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Memo to Israel: Lebanon is not Hezbollah, Gaza is not Hamas

Israel has tried to bury inconvenient facts about Lebanon and Gaza

A Lebanese flag is seen as mourners bury 29 Lebanese victims - mostly women and children - of an Israeli attack in the Lebanese village of Qana, on August 18, 2006 [AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis]

A Lebanese flag is seen as mourners bury 29 Lebanese victims – mostly women and children – of an Israeli attack in the Lebanese village of Qana, on August 18, 2006

Israeli public relations efforts to turn attention away from inconvenient realities and distract public opinion rest in large part on promoting simplified, dumbed-down messages.

Those are easily parroted by complicit media outlets, think-tanks, pundits,  and by some journalists who prefer the sensationalism of “Iranian mullahs”, “Hezbollah plots” and “Hamas terrorists” to the more complicated dynamics of the region and individual countries. Of course, in some situations, this is a good way to avoid an uncomfortable discussion about apartheid and occupation for fear of being labelled anti-semitic.

One clear example of such dumbed-down messages is Israeli education minister Naftali Bennett’s “Lebanon = Hezbollah” tweet after Lebanon’s parliamentary elections on May 6. “Israel will not differentiate between the sovereign State of Lebanon and Hezbollah, and will view Lebanon as responsible for any action from within its territory”, he said in the tweet.

It was Bennett again who in mid-May said that unarmed Palestinians protesting near the border fence in Gaza should be treated as “terrorists”. By then, the government he is part of had framed the Palestinians’ Great March of Return as a “Hamas ploy”.

What Israel aims to achieve by promoting this type of rhetoric is to turn both Lebanon and Gaza into legitimate targets for its aggression in any conflict that might take place in the future.

Lebanon is not Hezbollah

For those familiar with Israeli policies in Lebanon and the history of the conflict, this is “nothing new under the sun”. Israeli officials have made it a habit to regularly threaten the entire population of Lebanon (and not only Hezbollah) with destruction, annihilation and blowing it back to the Stone Ages.

This inflammatory language, in fact, describes war crimes, which Israel has repeatedly committed on Lebanese territory. In the 2006 war, the Israeli army killed 1,000 civilians, and the Israeli government tried to blame it solely on Hezbollah.

But as a Human Rights Watch report investigating war crimes committed during that conflict pointed out: “Responsibility for the high civilian death toll of the war in Lebanon lies squarely with Israeli policies and targeting decisions in the conduct of its military operations.”

OPINION

Lebanon re-elects its political status quo

Lina Khatib
by Lina Khatib

This year, it was not only Israel who chose to read the May 6 elections from the prism of “Lebanon = Hezbollah”. International (and some Arab) media were quick to dub the electoral results an outright Hezbollah victory.

This prompted local media and analysts to respond by pointing out that “Hezbollah’s electoral domination” is a myth and a reductionist, inaccurate way of understanding what happened on May 6. There are many levels when it comes to reading the results of the Lebanese elections, and framing them as a “Lebanon = Hezbollah” outcome does not capture the complexity of what is happening in Lebanon today.

This is absolutely not to say that Hezbollah is not a powerful political and military force in Lebanon, or that the party does not pose a very serious challenge and obstacle to the emergence of a strong state. Hezbollah’s weapons also play a role in Lebanese politics, as we saw in the organisation’s May 2008 armed takeover of Beirut and also in its decision to get involved in Syria, without consulting with the government or parliament.

Indeed, one has to be very naive to claim that Hezbollah is merely a resistance movement and that its arsenal has no bearing on internal affairs or elections (both parliamentary and presidential).

But claims that Lebanon is now “hostage” to Hezbollah (and Iran) are exaggerated. They are music to the ears of Israel which promotes this line to justify whatever war crimes its army will commit in any future conflict in the name of “self-defence” and “war on terrorism”.

Gaza is not Hamas

Similarly, in Palestine, we have seen an attempt to paint the recent protests in Gaza as Hamas-led and inspired, despite the fact that the organisers come from multiple Palestinian political and civil society groups.

Israel resorts to the “Gaza = Hamas” equation to justify the killing of 114 unarmed protesters and the injuring of thousands who were simply marching for their right to return to their home and for an end to the occupation of Palestinian lands.

WATCH

Israel-Palestine: Split screens and dissonant narratives

This line was repeated immediately by some Western governments and media. The Washington Post, for example, published a disgraceful editorial claiming that the protests were Hamas’ way of launching a war and “an attempt to breach the border fence, in the calculation that many would be killed”.

As in the case of Hezbollah, Hamas is not an innocent actor. It has been implicated in human rights violations in Gaza and breaches to international humanitarian law during armed conflicts. However, it takes a special kind of moral and intellectual bankruptcy to deny the facts on the ground – facts that are attested to by various United Nations and rights organisations.

Indeed, the dehumanisation of Palestinians has reached such an extent that even the human right to protest inhumane and unjust political and humanitarian conditions is denied them. As pro-Israeli commentator wrote, trying to justify the use of lethal force against protestors: all Israel wants from Gaza is “peace and quiet”, but instead, its people decide to protest – as if, in 2018, protest is a crime punishable by death.

The ‘post-truth’ logic

When Vassily Nebenzia, Russia’s permanent representative to the UN, described the humanitarian outcry over Eastern Ghouta last February as “mass psychosis”, I wrote about his statement in a column for Al Jazeera, calling it an example of the “post-truth” logic.

Unsurprisingly, the White House’s Deputy Spokesperson Raj Shah and the US Permanent Representative to the UN Nikki Haley fit in perfectly, along with their Israeli allies, within such “post-truth” reasoning.

In response to the Gaza massacre and the cold-blooded shooting of Palestinians by Israeli snipers, Shah called the protest an “unfortunate propaganda attempt”, whereas Haley did not have the moral courage to face her Palestinian counterpart at the Security Council, and instead walked out of the meeting room.

Indeed, “post-truth” logic can’t handle the truth. The reality of what happened in Gaza does not reflect the dumbed-down talking points we have been hearing from pro-Israeli pundits and officials on television and in the press.

The truth of the matter is that, as the UN Human Rights Commissioner put it,  “this was not ‘a PR victory for Hamas’… it was a tragedy for thousands of families [and] the stark contrast in casualties on both sides is also suggestive of a wholly disproportionate response…”

Israel’s occupation and apartheid regime must end in order to reach a just peace, both for the sake of Palestinians and Israelis. This is what the Gaza protests were essentially about.

And any attempt to frame them as a declaration of war, or simply as a “Hamas ploy” or a “PR victory”, misses the point and is a transparent attempt to distort reality and maintain the status quo in favour of Israel.

