On the Holocaust Memorial Day, go to Gaza and cry ‘never again’

There is no holocaust there, only apartheid. No annihilation, but a systematic brutalisation of a nation. Not Auschwitz, but Gaza

By Gideon Levy

Israeli journalist Gideon Levy criticises the hypocrisy of the world leaders who visit Israel to show their sympathy to the Holocaust victims while ignoring the holocaust imposed on the Palestinians by Israel.

It is very important to remember the past; no less important is to be cognisant of the present without shutting one’s eyes.

The dozens of statesmen who arrived in Israel on Wednesday may remember the past, but they are blurring the present. In their silence, in their disregard of reality while lining up unconditionally alongside Israel, they not only betray their roles, they also betray the memory of the past in the name of which they came here.

To be the guests of Israel without mentioning its crimes; to commemorate the Holocaust while ignoring its lessons; to visit Jerusalem without traveling to the Gaza ghetto on International Holocaust Remembrance Day – one can barely think of any greater hypocrisy.

It is good that kings, presidents and other notables came here in honour of this remembrance day. It is deplorable that they are ignoring what the victims of the Holocaust are inflicting on another nation.

The city of Yerevan will never witness such an impressive gathering to commemorate the Armenian holocaust. World leaders will never come to Kigali to mark the genocide that happened in Rwanda.

The Holocaust was indeed the greatest crime ever against humanity, but it was not the only one. But Jews and the state of Israel know well how to sanctify its memory as well as using it for their own purposes.

On this International Holocaust Remembrance Day, world leaders are the guests of an Israeli prime minister who, on the eve of their visit, called for sanctions – believe it or not – on the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which is a legacy of the courts that were set up to judge the crimes of World War II.

On this Remembrance Day, world leaders are coming to a prime minister who is trying to incite them against the court in The Hague. It is hard to think of a more galling use of the Holocaust, it is hard to conceive of a bigger betrayal of its memory than the attempt to undermine the court in The Hague only because it wishes to fulfil its role and investigate Jerusalem.

The guests will hold their silence on this issue as well. Some of them may be persuaded that the problem is in The Hague, not in Israel. Sanctions on the court instead of on the occupying state.

One must never forget the Holocaust, obviously. One must also not blur the fact that it was directed against the Jewish people. But precisely for this very reason one must not ignore the conduct of its victims toward the secondary victims of the Jews’ Holocaust, the Palestinian people.

Without the Holocaust they would not have lost their land, and would not be imprisoned today in a gigantic concentration camp in Gaza or living under a brutal military occupation in the West Bank.

When today they recite ad nauseam “never again,” one should cast one’s eyes honestly to the south and east, only a few kilometres away from the memorial hall at Yad Vashem. There is no holocaust there, only apartheid. No annihilation, but a systematic brutalisation of a nation. Not Auschwitz, but Gaza. How can one ignore this on International Holocaust Remembrance Day?

It is hard to believe that it did not occur to even one world leader who came to Israel to travel to Gaza after the ceremony. If one of them had the courage to do so, he or she would be honouring the memory of the Holocaust no less than by visiting Yad Vashem.

There are not many places around the world where the words “never again” should resonate as much as within the confines of this huge ghetto, created by the state of Holocaust survivors. Not to go to Gaza and see what is happening there? Not to identify with the fate of two million human beings who have been locked in a concentration camp for 14 years, one hour away from Jerusalem? How is that possible? Not to cry “never again” in Gaza? How can they not?

A few leaders ostensibly balanced their visit here with a brief and ceremonial visit to Ramallah, including a photo-op with Mahmoud Abbas, who is also a target of Israel’s protests.

This kind of visit has no significance. Ramallah does not determine the fate of the Palestinian people. It is determined in the government compound in Jerusalem and in the defence establishment compound in Tel Aviv.

One needed to come to Israel today to remind the world of the Holocaust, but of the silence as well. Against this silence one should also cry out: Never again.

The Holocaust may never repeat itself, but the embarrassing silence continues, including on this day of remembrance in Jerusalem.

(Source / 23.01.2020) 


By Ramzy Baroud

BILLIONS of US taxpayers’ money will continue to be funnelled into Israel in the next fiscal year, and for many years in the foreseeable future.

Republican and Democratic senators have recently achieved just that, passing a Bill aimed at providing Israel with $3.3 billion in annual aid.

The Bill, co-sponsored by Democratic Senator Chris Coons and Republican Senator Marco Rubio, passed on January 9, only one day after Iran struck US positions in Iraq.

Enthusiasm to push the Bill forward was meant as an assurance to Tel Aviv from Washington that the US is committed to Israel’s security and military superiority in the Middle East.

Despite a palpable sense of war fatigue among all US citizens, regardless of their political leaning, the US continues to sink deeper into Middle East conflicts simply because it is unable — or, perhaps, unwilling — to challenge Israel’s benefactors in all facets of the US government.

The maxim “What’s good for Israel is good for America” continues to reign supreme among Washington’s political elites, despite the fact that such irrational thinking has wrought disasters on the Middle East region, and is finally forcing a hasty and humiliating US retreat.

The latest aid package to Israel will officially put into law a “memorandum of understanding” that was reached between the right-wing government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Barack Obama administration in 2016. Obama had then offered Israel the largest military aid package in US history.

Senator Rubio explained the passing of the recent Bill in terms of the “unprecedented threats” that are supposedly faced by Israel.

For his part, Senator Coons said that “the events of the past few days,” referring to the US-Iran escalation, were “a stark reminder of the importance of US assistance to Israel’s security.”

Particularly odd in Coons’s statement is the fact that it was not Israel, but US positions in Iraq that were struck by Iranian missiles, themselves a response to the killing of Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani.

Yet the US funding of Israel’s military adventures continues unabated, despite the rapidly changing political reality in the Middle East, and the shifting US role in the region as well.

This further confirms that the blind US support of Israel is not motivated by a centralised US strategy, one that aims at serving US interests.

