Wafaa Aludaini is a witness to many of Gaza’s recent tragedies and also never-ending resistance. She experienced the violent Israeli occupation, the subsequent blockade on the impoverished Strip, and several wars that resulted in the death and wounding of tens of thousands of Palestinians.
But none of Israel’s wars impacted Aludaini’s life as much as the 2014 onslaught which Israel dubbed ‘Operation Protective Edge.’
Of the nearly 18,000 houses destroyed, two homes, one belonging to Wafaa’s family and the other to her in-laws, were also destroyed by Israel’s bombs.
Gaza’s infrastructure, which was already dilapidated as a result of previous wars and a protracted siege, took a massive beating during the 51-day Israeli bombardment.
The most irreplaceable of all of this tragic loss is human life, as 2,251 Palestinians were killed and over 11,000 wounded, many maimed for life.
War and siege, however, only strengthened Wafaa’s resolve as she became more involved in covering news from Gaza, hoping to reveal long-hidden truths and defy mainstream media narratives and popular stereotypes.
During the ‘Great March of Return’, a popular movement that began on March 30, 2018, Wafaa joined the protesters, reporting on a daily basis on the killing and wounding of unarmed youth who flocked to the fence that separates besieged Gaza from Israel, to demand their freedom and basic human rights.
Enraged by the refugees’ daily chants of ‘End the siege’, ‘Free Palestine’, and their adamant insistence on their ‘Right of Return’ to their original villages in Palestine, which were ethnically cleansed during Israel’s violent birth in 1948, Israeli snipers opened fire. In the first two years of the March, over 300 Palestinians were reportedly killed, and thousands wounded.
Aludaini was there during the entire ordeal, reporting on the dead and the wounded, consoling bereaved families, and also taking part in an historic moment when all of Gaza rose and united behind a single chant of freedom.
Aludaini was not a typical journalist chasing after a story at the fence, as she was both the story and the storyteller.
“I am a journalist, but I am also a refugee. My parents were expelled from their village in Palestine, which is now in Israel,” she said.
“Being a journalist in Gaza is not easy, because every single day, you are subjected to (the possibility) of being killed, injured, or arrested by the Israeli occupation forces. In fact, many journalists were murdered by Israeli fire this way.”
On why she chose journalism as a career although she studied English literature at a local Gaza University, Aludaini said that the more she understood mainstream media’s reporting on Palestine, the more frustrated she felt by the unfair depiction of Palestine and the Palestinian struggle.
“Journalists who are (advancing) mainstream media (narratives on Palestine) are, in a way, helping the Israeli occupation in killing more innocent people in Palestine, in particular, in the Gaza Strip. (They) are strengthening the people (Israelis) who expelled us in 1948, encouraging them to violate international law,” Aludaini said.
“So I am asking them to come here, to Palestine, to see for themselves, to see the Apartheid wall, to see the checkpoints, to see what is happening in Israeli jails. Only after they see it with their own eyes, can they tell the truth, because journalists should tell the truth and stand for humanity, regardless of religion and regardless of anything else.”
In a similar tone, Aludaini challenged “defenders of the Israeli occupation” to come to Palestine and to “listen to the people who had their children killed; to those who got expelled from their homes. In every home in Palestine, there is a story of misery, but you will never find (these stories) in mainstream media.”
Regarding the Great March of Return, Aludaini said that the March was “a popular protest where the people of Gaza collectively gathered at the separation fence between Gaza and Israel,” to exhibit various forms of resistance that focused mostly on cultural resistance.
Protesters carried out various forms of “traditional activities, like dancing dabka, singing old songs, cooking Palestinian dishes,” Aludaini said, noting that the most touching of these scenes were those of “elderly Palestinians holding the keys of their homes from which they were forcibly expelled in 1948 during the Nakba,” or the Great Catastrophe.
“This kind of popular resistance is not new for Palestinians (as they) have always used all their means to fight for their rights, to fight (against Israeli military) occupation, like the weekly protests (at the Gaza fence), or (the symbolic acts of) stone-throwing. Even when Gazans resort to armed resistance, people never stop displaying popular (forms) of resistance as well.”
But is this the end of the March of Return?
Aludaini said that the March is not over, however, the strategy will be reformulated to minimize the number of casualties.
“After almost three years of the protests, the High Committee of the Great March of Return decided to change the approach of the protests. From now on, the marches are only going to be held on national occasions instead of being held on a weekly basis because Israel uses lethal force against peaceful and unarmed protesters.”
According to Aludaini, the Gaza Ministry of Health, which is already overwhelmed by the lack of hospital equipment, electricity, and clean water, can no longer handle the pressures of daily deaths and injuries.
Aludaini herself spent many hours in Gaza’s hospitals, interviewing and comforting the wounded. She told us of a Gazan mother of four who participated in the March every Friday without fail. “One day, she was shot in the leg, and it was hard for her to walk. But the following Friday, she returned to the fence. When I asked her why is she back despite her injury, she told me: ‘I will never allow the Israelis to steal my land. This is my land; these are my rights and I will come back (to defend them) again and again.’”
For Aludaini, it is the resilience of these seemingly ordinary people that inspires her and gives her hope.
Another story is of a 19-year-old girl who implored her parents repeatedly to join the protests. When they finally relented, the young girl was shot in the eye by an Israeli sniper. Aludaini and her comrades rushed to the hospital to show support for the protester who lost her eye, only to find her in high spirits, stronger and more determined than ever.
“She told us that as soon as she leaves the hospital, she plans to go back to the fence.”
Aludaini challenges “Israeli propaganda” that claims that its wars and ongoing violence in Gaza are motivated by self-defense. If that is the case, “why is Israel targeting the West Bank which is also subjected to annexation and apartheid?” she asks.
“(Currently) There is no armed resistance (in the West Bank), but (the Israeli occupation army) still kills people every single day.”
Aludaini, who is frustrated by the lack of emphasis on media studies in Gazan universities, is determined to continue with her work as a journalist and as an activist, because when the media fails at exposing Israeli crimes in Gaza, it is the likes of Wafa Aludaini who make all the difference.
The annexation of over thirty percent of the West Bank by the occupation state, announced by the Netanyahu-Gantz government for next July, can best be described with the title of Garcia Marquez’s novel; “Chronicle of a death foretold”. Not the death of the two-state solution or the peace process, but rather the death of a lie that has been held on artificial breath system for twenty-nine years. At least since the first peace conference at Madrid in 1991.
It is the lie by which Palestinians could rely on international law and a supposed international community to obtain some kind of statehood, independence, freedom, a place under the sun. It was a death foretold by Yitzahac Shamir, then Prime Minister of the state of Israel, at the Madrid conference itself, when he said that Israel was going to negotiate for twenty years without any timeframe commitments. For some reason, the world back then including some Palestinian leaders decided to pretend it did not hear Shamir’s words, and proceeded. What happened next is history, now more than ever, useless to repeat.
Today, at the event of another Israeli mocking of International law that will be forgiven and rewarded by the international community the next morning, only one question is worth to be asked. At the sight of eviction orders being distributed to Palestinians across the Jordan valley, from North to South, of settlers running to grab as much hill-tops and water wells as they can, of Israeli bulldozers leveling any Four walls with a water tank on the top of them and Palestinians holding to whatever they have left with their teeth, only one question deserves to be thought of seriously: What should the world be doing to stop this crime? Not the governments of the world or the UN organization, No. The citizens of the world, each and everyone in their place and role, what should they be doing to stop this colonization machine that has been, for over a century now, smashing lives and dreams under its caterpillars?
Everybody is concerned
The question is worth asking because everybody is concerned. It touches you, me, personally, no matter where we live. To think otherwise is hiding behind one’s own finger. The reason is not that coronavirus proved how much of a “small town” the world has become, but because it has reaffirmed how much of a place it is where human life and dignity come at last. And unless genuine, global citizen solidarity is built, we would all be giving our consent.
The eviction of a Palestinian family from their land, after destroying their home and business, in order to install a settler who just arrived from Russia in their place is the result of that consent. Just like the murder of George Floyd by policemen in Minneapolis, in the middle of impunity because of his skin color, is also a result of that consent. Our collective, world-wide, repetitive consent.
Don’t give your consent
At the dawn of the end of World War II, a new international system was inaugurated, supposedly based on an international declaration of human rights, but at the same time tens of thousands of civilians were being burned alive at Hiroshima, and an entire generation gave its consent. Three years later, Cont Folk Bernadotte called out the injustice that was being committed against the Palestinian people and he was murdered for that, by those who a few months later proclaimed the state of Israel, and the world gave its consent.
But our generation has its part of responsibility too. Millions around the world watched on tv how Iraq was being bombed to the ground in 2003, based on a lie. Many did not give their consent. They protested and said No, but most of us did. And every time that any life from Hiroshima, from Iraq, from Chile or from Palestine did not matter, it was a black life, a white life, a human life anywhere, and at any time that did not matter.
