The 14th anniversary for the passing of President Yasser Arafat (Abu Ammar) coincides on Sunday, WAFA reports.
On November 11, 2004, Arafat died at a French hospital where he was flown to after suffering from a sudden illness, following a tight and inhuman Israeli military siege of the presidential headquarters in Ramallah.
The late president was born in Jerusalem on August 4, 1929, as “Muhammad Yasser” Abdul Ra’ouf Daoud Suleiman Arafat al-Kidwa al-Husseini. He was educated in Cairo and participated as a reservist officer in the Egyptian army, in fighting the tripartite aggression against Egypt, in 1956.
He studied at the Faculty of Engineering at Fouad I University in Cairo, and was an active member, at a young age, in the Palestinian national movement, through his activities in the Palestine Student Union, of which he later became its president.
He also joined a group of Palestinian nationalists in the founding of the Palestinian National Liberation Movement (Fateh) in the 1950s. He was elected chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in February, 1969, after Ahmad Shuqeiri and Yehya Hammoudeh.
On November 13, 1974, Abu Ammar delivered a speech on behalf of the Palestinian people to the UN General Assembly in New York, with which he concluded: “Today, I have come bearing an olive branch and a freedom-fighter’s gun. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand. I repeat: do not let the olive branch fall from my hand.”
As commander-in-chief of the Joint Command of the Palestinian Revolutionary Forces and the Lebanese Nationalist Movement, Abu Ammar spearheaded, in the summer of 1982, the battle against the Israeli aggression on Lebanon and the 88-day Israeli military siege of Beirut, which ended in an agreement that allowed the Palestinian fighters to leave the city. When journalists asked Yasser Arafat, after leaving Beirut through the sea to Tunisia, aboard a Greek ship, about his next stop, he replied, “I am going to Palestine.”
Yasser Arafat and the leadership of the PLO became guests in Tunisia, and, from there, he began to work on going to Palestine.
On October 1, 1985, Yasser Arafat miraculously escaped an Israeli raid on the Hammam al-Shat suburb of Tunis, which led to the death and wounding of dozens of Palestinians and Tunisians. In 1987, Arafat directed the first uprising, the Stone Intifada, which broke out in Palestine, against the Israeli occupiers, in December of that year. At the same time, he fought political battles at the international level for the recognition of the Palestinian people, and of their just cause and aspirations.
Following the Declaration of Independence in Algiers, on 15 November, 1988, the late leader presented, at the United Nations General Assembly, on 13 and 14 December of the same year, a Palestinian initiative for a just peace in the Middle East. The General Assembly was moved, at that time, to Geneva, after the United States had refused to grant Arafat a visa to reach New York. The initiative set the foundation for US President Ronald Reagan to initiate, on 16 September, a dialogue with the PLO, that started on 30 March 1989, in Tunis.
Yasser Arafat and former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin signed, on September 13, 1993, in the White House, the Oslo Declaration of Principles between the PLO and the Israeli government, which allowed Yasser Arafat, the PLO leadership and resistance fighters to return to Palestine after living in exile since 1948.
On January 20, 1996, Yasser Arafat was elected president of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), in general elections, and, from then, began the process of building the foundations of a Palestinian state.
However, after the failure of the Camp David negotiations, in 2000, as a result of Israeli intransigence and Yasser Arafat’s insistence to not negate Palestinian rights and constants, the second uprising, the A-Aqsa Intifada, broke out on September 28, 2000. Israeli forces and tanks besieged Arafat at his Ramallah headquarters, after accusing him of leading the Intifada. The Israeli army also invaded Palestinian cities, in an operation dubbed “Protective Shield”, and kept him under siege, in a tight space that lacked the minimum conditions for a human living, until his death on November 11, 2004.
Yasser Arafat has gone 14 years ago in body, but he left behind a legacy of struggle and a national strategy that had established for an approach followed by the founding leaders, headed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
On November 3rd, he was shot by an Israeli sniper while protesting near Maghazi refugee camp, in central Gaza.
However, he is yet to be buried as a martyr by his people because his body has been kidnapped by the soldiers who killed him.
When we asked Imad to have his photo taken, back on October 5, he obliged, but kept the serious look on his face as he quickly returned to the ‘frontlines’ raising his fist, chanting for a free Palestine, and telling his future killers that he would die before turning his back on Gaza.
Let’s too never turn out back on Gaza and Palestine so that we may stay true to the legacy of Imad Shahin.
When the Martyrs Go to Sleep
By Mahmoud Darwish
When the martyrs go to sleep I wake up to guard them against professional mourners
I say to them: I hope you wake in a country with clouds and trees, mirage and water.
I congratulate them on their safety from the incredible event, from
the surplus-value of the slaughter.
I steal time so they can snatch me from time. Are we all martyrs?
I whisper: friends, leave one wall for the laundry line. Leave a night
I will hang your names wherever you want, so sleep awhile, sleep on
the ladder of the sour vine tree
So I can guard your dreams against the daggers of your guards and the plot of the Book against the prophets.
The destruction of Palestine by Israel and the destruction of the world’s environment by humanity through human-made climate change, the dramatic increase of plastic in the oceans and the food chain, loss of forests etc are not connected even in the minds of most activists, not to speak of the public.
