisting Israel’s abuses of law in the occupied territories, and warning about the implications of building illegal settlements, all to no avail.

Yet it was not the legal transformations alone that enabled settlements to be built and to flourish. The militant Zionist thinker Vladimir Jabotinsky had written, in the 1920s, that “settlement[s] can … develop under the protection of a force that is not dependent on the local population behind an iron wall which they will be powerless to break down”. And so it was.

There was an added component to the transformation of the laws to enable the settlement project and that was sheer violence by settlers: vigilante actions that seemed to go against the law Israel had put down and bound itself to. In the early 80s Al-Haq, a West Bank-based human rights organisation that I was then directing, worked hard to document incidents of settler violence.

At the time we naively believed that if only Israelis knew what was taking place and the failure of law enforcement to stop it, they would take action to prevent it. We were unaware that it was all part of the Israeli struggle for the land. The agents of the orderly state can stay within the boundaries of their rewritten laws while the unruly settlers do the work of intimidation and violence to achieve the desired goal. It is all part of the same scheme.

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, settler violence in the West Bank has become an almost daily occurrence. It is all out in the open and the government and the courts are on the same page in supporting the settlers and working to achieve the goal of greater Israel.

While Jewish settler violence against the Palestinians rages – preventing Palestinians from working their land or using it as their own, with no real attempt by the Israeli military or police to prevent this – Israel declares any and all Palestinian resistance to occupation to be terrorism.

When Palestinians began to organise non-violent resistance to the occupation, Israel redefined attacks by the army on these unarmed protesters to bring them under the category of “combat operations”. Recently, the villagers of Kafr Qaddum were staging weekly demonstrations against the blocking of a road, which prevented access to their village, because it was claimed that the road passes through a new part of the settlement of Kedumim. The army planted explosives on roads used by the villagers – but the soldiers who took this decision would be immune from prosecution for any injuries caused to the villagers.

With all these “victories” on Israel’s part, the country has now decided that it can manage the occupation rather than end it. The occupation even began to be seen as an asset. Israel has turned the occupied territories into a laboratory for testing weapons and systems of surveillance. Israelis now market their crowd control weapons and systems of homeland security to the US, based on testing in the occupied territories. Yet all this financial investment in the occupation – and all the twisting of domestic laws to protect the illegal settlement project, all the political contortions to cultivate authoritarian allies, from Trump to Orbán to Bolsonaro – is rotting Israel from the inside, turning it into an apartheid state that rules over millions of Palestinians without rights.

In Arundhati Roy’s novel The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, one of her characters, Musa, says that if Kashmiris have failed to gain independence from India, at least in struggling for it they have exposed the corruption of India’s system. Musa tells the book’s narrator, an Indian: “You’re not destroying us. It’s yourselves that you are destroying.” Palestinians today might say the same of our struggle with Israel.

(Source / 21.09.2020)

These aren’t ‘peace deals,’ they are military pacts signed with malicious intent

Shamefully, Arab states endorsed Israeli settlers who expand illegal settlements by stealing Palestinian land; they granted Israeli soldiers a mandate to detain and torture Palestinian women, children and men, and also kill as many as they want

By Iqbal Jassat

The normalisation deals signed by the UAE and Bahrain with Israel did not aim to bring peace to Palestinians, but grant strong mandate to Israel to continue its aggression on Palestinians and their property.

As Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu stepped up to the podium flanked by the foreign ministers of Bahrain and the UAE to sign what has been hailed as a “historic peace agreement” between Israel and the two Gulf states, many wondered where the Palestinians were.

Indeed, the absence of Palestinians was noted by analysts familiar with the bloody history of Zionism’s colonial project, as a deliberate objective by the architects of the deal to fulfil the vision of “Greater Israel”. It’s a vision built on the Zionist myth of “a land without a people for a people without a land”.

The White House ceremony presided over by Trump thus reflected Netanyahu’s fantasy world in which Palestinians are sub-human, irrelevant and a nuisance. And entirely absent from the picture.

The so-called “peace” deals between Israel and US client states are bizarre because, as surrogates in the service of US hegemony, neither Bahrain nor the UAE have ever been at war with Israel. And apart from not being enemies, the two Gulf oligarchies have for decades maintained a clandestine love-affair with Israel, on the assumption that their security is tied to the security of the settler-colonial state. This is not confined to Bahrain and the UAE; most Arab despots view a secure Israel as their guarantor of safety.