More Palestinians than it was thought
The Palestinian people have today, more reasons than ever to feel that they have been let down by the international community. As they watch what remains of their land being annexed away, they have all reasons to believe that they are alone. However, when Afro-Americans protest against the murder of black people by policemen, when a Colombian student is beaten to death for protesting against cuts on education when Algerians demonstrate against dictatorship and French against the stealing of their retirements, one can only conclude that there are more Palestinians in the world than is has been thought.
It is not surprising, therefore, to see how the Palestine solidarity movement has been systematically criminalized in several European countries in the recent years. Any solidarity is a chance for a different kind of world. A more humane and just world. A world that is worth struggling for. And the forefront of that struggle, right now, is in the hills and valleys of the West Bank and the Jordan Valley.
The Likud election campaign for the 23rd Knesset claimed that the Blue and White party aims to form a government supported by the Joint List, and this led Benny Gantz to declare that he “will set up a government with a Jewish majority” that will not depend on Arab parties. Yair Lapid continued in a similar vein, arguing that “we are just a few mandates away from forming a coalition of a Jewish majority.” The term “a Jewish majority” is used by those centrist politicians to refer to a coalition consisting solely of Jewish parties. Later, after being criticized by the entire political spectrum, they both regretted the use of the term “Jewish majority.” Lapid refined the claim by stating “We need a majority of Zionist parties that believe in a Jewish and democratic state,” meaning that “we are by no means racists, we are simply Zionists who believe the state must be Jewish (and of course – democratic).”
Why is the coupling of religion and nationality so important for Zionist Jews? Is Judaism a religion, or a race, or a people? Either way, once the state is by definition Jewish, any criticism of the Jewish state is viewed as criticism of Jews for being Jewish, and such critics are immediately called antisemitic. In this article, I characterize Judaism as it is perceived and shaped by the Zionist ideology, specify the differences between the concepts of Judaism and Zionism, and present the concepts of racism and antisemitism in light of these distinctions.
The Jewish communities in Israel and in the Diaspora are largely pro-Zionist. Almost all Israelis and the vast majority of world Jewry support the state of Israel and its definition as a Jewish state and a territorial-sovereign national home for Jews. Thanks to Israel’s intensive propaganda (“hasbara”), the identification of Jews with Zionism has led to the popular equation of the terms Judaism and Zionism. This is the basis for the claim that opposing Zionism stems from antisemitism. Furthermore, the Israeli “hasbara” attributes any criticism of Israel to antisemitism, with the aim of dismantling any such criticism. Because Zionism is seen as the “new Judaism,” opposition to it is labeled the “new antisemitism” – and a new expression was born…
The term “new antisemitism,” then, is a fiction that has nothing to do with antisemitism. Not only is criticism of Israel obviously not antisemitic, but also opposing Zionism and Israel in its definition as a Jewish state does not necessarily stem from antisemitism, and is in itself definitely not antisemitic. Moreover, it is the Zionist movement itself that stems from the same racist elements as does political antisemitism. (By “political antisemitism,” I refer to state laws and policies and political movements driven by antisemitism. There is also a take on defining that term here.) I now examine the racist foundations underlying Zionism, and the links between them and political antisemitism, links that had already existed in the early days of the Zionist movement, and are still apparent today.
Outlining Jewish nationalism
“with blood and sweat
will arise a race,
proud, generous and fierce.”
That’s what the prominent revisionist Zionist leader Vladimir Jabotinsky wrote in the anthem of the Betar youth movement in 1932. He did not mean race in the genetic sense as the Nazis laid down in their race laws three years later, but race in the sense of a people, a tribe. Over the years, Zionist ideologists have repeatedly hopped between the Jewish religion and Jewish nationality they constructed anew, and secular Judaism inherited from mother to son, linking things in a very complex way. It gets as absurd as claiming that service in the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) is an expression of Judaism, as Benny Gantz argued in response to the claim that many immigrants from Russia are not Jews, linking army service to being Jewish, that is, belonging to the Jewish people.
Zionist ideology is racist because it defines Judaism as a race and maintains a regime that discriminates against non-Jews. According to the definition of Judaism by Zionists (the definition of the Jewish race, if you will), Jews are the ones who profess Judaism, as are their descendants. This means we have a mixture of religious-faith principles (and note you can also convert to Judaism) and genetic principles (as defined by the Nazis); thus the descendants of the Jews are hereditary Jews, regardless of their faith or the observance of any Jewish commandments or customs.
These elements existed in Judaism long before Zionism. The Ashkenazi Jewish communities in Europe, where the Zionist movement was born, were very separatist, and it was in Europe where political antisemitism was born too. The Zionists – who were looking for a solution to the problem of rising antisemitism in Europe – believed that antisemitism was an inherent and permanent social factor because Jews were “racially” different. If we are different from the peoples among whom we live – argued the Zionists – we shall create “the Jewish people” with its own sovereignty and territory by establishing a Jewish state.
Max Nordau, one of the founders of Zionism, who himself married a Protestant woman, was, by his own definition, an assimilated Jew – who gave up following the Jewish commandments – a man of European culture. Nordau was more attracted to German culture than to Judaism: “By the age of fifteen, I had abandoned the Jewish way of life and the study of the Torah… Judaism remained nothing more than a memory for me, and I have always felt German, only German.” In the Second Zionist Congress in 1898, Nordau called for the return of the “lost muscular Judaism.” For him, the “diasporic Jew” should be revived as the “physical Jew,” thus dismantling the sense of humiliation of the Jews in Europe in response to European antisemitism. This idea was influenced by the racial theories that were popular in Europe at that time. In fact, Nordau embraced the antisemites’ hatred for the diasporic Jew” and as a solution to antisemitism advocated the improvement of the Jewish race by changing the Jewish way of life.
The main Zionist movement abandoned orthodox Judaism and replaced it with national Judaism. Religious-faith was abandoned as an ancient and non-contemporary tradition (except for the justification of the right to conquer the land) and religious values were replaced by new values of farming and fighting. The racial foundation was strengthened, and separatism became an ideology favoring the expulsion of the native Palestinians, violent fighting against the British colonialists, and even Jews who opposed to Zionist national Judaism. One of the most extreme expressions of murderous racist isolationism was the persecution of Jewish women who married British soldiers by the underground militias, including murder. One may call it “reverse antisemitism.” Paradoxically, the secular Zionist Jews are much more like Biblical Jews than orthodox diasporic Jews: The Biblical figures of Joshua and King David were role models for Israel’s first prime minister David Ben-Gurion and general Moshe Dayan, for example.
The connection between antisemitism and support for Zionism
European antisemites sympathized and even cooperated with the Zionist movement. Ideologies and interests joined together when Nazi Germany cooperated with the Zionist leadership in transferring Jews from Germany to Palestine in the 1930s. Similarly, in 1885 an antisemitic German writer conceived the Madagascar Plan, aimed to transfer European Jews to Madagascar; the difference between it and Palestine is merely geographic. This program was adopted in the 20th century by antisemites in Britain, Poland and France and during World War II also by Nazi Germany, which almost implemented it. (Ironically and horrifyingly, it was the thwarting of the plan by the British that eventually led to the implementation of “the final solution.”) The conceptual basis of all these antisemitic plans is the same as that of Zionism – seeing the Jews as a distinct race, that should be kept separate as a people in its own territory. The fulfillment of the Zionist vision is largely the victory of the antisemites, as evidenced by what SS commander, Reinhard Heydrich, wrote in a statement in 1935:
“National Socialism has no intention of attacking the Jewish people in any way. On the contrary, the recognition of Jewry as a racial community based on blood, and not as a religious one, leads the German government to guarantee the racial separateness of this community without any limitations. The government finds itself in complete agreement with the great spiritual movement within Jewry itself, the so-called Zionism, with its recognition of the solidarity of Jewry throughout the world and the rejection of all assimilationist ideas. On this basis, Germany undertakes measures that will surely play a significant role in the future in the handling of the Jewish problem around the world.”
Arthur James Balfour is well known and celebrated in Israel for his Balfour Declaration of 1917, which he sent as Foreign Minister to Walter Rothschild, a leading figure in the British Jewish community. According to the declaration, “His Majesty’s government views with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” (Palestine was still under Ottoman rule at the time…) Balfour’s support of the Zionist movement stemmed from antisemitism. As prime minister, he supported the Aliens Act 1905 aimed at preventing Jews from Eastern Europe entering Britain. In his speech he warned MPs of “the undoubted evils that had fallen upon the country from an immigration which was largely Jewish.” (At that time the World Zionist Congress accused him of “open antisemitism.”) Establishing a national home for Jews in Palestine was for Balfour a solution to the problem of Jewish refugees in his country.
