One State: A view from Gaza

Great March of Return protest Karni

Great March of Return protest at the Karni crossing between Gaza and Israel, July 20, 2018

By Ahmed Abu Artema

There are those who believe that Israel’s recently-passed Nation-State Law represents a failure of the one-state option, as it formalizes the exclusively Jewish nature of the dominant state in Palestine and with it, the disenfranchisement of the non-Jewish population.

The new law could also be viewed, however, as betraying a fear on the part of the occupying power that the de facto imposition of one state on the ground holds within it the seeds of the dismantling of the colonial project from the inside. Seen in this way, all of the decisions, laws and actions taken by the occupying power to insist upon the specifically Jewish character of the state are but desperate attempts to go against history and legitimize an order that is both unfair and unsustainable.

There are many reasons why the One State idea may never be realized: the tremendous imbalance of power, the rising racism in Israeli society, that Palestinian society itself may not not yet be fully ripe for embracing such an inclusive idea. These challenges, however, should not lead us to underestimate the intrinsic power of the idea itself. History shows that a prophetic vision can begin with few followers and still be carried forward by the intrinsic power of its message.

There are many arguments for One State. First, it is the most realistic option, as it is takes into account both sides of the human equation: on the one hand, the fundamental right of all Palestinians to return to their homes in freedom from occupation, oppression and second-class citizenship, and on the other, the reality of the existence of millions of Jews that live in Palestine.

Concerns about the fate of the Israeli Jews in a liberated Palestine have until now been a major reason for the weakness of international support for our cause. This dilemma is solved by a One State solution that clearly calls, not for “throwing them into the sea” (an idea that is as unfair as it is unrealistic), but for the recognition of full rights and equality for all.

It is true that there are people who came to Palestine with the intention of expelling Palestinians from their homes and taking their place, but guilt can only be ascribed to individuals, not entire nations; and children cannot be held responsible for the crimes of their parents. There are generations of Israelis who know only this land as their home, and they are not responsible for the fact that they were born here.

If my primary goal as a Palestinian is to return to my land, it is of less concern to me who else stays or goes. The most important thing for me is to regain my rights and see the era of displacement and oppression brought to an end.

The idea of One State is aligned with the spirit of our time. The global consciousness has evolved away from the idea of nationalism toward one of citizenship. Millions of Arabs today are citizens in Europe and America who enjoy the same rights as all other citizens of those countries. Why can’t Jews live in Palestine in exactly the same way – on the basis of citizenship and not of Occupation?

There are many Palestinians who have emigrated to the West whose interests have become linked to their new homeland. They – and still less their children and grandchildren – would not necessarily return to a liberated Palestine, because their new countries have become an integral part of their lives. It is also possible for new generations of Israeli Jews, who are similarly connected to Palestine, to have a way to live in this land without remaining in the unacceptable position as occupiers.

There are some who reject the idea of coexistence with Israeli Jews in a shared land out of a subconscious fear that sharing the same society with people of other ethnicities and religions means we will all become alike. Yet Palestinians in the West already live together with many other groups, including Jews and even Zionists, in one state and under one law. In a single multi-ethnic Palestinian state each group will still be able to maintain its shared bonds of religion and culture without having to live in walled ghettoes like the people in Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem today.

We Palestinians can have our full rights in a single state. We may still have to struggle for them using the tools of peaceful civil struggle, as Palestinian Member of the Knesset Haneen Zoabi and activist Raed Salah do today, but it will be far less costly and bloody than the struggle we face today in West Bank, Gaza and the Diaspora.

The truth is that we already live in a single state, governed by Netanyahu in coordination with the Palestinian Authority (as former PLO chief Saeb Erekat has publicly admitted), and we are left imploring the Israeli government to open its checkpoints to let patients out for treatment and medical supplies in for our hospitals. The Gaza Strip is a prison inside this one state, whose people are struggling to break down their prison walls. 1948 (“Arab Israeli”) and West Bank Palestinians also live in ethnic enclaves within this single state as second-class citizens and non-citizens in the land of their birth.

Thus, the One-State thesis does not call for the establishment of a new reality, but for a struggle based on the existing reality: a struggle to bring down the walls, end ethnic discrimination, and build in their place a state that insures equality, dignity and freedom for all people. This is more realistic than seeking the end of Israel or even the creation of a separate Palestinian state – and also more just.

Implementing a One-State solution will not be easy, and the Occupation will fight hard against it, but since when has a ruling elite’s refusal of change been a reason to give up the struggle for fairness and basic human equality? The power of the One State idea is not its amenability to the Occupier, but its intrinsic nature as both the least costly and the morally superior solution. That should make it worth our while to reimagine our struggle in the light of this vision.

Our problem is with the racism and the occupation of Israel, not with the existence of Jewish people in Palestine. Our goal is to topple the project of Occupation while allowing anyone born in Palestine to remain here based on equal human rights as citizens of a single state.

The simplicity and justness of this vision should compel us to reformulate our struggle toward its attainment.

(Source / 18.08.2018)

Gaza is not a country, and so Israel is not protecting its borders

Palestinian workers remove the rubbles from el-katiba building that was damaged in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City, on August 15, 2018

By  Aida Winfred

A BBC report published July 20, 2018 accepts the framing of killing of Palestinian civilians as a “defense of a borders.”  But Gaza is not a country, and so Israel cannot be protecting its borders.  Rather, Gaza is an enclave, an imprisoned neighborhood where its borders are controlled by Israel.  Israel decides who moves in and out of Gaza, which includes everyone from students and the sick, to foreign diplomats, to NGO workers. Israel controls what goods move in and out of Gaza.  All infrastructure and utility projects for water, electricity and gas etc., even if internationally funded are reliant on Israeli approval.

Gaza is an enclave inhabited by Palestinians, most of whom are refugees.  Gaza does not have sovereignty, rather it is under occupation. As such, while Western media outlets like to portray this as a war, it is not. Under International law and conventions the occupying power first has a responsibility to those citizens under its control, which Israel has neglected completely.  Second, under international law those under occupation have a right to resist through whatever means available to them.

The controlling narrative of the two-state framework of the post-Oslo period engenders a purposefully confusing political context for Palestinians.  While the Agreement on Gaza Strip and Jericho Area 1994 explains that there will be disengagement from Palestinian territories, it simultaneously outlines all the ways in which Israel will maintain control, and as such sovereignty over these territories.

Outside actors pretend as if Palestine is a state, and thus they use phrases such as Hamas, they “run Gaza” (quoted from the aforementioned BBC article).  Hamas does not run Gaza. It receives its salaries from the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah who withhold these salaries for their own purposes and for which there have been recent protests in the West Bank of Palestine.  Hamas has little control over the Gaza economy; they use the Israeli currency, the Shekel, and have no control over their own international trade.  Prior to the second-intifada many laborers, and still today many workers rely on laborers for work and to supplement their incomes. And Hamas certainly does not have control over Gazan borders, because there are no state borders in any legal, physical or economic sense. These are not borders militarily either.

So when Israel says that is it defending its borders, this language legitimizes its actions in the eyes of Western media outlets and governments.  It legitimizes a kind of warfare that makes sense to the European, American and Israeli viewers. The framing of borders suggests this is a war, and therefore Israel can claim that it is attacking military targets in the Gaza strip.  Israel can claim that it is defending its borders. These borders belong to Israel; it manages their daily activity, both militarily and through its civilian administration office, COGAT. It is Israel’s occupation and management of Gaza that has led its Palestinian inhabitants to march in protest.

The BBC article contains plenty of language that maintains this mistaken framing: “Israel says it has only opened fire in self-defence, or on people trying to infiltrate its territory under the cover of the demonstrations.”

Israel cannot claim infiltration, because it occupies Gaza. Gazan citizens are under full control of the Israeli occupation and the Israeli administration of this occupation. It cannot claim self-defence. While Israel and Western media want to claim that Hamas controls the attacks from Gaza, Hamas is under occupation just like the rest of Palestinians who reside in Gaza.  Hamas members are not allowed to leave Gaza without Israeli permission and they do not have sovereign control over Gazan territory.

The end of the BBC article quotes Israeli Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, “If Hamas continues to fire rockets then Israel will respond in a much tougher way than they think.”

The BBC repeats a statement that could foretell the mass killing of a people who are denied the citizenship and rights of belonging to a state and yet are targeted and killed as if they did belong to a country at war with another.  Israeli language, which is accepted by media outlets maintains this limbo status, which allows it to continue its attack on Palestinians under the purposefully false pretense of defending borders. There are no borders in occupied territories.

(Source / 17.08.2018)

Gaza: Meet the Palestinian doctor who watched his son die

Doctor Dahoud al-Shobaki had spent his career saving lives, but nothing prepared him for the heartbreak of failing to save his own son

By Ghazal Othman

In the 22 years of Sari al-Shobaki’s life, his father rescued him from death seven times, but the eighth time, when he was shot by the Israeli occupied snipers, he failed.

The first time, Dr Dahoud al-Shobaki recalls, was when his son was born three months premature and turned blue from lack of oxygen in an incubator. Then there was also the time when he had a dangerously high fever at age four.