Yet they are. Governments and politicians who support Israeli occupation and Apartheid are not limiting the destruction they are causing just to Palestine; most of the time they are also standing against legislation protecting the environment and support climate change denial or claim that the price for protecting the environment and stopping the ongoing sixth mass extinction would be ‘too high’ for business – the same excuse that they wield against the call to boycott the Israeli occupation.
We find this among the worst – like the coming Bolsonaro regime in Brazil, as keen to destroy the Amazon rainforest as it’s helping Israel to destroy Palestine and the Trump administration in the United States, among the first to praise Bolsonaro’s victory (Israel and Bolsonaro exchanged mutual declarations of love first) – and the supposedly better, like the Trudeau government in Canada.
To the Canadian Liberals the obsession to build new oil pipes through indigenous lands with their fragile ecosystems is as strong as their desire to hug Israel – just in the last week Canada’s Liberal government declared that it’s support for Netanyahu’s regime is ‘ironclad’ and that it wants to be ‘an asset to Israel’ in the United Nations. This is part of their competition with the Canadian Conservatives, now Trump clones, which of them can be the most destructive towards the environment of Canada and the most supportive towards the Israeli occupation and Apartheid.
On the other hand if a party, politician or a government seems honestly trying to work against the threat of climate change and other horrors unleashed on the environment by the humanity, then they tend to be more critical of Israeli occupation and more ready to show at least some support towards the liberation of the Palestinian people – like the Labour Party in the Great Britain, smeared with ‘antisemitism’ claims by supporters and apologists of Israel’s regime.
Is this just a case that people who hold decent opinions when it comes to one political issue tend to do that overall, because they are good people – as much as the good character straits of any person can survive for long in politics?
Partly yes. We can quote George W. Bush, with some liberty taken, and say that people who support Israeli occupation and Apartheid and oppose action to protect the environment of planet Earth do so because ‘they are bad people who support bad things because they are bad’. But behind them tend to be the same corporations and the same billionaires, who see Israeli occupation, fascist rule in Brazil, the destruction of Amazon rainforest and fishes giving way to plastic in our oceans as ‘business opportunities’.
This is the era of free market capitalism without morals or remembrance of where its roots lie, in the soil of the planet Earth and the teeming human billions of the planet. The success of global capitalism has been to raise its leaders to the status of gods in theology, ‘beyond good and evil’ – a situation where, always, evil ends up ruling. Because billionaires and corporations in their Olympian heights are driven by the endless quest for ‘business opportunities’. A village destroyed and an illegal colony built are just part of the endless quest for profits to drive up the stock prices, but on the ground it’s real people suffering, a real nation enslaved and its oppressing state being devoured by the gangrene of Apartheid.
We have to understand the Israeli occupation and its illegal colonial project in the occupied territories is tied to the overall problems facing humanity; one of the local long-term symptoms of the same affliction in the global body politic and social. The terrible war and famine in Yemen, fed by tens of billions of sales of arms to Saudi-Arabia and the United Arab Emirates by the same ‘Western” governments who make their regular oaths of supportbfor Israel, is a more recent symptom – one in a long line of attempts to support ‘Western’ economies through warfare in the Middle East.
The problem, simply, is greed – the neo-liberal axiom that greed is good, and that supposedly eventually the greed of those at the top will also benefit those below – or at least those of them, who are not ground to make the profit for the masters of modern Olympos. The spread of neo-liberalist policies in the world and the spread of illegal Israeli colonies in the occupied territories correlates, and the reason is not a co-incidence.
The illegal Israeli colonies are connected to the overall current world system and to oppose them is to oppose the whole corrupt system of ‘greed is good’ which threatens the entire planet’s biosphere and whole of humanity with it.
Killing of Palestinian journalist by Israel did not prompt more than a modest coverage by Western media, but killing Khashoggi prompted wide media coverage and actual steps to stop arms’ deals with Saudi Arabia.
Yaser Murtaja was a Palestinian photojournalist who had gone to the Gaza fence with Israel to cover the second Friday of the Great Return March. He was killed by an Israeli sniper on 7 April. There was modest coverage of his death coming on the second Friday of the Great Return March. The world was troubled by the deliberate targeting by highly trained Israeli snipers of Palestinian civilians who posed no threat, but Western governments were hesitant about criticising Israel for targeting men, women, children, medics and journalists. The young medic, Razan Al-Najjar was shot and killed weeks later while tending to the wounded at the Gaza fence. At the same time, Nikki Haley was plotting to scupper a UN Security Council resolution to protect Palestinian civilians.
In its most recent atrocity, Israel targeted and killed three children in Gaza. They identified as Khaled Bassam Mahmoud Abu Saeed, 14; Abdul Hameed Mohammed Abdul Aziz Abu Zaher, 13; and Mohammed Ibrahim Abdullah Al-Sutari, 13.
I did not know Yasir, Razan, Khaled, Abdul Hameed or Mohammed. However, their loss and the grief I felt when they died lives with me to this day. Why has the world not sanctioned Israel for killing them? Why does it get a pass when it violates basic human rights while other states are held to account?
Reaction to their killings is in sharp contrast to the disappearance and then confirmed killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi on 2 October, which has captured the world’s imagination. I have not met a single person who has not been aware of the story or who has not followed with absolute horror the sordid details emerging from sources in the Turkish government about his murder and the possible mutilation of his body. Calls for sanctions on Saudi Arabia have been widespread, ranging from ordinary citizens to governments.