The connection between Zionism and antisemitism did not end with the establishment of the State of Israel. Even today, we see antisemitic elements supporting Israel. In recent years, we have witnessed the strengthening of Israel’s ties with countries such as the United States, Poland, Hungary, India and Brazil whose leaders are openly antisemitic. The Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who is known for his affection for Hitler, is also an avid friend and supporter of Israel. Beatrix von Storch, leader of the far-right party Alternative for Germany, considered by many of its supporters to be the successor of the Nazis, said in an interview for the Jerusalem Post that “Israel could be a role model for Germany.” She added that “Israel makes efforts to preserve its unique culture and traditions. The same should be possible for Germany and any other nation.” She thus expressed the common ideals and aspirations of antisemitism and Zionism – that because Jews have their own culture and tradition, they should live in their own country, similar to what Germany should do. Israel officially disapproves of von Storch’s antisemitic party, but beneath the surface there is sympathy for its white supremacist ideology and Islamophobia, and sometimes it comes out.
In addition to separatism and to the interest of sending Jews from their lands of birth to Israel, Western antisemites have another motive for their support of Israel, which is hatred of Muslims. Xenophobia, once directed at Jews, is now directed at Muslim immigrant and refugee communities. In this sense, Muslims are the “new Jews” of Europe. (see also here.) In this context, Israel is viewed as the forefront of the war of civilizations – “the Western war against extremist Islam.” All this means that the same extremist right-wingers in Europe support Israel, fight the pro-Palestinian BDS, and attack local Jews.
India has been ruled by the BJP party led by Narendra Modi since 2014. Modi was one of the prominent leaders of the RSS movement with whom the ruling party is identified, a Hindu nationalist movement founded in 1925 and known for its admiration for the Nazi movement and Mussolini’s fascism in Italy. The movement advocates treating the Muslim minority in India as the Nazis treated Jews in the 1930s, and Modi does implement a policy similar to the one implemented by the Nazis. In recent years, relations between India and Israel in general and between Modi and Netanyahu, in particular, have tightened. The worldview of the two leaders is remarkably similar, as is their attitude toward Muslims in their own countries. On his visit to India in 2018, Netanyahu said: “India and Israel are living proof not only that democracy works but they demonstrate something deeper – the intrinsic value of freedom which I believe is the intrinsic value of life. Citizens thrive ultimately it is the free citizens who thrive because they are free and when they are free.” In the same speech he referenced a 2008 attack in Mumbai where 101 were killed, staging, “Indians and Israelis know too well the pain of terrorist attacks. We remember the horrific savagery in Mumbai. We grit our teeth, we fight back, we never give in.”
Nationalism and racism in the land of Israel
A study by Dr. Sachlav Stoler-Liss of Ben-Gurion University found that race theory was very strong and present in Jewish society in Palestine in the 1930s, and ideas very similar to Nazi methods of racial improvement were applied. “It is interesting to note that in Germany and in Israel, too, a connection has been made between eugenics, health and nationalism,” said Stoler-Liss. (It should be noted that Germany and Israel are not the only states where these racist theories took hold). Dr. Arthur Ruppin, head of the Israeli Ministry of the World Zionist Organization, wrote in his book “The Sociology of the Jews,” “In order to preserve the purity of our race, such Jews [with signs of degeneracy – S.T.] must refrain from having children.”
After the Nazi Holocaust, the reputation of race theory declined and many writings about it were shelved, but the ideology did not disappear. Dr. Yosef Meir, one of the prominent eugenicists during the British Mandate, offered to castrate the mentally ill, and in the early 1950s he published severe criticism of the 100-pound “natality prize,” which Ben-Gurion promised to every woman giving birth to 10 children (a sick idea in itself): “We have no interest in the 10th child or even in the seventh in poor families from the East … In today’s reality we should pray frequently for a second child in a family that is a part of the intelligentsia. The poor classes of the population must not be instructed to have many children, but should rather be restricted.” Here, white European racism towards Mizrahi Jews is evident, combined with the idea of racial improvement in the spirit of Nazi Germany’s Lebensborn.
Even today there are circles in Israeli society that adhere to the same ideology adopted by the Nazis in Germany. Rabbi Redler of the Bnei David pre-military preparatory school in Eli explained to his students that “in his ideology he [Hitler] is 100% right, except that he is on the wrong side.” This is not a one-off slip of the tongue, but is rather part of a series of recorded lectures by various teachers in the institute, expressed in the spirit of these ideas; these lectures were recorded and saved in the institute’s lecture archive available to the students. Even after a public mini-storm following the publication in the mainstream media, the same rabbis did not apologize but rather justified themselves, and continued as teachers and educators. The website of the Bnei David pre-military preparatory school (founded in 1988) states that it currently enrolls over 700 students and has about 3,500 graduates. Over 40 percent of the graduates are IDF officers, and the vast majority have served and serve in combat units and elite units. The preparatory school’s founder and head, Eli Sadan, won the Israel Prize in 2016 for his special contribution to state and society.
The Zionist ideology and Israel’s aggressive policy toward its opponents is strikingly similar to the extreme nationalist policies against Jewish people by generations of racist regimes. It’s a racist ideology according to which the strong rule and the weak are subservient to them and live only according to their arbitrariness. The same ideology that has afflicted Jewish minorities in Europe for generations and allowed the pogroms and murders of Jews characterize Israel as Benjamin Netanyahu put it: “In our region the weak do not survive, only the strong survive, and the strong is the one that thrives. With the strong one makes alliances, with the strong, and only with the strong, one makes peace. Even if it takes time, only with the strong, not the weak.” He tweeted a similar message after his speech at Shimon Peres’ funeral in 2018. Many Jews have been the victims of such attitudes in the past. This is arguably an example of the “battered child syndrome” – the one who suffers violence becomes violent and applies the violence he suffered to his own victims.
Antisemitism is hatred of Jews and is an expression of racism. Ironically, it is precisely the Zionists who express racism typical of Jew-hating antisemites. The racism is the same racism and the hatred the same hatred – whether it is directed towards Jews (in the case of antisemites) or towards Arabs (in the case of the Zionists).
I do not claim that all Zionists are Arab haters. Most Zionists are not. Their racism is disguised (even in themselves). They are educated in the spirit of human love and philanthropy arising out of a sense of supremacy and of being “the chosen people.” They do not want to hurt Arabs, and resist such acts or harm or at least disapprove of it.
Harming Arabs is the work of the establishment through legislation, diplomacy and military force; but there is also a violent minority sanctioned by an inciting government that enjoys the violent minority’s contribution to the struggle against the indigenous population. Such violent acts enjoy the passive support of racist cultured Jews, whose understanding of reality is based on state propaganda that begins with the education system, continues with military service and ends with the mobilized media which reports Zionist views only. (In Israeli mainstream media, Palestinian violence and terror toward Jews are covered extensively while military and civilian violence toward Palestinians is mostly being ignored.)
The following words were said by Albert Einstein in a 1938 speech in New York:
“I should much rather see reasonable agreement with the Arabs on the basis of living together in peace than the creation of a Jewish state. My awareness of the essential nature of Judaism resists the idea of a Jewish state with borders, an army, and a measure of temporal power, no matter how modest. I am afraid of the inner damage Judaism will sustain—especially from the development of a narrow nationalism within our own ranks, against which we have already had to fight strongly, even without a Jewish state.”
To put it simply, Einstein said: Let’s not be like them. No wonder that in 1952 he rejected David Ben-Gurion’s bid to make him president of the state whose narrow-minded nationalism he had warned against. In recent years, the State of Israel has been waging war against its opponents and critics under the guise of “war on antisemitism” and it exploits the Holocaust memory to justify it. However, this propaganda exercise is hugely ironic. The Nazi Holocaust was the result of an extreme combination of racism and nationalism, which – we should recognize – formed the basis of the Zionist movement and are prevalent in Israeli society to this day. In its ideology, policies, and actions toward the indigenous Palestinian population, the state of Israel generates antisemitism more than it routs it, and endangers the Jews around the world more than it protects them. The fight against antisemitism must begin by campaigning against racism and nationalism. Only a thorough overhaul of the regime can transform Israel from an entity that generates antisemitism to one that fights antisemitism.
In April, the Israeli Civil Administration stated that it would halt the demolition and destruction of Palestinian dwellings during the coronavirus pandemic. The decision, communicated as a victory by the Palestinian Authority, attempted to portray Israel as being concerned with the humanitarian consequences of the pandemic for a displaced population.
However, “security concerns” have provided a loophole for Israel to indulge in demolitions even during this time. Moreover, Palestinian infrastructure was not spared the routine, wilful violence. Just as home demolitions were not halted, neither was the destruction of Palestinian property and the targeting of basic necessities, such as water supplies.
The Israeli NGO B’Tselem has reported that Israel has damaged 24 water tanks in the Palestinian village of Kafr Qadum since the beginning of April. The destruction, B’Tselem said, is carried out in retaliation for the weekly protests against Israel’s blocking of the village’s exit routes. Palestinians have been participating in these protests since 2011.
