Are new Palestinian construction permits paving the way for annexation?

Israel’s decision to approve 715 housing units in Palestinian towns could be a token gesture, or preparation for a broader takeover of West Bank land

By Ben White

The recent Israeli security cabinet decision to approve construction permits for Palestinian homes in Area C of the occupied West Bank was somewhat of a rarity, “the first such decision since 2016”.


While the figure of 715 housing units in Palestinian towns sounds positive, thus far no details have been revealed – including for example, whether the plans relate to new construction or the retroactive legalisation of homes built without Israeli-issued permits.

In addition to this lack of clarity, these housing units are a drop in the ocean – according to Peace Now, “it is estimated that there are at least a thousand young Palestinian couples in need of housing in Area C each year”.

From 2009 to 2016, Israeli occupation authorities approved just 66 construction permits for Palestinians in Area C – a mere two percent of total applications. Over the same time period, there were 12,763 housing unit construction starts in Israeli settlements in Area C.

However, while the new construction permits barely scratch the surface of the needs resulting from an intentionally discriminatory system, it is still an unusual development. Why would a hard-right government – in the run up to elections – take such a step?

One vital piece of context is the White House “peace plan”; Haaretz citedunnamed “political sources” who believe the move “could be due to American pressure”. The approvals came ahead of a visit by a US delegation led by White House adviser Jared Kushner, part of a regional tour promoting the plan.

This possibility was a cause for concern for some in the settler movement; two senior leadersdescribed the Palestinian construction permits as “particularly worrying”, given what they described as the Palestinian Authority’s “clear goal of establishing a terrorist state in the heart of the country”.

They needn’t worry. Reports quickly emerged that the Israeli cabinet decision is in fact “part of a policy shift intended to push out the Palestinian Authority’s involvement in planning and construction in the [occupied] territories”, with Haaretz citing “sources familiar with the details”.

Moreover, Transportation Minister and Union of Right-Wing Parties MK Bezalel Smotrich took to Facebook to publish a detailed explanation for the permits.

Affirming that one of the central goals of his political career is “to prevent the establishment of an Arab terror state in the heart of Israel” (referring to the West Bank), Smotrich wrote: “Now, finally … Israel is forming a strategic plan to stop the creation of a Palestinian state.”

According to Smotrich, the cabinet decision marked “the first time” Israel “will make sure that in Area C, there will only be construction for the Arabs who were original residents of the area since 1994 and not Arabs who came later from Areas A and B”.

Palestinian construction then will be allowed “only in places that do not harm the settlement enterprise and security, and do not create territorial contiguity or a de facto Palestinian state”.

That wasn’t all. “For the first time ever,” the minister went on, “the State of Israel will implement its sovereignty over the entire territory and take responsibility for what happens inside it.”

So, there we have it. The permits for Palestinians in Area C are a demonstration of Israeli “sovereignty” – yet another precursor to formal annexation. In this light, a connection between the permits and the Trump administration’s plan takes on a more disturbing – though hardly surprising – dimension, suggestive not of a “concession” to lubricate talks, but of Israeli-US coordination with respect to Area C annexation.

Instructively, in parallel to advancing permits for Palestinians, the Israeli cabinet approved some 6,000 housing units in Israeli settlements; the day after, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared on a visit to the Efrat settlement: “No settlement or settler will be uprooted … What you’re doing here is forever.”

But, whether the Palestinian construction permits – should they ever materialise – are merely a token gesture, or preparation for annexation, these developments highlight the limitations of a purely humanitarian-framed critique of Israeli policies of demolition and displacement.

Israel’s crude “separate and unequal” approach to communities and housing in Area C of the West Bank has quite rightly prompted growing international criticism in recent years, with the likes of Amnesty International condemning Israel’s discriminatory planning regime as “unique globally”.

As Israel moves towards a formalisation of Area C annexation, however, there will be those who argue that such a development will benefit Palestinian residents on the basis that Israel will grant them citizenship, legalise their communities, issue permits, and so on.

Of course, such an argument can be countered on its own terms, including by citing the arguments openly made by the likes of Smotrich that planning policy will continue to prioritise Jewish communities (as, indeed, has always been the case inside the 1967 lines).

However, a much stronger position is to understand Israel’s demolition and displacement in Area C, including those permits it does issue, in the context of a much broader apartheid regime where Palestinians are expelled, fragmented and segregated to serve the primary goal of maintaining a “Jewish state” – and the control of land and demography that such a goal necessitates.

Israel’s discriminatory planning regime is a humanitarian and human rights crisis, but it is not only that – and if opposition to demolitions is expressed purely in such terms, critics make themselves vulnerable to Israeli moves such as a token increase in permits, or even annexation.

Ultimately, as elsewhere across Palestine, Israeli policies can be best understood and confronted as part of a decades-long, settler-colonial project – a framing that retains its relevancy whether we soon see formal annexation of Area C, or a continuation of the status quo.

(Source / 20.08.2019) 

Jewish settlers rule the roost in Israel, but at what cost?

Israeli settlers can be sen after they stormed into Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem on 22 July 2018 [Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency]

By Ramzy Baroud 

Jewish Israeli settlers are on a roll as they rampage across the occupied Palestinian West Bank. While settler violence is part of the daily routine in Palestine, the violence of recent weeks is linked directly to the General Election in Israel, scheduled to be held on 17 September.

The previous election, just four months ago on 9 April, failed to bring about political stability. Although Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu is now the longest-serving Prime Minister in the 71-year history of the country, he was still unable to form a government coalition.

Tarnished by a series of corruption cases involving himself, his family and aides, Netanyahu’s leadership is in an unenviable position. Police investigators are closing in on him, while opportunistic political allies, such as Avigdor Lieberman, are twisting his arm in the hope of exacting future political concessions.

The political crisis in Israel is not the outcome of a resurrected Labor or invigorated central parties, but the failure of the Right (including far-right and ultra-nationalist parties) to articulate a unified political agenda.

READ: PA warns of Israel’s plan for spatial division of Al-Aqsa Mosque 

Illegal Jewish settlers understand well that the future identity of any right-wing government coalition will have a lasting impact on their colonial enterprise. The settlers, however, are not exactly worried, since all major political parties, including that of the Blue and White, the supposedly centrist party of Benjamin Gantz, have made support for Jewish colonies an important part of their election campaigns.

The decisive vote of the Jewish settlers of the West Bank and their backers inside Israel became very clear in the last election. Their power has forced Gantz to adopt an entirely different political approach.

The man who, two days before polling day in April, criticised Netanyahu’s “irresponsible” announcement regarding his intention to annex the West Bank, is now apparently a great supporter of the settlements. According to the Israeli news website Arutz Sheva, Gantz has vowed to continue expanding the settlements “from a strategic point of view and not as a political strategy.”

Considering the shift in Gantz’s perspective regarding the settlements Netanyahu is left with no other option but to up the ante. He is now pushing for complete and irreversible annexation of the West Bank.

Annexing the occupied Palestinian territory is, from Netanyahu’s point of view, a sound political strategy. The Israeli Prime Minister, of course, is oblivious to international law which regards Israel’s military and settler presence as illegal. Neither Netanyahu nor any other Israeli leader, though, has ever cared about international law. All that truly counts as far as Israel is concerned, is that it has Washington’s support, both blind and unconditional.

Israeli settlers gather next to their flag on a rooftop of a house in Bethlehem, in the occupied West Bank on 12 June 2018 [Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images]

According to the Times of Israel, Netanyahu is now officially lobbying for a public statement by US President Donald Trump to back Israel’s annexation of the West Bank. Although the White House refused to comment on the story, and an official in Netanyahu’s office claimed that it was “incorrect”, the Israeli right is on the fast track to make that annexation possible.

