By Aviv Tatarsky

Hundreds of Israelis arrived at Ein Haniya, a natural spring on the outskirts of Jerusalem and the Palestinian village of al-Walajeh, last Tuesday, one of the early days of the week-long Jewish holiday of Sukkot. The site is part of a national park, technically open to all, which Israel declared on Walajeh’s agricultural land.

Less than a mile away from Ein Haniya, however, idled an Israeli Border Police jeep, stationed to ensure that no Palestinians could approach the spring. At the height of the olive harvest season, Palestinians were completely shut out from the site — including the residents of Walajeh, to whom 1,200 dunam (297 acres) of the barred area belongs.

Border Police officers have arrested several Palestinian farmers in their own olive orchards over the past few weeks. The decision to operate Ein Haniya as a leisure area for Israelis is directly linked to the expulsion of Walajeh’s residents from their own lands and from the village’s own spring.

The Bible’s strongest stories, most famously “Naboth’s Vineyard” and “The Poor Man’s Lamb,” call out against the abuse of power, including dispossession by the strong. Still, dispossession is the reality in this land, certainly since 1948. Jerusalem itself, on both sides of the Green Line, sprawls across sites of dispossession. At Ein Haniya on Tuesday, I saw this phenomenon in real time: how, in under an hour, Israeli visitors entered the site and as if it were the most natural thing in the world, yet another piece of Palestinian land turned Israeli.

The separation barrier started encroaching on Walajeh in 2010, when Israel placed a fence along a route designed to expropriate the village’s land. Instead of being built along the Green Line, based on the 1949 armistice agreements, the fence stretches close to Walajeh’s residential areas, cutting them off from 1,200 dunams of pastures and olive groves — private land that belongs to the villagers. Ein Haniya is at the heart of this sequestered area, and is also a central part of Walajeh’s heritage.

As the barrier was being built, the Jerusalem Municipality and the Nature and Parks Authority advanced a plan that would eventually see Walajeh’s agricultural land declared a national park called Nahal Refaim. The planning documentation contains no mention of the Palestinians who own the land and who cultivate the olive terraces — the same terraces whose beauty is cited as the reason for declaring the land they’re on as a national park. Instead, the plan announces that the site “will be used for the benefit of Jerusalem residents.”

The throngs of Israelis at Ein Haniya on Tuesday did indeed benefit from the spring, utterly indifferent to the fact that they were enjoying themselves on stolen land. They were blind, too, to the prominent separation fence that was about 70 meters (230 feet) above them and, behind it, the residents of Walajeh who had been excluded from the site.

I watched a father hugging his baby son. I was unable to reconcile the gap between this expression of a most innocent love, and the fact that they were taking part in land theft, denial of the villagers’ livelihood, and cultural destruction.

The national park was inaugurated at the start of 2018, a few months after the separation barrier between the spring and Walajeh was completed. Minister for Jerusalem Affairs Ze’ev Elkin, along with the previous and current mayors of Jerusalem — Nir Barkat and Moshe Lion, respectively — attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony, along with several senior officials from the Nature and Parks Authority and the Israel Antiquities Authority. Yet the park remained closed off for almost two years following its inauguration.

The reason for the extended closure is that the checkpoint between Jerusalem and Walajeh leaves the spring and the grounds of the national park on its Palestinian side. Even though the separation barrier now blocks direct access from Walajeh homes to the olive terraces and the spring, Palestinian landowners can still get to the area by taking a detour around the barrier. The Israeli authorities are therefore unsatisfied with turning Walajeh’s land into “a natural site for the benefit of Israeli residents,” but rather want to completely deny Palestinian access to the area.

And it’s for this reason that the Jerusalem Municipality and the Nature and Parks Authority want to move the checkpoint from its current location toward the village. The army is not opposed to this change, although from its perspective, the checkpoint is doing its job as it is. Since the military is not willing to fund the checkpoint’s transfer, the move has been delayed nearly two years, Ein Haniya remains closed, and Walajeh’s residents are still able to farm their land.

Now, Israelis have been given access to the spring for three days during the Sukkot holiday. In the course of preventing any Palestinians from visiting Ein Haniya during that time, the Border Police have also stopped farmers from tending to their land. The Jerusalem Municipality anticipates that the Department of Transportation will shortly provide the millions of shekels needed to move the checkpoint, after which the residents of Walajeh will be completely barred from reaching their land.

In the meantime, Border Police has arrested Palestinian farmers in recent weeks while working in their own groves, because they were on the ‘wrong’ side of the barrier. They were threatened and told not to return to their lands. One farmer has been arrested three times in the last month. Israeli forces also destroyed expensive farming equipment he owns, and uprooted eight olive trees that had been planted over 10 years ago.

None of this was of any interest to the Israeli visitors who were at Ein Haniya on Tuesday. As more and more people crowded around the water under the trees, I could envisage the next steps: people overflowing from the packed-out spring, spreading over more and more of the surrounding land. Over the next few years, Walajeh’s land will likely become Israeli picnic spots. The Jerusalem Municipality has already hired planners to develop bike paths, picnic stations, and even a large campsite.

Walajeh’s residents did not protest the takeover of Ein Haniya. This is understandable: they have been living under occupation for 52 years and as refugees since 1948, when their village was destroyed. They have tried repeatedly to engage in non-violent opposition to the separation fence, the demolition of their homes, and to advocate for their basic rights — all while absorbing violence that the state dishes out without batting an eyelid, year after year.

(Source / 23.10.2019) 


By Richard Silverstein

The headline leapt off the page of Makor Rishon, one of the right-wing Israeli dailies owned by Sheldon Adelson. Israel’s public security minister, Gilad Erdan, boasted: “Freedom of worship on the Temple Mount? It can happen in the next few years, a decade at most.”

He added: “Everyone must consider what he can do in the context of [Israeli] responsibility and authority to achieve sovereignty over our people’s holiest site, our holy Mount. This is what I myself do and promise to do even more in future.”

The explicit meaning of such statements is clear to all Israelis: Erdan plans to topple the decades-old compact between Israel and the Jordanian Jerusalem Awqaf, according to which the Awqaf exercised exclusive authority over Al-Aqsa Mosque, to offer the most extreme Israeli settlers, who seek to rebuild the Temple, total and free access to Al-Aqsa.

Full access
Given that it is the third holiest site in Islam, and that the Jordanian government is its guardian, offering full access to settlers will cause an immediate rupture within the Muslim world. It will threaten to resume the deadly riots which brought tens of thousands of Palestinians to Al-Aqsa when in July 2017 Israel installed intrusive surveillance equipment at the compound entrances.