But the last five occurred in the span of two months this year.

“I wish that I had been able to save my son’s life like I am used to … but the eighth time, it was God’s decree,” Dahoud tells Middle East Eye.

As a retired doctor now turned public health consultant in the Gaza Strip, Dahoud, 56, knows the difficulties faced by wounded and sick patients in the besieged Palestinian enclave’s hospitals.

But despite the health scares he has faced over the years, nothing prepared Dahoud to witness first-hand the slow death of his son Sari, shot in the neck by Israeli soldiers in May, only to succumb to his wounds two months later.

Left to die

At only 22, Sari al-Shobaki dreamt of getting married and becoming a father. An enterprising young man, he worked hard to make his dream come true, working a series of odd jobs such as selling cold drinks and stockings or working at a photography studio.

The second-eldest of eight children, Sari used his earnings to help out his family in the Daraj neighbourhood of Gaza City and to try to build a future for himself.

At 10am on 14 May, the young man walked out of the house without telling his family where he was going. What exactly transpired then remains a mystery to his family until now.

Dahoud’s phone rang an hour after Sari left home.

On the other end of the line, someone told him that his beloved son had been killed by Israeli soldiers in Gaza’s buffer zone near Israel.

That fateful Monday ended up being the single bloodiest day of the Great March of Return. Since 30 March, thousands of Palestinians have protested against living conditions in Gaza and called for the right of return for those Palestinian refugees whose families were displaced during the establishment of Israel.

At least 58 died on 14 May after Israeli forces opened fire, with a further seven Palestinians later dying from injuries sustained that day. Many had come out to denounce the inauguration of the US embassy in Jerusalem, which happened on the same day.

Dahoud rushed to the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, which was overwhelmed that day with casualties from the protest. The medical authorities did not have anyone registered under Sari’s name, so Dahoud combed every department of the medical centre for hours.

Amid the chaos, he finally found his son lying in a corner of the reception area. On his chest lay a piece of paper marked “Unidentified”. He was in dire straits, but still breathing.

Father and doctor

Dahoud could barely control his emotions when he saw that no one was providing his son with medical care.

“Oh Sari, how many hours you have been bleeding alone? Is this what you deserve?” he remembers asking.

Dahoud immediately took matters into his own hands and saved his son’s life for a third time, transfusing 12 units of blood and infusing more than 100 saline solution units.

Sari stabilised, but the bullet that penetrated his neck had hit his spinal cord, rendering him quadriplegic and leaving him with respiratory and intestinal paralysis.

After 10 days at the al-Shifa hospital, all the doctors who examined Sari agreed that his condition was irreversible, especially given the limited medical care available in Gaza, where extensive power cuts and a shortage of medical supplies due to the 11-year Israeli siege have devastated its health sector.

Dahoud, like many desperate relatives in Gaza, tried hard to find care for his son outside the enclave, a difficult process given the small number of medical exit permits granted by Israel to Palestinian patients.

Finally, on 25 May, Dahoud and Sari were allowed to travel to East Jerusalem for treatment at the Saint Joseph hospital.

Hopeful recovery

Despite the diagnosis and the lack of proper medical care in Gaza, Dahoud did not lose hope.

Father and son began communicating through eye contact: Sari would blink to say “yes” and raise his eyebrows to signify “no”.

“I will be happy even with only your eyes with me, even without your body,” Dahoud recalls saying. “I do not ask for more.”

Soon, the two devised a more elaborate system of communication. Dahoud would recite the alphabet, and Sari would blink when he reached the desired letter, slowly spelling out his sentences.

Dahoud would warmly encourage his son through rehabilitation exercises. Some sessions were filmed and posted online, prompting waves of support on social media.

“One more time, love of my life, do you want to get out of here?” he would say, kissing Sari’s forehead as the young man would blink once for “yes”.

Between 5 June and 5 July, Sari made a slow but promising recovery in the East Jerusalem hospital, Dahoud says, as he kept up his involvement in his son’s treatment.

“I was checking on everything, even on his breath. I would massage him for three hours or more every day until I noticed that he was trying to move his neck,” Dahoud says.

“He regained his sense of smell, and was able to defecate and speak again,” Dahoud says. “He also moved the muscles of his stomach and thigh, and moved his knee when I pulled it.”

Dahoud could not believe the great improvements made by his son.

He remembers kissing Sari and telling him: “We will not go back to Gaza until you can stand on your feet.”

Sari had replied: “I want to stand up. I want to walk, dad.”

Sari’s last days

But just as his condition looked hopeful, Sari’s health took a drastic turn for the worse.

A tracheostomy operation to insert a tube into Sari’s neck to help him breathe did not go as planned, causing a tracheoesophagal fistula – an abnormal connection between his oesophagus and windpipe – and a drug-resistant bacterial infection.

The fistula made it impossible for Sari to eat. Dahoud watched helplessly as his son withered away, knowing that he was hungry and thirsty yet unable to satisfy these basic needs.

On 17 July, slightly more than two months after he was shot, Sari al-Shobaki died.

“When Sari passed away, he hadn’t seen a single tear from my eye,” Dahoud says. “When I was with him, I held myself together completely. And I was strong, very strong. And I’m really happy about this, that Sari never saw me cry.

“Sari’s spirits were as high as the sky, while my spirits were as low as the ground. I would leave him in the intensive care unit and go the waiting room to break down in tears,” Dahoud adds, his voice cracking.

According to the Gaza health ministry, Sari was the 142nd Palestinian to be killed by Israeli forces in Gaza since the beginning of the Great March of Return.

At least 25 more Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since, according to ministry figures.

“It makes me and the world proud that he didn’t get injured and die because of a brawl or a fight,” Dahoud says. “No, he got injured by the enemy.”

Despite the heartbreak and the grief, Dahoud vowed to move forward.

“I’m really happy that I was the one taking care of him and not anyone else,” he says. “I will return to my job as a doctor stronger than before.”

(Source / 15.08.2018)

Allying Against Iran: Repercussions for Palestine

When the Iran deal – or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – was signed three years ago, Al-Shabaka analysts did not see significant changes in store for US-Palestinian relations, although they predicted that Palestinians’ situation would worsen when the US inevitably placated Israel and its lobby for, in Ali Abunimah’s words, “mildly defying” them. 1 Indeed, the following year, the US pledged to give Israel $38 billion in military assistance over a 10-year period – the largest military aid package ever given to Israel, or to any country, by the US.

Now, with the Trump administration having pulled out of the JCPOA and the US reinstituting sanctions against Iran, what does the U-turn mean for Palestinians? Diana Buttu, Osamah Khalil, and Mouin Rabbani examine how the closer relations among Israel, the US, and the Gulf states – with Iran as their common enemy – have informed US actions to the detriment of Palestinians, the repercussions of these developments on Hamas-Iran relations, and what Palestinians can do to challenge the forces against them.

Osamah Khalil

The benefits to Israel were in evidence before the US withdrew from the JCPOA, particularly with Trump’s decision on Jerusalem. The level of coordination and shared perspectives between the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government appears to be even closer than the cordial relationship between George W. Bush and Ariel Sharon. At the same time, Trump’s Jerusalem announcement fit into a broader historical pattern of the US attempting to impose a solution on the Palestinians and appeared to have the support of Saudi Arabia and the UAE. It also appears that Trump’s eventual peace plan will rely in part on Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and other Arab states pressuring Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian leadership to accept a proposal that will be far less than their minimal demands. Washington will again blame the Palestinians for failing to seize the moment and will demonize the Palestinian leadership, including calls for change. This has already begun and was demonstrated again with the interview given by Jared Kushner, the President’s son-in-law and advisor, to al-Quds.

In some respects, Abbas has already prepared for this with his convening of a Palestinian National Council (PNC) meeting in April. The PNC members were Fatah cronies selected by Abbas. Although the goal was to provide Abbas with the appearance of legitimacy at a time when his domestic and international support has waned, it had the opposite effect. Abbas further demonstrated how ineffectual and unimaginative he and the Palestinian leadership have become.

Palestine and the Palestinians remain the major impediment to open and friendly relations between Israel and the Arab Gulf states. Although the Gulf states publicly object to Israel’s continuing occupation and oppression of the Palestinians and unwillingness to reach an agreement that would lead to the creation of a Palestinian state, their protestations are increasingly less strident and support for Palestinian self-determination is not a priority. Instead, the Gulf states are focused on maintaining and extending their rule as well as curtailing Iran’s real or perceived influence.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) is susceptible to pressure from the Arab governments, Israel, and the United States because it is dependent on aid for its survival. Moreover, the PA’s authoritarian rule is in line with that of other Arab states. The PA’s repression of critics is not merely to satisfy Israel and the United States, although those are important factors, but to ensure the continued dominance of a discredited leadership whose rule is maintained by patronage, fear, and a perceived lack of alternatives. With Abbas in poor health, it is likely that his replacement will be an individual from the security services who has been approved by Israel and the United States. Indeed, there are reportsthat representatives of the Palestinian security services have held meetings with their Israeli and Arab counterparts to prepare for the announcement of the Trump plan. Thus, Palestinians can expect an even more repressive PA that seeks to curry favor with the Trump administration, Israel, and the Arab states.