“Rather than the random initiative of a particular soldier,” noted the NGO, “this conduct is at least condoned by the commanders on the ground, in blatant disregard for residents’ lives and property.” Israeli soldiers have fired repeatedly on water tanks, depleting a resource which has been part of the colonial theft that the rogue state has inflicted upon the Palestinians.
Testimony given by Palestinians to B’Tselem show a correlation between the protests and the Israeli targeting of Palestinian water supplies. “Maybe the soldiers think it will make the weekly protests stop,” one Palestinian told the NGO, “but if that’s the case, they’re mistaken and delusional.”
Palestinians who were at home when the Israeli soldiers commenced their assault recalled having to wait until the protests ended to inspect the damage done to the water tanks. “After a few moments, I heard water flowing from the roof into the courtyard through the drain pipes. Since the soldiers were still up on the hill, I was scared to go up to the roof.” On this single occasion, 450 litres of water were wasted as a result of Israeli violence.
The pandemic has further restricted Palestinians’ options in terms of salvaging their water supply. Buying new water tanks is a costly endeavour for a population that faces financial hardships as a result of Israel’ restrictions on movement and employment. Furthermore, the Israeli soldiers have made this violation routine, in much the same way as it has normalised other violence. The only option remaining for Palestinians is to carry out frequent, temporary repairs of the water tank. “I cannot pay 500 shekels every time they shoot at a water tank. So, every time they start shooting, I close the main tap and temporarily fix the tank with screws and glue.”
Not content with having stolen water from the Palestinians, Israel is also seeking to deplete the meagre supply that it allows them. The international community’s silence tells us that water, essential for survival, is simply another word when it comes to the human rights violations carried out by Israelis. When Israel escalates its attacks against Palestinians, far from agreeing collectively to hold the occupation state to account by imposing punitive measures, the UN reacts by creating yet another level in the normalisation of colonial violence.
Eyad Hamad is an outspoken defender of journalists’ rights
By Mohammad al-Kassim – The Media Line
Palestinian journalists are outraged by the firing of cameraman Eyad Hamad, who worked for the Associated Press for 20 years.
The veteran cameraman, whom colleagues call “Khal,” or uncle, accuses Palestinian Authority security officials of being behind his dismissal after they complained about him to his employer.
“One of our fellow journalists was arrested and roughed up by the police; I publicly questioned the police brutality and demanded answers. That didn’t sit well with the security officials, who complained about me,” Hamad said.
He told The Media Line, speaking from his home in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, that he received a phone call from his boss informing him of the decision and the reason behind it.
The press agency, in an official email, said the cause for dismissal was an official complaint from the Palestinian police against Hamad.
The veteran cameraman said that “[PA Prime Minister] Dr. [Mohammad] Shtayyeh called me and told me he would not allow [the threat] to happen. I told him this is a threat on my life but he assured me that he will take steps to stop this behavior.”
Hamad said he was surprised when his boss, Josef Federman, AP bureau chief for Israel and the Palestinian Territories, told him he was fired.
Repeated efforts by The Media Line to reach Federman on Thursday were unsuccessful.
PA Police spokesman Col. Louay Arzeikat, in an official statement, denied that the police had filed a complaint against any journalist. “A complaint would be submitted through official channels, and if this is done, we would inform everyone without hesitation,” he said.
Hamad, 63, is an outspoken defender of Palestinian journalists and a critic on social media of PA decisions. He said this cost him his only source of income.
He also fears for his safety after receiving several death threats.
“Not only did they cut off my livelihood and source of income; today, they put my life in danger, starting from the president and on down to the youngest officer in the PA security services,” he said. “They are threatening me and inciting against me.”
Many Palestinian journalists and activists accuse the PA of coming down hard on them. They charge the PA with employing an iron fist against them in an effort to silence dissent and any criticism of PA policies.
Hamad said PA officials had “thin skin.” His criticism of the Palestinian security forces’ violent arrest of a Palestinian journalist did not sit well with them, the dean of Palestinian cameraman said.
“It is clear that there is an agenda to silence every free voice. During the coronavirus pandemic, I stood up and showed both the positive and the negative. I raised awareness of how much people are suffering. My concern was for the citizen,” he said.
Hamad is also the head of the Palestinian Photographers Committee of the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate. He is disappointed that no one has reached out from the body that is supposed to protect him.
“They did not contact me; they only issued a statement on the matter and did not speak to me,” he said.
The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate issued a statement in which it condemned Hamad’s “arbitrary dismissal.”
Nasser Abu Baker, the head of the Journalist Association, told The Media Line he was in close contact with all parties involved to rectify the situation and called on the AP to revoke its “unfair and unjust decision” because it went against freedom of expression.
Reem al-Omari, FM manager at Ramallah-based Watan Radio and presenter of the Shid Hilak Ya Watan talk show, told The Media Line that things were getting worse for journalists.
“The situation for the Palestinian journalist in these circumstances is not easy at all. The Palestinian journalist works in exceptional circumstances and under pressure, especially during the coronavirus pandemic,” she said.
For many years, Palestinian journalists have faced difficulties on many fronts. They are most afraid, they say, when covering the Israeli military, which they accuse of mishandling and mistreating them while they are doing their job.
“Unfortunately, the Palestinian journalist is on the front lines, facing arrests, rubber bullets and tear gas. It saddens us and hurts us that the Palestinian journalist, who lives under Israeli occupation and works to provide objective news coverage to reveal what is happening in the Palestinian territories, is exposed to these attacks and violations from everyone and does not have adequate protection,” she continued.
But on the domestic front, Omari attributes a great deal of what is happening to her colleagues at the hands of the PA to the absence of the legislative branch.
The Palestinian Legislative Council has not functioned since 2007, when relations broke down between Hamas and Fatah.
“We all know that the press is active in Palestine but the exceptional political conditions that we live under in Palestine and the absence of the Legislative Council and the concentration of power in the executive authority have made the free press a subject of attack and criticism by the authorities,” he said.
Despite promises by the PA government to uphold laws designed to protect journalists, abuses continue, Omari said.
“What we’re seeing in Palestine are double standards. We hear about freedom of opinion and expression and that for freedom, the sky is the limit, but we do not see this translated into reality on the ground,” he said.
The PA spouts great slogans regarding freedom of expression and protecting “journalists’ integrity,” but little is done about it, Omari said.
Many say that all these challenges facing Palestinian journalists will hurt the coverage of news. A Ramallah-based reporter who refused to be identified for fear of retaliation told The Media Line that their work faced serious repercussions.
“We unintentionally self-censor. We do this to protect ourselves and our profession,” the journalist said.
In a report released last month by Reporters Without Borders, the Palestinian Authority remains low on the 2020 World Press Freedom Index, at 137 out of the 180 countries or territories ranked, the same as in the previous report.
Last year, a Palestinian court ordered dozens of Palestinian websites shut down, regarded by the PA as “opposition media.”
And this past April, two Palestinian journalists were suspended without pay from their jobs at WAFA, the official Palestinian news agency, over Facebook comments.
Rami Samara and Jaafar Sadaqa appeared before an investigatory panel, accused of violating the state of emergency declared due to the coronavirus pandemic. They were reinstated on Thursday.
The two are known for their blistering criticism of events and policies in the Palestinian territories.
As for Hamad, he said his options were limited.
“I am 63 years old. Can you tell who will hire me today to work in journalism?” he asked.
Hamad said he would meet with his lawyer and then decide on what to do next.
“We journalists must protect the next generation; we must stand up to stop suppression by those with power.
“I have never received a warning in my entire career. I am very saddened that after 20 years [with AP], the Palestinian Authority is not treating us fairly,” he said.
Germany’s attempt to muzzle thinker and philosopher Achille Mbembe on the grounds of anti-semitism amounts to an extension of Israeli apartheid
By Majed Abu Salama
When it comes to Israeli injustices, the German government is not only “turning a blind eye”, but is also acting as its European modern day saviour.
Over the past few years, Germany has reached a new level of oppressing Palestinian voices while militarising the Israeli army, instead of reflecting upon its broader history and responsibilities toward the massive and ongoing injustice in Palestine. Germany’s most recent target for the accusation of anti-semitism, is Achille Mbembe – a well-known Cameroonian historian, thinker and philosopher who has dedicated his life to decolonising white Eurocentric discourses, and proposing radical visions for the Global South.
Earlier this month, German conservative FDP politician, Lorenz Deutsch, accused Mbembe of anti-semitism and Holocaust “relativisation”, and demanded that he be disinvited from speaking at the Ruhrtriennale festival, because he has compared South African apartheid to the oppression of Palestinians.
Felix Klein, Federal Government Commissioner for Jewish Life and Against Anti-Semitism, heard the demand and echoed it.
The accusation has shocked academics around the world and raised questions about Germany’s academic freedom in general, and for pro-Palestinian dialogue, specifically.