The reality is that Palestinians are not irrelevant; they really do matter, despite the US-Israel plot to erase them from the equation to be replaced by Arab client-regimes willing to follow the Zionist script.

So what are these deals? And what is the much-vaunted “dawn of a new Middle East” all about?

Contrary to the illusion created at the White House in pursuit of fake “peace”, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo let the cat out of the bag during his foray into the region a few days ago: normalisation is all about creating a military alliance against the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Alastair Crooke of the Beirut-based Conflicts Forum confirmed that Pompeo’s explanation revealed that the UAE and Israel have agreed to form a security and military alliance against Iran to protect US interests in the Middle East.

According to Crooke’s assessment, if the devil is in the detail, the agreement and any that might follow with more Arab countries — as promised by Trump — means that there will be an Israeli military presence in the Gulf and a joint Israeli-UAE intelligence base on Yemen’s Socotra Island in the Red Sea basin overlooking Bab Al-Mandab Strait.

In other words, far from being a “peace deal” to transform the Middle East into a region of milk and honey with false promises of “prosperity,” the agreement is likely to launch a new era of war and instability.

Based on Pompeo’s revelations, Crooke’s suggestion is that the agreement will transform the conflict in the Middle East from being Arab-Israeli to Arab-Iranian and perhaps Arab-Turkish later on.

That Palestinian rights have been trampled on by the “Abraham Accords” is confirmed by the fact that the Trump administration, in cahoots with Israel and the Arab regimes, has taken Jerusalem “off the table”, as Pompeo put it. In the context of non-existent Palestinian “negotiations”, the Syrian Golan Heights and the occupied Jordan Valley have also been “taken off the table”.

The harsh reality about which Crooke warns, is that according to Pompeo’s formulation of the conflict transformation engineered by the US the whole Palestinian issue is “off the table” as well.

Hence, in the context of these grubby deals, “peace” is a misnomer which has been twisted to suit themselves by Trump, Netanyahu and the Arab regimes in Bahrain and the UAE. What they have agreed is very clearly a military pact with malicious intent.

“The ceremony in Washington is not a historic peace deal, but a historic arms deal,” tweeted Knesset member Ayman Odeh. “It’s accepting a reality in which the Palestinians live under occupation without independence or basic rights.”

Palestinians and solidarity movements across the world know that it will be business as usual for the Israeli occupation of Palestine, even after these “peace” deals. Their campaigns against Israeli apartheid will continue as well.

The UAE and Bahrain have signed a deal authorising Israel to continue imprisoning Palestinians under a brutal military occupation.

Shamefully, this means that Arab states are endorsing Israeli settlers who expand illegal settlements by stealing more and more Palestinian land.

Arab states are granting Israeli soldiers a mandate to brutalise Palestinian civilians at military checkpoints, enter and destroy their homes by force, detain and torture Palestinian women, children and men, and also kill as many as they want in the process. Did I say shameful? It’s actually disgraceful.

(Source / 18.09.2020)

Remembering the Sabra and Shatila massacre 38 years on

On September 16, 1982, following the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, the right-wing Christian Phalange militia stormed the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in West Beirut and began a massacre which ended in the deaths of hundreds, maybe thousands, of mostly Palestinian civilians. I was 19 years old at the time. By chance and by luck I managed to survive. My mother and five younger sisters and brothers; and my uncle, his wife and eight kids did not.

Israel’s invasion began June 6, 1982. After much destruction, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which had defended the camps since its inception, agreed to leave Lebanon in August. They were given American assurances that civilians left behind would be protected. The president-elect of Lebanon, and the leader of the Phalange, was assassinated on September 14th. The Israeli army proceeded to invade and occupy West Beirut. 

Israeli troops surrounded the camps to prevent the refugees from leaving and allowed entry of the Phalange, a known enemy of the Palestinians. The Israelis fired flares throughout the night to light up the killing field – thus allowing the militiamen to see their way through the narrow alleys of the camps. The massacre went on for two days. As the bloodbath concluded, Israel supplied the bulldozers to dig mass graves. In 1983, Israel’s investigative Kahan Commission found that Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Defense Minister, bore “personal responsibility for the slaughter.