One way to challenge the US and its allies in the region is to focus on divestment from fossil fuelsCLICK TO TWEET

As for Hamas, it is in a difficult position. Although it still holds power in Gaza, regionally it is weaker than ever before. Nor has it demonstrated an ability to break Israel’s siege on Gaza or improve the movement’s standing regionally or internationally. Relations between Hamas and Iran and Syria are strained. It has a tenuous marriage of convenience with Egypt. Its ties to Qatar have also weakened, although Turkey has provided some limited support. Meanwhile, the US and Israel continue to portray Hamas as an extension of Iran’s influence in the region. Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah have encouraged this portrayal.

Though Abbas has negotiated and signed multiple national unity agreements with Hamas, he has no intention of implementing them without the movement’s total surrender. Abbas and his advisors do not appear to care how many Palestinians in Gaza suffer as a result of their policies, as they have hoped for over a decade that if conditions in Gaza are intolerable the population will eventually overthrow Hamas. Meanwhile, Abbas and the PA security services conveniently label any critic of their repressive rule as Hamas supporters. They have even extended this to protests in support of Palestinians in Gaza, as occurred recently in Ramallah. The PA’s security services and Fatah thugs dispersed a June protest with violence, intimidation, and sexual harassment. With the US’s withdrawal from the JCPOA, the above trends can be expected to continue.

As in Yemen and Gaza, Washington and its allies view Syria as another arena to curtail Iranian influence, real or perceived. Bashar al-Assad’s regime currently has the advantage against the opposition, whose control over territory is shrinking and support from outside powers has decreased. Regime and allied forces have recaptured most of the territory held by the opposition in southern Syria and may focus their efforts on Idlib next. At the same time, there is a concerted effort by the United States, Israel, Turkey, and the Arab Gulf states to ensure that Syria remains divided and unstable. As demonstrated by the destruction of the Yarmouk refugee camp, Syrian Palestinians will reflect the country’s political and geographic fragmentation.

As part of a broader Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) effort, there are opportunities to challenge the policies of the US and its allies in the region. One way is to focus on divestment from fossil fuels by major pensions funds and employers. Although Saudi Arabia and the UAE are attempting to diversify their economies, they are still heavily reliant on revenues from oil. Indeed, there is already a concerted effort by leading universities, cities, states, and major employers in the United States and internationally 2 to divest from these holdings. Studies indicate that divestment from fossil fuels coupled with investment in renewable energy can have a positive impact on portfolio performance. Activists and civil society organizations can therefore make a financial and moral argument in favor of divestment.

Similarly, the United States benefits through the recycling of petrodollars, particularly through arms sales to the Persian Gulf autocracies. A divestment effort focused on major military contractors, in particular those whose weapons have been used across the region, can demonstrate the implications of the policies and actions of the US and its allies in the region as well as the complicity of investors in gross human rights abuses. This is particularly important as many pension funds and major investors have corporate and investment responsibility guidelines and policies.

These actions would dovetail with existing BDS efforts focused on divestment from companies benefiting from the Israeli occupation. This can be expanded by emphasizing the shared interests and policies of the Trump administration, Netanyahu’s government, and the Gulf autocracies.

Diana Buttu

It is important to highlight how Israel benefited both from the JCPOA and from the US withdrawal from it. It is also important to underscore that Israel continues to evade de-nuclearization by continuing with its clandestine nuclear program. By some estimates, Israel has between 80 to 400 nuclear warheads, yet Israel has never submitted to inspections or even declared that it has nuclear weapons despite the real threat that it poses to Palestinians and neighboring countries. It is this double standard – one standard for Israel and other for Iran – and the benefits that Israel has reaped despite refusing to submit to inspections that should be highlighted.

Meanwhile, Israel’s strategy toward Iran is the same strategy it has adopted toward Palestinians: Make a ruckus and demand harsh sanctions with concomitant aid or weapons, and after receiving the compensation, push for the cancellation of any agreement and for even more aid and even more weapons. With the US withdrawing from the JCPOA, Israel will continue to demand even more US aid and weaponry while simultaneously attempting to link Hamas with Iran with the aim of ensuring that it has carte blanche to maintain the siege on Gaza and demand additional sanctions against Palestinians in exchange for not attacking Iran. The current US regime will undoubtedly oblige, given Trump’s close relationship with Sheldon Adelson, who has not only bankrolled Israel’s Birthright program, an Israeli university in an illegal settlement, and the right-wing newspaper Israel Hayom, but has donated to Trump’s campaign and had expressed frustration that Trump had not moved the embassy sooner. This will mean that while Israel continues to build and expand settlements in the West Bank, it will push to impose an even harsher blockade on Gaza under the guise of fighting Iran.

Israel benefited both from the Iran deal and from the US withdrawal from itCLICK TO TWEET

Assistance from Arab neighbors cannot be counted on. For decades, the Arab world’s support for Palestine has never been unconditional, and for several years countries like the UAE and Saudi Arabia have simply paid lip service that they support Palestinian freedom. These countries, like others around the world, are driven by their own narrow interests and not by larger regional interests. This means that, when fearing Iran’s nuclear program, they willingly side with Israel, fulfilling the adage that “my enemy’s enemy is my friend.” Their views, however, are shortsighted: Though Jordan has cozier relations with Israel than with other countries in the Arab world, this has not prevented Israel from killing Jordanian citizens with impunity or stealing Jordanian resources. It will simply be a matter of time before Israel once again turns against these nations.

The cozier relationship between Israel and the Gulf states may also translate into increased pressure on Palestinians to accept any proposed American “deal.” In the past, Palestinians were believed to be the key to normalizing relations between Israel and the Arab world. Now, however, the Trump administration is viewing things through a different lens: Palestinians will be delivered through the Arab world. Using this logic, the Trump administration will continue to exert pressure on Iran to appease Israel and the Gulf states, with the quid pro quo that these same Gulf states will exert pressure on Palestinians. Again, this is shortsighted: Palestinians will not support any leader who makes these major capitulations to their rights, and it will only be a matter of time before the tide turns against such leaders, too.

Mouin Rabbani

The US withdrawal from the JCPOA has been an Israeli strategic objective from the moment the agreement was signed, and thus represents a major Israeli achievement and one that will further embolden Israel regionally and strengthen its sense of impunity in its dealings with the Palestinians. It is also relevant to note that this US decision was accompanied by a number of others, such as the US recognition of Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem, the relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the US assault on UNRWA, and the US withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council, that were conceived and implemented as US measures to further strengthen Israel in its relationship with the Palestinians. In other words, we are dealing with a US administration that is not only fully aligned with Israel like its predecessors, but is increasingly aligned with the most extreme forces in Israel when it comes to the Palestinians and the Question of Palestine more broadly.

On this basis, the question is not so much how the US renunciation of its international legal obligations pursuant to the JCPOA will affect the Palestinians, but rather how this decision reflects a broader US initiative to align even more closely with Israeli policy. And what we have seen is a change in US policy, from becoming a tireless advocate and uncritical defender of Israel policy to what might better be characterized as an implementer of Israeli policy, including vis-à-vis the Palestinians. If Palestinian civil society wants to make a meaningful contribution to opposing these developments it should focus primarily on the rejuvenation of the Palestinian national movement.

It also seems fairly clear that the US is determined to pursue increasingly confrontational policies toward Iran, both in the region and with the objective of regime change in Tehran. And in this context the constant denunciation of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Palestinians more generally as Iranian proxies, much like the PLO was habitually written off as a Soviet proxy during the Cold War, suggests that the US considers Israel’s war against the Palestinians as contributing to its own campaign against Tehran. We have seen this with the tirades in the UN Security Council by US Permanent Representative Nikki Haley, and in Jared Kushner’s obscene censure of murdered Palestinian demonstrators in Gaza as “part of the problem.” Hence we should expect even greater Israeli impunity in its dealings with the Palestinians.

The reality of Iran-Hamas relations is that they took a substantial turn for the worse after the Hamas leadership broke with the Assad regime and relocated to Qatar in 2012, and Iran began to focus primarily on assisting Islamic Jihad. Relations began to improve again with the installation of the current Hamas leadership, particularly Yahya Sinwar. Sinwar’s approach has been that Hamas cannot afford to limit its regional relationships to Qatar and Turkey, and has thus sought to diversify them by reaching out not only to Iran but also Egypt and others. The new Hamas leadership also felt it was important to repair relations with Tehran because Iran, along with Hizbullah, are its main sources of military support (a form of support it did not receive from Qatar or Turkey, at a time when the Abdel Fattah El-Sisi regime in Egypt has severely constrained its ability to smuggle weapons into the Gaza Strip via the Sinai Peninsula).