In reality, the accusations are another attempt by German policy makers to manipulate the discourse of anti-semitism in order to distract from their own failures, and scapegoat and attack the Palestinian struggle.
In fact, Mbembe’s scholarship invites everyone to learn from other histories that emerge beyond borders and identities. It interrogates real life lessons from colonialism, enslavement, capitalism, imperialism, South African apartheid, and the segregation of Black and People of Color by Europeans and their descendants.
The German criminalisation of pro-Palestinian voices is a violation of freedom of expression, as well as an outright denial of the Palestinian right to resistance and self-determination. The misplaced accusation of “anti-semitism” is being used to persecute those who speak for the Palestinian right of return, or the call for a one-state solution, and distracts from finding a just peace.
Good to see English-language media picking this up! Many German academics have come to Mbembe’s defence & I hope other academics will follow. The irony of an academic from one of Germany’s ex-colonies being accused of anti-semitism is not lost on anyone.
Wielding the “anti-semitism” accusation as a slur not only silences critique of Israeli policies and crimes against humanity in Palestine/Israel, it also manufactures persecution and censorship of the more than 200,000 Palestinians in Germany, as well as solidarity groups inside and outside of Germany.
These practices are an extension of Israeli apartheid, imposing limits and regulating speech about Israel. Germany’s staunch defense of Israel both domestically and at the European Union is putting any intellectual dialogue and critique related to Israeli apartheid and Palestinian rights under siege.
This discrimination is part of a collective punishment that reaches everyone whether they are Palestinian, or Jewish, or from another group. I am one of them. Israeli Zionist influence in Germany is instrumentalised to censor, ban and forbid Palestinians and pro-Palestine organisations from operating in the public sphere.
They twist and fabricate false narratives which portray the Boycott Diverment and Sanctions (BDS) movement as illegitimate, and smear its supporters as being motivated by anti-Jewish hatred, rather than opposition to Israel’s polices of military occupation, land theft for settler-colonialism,regular massacres of civilians and a total system of apartheid over Palestinians.
This influence was instrumental in backing Israel’s hostility regarding the prospect of an ICC investigation into possible war crimes, and forcing a German bank to close the account for Jewish Voices for a Just Peace in the Middle East, a renowned Jewish organisation that advocates for Palestinian rights in Germany.
In another example, Peter Schafer, the former director of Berlin’s Jewish Museum, was forced to quit over a pro-BDS re-tweet, after a huge Israeli campaign to delegitimise him branded him as “anti-Israel”. The tweet was a simple article on the 240 Jewish and Israeli scholars who signed a petition opposing the German parliament’s recent motion condemning the BDS movement for Palestinian rights.
These actions are not without precedence. Last year, the US American rapper Talib Kweli had his German tour cancelled because of his support for BDS. Scottish band Young Fathers was disinvited from the Ruhrtriennale festival; the German city of Aachen tried to block US American-Lebabese artist Walid Raad from receiving an award; and the renowned British-Pakistani Novelist Kamila Shamsie was stripped of an award because of her support of the BDS Movement.
On 17 May 2019, the German government’s attempts to limit the pro-Palestine cause reached a new level. A non-binding resolution was declared against the BDS movement, and it has been used since then as a cover to justify excluding critics of Israel in the public sphere, and manufacture a new layer of oppression that strips people of their freedom of conscience. It has become clear that the primary focus of German foreign policy is to protect Israel within Germany and beyond.
According to many Jewish groups and academics worldwide, the BDS movement has demonstrated an ongoing commitment to fighting anti-semitism and all forms of racism and bigotry. Talib Kweli emphasised on Facebook that “by lying and saying that BDS is an anti-semitic movement, the German movement is engaging in Fascism and doing a disservice to the German people.”
Accusing Achille Mbembe of anti-semitism united academics worldwide in their outrage; 377 scholars and artists from more than 30 countries signed a pledge opposing political litmus tests in Germany.
They collectively agreed to decline future invitations to serve on juries, prize committees, or in academic hiring consultations in Germany, if there were “convincing indicators that their decisions may be subject to ideological or political interference or litmus tests.”
Can we consider this a winning moment for the Palestinian cause? Will this contribute to decolonising Germany past and present? Will we Palestinians feel safe to speak up in Germany?
Germany must now seize the opportunity to learn from Mbembe and the Palestinians who try to struggle for an equal future for all, through supporting human rights, and an intersectional, anti-racist movement such as BDS.
Long before Sir Winston Churchill said that history is written by the victors there were variations on the theme; the winners of any conflict get to write the definitive version of what happened. Those on the losing side are more often than not silenced simply because the winners have the loudest voice and, in the modern age, access to the most compliant mainstream media.
Occasionally, though, the inhumanity of the winning side is so heinous that no amount of airbrushing or rewriting of history can erase the atrocities which undoubtedly took place. That is why the facts of the 1948 Nakba remain inconvenient truths for the pro-Israel lobby, whose members try to push the twisted narrative that the people of Palestine left their land in response to calls to do so made by neighbouring Arab governments. This is total nonsense, as is the Zionist myth that Palestine was a desert until Jewish settlers arrived and “made it bloom” in the run up to and ever since the creation of the state of Israel on Palestinian land.
Far from such a romantic claim, the truth is that the Zionists knew that Palestine was never “a land without a people for a people without a land” as they alleged; and that in order to create their state they had first to drive the Palestinians from their homes. The deliberate ethnic cleansing led to 750,000 Palestinian men, women and children being driven at gunpoint from their ancestral homes in villages, towns and cities across Palestine. Those who resisted the arrival of the largely European colonial settlers were killed; indeed, many who did not resist were also killed in order to create terror in the minds of the survivors so that they too would pack up and leave. The Zionist militias were nothing less than terrorists. Israel was not created on a desert wasteland; it was built on land so fertile that Palestine was one of the world’s top exporters of citrus fruit. The people who performed this miracle were ethnically cleansed from their own land by Zionist Jewish immigrants.
The facts, though, have been ignored by one member of the Scottish parliament who has taken the Zionist narrative one step further and claimed that the Nakba (Catastrophe) was “self-inflicted” by the victims of Israel’s ethnic cleansing. Richard Lyle MSP, of the Scottish National Party (SNP), is now facing calls for him to be suspended pending an investigation into what have been described as his “racist” remarks.
Lyle’s offensive comments were contained in an amendment to a motion submitted to the parliament in Edinburgh marking the 72nd anniversary of the Nakba. The tragedy is remembered annually by Palestinians and their supporters around the world.
Richard Lyle (C) during First Minister’s Questions in the Scottish Parliament, on 7 February 2019 in Edinburgh, Scotland
The stark facts are that more than 50 per cent of the indigenous Palestinian population were forced out of their homes by Zionist militias and the Israeli army between 1947 and 1949 in a deliberate campaign of ethnic cleansing. The operation was even given a name by those in charge: Plan Dalet. Lyle has ignored that this was clear gerrymandering to force a Jewish majority upon Palestine, using violence in the process.
The Zionist euphemism for the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians is “transfer”. We still hear talk of this today, with references to the “transfer” of Palestinians to the neighbouring Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, for example. In 1948, the Zionists knew that the only way to create a Jewish majority state in territory where Palestinian Arabs were the overwhelming majority of the population was to clear out the indigenous people. According to Lyle, though, this was the fault of the Palestinians.
On its website, the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) has described the MSP’s proposed amendment to Motion S5M-21739 marking the 72nd anniversary of the Nakba as disgraceful and racist. “The Israel lobby believe that they have successfully shielded Israel from criticism about its apartheid and settler-colonial nature, and ensured that anyone that supports and implements BDS is smeared as an anti-Semite. Now, predictably, they are going directly for the Palestinians, blaming the victims for the programme of ethnic cleansing that Israel continues to this day.”
SPSC co-founder Mick Napier says that the group is calling on the SNP to suspend Richard Lyle “with immediate effect, to investigate his racism toward Palestinians and his involvement with the racist state of Israel.”
Citing the SNP-led Scottish government’s work on streamlining hate crime legislation, Napier added: “They must act to ensure anti-Palestinian racism is not normalised but dealt with firmly within their own party and wider Scottish society. This is not a debate about history; today Israeli forces are attacking Palestinians. Richard Lyle is an active defender of this project. It is time the SNP took action against the foul racism that drives such advocacy.”
Lyle is the deputy convener of a cross-party group called “Building Bridges With Israel” (BBI) and has visited the Zionist state on a trip organised and paid for by the Israeli Embassy in London. Such visits are organised so that politicians will go on to defend Israel even as it treats international laws and conventions with contempt and kills, wounds and displaces Palestinians with the impunity provided by people like the MSP for Uddingston and Bellshill.
The original Nakba Day parliamentary motion submitted by Lyle’s SNP colleague Sandra White MSP recognised the “mass eviction of over 750,000 people from historic Palestine land, which included the destruction of over 500 towns and villages” which “led to generations of pain for the Palestinian people, who continue to live under a state of occupation.”