I was fortunate to meet Jamal and to chair a session at Middle East Monitor’s conference on the Oslo Accords the Saturday before his return to Istanbul to complete some paperwork at the Saudi Consulate to enable him to marry his fiancee Hatice Cengiz. Never did I or any of us present imagine how events would unfold hours later.
There are many reasons for the coverage that Jamal’s murder received, which set him apart from other journalists that have been targeted for their writings or coverage of important world events including Syria, Iraq and Libya to name but a few. He was a loyal Saudi citizen who had been closely connected with the Royal family but one who felt his freedom to speak under the –effective- rule of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman had been curtailed. He was a columnist for the Washington Post.
Khashoggi’s murder pitted two major Muslim states – Saudi Arabia and Turkey – against each other. The murder was not carried out on the streets of Istanbul but inside a diplomatic mission. There were leaks and denials. There were different versions of what happened put out by Saudi Arabia which were at best inconsistent but which turned out to be lies. There was the theatre of Turkey’s President Erdogan’s widely advertised speech, which promised much detail but ended up a masterpiece of political prudence devoid of new information. The fate of the Saudi Crown Prince and even the Saudi monarchy as we know it hangs in the balance.
To this day, Khashoggi’s body has not been recovered. Questions remain unanswered about who ordered the murder, how it was conducted, what has happened to the body and what actual evidence Turkey holds, leaving much room for speculation. Was Turkey eavesdropping on the Saudi Consulate and therefore was the actual murder recorded on audio or video?
Those are some of the reasons why Jamal’s murder has tantalised the world for the past couple of weeks and will do so as more details are leaked or if Turkey finally decides to make public its evidence, which may include identifying who in the Saudi hierarchy was the most senior person that ordered Khashoggi’s killing.
Western countries have started imposing sanctions on individuals suspected of being part of the murder squad, effectively cancelling visas they may hold, and calls for imposing an arms embargo on Saudi Arabia have been made, especially in Europe. While these have been balanced against the strategic importance of trade with Saudi Arabia, it is at least an indication that Western countries can act to pressure other states accused of committing crimes.
The world moved to impose sanctions on Russia and Iran, while history shows other countries faced sanctions, including Iraq and Libya.
However, it seems that the world is reluctant to sanction Israel whatever it does. In fact, many western countries justify its crimes as a necessary means of “self-defence”. There is no talk of imposing a two-way arms embargo on Israel. The Americans have not considered an end to the $3 billion annual military aid for killing Razan or Yaser. This would be moral, but also a saving for the American taxpayer who does not choose for the American Administration to fund a self-declared Apartheid state with half its overseas aid budget.
The world is right to be outraged by journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s killing and the manner in which it was carried out. It is right to ask for the truth and then for sanctions to be imposed on those responsible for his horrible murder. However, its hypocrisy in only mildly criticising Israel for killing Palestinian journalists provides it with the impunity it has enjoyed and continues to enjoy. The life of a Palestinian, Saudi or Israeli journalist should be worth the same.
The world’s firmness in dealing with Jamal’s killers may well dissuade other states from committing crimes against journalists, except possibly Israel. No country should be able to act above the law, including Israel.
The following article, by Charlotte Kates, the international coordinator of Samidoun, initially appeared in Arabic in Al-Adab magazine, published on November 2, 2018. The Arabic text can be read online at the Al-Adab website. The article appeared in an issue with a special focus on Palestinian prisoners, including testimonies from current and former political prisoners and their families.
Ghassan Kanafani’s quote that “Palestine today is not a cause for Palestinians only; it is the cause of every revolutionary, the cause of the oppressed and exploited masses in our era” has not dulled in its accuracy over time. Perhaps it resonates more clearly than ever before, when U.S. imperialism and its European partners appear as an ongoing threat to Palestinian existence and self-determination as well as to any form of Arab unity or even truly independent policy.
There are many campaigns that capture the attention of the international solidarity movement, all of them worthwhile and challenging some aspect of the Zionist project in occupied Palestine – from the campaign to break the siege on Gaza, to building boycott campaigns against Israeli corporations, state entities or academic and cultural institutions, to working with Palestinian communities in countries of exile to fight back against racism and repression. The struggle to defend Palestinian political prisoners and seek their freedom is central to building solidarity with the Palestinian people, their national liberation movement and their revolution.
The Zionist movement and state certainly recognize the centrality of this issue; it should be noted that Gilad Erdan, the minister who carries the file of “public security,” including the Israel Prison Service, is also responsible for the “anti-boycott” initiatives of the Israeli state in his role as the Minister of Strategic Affairs. The Zionist campaigns against the Palestinian prisoners – both the propaganda campaigns in international media and the campaigns of repression and misery that aim to break the spirit of the prisoners – recognize just how central these men and women, children and elders are in the struggle for Palestinian liberation.
Palestinian prisoners, both to the occupier and to the occupied, to those who would build solidarity and those who would criminalize, represent the implacable will of Palestinians to resist occupation and oppression, by all means necessary. The very act of posting on social media about Palestinian armed resistance has been labeled incitement; hundreds of Palestinians have been arrested and jailed for their statements on social media in support of Palestinian resistance. And any involvement at all with the organized liberation movement – from the most common charge of membership in a prohibited organization to those who directly take up armed struggle – can be met by years and decades behind Israeli bars.