Encouraged by US Ambassador David Friedman’s comment that, “Israel has the right to retain some of the West Bank,” more Israeli officials are speaking boldly and openly regarding their intentions to annex the occupied territory. Netanyahu actually hinted at that possibility in August during a visit to the illegal settlement of Beit El. “We come to build. Our hands will reach out and we will deepen our roots in our homeland, in all parts of it,” he said at a ceremony celebrating the expansion of the illegal settlements with another 650 housing units.

Unlike Netanyahu, former Israeli Justice Minister and leader of the newly-formed United Right, Ayelet Shaked, didn’t speak in code. In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, she called for the full annexation of Area C, which constitutes nearly 60 per cent of the West Bank. “We have to apply sovereignty to Judea and Samaria,” insisted Shaked, using Biblical terminology to describe Palestinian land as if that somehow strengthened her case.

Public Security, Strategic Affairs and Information Minister Gilad Erdan, however, wants to go the extra mile. According to Arutz Sheva and the Jerusalem Post, Erdan has called for the annexation of all illegal settlements in the West Bank as well as the ouster of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

READ: French Jews march through Hebron, claiming all West Bank belongs to Israel 

Now situated at the centre of Israeli politics, Jewish settlers are enjoying the spectacle of being courted by all major political parties. Their increased violence against the indigenous Palestinians in the West Bank is a form of political muscle-flexing, an expression of dominance and a brutish display of political priorities.

“There’s only one flag from the Jordan to the sea, the flag of Israel,” was the slogan of a rallyinvolving over 1,200 Jewish settlers who roamed the streets of the Palestinian city of Hebron on 14 August. The settlers, together with Israeli soldiers, stormed along Al-Shuhada Street and harassed Palestinian residents and international activists in the beleaguered city.

Just a few days earlier, an estimated 1,700 Jewish settlers, backed by Israeli police, stormed into Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem. According to the Palestinian Red Crescent, over 60 Palestinians were wounded when Israeli forces and settlers attacked Muslim worshippers. The violence was repeated in Nablus, where armed women settlers stormed the town of Al-Masoudiya and conducted “military training” under the protection of the Israeli occupation army. The settlers’ message is clear: we now rule the roost, not only in the West Bank, but in Israeli politics as well.

At what cost, though? All of this is happening as if it is entirely an Israeli political affair. The PA, which has now been dropped out of US political calculations altogether, is left to issue occasional, irrelevant press releases about its intention to hold Israel accountable according to international law.

Moreover, the guardians of international law are also suspiciously absent. Neither the United Nations, nor advocates of democracy and international law in the European Union, seem to be interested in confronting Israeli intransigence and blatant violations of human rights.

With Jewish settlers dictating the political agenda in Israel, and constantly provoking Palestinians in the occupied territories, violence is likely to grow exponentially in the coming months. As is often the case, this will be used strategically by the Israeli government, this time to set the stage for a final and complete annexation of Palestinian land. That will be a disastrous outcome, no matter which way you look at it.

(Source / 19.08.2019) 

What’s happening in Kashmir looks a lot like Israel’s rule over Palestine

By Abdulla Moaswes

The last few weeks have seen a sharp escalation in tensions in the Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir, ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi revoked the territory’s long-standing autonomy, putting it on lockdown and plunging the region into chaos.

India has ordered all tourists and religious pilgrims to evacuate the territory, while sending in tens of thousands of armed soldiers and shutting down virtually all telecommunication networks. These soldiers join an occupying force estimated to number within the hundreds of thousands in what is already considered the most militarized place on earth.

India’s oppression of Kashmiris, however, cannot be seen in a vacuum. Over the past decades, the country’s growing ties with Israel have created a situation in which the the oppression of Kashmir is linked to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

The Indian occupation of Kashmir and the establishment of Israel in 1948, which resulted in the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, began only months apart from one another. In July 1949, two years after India and Pakistan declared independence from British rule, the two countries signed an agreement to establish a ceasefire line, dividing the Kashmir region between them. Indian rule in the territory has led to decades of unrest.

Although the Indian presence in Kashmir never amounted to settler colonialism like in the Palestinian case, where a large proportion of the existing population of the region was expelled and replaced by a settler population, India has maintained a heavy military presence in the area and has acted as a police state vis-à-vis Kashmiri civilians and politicians.

Kashmiri solidarity with the Palestinians can be traced as far back as the 1950s and 60s, when the Kashmir liberation movement sought to align itself with other anti-imperialist struggles abroad. It was also during this period when India first established relations with Israel. Although then Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru publicly championed the Palestinian cause, he permitted the opening of an Israeli consulate in Mumbai in 1953. The consulate gathered information on India’s Evacuee Property Laws, which served as a model for Israel’s Absentee Property Law, a legal instrument that allowed the state to expropriate land belonging to Palestinian refugees.

The late stages of the Cold War saw a dramatic improvement in Indian-Israeli relations. In 1992, under the premiership of Narasimha Rao, a member of the Indian National Congress, India and Israel established normal relations, with India opening an embassy in Tel Aviv in January. Two main factors explain this development, both of which are related to the outbreak of the First Intifada against Israel’s occupation as well as armed insurrection in Kashmir against Indian rule in the late 1980s.

The first reason stems from the decline of the Soviet Union, which forced India to search for a new supplier of arms and military technology. Israel, whose flagging economy at the time necessitated entering new markets, represented an ideal partner. The relationship was further strengthened when the U.S. imposed sanctions on arms sales to India after the latter conducted nuclear tests in 1998. Those sanctions resulted in India becoming Israel’s largest client for arms and military technology, a legacy that persists until today.

The second reason is based on the convergence of the logic that Israel and India employed in suppressing popular resistance in the occupied territories and armed insurrection in Kashmir, respectively, highlighting issues of security, counterterrorism and the threat of Islamic extremism. In 1992, then Indian Defense Minister Sharad Pawar admitted to Indian-Israeli cooperation on issues of counterterrorism, including exchanging information on so-called terrorist groups, national doctrines, and operational experience – in other words, strategies, methods, and tactics of occupation and domination. This lead to a shift in India’s position on Palestine, which began mirroring Israel’s insistence that Kashmir was primarily a matter of Indian domestic concern.

Between Zionism and Hindu Nationalism
Relations between India and Israel grew even closer with the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the 1990s. The BJP, which today is led by Modi, adheres to the political ideology known as Hindutva, or Hindu Nationalism. The history of Hindu nationalists’ affinity with Zionism is well documented by professor Sumantra Bose of the London School of Economics, who traces it back to the 1920s when Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, the father of Hindutva, supported the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. The BJP and other Hindu Nationalists have since become obsessed with replicating the Zionist project in turning a constitutionally secular India into a Hindu ethnocratic state.

Many of the BJP’s aspirations and policy proposals for Kashmir are imitations of extant Israeli practices in Palestine. Key among these is the desire to build Israeli-style Hindu-only settlements in Kashmir as a way of instigating demographic change. For example, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a non-state volunteer Hindu paramilitary volunteer group to which the BJP are affiliated, have long desired the repeal of the state subject laws that have maintained the demographic make-up of Kashmir.

These changes are clearly inspired by the Israeli settlement model, as expressed by BJP lawmaker Ravinder Raina, who, in 2015, stated that the government of India will use its army to protect Hindu-only settlements in Jammu and Kashmir. This type of securitization and protection would entail an expansion of the security apparatus that already restricts the flow of life for most Kashmiris, using them as a pretext to justify a new level of domination and intrusiveness.