(Source / 21.05.2018)

It took 116 dead Palestinians for Egypt to ease its siege on Gaza for a month

Palestinians wait in line to cross to Egypt following the opening of Rafah border gate in Khan Yunis, Gaza

Yesterday Egyptian military strongman Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi announced on Twitter that the Rafah border crossing to Gaza would remain open throughout the entire month of Ramadan.

Al-Sisi’s tweet came at the end of a long and bloody week for Palestinians. On Monday, as Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner inaugurated the American embassy in Jerusalem, Israeli forces massacred 62 Palestinians and injured over 3,000. The youngest victim was an eight-month-old baby girl, Layla Al-Ghandoor.

Al-Sisi’s goodwill promise to “alleviate the burdens of our brothers in Gaza” during the Muslim holy month will be believed by few who see his actions against Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip as less than brotherly.

Since Israel imposed the 2007 siege on Gaza Egypt has collaborated with Tel Aviv to keep entry and exit points under lock and key. Despite the cautious optimism inspired by the Arab Spring, when Palestinians hoped that with Mubarak’s collapse restrictions on Gaza would crumble, under Al-Sisi relations with the Strip have become progressively worse.

This has been done with his full knowledge that the Rafah crossing is a vital lifeline for Palestinians in Gaza – the only other crossing, Erez, is manned by the Israeli army and only Palestinians with special permits and internationals are allowed to pass through.

Read: Welcome to Sinai, where soldiers shoot children then boast on Facebook

In October 2014 Egypt accused Hamas of a string of deadly terror attacks aimed at Egyptian security forces in the Sinai Peninsula and used this as a pretext to tighten its noose. This was sealed with the designation of Hamas as a terrorist organisation, regular accusations that they are carrying out attacks through the tunnels and a pledge to arrest any member found in the country.

Al-Sisi has framed this within the context of his “war on terror”. Since his rise to power he has been on a mission to stamp out terrorism in the impoverished Sinai region which borders Gaza, and in the process armed forces have killed hundreds of civilians, razed their homes and farms to the ground and extrajudicially executed children then framed them as terrorists.

Palestinians in Gaza have felt this collective punishment acutely. In 2015 the crossing was open for 32 days in total; in 2016 for 41 days and in 2017 – the worst year for people living on the Strip – for just 29 days. As a result thousands of people seeking medical care, students who have been granted places at universities abroad and families trying to reunite wait endlessly for permission to leave.

As the dead and wounded poured into Shifa hospital on Monday, health services in Gaza already suffering from a lack of equipment and essential medicine struggled to cope. The Palestinian Ministry of Health appealed to “sister Egypt” to supply hospitals in Gaza with medicine and send through surgeons and medical crews specialising in vascular surgery and anaesthesia and transfer the wounded to hospitals in Egypt.

Read: Justifying Gaza massacre, Israel minister calls Palestinians ‘Nazis’

It was Turkey who responded to this call, but when the aircraft arrived to transport the injured, Egyptian authorities blocked them from landing in their airports. Such is their utter disdain for Palestinian lives.

It’s not the first time Egypt has flexed its muscles to stop medical care and workers entering the Strip. Dr. Tarek Loubani was trying to stop the bleeding of wounded protesters, marked clearly as a doctor, on Monday when he was shot in both legs by Israeli forces. In 2013 Loubani was on his way to Gaza from Egypt when he was arrested and detained for 53 days after treating a wounded protester, along with filmmaker John Greyson.

On Wednesday, in his first public comments on the Nakba Day deaths, Al-Sisi issued a bland statement urging Israelis to “understand” the reactions of the Palestinians and to “take care” of Palestinian lives.

A wounded Palestinian demonstrator is carried by health team members after getting injured on intervention of Israeli occupation forces during a demonstration within the "Great March of Return" in Khan Yunis, Gaza on 11 May 2018. [Mustafa Hassona/Anadolu Agency]

He added: “On the move of the US Embassy, we have said this issue will have negative repercussions on Arab and Islamic public opinion and leads to a kind of dissatisfaction and some instability, and will have repercussions on the Palestinian cause.”

His comments stand in stark contrast with other world leaders who have condemned the atrocities, such as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn who described the deaths as “slaughter” and Desmond Tutu as a “massacre”. Bolivian Ambassador to the UN Sacha Sergio Llorenty Soliz asked Palestine for forgiveness for the international body’s failure to end the 11-year inhumane blockade on Gaza and the UN Rapporteur on Palestine described the killing of demonstratorsas a “war crime”.

As Palestinians mourned their dead the day after the massacre, a number of Israeli newspapers gave credit to Egypt for persuading Hamas to scale down the protests in return for easing the blockade during a meeting on Sunday between a Palestinian delegation and top Egyptian security officials. Member of Hamas’ Political Bureau Mahmoud Al-Zahar has denied that there is any such agreement and reiterated that these newspaper reports are an attempt to break the confidence between the leadership in Gaza and its people.

#USEmbassyMove

Egypt has traditionally played the role of mediator in conflicts between Israel and Palestine, but Al-Sisi’s proximity to the Israeli government and the actions he has taken against Palestinians in Gaza means he is neither a credible nor an honest broker.

Since the Great March of Return protests began on 30 March 116 Palestinians have been killed by live fire – it has taken the tragic deaths of an immense number of men, women and children to get a promise from Egypt to loosen the blockade for just a month. If Al-Sisi fulfils his pledge it will be the longest, consecutive period of time the crossing has stayed open in years. But Palestinians in Gaza are not holding their breath for a man who has delivered nothing but broken promises and misery.

(Source / 19.05.2018)

Bullets first and aid later is a perverse Israeli tactic

Palestinian protesters gather during clashes with Israeli security forces in a tent city protest where Palestinians demand the right to return to their homeland, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the "Nakba", and against U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem at Israel-Gaza border at the Israel-Gaza border, in east of Gaza city on 14 May, 2018 [Ramez Habboub/Apaimages]

Israeli forces fire tear gas at Palestinian protesters who are commemorating the 70th anniversary of Nakba in Gaza on 14 May 2018

By Ramona Wadi

Predictably, Israel has attempted to play the humanitarian card after inflicting severe injuries upon thousands of Palestinians, many of whom will remain scarred for life; at least 111 men, women and children have also been killed by Israeli troops over the past few weeks. On Wednesday, during a lull in their murderous shooting spree, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) sent two truckloads of medical supplies into Gaza. The aid was rejected by Hamas, which only accepted supplies sent by the Palestinian Authority and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Israel sought to frame the refusal within its perverted colonial narrative. “The Hamas terrorist group [sic] on Wednesday refused to accept two shipments of medical supplies for Gaza hospitals, which are struggling with shortages, after seeing they were sent by Israel,” said the Times of Israel.