Read More: Al-Qassam discovers two British battleships sank on Gaza Sea 100 years ago

The massacre at Sabra and Shatila was a direct consequence of Israel’s violation of the American-brokered ceasefire and the impunity bestowed on Israel by the US and the international community. This tragic anniversary is a reminder that the international community continues to fail to hold Israel accountable for its violations of international law and to defend the basic human rights of the Palestinian people.

If the international community is obliged to remedy its moral responsibility to the victims of the Sabra and Shatila massacre, by working to end Israel’s occupation and other abuses of Palestinian rights, then the lives of my family members and the others we remember on this 35th year will not have been lost in vain.

Read More: UAE and Israel disclose their relations after decades of secrecy

Thirty-five years after the massacre, Israel continues to abuse Palestinian rights without consequence and to enable the violence of its proxies, whether it is the Phalange as in the past or today, illegal Israeli settlers living on occupied Palestinian land. Settler attacks on Palestinian property, lands, and persons have terrorised thousands and killed almost entire families, such as last year’s arson attack on a Palestinian home that killed a mother, father, and their 18-month baby. Palestinian complaints filed against settlers go unindicted by Israel. In fact, as documented by Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem, “the [Israeli] military serves the settlers by allowing the attackers to simply walk away”. When they do take action, Israeli soldiers are more likely to support the settlers, often allowing them to continue attacking Palestinians rather than shielding innocent civilians. 

And the Israeli military itself continues to commit war crimes with impunity, as evidenced by Israel’s repeated attacks on the tiny besieged Gaza Strip over the past decade, which have killed thousands of innocent Palestinians with disproportionate and indiscriminate force.

The dehumanisation of Palestinians by Israel also continues. It was this same dehumanisation that led Israel to allow vengeful militiamen to enter the Sabra and Shatila camps and that permits Israelis to occupy another people for fifty years and inflict humiliation and injury. That indifference to the fate of the Palestinians does not belong solely to Israel. Israel’s 69 years of dispossession and half-century of military rule is supported by unconditional American military aid and diplomatic backing. International bodies like the UN Security Council have repeatedly made note of Israel’s human rights violations, but done nothing more. 

A fourth generation is now growing up in the squalid refugee camps in Lebanon. In Sabra and Shatila, most living spaces consist of two very small rooms: a bedroom, where the entire family sleeps, and a living room of sorts. There is no ventilation, and hardly any electricity. Most families use battery-powered lighting. Drinking tap water is prohibited, as it is full of bacteria and very salty – it actually corrodes pipes. There are poor sanitary conditions. Medications for all illnesses are in short supply. Narrow alleyways – some with sewage running through – wind through the camps. When it rains these small paths become muddy. Electrical wires hang from dwellings. Young men connect and reconnect wires; from time to time, someone is electrocuted. Foul odours emanate from those crowded conditions. Illness is rampant. The Palestinian refugees in Lebanon long to return from exile to the homeland they were expelled from but are not permitted to do so by Israel, simply because they are not Jewish.

If the international community is obliged to remedy its moral responsibility to the victims of the Sabra and Shatila massacre by working to end Israel’s occupation and other abuses of Palestinian rights, then the lives of my family members and the others we remember on this 35th year will not have been lost in vain. 

(Source / 16.09.2020)

Hamas recycles shells from British ships sunk off Gaza during WWI

In a completely secret operation, Hamas’ military wing retrieved hundreds of shells still useable from the wrecks of two British warships

By Motasem A Dalloul

The military wing of the Palestinian Resistance Movement Hamas has apparently recycled shells found on the wrecks of British warships which were sunk off the coast of Gaza during World War One.

In a documentary film broadcast on Sunday, Al Jazeera revealed that Al-Qassam Brigades could in such a way overcome the consequences of the Israeli-led siege imposed on Gaza, which are in part intended to undermine its ability to manufacture weapons.

The internationally-backed siege has been in place for over 14 years. During this time, Israel has carried out three major offensives that have together killed thousands of Palestinians, wounded tens of thousands more and devastated the civilian infrastructure in the coastal territory.

For the first time, Hamas allowed its arms factories to be filmed. The documentary showed Hamas operatives recycling shells found in two sunken Royal Navy warships.

The explosive in the shells was tested and, found to be still useable, was fitted into the warheads of Al-Qassam’s own rockets.