Iran recognized that while it may have more affinity with Islamic Jihad, Hamas is much larger and more influentialCLICK TO TWEET

For its part Iran recognized that while there may be more affinity between Iran and Islamic Jihad, Hamas is a much larger and more influential organization. So the relationship had already been improving for reasons that have little to do with the US renunciation of the JCPOA. But with both Iran and the Palestinians now under siege by the Trump administration, and the prospect of a new conflict substantially greater, this will have helped strengthen the relationship further.

In regard to Arab regimes, there is no doubt that they would like to be rid of the Palestinian question in order to remove remaining obstacles to their alliance with Israel, based on a shared understanding that Israel is an ally and not an enemy, whilst Iran is an existential threat rather than a neighbor. But, particularly in Saudi Arabia, which has the most substantial population of the Gulf states, this is easier said than done. Even under the current circumstances of regional upheaval and polarization, Palestine remains a central concern for public opinion, and can thus affect the legitimacy of the regimes in question, particularly when they are already confronting intra-elite dissent as in Saudi Arabia. That said, it’s undeniable that these relations have improved very substantially in recent years, and that this has cost the Palestinians dearly. But it’s too easy to simply denounce Gulf autocrats for collaborating with Israel –  true as that assertion may be. The absence of a unified Palestinian leadership able and willing to exercise influence in the Arab arena is a key part of this equation.

The Syria conflict produced an interesting realignment within the Palestinian political system. Hamas, which despite its affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood had enjoyed a close relationship with the Assad regime, ruptured with Damascus while Fatah, which has been either at odds or in open conflict with Damascus for decades, improved its relations substantially.

More generally the Syria conflict and the attendant regional polarization has been politically catastrophic for the Palestinians. It should hardly come as a revelation that for virtually all of the regional and international parties involved in the Syria conflict in its various dimensions Palestine has become an at best secondary concern in recent years. Arguably, Syria was the arena in which the promise of a renewed and more energetic Arab approach toward the Palestinian cause, widely anticipated after the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings, died a premature death.

The Syria conflict has also been not only a political but also a human and humanitarian catastrophe for the Palestinian community in that country. Entire Palestinian camps and neighborhoods have been reduced to rubble, and in many cases stateless Palestinians resident in Syria have encountered greater difficulty escaping the conflict than Syrian citizens. Syria is arguably the only country that since 1948 consistently afforded Palestinian refugees on its soil the same rights and privileges extended to its own citizens. Its destruction is beyond tragic, not only for the Syrian people, but also for the Palestinians.

(Source / 14.08.2018)

Talking through our fears: Resisting the Palestinian complacency of silence

Israeli forces intervene in a protest against construction of Israeli settlement and separation wall at Kafr Qaddum village in Nablus, West Bank on 28 July, 2018 [Nedal Eshtayah/Anadolu Agency]

Israeli forces attack Palestinians during a protest against the construction of Israeli settlement in Nablus, West Bank on 28 July, 2018

By Samah Jabr

On a few occasions, my mother has awakened me anxiously to let me know who is the latest to be arrested for a Facebook statement, and to warn me from posting my views on my page. And when I tell her goodbye before my trips abroad, she responds with a warning: “Don’t get involved in politics and don’t say anything about Israel!” I always reply with an effort at humour, “My talk is about Palestinian mental health. Israel has nothing to do with mental health – it has to do with mental illness.” But my mother doesn’t relax or laugh at my attempts at reassurance. I leave quickly before I am affected by her contagious fears.

My mother is not the only one to hand over to the occupation a free service of self-censorship. There are common expressions encouraging silence in Palestine: “The walls have ears” and “Walk quietly along the wall and ask God to cover you.” Yet even worse is the clergy who maintain that “silence is a sign of acceptance” when confronted with a silent bride in a marriage ceremony.  One does not need to be a psychiatrist to see that silence is more often a sign of intimidation and fear.

The Palestinian reality has silenced a few Palestinians forever, such as the writer Ghassan Kanafani and the cartoonist Naji Al-Ali who were killed on account of their opinions. Several others have been arrested for expressing their thoughts freely. The poet Dareen Tatour was convicted for her poem, “Resist, my people, resist them”, that was judged by the Israelis as an “incitement to violence”.

Israel’s online incitement of violence against the Palestinians

Yet all the while, the posts of the Israeli rapper “The Shadow” are not considered an “incitement to violence,” although one of his posts displays him holding an image of testicles accompanied by the words: “Revenge, Bibi [the nickname of Israeli Prime Minister], I think you forgot these!” In another post, the rapper calls on the Israeli army’s medical team to cut out the organs of Palestinians whom they have killed in order to donate them to the Israeli National Transplant Centre. Israel is equally tolerant of the “free speech” of the authors of “The King’s Torah”, who explain that the injunction “Thou Shall Not Kill” applies only to “a Jew who kills a Jew.” “The King’s Torah” then states that non-Jews are “uncompassionate by nature” and attacks upon them are justified because they “curb their evil inclinations”. Similarly, the babies and children of Israel’s enemies may be killed without compunction, since “it is clear that they will grow [up] to harm Jews.”

Israelis get away with saying such things, even gaining popularity and status because of these statements. We remember in this context how Alelet Shaked as a member of the Knesset described women in Gaza as “snakes” and incited killing them during the attack of 2014. Today she is the Israeli Minister of Justice!

Recently, Lama Khater, a Palestinian journalist critical of Israel, was sent to prison in Israel – joining 22 other journalists who are likewise imprisoned. And frequently, people in Palestine are dismissed from their jobs or lose other opportunities for daring to voice political views that do not properly conform to acceptable opinions. Outside of Palestine, students whose activism focuses on Palestine are threatened in their studies and in their opportunities for employment. Even retired persons internationally who are friends of Palestine worry about the right to travel to Palestine and receive threats, such as the Jewish Brigade’s menace to scalp French activists in the Association France Palestine Solidarite.

Paradoxically, while some are harmed for speaking up, others are harmed for choosing not to speak. Among my psychiatric patients in Palestine, I have seen a woman suffering from aphonia – the loss of her voice – because intelligence forces working for the Israelis blackmailed her about her socially prohibited phone calls to her lover. A young Palestinian activist with a secret homosexual relationship was threatened with being “outed from the closet”, and intentionally inflicted with hemorrhoids and sexually transmitted diseases if he refused to collaborate with the Israelis. There were those who were injured but left to die in Gaza because they refused to inform on activists in exchange for permission to gain access to medical services outside of Gaza.

Working through silence is a daily activity in my work.  I see many people with shortness of breath and chest pain – symptoms caused because they feel they are drowning in society. There are many people with sexual dysfunctions brought about because they cannot communicate openly about their relationship. There are victims of torture who are silent about their experience because they believe that reporting is hopeless or because they fear further revenge. There are depressed individuals who remain quiet about their suicidal thoughts because they anticipate rejection or fear being locked up in a hospital. I know the cost of silence, found in the pathology, acting out aggression or becoming dysfunctional.

Outside my clinic, I am always confronted with questions of safety regarding my public speaking: “Don’t you worry about going to prison, or fear that other harms will come to you because you’re speaking up and writing?” Those with less good intentions might say, “But isn’t the very fact that you are here and able to speak itself evidence that Israel is a real democracy?”

I talk – not only in order to be a coherent person, both inside and outside my professional role – but because I cannot do otherwise. I cannot pretend I do not know; I cannot deny my feelings about the political reality; I cannot turn my face the other way. I speak to protest against violence and to attempt to engage in a genuine critical dialogue with the other. This is the best that I can do in the face of an oppressive reality. Expressing my thoughts is the heartbeat of my humanity. This is the most basic right, without which no other human rights can be established.

In my work, I have seen hypochondriacal patients who act as if they are sick, out of their fear of being sick. In my daily life, I encounter people who live like the poor, out of their fear of poverty. I have seen people who are not able to communicate in their relationships, out of their fear of abandonment. I do not want to waste my opportunities as these people have done and live imprisoned in my own mind, out of fear of being thrown into a concrete prison. I do not deny that I have this fear, but I am trying to talk through it and in spite of it.

When Israel attacked Gaza in 2014, I initiated a petition calling professionals to stand in solidarity with Palestinians. I then discovered that the attack on Gaza left some collateral damage in my heart – once I saw that some close colleagues were unwilling to sign the petition and indeed pressured me to withdraw it. While I respect and empathise with the factors which may constrict the choices of many of the people around me,

I want people to stop working as unconscious, unpaid agents for Israeli authorities through their self-censorship and their pressure on others to be quiet.

I am not by nature an impulsive, risk-taking individual. In speaking out, I calculate the necessary risks and balance these risks against the benefits of achieving wider margins for freedom of expression. I sometimes consult with Israeli lawyers to ensure that my actions are not in breach of the unjust laws governing the occupation. During the First Intifada, it was illegal to hold the Palestinian flag; nowadays, it is illegal to associate with BDS. Although these two actions are just and moral, I never held a Palestinian flag and I have not joined BDS. My aim is to create alternative forms of expression that are not in breach of unjust laws – and are probably therefore more effective strategies for me.