Also on Wednesday, Haaretz reported Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman declaring Hamas leaders to be “a bunch of cannibals who also treat their own children as ammunition.” The far-right extremist claimed that the IDF “acted in accordance with ethical norms that we have not seen anywhere else in the world.” Both statements are blatant lies which will not gain any truck with most of the international community.

However, Lieberman’s lies serve to promote the false image of a benevolent Israel ready to send humanitarian aid to a vulnerable Palestinian population; such a view would, of course, be for its own propaganda purposes.

Read: Medics in Gaza report Israel forces using devastating ‘butterfly bullet’

Lieberman and those like him fail to mention that the medical crisis in Gaza is just one result of Israel’s 12-year blockade. The health sector in Gaza has been on the verge of collapse for months, if not years, so why only send aid now? The two trucks of medical supplies can only be viewed as an attempt to divert attention from the IDF’s massacre of Palestinians and the suffocating siege against which they were protesting when they were shot and tear-gassed. Bullets first and aid later is simply another perverse Israeli tactic.

Unbelievably, Lieberman’s repugnant rhetoric was actually overshadowed by comments made by Israeli government spokeswoman Michal Maayan to an Irish journalist. When asked why Israel is shooting at Palestinians participating in the Great Return March, she responded, “Well, we can’t put all these people in jail.”

The despicable motive behind the IDF sending aid to Gaza is clear; it is the cheapest way for Israel to restrain the Palestinians’ anti-colonial struggle. Killing them is preferable, proof — if any is needed — that the colonial penchant for exterminating Palestinians has not altered since the Nakba started in 1948. The remote involvement of the Israeli troops – snipers killing and maiming at a range of hundreds of metres – allows Israel to include itself amongst the plethora of observers, thus shifting the focus upon the Palestinians and their protests. However, as in other previous massacres, Israel is trying to occupy a high ground that is neither moral nor supported by international acquiescence to its violence.

#GreatMarchOfReturn

Hamas’s refusal to accept IDF aid is a principled stance which is tethered by limitations. There is no denial from Hamas regarding the shortages of medical supplies and it has allowed truckloads to enter Gaza from other organisations which also operate within their own restrictions or, in the PA’s case, collaboration with the occupation. However, accepting IDF aid would have been tantamount to giving a green light to Israeli snipers.

Endless attempts to strip Gaza of its dignity have been in vain. While impoverished, brought to the brink of becoming uninhabitable and treated grotesquely as objects of study to determine the heightened levels of implosion, Palestinians in the enclave are admirably consistent, to the point that Israel’s humanitarian propaganda has been exposed by a simple refusal to allow IDF aid trucks into the enclave. Without denying that the refusal comes at a cost in terms of medical necessities and survival, it is Israel that has forced Palestinians to choose between death and a slow death. They will undoubtedly choose dignity over anything else.

(Source / 17.05.2018)

Explained: The Nakba 70 years on

2018 marks the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, meaning ‘catastrophe’ in Arabic. So, what was the Nakba – and what is its significance today?

By Ben White

2018 marks the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, meaning ‘catastrophe’ in Arabic. So, what was the Nakba – and what is its significance today?

Nakba Day 1948 - Cartoon [Latuff/MiddleEastMonitor]

The Nakba refers to the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians that took place with the establishment of the State of Israel in May 1948. Some 85-90% of Palestinians within the territory of this new, self-proclaimed ‘Jewish state’ were forced out, and four out of five Palestinian towns and villages were destroyed. In cities like Jerusalem and Haifa, neighbourhoods were emptied of Palestinians, and resettled by Jewish Israelis. The displacement of Palestinians actually began months before May 1948 and continued long after. The expulsion of Palestinians from al-Majdal wasn’t completed until 1950; with its residents driven into Gaza, al-Majdal was renamed Ashkelon.

All this matches our understanding of ethnic cleansing.

First, fear and violence were used to empty towns and villages.

We know this from the testimonies of Palestinian refugees, as well as from the work of Palestinian and Israeli historians. Massacres played a key role fomenting terror amongst Palestinians, while in many towns and villages, Palestinians were expelled at gunpoint. In Lydda and Ramla, an estimated 50,000 Palestinians were forced to march to the West Bank. In other villages, columns of refugees were ‘hurried along’ with mortar fire.

Second, the expelled Palestinians were prevented from returning.

As early as June 1948, David Ben-Gurion – Israel’s first prime minister – told his cabinet that “no Arab refugee should be admitted back”. By 1956, several thousand Palestinians attempting to return home, gather crops, or search for loved ones, had been killed by Israeli forces. Meanwhile, the Israeli government passed legislation to expropriate the properties and lands of the expelled Palestinians, while denying them the citizenship they had been entitled to as inhabitants of the new state.

Third, is the matter of intent.

In 1900, the population of Palestine was around 4 percent Jewish and 96 percent Arab, and by 1947, Palestinian Arabs still constituted more than two-thirds of the population. There was thus only one way of establishing a Jewish state in Palestine; removing the land’s non-Jewish inhabitants. In 1948, a common operational order instructed Israeli forces “to conquer the villages, to cleanse them of inhabitants (women and children should [also] be expelled)” and “to burn the greatest possible number of houses”.  When Ben-Gurion was asked what to do with the inhabitants of Lydda and Ramla, his answer was short: “Expel them.” As Israeli historian Tom Segev has put it: “‘disappearing’ the Arabs lay at the heart of the Zionist dream and was also a necessary condition of its realization”.

Nakba journey - Palestinians fleeing during the Nakba in 1948

More than 1 million Palestinians were displaced in 1948
Relive the journey of Nakba refugees

But is the Nakba just ‘ancient history’? No – and here’s why. Israeli policies of displacement and colonisation have continued to this day – an ongoing Nakba. Moreover, Israel continues to deny Palestinian refugees their internationally-recognised right to return – purely because they are not Jewish. Consider the following illustration. Person A is a British Jew. Under Israeli law, Person A can emigrate to Israel tomorrow, and automatically receive Israeli citizenship. Person B is a British Palestinian, whose parents were expelled in 1948. Under Israeli law, Person B is denied the right to return to their homeland – and indeed, Person A may end up living in Person B’s family home.

Israel’s refusal to allow Palestinian refugees to return, in the name of protecting its Jewish majority of citizens, reveals an important truth: that the Nakba was both central to establishing a ‘Jewish state’ in the first place, and, is the foundation on which today’s system of discrimination and exclusion has been built. The Nakba is thus at the heart of today’s so-called conflict – and realising the rights of Palestinian refugees is at the heart of any just, sustainable solution.