Erdan is banking on Israel’s budding bromance with the Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia and its allies, to deflect any potential conflict with the Muslim world. Given how close these relations have become and the military-intelligence collaboration against their mutual enemy, Iran, today, the Saudis seem more than willing to abandon Palestinians.

And with such abandonment comes a retreat from previous Muslim commitments to defend Al-Aqsa against Israeli encroachment or desecration.

The Israeli government has made a cold, hard calculation that eventually it will get away with whatever it wishes at the holy site. Its alliance with Saudi Arabia will likely protect it from any charges of religious violations.

Palestinians will be outraged by the Israeli assaults on the sovereignty of the enclave but they will be left to their own devices – just as Israel wants it.

A ‘revolutionary change’
During his tenure as minister, the trespass – or as religious Jews would say, “pilgrimage” – of Israeli settlers on the holy site has increased nearly four-fold to reach 40,000 settlers annually (as of 2018), as Erdan boasted in the interview.

They make their visits during the three Jewish festivals when Jews made pilgrimages to the Temple. The unexpressed sentiment of these visits is to restore the Temple to its former glory, so they can make a pilgrimage to the holy site itself, and not its ruins.

Makor Rishon also lavished praise on Erdan for criminalising all the Muslim religious groups who acted as defenders of the holy site including the Mourabitat, Mourabitoun, and the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement.

According to the report, removing them from the scene has greatly facilitated the ability of Israeli worshippers to invade the sacred space. It also noted that it was Erdan who, for the first time ever, offered access to Israeli Jews to the Temple ruins on Tisha B’Av and Jerusalem Day.

The latter, in particular, is a day when settler hooligans parade through East Jerusalem neighbourhoods inciting violence and hate against the Palestinian residents.

The Jerusalem Day also falls during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which served as an even greater provocation. In the past, the “Temple Mount” had been off-limits to non-Muslims during the closing days of Ramadan.

Likud leadership battle
Erdan’s tenure as minister has encouraged radical Jewish extremists to expect that a “comprehensive revolutionary change” in status might be imminent. And he has not disappointed them.

He called the current situation “distorted” and promised radical change to correct so-called “discrimination” against Jews within the compound. The minister has gone a step further and promised action in the “near future”.

When asked by the reporter whether Jews would see “full freedom of worship”, Erdan replied: “I am certain of it, God willing. It cannot be otherwise. The direction in which things are moving is that we will regain an ever-greater level of sovereignty over the site. We will meet this objective when more and more Jews make pilgrimage there. ”

Then Erdan shockingly revealed his true intent to rebuild the Temple and restore it to its former glory at the expense of the Muslim holy places: “The fact that Jews can now pray on the Temple Mount does not mean that full redemption has arrived. Because this is dependent on powers beyond me, I cannot predict when this will happen. But it must be an objective realised in the coming years, a decade at most.”

Erdan’s interview comes at a crucial juncture for his ruling Likud Party. Its longtime leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, is struggling to retain his position as prime minister after two indecisive elections. He also faces three serious corruption indictments which could force his resignation. Erdan, who has political ambitions, sees an opening for a leadership bid if Netanyahu falls.

This interview was a carefully crafted message meant to cater to his right-wing settler base, who would be a major constituency in any Likud party primary for a new party leader.

Historical fallacy
Erdan sees the religious conflict as an extension – not the primary motivating factor – of the conflict. Von Clausewitz said “war is a continuation of politics by other means”. In Israel, religious conflict is the pursuit of political supremacy by other means.

Israelis who argue that the Israeli-Arab conflict is essentially based on religious hatred of Jews, or that it is a conflict for global dominance between a western religion, Judaism, and an eastern one, Islam, engage in a dangerous historical fallacy.

Religion serves as a fig leaf to conceal Israeli nationalist objectives for dominance over its neighbours. The real goals are political-military power, control of natural resources, and the land.

Most Israeli Jews, if they care at all, consider issues like rebuilding the Temple or gaining sovereignty over the site to be peripheral. But these Israelis have permitted the settlers to drive the national agenda in these matters.

Thus, the religious zealots have hijacked the political class and moulded it to their own religious-supremacist specifications. It is much easier to believe that God is on your side than to make difficult political compromises for the sake of peace and security.

Politics can offer a means for two opposing sides to negotiate and resolve differences via compromise. Religion, however, when it is distorted in this context, is a poison that can breed only war and hate.

(Source / 22.10.2019) 

The War on Truth: How Israel’s social media trolls conquered Facebook


By Ramzy Baroud 

On October 9, the social media platform, Facebook, deleted the page of the popular Palestinian news website, the Palestinian Information Center (PIC). This act, which was carried out without even contacting the page administrators, confirms that Facebook’s war on pro-Palestine voices is continuing unabated.

PIC had nearly five million followers on Facebook, a testament to its popularity and credibility among a large cross section of Palestinians and their supporters internationally. For Israel’s trolls on social media, PIC was simply too effective to be allowed to spread its message. As usual, Facebook obliged.

This oft-repeated scenario – where pro-Israeli social media trolls zoom in on a Palestinian media platform while working closely with Facebook management to censor content, bar individuals, or delete whole pages – is now the norm. Palestinian views on Facebook are simply unwanted, and the margin of what is allowed is rapidly shrinking.

Sue, a Facebook user, told me that she had been warned by the platform for alleged “hate speech/bullying” for claiming that “Israelis are militarized in their psychology”, and that the “perceived threat of and real hatred for the Palestinians (are) kept alive by the (Israeli) government.”

‘Sue’ is, of course, correct in her assessment, a claim that has been made numerous times even by the Israeli president himself. On October 14, 2014, President Reuven Rivlin, said that “the time has come to admit that Israel is a sick society, with an illness that demands treatment.” Moreover, the fact that Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has been stoking the fire of fear, hatred and racism to win a few votes in the Israeli elections has made headlines around the world.

It is unclear where exactly ‘Sue’ had gone wrong, and what portion of her comment constituted “hate speech” and “bullying”.

Opinion: Does Facebook impose curfews on Palestinians in the ‘blue world’?

I asked others to share their experiences with Facebook as a result of their pro-Palestinian speech. The responses I received indicated the unmistakable pattern that Facebook is indeed targeting, not hate speech, but criticism of Israeli war, siege, racism and apartheid.

For example, ‘José’ was censored for writing, in Spanish, that “there is nothing more cowardly than attacking or killing a child.”

“Damned coward army, assassins of Palestinian children, this is not a war, this is a genocide,” he commented.

Meanwhile, ‘Derek’ has been suspended from using Facebook for 30 days, “many times” in the past on “various charges.” He told me that “all it takes is a certain number of reports by trolls who have secret groups on who to target.”

The same pattern was repeated with ‘Anissa’, ‘Debbie’, Erika’, ‘Layla’, ‘Olivia’, ‘Rich’, ‘Eddy’ and countless others.