Instead, the unconditional — and, often, self-defeating — US funding of the Israeli war machine is largely linked to domestic politics and, indeed, the unparalleled power wielded by the pro-Israel lobby in the United States.

According to the public policy research institute of the United States Congress, Congressional Research Centre (CRS), between 1946 and 2019 (including the requested funds for 2020) US aid to Israel has exceeded $142bn.

The vast majority of this funding — over $101bn — went directly to the Israeli military budget, while over $34bn and $7bn were given to Israel in terms of economic aid and missile defence funding, respectively.

It is becoming increasingly obvious that the US no longer possesses a well-defined and centralised strategy in the Middle East, with President Donald Trump changing US priorities from one speech to the next.

However, one key phrase that seems consistent in whatever political agenda that is still championed by Washington in the region is “Israel’s security.”

This precarious term seems to be linked to every US action pertaining to the Middle East, as it has for decades under every administration, without exception.

Wars were launched or funded in the name of Israel’s security; human rights were violated on a massive scale; the five-decade — and counting — military occupation of Palestine; the protracted siege on the impoverished Gaza Strip and much more, have all been carried out, defended and sustained in the name of “Israel’s security.”

US aid to Israel continues, despite the fact that all US aid to the Palestinians has been cut off, including the $300 million of annual US funding to the UN agency responsible for the welfare of Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.

The latter, which has provided education, healthcare and shelter for millions of refugees throughout the years is now, bizarrely, seen by both Israel and the US as “an obstacle to peace.”

Inexplicably, Israel receives roughly “one-third of the American foreign-aid budget, even though [it] comprises just .001 per cent of the world’s population and already has one of the world’s higher per capita incomes,” wrote Professor Stephen Zunes in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.

This massive budget includes much more than the $3.3bn of annual funding, but other amounts and perks rarely make headlines.

Anywhere between $500m to $800m are given to Israel every year as part of a missile defence package; approximately, an additional $1bn benefits Israel in the form of tax-deductible donations, while $500bn is invested in Israeli bonds.

Then there are the loan guarantees, where the US government assumes the responsibility for billions of dollars that Israel can access as a borrower from international creditors.

If Israel defaults on its loans, it is the legal responsibility of the US government to offset the interest on the borrowed money.

Starting in 1982, Israel has been receiving US aid as a lump sum, as opposed to scheduled payments, as is the case with other countries.

To satisfy its obligations to Israel, the US government borrows the money, thus being left to pay interest on the loans.

Meanwhile, “Israel even lends some of this money back through US Treasury bills and collects the additional interest,” Zunes wrote.

US relations with Israel are not governed by the kind of political wisdom that is predicated on mutual benefit. But they are not entirely irrational either, as the US ruling classes have aligned their interests, their perception of the Middle East and their country’s role in that region with that of Israel, thanks to years of media and official indoctrination.

Despite the fact that the US is retreating from the region, lacking strategy and future vision, US lawmakers are congratulating themselves on passing yet another generous aid package to Israel.

They feel proud of their great feat, because, in their confused thinking, a “secured” Israel is the only guarantor of US dominance in the Middle East, a theory that has been proven false, time and time again.

(Source / 21.01.2020) 

Torture of Palestinian detainees prevails in Israeli jails

Since 1967, 73 Palestinian prisoners were killed by torture in Israeli jails. Torture survivors have no recourse to justice, as it is Israel who decides whether an investigation should be opened

By Ramona Wadi 

Israeli occupation continues torturing Palestinian prisoners inside its jails in a show of clear disrespect of all international laws and conventions which ban torture of prisoners.

In comments to Al Jazeera regarding Israel’s use of torture against Palestinian detainees, Qadura Faris, head of the Palestinian Prisoner Societydeclared: “The Israeli security wants to leave a mark on the psyche of those it detains: resistance has a price, and it is hefty.”

Torture methods used by Israel include stress positions, beatings which result in severe injuries, sleep deprivation, emotional blackmail, threats of torture against family members of the detainees and the transfer of detainees to secret prisons.

In one case reported by the Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Addameer: “The harsh beating was committed with the intention to kill the detainee.”

Israel allows the use of torture in so-called exceptional cases and exempts the officials involved in torture from criminal responsibility. This ambiguity has contributed to a rampant use of torture against Palestinian detainees held in Israeli jails. Complaints to authorities have not yielded any results. Israel’s tactics of depriving legal counsel to tortured detainees during interrogation also hinders immediate recognition and awareness of such human rights violations as they occur.

Addameer’s latest update on torture in Israeli jails, since August 2019, shows how Israel manipulates its so-called state of exception in order to circumvent the absolute prohibition of torture in international law. Israel’s security narrative – a commodity that has become part of mainstream rhetoric and adopted globally – provides the legal loophole within Israeli legislation to torture Palestinian detainees.

Given that Palestinians, without exception, are all deemed a purported threat to Israel, there are no parameters excluding detainees from torture. On the contrary, rather than having their rights protected, Palestinians in Israeli jails risk additional violations while the perpetrators of such violence are immune from prosecution, by means of the same security narrative that allows for the torture of Palestinians.

The recent update notes: “According to the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), about 1,200 complaints of torture during Israeli interrogations have been filed since 2001. All the cases were closed without a single indictment.”

Addameer also notes that torture is classified as a war crime – a pertinent point as Israel faces a possible investigation at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Interestingly, Addameer quotes a statement by Nils Melzer, the UN special rapporteur on torture, who draws comparisons in terms of occupation and torture, between the US presence in Guantanamo and Israel’s colonial entrenchment in Palestine. Both Israel and the US, he states, are setting an example of impunity when it comes to the torture of detainees.

Since 1967, 73 Palestinian prisoners were killed by torture in Israeli jails. Torture survivors have no recourse to justice, as it is Israel who decides whether an investigation should be opened.

Meanwhile, the international community continues to ignore such flagrant violations of human rights – war crimes, to use the current assertions levelled against Israel. Indeed, if the international community paid less importance to Israel’s security narrative, and concerned itself primarily with the violations justified through its purported right to defend itself, it is possible that there will be more cohesion regarding the legal importance of holding Israel accountable for its repression of the Palestinian people.