Aside from the parallels in policy objectives, the discourse used by supporters of the current regime in India resemble old Israeli refrains. Both Israel and India claim to be exceptional democracies, despite their treatment of large swaths of populations under their control. Additionally, both Zionists and Hindu Nationalists argue that the existence of many Muslim countries in the world necessitates a Jewish and Hindu state, respectively. This perpetuates the lie that Palestinians and Indian Muslims can supposedly live elsewhere, yet choose to live in Palestine and India only to antagonize Jews and Hindus.

Meanwhile, the variety of tactics used by India to control the civilian population of Kashmir strongly resembles those used by Israel in Palestine. These include, “arbitrary arrests, extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, curfews, collective punishment, administrative detention, torture, rape and sexual abuse, the suppression of freedom of speech and assembly, house demolitions, and so forth.”

Decades of Solidarity
The bond of solidarity that exists between Palestinians and Kashmiris runs deep, and can be traced as far back as the 1960s, when protests erupted in Kashmir over Israel’s behavior around Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa Mosque, resulting in deaths and curfews. Since then, Kashmiri solidarity with the Palestinian cause can be loosely understood as having gone through three, relatively overlapping stages.

The first of these stages, which began during the 1960s, saw the Kashmiri Plebiscite Front first cast India as an “imperialist state” that rejected the Kashmiri right to self-determination. In doing this, the Kashmiri liberation movement aligned itself with similar global causes, including the Vietnamese struggle against the United States, the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, and the Palestinian struggle against Israel. Kashmiri scholar Mohamad Junaid writes that Palestine “became an evocative metaphor among Kashmiris to describe their own condition, reflecting an incipient fear of ethnic cleansing, land dispossession, and an ever-tightening architecture of the occupation.”

The second stage, which began during the 1980s, saw the basis of solidarity take on a more religious character. This period coincided with the Afghan Jihad against the Soviet Union, which indirectly led to the rise of armed Islamist resistance groups such as Hamas in Palestine and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen in Kashmir. Rather than the discourse of solidarity being based largely in the language of anti-imperalism and nationalism, it became characterized by concepts of jihad and Islamic solidarity. This trend was further strengthened during the 1990s with the rise of the BJP, which led to an increase in communal tensions and insecurity surrounding Muslim life in India.

The third and current stage of Kashmiri-Palestinian solidarity comes as a response to the growing ties between India and Israel. It has no longer become accurate for Palestinians and Kashmiris to view Israel and India as simply analogous oppressors — many now view them as partners in occupation. As has been demonstrated by the transnational Palestinian response to the recent events, solidarity with Kashmir has taken on an increasingly more practical importance.

An Instrument of Surrender
The revocation of Articles 35A and 370 paves the way for Indian presence in Kashmir to further mirror Zionist presence in historic Palestine, since this allows the Indian state to rule Kashmir directly without the need for Kashmir’s state legislature, which was also recently abolished. Furthermore, it facilitates the execution of plans to alter the demographic make-up of Kashmir by allowing Indians from across the country to purchase property and settle there under the protection of the Indian military presence, just as the demographic make-up of the West Bank continues to be altered with the construction of Jewish-only settlements.

The Kashmiri state legislature and its main politicians, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, have long acted as middlemen who manage the natives on behalf of the occupying power, facilitating the occupation in much the same way as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas does in the West Bank. Just as Edward Said once referred to the Oslo Accords as “an instrument of Palestinian surrender,” many Kashmiris regard the 1975 Indira-Sheikh Accord as a betrayal of past liberation movements. The Accord allowed previously popular Kashmiri leader Sheikh Abdullah to become the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir in exchange for forfeiting the longstanding Kashmiri demand for self-determination.

With the unprecedented change of Jammu and Kashmir’s legal status from a special status state to a union territory without a legislative assembly, India’s colonial domination over the contested region will only become more overtly coercive in representing Indian interests. This is a crucial development to be observed closely by Palestinians who live in areas where the Israeli occupation is currently facilitated by the Palestinian Authority.

As things move forward, it is increasingly clear that the colonial processes in Kashmir and Palestine will become further interdependent on one another. What Israel does in Palestine is likely to happen in Kashmir, and what India does in Kashmir is likely to happen in Palestine. In aiming to dismantle Israeli apartheid and settler colonialism, it is essential to observe its global consequences, for it is highly likely that these interdependent processes will require a multilateral confrontation.

(Source / 16.08.2019) 

Remembering Israel’s ‘disengagement’ from Gaza

Israeli tanks and armoured vehicles are deployed to the Gaza Strip fence [File photo]

Israeli tanks and armoured vehicles are deployed to the Gaza Strip fence

By Rebecca Stead

What: Israel dismantled its illegal settlements in the Gaza Strip, withdrawing all settlers and ground troops from the enclave.

Where: The Gaza Strip, occupied Palestine.

When: 15 August 2005.

What happened?

On 15 August 2005, Israel began its disengagement from the Gaza Strip, which it had occupied since the Six Day War of 1967. Over the course of 38 years, Israel established some 21 settlements across the coastal enclave and transferred approximately 9,000 settlers into the territory, in contravention of international law.

Faced with spiralling costs of administering the territory, Israel decided to pull its armed forces and illegal settlers from the Strip. As the world’s cameras rolled, those settlers unwilling to leave were dragged from their houses, a perfect PR moment demonstrating Israel’s “willingness” to withdraw from the occupied territories in a bid to “rekindle” the peace process.

Fourteen years later, Israel has not actually disengaged from Gaza; it still maintains control of its land borders, access to the sea and airspace. Gaza’s 1.9-million population remains under “remote control” occupation and a strict siege, which has destroyed the local economy and strangled Palestinian livelihoods.

READ: Israel’s siege killing demand for Qurbani meat in Gaza

Sharon’s grand plan

Although disengagement officially began in 2005, the policy had been long in the making. In the midst of the Second Intifada – a popular uprising across the Palestinian territories which took place between September 2000 and early 2005 – the then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon proposed disengaging from the Gaza Strip.

Prior to Israel’s January 2003 election, Sharon had expressed support for his country’s continued settlement of the Strip, saying that “the fate of Tel Aviv is the fate of Netzarim”, a settlement located south of Gaza City. Yet following his election Sharon appeared to change his mind, explaining in December of that year that “the purpose of the Disengagement Plan is to reduce terror as much as possible, and grant Israeli citizens the maximum level of security.”

He continued: “The process of disengagement will lead to an improvement in the quality of [Israeli] life, help strengthen the Israeli economy, […] will increase security for the residents of Israel and relieve the pressure on the IDF [Israel Defence Forces] and security forces.”

In an April 2004 letter to the then US President George W Bush, Sharon outlined his vision of disengagement, proposing that Israel “relocate military installations and all Israeli villages and towns in the Gaza Strip.” The plan was to includethe removal of four illegal settlements from the northern West Bank.

In October of that year, the Knesset gave preliminary approval for Sharon’s proposal. One of its most vehement critics was Minister of Foreign Affairs Benjamin Netanyahu, who threatened to resign from the government unless Sharon put the plan to a public referendum. He eventually backed down, citing the “new situation” presented by the expected departure of long-time Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who died on 11 November 2004.

In February 2005, the disengagement plan was approved officially by the Knesset, while in March Israeli citizens who did not already live in the Gaza Strip were forbidden from settling in the territory. The stage was set.

WATCH: Israel confiscates Gaza-bound shoes, says they are part of ‘terror’ plot

Lights, camera, action

On 15 August, Israel began to carry out its disengagement. Gush Katif – a settlement bloc in the south of the Strip – was declared a closed military zone and the Kissufim crossing, the main artery connecting the settlement to Israel, was closed.