But who are these “trolls” and what are the roots of Facebook’s unrelenting targeting for Palestinians and their supporters?

The Trolls

According to a document obtained by the Electronic Intifada, the Israeli government has funded a “global influence campaign” with a massive budget with the sole aim of influencing foreign publics and combating the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS).

Writing in EI, Asa Winstanley, reported on a “troll army of thousands” that is “partly funded by the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs”.

“To conceal its involvement, the ministry has admitted to working through front groups that ‘do not want to expose their connection with the state,’” Winstanley wrote.

One such troll group estimated to include 15,000 active members, is Act.IL.

Writing in Jacobin Magazine website, Michael Bueckert describes the main function of Act.IL app users:

“With the mobile application and online platform Act.IL, Israel aims to recruit a mob of slacktivists and trolls to join their war against the most insidious forms of violence: pro-Palestinian tweets and Facebook posts.”

Act.IL is only the tip of the iceberg of a massive, centralized effort led by the Israeli government and involving legions of supporters around the world. However, Israel would never have achieved its objectives were it not for the fact that Facebook has officially joined the Israeli government in its social media “war” on Palestinians.

In 2014, Sohaib Zahda was reportedly the first Palestinian to be arrested by the Israeli army for his social media post, in a new strategy of cracking down on what Israel sees as “incitement”. The arrest campaign since then has expanded to include hundreds of Palestinians – mostly young artists, poets, and student activists.

But Israel only started monitoring Facebook in earnest in 2015, according to the Intercept.

“The arrests of Palestinians for Facebook posts open(ed) a window into the practices of Israel’s surveillance state and reveal social media’s darker side,” Alex Kane wrote. “What was once seen as a weapon of the weak has turned into the perfect place to ferret out potential resistance.”

Israel quickly manufactured a legal basis for the arrests (155 cases were opened in 2015 alone), thus providing a legal cover that was used in its subsequent agreement with Facebook. The Israeli Penal Code of 1977, art. 144 D.2 was repeatedly unleashed to counter a social media phenomenon that was established much more recently, all in the name of cracking down on “incitement to violence and terror”.

The Israeli strategy began with a massive hasbara (propaganda) campaign aimed at creating public and media pressure on Facebook. The Israeli government activated its then-nascent troll army to build a global narrative centered on the purported notion that Facebook has become a platform for violent ideas, which Palestinians are utilising on the ground.

Watch: Campaign launched to end Facebook’s attack on Palestinian content

The Facebook-Israel Team

When, in September 2016, the Israeli government announced its willingness to work with Facebook to “tackle incitement”, the social media giant was ready to reach an understanding, even if that meant violating the very basic freedom of expression it has repeatedly vowed to respect.

During that period, the Israeli government and Facebook agreed to “determine how to tackle incitement on the social media network,” according to the Associated Press citing top Israeli officials.

The agreement was the outcome of two days of discussions involving the Israeli interior minister, Gilad Erdan, and justice minister, Ayelet Shaked, among others.

Erdan’s office said in a statement that, “they agreed with Facebook representatives to create teams that would figure out how best to monitor and remove inflammatory content.”

In essence, this meant that any content related to Palestine and Israel is now filtered, not only by Facebook’s own editors, but by Israeli officials as well.

For Palestinians, the outcome has been devastating as numerous pages, like that of PIC, have been deleted and countless users have been banned, temporarily or indefinitely.

Quite often, the process of targeting Palestinians and their supporters follows the same logic:

  • Pro-Israel trolls fan out, monitoring and commenting on Palestinian posts.
  • The trolls report allegedly offensive individuals and content to the Facebook/Israeli “team”.
  • Facebook carries out recommendations regarding accounts that have been flagged for censorship.
  • The accounts of Palestinian and pro-Palestinian pages and individuals are deleted or banned.

While PIC did not receive any warning before their popular account was axed, chances are the decision followed the same pattern as above.

When social media was first introduced, many saw in it an opportunity to present ideas and advocate causes that have been, for one reason or another, shunned by mainstream media.

Palestine suddenly found a new, welcoming media platform; one that is not influenced by wealthy owners and paid advertisers, but by ordinary individuals – millions of them.

Israel, however, may have found a way to circumvent the influence of Facebook on the discussions pertaining to Palestinian rights and the Israeli occupation.

When exposing apartheid, condemning child killers and discussing the fear-mentality pervading in Israel become “hate speech” and “bullying”, one should then ponder what has become of social media’s promise of freedom and popular democracy.

While Facebook has done much more to discredit itself in recent years, no other act is as sinister as censoring the voices of those who dare challenge state-sponsored violence, racism and apartheid, anywhere, with Palestine remaining the prime example thereof.

(Source / 20.10.2019) 

Israel is driving Palestinians from their historic lands

Thousands have been driven out of their homes because their numbers pose a major demographic threat to Israel

By Jonathan Cook 

The decades-long struggle by tens of thousands of Arabs against being uprooted from their homes – some for the second or third time – should be proof enough that Israel is not the western-style liberal democracy it claims to be.

Last week 36,000 Bedouin – all of them Palestinians (referred to as Israeli Arab citizens since 1948) – discovered that their state is about to make them refugees in their own country, driving them into holding camps. These Israelis, it seems, are the wrong kind.

Their treatment has painful echoes of the past. In 1948, 750,000 Palestinians were expelled by the Israeli army outside the borders of the newly declared Jewish state established on their homeland – what the Palestinians call their Nakba, or catastrophe.

Israel is regularly criticised for its belligerent occupation, its relentless expansion of illegal settlements on Palestinian land and its repeated and savage military attacks, especially on Gaza.

On rare occasions, analysts also notice Israel’s systematic discrimination against the 1.8 million Palestinians whose ancestors survived the Nakba and live inside Israel, ostensibly as citizens.


But each of these abuses is dealt with in isolation, as though unrelated, rather than as different facets of an overarching project. A pattern is discernible, one driven by an ideology that dehumanises Palestinians everywhere Israel encounters them.

That ideology has a name. Zionism provides the thread that connects the past – the Nakba – with Israel’s current ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their homes in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, the destruction of Gaza, and the state’s concerted efforts to drive Palestinian citizens of Israel out of what is left of their historic lands and into ghettoes.

The logic of Zionism, even if its more naive supporters fail to grasp it, is to replace Palestinians with Jews – what Israel officially terms Judaisation.

The Palestinians’ suffering is not some unfortunate side effect of conflict. It is the very aim of Zionism: to incentivise Palestinians still in place to leave “voluntarily”, to escape further suffocation and misery.

The starkest example of this people replacement strategy is Israel’s long-standing treatment of 250,000 Bedouin who formally have citizenship.