“Unfortunately, Hamas got there before us,” said Israeli TV reporter Nir Dvori on Tuesday, referring to the shells on the warships.

“The Israeli army siege on Gaza made it difficult for Hamas to get metal and explosives to produce rockets. This pushed it to look for these materials in unconventional locations. Hamas marine personnel found these materials on board the warships.”

According to former sailor Rami Sidnai, the Israeli navy has been looking for the two British ships secretly. “Security issues prevented us from reaching them. Unfortunately, Hamas found them before us.”

Moreover, the documentary, produced by Palestinian journalist Tamer Al-Mishal, revealed how Al-Qassam fighters found a massive network of pipes installed before the Israeli disengagement from Gaza in 2005.

The pipes were said to have been used to steal fresh water from the aquifer under the Gaza Strip. Al-Qassam promptly disassembled the network, extracted the pipes and used them to make rocket casings.

Additional explosives were removed from “hundreds” of unexploded Israel munitions after the 2014 military offensive against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh spoke on camera about regional and international pressure imposed on the movement to give up its arms and end its resistance to the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

“Hamas gave no pledge to any mediator related to the development of resistance arms,” he insisted.

However, according to Dore Gold, a former Israeli Ambassador to the UN and advisor to Benjamin Netanyahu, “If we are ever going to develop peaceful relations between Israel and Palestinian groups in Gaza… dismantling Hamas’s infrastructure must be part of any potential deal in order to be feasible.”

Former Israeli General and National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror conceded that the Palestinians have succeeded in building their [military] capabilities.

“Today, they have ability to build weapon systems, mainly long-distance rockets. They have something very notable and have improved their domestic production. They learn all the time and improve their abilities.

“We exert many efforts to know about these abilities in order to neutralise then whenever we can.”

According to Ami Ayalon, the former head of Israel’s Shin Bet internal security agency, “After at least two Israeli offensives on Gaza, the result is that it could not disarm Gaza on its own and should not. It will be a disaster if we attempt to disarm Hamas by ourselves.”

He added his belief that Hamas is “stronger” than before. “The issue is complicated. We have to make a new political reality, otherwise Hamas is getting stronger.”







(Source / 15.09.2020)

To fight data colonialism, we need a Non-Aligned Tech Movement

This is one way to ensure technology does not go against the interest of society

By Ulises Ali Mejias 

It seems every few days we are reminded of how Big Tech companies have no qualms amassing profits while their products are used to incite violence and spread disinformation. The latest such reminder was the recent murder of two protesters in Kenosha, the US state of Wisconsin, by a member of a militant group active on Facebook – a group the company was aware of but refused to do anything about.

The problem is not only that Big Tech companies are converting our social lives into revenue streams, which in itself represents new forms of exploitation and appropriation. The problem is also that these dynamics perpetuate forms of discrimination, hatred, and oppression that have deep historical roots extending far beyond the recent history of online platforms, or even beyond the past two centuries of capitalism. That is why Nick Couldry and I call this phenomenon “data colonialism”.

It is not only Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon who are engaged in data colonialism. China, with its comprehensive systems of digital surveillance and artificial intelligence, is the other centre of power in data colonialism.

Where does that leave us, the rest of the world? When it comes to digital technologies, is there an option that allows us to safely navigate between the profit-motivated Scylla of Silicon Valley and the control-motivated Charybdis of the Chinese Communist Party?

Perhaps we need to take a page from the Non-Aligned Movement, a consortium of nations that, during the Cold War, attempted to forge a path beyond the equally inadequate choices of capitalism and communism. While the Non-Aligned Movement was not very successful for a variety of reasons, we can still learn important lessons to attempt something more ambitious.

What we need is a Non-Aligned Technologies Movement (NATM), an alliance not necessarily of nations, but of multiple actors already working towards the same goals, coming together to declare their non-alignment with the US and China.

Activists, researchers, hackers and NGOs have been devising these kinds of alternatives for years. It is time to collect them under a movement big enough to pose a challenge to the two neocolonial superpowers. This new movement is necessary for two important reasons.

First, it has become patently clear that the development of technologies in China and the US is exempt, on purpose, from any social accountability. How has this happened? It is universally accepted (one hopes) that a scientific experiment can only go forward if the researchers can demonstrate it will not negatively affect human subjects. And yet, in the world of technological development, no such expectation exists.