(Source / 21.01.2020) 

No Accident: Israel Targets Eyes

By: Tareq Hajaj

Media coverage and social media posts went wild when Palestinian photojournalist Muath Amarneh was blinded in his left eye after he was hit by a rubber bullet while covering a protest in the West Bank.

However, Amarneh was far from unique; Israeli snipers targeting participants in Gaza’s weekly Great Return March protests have aimed for the legs—and eyes. To date, Gaza’s Ministry of Health reports that 50 protesters have been shot in the eye since the demonstrations began March 30, 2018—leaving them permanently blind.

“Some of these protesters and journalists were hit in the eye with teargas canisters, but most were targeted directly with what is commonly called a ‘rubber bullet,’ giving the impression they are somehow benign,” says Ashraf Alqedra, MD, a treating physician at Gaza City’s al-Shifa Hospital and spokesperson for the Ministry of Health. “But there is still steel at the core, and although these bullets don’t usually kill, they do grave damage. It is impossible to save an eye hit directly by a rubber-coated steel bullet.”

However, he adds, due to the Israeli blockade, there are no artificial, glass eyes in Gaza—only a cosmetic improvement, but one that can be a significant psychological aid. These are available only by traveling out of Gaza for treatment and permits for such journeys are often not granted.

According to data released by the World Health Organization, Gaza residents submitted 25,897 applications to travel via Erez Crossing to receive medical treatment in the West Bank or Israel; an average of 2,158 were submitted each month. However, the Israeli government only approved 61 percent.


Mai Abu Rwedah: the most recent victim

Mai Abu Rwedah, 20, grew up in north Gaza’s al-Bureij Refugee Camp in a family of nine children supported by a father who works as a janitor for a UN school. She just graduated from university, hoping to start her professional life as a medical secretary and contribute her income. But that dream was dealt a severe blow December 6, when she became the most recent Gazan to lose an eye to an Israeli bullet.

Abu Rwedah believes in using peaceful, but active, resistance to reclaim Palestinians’ right to return to their ancestral homeland. So, she has joined participants in the Great Return March protest since its launch on March 30, 2018. On September 21 of that year, she was shot by a rubber-coated bullet in one of her legs, but that didn’t stop her from participating; she kept on going.

Earlier this month, stood with a few friends about 100 meters from the fence that marks the border between Gaza and Israel. She glimpsed an Israeli soldier waving and pointing his finger to his eye. “He was trying to intimidate me, but I was not afraid because I was doing nothing wrong. I wasn’t even throwing stones,” Abu Rwedeh recalls.

The soldiers fired tear gas then, and Mai and her friends ran away, but still were in sight of the young man who had threatened her. “He was watching me; wherever I moved he kept watching. Then, suddenly, he raised his gun and pointed it at me. I was about to flee but he was too fast. He shot me in my eye.”

The bullet damaged he jaw as well. Doctors had to extract her right eye, since it was destroyed, Her determination, however, is intact. Abu Rwedeh continues to protest.

The youngest victim

Mohammed Al-Najar, 12, is the second-oldest son among four children, supported by a father who works in a wedding hall in Khan Younis. In January, during the mid-year vacation from school, Mohammed begged his parents to allow him to watch the Friday protest with his cousins and other relatives, thinking it would give him an exciting story to share with classmates. 

He was given permission to ride one of the government buses that collected people from the various neighborhoods, taking them to the protest sites. When he disembarked, teargas bombs were flying, and he shouted to warn those around him. Then next one hit him directly in his right eye.

When Mohammad learned later that his eye could not be saved, he locked himself in his room and stopped going to school. When he did go back, he struggled. “At first his marks at school dropped and he isolated himself. He tried to hide his missing eye,” says his mother, Um Edress


She took to him an organization that provided psychotherapy, but he refused to speak. Today, he is socializing, but goes mum when asked about his injury.  

The journalist

According to Dr. Alqedra, most people with eye injuries from the Great Return March are journalists or photographers.

One of them is Sami Musran 35, a photographer who works for Al-Aqsa TV. On July 19, he was shot times—first in his hand, the next two times in his shoulders and the fourth time in the chest (fortunately, he was wearing a bulletproof vest, so it did not harm him). The last time cost him his left eye.

Sami says he had received several calls from Israeli officers warning him not to take photos at the Great Return March. His mother also received calls, saying her son might be killed.

“Forty times, my Facebook account was hacked or deleted for me, and I received death threats as well,” he says. “But I decided to keep on with my work to reveal the Israeli crimes against unarmed Palestinians who participate in the march.”.

The night before Musran was shot, his wife tried to insist he stay home, but he refused.

“Munities before I was hit, my mother called me twice, saying she was very worried about me. But I said that nothing happens that isn’t God’s plan,” he recalls.

He was about 250 meters from of the Israeli fence when two women and a child were shot. Musran was taking photos of them and went in close. That’s when a rubber-coated bullet hit his eye and he lost consciousness. Two days later, he woke up in the intensive care unit to find out he had a skull fracture and an injured eye. The bullet had damaged the iris, retina and cornea and his vision was gone.

Today, it is hard for him to continue with his job; his depth perception is off, he gets headaches and the sight in his remaining eye “fades” at night. But he will keep trying.

“Israel wants to blind the eyes of the truth by sending messages to photographers saying we will hit your eyes to make you stop taking photos,” he says. “But we do not surrender.”

(Source / 21.01.2020) 

Sealed off and forgotten: What you should know about Israel’s ‘firing zones’ in West Bank

There is no military logic in the world that could rationally justify the barring of medical access to an isolated community

By Ramzy Baroud 

Harsh conditions of Israeli occupation create pressure on Palestinian communities to leave their lands. This is the ethnic cleansing that Israel uses to evacuate Palestine of its indigenous people.

A seemingly ordinary news story, published in the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, on 7 January, shed light on a long-forgotten, yet crucial, subject: Israel’s so-called “firing zones” in the occupied West Bank.