Defending the Palestinian prisoners and campaigning for their freedom is an inseparable aspect of defending the Palestinian resistance and the right to armed struggle. Even in the cases of Palestinian child prisoners, the most common charge is “throwing stones” – direct resistance to the occupier. The imprisonment of Palestinians is an attempt to isolate the Palestinian resistance; thus, the defense of Palestinian prisoners is a means to break that isolation and turn it instead toward the isolation of Israel.
There are, of course, many organizations on the ground in Palestine doing excellent and important work to defend the prisoners legally and politically and seek their freedom. However, this work has not been exempted from the framework that Oslo has imposed on the Palestinian movement as a whole. Increasingly, the political aspect of Palestinian prisoners’ cases has been replaced with a purely humanitarian or human rights-based approach. The prisoners’ cause, like many other aspects of the Palestinian struggle, has been professionalized into an area of work and commentary for lawyers and other legal experts. Palestinian prisoners are addressed primarily and mainly as victims rather than protagonists in a revolutionary struggle for liberation.
In reality, every Palestinian prisoner’s case is far less of a legal battle than it is a political one; yet our strategies are increasingly directed toward legal defense, even while acknowledging politically that the entire system is invalid and illegitimate. It is not possible to win the freedom of Palestinian political prisoners by presenting the perfect legal argument, as – whether they face military courts or Israeli “civil” courts – they face a system that is based on the complete negation of their existence and, particularly, their organization and resistance.
This situation is also reflected in the violent response of the prison system to any and all attempts by the Palestinian prisoners’ movement to exert their intellectual and political leadership in the Palestinian national liberation struggle. It has been said that the Palestinian leadership that is not compromised or liquidated in the Oslo process can best be found behind bars. In response to their statements and interviews, conveyed through secret messages, smuggled cell phones and other technologies that defy Israeli isolation, Palestinian prisoners are subject to raids, violence, forced transfers and isolation. The recent interview of Palestinian political leader, PFLP General Secretary Ahmad Sa’adat, published in El-Masry al-Youm, sparked harsh raids and repression against Palestinian prisoners in Ramon prison. Veteran prisoner and struggler from ’48, Walid Daqqa, was thrown into solitary confinement when he published a new children’s book; this followed the defunding of a Haifa Palestinian theater that exhibited a play based on his work.
The international aspect of the Palestinian prisoners’ struggle is not one that can or should be relegated to the corridors of the United Nations and international legal bodies. It must be noted that this is something that the Zionist movement clearly recognizes as well. The imperialist countries like the United States, France and other states of the European Union are full partners in the imprisonment of Palestinians and the legitimation of the charges against them through their campaigns against the resistance.
Today’s “anti-terrorism” laws have various legal precedents – most commonly in the laws used to suppress anti-colonial and liberation movements in the Western powers – but they stem directly from laws that were passed in the United States in the mid-1990s. Those laws were then exported around the world with the 11 September 2001 attacks. The original U.S. laws were explicitly justified as a means of supporting the “Middle East peace process,” i.e. the Oslo process, and criminalizing all of those parties that rejected Oslo. Thus, we see the “terror lists” of the United States, Canada, the European Union, the UK, Australia, packed with the names of Palestinian organizations seeking national liberation, who rejected the trap of Oslo – the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine; Hamas; Islamic Jihad; and even those fighters of Fateh who resisted pacification.
These “anti-terror” laws are used to justify the persecution of Palestinians inside these countries – see, for example, the case of the Holy Land Five, five Palestinians serving sentences of up to 65 years in prison in U.S. jails for their fundraising and charitable work for Palestine. Reflecting the fact that these are only the newest gloss on an existing strategic alliance, Georges Ibrahim Abdallah has been jailed for 34 years in France for his involvement in actions to support the Palestinian and Lebanese liberation struggles. In Palestine itself, U.S. and British guards – including those previously stationed in the colonized north of Ireland – surrounded the Palestinian Authority’s Jericho prison where Sa’adat and his comrades were held from 2002 to 2006. Those guards moved aside in a coordinated fashion to allow for the violent assault of the Israeli military in March 2016.
Just as upholding the Palestinian prisoners, their names, lives and politics, is a contribution to the defense of the resistance in the battle of ideas, the European Union and the Zionist state have also recognized the importance of this battle from the opposing perspective. Thus, we have seen the defunding of Palestinian schools that bear the names of martyrs and strugglers who gave their lives for Palestinian liberation by participating actively in resistance. From Dalal Mughrabi (targeted by Norway and Belgium) to the campaigns against schools and squares honoring Shadia Abu Ghazaleh and Khaled Nazzal, there is not only a battle over the names of schools and institutions but a battle for Palestinian memory and history. It is our responsibility to fight back by upholding Palestinian resistance leaders as the international social justice leaders for which they should be recognized.
This very battle of ideas is the reason why Erdan, in his campaign against the growing boycott movement, included Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network among dozens of other international groups in his latest propaganda alert against international solidarity with Palestine. Erdan connected Samidoun and others with a “red line” on his graphic to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The illustration is not a random choice but reflects the Zionist project’s concern about a closer linkage between what the Reut Institute, a Zionist strategic center, referred to as the “delegitimization” network and the “resistance” network.