At 08:00 local time [05:00 GMT], Israeli forces entered Gush Katif, going door to door with instructions that the settlers must leave. Some agreed to do so peacefully, having been offeredcompensation packages up to $500,000. Others refused to leave, prompting the Israeli army to drag them forcibly from their settlements.

Images of settlers being hauled kicking and screaming from their homes were broadcast across the world. Israeli soldiers sobbed as they reluctantly followed orders. Some settler children left their homes with their hands up, wearing yellow Stars of David akin to those which marked out Jews during the Holocaust. These “rivers of wailing” were described by the Israeli press as “kitsch” and “shallow”, while many Israelis vehemently criticised the settlers’ invocation of the Holocaust.

As Donald Macintyre — the former Jerusalem bureau chief for the Independent — noted in his book Gaza: Preparing for dawn, “There was something theatrical about this enforced leave-taking – and indeed about the whole Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.”

By 22 August, the evacuation was largely complete. Israeli forces bulldozed thousands of houses, community buildings and places of worship; even the corpses in Jewish cemeteries were exhumed and reburied in Israel.

Most of Israel’s military apparatus was removed and, on 21 September, the government declared the Gaza Strip to be extrajudicial territory and designated the crossings into the enclave as international borders requiring travel documentation.

In the days that followed, Palestinians walked the streets of the now-abandoned settlements, which had been off-limits for decades. Children collected footballs and toys left behind by Israeli children to take home to their siblings. People rejoiced that the occupation had gone, while others rushed to the sea they previously could not reach. The celebrations would not last for long.

READ: Israel arrests 2 Palestinian children ‘trying to cross Gaza fence’

What happened next?

Sowing seeds

As Macintyre points out, although disengagement “was indeed a historic precedent, the paradox was that it also marked the beginning of a crippling decade-long economic blockade of Gaza and three military onslaughts by Israel more devastating than any in the territory’s turbulent history.”

Perhaps the seeds of what was to come were sown in September 2005. Less than a week after Israel declared Gaza extrajudicial territory, Israeli jets bombed the Strip, killing several Palestinians, among them Islamic Jihad commander Mohammed Khalil. Israeli strikes also hit a school and other buildings that it claimed were being used to make rockets.

Israel’s narrative surrounding disengagement claims that, following its decision to pull out of the Strip, Palestinians were given a golden opportunity to become economically prosperous. This narrative often points to greenhouses left behind by the settlers which, as the story goes, were immediately destroyed by Palestinians in a characteristic frenzy of short-sightedness.

However, though some of the greenhouses were looted for their component parts, they largely remained intact. The November harvest yielded $20 million worth of fruits and vegetables ready for export to Europe and beyond, most of which rotted in the autumn heat as it waited for security inspections at Karni Border Crossing. According to UN estimates, just four per cent of the season’s harvest was exported.

READ: Israeli ‘solution’ for Gaza includes massive military offensive and move to Sinai

Remote control occupation

In January 2006, Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) elections were held across the Gaza Strip and occupied West Bank. Hamas, then a popular Palestinian movement, won 74 of the 132 seats, beating Fatah — which had dominated Palestinian politics for decades — to the top spot. The Islamic movement’s Ismail Haniyeh was elected as PA Prime Minister.

By February, Israel had suspended the transfer of customs duties to the Palestinian Authority (PA), imposing travel restrictions on Hamas members in Gaza. After Fatah refused to cooperate with the Hamas-led government — and a faction within Fatah was backed by Israel and the US to stage a coup against Hamas — a de facto civil war ensued, leading to the eventual split of the government in June 2007 and the consolidation of Hamas rule in the Strip, with Fatah continuing to govern under Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.

The end of 2007 saw Israel completely seal Gaza’s borders, subjecting it to a strict siege which continues until today.

Over the course of the now 12-year-old siege, Israel has continued to strangle Gaza at arm’s length. Three major Israeli military offensives — in which almost 4,000 Palestinians were killed — and innumerable aerial attacks later, the Strip’s infrastructure and healthcare system lay in tatters. Approximately 54 per cent of Gaza’s population is now unemployed, while 53 per centlive under the official poverty line of $2 per day.

Unliveable”, “open-air prison” and “remote control” occupation have become commonplace when describing the coastal enclave today. Gaza remains occupied territory, having no control over its borders, territorial waters or airspace. Meanwhile, Israel upholds very few of its responsibilities as the occupying power, failing to provide for the basic needs of Palestinian civilians living in the territory.

READ: Hamas rejects Egypt proposal to return Rafah Crossing to PA

Resettlement

Within Israel, disengagement is broadly seen as a mistake, not due to the dire humanitarian conditions affecting the Palestinians in its wake, but because it did not bring any “security or diplomatic advantage” to Israel.

Today, high profile members of Israel’s political establishment, including Culture Minister Miri Regev and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, have expressed regret at Israel’s disengagement from Gaza. Right-wing politicians such as leader of Yemina, Ayelet Shaked, and Transport Minister Bezalel Smotrich have called for the repeal of disengagement and the rebuilding of Israel’s illegal settlements there.

In the run up to Israel’s September 2019 General Election, the second this year, resettlement of the Gaza Strip has been touted by these right-wing ministers as a way of redressing Sharon’s historical mistake. With the same politicians actively advocating for Israeli annexation of Area C of the West Bank, the next Knesset term could see Israel resettle the Gaza Strip and place the Palestinian population under direct military rule once again.

READ: Former head of Shin Bet: annexing Area C will lead to ‘bloodbath’

(Source / 15.08.2019) 

Israel projects aim to export Gaza problem to Egypt’s Sinai

Amir Oren: ‘Egypt’s concession of the Tiran and Sanafir islands to Saudi Arabia could prompt Israel to emulate the agreement to resolve its conflict with the Palestinians by annexing part of Sinai to Gaza’

By Adnan abu-Amer

In order to solve its claimed problems caused by Gaza Strip, Israel is planning to carry out mass population transfer of Palestinians to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

There has been an increase recently in Israeli projects seeking solutions to what it calls the “Gaza problem”. They have been focusing on Egypt’s Sinai, and appear to be foreshadowing a potential population transfer of Palestinians to the Sinai Peninsula. Such a move would relieve Israel from the security burdens of managing Gaza and instead transfer it onto the Egyptian authorities.

The Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs, run by Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations and former Director-General of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, revealed a plan to solve the Gaza problem. This plan calls for a seaport and an airport in the Sinai thus facilitating travel for people and goods to and from Gaza. It also aims to establish a power plant and a water desalination project to meet the needs of the Palestinians in Gaza, as well as a train track extended from Al-Arish to Gaza and hotels and entertainment facilities.

This Israeli project was put together by Shimon Shapira, who served as the former Military Secretary to the Prime Minister and as Israel Foreign Ministry chief of staff, and by Shlomi Fogel, one of the proposers of the regional initiatives between Israel and its Arab neighbours. This relies on keeping economic and tourism projects under the responsibility of the Egyptian government. The inhabitants of Gaza will also be under Egyptian security supervision. This project is a continuation of the past Israeli government projects that call for extending Gaza south, towards Sinai.

Yehuda Yifrach, an Israeli writer for the Israeli newspaper Makor Rishon, put forward a plan to solve the Gaza problem based on encouraging voluntary migration from it and offering incentives for every Palestinian family to leave and build a new life outside its walls. He claimed that money would convince hundreds of thousands of hesitant Gazans, especially if they find a third country willing to host those who want to move to that country if they receive financial incentives.

Amir Oren, a military analyst, told Haaretz that Egypt’s concession of the Tiran and Sanafir islands to Saudi Arabia could prompt Israel to emulate the agreement to resolve its conflict with the Palestinians by annexing part of Sinai to Gaza. This means that the establishment of a Palestinian state in Sinai is an option, and Israel hopes to reproduce such an agreement between Israel and the Arabs.