If technology is the application of science, its implementation needs to be held to the same scientific standards, especially when it is evident that technology affects society in profound and long-lasting ways, well beyond the “development” phase.

Traditionally, capitalism has told us that this cannot happen because it would delay and interfere with innovation. NATM is the first step towards rejecting that narrative, and saying that we no longer believe there is a sharp distinction between scientific research and technological implementation.

The two have become practically indistinguishable because modern digital technologies are constantly changing, and thus their impact needs to be constantly assessed and held to stringent ethical standards.

Second, it has also become evident that most governments and world organisations are incapable or unwilling to stand up to the Big Tech axis, even if it means imposing minimal taxes or protections for users. A Non-Aligned Technologies movement would empower civil societies across the globe to act in consort to meet their shared objectives while putting pressure on their respective governments to change the way they deal with Big Tech.

Let me sketch out the main goals of NATM before briefly discussing some concrete proposals for how to launch it.

The primary goal of NATM would be to transition from technologies that are against the interest of society to technologies that are in the interest of society. To implement this, we would need to define what is in the public interest when it comes to technologies, and evaluate technologies to see if they meet these criteria. Many efforts to do this have been happening concurrently, but NATM would allow us to form a global consortium to collectively support these tasks.

Realising that this is going to take time and effort to accomplish, a secondary goal of NATM is to promote the immediate regulation and taxation of technologies that are not in the public’s interest. But here we must strongly affirm social good over individual benefit, and point out that NATM goes beyond the idea of paying individuals for their data.

An intermediate goal in this regard is the nationalisation of data so that Big Tech is forced to pay nations for the value they are extracting from their citizens. To be clear, I am talking about nationalising data not in the sense of transferring ownership of a commodified property to the state, but in the sense of asserting national control over a resource currently extracted illegitimately.

The taxes resulting from nationalisation need to be invested in programmes that benefit societies, not individuals, small collectives or elites. Again, individual governments are unlikely to adopt such measures on their own accord, but NATM can make evident the benefit of acting and exercising pressure as a global consortium.

The third goal of NATM is to create change that can involve anyone, anywhere. Global civil society needs to come together to effect the change, but it needs to be able to do so by uniting dispersed efforts.

If continents will not become non-aligned, nations can. If not nations, cities. If not cities, communities (onsite and online). If not communities, then individuals can become non-aligned. The goal is to create a new social order, and even individuals and small communities should be able to contribute to that order.

What specific actions could this movement pursue?

To begin, NATM as a block could conduct an analysis and decide which open-source platforms to support as a bloc. We now have plenty of options to replicate and improve most of the functions offered by Big Tech, including social networking, file sharing, data collection and analysis, mapping, publishing, etc. NATM could pick the most advanced and scalable solution in each case and commit to its development, providing support for NATM members to implement it.

In essence, NATM would create parallel platforms to those offered by the Big Tech axis, but without the extraction and dispossession. These platforms would cease to be niche solutions explored by hacker communities, but widely used solutions that offer non-aligned members alternatives to Big Tech.

NATM could also create a global laboratory for the study of Big Tech algorithms. I have been working on a small-scale prototype of such a concept called Algorithm Observatory, which is a combination of citizen science and media literacy project. The goal is to create a platform that NATM, as a bloc, can use to dissect the extractive algorithms of Big Tech. These technologies are not likely to go away anytime soon, and we need to be able to learn more about the way they work by analysing them, and exposing their faults.

Finally, NATM could institute a protocol for individual communities to grant approval of new and existing technologies. For technologies to operate within NATM communities and avoid heavy taxation, they would need to demonstrate that they do not endanger the interests of civil society.

This initial determination and subsequent checks can be performed by a board, similar to what human subject boards do across scientific research institutions. But unlike human subject boards, NATM boards should include representatives from different segments of the population.

The boards should operate locally (each community needs to figure out if a particular technology goes against its specific interests), but NATM can provide training and facilitate discussions at a global level of how these boards should work. NATM boards can also make determinations of what portion of the data collected by technologies should rightfully be considered public domain.

It is unlikely that Big Tech companies would submit themselves to this form of review, just as it is unlikely that governments would enforce any kind of penalties when they do not comply. At least for the time being. The point of a global movement of non-alignment is to show that another world is possible, and that change based on the principles of justice and equity can gain momentum until it is impossible to ignore.