Lyle’s amendment described the Nakba as a “self-inflicted tragedy, which must, after all these years, be finally resolved by peaceful means and discussions between the parties involved.” As far as Mick Napier is concerned, “This is an insult to every Palestinian worldwide. It is nothing more than a disgusting piece of revisionist history.”
Individual SNP members and branches have inundated the party’s head office with calls for Lyle’s suspension pending an investigation into what SNP Friends of Palestine has described as his “abhorrent… racist and hate filled” narrative which appears to have drawn support from only one other MSP, the Conservative Adam Tomkins.
Ross Greer, co-convenor of the Scottish Parliament’s Cross-Party Group on Palestine, told the Morning Star: “I am disgusted, but not surprised, Mr Lyle has attempted to amend a parliamentary motion marking the Nakba to label it a ‘self-inflicted tragedy’. Blaming the victims of ethnic cleansing for the crimes committed against them is vile.”
Vile, indeed. The Scottish parliamentarian must be held to account without delay. Failure to do so will besmirch the good name not only of the party he represents, but also the nation it governs.
As the PA does not control its borders, Palestinians face obstacles in returning home during the coronavirus pandemic
By Mersiha Gadzo – Al Jazeera World
Since early March, when the new coronavirus escalated its rapid spread around the world and countries began repatriating their citizens, he has been seeking government help to return home in occupied East Jerusalem – to no avail.
Since early March, when the new coronavirus escalated its rapid spread around the world and countries began repatriating their citizens, he has been seeking government help to return home in occupied East Jerusalem – to no avail.
Hasheem, who studies international trading, said he first contacted the Palestinian embassy for repatriation, but there was no action on their part.
As a non-Israeli citizen, Hasheem holds a Jordanian passport, so he then contacted the Jordanian embassy but was told other cases took precedence.
“I feel lost,” Hasheem told Al Jazeera.
“I’m not the priority of any country and this is how it is when it comes to being a Jerusalemite,” he said.
‘Take Us Back Home’ Hasheem is not alone. Thousands of Palestinians have been stranded abroad, unable to return home during the pandemic, as no government authority has been able to help them.
Like Hasheem, many of them are in difficult situations – running low on money and unable to pay for food and accommodation.
Some have been drawing attention to their troubling situation by posting their stories online and spreading information on Facebook pages such as Raj’ouna a Byoutna (Take Us Back Home), which has more than 3,500 followers.
For Palestinians from the occupied West Bank, travelling through Jordan is the only way to get home but flights to the country have shut down for non-citizens.
Similarly, Egypt has also closed off its borders to non-nationals, which prevents Palestinians from the Gaza Strip to enter the country and cross into the blockaded enclave through the Rafah border crossing.
According to Ahmad al-Deek, the political adviser of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority’s (PA) foreign ministry, there are about 6,000 Palestinians stuck abroad.
Al-Deek told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that repatriating Palestinians back “isn’t easy” since the PA, which administers the day-to-day Palestinian affairs in parts of the West Bank, does not control its borders and has to coordinate with Jordan and Egypt.
“We sent formal letters to Egypt and Jordan to evacuate Palestinians along with their people and we didn’t get an answer yet from the neighboring countries to accept our people so they can pass through their lands,” al-Deek said earlier this week.
“Maybe it’s because their priority is [to repatriate] their citizens. But there’s been no answer yet.”
But on Friday, there were indications the long wait may soon be over for some Palestinians.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said in a statement Jordanian authorities had agreed to open the airport in the capital, Amman, for Palestinians stuck abroad and would announce procedures and dates soon.
‘Let us pass’ Ahmad Tibi, a member of the Israeli Parliament with the Joint List, the Palestinian-majority electoral alliance, said that due to a lack of effort by the Israeli government, he has been coordinating with Israeli airlines and the foreign ministry and has so far succeeded in repatriating 4,600 Palestinians from inside Israel, including 150 Jerusalemites.
“According to international law, Israel [as the occupier] is responsible for all affairs of the Jerusalemites, [but] the Israeli government didn’t make any initiative to evacuate anyone,” Tibi told Al Jazeera.
“Here, we took the responsibility to coordinate for the return of our people.”
Aseel Bader, who is from Hebron in the West Bank and studies in the Italian city of Prato, contacted the Palestinian embassy at the beginning of April as her scholarship was about to end and has since been waiting to hear for more information.
“Our government is the only door out of this crisis and the only party who can fix this situation and return us back home,” the 26-year-old said.
“We see the other students returning to their homes while our government says there’s nothing they can do but wait for neighbouring countries to help us by letting us pass through their lands.”
To some who hold power and authority, “peace” is linked with settlement and accommodation, with privileges they aspire to obtain in exchange for crumbs of the historic Palestine. Salam, on the other hand, whose name in Arabic means “peace,” exemplifies another meaning for the term.
Salam Taha was born in the village of Deir Abu Misha’al, situated northwest of Ramallah city. He adores the sea, although he was deprived of enjoying it due to the occupation. Salam usually escapes from the noise of the city to Khirbet Al-Rachniyeh east of the village, to relish the green views of his secret place, gazing towards the occupied Palestinian coast, confronting his feelings with absolute silence, and spending time in spacious verdant fields.
“He is the most shy among us but the bravest too,” says his friend at university.
Arrested while caring for his child
Israeli military soldiers raided Salam’s house after exploding its door to make their entry. They attacked Salam, forcing against the wall and cowardly hitting his body with their rifles.
It was four o’clock in the morning, when Salam was awake caring for his one-month baby, Cana’an. He never knew it is going to be his last turn in the ongoing rotation with his wife, Rubou’ or that he would be unable to look after his child for quite a long time.
Salam was tied to the kitchen chair, while military soldiers ransacked his place, turning it upside down. They were looking for his older mobile phone, which was directly in front of them the entire time, but they claimed not to notice it while acting in such a vicious manner.
Salam remained placid, as if he was unbothered, and mocked the soldiers’ actions, an attitude that angered the chief officer, who tried to provoke Salam by cursing his wife Rubou’ and directing profane insults at her while she prepared some milk for her child to calm his continuous crying during the assault. He stared at the chief officer with a shaming look, as if asking, “Is this the way you are raised to respect mothers?!”
He hummed a melody, with unidentifiable lyrics, repeating the only recognized words of it, which were “you may.”
After the extensive vandalism inside the house, the Israeli soldiers handcuffed Salam’s hands and grabbed him tightly from the shoulders. Rubou’ quickly knelt down on the ground, trying to put her husband’s shoes on with all care and diligence.
Salam saluted her, saying, “It will not take so long… I will come back soon.”
“This is how my husband was abducted on a Friday at dawn, 30 August 2018, only two days before his master’s degree studies commenced, as he was registered in the International Studies Program at Birzeit University,” Rubou’ says.
Earning his undergraduate degree with several interruptions
Over 80 students at Birzeit University are currently imprisoned in Israeli prisons. 20 of them are held under administrative detention, without any charges or trial. Their detentions are based on the “predictions” of the area commander of the Israeli military occupation, that these students might pose a “security threat to the state of Israel.” The rest of the students face indictments in military court, mostly revolving around involvement in student activities inside the university.
“Salam earned his BA degree in political science with a minor in public administration. His undergraduate studies were frequently interrupted by arrests, which extended the normal duration required to finish his studies,” Rubou’ stated.
There are students whose first university degree take them double the time they actually need to complete all their university requirements, in addition to courses related to their specialty. Students fail to join their classes, due to their repeated detentions, and yet try hard to resume their studies again at an older age with younger cohorts and sometime different generations than the ones that launched with them their academic journey.
Last week, three more student leaders were abducted by Israeli soldiers, just days before the end of the semester: Izz Shabaneh from the village of Sinjil, Mehdi Karajeh from the village of Saffa, and Basil Barghouthi from the village of Beit Rima.
Salam’s secret weapon
The Sunday after the invasion, Rubou’ knew that her husband is being held at Al-Moskobiyeh interrogation center in Jerusalem, where Salam remained for 46 days of harsh interrogation, during which he was banned from seeing his lawyer. Salam visited Jerusalem not as a tourist visiting the Dome of the Rock or the Holy Sepulcher, but rather stuck in an underground dungeon with numerous torture methods that are hatefully designed in order to drain the prisoner’s will. Fluorescent lights were switched on 24/7, causing him a severe headache and irritating his eyes, coupled with echoes of endless screaming and low temperatures directed on his body by an air-conditioner were only some of the examples of the constant pressure and inhuman treatment.
After three months of detention, Rubou’ decided to take the risk in order to cheer her husband up and transfer to him good feelings to help him stay strong and carry on with a brave heart. She decided to provide her husband with a secret weapon while attending his court session.