Brigadier-General Amir Avivi, a former assistant to the Comptroller General of the Israeli Ministry of Defence, revealed to the settlers’ Channel 7 website a plan to declare a Palestinian state in Gaza and Sinai, because as long as half of the Palestinians reside in the West Bank and Gaza, the solution lies in Gaza, as it will be expanded towards Sinai, along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. This enables the Palestinians to have free trade, an airport, a seaport, and a real geographic connection with the world.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi also announced a similar plan to expand Gaza towards Sinai, but withdrew from it because of angry reactions from the Arab world, despite Israeli convictions that Sisi will re-approve the plan. This is because he has many challenges, tens of millions of hungry and a complicated security situation, and this Israeli plan will give the Egyptians substantial financial support and security help, turning them into a stepping stone for any peace agreement in the region. This is despite the fact that they can resort to leasing the land rather than giving it to the Palestinians for free.

General Gershon HaCohen, former commander of the Israeli occupation forces’ military college, and researcher at the Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies, said that after Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 and then Hamas’s takeover in 2007, a new reality had arisen, and the Gaza Strip gradually transformed into a self-established political entity and semi-organised military force controlling a geographical area. After the political and geographic divide occurred between Gaza, under Hamas’s control, and the West Bank, under PA control, a major rift occurred in the hypothesis of a two-state solution.

A closer look at the Israeli projects to export the Gaza problem to the Sinai may require Israel to aggravate the humanitarian situation in Gaza, to create a difficult humanitarian crisis, and to lure a major military confrontation on its borders, until we reach an all-out war, resulting in a new crisis. This requires a new policy, different from the existing one.

These Israeli projects in Gaza are based on the premise of the economic peace project, and seek economic and commercial development of the Sinai Peninsula. This is achieved through granting Egypt an international aid package from key countries, led by the United States and the Arab Gulf states, and depends on the development of economic and tourism infrastructure in North Sinai, extending to Al-Arish. These projects will be carried out by Egyptian labourers in order to improve their living standards, and they will be joined by workers from Gaza to establish the Sinai projects, thus having a positive impact on their humanitarian situation.

As a condition for the implementation of these economic and tourism development projects in Gaza, Israel requires them to be under Egyptian responsibility and that the Gazans have a passage to use Egyptian security monitoring. This is based on assumptions that finding demographic and geographic alternatives for Gaza, by strengthening their deteriorating economy and expanding the Palestinian territory towards Sinai, will give the Gazans prosperity and comfortable living standards, although all of the Israeli projects are based on humanitarian, not political motives.

In their plan for Gaza, the Israelis are relying on the money that it will collect, as was the case in the recent Bahrain economic summit. This money will be answers to many doubts and concerns regarding the solution that will include the announcement of Egypt’s somewhat annexation of the Gaza Strip and the establishment of an industrial tourism area on its coast. This is similar to what Egypt did with the Bedouins in south Sinai. In this case, the Americans will pressure the UN to support the plan in a strategic manner.

The Israeli revelations of the plans to expand Gaza into the Sinai link to Israeli aspirations for the annexation of the West Bank. This is because it believes that Gaza is the key to the solution of the conflict with the Palestinians, not the West Bank.

There is Israeli talk of huge investment projects, the establishment of new cities, the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from Gaza and moving them south towards Sinai, and the construction of a network of hotels and infrastructure, However, it is worth noting that these Israeli plans were presented to several international forums and are met with excited reactions. Moreover, these plans do not reflect a specific Israeli political line, but rather various Israeli political trends from the far right to the far left.

The Israelis who proposed these projects argue that the arising situation in Gaza requires thinking outside of the box, because the geographical scope between the Palestinian of Rafah and Egypt’s Al-Arish may be a wide margin for the expansion of Gaza there that represent economic projects and infrastructure Gaza needs. However, this is all dependent on Egypt’s approval, and it will not easily concede any of its sovereign territories. Therefore, the matter requires creative solutions that do not require outright Egyptian concession, but through financial and economic compensations for Egypt, as it is suffering from increasing economic hardship.

At the same time, Israelis believe that what they call a creative solution, represented by a Palestinian state in Gaza and Sinai does not mean that Hamas will give up its dream of a Palestinian state from the sea to the river. However, they do believe that the promised economic projects that open the way for thousands of young Gazans to be employed may create a positive change, which requires initiative to implement this plan, Sinai.

Israel’s preoccupation with proposing ideas focused on expanding Gaza to the south, towards Sinai, reminds us of the old-new project proposed by General Giora Eiland, former head of the Israeli National Security Council, which he proposed in 2005. His idea focused on reaching a settlement between Palestine and Egypt that stipulates Egypt’s concession of some of Sinai, amounting to 600 squared kilometres to Palestine, in order to resettle Palestinian refugees.

This means that the Israeli theses of extending Gaza towards Sinai are not new. There are many projects that Israel has deliberated to get rid of the Palestinian cause since the 1950s by throwing it under Egyptian auspices. This is despite the fact that the Palestinians in Gaza have no interest in Sinai, as it is a desert area. This means the new proposals are not likely to succeed, given the Palestinians’ commitment to their land in Gaza and their refusal to replace it for any other land.

Given the continued Israeli proposals to establish a Palestinian state in Gaza and Sinai, we can point out the close relations between Egypt and Israel. We can also say that Tel Aviv’s influence over Cairo has grown, along with the level of coordination between the two, especially on a security and military level. This may be why the Israelis are not concerned about Egypt agreeing to grant the Palestinians some of Sinai.

(Source / 15.08.2019) 

WHY DO PALESTINIAN DETAINEES GO ON HUNGER STRIKE?

By Qassam Ma’ady

(Qassam Ma’ady) – Six Palestinian detainees entered their second month of hunger strike and dozens more joined them, but it is not the first time and it won’t be the last. Here is why.

After thirty days without eating, a human body begins to react violently. Visibility becomes blurry, muscles become so weak one can barely stand up, pain in the back and limbs becomes constant and increasingly intense and the stomach begins to throw-up blood. Since last month, six Palestinians have consciously entered this painful process. Twenty more joined them last week. They all have one thing in common: they are all held in the occupation prisons indefinitely and they are demanding their release. However, this is not the first time Palestinian detainees protest their detention through hunger strike. In April 2014, a hundred and twenty Palestinian detainees declared an open hunger strike collectively. It lasted 63 days and many were on the brink of death. It was this hunger strike that motivated two young Palestinians from Hebron to try and take Israelí settlers as prisoners, unleashing a series of events which culminated in the Israelí massive attack on the Gaza Strip.

But in order to understand why so many prisoners chose to risk their lives in such a painful way, one must understand the specific detention regime they are subjects to: the Israelí occupation’s “Administrative Detention” system.

An endless torture
“I said goodbye to all the friends in the section. My children’s photographs were the only valuable gift I could offer, so I gave them to my closest friends. I packed my few things and got ready to meet my family. I stood up and hugged everyone in the section when the guard came and called out my name. I was ready to walk out the corridors of the Magido prison, my way to freedom”. That is how the 42-year-old ex-prisoner Abdel Halim ghannam recalls the day when his administrative detention order expired in 2011. It was his day of release, or so he thought. The prison guard did not escort Abdel Halim along the corridors of the infamous Magido prison. Instead, he handed him a paper, from behind the wires of the prison section door. It was a detention renewal order issued by an Israeli military commander, for an additional six months.

