Opinion: The Infallible Warrior: Honest Reflections on the Legacy of Yasser Arafat 15 Years After His Death

By Ramzy Baroud  

15 years after the passing of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian people continue to reflect on his legacy. Thousands of images of “Abu Ammar” have been shared across numerous social media platforms remembering a man whose nom de guerre has been affiliated with the Palestinian struggle for decades.

Arafat’s legacy, however, is a contentious subject. The deep sense of loyalty that many Palestinians feel towards him is admirable but also worrying. This creates a dilemma: how is one to honestly dissect the history of a man whose status, among many Palestinians, has been elevated to that of an infallible warrior?

Considering that this current Palestinian generation is suffering the consequences of a checkered past – one that was partly molded by Arafat himself – examining Abu Ammar’s successes and failures is more critical than ever before.

One can honestly say that it was Arafat and his generation of Palestinian leaders and intellectuals who helped resurrect the Palestinian national identity after the humiliating Arab defeat by Israel in the June 1967 war. Prior to that date, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was neither truly Palestinian nor a genuinely revolutionary force.

Moreover, Arafat, throughout the 1960s and 70s used the party he founded, Fatah, and the PLO to establish a large array of global alliances throughout the Southern hemisphere. This made the image of Arafat, adorned with his black and white Palestinian keffiyeh, a recognizable brand from Chile to South Africa, and from Iran to China.

But Arafat is also responsible for many of the ailments that continue to plague Palestinian society and hamper the Palestinian cause until this day. In fact, much of the widespread corruption, failures and absence of democratically run institutions in Palestine are rooted in the very system of political patronage created by the late Palestinian leader.

From the onset, back in the mid-1960s, Arafat and a small clique of Fatah members tried to dominate the PLO and by extension, all Palestinian national and political institutions, including the Palestine National Council (PNC) and the PLO’s Executive Committee. The former served as a Palestinian parliament in exile and the latter became the executive branch of a government-like structure. While Arafat assigned to himself most of the top positions, his allies were strategically allocated in all branches of Palestinian political life.

Under Arafat, the PLO operated according to the most minimal standards of democracy. Throughout his political career, whether in exile or following his return to Gaza in 1994, he labored to appear politically inclusive. In reality, Arafat shrewdly managed all Palestinian political affairs without any margins for meaningful dissent. Under immense American and Israeli pressure, Arafat and his Palestinian Authority cracked down on all Palestinian political parties that rejected the PA’s subservience to Israel and its “peace at all costs” approach.

Unlike the current leader of the PA and PLO, Mahmoud Abbas, Arafat, at least, was genuine in his desire to establish Palestinian political unity. However the unity he envisaged seemed to imply a united Palestinian front behind him and the political agenda of his choosing.

Palestinians continue to suffer the consequences of this misconstrued notion of ‘unity’, agreeing to a singular political agenda, as opposed to uniting within a single democratic political institution. Arafat could neither achieve the former nor secure the latter.

The shortcomings in Arafat’s legacy became even more amplified after his death. With no true democratic institutions that would permit Palestinians to sort out their many differences, Abbas, Arafat’s heir to the PA/PLO throne, used his position to accumulate wealth, prop up his cronies, and insist on his complete dominance over all Palestinian affairs.

On numerous occasions, Arafat dared to challenge Israel. His besiegement in his office in Ramallah for years, prior to his death from a “mysterious blood disorder” was a testimony to Israel’s loathing of the Palestinian leader. However, it was the skewed political structure that Arafat created that emboldened the aging Abbas in his drive for political supremacy. Indeed, Abbas has single-handedly squandered all Palestinian national achievements, including the PLO itself as a unifying Palestinian political platform.

15 years later, it has become clear that the lack of a meaningful Palestinian political dialogue under Arafat led to the weakening, fragility, and systematic dissolution of the Palestinian national project. If Arafat had allowed for the development of a healthy Palestinian democracy, the Oslo agreement would have never been signed in the first place. Thanks to Oslo, Palestinians are now as trapped in a political maze of unfulfilled agreements and broken promises as they are also imprisoned behind Israeli walls, fences and checkpoints. While the vast majority of Palestinians continue to reel under this horrific Oslo-induced reality, Abbas, the Fatah, and PA elites enjoy the perks of their acquiescence and outright betrayal of the Palestinian people.

Arafat, despite all of his political miscalculations, is still missed in Palestine 15 years following his death. This truth is a commentary on today’s sad state of affairs. What’s most ironic however, is that today’s tragic reality is, in many ways, the direct outcome of Arafat’s own legacy.

(Source / 16.11.2019) 


By Qassam Muaddi

When The US, Germany and the UK simultaneously condemn the Palestinian rockets launched from the Gaza Strip on the Israeli colonies near the Gaza Strip, without even mentioning the Israeli assassination of a Palestinian leader, which provoked the hostilities in the first place, it is a very old colonialist paradigm is at display. And when the US vice president tweets his support of Israel’s “right to defend itself”, when over 20 Palestinians, including children, have been killed by Israeli weaponry and no Israelis have been killed by Palestinian rockets, the same paradigm reveals itself again. In fact, the official reactions from Western leaders in the past days are manifestations of a distorted logic, two-hundred-and-two years old.

Dr. Witzeman, It’s a boy!

In late October 1917, in London, the Zionist leader and lecturer in chemistry, Chaim Witzeman arrived in the British cabinet offices on 10 Downing Sreet. He walked through a long corridor and reached a waiting hall outside an office, where high-ranking figures of the British government were concluding their meeting. Before Witzeman took off his coat, the door of the office opened and an Englishman in a military suit emerged. He was Sir Mark Sykes. The man who knew the least about the Middle East in the British cabinet and whose only experience in the Arab world had only been as a tourist. He was also the man shaping all the British policy towards the region in the final stages of World War I. He walked towards Witzeman with a big smile, his arms extended forward in celebration and exclaimed with a cheering voice: “Doctor Witzeman, it’s a boy!”