(Source / 16.05.2018)

From Targeted Assassinations to Sniper Fire, How Israel Eliminates Palestinian Resistance

Its view is that, for Israel to survive, Palestine’s possibilities must be wiped out, whether the means used are targeted assassinations, sniper fire, or precision targeting of a civilian population

Mourners chant slogans while carry the coffin of Palestinian scientist Fadi al-Batsh, after his body crossed into the Gaza Strip from Egypt, during his funeral at Al Emari mosque in Jebaliya on Thursday, April 26, 2018. The body of the Hamas engineer who was gunned down in Malaysia last week was returned for burial. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

GAZA — Palestine’s Great Return March protests at the Gaza border, which commenced with the commemoration of Land Day on March 30 and are set to continue until the Nakba anniversary on May 15, have propelled Israel’s penchant for killing Palestinians to the fore. So far, 45 Palestinians have been killed by snipers and over 7,200 injured while demonstrating at the border for their right to return as enshrined in UN Resolution 194.

As the launch of the protests drew near, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that over 100 snipers would be placed at Gaza’s border. The rhetoric used was an attempt to distort the Return March, which is about rights, into a security concern for Israel, and thus legitimize, according to Israeli parameters, the killing of unarmed Palestinians.

Framed against the Great Return March protests at the Gaza border, Israel’s Minister of Transport, Road Safety and Intelligence, Israel Katz, warned that targeted killings of Hamas leaders would be renewed if attacks are launched against army commanders at the border.

No soldiers were harmed at the border. Rather than an empty threat, Katz’s statement reads as a veiled indication of premeditated aggression.

A day later, on Saturday April 21, 35-year-old Palestinian scientist and Hamas member Fadi Mohammed al-Batsh was gunned down by two assassins in the vicinity of his home while on his way to dawn prayers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Whether the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad was behind the targeted assassination was neither confirmed nor denied by Israel.

Last week, Haaretz reported that the assassins entered Malaysia by using fake Serbia and Montenegro passports. It is also speculated that both assassins absconded to Thailand.

In response to al-Batsh’s assassination, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman attempted to downplay Mossad’s role, stating:

There’s a tradition at this point among terrorist organizations of blaming Israel for every settling of accounts.”

Israeli media, however, promoted the narrative of the colonial state’s policy of targeted assassinations and indicated the possible involvement of Mossad, linking al-Batsh’s assassination to his scientific research by citing a co-authored paper titled “Challenges of Integrating Unmanned Aerial Vehicles in Civil Application”. Five days after the assassination, the Jerusalem Post ran an article titled “The Mossad’s Greatest Hits: From Eichmann to al-Batsh.” About al-Batsh, the article stated that the modus operandi “may fit into the Tunisia operation pattern of assassinations of weapons engineers who are threats to Israel and without leaving a trace.”

Mourners carry the coffin of Palestinian scientist Fadi al-Batsh, after his body crossed into the Gaza Strip from Egypt during his funeral April 26, 2018. (AP/Adel Hana)

Mourners carry the coffin of Palestinian scientist Fadi al-Batsh, after his body crossed into the Gaza Strip from Egypt during his funeral April 26, 2018

The reference to Tunisia concerned the assassination of aeronautical engineer Muhammad al-Zawari, who was killed in Sfax in December 2016 outside his home. According to Hamas, Al-Zawari was part of the resistance movement  and specialized in drone development. A report by Al Jazeera had also stated that al-Zawari had developed the drones used by Hamas in 2014 during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge.

In al-Zawari’s case, the identified suspects are of Bosnian nationality. During a press conference organized by Hamas in Beirut, the movement claimed the targeted assassination was the work of “Mossad agents carrying Bosnian passports.” Tunisia is reported to be in discussions with Bosnia to extradite the suspect, who was arrested in Croatia in March 2018. The suspect is currently detained under extradition custody in Croatia, and Bosnia is seeking to impede his extradition.

A recently published book by Ronen Bergman, titled Rise and Kill First: the secret history of Israel’s targeted assassinations,reveals that over 2,700 operations carried out by Israel since its inception have been classified as targeted assassinations.

An ambiguous ruling by Israel’s High Court

In December 2005, Israel’s High Court upheld the “right” of the state to resort to targeted assassinations, in response to a petition submitted in 2002 by the Public Committee against Torture in Israel and the Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment, which argued that the practice was illegal and violated international law. The petition was submitted within the context of the Second Intifada, when Israel embarked upon a series of targeted assassinations of Hamas leaders.

The concluding remarks of the court judgment ensured that Israel was allowed to speculate and given the freedom to determine whether or not a targeted assassination would be permissible:

It is decided that it cannot be determined in advance that every targeted killing is prohibited according to customary international law, just as it cannot be determined in advance that every targeted killing is permissible according to customary international law.”

Israel enjoys further impunity in this regard based on the fact that there is no standard definition of targeted assassinations in international law.

A history of targeted assassinations

Many targeted assassinations of Palestinian leaders have been attributed to Mossad. On July 8, 1972, Mossad assassinated Ghassan Kanafani, a Palestinian writer and political leader from the Popular Front of the Liberation of Palestine, by a car bomb in Beirut. His 17-year-old niece, Lamis, also died in the explosion.

Mossad is also said to be behind several assassinations of Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) members. In what was dubbed as “Operation Spring of Youth” in 1973 in Beirut, Mossad raided the flats of three PLO members — Muhammad Yousef al-Najjar, Kamal Adwan and Kamal Nasser — and gunned them down. Adwan’s head was severed from the body as a result of around 60 bullets fired into his neck.

On October 26, 1995, Islamic Jihad founder Fathi Shqaqi was killed by two assailants in front of the Diplomat Hotel in Sliema, Malta. Shqaqi was shot five times at point blank range.

In 1997, Mossad poisoned former Hamas leader Khaled Mesha’al in Jordan. A diplomatic intervention by King Hussein saved his life as Mossad turned over the antidote.

Since the Second Intifada, Israel’s targeted assassinations of Palestinian leaders have shifted towards Hamas. Salah Shehadeh, leader of Al-Qassam Brigades, was killed on July 23, 2002 in Gaza City, when the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) dropped a one-ton bomb onto his house. Fifteen people were killed in the attack.

Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was murdered upon exiting a mosque on March 22, 2004. Missiles were fired from an Apache helicopter, killing him and seven other bystanders.

Mossad is also said to have been behind the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, one of the founders of al-Qassam Brigades, on January 20, 2010, in Dubai. Tests on blood samples confirmed he was electrocuted.

On November 14, 2012, Ahmed Jabari, second in command of Hamas’s military wing, was killed by a drone strike on his car in Omar Mukhtar Street.

Uri Brodsky, believed to be a Mossad agent involved in the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, is escorted by police to a court of appeal session in Warsaw, Poland, Aug. 5, 2010. (AP/Czarek Sokolowski)

Uri Brodsky, believed to be a Mossad agent involved in the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, is to a court in Warsaw, Poland, Aug. 5, 2010

Changing history by scarring society

In an interview with the Times of Israel, Bergman states:

I want to say, that from the very beginning of the state, Israeli leaders thought that secret operations and assassinations far beyond enemy lines were a useful tool to change history, or to do something to reality, without resorting to all-out war.”