Hundreds of Palestinian administrative detainees go through this very scene every year. Currently, more than 400 Palestinians are being held under this system, including one woman. According to the Palestinian human rights and prisoner support organization, Addameer, the Israeli occupation issued 912 administrative detention orders in 2018 alone. 514 of these were renewal orders. As Addameer’s legal researcher, Ehteram Ghazawneh, puts it, “administrative detention is more than an arbitrary detention. It is a form of systematic torture and it can be seen in the way it is designed to function.”

How it works
By the time Abdel Halim was getting ready to meet his family, minutes before he received his detention renewal order, he had been in prison for two years already without charges. He was arrested based on alleged secret information that neither he nor his lawyer had any access to. His detention had been renewed several times already, but this time, he had news from his lawyer that the occupation authorities were willing to end his detention.

In fact, his lawyer could not know for sure if Abdel Halim’s detention was going to be over, because the decision does not really depend on the court, but on the occupation’s secret intelligence, the “Shabak”. It is the Shabak, after all, that presents the secret dossier to the military court, based on which it argues in favor of administrative detention. As Abdel Halim says, “ the prosecution is the Shabak itself and it decides everything.” Addameer’s lawyer, Mahmoud Hassan, explains that “as a lawyer, one is unable to defend the detainee, because there are no charges and the detention reasons are inaccessible to us. The only thing we, as lawyers, can do is to appeal the detention orders repeatedly and demand the detainee’s release.” However, the appeals are systematically rejected, so long the Shabak continues to present secret information to the court. As Ehteram Ghazawneh clarifies, “the occupation authorities use administrative detention precisely when they have no grounds to charge a Palestinian, but seek to repress him or her anyway. It is an instrument used mostly to repress community leaders, journalists, human rights defenders or anyone who expresses rejection to the occupation, including on social media.”

An endless nightmare Palestinians can remain trapped in for months or even years, not knowing when it will end, continuously failing to escape from it through legal means. This is why many Palestinian detainees decide to challenge their administrative detention themselves, with the only weapon they possess: their own bodies.

The battle of Empty Stomachs
In 2012, sheikh Khader Adnan, a Palestinian then-administrative detainee in his forties, decided to go on a hunger strike, alone, to protest his detention renewal and demand his release. Khader Adnan took nothing else than water and salt for 66 days, during which his case became a hot topic in all of Palestine. Palestinians demonstrated, marched on checkpoints holding his pictures and clashed with the occupation soldiers on a daily basis. Internationally, the case of Khader Adnan became a mobilization point for solidarity campaigns that included grassroots organizations, human rights activists and even Irish ex-hunger strikers who voiced their support for Adnan’s struggle. Eventually, the occupation’s prosecution accepted a deal with Adnan’s lawyer. The Shabak pledged not to renew his then-ongoing detention period, in exchange for him suspending his hunger strike. Palestinians saw this as a victory for Khader Adnan who was released a few months later and celebrated all over Palestine as a hero. Since then, hundreds of Palestinian administrative detainees have repeated Khader Adnan’s experience. On social media, Palestinians gave a name for this type of action: “The battle of Empty Stomachs.”

Since January 2019, Addameer documented more than 40 individual hunger strikes by Palestinian detainees, the longest lasting 70 days. At each case, hunger strikers are put into isolation, medically neglected, threatened and in many cases physically aggressed, in an attempt to break their morale and compel them to end their strikes. However, all hunger strikes ended with an agreement between the occupation authorities and the detainees, defining a definitive release date. A type of agreement the occupation could make with hunger strikers from the beginning, sparing them the unnecessary suffering and health degradation. Especially knowing that such an agreement is the only eventuality ahead. But according to Ehteram Ghazawneh, “the occupation makes the hunger strikes last as long as possible to make the cost of engaging in one even higher. It is a way of deterrence.”

“Not a single moment of weakness”
Despite the cost, as the current hunger strike takes a collective form, Palestinian detainees don’t seem deterred at all. It is only an escalation of a confrontation which is present at every moment of detention. One that Abdel Halim Ghannam remembers vividly:

“When the guard gave me the renewal order from behind the wired door, he did not go away. He remained there, looking at me as I opened the folded paper and read it. He wanted to see what my reaction was going to be. He probably expected me to break into tears or hit my head against the wall”. Abdel Halim takes a deep breath as he brings his memories back to life. “I only contained myself and kneeled in prayer with my front against the floor, loudly giving thanks to God. Many detainees do this in defiance” stresses Abdel Halim. “We know that we must not show the occupiers a single moment of weakness.”

It is this spirit that inspires detainees to continue the struggle against administrative detention, with their empty stomachs. A struggle with no close end in sight. As Ehteram Ghazawneh explains, “the struggle against administrative detention is a struggle against the occupation itself. Because the only way to end administrative detention is to end the occupation.”

(Source / 15.08.2019) 

Will the UN act if the US recognises Israel’s sovereignty over West Bank?

An Israeli flag can be seen atop a Palestinian home in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron on 26 July 2017. Over 100 settlers stormed the house and evicted the Palestinian family which legally owns it. [Mamoun Wazwaz /Anadolu Agency]

An Israeli flag can be seen atop a Palestinian home in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron on 26 July 2017 

By Ramona Wadi

The UN has advanced no further than acknowledging that Israel is seeking to “advance a claim of sovereignty” over settlements in the occupied West Bank. As the Israeli elections approach, the main contenders – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former Israeli army Chief of Staff Benny Gantz from the Blue and White alliance – are prioritising settlement expansion and the elimination of all possibilities of a Palestinian state.

Netanyahu’s alliance with US President Donald Trump has reaped an entrenching of violating Palestinian rights, which the international community has refused to consider as a strategy to displace Palestinians physically and politically. In his latest demands to the US, Netanyahu is reportedly asking Trump to support Israeli sovereignty over settlements. While official diplomatic confirmation of such reports is not yet available, such a move would tie in to the annexation comments made in June by US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.

US-Israeli actions do not leave space for manoeuvre unless this is for further colonial expansion. While the UN was busy churning out its usual statements on violations dissociated from the wider colonial framework, Israel benefited from US decisions which run contrary to the Palestinian political demands the UN purportedly supports.

READ: Need to invest in education in Palestine says UN official

In less than two years, the US recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved its embassyfrom Tel Aviv, recognised Israel’s control over the Golan Heights and set in motion plans to exacerbate UNRWA’s financial crisis by withholding funds. The US has also announced its intent to redefine the Palestinian refugee identity in order – ostensibly to render UNRWA defunct. However, the underlying motive is to eliminate the Palestinian right of return from political discourse.

While the US was divulging its economic plans as part of the “deal of the century”, the UN was looking the other way, preoccupied with saving the two-state hyperbole. Israel’s settlement expansion has also elicited a predictable response by the international community – save the two-state compromise to save international diplomacy regardless of whether it fails Palestinians. The absence of action by the international community has facilitated this alliance between the US and Israel in contempt of international law.

With no political will forthcoming from the rest of the world to halt the colonisation of Palestinian land, Israel generates additional impunity as well as the possibilities for the international community to align itself gradually with US-Israeli interests.

READ: UNRWA schools to open on time despite funding cuts

The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) is calling for international sanctions over Israel’s recent approval of additional settlement construction, yet “welcomes the principled statements of condemnation by responsible international actors”. This constant downgrading of political expectations reinforces the international community’s reliance on perfunctory statements, which also include the occasional deviation from condemnations to suggesting holding Israel accountable. The latter are disseminated as if constituting a breakthrough in a process dominated by international complicity, thus further harming the Palestinian cause for liberation and political rights.