“Israel has impounded the only vehicle available to a medical team that provides assistance to 1,500 Palestinians living inside an Israeli military firing zone in the West Bank,” according to Haaretz.

The Palestinian community that was denied its only access to medical services is Masafer Yatta, a tiny Palestinian village located in the South Hebron hills.

Masafer Yatta, which exists in complete and utter isolation from the rest of the occupied West Bank, is located in ‘Area C’, which constitutes the larger territorial chunk, about 60 per cent, of the West Bank. This means that the village, along with many Palestinian towns, villages and small, isolated communities, is under total Israeli military control.

Do not let the confusing logic of the Oslo Accords fool you; all Palestinians, in all parts of the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the besieged Gaza Strip, are under Israeli military control as well.

Unfortunately for Masafer Yatta, and those living in ‘Area C’, however, the degree of control is so suffocating that every aspect of Palestinian life – freedom of movement, education, access to clean water, and so on – is controlled by a complex system of Israeli military ordinances that have no regard whatsoever for the well-being of the beleaguered communities.

It is no surprise, then, that Masafer Yatta’s only vehicle, a desperate attempt at fashioning a mobile clinic, was confiscated in the past as well, and was only retrieved after the impoverished residents were forced to pay a fine to Israeli soldiers.

There is no military logic in the world that could rationally justify the barring of medical access to an isolated community, especially when an Occupying Power like Israel is legally obligated under the Fourth Geneva Convention to ensure medical access to civilians living in an Occupied Territory.

It is only natural that Masafer Yatta, like all Palestinians in ‘Area C’ and the larger West Bank, feel neglected – and outright betrayed – by the international community as well as their own quisling leadership.

But there is more that makes Masafer Yatta even more unique, qualifying it for the unfortunate designation of being a Bantustan within a Bantustan, as it subsists in a far more complex system of control, compared to the one imposed on black South Africa during the Apartheid regime era.

Soon after Israel occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, it devised a long-term stratagem aimed at the permanent control of the newly occupied territories. While it designated some areas for the future relocation of its own citizens – who now make up the extremist illegal Jewish settler population in the West Bank – it also set aside large swathes of the Occupied Territories as security and buffer zones.

What is far less known is that, throughout the 1970s, the Israeli military declared roughly 18% of the West Bank as “firing zones”.

These “firing zones” were supposedly meant as training grounds for the Israeli occupation army soldiers – although Palestinians trapped in these regions often report that little or no military training takes place within “firing zones”.

According to the Office for the UN Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Palestine, there are around 5,000 Palestinians, divided among 38 communities that still live, under most dire circumstances, within the so-called “firing zones”.

The 1967 occupation led to a massive wave of ethnic cleansing that saw the forced removal of approximately 300,000 Palestinians from the newly-conquered territory.

Many of the vulnerable communities that were ethnically cleansed included Palestinian Bedouins, who continue to pay the price for Israel’s colonial designs in the Jordan Valley, the South Hebron Hills and other parts of occupied Palestine.

This vulnerability is compounded by the fact that the Palestinian Authority (PA) acts with little regards to Palestinians living in ‘Area C’, who are left to withstand and resist Israeli pressures alone, often resorting to Israel’s own unfair judicial system, to win back some of their basic rights.

The Oslo Accords, signed in 1993 between the Palestinian leadership and the Israeli government, divided the West Bank into three regions: ‘Area A’, theoretically under autonomous Palestinian control and consisting of 17.7% of the overall size of the West Bank; ‘Area B’, 21%, and under shared Israeli-PA control and ‘Area C’, the remainder of the West Bank, and under total Israeli control.

This arrangement was meant to be temporary, set to conclude in 1999 once the “final status negotiations” were concluded and a comprehensive peace accord was signed. Instead, it became the status quo ante.

As unfortunate as the Palestinians living in ‘Area C’ are, those living in the “firing zone” within ‘Area C’ are enduring the most hardship. According to the United Nations, their hardship includes “the confiscation of property, settler violence, harassment by soldiers, access and movement restrictions and/or water scarcity.”

Expectedly, many illegal Jewish settlements sprang up in these “firing zones” over the years, a clear indication that these areas have no military purpose whatsoever, but were meant to provide an Israeli legal justification to confiscate nearly a fifth of the West Bank for future colonial expansion.

Throughout the years, Israel ethnically cleansed all remaining Palestinians in these “firing zones”, leaving behind merely 5,000, who are likely to suffer the same fate should the Israeli occupation continue on the same violent trajectory.

This makes the story of Masafer Yatta a microcosm of the tragic and larger story of all Palestinians. It is also a reflection of the sinister nature of Israeli colonialism and military occupation, where occupied Palestinians lose their land, their water, their freedom of movement and eventually, even the most basic medical care.

These harsh “conditions contribute to a coercive environment that creates pressure on Palestinian communities to leave these areas,” according to the United Nations. In other words, ethnic cleansing, which has been Israel’s strategic goal all along.

(Source / 15.01.2020) 

More war crimes are Israel’s plan for the immediate future

By Ramona Wadi

Israel’s main bone of contention with the International Criminal Court’s possible investigation into war crimes in occupied Palestine is about settlement expansion. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s declaration in November 2019 which basically insisted that Israeli settlements are not illegal, affirmed US support for annexation of the occupied West Bank. That move was mentioned tentatively by US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman in June last year.

In a pre-recorded statement transmitted by video link during the Kohelet Forum in Jerusalem, Pompeo reiterated that the US shift in policy regarding Israel’s settlement enterprise is a means of “advancing the cause of peace between Israelis and the Palestinians.” His words were echoed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he vowed further expansion in defiance of the ICC’s designation of settlements as a war crime which, indeed, they are according to international law.

Likewise, Likud MK Nir Barakat revealed plans for two million settlers to occupy Palestinian territory within 50 years. “This is a commitment which requires that we lay the framework now to make that possible and this is an investment which will also benefit the Palestinian people,” Barakat claimed, while urging the US to reveal details of the so-called “Deal of the Century” without further delay.