The statement is revelatory on several grounds. Apart from indicating Mossad’s worldwide operations, it also closes in on two main issues which are central to the current context of Israel’s resorting to targeted assassinations. The targeting of individuals who, if allowed to work in anti-colonial struggle, can embark upon building a resistance movement that goes beyond mere resilience, should dispel mainstream depiction of Israel’s aggression on Gaza as “war”. By Israel’s admission and actions, there is no war, but rather a premeditated action against a population by targeting individuals who can contribute to Palestinian security and, as a result, capacity to further their cause and their rights.

Second, changing history and reality, as stated by Bergman, can also be applied to the Gaza context. It is not only the fact that Israel is choosing strategy over diplomacy, as Bergman says within the context of his research. Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza are actively involved in resistance. However, the periodical Israeli assaults upon Gaza, and Hamas’ attempts to defend the enclave, have propelled the movement’s visibility when it comes to armed struggle. The movement also prioritizes education as a revolutionary goal. During Operation Protective Edge in 2014, Israel directly targeted higher educational facilities, prompting UNESCO to release a report documenting the damage done to infrastructure — 14 educational facilities were significantly damaged. In addition, 421 students were murdered during the operation, making up 27.4 percent of Gaza’s death toll.

Eliminating possibilities of Palestinian resistance

To eliminate Palestinian resistance, Israel has made it a point to target segments of Palestinian society, or individuals, that have potential to develop continuous anti-colonial struggle. It is a strategic decision for Israel to focus on the link between education and resistance — hence the high number of students murdered during Operation Protective Edge, the Palestinian youths murdered by snipers at the Great Return March, and the targeted assassination of Palestinian intellectuals and scientists who have the potential to lead a structured and continuous resistance.

Al-Batsh’s assassination can be seen as merely another strike against Hamas — the latest in a series of targeted killings that seek to weaken the movement’s capacity to develop its own potential for defense in its limited circumstances.

Yet it is the limited circumstances that should provoke further insight into al-Batsh’s assassination. Since 2014, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas has not ceased calling for Hamas to hand over complete control of Gaza, including relinquishing armed resistance. As this appeal was refused repeatedly by Hamas, Abbas retaliated through sanctions and withholding of financial assistance, piling further hardships upon the entire enclave that is still reeling from the damage and displacement as a result of Operation Protective Edge.

There is no option for Palestinians other than resistance to the collaborative efforts by Israel and the Palestinian Authority to push Gaza into an irreversible deterioration. Al-Batsh’s assassination is part of the former’s plan to reduce the possibilities of resistance for Palestinians. For Abbas, who has ridiculed resistance even when Palestinians were being massacred in 2014, the loss of al-Batsh might trigger other attempts at fostering political disunity among Palestinians. Apart from the political isolation enforced upon Gaza, it is the lack of opportunity to develop its military capabilities further that has derailed resistance. It is clear that Israel will not take any chances of permitting Hamas to alter the current implosion. Its view is that, for Israel to survive, Palestine’s possibilities must be wiped out, whether the means used are targeted assassinations, sniper fire, or precision targeting of a civilian population.

(Source / 08.05.2018)

Abbas’s speech was only the latest example of anti-Semitism by Israel’s supporters

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas seen at the 34th session of the UN Human Rights Council on February 27, 2017 [Mustafa Yalçın / Anadolu Agency]

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas seen at the 34th session of the UN Human Rights Council on February 27, 2017

By Asa Winstanley

Too many people within the Labour Party, and even some within Britain’s Palestine solidarity movement, either fundamentally misunderstand or refuse to see the true nature of the Palestinian Authority. The PA is not the “Palestinian government” and neither is it the leader of the Palestinian struggle. Indeed, the “authority” was established with precisely the opposite intention: to liquidate the Palestine Liberation Organisation as the leader of the struggle.

This scheme, hatched by the forces of US imperialism in alliance with the Israeli occupation regime, was largely successful, despite occasional tensions. The PA was thus established as a puppet regime to give a Palestinian fig leaf to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip; it is an unelected, unaccountable, wannabe dictatorship which answers to nobody except Israel and its sponsors in the US and EU. The Ramallah-led Palestinian security services and secret police do everything in their power to prop up this dictatorship and to shield Israeli soldiers and illegal settlers from Palestinian resistance, both armed and unarmed.

“President” Mahmoud Abbas last won an election 13 years ago and his mandate – such as it was – expired almost a decade ago. He essentially inherited the PA as a family business after Yasser Arafat passed away in 2004. Much like a mob boss, he has bitterly and brutally held onto his trappings of power, even at the cost of toppling previous close allies, most notably the notorious former torturer of Gaza, Mohammed Dahlan.

Despite much hollow noise by the US and Israel against Abbas, the fact that the PA is a tool of US imperialism in the region had been made clear time and time again. In September 2016, for example, the Obama administration even directly intervened in the US court system to prevent what could have been the financial collapse of the PA and its “security force” thugs. An Israeli-government-linked organisation sought $1 billion in damages against the PA, but the federal appeal court threw the case out after the President intervened.

The formation of the PA was the culmination of decades of failed Israeli schemes to impose puppet Palestinian regimes to control the indigenous population through divide and rule, a strategy common to every settler-colonial project, such as the “Bantustans” in Apartheid South Africa. Probably the most notorious of these efforts were the “Village Leagues” of the 1980s. When these attempt to invent a new collaborationist regime in the West Bank failed, attention was turned to instead co-opting the PLO. This strategy was ultimately successful from 1993 onwards.

Thus, empty noises made by the Israeli government against the PA are just that, because the regime in Tel Aviv knows that it ultimately needs Ramallah as a loyal instrument of its occupation of the West Bank. The latest raucous fury came this week when the Israeli government condemned the content of an Abbas speech.

Israel’s condemnation, though, was both hollow and hypocritical. Its incongruity aside, the strange and rambling speech did in fact include a hideously anti-Semitic statement. Abbas claimed, disgracefully, that the Nazi Holocaust was provoked by the “social function” of Europe’s Jews and their supposed domination of “usury and banking”. This is a classically anti-Semitic trope, and it was disavowed swiftly by leading Palestinian voices the world over.

Ben Jamal@BenJamalpsc

The Palestinian cause is rooted in antiracism. Any comments or actions that depart from that foundation, no matter who from, do that cause a disservice. https://twitter.com/PSCupdates/status/991737933727191040 

Ali Abunimah

@AliAbunimah

As @asadabukhalil notes, quisling PA “president” Mahmoud Abbas was always a Holocaust denier. But that didn’t matter to his Israeli masters and Zionist groups as long as they thought he was useful to sign away the rights of the Palestinian people. http://angryarab.blogspot.com/2018/04/mahmoud-abbas-anti-semite.html 

Dima Sarsour ديمة@YasminWaQahwa

The remarks made by are deplorable. We’ve been saying this for 20 yrs: Abbas and the PA do not represent the Palestinian community.