How is that possible if even a tissue is not allowed to pass through the punitive inspections and searches?! She took extra care of her outfit, wore her favorite jacket, closed its buttons, and luckily succeeded to pass through the first inspection, the second one through an automatic inspection machine, and the last personal one, that looks like two harassing hands passing an electronic stick over your body. After she waited outside in the cold for hours, the security guard notified Rubou’ that it was time for Salam’s trial. She walked into the court room with her surprise and unbuttoned her jacket, where Salam was able to see his son Cana’an’s smiling face printed on Robou’s T-shirt. For two minutes long, the security guards were frozen in place. They did not know how to deter such a secret weapon!
Rubou’ laughed while recalling the incident, saying: “I felt that we had won a victory … the guards were frozen and did not know what to do! They think they can abolish the longing in our hearts, but we proved them wrong. This was my way of resistance and standing by Salam’s side”.
82 days of harsh investigation in the Al-Moskobiyeh slaughterhouse
“Salam did not sleep for so long, he was immensely pale, and bleeding from his wrists due to the tight shackles around them. The prison administration employed a number of interrogators who created stories and fake scenarios about our family to weaken Salam. Some of their fabrications were about me, his wife, and our son Cana’an, found dead in a car accident, others were about bringing me for interrogation in a room adjacent to Salam’s cell”, Rubou said, recalling what Salam told her in one of her visits.
Many deceptions and malicious tricks were practiced by the Israeli intelligence agency, known as the Shabak, in order to put pressure on Salam, with one sole aim: Extracting confessions from him in order to celebrate their delusional victory and prove their domination over Palestinians.
“Before his recent arrest, Salam underwent a colonoscopy, as he suffers from colon problems, stomach pains and hemorrhoids that caused him bleeding during the interrogation. The lawyer submitted Salam’s medical papers explaining his condition, but the fascist regime did not care about his medication, and refused to let him go to the bathroom frequently,” Rubou’ says.
The Israeli occupation deliberately mistreats prisoners, providing them with poor and inadequate health care in an attempt to exhaust the captives. As punishment for Salam’s steadfastness, the illegitimate military court sentenced him to 18 months in prison.
Just two weeks before the end of his sentence, when Rubou’ was wondering about the color of the dress that she planned wear to welcome her partner home, and the unique outfit she is preparing for her son Cana’an to wear, only two weeks before Salam’s sentence ended, the Israeli military forces sent him to the slaughterhouse of Al-Moskobiyeh once again. Salam underwent thirty-six days of cruel interrogation with an agitated and hysterical frequency, during which he was once again prevented from meeting with his lawyer.
Eighty-two days is the cumulative time of interrogation Salam has gone through, while the “civilized” world and the luckier youths of the colonial project live in isolation from the tragedies of the occupation, perhaps by playing soccer or baseball and setting some exciting plans for their travels to the Maldives. Eighty-two days of interrogation, and yet the occupation steals years from Palestinian youth: Their future, their families and their children.
Meanwhile, international human rights organizations act like Pontius Pilate, when he washed his hands of guilt for the blood of Christ. Such organizations’ roles are to adopt “codes of conduct”, or issue informative brochures, or to express their “mild” concerns about a rough death that happened in a sacred spot in the far reaches of the earth, called Palestine.
Salam is still detained without trial in the Eshel desert prison, after he was arbitrarily transferred in mid-March from Ofer prison overnight as a punitive measure, as a result of which he had to sleep a full night in the “Ramla crossing-point”, a place where prisoners are gathered before they are distributed to other prisons. This happened at a time when the occupation claimed to be cautious and to stop unnecessary movement between prisons, in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
“You may build a huge wall around me, and another wall around you, the enemy of the sun … Still I will not compromise” lyrics of an Arabic song
Eshel Prison differs in its structure from other prisons; it is more isolated and brutal. The square yard, known as the fora, in which the prisoners spend their outdoor time is covered, so that they do not see the sky at all, nor the sun’s light. It is not available all day, but only for specific hours, and it is also far from the prisoners’ rooms. When released prisoners describe this prison, some say: “The bathroom in Eshel does not accommodate a chubby person, and the showers are narrow. All can be coped with except the climate of the desert, the high humidity and temperature in the morning and extreme cold at night”.
Salam spends most of his time reading and trying to maintain a healthy pattern by playing sports. He keeps humming his favorite song, as he walks in the fora: “You may steal the last inch of my land… You may feed the years of my youth to the prison … You may put down the flame I keep rising… You may prevent me from kissing my mother …You may defeat the dreams I have for tomorrow. You may deprive my children of wearing their Eid holiday outfits… You may build a wall and yet another taller one… In that act you assure to the world that you are the enemy of the sun. Still I will not compromise. Until the last pulse in my veins, I will continue fighting,” an Arabic song by Lebanese singer Julia Butros,
Fatherhood on hold
“It is not easy to raise a child on your own, while the pictures of the baby’s father are hung on the wall”, Rubou’ said. “Cana’an will turn two years old in July, while he does not know his father. I finally obtained a permit to visit Salam after being banned for almost a year. The long-anticipated permit allowed me to visit my husband three times only before the spread of COVID-19, after which visits were suspended.”
“We were born in pursuit of joy, and for joy we die”
“To see my husband in front of me through an insulated partition and isolating glass without being able to touch his hand, and to speak to him through telephones which the jailers control, is not easy at all. This increases the pain in my heart,” Rubou’ says. “Salam and I experienced a beautiful love story at university, which was completed in our marriage, and Cana’an is the fruit of our love.”
“With all the suffering that I live alone with Cana’an, and all the decisions I have to make, serving as mother and father at the same time, I return to remember what we insisted on highlighting in our wedding card. ‘We were born in pursuit of joy, and for joy we die.’ This is our conviction, and this is our belief in which we live every day, and we will raise our children to follow it as well,” Rubou’ concluded.
The Palestinians are not powerless. There is much they can do to stop Israeli expansionism
By Marwan Bishara
Since the catastrophic Arab failure in the 1948 and 1967 wars led to total Israeli control over historic Palestine, the Palestinians have been trying to recover their losses, but to no avail.
Refugees and prisoners in their own homeland, they have tried armed struggle and peaceful negotiations with equal vigour, but have failed to get justice or attain peace.
Both strategies entailed great sacrifice and major concessions, but ultimately neither led to the liberation of Palestine from Israeli domination.
Worse, Israel’s appetite for expansion has grown with every Palestinian concession, and now its delusion of invincibility is driving it to illegally annex almost a third of what the Palestinians assumed would be their future state.
Regardless of whether it actually formalises its de facto annexation or not, Israel is already radically and unilaterally changing the reality on the ground.
So now what? What to do? What not to do?
The right diagnosis is half the cure
It is important to remember that contrary to newspeak there is no “Palestine problem” but rather an “Israeli colonial problem” – the region’s last colonial problem – and the Palestinians may prove to be its only solution.
Since its creation at the end of the 19th century, Zionism has mutated from arguably a legitimate Jewish national movement in Europe to a European colonial enterprise in the eastern Mediterranean.
It led, among other things, to a century-long conflict, multiple wars and hatred, fuelled by ethnic cleansing, dispossession and the displacement of millions of people.
Since then, increased Israeli colonisation, especially in the occupied West Bank, devolved into a reprehensible system of apartheid.
Interestingly, apartheid was born in South Africa in 1948, the same year the Palestinian catastrophe began, and it ended in 1994, a year before apartheid basically started in Palestine with the Oslo-II agreement, which divided the occupied territories into bantustans.
Like South Africa, Israel should be induced to produce its own FW de Klerk to end its apartheid. Such a leader would find the Palestinians ready to reconcile and together with Israel build a better future.
And like South Africa, this does not mean ending Israel. It means liberating Israel from its paranoid garrison mindset that sees hegemony as the only way to survive.
Considering we are all one human race, apartheid is ultimately about hegemony, despite its racial or other pretexts.
It follows that the struggle against apartheid must be a universal, indivisible struggle for justice and freedom – one that opposes anti-Semitism, as it does colonial Zionism.
But what shape and path should it take?
Palestinians have already begun to think about and debate new ideas to end apartheid, which deserve further study and development.
But before we get into what the Palestinians need to do, let us look into what they should not do.
What not to do
Surrender is not an option. Do not even think about it.
Accepting the so-called “deal of the century” put forward by US President Donald Trump and his ally Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to surrender to Israeli hegemony. It means living in captivity in perpetuity.
Without surrender, there is no victory. As long as the Palestinians do not lose, Israel cannot win.
Refusing to give up or give in may not be easy, but it has proven effective in frustrating Israel’s plans, and restraining certain Arab regimes’ predilection for mischief.
Do not despair. Time and history are on your side.
It may not seem that way judging from Israel’s visible confidence, (read arrogance), but even though it is a self-proclaimed country of “immigrants”, it has been bleeding hundreds of thousands of emigrants, mostly to the US.
And a high 40 percent of Israelis are thinking of emigrating, as countless Palestinians risk their lives to reclaim their right of return.