It is no secret that the Trump administration has set an overt plan in motion to support Israel unequivocally. Meanwhile, the international community has yet to clarify its true stance over the colonisation of Palestine. Its refusal to hold Israel accountable at least for its violations points to a tacit agreement to allow a complete deterioration of Palestinian rights before spelling out its duplicitous diplomacy.

(Source / 13.08.2019) 

‘In what state did you come Eid?’

Israeli forces attack Palestinians worshippers in Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque on 11 August 2019 [Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Anadolu Agency

Israeli forces attack Palestinians worshippers in Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque on 11 August 2019

By Dr Amira Abo el-Fetouh

“In what state did you come Eid? Are things the same or is there anything new?”

As we welcomed Eid Al-Adha, I recalled this verse from a poem written by Abu Tayyib Al-Mutanabbi (915-965 CE). The state of our Muslim Ummah is worsening day after day, breaking our hearts and tearing us apart. There is no doubt that any Muslim who cares about their religion is sad at how weak, fragile and humiliated we have become. The Almighty has bestowed on our nation more sources of power, wealth and the right path than he did to others, and despite this, it lies defeated before its enemies. The Ummah has been lost for decades, and every time it tries to find its way, it becomes more and more lost and fragmented. By its enemies, I mean those who openly admit their hostility towards Muslims, those who label them as terrorists, and those who no longer shy away from saying publically that Islam is their enemy and fight it under the pretext of “the war on terror”. These enemies are using the Arab leaders, who are concerned only with their positions of authority, as the spearhead of this dirty war.

This year, Eid Al-Adha arrived on the eve of the division of Yemen into two parts, with the separation of the south from the north courtesy of a UAE conspiracy. The UAE armed and funded the separatists, enabling them to seize the presidential palace and state institutions. The government in Abu Dhabi claimed that it had withdrawn from the Saudi-led coalition that has destroyed Yemen, demolished its homes over the heads of their residents, killed thousands of Yemenis, and burned everything in the country. Yemen used to be known as “happy Yemen”, but it is now known as “miserable Yemen”.

READ: UAE calls for dialogue to end violence in Yemen’s Aden

They wanted to erase Yemeni civilisation, which dates back thousands of years, out of hatred and spite. Instead, they drowned in the quagmire largely of their own making.

Eid came with many new but painful things. During the Eid prayer at Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Israeli occupation forces stormed in and opened fire on peaceful worshippers. Zionist settlers, who had been gathering all night, were determined to storm the sacred compound and desecrate it. The Palestinian Muslims heard no condemnation of Israeli actions from any country in the world, although these self-same countries proclaim themselves to be the guardians of human rights. The UN was also silent. Why should we criticise them, though, when the Arab League, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the Arab countries all witnessed what happened at Al-Aqsa and did and said nothing. Shame on them. Their silence and lack of action is a disappointment to Al-Aqsa, which is only defended by Palestinian activists.

Palestinians can be seen in the marketplace preparing for Eid celebrations in Gaza on 3 June 2019

Yes, Al-Mutanabbi, there are new things that happened this Eid, and if you were here, I do not know what you would’ve said about them. India revoked the autonomy of Muslim Kashmir a few days before Eid and claimed that the decision was taken to combat terrorism. The first country that rushed to express its support for India’s move was the centre of Arab conspiracies, the UAE, where all of the plots against the Muslim Ummah are put together, with the help of the US and Zionist intelligence agencies. The UAE also referred to Kashmiris as “terrorists”.

This reminds me of what happened in Timor and how it was removed from the Muslim state of Indonesia and separated under the pretext that the people are Christians. They declared it to be a state, although its population was no more than 900,000 at the time, with the encouragement of the Crusader countries. However, Kashmir, which has a population of over 13 million Muslims, has not been allowed to become a state nor can it be annexed to Muslim Pakistan. Instead, they have deprived it of the bare minimum, some degree of autonomy. Muslims have no defenders nowadays, while during Al-Mutanabbi’s time, with the Abbasids ruling all of these countries, including India itself, were under Islamic rule. This Islamic polity knew no borders or divisions, it was a single nation.

READ: This triumvirate of evil has turned its sights on Kashmir

What can I say? Should I tell you, Al-Mutanabbi, about what is happening in Syria which, during your time, was known as the Levant and was the capital of the Umayyad Caliphate? Should I tell you about the conspiracies to divide and occupy it put together by the Russians and the Safavids, which you were confronting and did not allow to establish a state in the Levant? Shall I tell you how the murderer Bashar Al-Assad, who kills, oppresses and tortures his people because they ask for freedom and dignity, uses his allies Russia and the Safavids against his own people?

Or should I tell you about Libya and the divisive projects plotted by all of the colonial powers, who are trying to take a piece of the country for themselves? They are using their agent, Khalifa Haftar, to attack the capital Tripoli and kill its helpless people who are defending their country and dignity.

A picture taken on April 17, 2019 shows remnants of a rocket and burnt vehicles at the scene of an overnight rocket attack which no group claimed responsibility for so far in the Libyan capital Tripoli. [Mahmud TURKIA / AFP / Getty]

Perhaps I should I tell you about Iraq and Baghdad, the capital of the Abbasid state, which Iran, your archenemy that you defeated and triumphed over, has taken control of. Today, Iran has returned to seek revenge and it now has the upper hand in Iraq, appointing presidents who are loyal and report directly to Tehran. One of its leaders has even said that Iran occupies five Arab capitals in Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and Bahrain. Yes, Iran, or the Safavid state, as you called it during your time, has basically seized control of these five countries and is now seeking to posses a nuclear bomb.

What more can I say? Everything is painful and there is so much to say, it is like constant gunfire on the wounded nation and no one is treating its wounds. This is the state we are in, Abu Tayyib Al-Mutanabbi.

READ: Saudi, UAE blocked Pakistan issuing statement rebuking India over Kashmir   

(Source / 13.08.2019) 

When Israel Destroyed A Family’s Dreams

By Sarah Algherbawi

Abdelrahim Younis spent five months building his own home in the 1990s. Tall and spacious, it was complemented by a rose garden and palm tree at its entrance.

“I wanted to have my extended family with me and my wife when we get old,” said Abdelrahim, 64, who worked in the construction trade for decades.

His wife Ibtisam recalled that “our life was perfect” at the house, which was located in Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza.

“My children and grandchildren were all around me,” she said. “I always organized parties for their birthdays and so many family gatherings. I never expected that we would lose all of this within a moment.”

The family became concerned for their safety as soon as Israel began to bomb Gaza in a major offensive during the summer of 2014. On 8 July that year – the first day of the offensive – all 23 people living in the family’s home were evacuated.

Finding temporary refuge in the homes of relatives, they did not bring anything with them, apart from the clothes they were wearing.

On the evening of 29 July, Abdelrahim received the news he had been dreading. A neighbor phoned him to say the house had been bombed.

“I couldn’t believe what I heard,” Abdelrahim said. “It was like a nightmare.”

Abdelrahim requested that his sons wait until the following day before going to inspect the damage. It was too dangerous to venture outdoors that evening.

“In the morning, my sons and I went to the house and got a huge shock,” he said. “Everything was destroyed. The beautiful garden was turned into a big pile of rubble.”

Painful decisions

The family learned that three missiles were fired at the home from an F-16 warplane, supplied to Israel by the US.

Abdelrahim is mystified about why his home was targeted. “My sons and I don’t belong to any political party and were not involved in any military or political activities,” he said. “All we cared about was building the future for our sons and daughters. Israel destroyed my family.”

Across Gaza, more than 19,000 homes were destroyed or made unfit to live in during Israel’s 2014 offensive. A further 100,000 were damaged.

The destruction of their home forced members of the Younis family to make painful decisions.