That being said. Everyone threw the puppet under the bus instantly despite doing everything to work against interest and will of

Diana Alghoul 🇵🇸@SuperKnafeh

One must remember that Abbas has a record of working against Palestinian interest – from facilitating the Israeli occupation, to financially blackmailing civilians and sustaining a dictatorship. It’s clear he doesn’t represent Palestine and his remarks don’t represent our cause.

The Palestinians have always had a national consensus that their struggle is emphatically not against Jews as people or Judaism as a religion, but against the political, settler-colonial ideology of Zionism. Although there is much of what he said and did to criticise legitimately, to his credit previous PLO leader Yasser Arafat always made this distinction clear.

Ironically, what was probably Abbas’s most clearly anti-Semitic statement to date came only a year after Hamas revoked its previous charter, a document written by a lone activist around the time of the movement’s foundation in the late 1980s, which contained some anti-Semitic passages. Instead, the movement now has a new, widely adopted document which affirms what its leaders had been saying for a decade or more; the “conflict is with the Zionist project not with the Jews because of their religion. Hamas does not wage a struggle against the Jews because they are Jewish but wages a struggle against the Zionists who occupy Palestine.”

Moreover, Israel’s condemnation of Abbas was entirely hypocritical, because he has a long pedigree of anti-Semitism which does not seem to have bothered the Israelis and their supporters before. He wrote a PhD thesis in Moscow decades ago, which reportedly included Holocaust denial.

The fact is that Israel has no problem working with anti-Semites, as long as they are pro-Israel anti-Semites. As the Lebanese-American Professor As’ad AbuKhalil has noted, Abbas has been a Holocaust denier since he was young, and he is part of a trend of Israel’s dictatorial allies in the region. One former Israeli military intelligence officer has even admitted that there was an actual policy of encouraging anti-Semitic conspiracy theories among their dictatorial allies such as the Shah of Iran so as to give the false impression that they were all-powerful.

Yossi Alpher reportedly said of his book Periphery that, “We knew that the issue of the [notorious anti-Semitic Tsarist forgery the] Protocols of the Elders of Zion plays a very important role for them. To a certain degree even, we played that card, so they’d think we have immense influence over the world, and could manipulate US policy in their favour in particular. The Moroccans, the Iranians, the Turks, Idi Amin – they were all sure that one word from us would change Washington’s position towards them.” (Emphasis added.)

This pattern continues today, with Israel’s open embrace of anti-Semites like former Trump advisor Steve Bannon and influential Christian Zionist pastor John Hagee.

All of this demonstrates the vacuity of Israel’s condemnation of Mahmoud Abbas’s vile speech. He too is an anti-Semite, but he is also pro-Israel, so we should ignore the self-righteous cant of Benjamin Netanyahu and his cronies. They need Abbas as much as he needs them.

(Source / 06.05.2018)

The new Palestinian and the hope of return

Great March of Return in the Gaza Strip on April 2018 [Motasem A Dalloul/Middle East Monitor]

Great March of Return in the Gaza Strip on April 2018

By Jamal Haj Ali

The first generation that witnessed the Nakba in 1948 shouldered the burden of return for many years. They took their house key and a few things in a hurry, thinking they wouldn’t be gone for long. They thought they’d be gone for a few days or weeks.

The courageous Arab forces were determined to destroy the occupier and crush it within hours. The valiant Arab forces believed they would be gone for a few days and then return triumphant and victorious after crushing the invaders and sending them away defeated.

The refugee tents were put up and a year later, they turned into buildings with tin roofs and assigned names. These camps spread in Palestine and the Levant. At that point, a drug was injected into the bodies of displaced Palestinians and they began to see the story for what it really is. They realised the conspiracy and began to take the reins and join the ranks of the Palestinian resistance, in all of its forms and names. The conspiracy went on and the nearest and dearest began to abandon support for the nation’s cause one day after the other.

The entire world has worked to tame and control the Palestinians. They aim to force the Palestinians to surrender with a false promise of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders on the outside. Yet the new Palestinians have found themselves to be accused of being devious and left alone helpless without any support or power.

Read: Thousands trapped in Gaza as Egypt closes the Rafah crossing again

The hypocritical world that sponsored the peace process is actually concerned with suppressing the Palestinians. These institutions have, time and time again, failed to implement their promises or achieve anything that serves this justice.

However, the March of Return in the Gaza Strip carries meanings and connotations that differ from all previous forms of Palestinian struggle and resistance. This is because for the first time in decades, the main title of the act of popular resistance is the return to the Palestinian land occupied in 1948 and the arena for this act are the direct borders of the territories occupied in 1948.

Those observing the history of the Palestinian cause believe that the most important effect of this popular movement is the revival of the Palestinian memory of the old and new generations of Palestinians. They also believe that such popular action points the finger of blame directly at the occupation and considers the occupation the direct cause for everything the Palestinians are suffering due to the occupation of their land and the resulting effects of the occupation.

The popular movement also tells all of the countries that sponsored the peace process that the deception and deceit they practiced over the past years has been exposed. The movement also says that the concession of the Palestinians’ historical rights was a mistake that must be reversed because the world does not give any importance to the Palestinian intentions, that at some point wanted to achieve an agreement and historical reconciliation. None of the countries of the world managed to stand in the face of the biased sponsor of the peace process and therefore all attempts to revive the dead peace process, whether the attempts were made by Europeans, Arabs, or others.

This peaceful movement has shown the image of the new Palestinian, who is committed to all of their rights, rooted in their land, and innovative in their forms of resistance that have not been used by the old or new world. Despite the simplicity of this resistance, it has disrupted the occupation’s calculations, and it is constantly looking for a way to end this popular movement before May 15th, the 70th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba.

(Source / 03.05.2018)

Ilan Pappe: Palestinians don’t need US for their statehood

It is clear the US never had Palestinian interests in mind and they can now move on, prominent Israeli historian says

Ilan Pappe says Israelis have a false sense of security as they ignore the plight of Palestinians [Ali Younes/Al Jazeera]

Ilan Pappe says Israelis have a false sense of security as they ignore the plight of Palestinians

Doha, Qatar – Prominent Israeli historian Ilan Pappe says US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has shown the Palestinians that Washington has no interest in helping them achieve statehood.

In an interview with Al Jazeera in Qatar’s capital, Doha, Pappe also said Trump’s positions should make Palestinians realise that American intervention is not required to achieve peace.