I have always calibrated the scope of my articulated opinions with the dimensions of my professional identity and financial autonomy. Moreover, I am careful in my risk-taking that I do not implicate others. I continue to avoid deriving my personal income from Israeli institutions and remain a public employee in the Palestinian system. Clearly, being an employee, especially a public employee, is often antagonistic with free expression and over time can pollute one’s conscience and capacity to think freely. But until I am no longer employed as a public employee, I will try to maintain diversified sources of income through freelance consultations and work with more than one institution at the same time; in this way, I hope to avoid being wholly dependent upon a single employer, who can dictate my speech.

To further protect myself, I base my writings and talks on well-established facts. I share my opinions based on such facts, referring not only to Palestinian experience, but also to international human rights and universal values that are presumed to govern both Israelis and Palestinians alike. I write in foreign languages in order to recruit more witnesses to my experience. I trust that many people in solidarity will speak up on my behalf, should something bad befall me.

I am mindful as well that I have been protected by the activities of more courageous Palestinians than I, who have kept the Israelis busy with more weighty struggles than I can undertake. I count on the premise that Israeli “intelligence” that will make the judgment call that “stopping” me would be counterproductive, as it would bring more attention to the very voice that they hope to silence.

And perhaps I am simply naïve; perhaps my risk assessment is nothing more than my sophisticated denial of political threat. If that be the case, then let this article be my manifesto- a refusal to surrender the right to speak and to fall into the collective complacency of silence.

(Source / 11.08.2018)

Israel’s siege of Gaza is anything but legal

By Motasem A. Dalloul

Israeli occupation army and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tell lies about their 12-year-old siege imposed on Gaza. They claim the siege keeps up with international law to justify their attack on freedom boats.

On Sunday 29 July, Israeli commandos boarded a boat taking part in a Freedom Flotilla which was taking humanitarian aid to the besieged Gaza Strip. The boat — Al-Awda (The Return) — was captured by Israel while sailing in international waters. If anyone else had conducted the raid, it would have been condemned as an act of piracy on the high seas. Instead, Israel stopped the much-needed aid going to the 2 million Palestinians in what has been described as an open-air prison.

Twenty humanitarian activists from around the world were on board Al-Awda. They have since reported that they were humiliated and beaten by the Israelis who captured them. Yonatan Shapira, a former Israeli Air Force officer who was on board the boat, said that the commandos beat them up, tasered several people and stole most of the passengers’ and crew’s property.

Commenting on the attack, the Israeli military tweeted: “The boat was tracked and stopped in accordance with international law.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the commandos for “their determined and efficient action in detaining the passengers on the [Al-Awda] ship that tried to reach the Gaza coast in contravention of the law.”

Last Saturday, 4 August, at dawn, Israeli commandos raided and seized another boat in the Freedom Flotilla, which was also on its way to deliver medical aid to the coastal enclave, which has been under a tight Israeli-led blockade for 12 years. The siege has resulted in severe shortages of medicines, medical equipment and medical disposals that all hospitals and patients, including those in besieged Gaza, depend on.

Yet again, the Israelis claimed that the ship “was monitored and intercepted in accordance with international law.” They added that the ship’s passengers were told that they “violated the legal naval blockade” imposed on Gaza.

The Israeli occupation authorities and officials, including Netanyahu, keep describing the siege as legal and claim that it is imposed within international law. Such claims are based on the lie that the Israeli Navy is stopping weapons from getting to the Palestinian resistance groups. Their resistance to Israel’s military occupation, by the way, is entirely legitimate according to international laws and conventions.

The reality on the ground is that Israel is blockading 2 million Palestinians in Gaza and tightening restrictions in order that they might take to the streets and overthrow Hamas. This is what the Western-backed Palestinian Authority did in the occupied West Bank, with the help of the Israeli occupation forces, in 2007, shortly after the Islamic Resistance Movement won the “free and fair” democratic elections across the occupied Palestinian territories.

International organisations were prompted to investigate the legality of the Israeli siege by a 2010 attack by commandos on another Freedom Flotilla. Nine Turkish nationals were killed by the Israeli troops as they sailed to Gaza in an attempt to break the siege and deliver vital humanitarian aid; a tenth died later of his injuries. Yet again, the Israeli attack took place in international waters; yet again, it had all the hallmarks of an act of piracy on the high seas.

Throughout the 12 years of the Israeli siege on Gaza, many UN officials and human rights groups have described what the Israeli occupation is doing in and to Gaza as illegal and a flagrant violation of international law. In 2010, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said that the blockade of Gaza violates the Geneva Conventions and called for it to be ended. “The whole of Gaza’s civilian population is being punished for acts for which they bear no responsibility,” said the ICRC in a five-page statement. “The closure therefore constitutes a collective punishment imposed in clear violation of Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law.”

The Head of ICRC Operations for the Middle East, Beatrice Megevand-Roggo, commented, “We are urging Israel to put an end to this closure and call upon all those who have an influence on the situation, including Hamas, to do their utmost to help Gaza’s civilian population.”

Following the ICRC statement, a panel of five independent UN rights experts reported to the UN Human Rights Council, stressing that the Israeli blockade on the coastal enclave had subjected Gazans to collective punishment in “flagrant contravention of international human rights and humanitarian law.” The UN Mission, which investigated the Israeli blockade on Gaza and found it was imposed as a result of the Palestinians participating in free elections, said: “The Mission considers that one of the principal motives behind the imposition of the blockade was a desire to punish the people of the Gaza Strip for having elected Hamas. The combination of this motive and the effect of the restrictions on the Gaza Strip leave no doubt that Israel’s actions and policies amount to collective punishment as defined by international law.”

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) have also said that the siege is illegal. UNOCHA called it “collective punishment, a violation of international humanitarian law,” while the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, stated that it “is illegal and should be lifted.”

All of this makes it very clear that Netanyahu and his cronies are lying when they claim that the siege of Gaza is legal. So too are members of the pro-Israel Lobby in world capitals as they seek to influence politicians, aided and abetted by a compliant mainstream media.

Anna Dressler, a Swedish activist who was on board Al-Awda, described Gaza accurately when she said that it is a place where human rights laws seem to have been forgotten. “I believe that every person can change the world, in their own way, wherever they are and in whatever way they can,” she added. “Let’s start here, with a blockade that should never have existed and yet continues, along with all other man-made catastrophes.”

According to Yonatan Shapira, those of his former colleagues in the Israeli armed forces who are blocking the efforts to break the siege should really think about what they will tell their grandchildren in years to come. “Don’t think about what your friends will say about you today, think about your grandchildren. Refuse to take part in this ongoing war crime. Refuse to continue murdering people who are locked in the biggest prison in the world. I was once one of you and I know that among you there are some who can still think. Refuse to be the guards of the Gaza ghetto.”

(Source / 11.08.2018)

Palestinian father wonders why Israeli forces had to kill his 14-year-old son

Arkan Muzhir threw stones at army jeeps that entered Al-Deheisheh refugee camp. ‘If he threw a stone,’ his father asks, ‘couldn’t they shoot him in the leg?’

By Amira Hass

For Arkan Muzhir’s 15th birthday on August 20, his father Thaer planned to buy him a phone. The elder Muzhir uses the Hebrew word for cellphone, pelefon.

But four weeks before his son’s birthday, during a raid on Al-Deheisheh refugee camp before dawn on Monday July 23, an Israeli soldier shot Arkan. He hit him “exactly in the right corner of his heart,” Muzhir said, pointing to a photograph of his dead son, his T-shirt folded and showing a child’s chest.

“We have 180 photographs of Arkan; show me one where he’s not smiling,” Muzhir said at the beginning of the week, sitting in the diwan – the neighbourhood guest room – in a narrow alley where the family’s house is also located.

The three official mourning days had passed, but the men in the camp continued to come to the diwan to express their condolences, sit on a chair in the room, listen to Muzhir talking about his boy who is gone, and add memories of their own. And of course move on to political conversation.

“The boy enrolled at a vocational school for the next school year,” Muzhir said. “He wanted to study electrical engineering for cars or car mechanics. Everyone – his friends, his teachers, his sisters – say how pleasant he was, well-liked, ready to help.”

About a year and a half ago the boy moved to sleep in the room of his grandmother Nadhmieh, who isn’t well, to be near her if she needed help during the night. Over Ramadan he filled bottles with carob juice and lemonade, sold 25 of them and gave away 25 more.

In the last five months he spent a lot of time with his relative Hassan Muzhir, 17, who was paralyzed after a bullet fired at him by an Israeli soldier lodged in his spine.

Carried responsibility beyond his age

Arkan left the West Bank only once, when he accompanied his father on a trip to Amman. He never saw the sea, the Galilee, or cities like Jaffa and Acre. “And there’s something else you have to know about Arkan,” the father said when we were sitting in the tiny apartment of the family of nine, now eight.

Muzhir pointed at the comfortable sofa on which he sat with his wife Isfahan and their eldest daughter Kayan and said: “Arkan built this with his own hands.” Young as he was, he worked as a carpenter’s apprentice to help the family out, so his father bought him tools and rented him a room in the camp where he could make furniture. The sofa was the first thing he made.