Over a year of Zionist lobbying had just given fruit. The British cabinet had just approved the final draft of a 67-words-long letter, later to be known as the “Balfour Declaration”. In it, the British government expressed its policy of supporting the Zionist colonization of Palestine, without explicitly supporting the creation of a Jewish state. The declaration rather mentioned a “national home for the Jewish people”. However, the letter revealed a deeply distorted understanding of Palestine as a country. The British did not necessarily sympathize with the Zionist cause. In the midst of World War I, they were seeking to win over the support of what they imagined to be the influence of a world Jewry, to help them win the war and outmaneuver the French, the competing emerging force in the region. Exploiting the classic anti-Semitic stereotypes that dominated the minds of British policy-makers, the Zionist leaders managed to convince them that they, the Zionist movement, represented this supposed influential world Jewry. At the very same time, the British top decision makers ignored completely the existence of a people in Palestine with national aspirations.

The text of the declaration, which was reviewed and edited tens of times before its submission to the British cabinet, with the participation of Zionist leaders like Witzeman, Gester and Sokolaw, reads, “ His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people … “ recognizing the Jews, who represented around 8 percent of Palestine’s population, with no common origin or cultural background, as a people in the full political sense of the word. Whereas it referred to the Palestinian people as follows, “it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine…” Thus, the Balfour declaration turned the native people of Palestine, representing more than 92 percent of the population and centuries of culture and history, into mere “communities”, whose only characteristic was the fact of not being Jewish. Furthermore, these “existing” communities only had, according to the declaration, civil and religious rights, and not political ones.

Nevertheless, one person in the British cabinet saw the mistake and prophetically foretold its consequences. Lord George Curzon, member of the cabinet as Privy Seal, former British Viceroy of India and later to become Britain’s secretary of foreign affairs, passed a memorandum in opposition to the Balfour declaration, on October 26th, only a few days before the declaration was made public. In it. Curzon pulled the alarm on an important question, which no one else seemed to have thought of, “What is to become of the people of the country [Palestine]?” he asked, “There are over half a million Syrian Arabs. A mixed community with Arab, Hebrew, Canaanite, Greek, Egyptian and possibly crusaders’ blood. They and their ancestors have occupied the country for the best part of 1500 years. They own the soil, which belongs either to individual landowners or to village communities (…) they will not be content either to be expropriated for Jewish immigrants or to act merely as hewers of wood and drawers of water for the latter”.

Paving the way for the Nakba

In fact, the Palestinians were much more ahead in their national aspirations than even Curzon had described them. In 1919, only two years after the British had taken over Palestine from the Turks, and three years before the League of Nations decreed the British mandate over the country, Palestinians were already organizing. In that year, the mayor of Jerusalem, Mousa Kazem Husseini, presided the first “Arab National Congress of Palestine”. The congress ended with several decisions, which included forming a delegation that would travel to London, in order to meet the British government and officially, in the name of the Arab Palestinians, oppose the Balfour declaration. Nine other congresses followed until the year 1929. In that year, Palestinians took to the streets in protest to the British support of the Zionist colonization of their country. More Palestinian revolts followed, where Palestinians demonstrated, went into general strikes, fought with arms and voiced out their existence in every way possible.

This made the Zionist leaders understand, for good, that Palestinians were not going to accept to be an exotic decoration in a Jewish state and that they were a real people, with national aspirations and, thus, had to be removed; physically removed. The contradiction between two opposed national projects was self-evident. However, to the British, there was only one people and one national project. Therefore, they carried on with the violent crushing of the Palestinian national movement until it could no longer put up a fight, paving the way for the Palestinian catastrophe of 1948, the Nakba.

A continuous mindset

For decades to follow, Palestinians had to struggle for the recognition of their very existence that had been since 1917 by the colonial mindset of the Western powers. A mindset that manifested itself for the first time when Mark Sykes, on behalf of the British empire and the Western world, congratulated Chaim Witzeman for the “birth” of a boy, not even noticing he was actually announcing the murder of another. That same mindset that reveals itself today every time a Western leader condemns the resistance of two-million people besieged for over a decade, tweets in support Israel’s “right to defend itself”.

(Source / 16.11.2019)

Israel’s precision propaganda tries to justify the slaughter of innocents

To justify killing Palestinians, Israeli army uses videos about terror attacks including 9/11, Mumbai, Manchester, Paris, Sweden, Indonesia and Nigeria, none of which had anything to do with the Palestinians

By Yvonne Ridley 

Each claimed targeted killing carried out by the Israeli occupation army included several innocent civilians. Sometimes, the targeted killings just slaughter women, children and infants.

The seriously misnamed Israel Defence Forces (IDF) and its supporters get very upset when members of the fifth largest army in the world are accused of targeting innocent women and children. They issue vehement denials to the world even though that is exactly what happens as a direct consequence of firing high explosives into densely populated civilian areas.

Even as the bombs are falling, Israeli propaganda goes into top gear. An IDF tweet yesterday announced dramatically: “BREAKING: We just targeted Islamic Jihad commander in Gaza, Baha Abu Al Ata. Al Ata was directly responsible for hundreds of terror attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers. His next attack was imminent.” This was followed quickly up by another post which claimed that the deadly attack was a “precision strike”.

That claim is debateable. What the IDF hasbara team failed to mention was that while targeting Abu Al-Ata the occupation army also killed his wife, and seriously injured four of their children and a neighbour. There was nothing “precision” or “surgical” about this strike; it was arguably a war crime.

When you lob Hellfire missiles — “used in a number of targeted killings of high-profile individuals,” explains Wikipedia — and other so-called smart bombs into a civilian area you will kill civilians. Non-combatant civilians were not protected in such a way during World War Two, which is why Article 33 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions was drawn up. It states that no one should be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited.

Now we have to sit back and witness the twin obscenities not only of Israel ignoring the Geneva Conventions and killing civilians, but also of pro-Israel lobbyists defending such action. Among the many tweets posted in support of the military strike, one which caught my eye came from the public relations director of a German NGO; Josias Terschüren challenged me when I had the temerity to point out that there was no such thing as a “surgical strike” in civilian areas.

“Apparently nobody but the targeted terrorist and his wife died in the surgical strike and two of his children were severely wounded,” tweeted Terschüren. “This can happen and has happened to other terrorist family members. No civilians were hurt.”

In this man’s eyes, therefore, neither Abu Al-Ata’s wife nor his children can be regarded as innocent civilians; they are members of a “terrorist family”.