Those interested in contributing to the Non-Aligned Technologies Movement are welcome to visit nonalignedtech.net.

(Source / 13.09.2020)

Israel: A rogue state

US sanctions on the ICC prosecutor came in response to investigations announced by the court into US war crimes in Afghanistan and Israeli war crimes in West Bank and Gaza Strip

Detention Press .jpg

By Asa Winstanley

Last week, US President Donald Trump’s administration announced that it was imposing economic sanctions on the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The decree was announced by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who reported that the US would: “Not tolerate [the ICC’s] illegitimate attempts to subject Americans to its jurisdiction.”

This is the US’ vindictive response to investigations announced by the court into US war crimes in Afghanistan, and Israeli war crimes in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

These ICC investigations are still at an early stage, but the US has already acted in a most draconian manner in order to evade justice.

It has also acted to protect Israel – one of the world’s worst human rights abusing countries, and a key ally.

The Trump administration’s new move has been described by my colleague Maureen Murphy at The Electronic Intifada as Trump’s nuclear option against the international court.

The ICC was established with the hope that human rights abusers the world over could be held to account in the most concrete terms – not merely condemned, but actually put on trial and jailed for their crimes.

But so far, the court has failed to live up to that lofty ideal. To date, it has prosecuted African nationals only.

As soon as the court was established, the US opted out. As the world’s biggest superpower since at least 1945, the US is the leading perpetrator of war crimes anywhere.

The US’ almost-unending series of imperialist wars for the control and dominance of the globe has been the direct cause of millions of uncounted deaths.

In helping to sustain, fund, train, arm and encourage a racist, violent regime such as Israel, the US empire is also a world order of torture and injustice – much like the British empire was before it.

It is little surprise then, to find that much of the impetus for US sanctions against the ICC is the court’s decision (finally, after long years of prevarication) to prosecute Israel for its war crimes.

With the Zionist regime playing a key ideological role in US world order, successive US administrations have ramped up the county’s levels of support for Israel – especially in the decades since 1967.

Trump is no exception in this regard. He is merely the latest example of the same trend: every successive US president – whether a Democrat or Republican – manages to be more pro-Israeli than the last. Joe Biden, if he manages to win the upcoming election – which is by no means guaranteed –will certainly not buck that trend. He will be even more pro-Israeli than Trump.

When Biden was vice-president, after all, President Barack Obama concluded his final year in office by overseeing a promise to gift a staggering $38 billion in military aid to Israel over the course of the following decade.

The level of US-Israeli fanaticism against the ICC, and the prospect of facing accountability for their violence, is quite staggering.

In the Palestine Papers, former Israeli “Justice” Minister Tzipi Livni was infamously revealed to have stated: “I am a lawyer… but I am against law – international law in particular. Law in general.”

The director of Mossad’s legal front group Shurat HaDin once called for Israel to literally invade the Hague in retaliation, for attempts by lawyers to bring its military personnel to justice.

Israel should: “Utilise all necessary force to resist any effort to arrest IDF [Israeli military] officers accused of war crimes anywhere in the world. Foreign countries should be made to understand we mean business,” Nitsana Darshan-Leitner wrote in an Israeli paper.

The threat of being made to face up to their crimes in a court of law is a very real one for Israeli officers. They are acutely aware of their peril.

Until European countries began rewriting their universal jurisdiction laws in order to protect Israel, it was not an uncommon event for Israeli war criminals to have to avoid places like London.

Fifteen years ago this week, Doron Almog, a former major general in the Israeli army, had to turn tail and flee back to Tel Aviv after landing in London to take part in speaking engagements.

British police had been planning to arrest him for a war crimes case, but somehow, the Israeli embassy was tipped off and warned him not to vacate the plane. It still remains unclear who betrayed this confidence.

A judge had decided he had a case to answer over his role in leading the Israeli occupation forces which were enforcing a brutal military regime on the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip, during the early years of the second Intifada.

Almog oversaw the vindictive and systematic destruction by bulldozer of many Palestinian homes there – even crushing people to death in the process, including American solidarity activist Rachel Corrie.

Some years after he had fled Heathrow Airport, it was revealed by reporters that British police had only made the decision not to board the plane because they were afraid they would be shot at by armed Israeli personnel protecting Almog.

It’s long past time for Israeli, US and British impunity to end.

(Source / 12.09.2020)