The Bedouin are the poorest group in Israel, living in isolated communities mainly in the vast, semi-arid area of the Negev, the country’s south. Largely out of view, Israel has had a relatively free hand in its efforts to “replace” them.

That was why, for a decade after it had supposedly finished its 1948 ethnic cleansing operations and won recognition in western capitals, Israel continued secretly expelling thousands of Bedouin outside its borders, despite their claim on citizenship.

Meanwhile, other Bedouin in Israel were forced off their ancestral lands to be driven either into confined holding areas or state-planned townships that became the most deprived communities in Israel.

Jewish demographic dominance

It is hard to cast the Bedouin, simple farmers and pastoralists, as a security threat, as was done with the Palestinians under occupation.

But Israel has a much broader definition of security than simple physical safety. Its security is premised on the maintenance of an absolute demographic dominance by Jews.

The Bedouin may be peaceable but their numbers pose a major demographic threat and their pastoral way of life obstructs the fate intended for them – penning them up tightly inside ghettoes.

Most of the Bedouin have title deeds to their lands that long predate Israel’s creation. But Israel has refused to honour these claims and many tens of thousands have been criminalised by the state, their villages denied legal recognition.

For decades they have been forced to live in tin shacks or tents because the authorities refuse to approve proper homes and they are denied public services like schools, water and electricity.

The Bedouin have one option if they wish to live within the law: they must abandon their ancestral lands and their way of life to relocate to one of the poor townships.

Many of the Bedouin have resisted, clinging on to their historic lands despite the dire conditions imposed on them.

Al Araqib

One such unrecognised village, Al Araqib, has been used to set an example. Israeli forces have demolished the makeshift homes there more than 160 times in less than a decade.

In August, an Israeli court approved the state billing six of the villagers $370,000 for the repeated evictions.

Al Araqib’s 70-year-old leader, Sheikh Sayah Abu Madhim, recently spent months in jail after his conviction for trespassing, even though his tent is a stone’s throw from the cemetery where his ancestors are buried.

Now the Israel authorities are losing patience with the Bedouin.

Largest displacement in decades

Last January, plans were unveiled for the urgent and forcible eviction of nearly 40,000 Bedouin from their homes in unrecognised villages under the guise of “economic development” projects. It will be the largest expulsion in decades.

“Development”, like “security”, has a different connotation in Israel. It really means Jewish development, or Judaisation – not development for Palestinians.

The projects include a new highway, a high-voltage power line, a weapons testing facility, a military live-fire zone and a phosphate mine.

It was revealed last week that the families would be forced into displacement centres in the townships, living in temporary accommodation for years as their ultimate fate is decided. Already these sites are being compared to the refugee camps established for Palestinians in the wake of the Nakba.

The barely concealed aim is to impose on the Bedouin such awful conditions that they will eventually agree to be confined for good in the townships on Israel’s terms.

Six leading United Nations human rights experts sent a letter to Israel in the summer protesting the grave violations of the Bedouin families’ rights in international law and arguing that alternative approaches were possible.

Adalah, a legal group for Palestinians in Israel, notes that Israel has been forcibly evicting the Bedouin over seven decades, treating them not as human beings but as pawns in its never-ending battle to replace them with Jewish settlers.

The Bedouin’s living space has endlessly shrunk and their way of life has been crushed.

This contrasts starkly with the rapid expansion of Jewish towns and single-family farming ranches on the land from which the Bedouin are being evicted.

It is hard not to conclude that what is taking place is an administrative version of the ethnic cleansing Israeli officials conduct more flagrantly in the occupied territories on so-called security grounds.

These interminable expulsions look less like a necessary, considered policy and more like an ugly, ideological nervous tic.

(Source / 18.10.2019) 


Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is seen on stage during a town hall at Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California September 27, 2015

By Hossam Shaker

When the Arab youth revolted in 2011 to demand freedom and democracy in their countries, Facebook was the social media platform of choice for crowd mobilisation, a proven experience in other contexts around the world. When Palestinian youth tried to take a chance and speak out against the Israeli occupation to mobilise the masses against it via the same platform, they faced hindrances from Facebook, which is the leading platform in Palestine. During the Arab Spring, this social networking platform banned prominent Palestinian pages, some of which had called for mass civilian rallies against the Israeli occupation, calling it the “third intifada”.

What appeared at the time as sporadic, became a growing occurrence, until Palestinians complained about Facebook management’s continued targeting of their accounts. Every morning, customary messages are sent announcing increasing numbers of well-known Palestinian organisations and figures, as well as ordinary citizens, having been banned from the most widely-used platform. There have been similar complaints from Arabs expressing solidarity with the Palestinian cause.

It is enough to use specific terms for Facebook to ban a post, or completely deactivate an account, and it often does not issue a clear justification to those affected. This makes them prone to making assumptions to explain the loose nature of the ban notice that appears. Many Palestinian accounts have suffered from this bitter experience over the years, as whenever a specific page succeeds in gaining followers, it receives a notice from Facebook deactivating the account and losing the followers it has gained with much effort. It is then forced to start from scratch with alternative accounts, only for this to occur again.

Palestinian content is suffering from an increased crackdown on Facebook, which developed algorithms that harasses this content, for example, by tracking vocabulary, images and videos shared about reality under the occupation. This is used as a pretext to deactivate Palestinian news pages, merely for mentioning the names of specific organisations or people. This targeting is escalated by the fact that the Palestinian accounts are facing monitoring from specialised Israeli circles that monitor their content, in order to incite against them and to report alleged abuses that result in their bans. The Israeli officials do not want Palestine to have a platform for influence on the social networking site. The banning measures have reached a climax, with the increased interaction on the social networking site marking special events and after the constant killings committed by the occupation forces. Accounts have been banned due to posting the names of Palestinian martyrs, for example, or under the justification of posting pictures and videos showing the bleak reality, which limits the presence of the Palestinian narrative and versions of events.

Given this suppressed situation, the Palestinians feel that the Facebook management count their every word and impose a ‘curfew’ on them, even in the virtual world. This is reminiscent of the extensive experience of the local Palestinian society with the Israeli occupation’s measures of banning them from leaving their homes, and restricting their movement to their neighbourhoods. This also includes Israel’s confrontation of protests with excessive oppression. Ultimately, the Palestinians are facing restrictions and persecution in their realities and in their virtual worlds, as they are suffering from demolition policies ordered by the occupation authorities. Palestinian social media activists witness the demolition of their virtual homes on the social networking site, that they have spent many years building, on the orders of the Facebook authorities that do not care about their objections.