When I challenged him on this, the public relations director of the Berlin-based Holocaust charity “Initiative 27. Januar” responded: “I was referring to your critique of Israeli strikes in densely populated areas. All I wanted to express was, that apart from his family members no other civilians were hit. While unfortunate and sad, this is not uncommon in cases of terrorists‘ family members.”

I’m not sure if Terschüren, who describes himself as “Conservative” and “Christian”, deliberately pushes out this vile propaganda or is a victim of Israeli propaganda himself, because that is a weapon which the IDF uses and abuses with great skill.

Consider this, for example: “This morning we killed an Islamic Jihad commander in #Gaza,” tweeted the IDF yesterday. “This is why you should care.” The accompanying video included news clips about terror attacks including 9/11, Mumbai, Manchester, Paris, Sweden, Indonesia and Nigeria, none of which had anything to do with the Palestinians. Trying to link Palestinian resistance groups to transnational terrorist attacks elsewhere is simply dishonest. They are not branches of Al-Qaeda or Daesh, no matter how many times the IDF and Israel’s lackeys try to convince us otherwise. It simply isn’t true.

That, though, is what we have come to expect from a country which cannot justify its state terrorism in any other way. “Lies, damn lies and Israeli propaganda,” as Mark Twain might have said. Sadly, such propaganda seems to work, judging by social media; those who are anti-Palestinian fall for it hook, line and sinker, probably because it fuels their own inherent racism and hatred.

The IDF has been busy with more “surgical strikes” since the murder of Abu Al-Ata and his wife. The death toll as I write is 23 Palestinians, of which pro-Israel lobbyists claim just 12 were “confirmed to be members of terror groups”. The strikes were not so surgical after all.

Perhaps the 18 innocents caught up in all of this were the wives and children of the “terrorists”. So that’s all right then, according to Israel’s deluded and blinkered war crime apologists. Their sophistry to justify the murder of innocent men, women and children is sickening.

(Source / 16.11.2019) 

To Israel, Palestinian blood isn’t just cheap, it is worthless

Relatives of Palestinian Mohammad Sharab, who was killed by Israeli air strikes in Gaza, mourn during his funeral ceremony on 14 November 2019 [Ashraf Amra/Anadolu Agency]

Relatives of Palestinian Mohammad Sharab, who was killed by Israeli air strikes in Gaza, mourn during his funeral ceremony on 14 November 2019

By Professor Kamel Hawwash

Those interested in human rights should remember the name of Omar Haitham Al-Badawi, from Al-Arroub refugee camp near Hebron. He was hit by Israeli gunfire outside his house. An eyewitness said that a gas canister had set fire to an area near his house. He pulled a towel from his house and indicated to an Israeli soldier that he was going to try and put the fire out. That same soldier shot him in the chest. Minutes later he succumbed to his wounds in a Hebron hospital.

Omar Albadawi, 22, was shot dead in front of his house by Israeli forces [Twitter]

Omar Haitham Al-Badawi, 22, was shot dead in front of his house by Israeli forces 

The incident did not take place in Israel but in the illegally occupied West Bank. The innocent man posed no threat. He is just a Palestinian, a number, an inconvenience. If he had left his homeland of his own accord, he would not have died. It is his fault for clinging proudly to his land. Even if he had posed a threat, the soldier could have aimed at a part of his body that could have incapacitated him, but why bother? He is just a Palestinian.

“Shocking to see the video [of] today’s killing of Omar Badawi by Israeli security forces,” Nickolay Mladenov, UN special coordinator for Middle East peace, tweeted, adding that the Palestinian appeared to have “posed no threat to anyone”. However, nobody expects action to bring the murderer to account.

Nickolay E. MLADENOV @nmladenov  

Shocking to see the video today’s killing of Omar Badawi by #Israeli security forces in #Hebron in circumstances that would seem to indicate that he posed no threat to anyone. My deepest condolences to his family. Such acts must be thoroughly investigated.17117:11 – 11 Nov 2019Twitter Ads information and privacy

I do not know if the soldier enjoyed doing this as much as the incident recently reported, dating back to May 2018, involving Karam Qawasmi. Karam tried to enter Jerusalem but an Israeli soldier stopped him and turned him back. As he was walking away, arms above his head, the soldier shot him in the back with a sponge-tipped bullet. Unlike Omar, Karam survived.

READ: Israel detains 15 Palestinians in West Bank raids

After falling from the shot, Karam recalled that he “felt numbness in my body that lasted around five minutes”. “I do not know who exactly shot me, but after I got up, all of the soldiers started to shoot around me, just for laughs,” Qawasmi said. He had already been subjected to hours of humiliation and beatings by the soldiers before he was allowed to leave. “They rammed me [with a jeep], then took me under a bridge and started beating me,” Qawasmi said.

The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate said: “The video is a clear indication of the Israeli occupation forces’ deliberate shooting against Palestinians, sometimes for entertainment and sometimes to show their arrogance and in most cases the shooting is justified under the pretext of security.”

This incident shows the attitude of Israeli soldiers to Palestinians. They are either a “play thing” or their blood is cheap. Other incidents confirm the lack of value placed on Palestinian lives by Israel.

Sara Daoud Ata Tarayra, 27, from Bani Neim town near Hebron, was a pregnant married woman, living in Hebron, and was killed at the entrance of the Ibrahimi Mosque, in Area H2, in the city. Eyewitnesses disputed the Israeli army’s claim that she had attempted to stab the soldier.

Viewers around the world saw Israeli soldier Elor Azaria walk up to 21-year-old Palestinian Abdel Fattah Al-Sharif, who lay injured on the ground after being shot by another soldier, point his gun at the motionless man and shoot him in the head. While he served a token prison sentence for his crime, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for him to be pardoned. He became a folk hero.

That same status was unofficially bestowed on settler terrorist, Baruch Goldstein who in 1994 murdered 29 Palestinians performing morning prayers at the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron. His act of terror was rewarded with the division of the mosque into a Jewish and Muslim area.

Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem has documented Palestinian deaths in 2019. The question I pose is, how many of these Palestinians would have been killed in the same manner in a Western style democracy? In countries where there is accountability and where all lives are valued, soldiers and policemen and women know that they must act within the law or face consequences for their actions.