A neighbor confirmed: “Only a few days ago he took measurements in my mother-in-law’s house to build them a sofa as well.”

“And there’s something else you have to know about Arkan,” his father added. “He bought me clothes with the money he made. I told him it wasn’t necessary, but he insisted.” Arkan wanted his father, 45, to travel to work in Be’er Sheva and return with tidy, fresh clothes.

“Arkan carried responsibility beyond his age,” said his mother, 42. At the beginning of the conversation her eyes were dry; only her red nose betrayed that she had been crying. Later she sobbed, wiped away the tears and continued talking.

She was asleep the night of Sunday into Monday July 23. “I saw Arkan at around 11pm when he returned from Hassan and went to his grandmother,” who lives in the apartment across the way. “Suddenly at 4am his grandmother came knocking and asked if Arkan was with me.”

As the mother quotes the grandmother, “He told me he was going out to eat something and didn’t return, and now I heard shooting and the army was outside.”

Arkan’s mother now stops the flow to explain: “Sometimes he would go out to buy toast or something at night. Here in the camp, especially in the summer, people stay awake until late at night.”

The army everywhere

“Where did he go?” Arkan’s mother asked his grandmother. “And she said he told her he was hungry, and that it was maybe 3:30am. She told me and my head went dizzy. I wanted to know where he went,” the mother said.

“And then they phoned my daughter and told her he had been wounded,” she continued. “I got dressed quickly and went out; the road was filled with the army. I couldn’t go near the street. I was boiling inside but waited patiently for the army to leave. I went to the hospital. What I knew was that he had been wounded. I saw crowds of people outside and inside the hospital. I started running, I entered a room and saw that he had been killed.

“The bullet in his chest. I couldn’t believe it. I lost consciousness, I awoke and found myself at home. I wanted to go back to the hospital to see him. They let me enter the refrigerator [the morgue] to say goodbye to him. I saw him and kissed him. A boy, what did he do?”

Arkan, with some other young people, had gone to the camp’s main road and threw stones at 10 to 15 military jeeps that had just begun leaving the camp. Witnesses who spoke to Musa abu-Hashhash of the rights group B’Tselem estimate that Arkan was 20 to 40 meters (131 feet) from the jeeps. They believe he was shot by one of two soldiers who hadn’t yet entered a jeep.

Shot in the chest

A few hours earlier about 25 soldiers raided homes in the Ja’afra neighbourhood near the main road. They had with them dogs and ladders. Dozens of other soldiers remained among the jeeps, firing tear-gas and stun grenades in every direction, while dozens of young people threw stones at them from the rooftops and neighbouring alleys. The soldiers also broke into two grocery stores and a small toy- and stationery store.

One of the witnesses told the veteran B’Tselem field researcher that while he was watching the youths throwing stones at the jeeps driving away, he heard two live bullets being fired. He saw one of the young people, who was running in the middle of the road, put his hand on his chest, turn around and run a few steps before falling to the ground.

This witness and others ran toward the stricken youth, who wasn’t moving. A volunteer paramedic took the boy’s shirt off and saw a chest wound, though the bleeding was light. Borrowing the car of an owner of a falafel stall, they drove him to the hospital.

According to the military spokesman, as part of arrest activity in the Deheisheh refugee camp on the night of July 22, violent disturbances erupted during which Palestinians threw stones, Molotov cocktails and explosives at the forces. The forces responded by using crowd-control methods and shooting.

Following this, the spokesman said, there was information on a Palestinian who was killed. The event is being investigated by the commanders, while the military police have also opened an investigation. The findings will be given to the military prosecution. During the operation two suspects were arrested.

The phone awoke the father at around 4:30am, when he was in Be’er Sheva. A few hours earlier he had spoken to his son and saw him on WhatsApp. Arkan also sent his father a recording of himself and his 2-year-old brother Ghassan, after he had bought the toddler ice cream.

“They told me he was wounded,” the father said. “On the way home I hoped against hope that he was only wounded. If he threw a stone, couldn’t they shoot him in the leg?”

Last goodbye          

Footage shows the father leaning over his son, who was wrapped in a Palestinian flag and the red flag of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The father can be seen kissing his son’s forehead and eyes, pinching his chin and saying “I love you.”

In the diwan last Sunday evening, one of the mourners told the father, “Now you have 100 children.” Muzhir replied: “I know, I’m not angry.”

I took the liberty of saying I didn’t believe it. Muzhir response was this monologue: “What are you, soldiers, doing here in Deheisheh? You see a 15-year-old boy and shoot him? My son didn’t go to you in Tel Aviv or Haifa or Etzion. He didn’t put you under any risk. You come masked, all armed, black [masked or with faces painted]. Your lives weren’t in danger.”

Muzhir went on: “You in Israeli society – your media spoils you. So you don’t see the truth. I lost my son. The most beautiful thing in my life. I wanted to be happy with him, to get him married. Maybe I won’t live to see my little son grow up. In the end you executed my son in cold blood. Whoever shot him took my whole life away from me.

“And then the officer, the soldier, or the Shin Bet [security service] man who killed him went back home, took off his uniform, fed his son and gave him milk before going to bed. In the end every one of you is a soldier, a security man. You come from [Camp] Etzion, kill a child and say you killed a terrorist? That’s the terrorist you killed?”

Israeli media called him ‘terrorist’

To explain what Muzhir was talking about, someone showed me the article on the website 0404 with the headline: “A terrorist was killed and another wounded after they attacked our forces during operations in Deheisheh,” by Noa Magid.

Muzhir continued his monologue: “In Israeli society you raise a child and a dog. Sometimes two girls and a dog. If the dog disappears, the police look for him. I raised children in my house. Arkan was a child. You people call 22-year-olds ‘children.’ In Europe – 30-year-olds. Based on that, Arkan was a baby. I won’t treat his killing as a mere car accident.”

This was a reference to the suggestion by an Israeli officer that Arkan’s killing be treated as “a car accident.” It’s not clear who the officer was – a Shin Bet investigator who questioned a detainee, another Shin Bet man who called someone on the phone, or an Israeli liaison officer who spoke to a Palestinian counterpart.

But those present in the diwan say they’re sure it was said, and the contempt in the statement fits with the army’s campaign against them, as reflected in the routine violent raids on the camp and its homes, the live fire and the arrests. They say the camp – home to the descendants of dozens of demolished villages – is determined and adheres to Palestinian principles, so the army is trying to subdue it like Gaza and other camps.

Unlike other refugee camps, the political organizations in Deheisheh – like Fatah and the PFLP, which still maintain some social authority – have ruled against carrying and using arms. “We do not want to give the army a pretext to destroy the camp and put us in more danger,” they explained this week. “Nevertheless, we have the right to resist the raids and violence.”

In her home, on the sofa her son made, the mother says: “Arkan is with our Creator. But how will we live without him? How will I hold up? He’s in heaven, and I want to fly to wherever he is. I can’t take it. May God punish them.”

(Source / 06.08.2018)

Guest Writer: Gaza and the three-state solution

People attend a protest against Israeli violence in Gaza on 16 May, 2018 in Tel Aviv, Israel [Kobi Wolf/Anadolu Agency]

People attend a protest against Israeli violence in Gaza on 16 May, 2018 in Tel Aviv

By Dr. Raed Elottol

The Palestinian in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip elected Hamas to run the Palestinian Authority in 2006. Ismail Haniyeh became the Prime Minister according to Palestinian law and the election results — deemed “free and fair” by independent monitors — but the international community and adjacent countries did not accept this. Instead, they turned against all democratic norms promoted around the globe. Since then, the Gaza Strip has suffered from political isolation and a devastating Israeli-led siege that has shattered all aspects of life in the enclave.

Gaza has also borne the brunt of successive Israeli military offensives, with three major invasions since late 2008. On each occasion, initiatives and political efforts moved to stop the bloodshed.

According to the available data and international shuttle diplomacy to and from Gaza — and leaks from Hamas officials — the Israeli occupation government suggestion of a five-stage agreement for a medium-term (5 to 10 years) ceasefire is being discussed. This was adopted by an unprecedented meeting of the Hamas political bureau in Gaza for the first time since 1987, in the presence of all bureau members from within and outside Palestine, headed by Haniyeh, the head of Hamas, and his deputy Saleh Al-Arouri, who leads Hamas abroad and is at the top of those wanted by Israeli security forces and intelligence agencies. Al-Arouri is accused of direct responsibility for the killing of Israelis in retaliation for Israel’s killing of Mohammed Abu Khdeir in early July 2014. In turn, this was the pretext for Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge” the following month. The offensive lasted 52 days, during which 2,139 Palestinians were killed, including 579 children and 263 women; more than 11,100 others were wounded, including 3,374 children.