Pappe, who is Jewish and born in Israel, said his support for the Palestinians to regain their homeland is driven by moral principles and his care about the future of Jews in historical Palestine.

He noted that even before Trump, past US administrations – including the one led by Barack Obama – were engaged in “double talk” to deceive the Palestinians into thinking they could rely on Washington to help mediate the creation of their own state.

In reality, US governments only advanced and preserved the Zionist project in Palestine, including the expansion of settlements, he said.

Pappe, who has published 15 books on the Middle East, including The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, spoke on the sidelines of last weekend’s 12th Al Jazeera Forum.

Ilan Pappe, director of the European Center of Palestine Studies, University of Exeter

Al Jazeera: The Palestinian National Council has convened for the first time in years. How you see the Palestinian situation today, with their divisions, and a US administration that undermined the basic understanding of previous peace negotiations?

Ilan Pappe: I think the whole peace process until now was built on initiatives that had nothing to do with the Palestinians. Palestinians did not have any initiative. They need to take initiatives and to be the ones who bring forward a programme. They did it in 1968, but that was the last time. It is time for a new Palestinian initiative that would not only represent the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but the wider Palestinian community around the world. I hope they support one democratic state in all of Palestine.

Al Jazeera: As far as the US position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, what has changed since Trump came to power?

Pappe: The Trump administration has created a new transparency. Before Trump, there was double talk by other American administrations. The Americans usually say something and then do the opposite, which includes presidents [Bill] Clinton, [George W] Bush and Obama. His decision on Jerusalem – by moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – is a clear violation of international law. The question is how to deal with it given that we have a kind of childish American president with a lot of power.

Al Jazeera: What fuels the Trump administration’s strong push towards adopting all of the Israeli positions and narratives?

Pappe: The support for Israel in the United States comes more from the Christian Zionist community who are Trump’s base than from the Jewish community. The young Jewish American generation often disassociate themselves from Israel and question its behaviour.

Most of the Christian Zionists support Israel because of their Christianity, not because they love Israel. It is a unique version of Christianity.

People often misunderstand the motivations behind supporting Israel in the Republican and Democratic parties. In the Democratic Party, they are pro-Israeli because of the success of the Israeli lobby. In the Republican Party, it has a lot to do with Christian Zionism.

Al Jazeera: How then should both Palestinians and their supporters deal with the Jerusalem decision and the policies of this administration?

Pappe: This position at least releases the Palestinians from the belief that peace must only come through the American system, or a Pax-Americana. It allows you to develop different thinking about a possible solution. A solution that does not need necessarily an American intervention or one based on an Israeli-American interpretation of what is a solution. In addition, a different solution that listens to the Palestinian demands and aspirations is needed.

Al Jazeera: Arab regimes have long held the belief that 99 percent of the solution to the Middle East conflict must come through American intervention, which they depend on for their own protection and survival. Is this still a valid assumption?

Pappe: I think this is very difficult to see with Trump. On one hand, he talks about isolationist policies where he wants America not to interfere, but when he wants to interfere he does that with force. I think we should not be obsessed or wait for the American initiative. We should take the initiative on the ground itself.

In addition, I think there is a difference between governments and societies. Governments are afraid to say we can move on without an American green light. Societies, however, should send a message to their elites: “Yes, you can”. In addition, you don’t need an American red light or green light. What you need is to think about principles to the solution that are adopted to the 21st century, which put a focus on human rights and civil rights.

Al Jazeera: What should people think about when it comes to solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and what should be the parameters for both Jews and Palestinians?

Pappe: A new-old thinking about Palestine is needed. We should aim to create one democratic state and a decolonisation process of the Zionist ideology in Palestine, though this is not going to happen tomorrow. It would be deluding people by telling them it would happen tomorrow or that it is an easy road. No, it is a very difficult road giving the American support for Israel and the American ideology, coupled with the Arab world’s disunity and the disunity in the Palestinian camp.

This means it will be a very long period before we can achieve it. However, it is much better to go on the long road knowing that this is the end game than going on the short road – as we did in Oslo that looked very clear like the two-state solution but ended up with more occupation, more oppression and more suffering of the Palestinian people.

Al Jazeera: You talk about the decolonisation process in Palestine, meaning as you put it ending the project of Zionism in Palestine, which was a nationalist European conception. What then would happen to Israeli Jews, many of whom are ardent Zionists?

Pappe: The Jews in Palestine are six million people and they are a third generation of settlers. In other parts of the world, third-generation settlers, like in South Africa, are entitled to have their ethnic and political rights, only if they are not at the expense of the indigenous population.

In addition, I think that many Jews in Israel do not understand that they live a precarious life, even if they feel very secure. But in reality, they are not. I normally use this metaphor to describe the Jewish situation in Palestine, which is that even if you are staying at the best cabin on the Titanic, you are still on the Titanic. If the ship goes, you go. And they don’t realise it.

Look, I am an Israeli Jew who was born in Israel. I care about the people. My family is there. I am doing it because I mainly believe it is morally just, but I also think it is for their future.

Al Jazeera: The Oslo agreement in 1993 envisioned an independent Palestinian state in five years. Today there are about 800,000 settlers in the West Bank. Is the two-state solution still viable?

Pappe: I think until now we had the double talk of Americans, and whether America was willing to use its power to impose a more flexible position on Israel is questionable.

I think the moment they gave their total support through moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to occupied Jerusalem shows that the American government cannot play a constructive role, even though some people in the West Bank think the two-state solution would end the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.

I think they are wrong. I think they would wake up one day and understand that we need a different solution – not a two-state solution.

 

Can Palestinians stop dealing with Israel?

 (Source / 02.05.2018)

Violence against Palestinians becomes the norm

As the US eliminates references to Israel’s occupation

By Ramona Wadi    Ramona Wadi

The latest US annual report on human rights violations, released last Friday, carried an intentional omission. There is no longer any mention of the occupied Palestinian territories. In a move which normalises Israel’s colonial project and military occupation yet further, the relevant entry reads: “Israel, Golan Heights, West Bank and Gaza”.

A statement by the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, published in part by Wafa news agency, described the change thus: “The American administration is not only biased towards Israel, but fully embraces its illegal policies to a point they have become part of US ideology and policies.”

There is no doubt that US President Donald Trump has supported Israel overtly, exposing the policies of previous administrations which maintained a more calculated, covert approach. With the unilateral declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the forthcoming move of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to the Holy City, the US has set new precedents in normalising colonialism. In doing so, it has encouraged other countries supportive of Israel to follow suit, or declare such intentions.