Through public exhortations and campaigns about dubious alleged linkages with resistance organizations, Erdan and the Israeli state aim to spread fear and intimidation among solidarity organizations. These attacks aim to push such organizations to alter their rhetoric, polices and campaigns in an attempt to avoid such allegations and their potentially criminalizing consequences. It is not simply propaganda against Palestine solidarity – this project aims to undermine the legitimacy of the Palestinian resistance and its association with global struggle and, therefore, to isolate the issue of the prisoners from its political context.
In the struggle of the Palestinian prisoners for freedom – an indivisible aspect of the Palestinian people’s struggle for liberation – we can find the seed of connection that holds the potential for building the type of deep alliances – those most feared by Erdan and the forces he represents – that can truly challenge Zionism, imperialism, capitalism and their reactionary-regime allies.
The Palestinian prisoners’ liberation cannot be disconnected from global struggles for liberation, nor from the struggle to liberate the political prisoners in the Philippines, Turkey, Egypt, the United States and elsewhere. Building the struggle for their freedom reflects the common interest of revolutionary movements fighting for justice and liberation, on the front lines of confrontation with repression, racism, exploitation and fascism.
Charlotte Kates is the International Coordinator of Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network.
Al-Adab cover art by former Palestinian prisoner Mahmoud Safadi:
International mass media is busy in reporting so many different issues most of them not newsworthy, while it is ignoring Israeli mass murder of Palestinians.
While Americans and the rest of the world’s attention was focused on the US midterm elections and the mysterious disappearance and murder of Jamal Khashoggi, Israel occupation forces (IOF) and demented illegal Jewish settlers murdered two Palestinians that left 15 orphans and two widows behind. The questions are: Why on earth would Israelis kill Palestinians for fun? Secondly, who were the victims that Western media did not bother to report about or conveniently ignored their horrific death?
First Victim: Aisha Rabi, 45, was stoned to death by demented Israeli thieves who live above the law on stolen Palestinian land. Aisha was driving in her private car with her husband Yacoub and two of their children by an Israeli army checkpoint near the city of Nablus in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Israeli police suspect the settlers struck her in the head.
A Palestinian ambulance rushed her to a local Palestinian hospital. However, the mother of eight children never made it. The settlers returned home safely and no arrest was made. The family said, IOF has killed Aisha’s brother in the past.
Second Victim: Mo’amar al-Atrash, 42, was shot ten times execution-style in his back by IOF soldiers in the Occupied West Bank city of Hebron (Al-Khalil).
Based on an eyewitness account, the victim at no point posed a threat to the soldiers stationed at a checkpoint near Al-Abrahimi mosque. The soldiers never bother to call for an ambulance so the victim was left on the ground to die. Mo’amar has 7 children all of whom are under the age of 16.
We are told, good guys never ever shoot people in the back. If the soldiers were truly defending themselves as they have claimed, then people can easily visualize the attacker moving toward the soldiers, forcing them to shoot the attacker in the chest. But when the body on the ground has ten holes in the back, people get a different picture in their head.
The assumption is that the person was moving away from the soldiers, maybe running away. How can someone be running away from you and still present a clear and present danger? Why would you shoot someone trying to run away? The only logical explanation is that the soldiers of the most moral army in the world killed him just for fun because they know they will get away with and no one will hold them accountable.
Days of Palestine, a news website specialising in reporting about Palestine and the Israeli occupation, has reported that, in just over six months since the wave of the mass protest began in the besieged Gaza Strip, IOF has killed 205 people and injured 22,000 with life ammunition. The unarmed Palestinian protesters did not at any point constitute any threat to the Israeli troops. They were simply taking part in peaceful protest against the 12 years of the illegal and inhumane siege on Gaza, which is a part of the protest of the Great March of Return.
The tragic stories of the two Palestinians’ parents I mentioned above were murdered during the month of October. According to If Americans knew, NGO website, the number of Palestinians killed during the month of October 2018 by Israeli soldiers and Jewish settlers is 28. Aisha Rabi and Mo’amar al-Atrash were among the victims.
Sadly, the only time the Israelis and the Western news’ media outlets express any outrage or cover such heinous crimes is when the killing is the other way around. Meanwhile, these senseless acts of murder has filled so many lives with sorrow, as it devastates parents, children, siblings, friends and neighbors. If Israel claims it has the most moral army in the world, then why on earth would Israelis kill Palestinians for fun?
The Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territory Occupied Since 1967, Michael Lynk, speaks at UN Headquarters in New York City, October 26, 2017
A warning about imminent annexation of the West Bank was given on Tuesday by UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories S. Michael Lynk, on the eve of his delivery of his annual report to the General Assembly.
He was introduced by Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies Rashid Khalidi, with commentary by Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Diala Shamas. The talk was co-sponsored by the Center for Palestine Studies at Columbia University and the Department of Middle East, South Asian and African Studies at Columbia University
Much of the report itemizes the legal and political trends in Israel that point to formal annexation, including the Knesset’s March 2017 settlement Regularization Law and this year’s Nation-State Law, which in combination build a foundation for expanding sovereignty to the entire “Land of Israel.”
Israeli parties and politicians are expressing aspirations for annexation, and there is higher and higher public approval in the Israeli public.
The UN human rights monitor said that he has not been permitted to enter the Occupied Palestinian territory by Israel since his appointment in March 2016, and visits Amman, Jordan, to receive reports and confer with Israeli and Palestinian human rights activists and witnesses.