Netanyahu is also using the US stance on settlement expansion as a countermeasure to the ICC’s plan to investigate Israel (and Palestinians, it must be said) for war crimes. Deeming the US support for settlements “an appropriate response”, Netanyahu is clearly aiming at politicising a possible investigation which still has to clear several bureaucratic hurdles. Furthermore, the ICC’s delays in arriving at a conclusion which stipulates that Israel has committed war crimes decreases in impact when juxtaposed against the US-Israeli strategy under the Trump administration to facilitate the colonisation plan often referred to as “Greater Israel”.

This strategy was explained by Friedman during the Kohelet Forum when he referred to having approached the three issues that Israel has been vying for politically: the status of Jerusalem, the occupied Syrian Golan Heights and the occupied West Bank. “We have approached them in ascending order of complexity,” Friedman clarified, once again highlighting the discrepancy between Israel’s planning on one hand, and the Palestinian Authority’s response on the other. The PA has fallen behind by following the international trend of isolating each Israeli gain as a separate violation.

With the plan determined by the US, Israeli Defence Minister Naftali Bennett has little standing in his way to implement the annexation of more Palestinian land. “The State of Israel’s policy is that the land in Area C belongs to [Israel],” he stated at the Forum.

Settlement expansion is in itself part of the ongoing ethnic cleansing of a colonised population to accommodate the state narrative and its colonial settler population. The announcement of an additional 2,000 settler dwellings in the occupied West Bank must not only be seen as an affront to the ICC statement but also as a continuation of what Israel started prior to the international community’s designation of which settlements violate international law. Blaming America’s overt steps for the current belligerence barely scrapes the surface of what the UN started when it approved the Zionist colonial project in Palestine. More war crimes are on the way in Israel’s plan for the immediate future.

(Source / 11.01.2020)


By Orly Noy

The TV series Fauda (Arabic for “chaos”) deals with the story of an Israeli undercover unit, the mistaravim, whose commandos carry out missions in the occupied Palestinian territories while disguised as Arabs.

Among the most successful Israeli drama series ever made, the show has garnered numerous awards, both at home and abroad. The show premiered in 2015 and Netflix acquired it the following year, after which Fauda became a wildly successful international hit.

Journalist Avi Issacharoff and actor Lior Raz created the series, based in part on their experiences in the Israeli army’s Duvdevan commando unit. Consultants for the show included Gonen Ben-Yitzhak, a former Israeli security coordinator and elite commando, and Aviram Elad, another Duvdevan graduate.

Barefaced arrogance

The first two seasons focused on the unit’s undercover operations in the occupied West Bank. The third season, which just started, deals with operations in Gaza. Before the current season began airing, producers launched an aggressive ad campaign that flooded Israel’s streets with huge billboards.

Every time I drive by one of these promo visuals or get stopped at a red light next to one, I cringe with shame.

The new season’s ads portray the steely-eyed, bruised and bloodied face of an actor alongside the message “Welcome to Gaza”, written in English but using Hebrew letters. I look at this and think of the incredible cynicism, the barefaced arrogance of this mockery.

Welcome to Gaza. Welcome to the ghetto whose exits Israel has locked down for more than a decade, punishing more than two million people with a slow death. This, apparently, is the new virtual playground to gratify Israeli viewers’ need for thrills, put into English to emphasise the American nature of this entertainment juggernaut.

A right-leaning Hebrew media site described the new season this way: “Fauda and its undercover mistaravim operatives commanded by Doron (Lior Raz) return for another tense and thrilling season. Their main mission this time is to damage the West Bank Hamas infrastructure operating from Gaza and take out the commander of the Hamas military wing there.”

Gaza: A myth for Israelis

Thrilling and suspenseful new challenges, and daring new missions. As in an elaborate computer game, the viewer can lean back and let himself be swept along with the drama, protected by the screen from the dramatic scenes unfolding in Gaza. The brutal situation of two million people under siege becomes merely a stage set for the storyline.

As such, the siege of Gaza itself becomes the best promo for the TV series. Thanks to another long year of closure, Gaza has become a kind of myth for Israelis: not wholly real, in the sense that real people live there, and yet simultaneously very scary and threatening.

The ignorance of ordinary Israelis that flourishes behind the dark screen Israel has imposed around the West Bank and Gaza, and the primeval fear it engenders, are major components in the secret to the success of this series.

Even more grotesque is how following tensely along with the stories of “our wonderful boys” in Gaza does not prevent most viewers of Fauda from claiming, in political arguments, “But we left Gaza! There’s no more occupation there!” In the meantime, they applaud every execution, detention or sophisticated ambush they see on their TV screens. We withdrew from Gaza, but what a great job we are doing there!

This alienation also encompasses a kind of exoticisation of Palestinians under occupation. For the vast majority of the Jewish Israeli audience, not only the action set in besieged Gaza, but also parts of the series set in the West Bank, describe places beyond the mountains of darkness. Nablus, Ramallah, Jenin – all have come to symbolise the realms of the netherworld that our boys bravely enter and leave, rather than vibrant cities a short drive from where we live.

I remember very well the first time I visited a friend in Jenin. At first, I was unable to comprehend the instructions he gave me. It did not sound logical that I should just get into my car and drive straight to him. I was astounded to discover how easy and short a drive it was.

Frightening and exotic

Fauda not only relies on this fear of Palestinian spaces, but amplifies it, legitimises it and normalises it. Palestinians are depicted as frightening and exotic creatures inhabiting places where only commandos dare to venture. Zionism has managed to transform Palestinians into exotic figures in their own homeland.

One key argument that emerges in many discussions of Fauda is that this series actually embodies a humane, even leftist, agenda, because it “portrays the complexity” and shows that the people on the other side are also human beings.

This point is worth pondering a moment, so that we can consider what it says about us, as Israelis, if after so many years of our violent rule over millions of disenfranchised Palestinians, we need to be reminded that they, too, are human beings. But the deeper moral failure in this argument is the symmetry it posits: see, there are people on both sides.