Killings by Israeli snipers of Palestinians marching to the Gaza fence for return to the homes they and their families were expelled from in 1948, have largely gone unpunished. Israel claims that there is no need for external investigations into its crimes because it carries out its own investigations. However, as part of its investigation into the killings of over 200 Palestinians in the now nearly 83-week-old Great March of Return, a soldier who killed a Palestinian minor was sentenced to a one-month community service.

LIVE BLOG: Gaza in flames as Israel kills senior Islamic Jihad official

The soldier killed Othman Ramis Helles during a protest near the Karni crossing east of Gaza City on 13 July 2018. The ruling, as quoted by Israeli media, states that the soldier fired his weapon towards the unarmed teenager “disobeying an order leading to a threat to life or health”.

If Israel placed real value on Palestinian lives, such a sentence would never be commensurate with the loss of this young man. Othman’s father, Rami Helles, told the New York Times he was deeply disappointed by the sentence. “I was hoping for financial compensation and jailing him for a longer period,” he said. “This is unjust.”

The recent attack by Israel on Gaza, which started at 4am on 12 November with the extrajudicial killing of Islamic Jihad leader Bahaa Abu Al-Ata in an air raid, deeming him an imminent threat, has left more than 30 dead, amongst them innocent women and children.

Israeli aggression against the #GazaStrip

#Infographic by Palestinian Ministry of Health

LIVE BLOG >>> https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20191112-gaza-in-flames-…/

Meer weergeven

The latest were eight members of the Abu Malhous family in Deir El-Balah, killed by Israel and leaving an infant orphaned.

The so called “international community” will not stand up to Israeli crimes or even insist that human rights organisations – which simply document its crimes – must be allowed to do this important work without hindrance. The case of Human Rights Watch Director Omar Shakir who is likely to be deported soon is a case in point.

It is clear from Israel’s murderous history since its creation in Palestine, against the will of the indigenous Palestinians, that Palestinian lives do not matter. Even the notorious Balfour Declaration implied Jews were a people, while the Palestinians were just “communities”. That attitude continues to this day. Britain and Israel’s other allies believe Israel can use violence at will under the pretence of “self-defence” but deny that right to Palestinians.

Palestinian lives matter to Palestinians but it appears not to Israel, the pro-Israel lobby or Israel’s allies. If they are interested in genuine peace then they will find it when to them Palestinian lives matter as much as Jewish lives. Until then, sadly many more Palestinian lives will be extinguished by a brutal and murderous Apartheid regime.

(Source / 14.11.2019) 

Watch and cry; daughter screams: ‘I want to go with my dad’

Abul-Ata and his wife were killed in a predawn attack carried out by an Israeli fighter. Three of their daughters and a neighbour were wounded in the attack

By Motasem A Dalloul 

During the farewell of her father, who was killed by Israel, Layan Bahaa abul-Ata, 9 years old, screamed: “I want to go with my dad.”

Layan told Palestine Post 24 that her father promised to celebrate her birth day “tomorrow”, but “I got up to find him dead.”

Her birthday is on 12 November and her father told her that he had prepared a surprise for her and wanted to celebrate Layan’s birthday in the morning.

“Suddenly, sound of a huge explosion woke me up,” she said. “I threw myself from my bed and ran towards my parents’ room. I saw nothing because of the heavy smoke. I found the room had collapsed over the bodies of my parents.”

The Israeli occupation killed Abul-Ata in a predawn aerial attack on his house on !2 November. In the attack, he was killed, his wife and three of their children were wounded.

“It was shocking,” Layan said. “I expected this moment, but I did not think it would be very soon,” she added, noting that she knew her father was wanted for Israel over his resistance activities against the Israeli occupation.

Motasem A Dalloul@AbujomaaGaza  

Who can bear this?!!

Daughter of Palestinian father killed in #Israeli_airstrike in #Gaza screaming during the farewell: “I want to go with my dad.”#GazaUnderAttack #Gaza_Under_Attack

فيديو مُضمّن

١٠٤٧:٢٢ م – ١٣ نوفمبر ٢٠١٩المعلومات والخصوصية لإعلانات تويتر(Source / 14.11.2019) 


By Ramona Wadi 

The olive harvest in Palestine is an annual reminder of Israeli settler vandalism and violence. In 2018, the Israeli NGO B’Tselem reported on the extensive damage inflicted upon the olive groves, with one Palestinian farmer explaining that, “It looked like the trees had been slaughtered.” Meanwhile, the discrepancies regarding freedom of movement – unrestricted access for Israeli settlers juxtaposed against coordinated days for Palestinians to harvest – once again forces Palestinians into a silence which is not of their own making.

Knowing that filing complaints to the Israeli authorities yields no results, Palestinian farmers are forced to choose silence and a smaller harvest. “I only had three coordinated days left and I preferred to harvest the remaining trees,” explained one.

Israel’s military Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) would have the entire world believe otherwise. However, its latest propaganda video exposes two realities which the Israeli state has no intention of reversing: the ongoing restrictions on Palestinian movement, and settler violence as a complementary measure to the colonial state’s dispossession of the Palestinian people.

“Our purpose is to ensure that every farmer has free and secure access to his trees and can harvest his olives without any problem,” the Israeli official states. Alongside footage showing Palestinians harvesting the olives, the official adds, “As you can see, the Palestinian farmers who live here work freely. We are here with them, and that is our purpose.”

Coordinating the olive harvest is not freedom, and nor is a military presence in a work scenario. If COGAT needs to highlight its presence in the fields and emphasise “free and secure access” to the land, it underscores a plethora of violations that are not only related to the olive harvest, but also to the Israeli state depriving Palestinians of rights which, elsewhere, are taken for granted. Israel’s presence, as well as the military and the settler population, are the reason why COGAT is attempting to normalise military presence and equate it with providing Palestinians safe access to their land.

Of course, the video attempts to divert attention away from the army’s protection of settlers even as they vandalise Palestinian land and property, and destroy the farmers’ main source of livelihood, one reason why Palestinian agriculture has become militarised. The Palestinian attachment to the land is Israel’s obstacle; settlers contribute to the colonial state’s gradual expansion and, as a result, Palestinian dispossession. Last year, settlers equated Palestinian farming with terrorism; the ultimate disfiguration of agriculture and Palestinians’ presence on their own land.