He said that “annexation trends in the occupied territories, particularly with respect to the West Bank, are quickening, and annexation is in the air, and formal annexation may be occurring sooner than we are thinking.”
He gave the audience his five conclusions pointing to annexation, saying the Oslo process was based on the idea that Occupation and rule over Palestinians is “not sustainable” for Israel, as a self-evident truth. “However, [Prime Minister] Netanyahu has stated that he is only willing to concede a “Palestinian State-minus, with all of the settlement blocs and the Jordan Valley remaining Israeli possessions,”
I think here, as part of my closing remarks, might be a good time to revisit Oslo’s assumption about sustainability, which is premised on the supposedly irreducible fact that Israel has no demographic or political choice but to withdraw from all or most of the occupied territory and allow a sovereign Palestinian state to emerge if it is to retain its Jewish character and democratic values.
It’s my point that this working assumption about sustainability is being left behind by the galloping realities of the occupation, and I might cite just five examples for you:
First, I think this assumption fails to account for the creative thinking among the ascendant Israeli right — that it can comfortably live with the model of permanent rule over the Palestinians that would deny them citizenship and democratic rights.
Secondly, I say that overlooks the striking degree of control that Israel exercises over the Palestinians, as it confines them to smaller, denser, and more fragmented islands of land through a sophisticated security method of walls, checkpoints, control over the population registry, and overwhelming military superiority.
Third, I think this assumption overestimates the willingness of the Oslo sponsors — particularly Europe, which is Israel’s largest trading partner, and America, its military and diplomatic patron — to challenge Israel with any meaningful consequences should it retreat, as it has, from any lingering commitment to a genuine two-state solution.
Fourth, it disregards Oslo’s escape clauses that have allowed Israel to pocket the cost-free features of the occupation, the large amounts of European and international aid to fund the Palestinians, and the annual $3.8 billion dollar military package that the United States gives to Israel, while Israel continues to thicken its presence throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and continues the blockade of Gaza.
And finally, I think, this assumption begs the question of whether a genuine two-state solution was ever possible in the absence of the international community’s political will to enforce the clear obligations and prohibitions of international law that could have stemmed Israel’s revanchism over the last half century.
Lynk pointed to the reprieve of the village of Khan al-Ahmar as giving him hope, protected by the work of Jewish and Palestinian human rights activists and civil society organizations. “They are the bridge to each other. They all speak the language of human rights. They are fluent in it. And the work they do is highly professional, and to me they are the genesis of what a future society, either a genuine two-state solution or a one-state democratic solution, could wind up looking like in Israel and Palestine. They give me hope, or else I would have left the job some time ago, because it’s dreary and it’s soul-destroying to tell you all this depressing news without telling you there is some hope for some optimism, some rainbow beyond all this,” he said.
Recently, in another shocking incident, Israel’s Culture Minister Miri Regev was outraged by a Palestinian children’s novel written by Walid Dagga, a Palestinian prisoner who spent more than thirty years in jail for resisting the occupation. In her opinion, he is in jail not to write novels but to be punished. This might cause shock to some, but this falls perfectly in line with how Israel’s official discourse stereotypes Palestinians: as mere demons who are able only to kill indiscriminately. Writing novels? Well, this does not fit in this stereotype.
Israel’s Minister of Interior, Aryeh Deri, prevented a launching ceremony for the novel being held in the writer’s home village. The Israel Prison Service declared that it will conduct a full investigation into the incident and punish the writer, who has already spent 34 years in prison.
Ironically, a few months ago Walid was punished by Israeli authorities by adding two more years to his sentence because he “conspired” with a Palestinian member of the Israeli parliament, Basel Ghattas, to smuggle mobile phones into prison. The news told us “an Israeli court convicted Ghattas on charges of fraud, breach of trust and smuggling a prohibited letter and electronic equipment into a prison. He was sentenced to two years in jail. An earlier charge of providing material support for the perpetration of an act of terror was removed as part of the deal and Ghattas was also forced to resign from his post”.
Why did Ghattas do it? He gave a simple answer in an article published by Middle East Eye: “It was a personal act, motivated only by humanitarian and moral reasons, for which I’m ready to take full responsibility […] One of the most severe atrocities that Palestinian prisoners endure is the denial of their right to communicate with their families and relatives by phone and the limitations that Israeli authorities put on the visitors they can receive”. He added: “Prisoners have only been allowed to see first-degree relatives every two weeks, although thanks to a new International Red Cross policy, that will be reduced to once a month”.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about how Israel’s military intentionally targets Palestinian media workers covering the demonstrations on the Gaza fence, many of whom were killed by direct sniper shots hundreds of metres away from the fence. I also wrote, in another article, about how Israel’s court tried Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour and sentenced her to two years in prison for writing a poem reflecting her sympathy for the tragedy of her fellow Palestinians. I also mentioned Lama Khater, a Palestinian journalist, writer and a mother of 5 children, who was arrested at her home in the middle of the night and accused of building an armed terrorist organisation. These are not isolated incidents, but rather represent a mind-set and systematic practice based on pre-prepared plans.
This might explain why most renowned Palestinian poets spent part of their lives behind Israeli bars, had to go into self-exile or were assassinated. Israel never hated anyone more than Palestinian intellectuals and artists, because they are living proof that its narrative is completely fictional.