With Israel placing heavy restrictions on the entry of construction materials into Gaza, rebuilding the home became a major ordeal. And with opportunities extremely limited in the besieged territory, members of the family began emigrating.

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Nael, the eldest son of Abdelrahim and Ibtisam, was the first to do so. He moved to Belgium in the winter of 2015 along with his wife and four children.

“I couldn’t stay in Gaza after losing the house,” Nael, a 40-year-old computer engineer, said. “I knew that it would not be rebuilt the same way. We had lost forever our beautiful moments together.”

Two months after Nael’s departure, his brother Muhammad went to Paris. Muhammad initially went alone, traveling through the Rafah crossing, which separates Gaza and Egypt.

He secured a permit to exit Gaza on the basis that he was attending a conference in France. Muhammad’s wife and children were able to join him in Paris within a few months.

Helped by a Palestinian Authority representative in Paris, Muhammad arranged for his mother Ibtisam to emigrate to France during 2016.

Ordeal

Two other brothers, Mahmoud and Ahmad, encountered considerable difficulty in entering Europe.

Both of them left Gaza without their wives or children last year, first traveling to Algeria. They had hoped to enter Spain via Morocco. But the people smugglers who were in charge of their journey abandoned them after taking their money.

The brothers eventually succeeded in entering Spain – but only after they have spent seven months in Africa.

Today, Ahmad is still trying to find a way to bring his family to Spain. Mahmoud has moved on to Sweden and has been diagnosed with health problems caused by the stress of emigration.

“I might return to Gaza,” Mahmoud said. “I can’t imagine another year without my wife and children.”

Mahmoud’s eldest son Nadim was only 2 at the time of the 2014 attack. Being displaced at such a tender age has forced him to grow up quicker than could ever be considered normal or desirable for a child.

“I try not to put him under any pressure,” said Nadim’s mother Zeinab. “But Nadim always offers to help. Because his father is not here, he feels that he has to take responsibility for many things.”

“Scattered”

The family’s home was partly rebuilt during 2018 with assistance from UNRWA, the United Nations agency for Palestine refugees. It is considerably smaller than it used to be.

Abdelrahim is distressed that his wife and many of his children have been pushed to emigrate.

Only two of his sons – Hassan and Alaa – remain with him in Gaza. Abdelrahim and Ibtisam also have two daughters, who are still living in Gaza; they had moved out of the family home before it was attacked.

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Alaa recalled a conversation he had with his mother in their old house. “She told me that she would search for a bride for me once I had graduated from university,” he said.

Alaa got married in 2016. His mother was unable to attend the wedding. She had left Gaza for France a couple of months earlier.

At 19, Hassan is the youngest boy in the family. He still has vivid memories of his old bedroom in the house, where he kept his PlayStation and a Brazil football jersey.

Five years have passed since the family’s home was destroyed, yet “the pain of losing everything has never gone away,” Hassan said.

“My family is scattered now,” he added. “I know that I am grown up. But I will never stop missing my mother and my brothers. I need them to be with me.”

(Source / 12.08.2019) 

What does Netanyahu build and plant in occupied Palestinian lands?

Netanyahu believes that only Israeli settlers are entitled to build, plant and live in the land of Palestine, whether the parts occupied in 1948 or the parts occupied in 1967, so that, they deserve to live over the heads and bodies of Palestinians

By Motasem A Dalloul

Netanyahu claims that the Palestinians destroy and Israel builds; the Palestinians uproot and Israel plants. The writer here proves the opposite while is the reality on the ground.

During his visit to the site where Israeli settler Dvir Sorek was earlier this week found dead, near the illegal Israeli settlement of Migdal Oz in Gush Etzion, south of Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel’s response to the alleged murder will be to build what the “terrorists” destroy and plant what they uproot.

“These vicious terrorists, they come to uproot – we come to plant. They come to destroy – we come to build,” Netanyahu said. “Our hands will reach out and we will deepen our roots in our homeland, in all parts of it.”

Without hesitation, Netanyahu assumed that the Israeli settler was murdered by Palestinians, calling them “vicious terrorists” who come to “uproot” and “destroy”. Is Netanyahu right when he referred to Palestinians as “vicious terrorists” who come to destroy and uproot, while the Israeli occupation has come to build and plant?

Before visiting the site of Sorek’s death, Netanyahu took part in a ceremony to lay a cornerstone for a new project to build 650 settlement units in the Israeli settlement of Beit El, in the occupied West Bank. He vowed to “secure our sovereignty over our historic homeland.”

He also said during the ceremony: “We promised to build hundreds of housing units – today we are doing it, both because we promised and because our mission is to establish the nation of Israel in our country, to secure our sovereignty over our historic homeland.”

Netanyahu is building and is promising to build more and more settlement units in the occupied Palestinian territories. Beyond this, he is promising to annex these territories. Yes, he is building and establishing a nation, but on the ruins of unlimited number of Palestinian homes, mosques, cemeteries and the dreams of the Palestinians – owners of the territories who have been there for thousands of years.

If we go back several decades, we will see that Netanyahu’s predecessors have built their state on the ruins of hundreds of Palestinian cities and village, as well as on the skulls and bones of hundreds of Palestinians who were massacred by Zionist paramilitary groups in 1948, which later became the core of the Israeli army.

Menachem Begin, who at that time headed one of these paramilitary organisations, the Irgun, later became Israeli prime minister and miraculously became a dove of peace by signing a peace treaty with Egypt.

In the past 15 years – during most of which Netanyahu was prime minister – the Israeli occupation has destroyed thousands of Palestinian homes in the occupied Palestinian territories and homes of Palestinian citizens of Israel. It has also destroyed scores of homes during major offensives in the Gaza Strip, as well as complete villages and residential quarters such as Khan Al-Ahmar, Al-Araqeeb and Wadi Al-Hummus.

According to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, “from 2006 until 31 July 2019, Israel demolished at least 1,449 Palestinian residential units in the West Bank, causing 6,336 people – including at least 3,189 minors – to lose their homes.” This number did not include East Jerusalem, where over 80 homes have been recently demolished and more than 500 Palestinians made homeless.

In addition, the same Israeli right group said that Israel demolished the homes of at least 1,048 Palestinians living in “unrecognised” villages in Israel between 2006 and 2019. However, these villages were established before the creation of Israel.

B’Tselem also said that the Israeli authorities in the occupied West Bank demolished 733 non-residential structures such as fences, cisterns, roads, storerooms, farming buildings, businesses and public buildings during the same period.

Regarding uprooting and planting, Israel has uprooted over a million Palestinians trees since 1967. According to a report by B’Tselem, Israeli settlers’ vandalism, “fully backed” by the Israeli authorities, led to the uprooting of thousands of trees. “In just over two months, from the beginning of May to 7 July 2018, B’Tselem documented ten instances in which settlers destroyed a total of more than 2,000 trees and grapevines and burned down a barley field and bales of hay.”

B’Tselem argued that under the guise of a “temporary military occupation,” Israel has been “using the land as its own: robbing land, exploiting the area’s natural resources for its own benefit and establishing permanent settlements,” estimating that Israel had dispossessed Palestinians of some 200,000 hectares (494,211 acres) of land in the occupied Palestinian territories over the years.

In light of these facts and figures, Netanyahu is requested to clarify how he builds and plants when Palestinian “terrorists” destroy and uproot. Everything which is being built and planted by Netanyahu is based on racism and racial discrimination.

Netanyahu believes that only Israeli settlers are entitled to build, plant and live in the land of Palestine, whether the parts occupied in 1948 or the parts occupied in 1967. Demolishing homes and uprooting farms belonging to the Palestinians is therefore simply part of the process of building the state of Israel.

(Source / 11.08.2019)