COGAT released one video lauding a collaboration which fails to explain why military presence is needed in close proximity to Palestinian farmers; there is no mention of settler violence or colonial land theft in the propaganda. Yet settlers leave their traces routinely, operating in full view and with ultimate protection from the Israeli state.

The issue is much larger than the olive harvest; it is land theft which Israel eliminates from its fake narrative. Yet in doing so, it raises the obvious question: why should Palestinians be forced to work alongside a military presence if they are indeed living freely in their own land?

(Source / 10.11.2019) 


By Maren Mantovani

November 9th marks 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Unfortunately there is nothing to celebrate. We have entered a new era of walls with over 70 of them militarizing borders worldwide or annexing occupied land, such as Israel’s illegal wall in the West Bank. The phenomenon of the “politics of walls” is global and Israel plays a major role in it.

Until 2002, when Israel started building its apartheid wall in the occupied West Bank, walls were a de facto political taboo. Even the wall that incarcerates the entire Palestinian population of Gaza since 1995 was kept in silence. Initially, the outrage over Israel’s eight-meter-high construction deep within the West Bank was huge – partially because this one is built on occupied territory. But even though the International Court of Justice declared it to be illegal in 2004, the decision was put into the drawers of UN diplomacy, and instead walls got normalized and globalized.

Europe today has built over one thousand kilometers of walls – six times the length of the Berlin Wall. The U.S. started the past year with a president causing the longest government shutdown in history over a dispute with Congress on whether it would finance his “big, fat, beautiful wall” or rather go with the project proposed by Nancy Pelosi, leader of the Democrats, to opt for a “technological wall”. From Kashmir to Saudi Arabia’s border, from Turkey’s border to Argentina, many more less talked about walls are continuing to grow.

For Stop the Wall the fact that walls are not only used against the Palestinian people but used to oppress, dispossess, exclude, and far too often, kill people across the globe has been long evident. However, it took until Donald Trump’s electoral promise of a wall and his infamous comment in a phone call with the Mexican president – “Bibi Netanyahu told me walls work” – to create the momentum for global action.

Shortly after Trump got into the White House, Palestinian and Mexican movements launched the call for a World without Walls, now endorsed by over 400 movements, networks and organizations from across the globe. Here is the good news: the structures built to segregate have started a process of coming together among movements. What was initially envisaged as a one time global day of action on November 9, 2017 has developed into a recurring action and, more importantly, an ongoing process of building and deepening connections and joint struggles across and against the walls.

A significant part of the years of conversations and actions for a World without Walls are collected in the reader Build Resistance not Walls, published by Stop the Wall. It presents essays, research, and interviews contributed by activists, intellectuals, and investigative journalists from Palestine, Israel, Mexico, the United States, Greece, Italy, the Spanish State, the Basque Country, Morocco, the Western Sahara, Brazil, Argentina, India, and Kashmir. Their insights are thought provoking and inspiring.

The globalization of walls is a response to the ongoing global economic, civilizational and environmental crisis that has revealed the inability of the current ruling élite to give effective responses to the needs of the people. Unable to credibly promise well-being, they adopt what Charles Derber and Yale R. Magrass call the “security story”. The narrative instills fear in our societies by inventing false threats and worsening real threats, and justifies the authority of the ruling élite as the only force that can guarantee at least security and survival. The inevitable result is the rise of racist, supremacist, and exclusionary forces, from India’s Narendra Modi to Brazil’s Bolsonaro, the European far right and Donald Trump.

The role of Israel and the influence of the Israeli political paradigms in this process are discussed by many of Build Resistance not Walls contributors. It is not by chance that these forces have adopted Israel as a role model and walls of various forms as a tool of sociopolitical and geopolitical dominance. Israel’s apartheid and colonial project offers tested methods and technology to implement such racist and supremacist policies.

For Israel, the globalization of walls, the rising far-right and the growth of the security story are an invaluable source of legitimization, and at the same time opens up ever growing markets. A summary of Mark Akkerman’s extensive study on the wall industry shows a global 8% rise annually, with a 15% rise in border militarization spending in Europe alone. Riya AlSanah and Hala Mashood show how Israel’s military and homeland security companies use their comparative advantage over others as they sell their border militarization and wall technology as ‘field tested’, including for the construction of the U.S. Wall at the border to Mexico.

Within the framework of an all pervasive security story, the flip side of the paradigm of walls, according to Jamal Juma’, is the creation of a surveillance society that creates a panopticon stripping people of all layers that could protect their rights and privacy. Once again, having Palestine as a full-time open-air laboratory, Israeli technology and methodology is leading in the market. The recent scandals with AnyVision or the NSO Group’s spyware are only two examples.

Still, walls are nothing new but rather an age old colonial tool, adapted by Israel for current day purposes. Khury Peterson-Smith, one of the organizers of the 2015 Black Solidarity with Palestine statement, describes in his contribution how the US itself is a “Nation of Walls”, having used walls historically to advance its colonial conquest. Widespread support in the U.S. for Israel’s version of contemporary walls seems only logical in this context.

The contributions in Build Resistance not Walls unearth the connections between the walls around the globe and make it clear that only together we can tear them down. Cutting the ties of complicity, of Israel’s support to militarization and racist policies across the globe, is a call repeated throughout the reader by grassroots activists and movements at the forefront of the struggle, whether in Mexico, Brazil’s favelas or at the shores of the Mediterranean where the EU has started to use Elbit System’s Hermes 900 killer drones, effectively substituting rescue missions with surveillance of migrants left to drown.

That it is imperative for movements to unite when “they globalize the way they kill us” is underlined eloquently by Gizele Martins, from the favela movements in Rio de Janeiro, who can draw on the experience of having recognized during her trip to Palestine the same tactics used by Rio’s military police, who were trained by the Israeli security company ISDS.

Other examples of joint actions that break down walls include Popular Tribunals and Popular Caravans, as well as boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) initiatives to tackle the architecture of impunity that shields corporations enabling, facilitating, and profiting from walls of injustice.