Read: 155 Palestinians killed in Great March of Return

It was a devastating attack on the people of Gaza; as well as the human casualties, the losses to the economy were estimated at $4 billion, with factories and vital infrastructure destroyed. Egypt brokered a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, as part of which the siege of Gaza was meant to be eased. Four years later, Israel has still failed to meet its commitments. There has been no major reconstruction of damaged and destroyed homes or factories; no full re-opening of border crossings; and no repairs to Gaza’s only electricity plant. Unemployment among graduates and young people has risen dramatically. There was (and remains) an urgent need for efforts to improve the conditions of the Palestinians in Gaza and save what can be saved.

Earlier this year, the proposal for a peaceful “Great Return March” to the border of Gaza and Israel — first mooted in 2011 — was made; Israel was backed into a corner. The protest started on 30 March, with Palestinians heading for the border in five locations within Gaza, calling for an end to the siege and their right to return to their land and homes inside what is now Israel to be facilitated. As is well documented, Israeli snipers have to-date shot and killed more than 250 men, women and children, and injured more than 20,000. Israel’s use of banned explosive bullets against unarmed protesters has resulted in paralysis, loss of limbs and other life-changing injuries. Israel has again faced resounding criticism from around the world, with its blockade of the Gaza Strip on the international agenda once more. Hamas is back on centre-stage of the political initiatives to end the siege. The Great Return March protests have become troublesome for Israel and must be stopped at all costs.

Most of the intentional leaks have been made to prepare the Palestinian public for an imminent agreement between Hamas and the Israeli occupation authorities. Egyptian intelligence officers are responsible for the Gaza Strip and Hamas portfolio in Cairo; they have played a major role in preparing and negotiating a deal with the movement. A meeting is scheduled very soon at which the Israeli delegation will be led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who cancelled an official visit to Colombia to oversee the details personally.

It is expected that there will be five stages to the agreement:

  1. An immediate halt to the movement of the barbed wire fence that separates the Gaza Strip from Israel. More precisely, this means the cessation of the Great Return March protests, the flying of incendiary kites from Gaza across the boundary, and all forms of peaceful resistance to stop the siege of Gaza.
  2. The possibility of signing a bilateral reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas under Egyptian auspices, which will provide for the resumption of salary payments to PA employees in the Gaza Strip, as well as those engaged by Hamas. It is also proposed that presidential and parliamentary elections will be held within six months across the occupied Palestinian territories.
  3. Negotiations for the exchange of prisoners, including four Israeli soldiers captured by Hamas in 2014, and the signing of a ceasefire agreement for a period of 5 to 10 years.
  4. Opening the way for Arab and foreign financial investment in Gaza and starting the process of reconstruction and rebuilding of the infrastructure, as well as the establishment of desalination plants and a new power station in Sinai, or possibly elsewhere, along with a port and a temporary airport in Egypt to serve the Palestinians in Gaza.
  5. The launching of comprehensive negotiations on Jerusalem, fixed final borders, the Palestinian refugees and other outstanding issues.

Read: The American attempt to erase the Palestinian right of return

As the one-state solution fails and the two-state solution does likewise, this agreement may be part of Donald Trump’s “deal of the century”, or the three-state solution. On the face of it, it might also mean that Hamas is ready to change from a resistance and liberation movement into a temporary civilian authority throughout the truce period. This would require it to freeze its use of arms and all forms of resistance to the Israeli occupation, including peaceful resistance, which puts it at a difficult juncture. Fatah has thus far refused to accept internal reconciliation with Hamas without full empowerment of the (Fatah-controlled) PA and the movement itself in the Gaza Strip. At the same time, Hamas does not want to concede to Fatah in Gaza without a genuine partnership based on the principle of quotas.

In rejecting the Egyptian reconciliation paper to heal the rift between Hamas and Fatah, the latter demanded impossible conditions, including full empowerment in Gaza and full control of Hamas arms in the enclave. In a statement last Monday, Palestinian writer Atef Abu Saif said that any negotiations on the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip will be seen as the circumvention of the national cause to pass the “deal of the century”, and that all of the rumours about Hamas’s direct or indirect involvement in talks with Israel and the US administration should be considered seriously.

Read: Fatah of working to sabotage reconciliation efforts says Hamas

According to Abu Saif, any such negotiations by Hamas are outside the internal Palestinian rift at a moment when concerted efforts are growing to thwart Trump’s deal to isolate Gaza and liquidate the Palestinian national cause. Fatah leaders have called on Hamas “to take a clear and frank position” on the deal. They added that any dialogue and negotiation on the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip is nothing but a failure that contributes to the passage of the American plan over Palestinian rights. “Instead of looking for dialogue with Tel Aviv or Washington,” insisted Fatah, “Hamas has to end the division between Gaza and the West Bank, and to allow national elections to be held so that the people of Palestine can make the final decision.”

Is Hamas as a movement united behind such an agreement? If there is opposition, how much, and who is leading it within the political bureau? We don’t know for sure, but the leaks refer to a great internal dispute about the nature of the agreement and its terms.

What about the position of the other resistance movements in Gaza, including the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Islamic Jihad? There appears to be tripartite coordination between these two movements and the Hamas leadership.

No one can deny that this agreement has been prompted by the siege imposed on Gaza, in which Fatah, the PA under Mahmoud Abbas and some Arab states have colluded in order to reclaim control of the territory. It will look to many to be a shift of the Palestinian cause from being a political to a humanitarian issue; from a comprehensive peace agreement to a transitional economic peace deal, like the peace suggested by Tony Blair, the Middle East Quartet envoy, and the plan of former PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, which was applied in the West Bank. It might even emulate Northern Ireland’s 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which ended the armed struggle of the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas holds an urgent cabinet meeting in Ramallah, West Bank on 14 May, 2018 [Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency]

Observers of the serious conditions in Gaza and the lack of options and aggravation of the humanitarian situation experienced by the Palestinians there know that the chances of success of such an agreement will be high, due to the status of the main proponents, especially the resistance movements and the government of Egypt, which controls the Rafah Crossing, as well as Hamas and the Israeli government. It is the latter, I believe, which will have the final say on a solution for the crisis in the Gaza Strip. Any opposition from Fatah will not be effective because of the marginalisation of Mahmoud Abbas and the tense US-PA relationship since Trump announced the transfer of the US Embassy to occupied Jerusalem and his recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.

If this agreement is in the interest of alleviating the suffering of two million people in the Gaza Strip under a siege of more than ten years, Netanyahu’s government will be the biggest winner, with a resultant rise in popularity at the polls at a critical time. Aside from anything else, the Israeli government will be able to persuade other countries to transfer their embassies to Jerusalem and restore Israel’s image after its excessive use of force against innocent protestors on the Great Return March.

This agreement, if successful, may be the first stage of the implementation of the deal of the century in another name, with the complete exclusion of the Abbas-run Palestinian Authority and no coordination between Fatah and Hamas. Regional countries have played a major role in order to advance this agreement. Egypt has mediated and opened the Rafah Crossing, and is acting as a mediator between former Fatah official Mohammed Dahlan and Hamas. Qatar, meanwhile, has provided financial support and been the mediator between the Islamic Resistance Movement and the Israeli government. Some of the leaks hint at the presence of major Israeli individuals in Qatar to agree on the amount of funding, and how to get it to Gaza, in addition to the reconstruction process, power station, port and airport.

#GazaCrisis

A three-state solution is what Israel wants for Gaza and this is why the humanitarian situation of the Palestinians in the territory is being used to separate it from the occupied West Bank as a Palestinian entity. This is a major event in Palestinian history, with Hamas as the main player after Fatah has been the kingpin for 30 years and achieved nothing from the Israelis. Will Hamas make the same mistake? Are we really on our way to a three-state solution, with a return to the status before the 1967 Six-Day War, with Egypt and Jordan in control of the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank respectively?

Such a scenario will be little different to the one-state and two-state proposals, in the sense that the intention is to divide and rule the people of Palestine in Israel, Jordan and Egypt, fragment their land even further and write-off the national project as they get embroiled in territorial disputes that are unrelated to the Palestinian cause. The alternative may well be another destructive Israeli offensive against the civilians in Gaza. Nevertheless, this should all be a wake-up call for the Palestinians to unite against all such divisive plans imposed from outside.

(Source / 06.08.2018)

‘Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians need your solidarity’

Activists taking parts in the 'Big Ride' blockade a UK-based Elbit Systems subsidiary. Image taken on August 8, 2016

Activists, including Mona El Farra, take part in the ‘Big Ride’ blockade a UK-based Elbit Systems subsidiary on August 8, 2016

 By Rebecca Stead

After months of preparation by its volunteer team, the ride sets out from Coventry on Friday and will arrive in London on Sunday, staging rallies along the way.

Dr Mona El Farra, former vice president of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society endorses the Big Ride for Palestine [File photo]

The Big Ride is endorsed by Dr Mona El Farra, former vice president of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society in the besieged Gaza Strip. Mona has been involved with the Big Ride since Israel’s brutal assault on Gaza in 2014, which led to the deaths of 2,251 Palestinians, including 547 children. Alongside notable British figures, Mona attended the send-off of the very first Big Ride a year later, in 2015. She explains: “I am totally convinced this act is about solidarity not charity,” adding that it “spreads the message of justice and freedom for the Palestinian people.”