As a result, it has become a popular tradition for Palestinians to express certain terms and vocabulary in convoluted ways, attempting to bypass the artificial intelligence algorithms that monitor them. This includes dividing some words, rewriting them by mixing Arabic and Latin letters, or by replacing some letters with symbols. This is a well-known method used on social media to censor profanities. The need to go to such exceptional lengths has created a deep sense amongst the Palestinians and those in solidarity with their cause, that Facebook is blatantly censoring them and forcing them to be vague, depriving them of their right of expression by imposing additional restrictions. The circle of those affected widens to include other social media sites, especially since the measures of a large platform clearly influence the behaviour and regulations of other social media sites.

The anger of Palestinian and Arab users was heightened after Facebook banned certain words, and began holding users accountable, retrospectively, for posts they made years ago. Many affected users expressed their disturbance of the ban, and many reports were issued condemning it. Meanwhile, many voices expressed feelings of frustration towards what they saw as authoritarian treatment towards them, by the companies controlling the social networking platforms, which made them feel helpless and at a loss for options to deal with them. On September 30 2019, Sada Social, a Palestinian youth initiative, wrote a strongly worded letter to Facebook, to complain about the harassment and crackdown that has increased towards Palestinian content. The letter was written after Facebook battled many words related to the Palestinian cause, and added them to the list of words banned on the blue website, thus subjecting hundreds of Palestinian accounts and pages to various sanctions by the platform’s administration. These sanctions reached the extent of deactivating accounts and pages over ten years-old. Sada Social also urged the Facebook policies department to adopt an objective view of the Palestinian cause, and to take into consideration the fact that the Palestinians have the right to use this platform to express their views and beliefs, like other users do around the world.

Palestinian disillusion with Facebook has increased to become a growing discontent with its tough measures, that worsens year after year, but the dilemma is that the affected masses are still at a loss as to how to deal with abuses attributed to social media administrations. Web platforms have no physical address in the real world, which stops them from expressing anger in the traditional manner and confronting its authoritarian behaviours that have not been discussed. As for abandoning the platform that they have increasingly complained is biased, does not seem a realistic option so far. Self-banning from the platform could be considered as giving in to the efforts to silence the Palestinian content. Despite this, the Palestinians are trying to raise the issue with successive campaigns in the blue world itself, against the targeting of their freedom of expressing their reality and cause. Meanwhile, several reports are being issued by human rights, civil society and specialised organisations, all warning against the censorship, ban, and restriction methods adopted by Facebook against the Palestinian content, which are growing year on year.

The growing impediments to this content are cause to assume that if this social platform existed in the last century, it would not have tolerated movements of liberation from colonialism, nor would it have eared the global anti-apartheid solidarity in South Africa. The platform may have imposed restrictions similar to those suffered by the Palestinian people under the pretext of “violating community standards.”

(Source / 17.10.2019) 

Israel has normalised torture of Palestinian prisoners

Brutal treatment meted out to Samir Arbeed by Shin Bet agents has prompted strong condemnation from human rights campaigners

By Ben White

The impunity enjoyed by Israeli forces for the violent and degrading treatment of Palestinian prisoners makes international pressure and intervention essential.

Last week, a Palestinian detainee arrested by Israeli occupation forces was admitted to a Jerusalem hospital suffering from severe injuries, including broken ribs and kidney failure.

Samir Arbeed, 44 and in good health when detained, had been tortured during his interrogation at the hands of Shin Bet agents. According to reports, the agents had been given permission by an Israeli “judicial body” to use “exceptional ways to investigate”.

The treatment meted out to Arbeed in custody has prompted strong condemnation from Palestinian and international human rights campaigners, with Amnesty International describing the “legally sanctioned torture” as “utterly outrageous”.

Systemic abuse

That reference to “legally sanctioned” is key. In its most recent annual report, Amnesty noted how “torture and other ill-treatment of detainees, including children, remained pervasive and was committed with impunity [by Israeli forces]”.

Other NGOs have documented the use by Israeli interrogators of physical violence, stress positions and sleep deprivation – methodsdeployed while the Palestinian prisoner is denied access to a lawyer. An academic study published in 2015 found that “sexual ill-treatment is systemic”.

In 2017, Haaretz reported on Israel’s torture methods as confirmed by interrogators themselves, and cited a piece published two years earlier that suggested the “use of torture was on the rise”.

Clearly, this is not just a case of “a few rotten apples”. In fact, the issue goes deeper than the actions of the individual agents, right to the heart of Israel’s institutionalised – and judicially rubber-stamped – violations of Palestinian rights and of international human rights norms.

In 1999, Israel’s top court famously ruled that Shin Bet agents could not use “physical means” against Palestinian prisoners – but that those who did so in the case of a “ticking bomb” situation would be immune from prosecution.

‘Dangerous precedent’

As human rights NGO B’Tselem describes, Shin Bet agents thus continued to use methods “that constitute abuse and even torture … These methods were not limited to exceptional cases and quickly became standard interrogation policy.”

It gets worse. In December 2017, Israel’s Supreme Court rejected a petition brought by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) on behalf of Palestinian prisoner Assad Abu Ghosh.

With the court taking “the state’s side on all of the key issues before it”, Judge Uri Shoham declared: “The definition of certain interrogation methods as ‘torture’ is dependent on concrete circumstances, even when these are methods recognized explicitly in international law as ‘torture’.”

The decision was slammed by the UN special rapporteur on torture as setting “a dangerous precedent” and “gravely undermining the universal prohibition of torture”.

Yet, more was to come. In a November 2018 ruling, Israel’s Supreme Court again gave its backing to the violent interrogation of Palestinian prisoner Fares Tbeish, stating that his torture by Shin Bet agents was not illegal and the perpetrators should not face prosecution.

A report in +972 Magazine described the ruling as having “broadened and effectively removed” even the limitations imposed in the 1999 court decision, with legal scholar Itamar Mann telling the news site that in the eyes of the High Court, physical abuse “is a legitimate and perhaps even the preferable way of carrying out an interrogation in cases of national security”.

Israeli impunity

It is no wonder, then, given the support for torture among Israeli officials and judges, that out of hundreds of complaints made against Shin Bet interrogators in recent years, not a single criminal investigation has been opened.

And it is in light of these precedents that one must view with scepticism the announcement by Israel’s Justice Ministry that it is launching an investigation into “potential wrongdoing” by Shin Bet agents in the case of Arbeed; no one is holding their breath for anything like meaningful accountability.

The impunity enjoyed by Israeli forces for the violent and degrading treatment of Palestinian prisoners makes international pressure and intervention essential.

On Tuesday, Palestinians protested at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) offices in Ramallah, demanding that the body exercise its right to visit Arbeed.