It is the same story repeated over and over again. Most if not all colonial powers lost to the weaker indigenous population over the past century. So will Israel.
To that end, Palestinians have wisely framed their cause in legal terms and extracted many UN resolutions condemning Israel’s violations of international law.
But international law does not deter the strong or save the weak, certainly not when the US flashes its veto at the mere mention of Israel.
Just do not depend on it. Depend on yourselves. And forget about the UN convening an international peace conference without American blessing.
Do not beat yourselves up too much. Be reasonable.
Yes, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) has made its share of mistakes, but the Palestinians are not responsible for the contempt and incompetence of certain Arab regimes, or the cynicism of Western powers, especially the US appeasement of Israel.
And stop with the self-pity.
You cannot motivate and energise depressed people. It will not kill you to smile. The best laughs are those mixed with tears. There is much to dread, but there is much more to dream about.
Do not underestimate the moral weight of your cause in the Arab world and beyond, regardless of what the doubters say.
No matter how many dictators recognise Israel, a belligerent apartheid state will never achieve true legitimacy or security regionally.
Arabs see the struggle for justice in Palestine as a symbol and extension of their own fight for justice.
Syrians, Saudis, Yemenis, Egyptians and others may be engrossed in their own tragedies, as they must be, but polls consistently show that, collectively, Arabs see Palestine as their foremost cause in the struggle against colonialism.
Do not forget that.
Israel has always tried to separate Palestinians from Palestinians and the Palestinians from their Arab neighbourhood.
Do not allow it and do not engage in secret negotiations.
There are more than a few ways to connect and bridge the geographic divide.
As war and diplomacy come to a dead end, and as Israel dashes forward arrogantly grabbing and annexing more Palestinian land, speak up and do not let Netanyahu and Trump get off easy.
Try not to repeat the mistakes of the past.
Try not to look back. Look ahead. Look for a third way forward.
Reinventing Palestinian unity
The lopsided peace process has been terribly divisive for the Palestinians. It is what asymmetrical peace processes do. Therefore, abandoning it must lead to some form of national unity.
The dreadful competition between the main political factions has thus far proven detrimental to national unity and elections have been no less divisive.
Instead of uniting against the occupation, the factions have been preoccupied with managing it.
While Fatah and Hamas continue to insist on holding onto their “strongholds”, the separated bantustans in the West Bank and Gaza, some suggest the establishment of an overall political umbrella, perhaps a reformed and expanded PLO, to unite all the Palestinians around the undisputed cause of justice.
But this will require a new generation of Palestinians to step up and take over from the predominantly septuagenarian and octogenarian leadership to chart a fresh, new way forward.
All bureaucratic tasks and responsibilities, whether on the level of the National Authority or the municipalities should be left to technocrats, chosen on the basis of merit not partisanship.
This requires a great deal of maturity, ingenuity and dynamism.
Another interesting idea is for Palestinians to unite behind multiple strategies, instead of being divided behind one failed strategy of negotiations.
This tactical decentralisation means “popular mobilisation” where each Palestinian community should be able to design and embrace strategies of struggle according to its abilities and circumstances.
Palestinians in Gaza may want to retain their deterrence capabilities to defend against another Israeli assault, and Jerusalemites may want to strengthen their city’s Palestinian presence and character.
Likewise, Palestinians in Israel may want to transform Israel’s binationality from demographics to politics. The Palestinians in Jordan may want to work with Jordanians to block Israel’s attempt to make their country the alternative Palestinian state. And the Palestinians in exile may want to promote the cause in foreign capitals. And so on.
These micro strategies should be continuously synchronised and synergised as integral parts of the national struggle for justice and liberation as a whole.
Palestinians should no longer be satisfied with passive “steadfastness”. They need to reactivate and re-energise the popular base.
Boosting Palestinian immunity
Comprising almost half the population between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, the Palestinians need to immunise themselves against persistent Israeli repression and marginalisation.
Palestinians need to offset Israel’s new attempts at dividing and ostracising them by improving business infrastructure and economic life to help people endure.
They need to expand on one of their greatest recent achievements, namely institution building.
This entails deflating an inflated bureaucracy by ending corruption and nepotism and creating partnerships between the public and private sector to improve economic planning and infrastructure development.
Currently, one-third of the national budget goes to the security apparatus, more than both the health and education sectors receive. Given that it serves Israeli more than Palestinian security, there is no reason why it should continue to consume so much of the Palestinian budget.
Boosting national immunity is also about boosting individual immunity in everyday life.
And there is no immunity without national and personal dignity.
A Palestinian may be able to block or defy the humiliation of an Israeli soldier, but may still find him/herself powerless when humiliated by a fellow (armed) Palestinian. Such humiliation is emotional and leads to indifference, even betrayal. This must stop.
And there is no dignity without work. This means there needs to be job creation, the expansion of good productive employment, so that poor Palestinians are not forced to slave away at Israeli settlements.
Palestinians are some of the most educated people in the region. Modest investment in human capital could yield great national advantage in the long run.
As the PLO hedged its bets exclusively on the US-led peace process, it abandoned much of the international solidarity movement.
Today, Palestinians need to rebuild links to European, Latin American, African and other foreign solidarity movements. These would be essential for their struggle moving forward, just as they were in ending apartheid in South Africa.
Moreover, and unlike many forgotten indigenous populations, Palestinians are not alone. They are part of a vast Arab region, and can draw strength and solace from your Arab hinterland.
Palestinians also have a special connection to the Islamic world, much of which has suffered terribly from Western colonialism.
It is paramount to confront Israel’s peddling of religious justification for its occupation with civic and universal, not religious, arguments.
All colonial enterprises of the past several centuries have used varying degrees of religious justification, and Palestine has been the focal point of interest for all three Abrahamic religions.
But treating Palestine as a “promised land” or “a waqf” turns the divine from a peacemaker to a real estate broker.
Palestine belongs to all its inhabitants, especially its indigenous people.
Cultivating Jewish partners
Winning Jewish support for justice and freedom in Palestine is imperative to dispel Israeli propaganda, and indispensable to roll back Israeli hegemony
Just as white people participated in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa and in the civil rights movement in the US, Jews are indispensable in the struggle against apartheid in Palestine.
Throughout their history, Jews have been the victims of racism, suffering greatly from European anti-Semitism. And for long, they have been at the forefront in the fight against racism.
This week, for example, I read an obituary titled, “Denis Goldberg Man of Integrity: South African Freedom Fighter, Anti-Zionist Jew, and True Mensch” written by Ronnie Kasrils, a prominent Jewish South African anti-apartheid activist about a comrade who had passed away. Reflecting on Goldberg’s lifelong anti-racism struggle, Karsils emphasised: “As an anti-Zionist Jew he came to view Israel’s colonial-racism as akin to apartheid South Africa.”
I know many such people, having worked closely with Jewish academics, students, journalists, feminists, editors, publishers, lawyers, unionists, and activists on various progressive causes including that of free Palestine.
Palestinians must take down anyone who peddles anti-Jewish slogans in their name and build on increasing Jewish resentment towards an Israeli leadership that does terrible things in their name.
When former US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders accused Netanyahu of “reactionary racism” and grew even more popular in the process, it showed just how far the American Jewish community and the Democratic Party have gone, bearing in mind that most American Jews vote Democrat, not Republican.
Palestinians need to nourish this new spirit and synergy to counter the Israeli-inspired campaign equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism.
Anti-Zionism has nothing to do with anti-Semitism. After all, Jews were the first to oppose Zionism.
A new Palestinian-Jewish partnership must fight Israeli injustice tooth and nail, exposing the Israeli government’s malign attempts to label movements like Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) as anti-Semitic.
In short, and as I argued recently, it is high time for a Palestinian-Jewish spring.
The evolution of this renewed struggle in its totality will determine the outcome – two states or one binational state, not the opposite.
The continuing debate about the singularity or duality of states is not only premature, it may prove divisive and debilitating.
Israel will certainly oppose a one-state solution with the same if not stronger determination it opposes a sovereign Palestinian state with.
The sooner the Palestinian leaders realise there are no short cuts or off-the-shelf solutions the better they will be prepared for the long haul.
That is why the Palestinian endgame should be justice and freedom. They are not only an attainable goal that everyone will rally behind, but also a prerequisite for peace and security in the region.
They require changing Israel’s calculus, not defeating it, or destroying it, as Israeli leaders whine and warn.
This is how major powers gave up their colonialism and how South Africa ended its system of apartheid. They were forced to reconsider the calculus of gain and loss.
In this way, Netanyahu’s Israel cannot have all the land and all the security. It cannot continue to live by the sword and preach Kumbaya to the Palestinians.
In short, it cannot have its cake and eat it too.
If history is any guide, Israel will end its occupation just as all colonial powers of the past century ended theirs.
The sooner the better for both Palestinians and Israelis.