Even those Palestinian writers and artists who lived outside their homeland were targeted by Israel’s secret service – Mossad – and killed. Palestinian collective memory retains many stories in this regard, such as that of Ghassan Kanafani, Abdel Wael Zwaiter, Kamal Nasser, Majed Abu Sharar and many others.
Even when Palestinians are able to overcome Israeli restrictions and resentment to succeed, Israel wants to share their success. Israel insists on calling them Arab-Israelis, implying that it cherishes diversity and encourages “its Arab citizens” to unleash their potential. The Joubran Brothers, better known as Le Trio Joubran – an oud trio playing traditional Palestinian music – use every occasion to stress their Palestinian-ness, dedicating their work to a free Palestine and to their people who suffer under occupation. Yet, in the Israeli media they are referred to as Arab-Israelis and the same applies to Mahmoud Darwish, Samih Al-Qasim and many others.
The “Jewish Nation State Law” recently endorsed by the Israeli parliament leaves no doubt about the nature of this so-called state. Only followers of one religion – Judaism – are eligible to full citizenship and national rights, including the right of self-determination. Why? Because this is a Jewish State. The rest are only temporary residents according to Dore Gold, Israel’s former Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a key ally and close adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. When he was asked in an interview with Mehdi Hasan if Palestinian citizens also have a right to self-determination under the Nation State Law or only Jewish citizens, Gold answered: “Nope. Canadian immigrants in America don’t and nor do Mexican immigrants”.
This is a hatred mixed with envy because, deep in their hearts, Zionists know that even if they live for two thousand years or more on this land, they will never be able to love it and sacrifice for it as Palestinians do. They will never be able to get drunk on the smell of the soil, befriend little birds, memorise the face of each and every herb, shrub and bush on the hills, give names to the slightest blow of air and absorb the rays of the Palestinian sun on their skin. This land is not a production unit that you monitor from your air-conditioned villas with drone cameras. It is a story of thousands of years of love between two living beings – only the children of the soil understand.
The murder of 42-year-old Moammar Arif Refa’ey al-Atrash in the occupied city of Hebron on Monday October 22nd by Israel’s occupation forces reveals the horrors of the Israeli occupation and the utter moral bankruptcy of the Israel regime in their fullest.
At the scene was once again notorious illegal Israeli settler Ofer Ohanna, whose role in the killings of Palestinians in occupied Hebron by Israel’ occupation forces is carefully hidden from their audiences both by Israeli and ‘Western’ media – with the exception of the murder of Abdelfattah al-Sharif, where they had to acknowledge his role while downplaying it.
KILLED AND DEFILED
Moammar al-Atrash, a recently separated father of seven children including a son which is imprisoned by Israeli occupation, was walking near the Ibrahimi mosque when Israel’s occupation soldiers shot him and left him to bleed to death.
Palestinian medics were not allowed to reach him, while illegal Israeli settler medics didn’t deign to do anything when they arrived.
Other illegal Israeli settlers, on the other hand, were both allowed to reach him and did something – by taking photographs of themselves with the body, spitting it and shouting it should be thrown in to a dumpster. Among them was notorious illegal Israeli settler and ‘medic’ Ofer Ohanna, who incited Ezor Alaria to murder wounded Abdelfattah al-Sharif(21) on March 24th 2016 and was captured on video kicking a knife close to al-Sharif’s body afterwards in an attempt to excuse the murder.
This was Israeli regime’s idea of ‘crime scene investigation’ – a racist joke, repeated throughout the occupied territories again and again, with illegal settlers mocking a dead or dying victim with the occupation forces allowing them to act on the scene of the incident as they wish.
Afterwards Israeli occupation forces invaded the family home of al-Atrash, declaring that they will destroy it as a punishment – for al-Atrash being killed by Israel’s occupation forces themselves.
Israeli occupation also refuses to hand Moammar al-Atrash’s body to his family.
LACK OF EVIDENCE
As an excuse for his killing Israeli occupation claims that Moammar al-Atrash he would have ‘tried to stab a soldier’ near a checkpoint without showing any evidence that he did – beyond the cliché knife thrown well away from his body.
An ccupation soldier was supposedly ‘slightly injured’, but in the past this has for example meant a torn shirt, as in the killing of 16-year-old Bayan Abdul-Wahab al-‘Oseyli also in Hebron on October 17th 2015, and Israeli occupation’s ‘evidence’ for ‘slight injury’ itself is a video of the notorious illegal Israeli settler Ofer Ohanna ‘treating’ an occupation soldier who appears unarmed.
Beyond his role in the murder of Abdelfattah al-Sharif and his alleged attempt to drive over its main witness with his car this year, Ohanna was – among other killings – at the scene when Wael Abdelfattah Abdelghani Jabari(28) was killed by Israeli occupation forces in Hebron on September 3rd.
The killing didn’t even take place at a close vicinity to an occupation forces checkpoint, as Israel’s regime claims.
ISRAELI VALUES AT FULL DISPLAY
A Palestinian family will be collectively punished because a father of seven children was shot by occupation forces soldiers and left to bleed to death while illegal Israeli spat on him and took trophy selfies with his cadaver.
This is the reality of the Israeli occupation and this is the truth about Israel – and a knife planted two meters from a victim’s body and a notorious illegal Israeli settler Ohanna (who shouted ‘Won’t someone kill this dog’ before Azaria shot al-Sharif in the head) ‘treating’ an occupation soldier isn’t enough to hide it.