Prisoners’ rights groups and the Palestinian health ministry delivered a letter to the ICRC expressing their collective concern, and the ICRC said on Wednesday that it was attempting to visit Arbeed “as soon as possible”.

The torture of Arbeed shines a light on yet another way in which Israel is singled out for impunity. An ally of Western states, which benefits from multiple bilateral and multilateral agreements in trade and defence, is openly torturing prisoners detained in occupied territory – with judicial backing.

Addameer has called on the UN and its bodies “to act immediately in actual attempts to hold the Israeli occupation authorities accountable for their crimes”.

(Source / 16.10.2019) 

The EU’s conditional aid and suppression of Palestinian rights

The EU does not assist the Palestinians without a price

By Ramona Wadi

The EU can claim to be the biggest donor to the Palestinians, yet it is financing its own agenda, rather than providing the means for Palestinians to demand their legitimate political rights.

The European Union’s incoming Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell has already signalled a continuation of the bloc’s prevailing politics when it comes to Palestine – preserve the two-state compromise by ensuring funding to the Palestinian Authority.

“If anyone helps the Palestinians today and their right to have their own state, that is Europe,” Borrell declared at the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs. The truth is Europe does neither; it is merely concerned with maintaining its influence when it comes to the two-state compromise and peace-building narratives, all of which serve the EU’s political agenda.

Summarising the gist of the EU’s foreign policy when it comes to Palestine, Borrell tweeted: “The EU contributes almost one million € a day to attend the Palestinian Authority. We must continue to defend a peaceful coexistence and the two states solution.” A succinct description of what EU funding constitutes – providing the PA with the necessary backing to function without the existence of a Palestinian state.

For the EU, maintaining the two-state paradigm at the helm of policy works better than implementation, which is now inapplicable anyway. The pretence of state-building, which the PA forms part of, is also a veneer that shifts focus away from the EU’s lucrative trade deals with Israel. Borrell has already stated, unsurprisingly, that the EU’s trade agreements with Israel will not be broken. In 2017, Israel-EU trade amounted to €36.2 billion, which pales in comparison to EU assistance to the PA.

For Palestinians, therefore, the EU only finances hypotheses – in Borrell’s words, “the possibility of the creation of a Palestinian state that can coexist peacefully with an Israeli state.” The EU can claim to be the biggest donor to the Palestinians, yet it is financing its own agenda, rather than providing the means for Palestinians to demand their legitimate political rights.

The Oslo Accords, which allowed Israel to colonise additional Palestinian land, have not been repudiated by the EU. On the contrary, there has been no contestation of the framework on the grounds that it has stripped Palestinians of what remained of their land and freedom.

With the PA a willing accomplice, the EU has never been challenged by Palestinian political bureaucrats to uphold the rights of the Palestinian people. Conversely, the PA reaches out to the EU for assistance in maintaining the violations imposed by Israel and to which the international community turns a blind eye.

Europe is not helping Palestinians towards statehood – it is maintaining the illusion of statehood as an interim project, while Israel colonises what remains of Palestinian territory. The Oslo Accords are vague and so is EU policy towards Palestine. Instead of seeking clear parameters to decolonise Palestine, the EU is adopting the same ambiguities that have transformed Palestinians into a humanitarian project against their will.

The EU is merely financing its unwarranted justification of the two-state paradigm and forcing Palestinians into conditional financial aid. While nothing new is expected when it comes to the EU’s farcical peace and state-building for Palestinians, Borrell has indicated the EU’s agenda upfront – the financing of agendas and illusions to enable Israel’s ongoing colonial project.

(Source / 15.10.2019) 

Israel has never had any intention of honouring either the 1947 Partition Plan or 1967 borders

When Ben-Gurion, Weizmann and others met in London in 1941 to discuss future plans, the cynical disconnect was chilling. Would “Arabs” have equal rights in the “Jewish state”? Of course, but only after there were none left

By Thomas Suárez 

Israeli occupation has been always claiming it is working hard to reach a solution for the conflict with the Palestinians based on the 1967 borders, but this is really a big lie.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised to annex parts of the occupied West Bank if re-elected in last month’s General Election, eliciting outrage from world leaders. However, that “promise” to usurp not just the West Bank, but all of Palestine, is century-old news, an ongoing promise being kept, and no international outrage has ever really mattered in any case.

A well-worn chapter of Israel’s creation myth explains its conquests thus: When in November 1947, the United Nations proposed partitioning Palestine into two states (General Assembly Resolution 181), Israel’s founders embraced the offer with gratitude, whereas the Palestinians scoffed at it and attacked the fledgling “Jewish state”.

The result of this alleged Palestinian intransigence? The “fundamental fact”, as the pro-Israel spin-doctors at CAMERA put it, is that had the Palestinians accepted partition, there would have been a Palestinian state since 1948, “and there would not have been a single Palestinian refugee”.

This is more than bizarre rationalisation for seven decades of imperialism and ethnic cleansing; it is historical invention. The Zionist movement never had any intention of honouring any agreement that “gave” it less than all of Palestine. Mainstream leaders like the “moderate” Chaim Weizmann and iconic David Ben-Gurion feigned acceptance of partition because it handed them a weapon powerful enough to defeat partition: statehood.

When Britain agreed to become Zionism’s benefactor, codified with the ambiguous 1917 Balfour Declaration, its negotiators knew full well that the Zionists planned to usurp and ethnically cleanse Palestine, and that the Declaration’s assurance to the contrary was a lie. As Lord Curzon complained, Zionism’s propagandists “sang a different tune in public” — a tune that the major media continue to hum today.

By 1919, activists like Weizmann were already exasperated at Britain’s failure to establish a Zionist state from the Mediterranean Sea to the River Jordan— as a start — and so pushed for “a comprehensive emigration scheme” of non-Jews to get the ethnic cleansing over and done with. The public lie remained safeguarded; British Colonel Richard Meinertzhagen assured Weizmann that the true plan is “still withheld from the general public”. Nor was the public informed when the USA’s King-Crane Commission went to the region that year and discovered for themselves that “the Zionists looked forward to a practically complete dispossession of the present non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine.” The Commission Report was buried.

It was in 1937 that the turmoil caused by dispossession first led the British to propose partitioning the land. Ben-Gurion saw partition’s hidden potential: “In the wake of the establishment of the state,” he told the Zionist Executive, “we will abolish partition and expand to the whole of Palestine.” He made the same promise to his son Amos.

When Ben-Gurion, Weizmann and others met in London in 1941 to discuss future plans, the cynical disconnect was chilling. Would “Arabs” have equal rights in the “Jewish state”? Of course, but only after there were none left. Would partition be acceptable? Certainly, if the line were the River Jordan (meaning 100 per cent of Palestine for Israel), expandable into the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan itself. One attendee challenged the Zionists; the industrialist Robert Waley Cohen accused them of following Nazi ideology.