Instead of ceding to the temptation to become completely absorbed in the ever more dramatic and brutal crises and attacks on our movements, this is a moment to lift our heads, see beyond the walls, and make connections between our struggles in order to gain strength and confidence together. Friends of the Earth Brazil remind us: “The bigger the walls, the more cracks. If the walls surround us, we should hold on to the certitude of hope that one by one they will be taken down. While we the people continue standing, they will fall!”

(Source / 09.11.2019) 


Qusay al-Jaar, this week

By Gideon Levy 

He’s a fifth-grader, 10 years old, with a speech impediment that constantly hampers him. He is the eldest of the four siblings in his family. Their home is small and cramped, located deep within the town of Beit Ummar, between Bethlehem and Hebron. It’s a town that evokes a feeling of despair, just upon entering it: There is a fortified guard tower, an iron barrier that is sometimes manned and sometimes not, a narrow road, neglect, commotion and filth. Merging onto Highway 60 is dangerous, almost impossible. But who needs a proper intersection with traffic lights? This is a Palestinian town, after all.

Wearing a black shirt, Qusay al-Jaar has a child’s captivating smile. His mother, Hitam, sits next to us in the small living room. The father, Ibrahim, works in construction in Israel.

On Friday, October 18, Qusay, together with a cousin, 17-year-old Rami, helped Ibrahim clear rocks from the roof of their one-story house, in order to put in flooring. The work involved filling pails with the rocks and taking them downstairs. Qusay would took the pails by bike to a place behind the house, where other construction debris was dumped. They began work in the morning: Being Friday, there was no school.

Sometime around 6 P.M., they noticed two young masked people running down the street outside, an army jeep in hot pursuit. With their disguises, Qusay and his cousin couldn’t identify the two, who fled into the alleyways, the vehicle behind them.

A few minutes later, the jeep returned, without having caught the masked people, and stopped next to Qusay, who was standing outside with his bike. Four Israel Defense Forces soldiers got out, grabbed Qusay by his shirt and dragged him forcefully into the vehicle. His mother and father shouted and tried to approach the jeep to free him. The troops fired into the air and hurled tear-gas canisters. Hitam was fearful for her son and for the safety of two of her other children, Ruya, her 3-year-old daughter, and the 18-month-old Umar, who were also on the roof at the time.

Ibrahim al-Jaar gave the following testimony to Musa Abu Hashhash, a field researcher for B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights organization: “I was removing debris from the roof of my house ahead of tiling. My nephew, Rami, who’s 17, and my son Qusay, 10, were helping me. They each got a pail from me, which they emptied near the house. Qusay carried the pail on his bike and then came back for another load. While this was going on, with me on the roof of the house, I saw two masked children running on the street nearby. I saw a jeep driving fast and figured it was pursuing the two of them.

“I went on working. After about five minutes the jeep returned and stood across from the house. Four or five soldiers got out. I saw Rami and Qusay standing next to the house. Two of the troops snatched Qusay quickly and pushed him into the jeep, and one of them shut the door. When I saw that, I jumped down from the roof. One of two soldiers fired two shots in the air. I saw Rami trying to approach the back part of the jeep; he tried to pull Qusay out. The soldiers kicked Rami hard in the stomach and shouted at him. I pulled Rami away and tried to calm him down.

“Very quickly women from the neighborhood arrived, and also my wife, Hitam, and she tried to intervene. My wife started to cry and begged the soldiers to release the boy. The soldiers threw stun grenades and tear gas, and then got into the jeep and drove away toward [the settlement of] Karmei Tzur. I had tried to explain to them that the boy is my son and that he was working with me; the soldiers spoke in Hebrew and ordered me to back off and shut up. I tried more than once to get close to the jeep, and my wife also tried, in order to get Qusay back, and then one of the soldiers fired a shot in the air.

“I calculated that the jeep was going to the military base next to Karmei Tzur. I went there with my two brothers, Mahmoud and Maher. The soldiers allowed only me inside. I saw Qusay, his hands bound in front and blindfolded, sitting on a chair, crying and scared.

“I stood near Qusay. There was a soldier – not one of the ones who arrested him – who asked him about his friends and people who throw stones. I tried to intervene, but the soldier ordered me not to. He asked Qusay about older friends, and Qusay told him he doesn’t have any older friends. The soldier said he was looking for an older boy named Abdallah. I intervened more than once during Qusay’s interrogation. The interrogating soldier said that he wouldn’t stop asking questions until Qusay gave him the names of the stone throwers.

“The soldier questioned me about the two minors who ran past the house before Qusay’s arrest. I told him that I didn’t know them and that both were masked. I heard Qusay tell the soldier that he wanted to go back home. The soldier told him he would be able to go back, but that he was waiting for an order. Qusay was released at 9:30 P.M. and I went home with him. Qusay was frightened and confused, and I tried to calm him down. A few relatives and neighbors came over to welcome us. After he ate supper he went to sleep. During the last few nights he’s been waking up suddenly and looking all around.”

The cousin’s testimony: “I am Rami Alami and I live with my family in Beit Ummar – my parents are not alive. I am in the 11th grade. On Friday morning, I went to my uncle’s house to help remove covering from the roof of his house. At around 6 P.M., while we were working, I saw an army jeep driving fast along the road close to us. I thought they were chasing two young people (minors). The masked people ran along the road before the jeep arrived. Five minutes later, the jeep came back and stood under the house. Qusay was close to me, with his bike. Without asking a question, four soldiers got out. Two went over to Qusay and one of them grabbed him by the shirt collar and pulled him toward the jeep. I heard and saw Qusay crying and shouting, ‘I didn’t do anything.’

“Just then, I saw Ibrahim jump from the roof to the ground. He started to talk to the soldiers and told them that Qusay was a minor and that he had been working with him. He tried to pull his son away, but then a soldier fired a shot in the air. Qusay’s mother, my aunt, also came out and tried to get close to her son and pull him away, but one of the two soldiers pushed her and kept her from approaching. Some women and neighbors gathered around and tried to get closer. One of the soldiers threw tear gas and stun grenades to disperse them. I also tried to get close to the jeep and pull Qusay out. One of the soldiers kicked me twice, once in the stomach and once in the leg, and threatened to shoot if I tried it again.