‘Western’ governments like to declare how they ‘share values’ with Israel. Here are Israel’s values at full display.
Several Palestinian students, along with teachers and officials, were wounded in the Israeli army attack on a school south of Nablus in the West Bank on 15 October.
The students of Al- Sawiya Al-Lebban Mixed School were challenging an Israeli military order to shut down their school based on the ever-versatile accusation of the school being a “site of popular terror and rioting”.
“Popular terror” is an Israeli army code for protests. The students, of course, have every right to protest, not just the Israeli military occupation but also the encroaching colonisation of the settlements of Alie and Ma’ale Levona. These two illegal Jewish settlements have unlawfully confiscated thousands of dunams of land belonging to the villages of As-Sawiya and Al-Lebban.
“The Israeli citizens” that the occupation army is set to protect by shutting down the school, are, in fact, the very armed Jewish settlers who have been terrorising this West Bank region for years.
According to a 2016 study commissioned by the United Nations, at least 2,500 Palestinian students from 35 West Bank communities must cross through Israeli military checkpoints to reach their schools every day. About half of these students have reported army harassment and violence for merely attempting to get to their classes or back home.
However, this is only half of the story, as violent Jewish settlers are always on the lookout for Palestinian kids. These settlers, who “also set up their own checkpoints”, engage in regular violence as well, by “throwing stones” at children, or “physically pushing (Palestinian children) around.”
“UNICEF’s protective presence teams have reported that their volunteers have been subjected to physical attacks, harassment, arrest and detention, and death threats,” according to the same UN report.
In other words, even the “protectors” themselves often fall victim to the army and Jewish settler terror tactics.
Add to this that Area C – a major part of the West Bank that is under full Israeli military control – represents the pinnacle of Palestinian suffering. An estimated 50,000 children face numerous hurdles, including the lack of facilities, access, violence, closure and unjustified demolition orders.
The school of Al-Sawiya Al-Lebban located in Area C is, therefore, under the total mercy of the Israeli military, which has no tolerance for any form of resistance, including non-violent popular protests by school children.
What is truly uplifting, however, is that, despite the Israeli military occupation and ongoing restrictions on Palestinian freedom, the Palestinian population remains one of the most educated in the Middle East.
According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the literacy rate in Palestine (estimated at 96.3 per cent) is one of the highest in the Middle East and the illiteracy rate (3.7 per cent among individuals over the age of 15) is one of the lowest in the world.
If these statistics are not heartening enough, bearing in mind the ongoing Israeli war on Palestinian school and curricula, consider this: the besieged and war-stricken Gaza Strip has an even higher literacy rate than the West Bank, as they both stand at 96.6 per cent and 96 per cent respectively.
In truth, this should not come as a total surprise. The first wave of Palestinian refugees that were ethnically-cleansed from historic Palestine was so keen on ensuring their children strive to continue their education, they established school tents, operated by volunteer teachers as early as 1948.
Palestinians understand well that education is their greatest weapon to obtain their long-denied freedom. Israel, too, is aware of this dichotomy, knowing that an empowered Palestinian population is far more capable of challenging Israeli dominance than a subdued one, thus the relentless and systematic targeting of the Palestinian educational system.
Israel’s strategy in destroying the infrastructure of Palestinian schooling system is centered on the allegation of “terror”: that is, Palestinians teach “terror” in their schools; Palestinian school books celebrate “terrorists”; schools are sites for “popular terror” and various other accusations that, per Israeli logic, compels the army to seal off schools, demolish facilities, arrest and shoot students.
Take for example the recent comments made by the Israeli Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, who is now leading a government campaign aimed at shutting down operations by the UN organisation that caters for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.
“It is time to remove UNRWA from Jerusalem,” Barkat announced early October. Without any evidence whatsoever, Barkat claimed that “UNRWA is strengthening terror,” and that “the children of Jerusalem are taught under their auspices, terror, and this must be stopped.”
Of course, Barkat is being dishonest. The jibe at UNRWA in Jerusalem is part of a larger Israeli-US campaign aimed at shutting down an organisationthat proved central to the status and welfare of Palestinian refugees.
According to this skewed thinking, without UNRWA, Palestinian refugees would have no legal platform, thus closing down UNRWA is closing down the chapter of Palestinian refugees and their Right of Return altogether.
The link between the shutting down of Al-Sawiya Al-Lebban, the targeting of UNRWA by Israel and the US, the numerous checkpoints separating students from their schools in the West Bank and more, have more in common than Israel’s false allegation of “terror”.
Israeli writer, Orly Noy, summed up the Israeli logic in one sentence: “By destroying schools in Palestinian villages in Area C and elsewhere, Israel is forcing Palestinians to make a cruel choice — between their land and their children’s futures.”
It is this brutal logic that has guided the Israeli government strategy regarding Palestinian education for 70 years. It is a war that cannot be discussed or understood outside the larger war on Palestinian identity, freedom, and, in fact, the very existence of the Palestinian people.
The students’ fight for their right to education in Al-Sawiya Al-Lebban Mixed School is by no means an isolated skirmish involving Palestinian school kids and trigger-happy Israeli soldiers. Rather, it is at the heart of the Palestinian people’s fight for their freedom.