By 1944, the British knew that opposition to partition had “hardened throughout all shades of Jewish [Zionist] opinion,” and new resolutions among the settlers’ leaders placed “special emphasis on the rejection of partition.” But partition’s failure would become the Palestinians’ problem. The British would go home.

Ben-Gurion described statehood as a “tool”, not an “end”, a distinction “especially relevant to the question of boundaries,” which would instead be determined by “seizing control of the country by force of arms.” Scarcely any pretence was made outside the UN’s walls: Zionist Organisation of America President Abba Silver publicly condemned any mention of Partition and demanded an “aggressive and militant line of action” to take all of Palestine. The Jewish Agency’s militias were busy doing precisely that, frenetically establishing strongholds in areas that the UN was expected to allocate to the Palestinians.

“The peace of the world,” warned future Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin warned the UN in the summer of 1947 — after Zionist terrorism had already reached Europe and Britain — will be threatened if “the Hebrew [Biblical] homeland” is not given in full to the Zionists. “Whatever might be signed or pledged” at the United Nations, the Jewish Standard warned, would be annulled by the “power and passion opposed to Partition” of “uncompromising resolve.”

This mass fanaticism to “restore” an ancient kingdom and be its imagined population was the result of what might fairly be described as brainwashing. Already by 1943, US intelligence warned that Zionism was nurturing “a spirit closely akin to Nazism, [to] regiment the community [and] resort to force” to achieve its goals. Similar warnings of Zionism’s fascistic stranglehold over Jews came from individuals in the midst of it, among them J.S. Bentwich, Senior Inspector of Jewish Schools, and Hebrew University president Judah Magnes.

The day before Resolution 181 was passed, the CIA warned again that the Zionists will ignore partition and “wage a strong propaganda campaign in the US and in Europe” for more territory. Then as today, though, Americans were kept uninformed: “Americans,” noted US intelligence figure Kermit Roosevelt in 1948, do not realise “the extent to which partition was refused acceptance as a final settlement by the Zionists in Palestine.”

Ironically, it was because the UN never believed that the Zionists would honour partition’s borders that it “gave” them a disproportionately large land area, hoping this might delay their inevitable aggression. But barely was the ink dry when the mayor of Tel Aviv —the presumed capital of the new state — announced that his city “would never be the Jewish capital”. It would be Jerusalem, a direct breach of the UN Partition resolution, which had designated it as an international zone. The Jewish Agency also said that “a number of national institutions” would be in Jerusalem.

The duplicitous attitude toward their UN “victory” was barely veiled. Whether the “liberal” Haaretz or the Zionist newspaper Haboker, the message was indistinguishable: “The youth of the Yishuv must bury deep in their hearts the fact that the frontiers have not been fixed for all eternity,” as Haboker put it. However long it takes, the rest will be “returned to the fold”.

Israeli statehood assured, CIA warnings grew more ominous: Zionist operatives were now impersonating US military and American Airlines personnel. Former US Senator Guy Gillette was openly working for the terror gang Irgun and pushed for blanket recognition of Israeli sovereignty over any lands that its militias could conquer.

Jerusalem remained Israel’s most urgent concern. Whereas land under “Arab” rule could eventually be usurped, a Jerusalem administered by the UN might not. And so when UN Mediator Count Folke Bernadotte composed a new plan for peace in the autumn of 1948, the terror gang Lehi warned him against a “non-Jewish administration” there. However, Bernadotte kept Resolution 181’s international zone, and the next day Lehi, under future Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, assassinated him.

By the end of 1948 Israel had stolen more than half of the land it had “agreed” to leave for the Palestinians, and refused to budge. This was the origin of the misnomer “1967 borders”; in truth they are the ceasefire line. Partition was a charade, and Palestinian negotiators were right to dismiss it, but their honesty was, from the Machiavellian standpoint, a tactical blunder which the Zionists were counting on. In short, Israel has never had any intention of honouring either the 1947 Partition Plan or the 1967 borders. So-called Greater Israel across all of historic Palestine and beyond has always been Zionism’s objective.

(Source / 15.10.2019) 


By Ramzy Baroud

On August 20, Heba Ahmed al-Labadi fell into the dark hole of the Israeli legal system, joining 413 Palestinian prisoners who are currently held in so-called administrative detention.

On September 26, Heba and seven other prisoners declared a hunger strike to protest their unlawful detention and horrific conditions in Israeli prisons. Among the prisoners is Ahmed Ghannam, 42, from the village of Dura, near Hebron, who launched his hunger strike on July 14.

Administrative detention is Israel’s go-to legal proceeding when it simply wants to mute the voices of Palestinian political activists, but lacks any concrete evidence that can be presented in an open, military court.

Not that Israel’s military courts are an example of fairness and transparency. Indeed, when it comes to Palestinians, the entire Israeli judicial system is skewed. But administrative detention is a whole new level of injustice.

The current practice of administrative detention dates back to the 1945 Defense (Emergency) Regulations issued by the colonial British authorities in Palestine to quell Palestinian political dissent. Israel amended the regulations in 1979, renaming them to the Israeli Law on Authority in states of emergency. The revised law was used to indefinitely incarcerate thousands of Palestinian political activists during the Palestinian Uprising of 1987. On any given day, there are hundreds of Palestinians who are held under the unlawful practice.

The procedure denies the detainees any due process and fails to produce an iota of evidence to as why the prisoner – who is often subjected to severe and relentless torture – is being held in the first place.

Heba, a Jordanian citizen, was detained at the al-Karameh crossing (Allenby Bridge) on her way from Jordan to the West Bank to attend a wedding in the Palestinian city of Nablus.

According to the Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network Samidoun, Heba was first held at the Israeli intelligence detention center in Petah Tikva, where she was physically abused and tortured.

Torture in Israel was permissible for many years. In 1999, the Israeli Supreme Court banned torture. However, in 2019, the court explicitly clarified that “interrogational torture is lawful in certain circumstances in Israel’s legal system.” Either way, little has changed in practice before or after the Israeli court’s “clarification.”

Of the dozens of Palestinian and Arab prisoners I interviewed in recent months for a soon-to-be-published volume on the history of the Palestinian prison experience, every single one of them underwent a prolonged process of torture during the initial interrogation, that often extended for months. If their experiences differed, it was only in the extent and duration of the torture. This applies to administrative detainees as much as it applies to so-called “security prisoners.”

Wafa Samir Ibrahim al-Bis, a Palestinian woman from Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza, told me about the years she was held in Israeli jails. “I was tortured for years inside the Ramleh prison’s infamous ‘cell nine,’ a torture chamber they designated for people like me,” she said.