“One soldier quickly shut the back door of the jeep. Qusay was still crying inside. The other soldiers got in and drove off in the direction of Karmei Tzur. I saw Ibrahim and his brothers getting into a vehicle and understood that they had decided to catch up with Qusay. I knew they [the troops] were sending him to the military base near Karmei Tzur.

“I waited at my aunt’s house until 9 o’clock, in the hope that Qusay would return, but decided to go home. I was tired and went to sleep early. I found out in the morning that Qusay had been released at 9:30 and that he was back home. I learned that a soldier had accused him of throwing stones and had questioned him about whether he knew the names of the children who threw stones.”

Qusay’s testimony: “On Friday I was helping my dad… Around 6 o’clock that evening, when I was carrying a pail on my bike, an army jeep passed the house going fast. Before that, I saw two masked children running along the road. One of them was wearing a green shirt that was the same color as my shirt. After a few minutes the jeep came back and pulled up next to our house. I had enough time to get on my bike and stand next to Rami. Four soldier got out of the jeep fast. Two came toward me and one of them pulled me by my shirt into the jeep. I saw Dad jump off the roof and he started to talk to the soldiers. I heard the sound of a bullet fired in the air.

“The door of the jeep was open. Mom came out of the house and tried to approach me. She asked the soldiers to let me go and [told them] that I was a minor and hadn’t done anything. I saw a soldier push her and not let her stand there. My cousin, Rami, tried to get closer, and then the soldier kicked him and pushed him away from the jeep. I saw and heard women and men around the jeep who were trying to help me and were talking to the army people. Suddenly I heard the sound of stun grenades and smelled [tear] gas. The soldiers got in fast and the jeep headed toward the settlement. I was scared and I cried the whole time. I said I didn’t do anything. One soldier covered my eyes in the jeep and put metal handcuffs on me. After a few minutes they took me out and put me on a chair next to an army tower.

“A soldier came over to me and pulled the blindfold up and started to ask me if I threw stones, and I said I didn’t. I told him I was helping Dad take things off the roof. The soldier asked me to repeat what I said, because I have a speech problem. After half an hour Dad got there and stood by my side. The soldier was still asking me and kept on asking me. He asked me about my friends and their names and ages. I told him that my friends are in my class. He said he wanted older friends. He also asked me to give him names of people who throw stones and I answered him that I don’t know a single one.

“After my father got there, the soldier took the handcuffs off my hands, after I told him they were too tight. I saw the soldier asking my father questions about the people who throw stones in the neighborhood. I kept on sitting in the chair the whole time.

“After 9 o’clock, I heard the soldier tell Dad that I was getting released and sent home and that he was waiting for an order on the phone. After a few minutes they let me go. I went home with Dad and with my uncles, who were waiting outside. A little bit after I got there I went to sleep, I was very tired. During the arrest I was very scared and I cried all the time. I only stopped crying when Dad came to the place where I was under arrest.”

The IDF Spokesman’s Office told Haaretz in response that the incident is now under investigation.

According to B’Tselem, at the end of August, a total of 185 Palestinian minors (under age 18) were incarcerated in Israeli prisons, two of them under the age of 14. In the past few years, the number of children and teens imprisoned by Israel has ranged between 180 and 400 at any given time.

(Source / 09.11.2019) 

How Israel redefines international law as a cover for its Gaza crimes

Israel’s approach to international law can be summed up as ‘If you do something for long enough, the world will accept it’

By Ben White

Israel’s approach regarding the justification of its violations against the Palestinians has been very simple: in the face of criticism for breaking the law, change the law.

Many of these policies have been the subject of substantial condemnation – from Palestinians, of course, as well as Israeli and international human rights groups, and even world leaders and politicians – albeit, critically, with little concrete action at the state level.

Israel, however, has sought to thwart even the possibility of meaningful accountability. Its approach has been very simple: in the face of criticism for breaking the law, change the law.

Providing cover

More precisely, Israel has been working hard to develop, and promote, interpretations of international law that provide cover for its policies and tactics in the Gaza Strip.

In January 2009, in the aftermath of an Israeli offensive that led to the UN-commissioned Goldstone report, a lengthy piece was published in Haaretz on the work being done by the international law division within the Military Advocate General’s office. These are the officials responsible for vetting (or perhaps rubber-stamping) the military’s actions and tactics, and providing legal justification for such actions.

One of the interviewees in the article was Daniel Reisner, who had earlier served as the head of the international law division. “If you do something for long enough, the world will accept it,” he said. “The whole of international law is now based on the notion that an act that is forbidden today becomes permissible if executed by enough countries … International law progresses through violations.”

It is the Gaza Strip that Israel has used as a laboratory for such “progressive” violations. One example is the status of Gaza itself. Since 2005, Israel’s position has been that Gaza is neither occupied nor sovereign, but rather constitutes a “hostile entity”.

In her recent book Justice for Some, scholar Noura Erakat spells out the implications of such a designation, which renders Gaza “neither a state wherein Palestinians have the right to police and protect themselves nor an occupied territory whose civilian population Israel had a duty to protect”.

“In effect, Israel usurped the right of Palestinians to defend themselves because they did not belong to an embryonic sovereign, relinquished its obligations as an occupying power, and expanded its right to unleash military force, thus rendering Palestinians in the Gaza Strip triply vulnerable,” Erakat noted.

Deliberate targeting

The claim that the Gaza Strip is no longer occupied is, of course, flawed, not least because Israel has retained effective control over the territory. Its armed forces enter at will on land and at sea, and Israel retains control over Gaza’s airspace, electromagnetic spectrum, most entry-exit points and the population registry – in addition to the ongoing blockade.

The Gaza Strip is merely one part of the occupied Palestinian territory, along with the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), that forms a single territorial entity. Gaza’s occupied status since 2005 has thus been affirmed by numerous relevant bodies, including the UN Security Council.

Israeli officials’ legal “creativity” is most frequently demonstrated by some of the tactics adopted by the Israeli military during assaults.

During the 2014 Israeli offensive on Gaza, 142 Palestinian families had three or more members killed in the same incident. Such shocking figures were partly the result of Israel deliberately targeting dozens of Palestinian family homes, in addition to those struck as a result of indiscriminate bombardment.