Given the underlying reality of Gaza, which years ago a UN report projected would be unfit for human habitation by the year 2020 – a forecast that has come true ahead of schedule – there is no symmetry.

On one side is the place whose existence for decades has been crushed by a regime of violence, poverty, destruction and death, wrought by one of the mightiest armies in the world; on the opposing side, that army maintains absolute control over the destiny of the other, with no intention of stopping.

Indescribable suffering

Fauda was created by people who took an active role in this regime of control and abuse. This TV series is the fruit of that collaboration, and as such, it is by definition illegitimate.

It is immoral to turn the suffering of the victim into entertainment for the victimiser. It is immoral to succumb to an adrenaline addiction at the expense of those in the crosshairs of our weaponry. Gaza is not a stage set for a drama series; it is a real place with real people experiencing indescribable suffering that we Israelis impose on them every single day.

Yes, it is important to know what is going on in Gaza as it disintegrates under siege, but not via entertainment for the masses. We could, for instance, get to know the voices of young Gazans themselves via the important website “We Are Not Numbers”.

It’s easy to say “to hell with politics and morality”, or “there’s no choice but to go with the flow” – but there are always choices. We can, for instance, refuse to cooperate in turning victims into amusement for the occupiers or entertainment for the international community – the very same international community that has enabled the occupation to perpetuate these abuses for so many years.

(Source / 09.01.2020) 

Targeting The Palestinian Memory

Photos File

By: Kamal Zakarneh

The ethnic cleansing carried out by the Israeli occupation authorities in occupied Jerusalem continues and has affected all Palestinian institutions without exception. However, it focuses on the educational and cultural institutions and those with political activities, to remove the Palestinian presence and restrict it in the Holy City, the capital of the occupied Palestinian state.

Currently, the occupation campaign has taken the most dangerous turn to date, i.e. a comprehensive war on Palestinian educational institutions in occupied East Jerusalem and its suburbs, targeting UNRWA schools, Palestinian schools affiliated with the Palestinian Authority, and private schools. The ethnic cleansing began in the UNRWA schools to achieve two goals at the same time, first, to shut down the agency’s institutions, which is a joint American-Israeli goal that seeks to get rid of all f the UNRWA institutions that provide services to Palestinian refugees.

The purpose of this is to stop all services and end the UNRWA’s role. The closure of schools will be followed by stopping operations in the health and other humanitarian services institutions to liquidate the Palestinian refugee issue. This cannot be achieved until after the UNRWA is eliminated. The second goal, which is also dangerous, is to erase the Palestinian memory, along with the convictions, public information, and national archive, as well as the commitment to the cause, homeland, struggle and fight against the occupying enemy. This would be followed by planting misleading and false information contrary to facts and reality to change the authentic Israeli and Palestinian narratives. Palestinian students will be forced to study in Israeli schools and learn Israeli curriculums, which would force the Palestinians to forget their national history, their struggle, and their Palestinian identity through an attempt to erase the Palestinian memory and narrative.

The occupation authorities will prohibit the Palestinians in occupied Jerusalem and its suburbs to build public and private schools, giving the Palestinians two options. The first option is to leave Jerusalem and move to the occupied West Bank, and the second is to succumb to the Israeli desire and study in the occupation’s schools and adopt its curriculums. The Palestinians will have no other choice but to fight a large legal and political battle with the occupation to regain the right to teach and learn Palestinian curriculums and learn in Arabic.

As for the political targeting of Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas, it aims to strip any Palestinian legitimacy in the Holy City. At the same time, it seeks to remove Al-Aqsa Mosque and Muslim and Christian holy sites of their religious legitimacy in an attempt to impose the fait accompli of a unified East and West Jerusalem as the capital of the entity occupying Palestine. This was recognised by the other side of the occupation, Donald Trump.

It is a comprehensive cleansing war waged by the Zionist occupation on Jerusalem and its suburbs, targeting the Palestinian presence in all aspects of life, to establish the Judaism of Jerusalem and to continue the Judaisation of all aspects of life.

The occupation authorities are seeking to create a Palestinian generation that could forget its Palestinian homeland, so they are now fighting a memory war with the Palestinian people, but they will surely be defeated.

(Source / 09.01.2020) 

Why did Hamas mourn over Iranian general Qassem Soleimani?

By Motasem A Dalloul

TEHRAN, PALESTINOW.COM — As soon as the assassination of Iran’s General Qassem Soleimani was confirmed by the Pentagon, the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement was among those mourning him and blaming the US for causing chaos in the region through its violations against the “resistance axis” in the Middle East, as well as its “blind support” for the occupation state of Israel.

“We mourn the death of Soleimani and the other Iranian commanders killed in an air raid by the US,” said the movement. “On this sad occasion, Hamas condemns the US bullying that creates disputes and upheavals in the regions, just to serve the interests of the Israeli occupation.”

This triggered a wave of criticism on social media in the Arab world, especially in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Hamas was accused of siding with the Iranian regime, which was described as being “responsible for bloodshed in Iraq and Syria, as well as instability in Lebanon.”

One message from Saudi critics and circulated widely on WhatsApp said, “Hamas should have thrown itself into the arms of Saudi Arabia, the protector of the Sunni project in the region… Soleimani, who was Iran’s hand in Iraq and Syria, would not have liberated Palestine if he’d stayed alive.”

Why did Hamas take such a position? It is a Palestinian resistance movement which believes in ending the Israeli occupation and establishing a sovereign Palestinian state. As long as there is an Israeli occupation, it insists, there will be resistance. This is a legal right guaranteed by international laws and conventions, and recognised by the UN.

The movement also believes that the Palestinian cause should be the central issue of the Arab states and people. This is what all Arabs claim to believe. Almost everyone, though, now knows that this is not the case. Today, the main issue for the Arab states is the legitimisation of the occupation state of Israel by forging commercial, diplomatic and even social and cultural ties, the so-called “normalisation” of relations.