Yet, there is an earlier precedent which was met with derision rather than preoccupation. When Trump failed to uphold the distinct and internationally accepted two-state paradigm, the media was more concerned with his lack of eloquence, rather than the significance behind the admission. At best, talk of a one-state solution was brought forward tentatively, albeit with little attention as to how the concept can be misinterpreted. Associating a one-state concept with equal rights for Palestinians prevailed. However, little was said about the pitfalls of implementation within the context of a colonial entity whose concept of a state is one that eliminates Palestinians and their legitimate rights in order to maintain a Jewish identity and majority.

Removing references to Israel’s military occupation of Palestine is undoubtedly damaging. There are, though, varying degrees of danger for Palestinians, including defining the military occupation without its settler-colonial context, one of the few instances where the Palestinian Authority is consistent. Both approaches reflect the normalisation of Israel’s colonial appropriation of Palestine. The complete omission as articulated by the US is just a step ahead of the PA and the international community in terms of isolating Palestinians in terms of politics and rights.

That the US has fully aligned itself with Israel is nothing new. On the other hand, the language used by the PA complements the fragmentation of Palestine which is promoted by Israel. The statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ramallah is complacent and seeks to dismiss the US intent by insisting that it “does not eliminate the concept of occupied territory according to international law and international legality, but it reveals to the world once again the reality of the US positions, especially for those who refuse to see them as they are.”

If by this the PA is alluding to the apparent dismissal of the two-state compromise by the US, it should be remembered that, in the absence of a unifying anti-colonial alternative which the PA refuses to consider, there is little to indicate that Palestinians will be able to define themselves politically at an international level. This is due entirely to coercion from the coloniser and the circle of collaborators within the PA who keep insisting upon the obsolete “peace process and “two-state solution”. Meanwhile, Israel’s state violence against the Palestinians becomes the norm, and the international community led by the US is complicit.

(Source / 27.04.2018)

Palestinians skeptical about Arab League support for Jerusalem

ARTICLE SUMMARY
The Saudi king declared the April 15 Arab League Summit held in the city of Dhahran in eastern Saudi Arabia to be the “Jerusalem Summit,” yet many Palestinians doubt this show of support will lead to lasting change.

When the Saudi leadership decided to move the annual Arab League Summit from the Saudi capital of Riyadh to the eastern Saudi city of Dhahran, it appeared that the April 15 summit would be called by the name of the city it was being held in, or at least another city within the kingdom. The last summit, held on the shores of the Dead Sea in Jordan in March 2017, was called the Amman Summit.

But midway through the public opening statements and as he was introducing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Saudi King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud announced a change. “This summit will be called the Jerusalem Summit,” the king told the 15 other heads of state and six other representatives of the Arab League.

He also announced a number of donations, including $150 million for the maintenance of the Islamic endowment in Jerusalem and $50 million to help cover the annual budget of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinian refugees after the United States cut its aid to the agency earlier this year.

The United States had suspended in January 2018 a $65 million portion of its aid to UNRWA in protest of the Palestinian government’s boycott of US officials following Donald Trump’s declaration on Jerusalem.

It is not clear exactly what made the Saudi monarch decide to raise the profile of Jerusalem. The king’s son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — who is also the kingdom’s defense minister — had just concluded a wide-ranging tour in the United States between March 19-22 that included a visit to the White House.

Throughout his tour, Mohammed made little mention of Jerusalem. In fact, in one interview with The Atlantic, he appeared to be moving closer than ever before to unilaterally recognizing the state of Israel in an exchange that drew a striking headline.

The Atlantic’s editor-in-chief, Jeffrey Goldberg, asked, “Do you believe the Jewish people have a right to a nation-state in at least part of their ancestral homeland?” Mohammed answered, “I believe that each people, anywhere, have a right to live in their peaceful nation. I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land.”

But The Atlantic’s April 2 version of the interview played up the statement by removing reference to Palestinians, with the subhead, “In a wide-ranging conversation, Prince Mohammed bin Salman also recognized the Jewish people’s right to ‘their own land.’”

Hussein al-Sheikh, who was a member of the Palestinian delegation to the Arab Summit, told Al-Monitor that the issue of Jerusalem is always a priority for Arabs; therefore, the change of the name is not out of the ordinary for the Saudi monarch.

Hanna Issa, secretary-general of the Islamic Christian Commission in support of Jerusalem and the holy sites, told Al-Monitor that the decision by the Saudi monarch came as a direct result of a Palestinian request. “President Mahmoud Abbas personally made the request from King Salman in order to make it clear to everyone that Arabs are united in their support for the Palestinian position on Jerusalem,” he said.

The Arab Summit’s final communique April 2 also echoed the same theme of support for the Palestinian position. “We affirm the illegality of the American decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, as we categorically refuse to recognize Jerusalem (Al-Quds) as the capital of Israel, where East Al-Quds will remain the capital State of Palestine. We warn against taking any action that would change the current legal and political status of Al-Quds,” the communique read.

Yet, a number of individuals and local leaders in Jerusalem were skeptical about the name change, the donation and the clear Arab position on Jerusalem in the final communique. Khaleel Assali, editor of the East Jerusalem-centric website Akhbar al-Balad, told Al-Monitor, “Jerusalem has become a word that everyone uses to show patriotism. We have heard so much of these words in the past and also millions have been committed in previous summits for Jerusalem, but we have not seen on the ground any changes as a result of these so-called donations.”

On the Akhbar al-Balad website, an unsigned report and undated editorial about the Saudi donation at the Arab Summit said Jerusalemites welcomed the generous gift but expressed skepticism as to whether it will differ from earlier pledges. The article stated, “We estimate that about $3 billion has been pledged to Jerusalem as a total of what has been publicly stated in previous summits, yet only tens of millions have actually reached Jerusalem — and even these amounts were not seen as having made any change in the city.”

The money earmarked for the Islamic endowment in Jerusalem was made by King Salman while introducing President Abbas. This left a mystery as to how exactly the money will reach Jerusalem. Jordan is the custodian of the holy places in Jerusalem, and the Jordanian Ministry of Waqf runs the Islamic endowment in Jerusalem.

A report on Al-Jazeera’s website April 18 asked whether the Saudis are planning to channel this aid via Jordan or if they have other plans. Akhbar al-Balad, in the aforementioned editorial, also asked whether or not the money will be channeled by way of the Jordanian Waqf. Meanwhile, Issa assured Al-Monitor that the money will be transferred to the Jordanian Waqf to be spent in Jerusalem.

The name change, the donation and the communique certainly were welcomed by Palestinians and their supporters, thus cutting off the potential of Washington trying to keep East Jerusalem away from any “ultimate deal” that the White House is trying to produce.

Many Palestinians hope that this strong Arab support for Jerusalem will close off any chance that the United States will try to take the holy city “off the table,” a reference to what Trump had boasted about. But having seen this charade before, few if any are confident that this Arab position will not erode and compromises on this essential Arab demand will not be made.

(Source / 21.04.2018)