Key here was Israel’s determination that any (alleged) member of an armed Palestinian faction was a legitimate target, even when they were not participating in fighting – ie, at home with their families – and that family members became legitimate “collateral damage” on account of the presence of a suspect in the home (even, by the way, if that individual wasn’t actually at home at the time). As one Israeli official put it: “You call it a home, we call it a command centre.”

Civilian casualties

Despite the fact that under international law, Israel needed to show that any targeted structure was performing a military function, as rights group B’Tselem described, “no official claimed that there was any connection between a house that was targeted and any specific military activity there”.

Therefore, the Israeli military’s explanations for the destruction of homes appeared “to be no more than a cover-up for the actual reason for the destruction, namely the identity of the occupants” – that is to say, these were “punitive house demolitions … carried out from the air, with occupants still inside”.

Another tactic used by the Israeli military is the issuing of “warnings” to civilians, whether in the form of phone calls or text messages to specific properties, or leaflets dropped to entire neighbourhoods. Israel presents this tactic as evidence that it goes out of its way to avoid civilian casualties, even though such warnings are, in fact, an obligation rather than “acts of charity”.

Crucially, of course, such warnings do not remove protected status from civilian residents. However, there is good evidence to suggest that this is not a view shared within the Israeli military.

In the aforementioned 2009 Haaretz article, one official said: “The people who go into a house despite a warning do not have to be taken into account in terms of injury to civilians, because they are voluntary human shields. From the legal point of view, I do not have to show consideration for them.”

So, in a disturbing twist, while warnings are presented as minimising civilian casualties, in reality, they serve to facilitate the attacks and can even contribute to the death toll.

Normalising illegality

These are just a few examples, as Israel seeks to normalise the illegal, with two goals in mind.

Note that it was after the publication of the Goldstone report that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “instructed government officials to draft proposals for changing international laws of war”.

Israel’s “innovations” in international law are thus intended to facilitate the increasingly brutal suppression of Palestinians on the ground, while internationally, such interpretations are promoted to either muddy the waters in legal fora or, ultimately, to gain support from other state parties.

It is important to remember that the problem of accountability predates more recent developments. Israel has long violated international law, and justified certain policies in legal terms – from the confiscation of land in occupied territory to the establishment of settlements.

This helps us understand that the key problem is a political one – and that the answer to how to challenge impunity and resist Israel’s “innovative” interpretations of the law is the same: political pressure.

Failure on this front will be felt most keenly by those most vulnerable – the Palestinians.

(Source / 09.11.2019) 

Israel is falsifying Palestinian history and stealing its heritage

Israeli settlers are seen at an ancient historical site as they celebrate the Jewish holiday of Passover, in the West Bank city of Nablus on 22 April 2019 [Shadi Jarar'ah/Apaimages]

By Nabil al-Sahli

Palestine is one of the richest countries in the world in terms of antiquities, competing with Egypt in the Arab world. At least 22 civilisations have left their mark on Palestine, the first of which were the Canaanites; their presence is still visible today.

Since 1948, successive Israeli governments have paid particular attention to the antiquities that have a distinct Arab and Palestinian identity. Committees of Israeli archaeologists were formed to research in every part of Palestine on which Israel was founded. The aim remains to create a fake historical narrative by Judaising Palestinian antiquities. Historical monuments in major Palestinian cities, such as Acre, Jaffa, Jerusalem and Tiberias, have not been spared from this process.

Moreover, Israel has used various institutions to Judaise Palestinian fashion through systematic cultural theft and forgery. Even local recipes are not spared. Israel has participated in international exhibitions to display Palestinian fashion and cuisine labelled as “Israeli”.

This is how Palestine’s heritage and history dating back thousands of years are being stolen by the Israeli occupation and the “mafias” selling invaluable antiquities. This is happening at a time when Palestinian parties are taking action and calling for the protection of their legacy, history and civilisation.

WATCH: Israeli forces shoot Palestinian ‘for fun’

In this context, studies have indicated that there are over 3,300 archaeological sites in the occupied West Bank alone. A number of researchers confirm that, on average, there is an archaeological site every half a kilometre in Palestine which indicates the true identity and history of the land.

It is important here to mention the devastating effects of the Israeli separation wall on the future of Palestinian antiquities and monuments. The ongoing building of the wall on Palestinian land in the West Bank will ultimately lead to the annexation of over 50 per cent of the occupied territory. It will also include over 270 major archaeological sites, in addition to 2,000 archaeological and historical locations. Dozens of historically important sites and monuments have been destroyed in the course of the construction of the wall.

Specialised studies of Palestinian antiquities indicate that, since occupying the West Bank and Gaza Strip in June, 1967, Israel has been able to steal and sell even more Palestinian artefacts from the West Bank. This phenomenon was exacerbated by the outbreak of the Aqsa Intifada at the end of September 2000.

The Palestinian Authority’s Department of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage has pointed out that more than 500 archaeological sites and more than 1,500 landmarks have been stolen and destroyed by Israeli thieves and the occupation. It is a simple fact that, as the work of Salman Abu Sitta has demonstrated, more than 500 Palestinian towns and villages have been destroyed and wiped off the map by Israel since 1948. The Department also confirmed that the cultural and economic resources of Palestine continue to be depleted by Israel.

READ: Israel forces Palestinian to demolish his own house

Palestinian studies indicate that the reason for this ongoing Nakba is the collapse of any system to protect Palestinian areas due to Israeli control. Such protection falls under the direct management of the occupation, which basically means that the Israeli army is free to destroy cultural heritage sites, as has happened in Jerusalem, Nablus, Hebron, Bethlehem, and other Palestinian cities, towns and villages.

Archaeological theft and the violation of Palestinian heritage sites is one of the biggest challenges facing Palestinians as they seek to preserve their culture and physical presence in their homeland, which is threatened by Judaisation and targeted by systematic Israeli policies. We need to raise awareness in Palestinian society to confront this new-old challenge imposed by Israel.

We also need to boost our capacity to fight Israel’s theft of our history at the local, regional and international levels. This may be reinforced through Palestine’s full membership in relevant international organisations, including UNESCO.

Cultural diversity in Palestine dates back thousands of years. It is shameful that we are allowing this to be whitewashed out of history as Israel seeks to “prove” its fake narrative of the “Jewish state”, to the exclusion of the indigenous people.

(Source / 06.11.2019)