Authoritarian regimes in the Arab world are working to undermine the Palestinian resistance by targeting Hamas and other factions. Some of these regimes, such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt, are currently working overtly to achieve this goal.

The latter, for example, has enforced a strict Israeli-led siege against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip since mid-2007. Egypt has imposed all kinds of hardships on the Palestinians who travel through the Rafah Crossing when it is open; it is basically the only gateway for people to enter and leave Gaza. The Egyptian government detains Palestinians, and blocks the flow of goods and free movement, even of people requiring essential medical treatment. Palestinians wishing to pass through Rafah frequently have to pay bribes to Egyptian officials, with the knowledge and consent of the state. Military and security checkpoints on the road to Cairo from the border add many hours — sometimes even days — to the time taken to make the journey.

In November 2018, I was not allowed to go through the Rafah Crossing after I refused to pay a bribe. The Egyptian security officer told me that I had to go home and when I asked him why, he said that I “should come back the next day.” I did not understand, but he made it clear that I needed to pay a bribe in US dollars. Palestinian travellers have to pay between $500 and $1,500, and sometimes even more, for permission to travel, no matter what the reason is for the journey.

Saudi Arabia and its supporters claim that it is the protector of the Sunni Muslims, including Hamas and the Palestinians. There is much to say about this, but I will focus on the detention of Palestinians in the country which is home to the two holiest places for Muslims: Makkah and Madinah.

When Saudi Arabia, Bahrain the UAE and Egypt announced their siege of Qatar in 2017, they said it was because the government in Doha hosts “terrorist organisations” such as Hamas and “terrorist leaders” such as Shaikh Yousef Al-Qaradawi. How can Hamas make overtures for help to a country which incites people against the movement and one of the most respected Sunni shaikhs in the world?

Last year, human rights groups revealed that more than 60 Palestinians are being held in Saudi Arabian prisons. Their families know nothing about their whereabouts or the conditions in which they are being held, although some are known to be denied medical treatment. Two of these detainees are the representative of Hamas in the Kingdom, Dr Mohammed Al-Khodari, who is a sick man over 80 years of age, and his son. How can anyone believe that Saudi Arabia is ready to support Hamas and the Palestinians while such inhumane treatment is being meted out by Saudi officials?

Hamas’s relationship with Iran is no secret; the movement has said on numerous occasions that it receives military and financial support from the Islamic Republic, which is a largely Shia state. The Palestinians know very well that Iran is antagonistic towards Sunni countries and is responsible, along with the US and other Western governments, and Russia, for the bloodshed in Iraq and Syria. Hamas also knows that Iran backs the Houthis in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other Sunni Arab countries have been committing war crimes and helping to create the world’s “worst humanitarian crisis”.

In its statement about the killing of Soleimani, Hamas explained that the Iranian General “played a major and critical role in supporting the Palestinian resistance at all levels.” The movement is not at a stage where it can afford to reject any form of assistance from any country. This also applies to those with ties to Israel such as Qatar, which has hosted an Israeli trade office since 1995 but also sends humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.

As far as Hamas is concerned, though, any and all assistance that it accepts must be unconditional. It is not prepared to bargain away its own or Palestinian principles. When the Syrian revolution broke out in 2011, for example, it was ready to sacrifice support from Damascus and Tehran when it refused to issue a single statement in support of the Assad regime, or at least condemn the popular revolution. It was thus forced to leave Syria, and Iran stopped its support for a while.

During the years of the Israeli siege, Hamas has cracked down on a Shia group in Gaza — Al-Sabereen – which was dedicated to spreading Shia beliefs among the Palestinian Muslims, who are 100 per cent Sunnis. Hamas did not consider Iranian support when it rejected requests to permit the leader of Al-Sabereen to have free movement, or when it refused to accept funding for a new school because it was offered on condition that it would be named after an Iranian leader.

At this stage, Hamas pays no attention to Sunni-Shia conflicts and does not want to be part of them as they take Saudi Arabia and other countries closer to Israel to the point of possibly forming alliances with the occupation state. Rather, the movement is paying attention to how to end the Israeli occupation, which remains the main cause of Palestinian suffering.

For those states and individuals who criticise Hamas for its ties with Iran, know that Hamas does not want arms or military training from you, but corporate and financial support. It also needs political and diplomatic cover for legitimate Palestinian resistance against the occupation and needs the Arab people and countries to push the Palestinian issue across the international arena. If Hamas is able to depend entirely on its immediate Arab neighbours for support, then it will have no need to seek help from Iran or anywhere else.

(Source / 09.01.2020) 

The ‘Great Game’ is afoot: Killing Soleimani reflects US desperation in the Middle East

Demonstrators carry an image of Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, who was killed by a US airstrike in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, during an anti-US rally to protest the killing at Palestine Square in the capital Tehran, Iran on January 4, 2020 [Fatemeh Bahrami / Anadolu Agency]

Demonstrators carry an image of Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, who was killed by a US airstrike in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, during an anti-US rally to protest the killing at Palestine Square in the capital Tehran, Iran on January 4, 2020

By Ramzy Baroud / Romana Rubeo

By killing top Iranian military commander, Qasem Soleimani, American and Israeli leaders demonstrated the idiom ‘out of the frying pan into the fire.’

US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are both politically and legally embattled – the former has just been impeached and the latter is dogged by an Attorney General indictment and investigation into major corruption cases.

Despairing, out of options and united by a common cause, both leaders were on the lookout for a major disruption – that would situate them in a positive light within their countries’ respective media – and they found it.

The assassination of the Iranian major general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and commander of its Quds Force, Soleimani, on January 3, along with several Iranian military leaders by a US drone was a testament to the degree of that US and Israeli desperation.

Although there has been no official confirmation or denial of the Israeli role in the US operation, it is only logical to assume indirect or even direct Israeli involvement in the assassination.

Over the last few months, the possibility of a war against Iran has once more gained momentum, topping the agenda of Israel’s foreign policy makers. Politically beleaguered Netanyahu has repeatedly and tirelessly asked his friends in Washington to increase pressure on Teheran.