“I remember saying in my speech in 2015 that we would continue, and really we did, given that 2018 is the 4th year of Big Ride.”

Asked what she hopes this year’s ride can achieve, she says: “We are hoping to mobilise more British people to be part of the people’s movement, which stands in solidarity with the Palestinian people.”

The Palestinian struggle can be strengthened by increasing British awareness about the current humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which has been under siege since 2007 by the Israeli occupation.

Mona believes the Big Ride is of particular importance this year in light of the Great March of Return which has seen over 140 Palestinians killed and more than 15,000 injured, including journalists and medics. Israel has also tightened its siege of Gaza in recent weeks by closing the only commercial crossing in and out of the enclave, causing shortages of vital resources and damaging industries. Mona sees the Great March of Return as “a reminder to the world that the Palestinian people seek justice, despite being denied this by the Israeli occupation and the international community’s passive stance.”

READ: “We are not interested in a humanitarian crisis in Gaza”

Yet in addition to increasing awareness, the Big Ride aims to raise money for the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA), where Mona works as director of Projects in Gaza. Her work in the Gaza Strip is focused on healthcare, particularly for women and children, and combating the impact that repeated wars on the besieged territory have had on the population. As Mona explains, “children who are currently 12 years of age have already experienced three assaults or wars,” leaving many with lasting trauma. Given that over 40 per cent of the population of Gaza is under 15 years old, this means approximately 800,000 children are at risk of suffering long-term psychological scars as a result of exposure to war and violence.

Did you know…58% of Gazans are either under 19 years old or over 60 years old!

#Gaza #GazaSiege #OccupiedPalestine #Palestine

Working as a doctor in Gaza is not an easy feat. Mona says that “my dual nationality helps me travel, though with great difficulty, since the restriction of movement outside Gaza is dangerous and the borders are closed most of the time.” Currently splitting her time between Manchester, in the north of the UK, and the Gaza Strip, many high-profile figures have been involved with ensuring her passage in and out of the enclave so she can carry out her work.

It has sometimes taken nine months and the intervention of British MPs like Jeremy Corbyn and the late Gerald Kauffman before I could leave.

READ: PA: Any aid to Gaza must pass through Ramallah

Yet Mona is no stranger to hardship. Born in Khan Yunis, in the south of the Strip, she took part in the popular resistance that followed Israel’s occupation of Gaza, the West Bank, the Golan Heights and Jerusalem in 1967. A 15-year-old schoolgirl at the time, she was involved in protesting, writing and distributing political leaflets encouraging people to resist the occupation. She recalls that “I was hit by Israeli soldiers a few times with thick sticks. Many of us were detained in jail. My father had to bail me out on the proviso that I took no further part in demonstrations.”

The following year, she went to Cairo to complete her secondary education and medical studies: “I was determined to be a doctor so I could help my people, as I could never forget the images of terrorised, injured and dead people in the streets of my hometown.”

After several years living outside Palestine, Mona decided to return to her home. In 1987, she took part in the First Intifada, working in some of Gaza’s eight refugee camps and rural areas where access to healthcare was difficult. Mona explains that: “I took part in organising and working in a mobile clinic with a team of volunteers, nurses and doctors, to take care of the injured and wounded.”

There was a daily struggle by my people against Israeli occupation. We held many strikes and curfews were imposed on a daily basis. We were not allowed to leave our homes after 6pm, and on many occasions curfews would be imposed for days on whole villages and towns in Gaza.

Since then, her role has expanded to include founding the first library in Jabalia refugee camp, as well as the Rachel Corrie children’s centre in Rafah, named after the 23-year-old American peace activist who was killed in 2003 by an Israeli bulldozer as she protested house demolitions in the city. mona also co-founded Al Awda hospital in 1997, the first hospital in the north of Gaza which previously had no medical facility to serve its large population.

READ: Israel intercepts Freedom Flotilla bound for Gaza

As the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza worsens with every passing month, Mona stresses the need to continue the work she has dedicated her life to. She explains: “It is crucial to help people on the ground, and that is what MECA is doing in Gaza via different local centres in the cities, villages and camps.”

Asked what message she would like to give those following the situation in Gaza, she says “hundreds of thousands of Palestinians need your solidarity, as well as your practical support.” Mona believes that acts of solidarity like the Big Ride can “one day manage to change the policies of governments towards Palestinians’ inalienable rights,” putting pressure on Israel to end its decade-long siege of the Gaza Strip and relieving the plight of its two million Palestinian citizens.

(Source / 04.08.2018)

Israel’s ‘nation-state law’ parallels the Nazi Nuremberg Laws

Israel’s new ‘nation-state’ law follows in the footsteps of Jim Crow, the Indian Removal Act and the Nuremberg Laws

 Susan Abulhawa   By Susan Abulhawa

Israel's parliament on July 19 adopted a law defining the country as the nation-state of the Jewish people, provoking fears it will lead to discrimination against its Palestinian citizens [Reuters]
Israel’s parliament on July 19 adopted a law defining the country as the nation-state of the Jewish people, provoking fears it will lead to discrimination against its Palestinian citizens

More than 80 years after Nazi Germany enacted what came to be known as the Nuremberg Race Laws, Israeli legislators voted in favour of the so-called “nation-state law“. By doing so, they essentially codified “Jewish supremacy” into law, which effectively mirrors the Nazi-era legislation of ethnoreligious stratification of German citizenry.

Israel’s “nation-state law” stipulates in its first clause that “actualisation of the right of national self-determination in the state of Israel is unique to the Jewish people”. In other words, the 1.7 million Palestinian citizens of Israel, the native inhabitants who managed to remain in their homes whenEuropean Jews conquered parts of historical Palestine in 1948, shall be without sovereignty or agency, forever living at the mercy of Israeli Jews. 

In similar fashion, the first of the Nuremberg Laws, the Reich Citizenship Law, deemed citizenship a privilege exclusive to people of “German or kindred blood”. The remainder were classed as state subjects, without citizenship rights. 

Since there was no scientifically sound way to distinguish Jewish Germans from the rest of German society, legislators looked into people’s ancestry to determine their Jewishness. Anyone who had three or four Jewish grandparents was defined as a Jew, regardless of whether that individual identified himself or herself as a Jew or belonged to the Jewish religious community.

That will not be necessary for indigenous Palestinian citizens of Israel because, since its creation in 1948, Israel put protocols in place to ensure that non-Jews do not assimilate into mainstream Jewish society. 

This brings us to the second Nuremberg Law: Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honour, which sought to prevent mixing of Aryan blood, dubbed “race defilement”. 

The new “nation-state law” may not mention “race defilement” but in Israel, anti-miscegenation laws are already in place, masquerading as legislation meant to protect traditional values. Marriage can only be performed by religious officials and the Orthodox rabbinate has exclusive purview over Jewish marriages. Interreligious marriage within Israel is strictly forbidden by law.

The Reich Flag Law, which established black, red, and white as the national colours of Germany, and the swastika flag as the new national flag, was also part of the Nuremberg Laws.

The second clause of Israel’s “nation-state law” regarding national symbols similarly indicates that “the flag of the state is white, two blue stripes near the edges, and a blue Star of David in the centre.” Two days after it was passed, Israeli police and military soldiers arrested a Palestinian boy for holding a Palestinian flag outside the Al Aqsa mosque in occupied Jerusalem.

The third clause of the new nation-state law reiterates Israel’s illegitimate claim to the whole of Jerusalem as its capital, an illegal and internationally unrecognised claim that has been emboldened by US President Donald Trump’s controversial decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. 

Interestingly, however, this new law does not define state borders and Israel remains the only country in the world without declared borders. This is not surprising, as Israel is a continuously expanding settler-colonial state, even though their admission to the United Nations in 1948 was based on their claim to the areas within the 1948 armistice line only, which does not include Jerusalem or any other part of the West Bank.

This new law also marks the beginning of the erasure of Arabic from the land, as it decrees Hebrew to be the only official language of the state, while Arabic has “special status”. Its fourth clause further explains that use of “the Arab language [sic]” institutionally “will be regulated by law.”

As for the 4.5 million indigenous Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank who do not have Israeli citizenship, the nation-state law eludes to their fate in the seventh clause, which states: “The state views Jewish settlement as a national value and will labour to encourage and promote its establishment and development.”

Simply stated, Israel will continue to work in earnest to build Jewish-only colonies on seized Palestinian land, ostensibly where a Palestinian state was to be formed per the Oslo Accords.

We can expect that more settlement will simply accelerate Israel’s ongoing displacement of Palestinians to replace them with imported Jews. We know from the past decades of settlement construction that this process is accomplished by systematic dispossession, marginalisation, ghettoisation and robbing of indigenous Palestinian inhabitants. This process more closely resembles the Manifest Destiny removal and marginalisation of First Nations in North America.

Western media should stop mincing words by calling the nation-state law “controversial” when in fact it is encoding the worst human impulses into law, the likes of which were promoted in Nazi Germany, Jim Crow and Indian Removal America and other abominable moments in human history.

(Source / 27.07.2018)