“I was hanged from the ceiling and beaten. They put a black bag on my head as they beat and interrogated me for many hours and days. They released dogs and mice in my cell. I couldn’t sleep for days at a time. They stripped me naked and left me like that for days on end. They didn’t allow me to meet with a lawyer or even receive visits from the Red Cross.”

Heba is now lost in that very system, one that has no remorse and faces no accountability, neither in Israel itself nor to international institutions whose duty is to challenge this kind of flagrant violation of humanitarian laws.

While Israel’s mistreatment of all Palestinian prisoners applies equally regardless of faction, ideology or age, the gender of the prisoner matters insofar as the type of torture or humiliation used. Many of the female prisoners I spoke with explained how the type of mistreatment they experienced in Israeli prisons seemed often to involve sexual degradation and abuse. One involves having female prisoners strip naked before Israeli male interrogators and remaining in that position during the entire duration of the torturous interrogation, that may last hours.

Khadija Khweis, from the town of at-Tour, adjacent to the Old City of occupied East Jerusalem, was imprisoned by Israel 18 times, for a period ranging from several days to several weeks. She told me that “on the first day of my arrival at prison, the guards stripped me completely naked.”

“They searched me in ways so degrading, I cannot even write them down. All I can say is that they intentionally tried to deprive me of the slightest degree of human dignity. This practice, of stripping and of degrading body searches, would be repeated every time I was taken out of my cell and brought back.”

Heba and all Palestinian prisoners experience humiliation and abuse on a daily basis. Their stories should not be reduced to an occasional news item or a social media post, but should become the raison d’être of all solidarity efforts aimed at exposing Israel, its fraudulent judicial system and Kangaroo courts.

The struggle of Palestinian prisoners epitomizes the struggle of all Palestinians. Their imprisonment is a stark representation of the collective imprisonment of the Palestinian people – those living under occupation and apartheid in the West Bank and those under occupation and siege in Gaza.

Israel should be held accountable for all of this. Rights groups and the international community should pressure Israel to release Heba al-Labadi and all of her comrades, unlawfully held in Israeli prisons.

(Source / 14.10.2019) 


By Motasem A Dalloul

In the late of 1970s, Islamists began to emerge as an effective group in the battle against the Israeli occupation. Their rise led to the formation of the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas in the 1980s which became an effective Palestinian national movement along with secular organisations Fatah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

Hamas’ Islamic ideology began to gain support from academics, traders, unionists, society leaders and even Palestinian fighters. When it participated in the elections of the Palestinian Doctors’ Syndicate in the early 1980s, it achieved a resounding victory. Then, it swept other unions, including university students’ unions.

Leaders and members of other Palestinian factions, who looked at the Islamists as reactionaries and primitive people were shocked at the consecutive successes.

At the start of the First Intifada in 1987, the Islamists, who officially named themselves Hamas, took the lead in popular resistance and then armed resistance. This led to severe clashes with Fatah which reached their peak in 1992. After Oslo, the Palestinian Authority (PA) – led by Fatah – cracked down on Hamas and its network of social and medical welfare NGOs. All other PLO factions remained silent.

By the start of Al-Aqsa Intifada, Hamas swept the public opinion among the Palestinians due to its success in carrying out armed resistance against the Israeli occupation. In 2006, three years after the assassination of its quadriplegic founder, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, Hamas took part in the Palestinian parliamentary elections and achieved an overwhelming victory, but its rival Fatah along with all members of the PLO and even Islamic Jihad, which did not participate in the elections, refused to recognise Hamas’ victory.

The Palestinian factions left Hamas to form a government alone, hoping that it would fail and then retreat. Fatah, backed by Israel and Arab states, worked hard to destroy Hamas’ government, but failed due to the overwhelming popularity of the movement among Palestinians.

Backed by Israel, Fatah succeeded to ousting Hamas’ government from the occupied West Bank, but failed to do the same in the Gaza Strip. Since then, Fatah has been ruling the West Bank and Hamas has governed the Gaza Strip. Israel and Egypt, backed by the international community, has been imposing a strict air, sea and ground siege on Gaza to push people to rebel against Hamas.

Their acts have had some success, but they have also aroused the anger of most Palestinians forcing them and other factions to back Hamas.

“Hamas recognises that the Palestinian issue needs all the Palestinian factions together,” Mustafa Al-Sawwaf, a veteran Palestinian political analyst told MEMO. “So, it sought to bring them together since it won the elections, but the Palestinian factions did not respond to its initiatives until it proved that it is stronger.”

Today, Hamas is leading all the major Palestinian national factions in the Palestinian territories. Hamas is currently sitting in the back bench and introducing leaders from the other factions to lead the popular activities and factional initiatives exactly the way it is planning for them to be done.

Take for example the Great March of Return and Breaking the Siege. This was triggered by a popular proposal and continued by Hamas’ financial and popular support, but the spokesman of this popular activity is Khalid Al-Batch, a senior Islamic Jihad leader.

Another example is the factional initiative, which includes all Hamas’ demands and conditions for ending the division with Fatah. Its spokesperson is Jamil Mizhir, the senior leader of the PFLP.

Explaining why Palestinian factions support Hamas to lead the national project, Al-Sawwaf said: “[Palestinian Authority President] Abbas, who monopolises the decision of all the PLO bodies, has been indiscriminately turning his back on the Palestinian factions while he is opening his arms to Israel through the security cooperation and mutual overt and covert meetings.”

While the PFLP’s Mizhir said: “Hamas proved that it has not changed its national goals – the liberation of Palestine from the Israeli occupation through both the popular and armed resistance, which is guaranteed by all the international laws.”

Hamas found that Palestinian factions had been ignored by Fatah, the PA and PLO, which are being controlled by autocrat Mahmoud Abbas, and gave them a better alternative. While Fatah, the PA and the PLO completely gave up armed resistance and agreed on security cooperation with Israel. This decision was against the will of Palestinians who maintained their right to armed resistance.

Hamas seized the opportunity when a group of activists launched the Great March of Return and formed the High Committee for Following up the Great March of Return and established different subcommittees to run this popular resistance. Embracing factions which adopt this form of resistance.

At the same time, it formed the Joint Military Room that included the armed wings of all Palestinian factions who believe in the right to armed resistance; broadening its support base.

Hamas once again gained popular support when it unconditionally accepted the latest reconciliation initiative which was proposed to end the hostility with Fatah. Fatah provided no official response to the deal but a number of its senior member were clear that the party would “not accept it”.

“Rejecting the reconciliation initiative proves that Fatah has turned its back, not only on the Palestinian factions, but also on the Palestinian people… Hamas’ agreement to it proves that it is a highly responsible faction,” Mizhir explained.

(Source / 12.10.2019)