“Iran is increasing its aggression as we speak,” Netanyahu claimed on December 4, during a meeting with US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo. “We are actively engaging in countering that aggression.”

One can only assume what “active engagement” from the overtly militant Israeli point of view can possibly mean in this context.

Read: US’ Pompeo thanks Israel’s Netanyahu for support over Iraq strike

Moreover, the fingerprints of the Israeli intelligence, the Mossad, are unmistakably present in the assassination. It is plausible that the attack at Soleimani’s convoy near the Baghdad International airport was a joint CIA-Mossad operation.

It is well-known that Israel has more experience in targeted assassinations in the region than all Middle Eastern countries combined. It has killed hundreds of Palestinian and Arab activists this way. The assassination of Hezbollah’s top military leader – the movement’s second in command –  Imad Mughniyah in February 2008, in Syria, was only one of numerous such killings.

It is no secret that Israel is itching for a war against Iran. Yet all of Tel Aviv’s efforts have failed to bring about US-led war similar to the Iraq invasion in 2003. The most that Netanyahu could achieve in terms of US support in that regard was a decision by the Trump administration to renege on the US commitment to the international community by withdrawing from the Iran Nuclear Treaty in May 2018.

That coveted Israeli war seemed assured when Iran, after various provocations and the slapping by Washington of yet more sanctions, shot down a US unmanned aerial vehicle that, as Iran maintained, violated the country’s airspace, on June 20, 2019.

Even then, the US response fell short of achieving the all-out war that Netanyahu has been so frantically seeking.

But much has happened since then, including a repeat of  Netanyahu’s failure to win a decisive election, thus securing another term in office, compounding the Israeli Prime Minister’s fully justified fear that he could eventually find himself behind bars for operating a massive racket of bribes and misuse of power.

Trump, too, has his own political woes, thus his own reasons to act erratically and irresponsibly. His official impeachment by the US House of Representatives on December 18 was the last of such bad news. He too needed to up the political ante.

If there is one thing that many Democratic and Republican lawmakers have in common is their desire for more Middle East military interventions and to maintain a stronger military presence in the oil and gas-rich region. This was reflected in the near-celebratory tone that  US officials, generals, and media commentators have used following the assassination of the Iranian commander in Baghdad.

Trump: US will hit 52 Iranian sites if Iran retaliates

Israeli officials too were visibly excited. Immediately following the killing of General Soleimani, Israeli leaders and officials issued statements and tweets in support of the US action.

For his part, Netanyahu declared that “Israel has the right to defend itself. The US has the same right exactly.” “Soleimani,” he added, “is responsible for the deaths of innocent US citizens and many others. He was planning further attacks.”

The last statement in particular, “he was planning further attacks,” points to the obvious joint intelligence and information sharing between Washington and Tel Aviv.

Benny Gantz, mistakenly celebrated for being a “centrist”, was no less militant in his views. When it comes to matters of national security, “there is no coalition and opposition,” he stated.

“The killing of Soleimani is a message to all the head of global terror: on your own heads be it,” the Israeli general, responsible for the death of thousands of innocent Palestinians in Gaza and elsewhere, also added.

Iran will certainly respond, not only against American targets but Israeli targets as well, for Teheran is convinced that Israel has played a major role in the operation. The pressing questions are more about the nature and the timing of the Iranian response: How far will Iran go to send even a stronger message back to Washington and Tel Aviv? and could Teheran communicate a decisive message without granting Netanyahu his wish of an all-out war between Iran and the United States?

Recent events in Iraq – the mass protests and attempt by unarmed protesters to storm the US embassy in Baghdad on December 31 – were, to some extent, a game changer. Initially, they were understood as an angry response to US airstrikes on an Iranian-backed militia group on Sunday, but the protests had unintended consequences as well, particularly dangerous from a US military and strategic perspective. For the first time since the phony US ‘withdrawal’ from Iraq under the previous administration of Barack Obama in 2012, a new collective understanding began maturing among ordinary Iraqis and their representatives that the US must leave the country for good.

Acting quickly, the US, with palpable Israeli giddiness, assassinated Soleimani to send a clear message to Iraq and Iran that demanding or expecting an American withdrawal is a red line that cannot be crossed – and to the whole Middle East that the evident US retreat from the region will not be duplicated in Iraq.

Soleimani’s assassination was followed by yet more US airstrikes on Iran’s allies in Iraq, as to also emphasise the level of US seriousness and willingness to seek violent confrontation as a matter of course.

Read: Will Iran be able to match its revenge rhetoric with action following the assassination of Qassem Soleimani?

While Iran is now weighing in its responses, it must also be aware of the geostrategic consequences of its decisions. An Iranian move against US-Israeli interests would have to be convincing from the point of view of Iran and its allies, yet, again, without engaging in an all-out war.

Either way, Iran’s next move will define the Iranian-US-Israeli relations in the region for years to come and will further intensify the ongoing regional and international “Great Game”, on full display throughout the Middle East.

Soleimani’s assassination could also be understood as a clear message to both Russia and China as well, that the US is prepared to set the whole region on fire, if necessary, in order to maintain its strategic presence and to serve its economic interests – which mostly lie in Iraqi and Arab oil and gas.

This comes at the heel of a joint Russian, Chinese and Iranian naval drill in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Oman, starting on December 27. The news of the military exercises must have been particularly alarming to the Pentagon, as Iran, which was meant to be isolated and browbeaten, is increasingly becoming a regional access point to the emergent and resurfacing Chinese and Russian military powers respectively.

Soleimani was an Iranian commander, but his massive network and military alliances in the region and beyond made his assassination a powerful message sent by Washington and Tel Aviv that they are ready and unafraid to up their game.

The ball is now in the court of Iran and its allies.

Judging by past experiences, it is likely that Washington will regret assassinating the Iranian general for many years to come.

China: US is abusing its force in Middle East

(Source / 05.01.2020)