The language of Palestinian freedom

Graffiti Bethlehem

Graffiti on the Separation Barrier near Bethlehem, West Bank

Ash Sarkar, of “I’m literally a communist” fame, recently set Palestine Twitter ablaze with an unusual pronouncement:

Ash Sarkar@AyoCaesar

Dr Kristin Ross suggested that words like “defend” and “protect” are better for mobilising political solidarity than “fight” or “resist”.

For this reason, I’m making a decision to try and speak of Palestinians’ right to protection and self-defence rather than resistance.

Reaction against this message was swift, but Sarkar, who in a single tweet appointed herself guardian of Palestine’s anti-colonial struggle, has yet to engage her Palestinian critics, many of whom patiently explained the importance of terms like “resistance.”  The lack of engagement isn’t surprising; any half-sentient pundit quickly learns that it’s okay to upset Palestinians if their antagonists are happy.

Some observers absolve Sarkar based on a recent piece for the Independent (London) in which she apparently makes a strong defense of Palestinians.  A close reading of that article, however, shows it to be subtly deferential to liberal orthodoxy.  The article uses crafty diction to elide Israeli colonization and instead conceptualize the state’s brutalization of civilians as an unfortunate example of disparate military power (an argument that tacitly normalizes Zionism).

Sarkar proclaims:  “the erasure of Palestinian voices in narrating their own history is itself in concurrence with the Israeli state’s strategy to delegitimize Palestinian struggle for self-determination in all its forms.”  This point might be more compelling had Sarkar not taken to Twitter the next day to dispose of words any cogent Palestinian would use if given the opportunity.

The decision to sanitize resistance into pleasant soundbites had clearly been made by the time she wrote the article.  Sarkar refers to Palestine-Israel as a “conflict” eight times (including the headline) and seems fond of “asymmetry,” which brings to mind a Foreign Policy shindig in a hotel ballroom with maroon carpet and plastic chandeliers; words like “colonization,” “ethnic cleansing,” “genocide,” “ethnocracy,” “imperialism,” “settler,” “apartheid,” and “Zionism” are absent.  I’d normally chalk up the lexical dullness to the editing practices of corporate media, but Sarkar’s tweet suggests that Independent editors probably had an easy time making the language conform to house style.

“The fundamental issue,” Sarkar proclaims in closing, “is about our right to stand in solidarity with oppressed peoples in highly asymmetric conflicts.”  Note that Palestinians are absent from this appeal. The fundamental issue isn’t the right of oppressed peoples to fight, resist, or do much of anything else; it is about the Westerner’s right to solidarity, an insidious logic given the article’s pretense of centering Palestinians.

And what’s this about “highly asymmetric conflicts”?  Which others does she have in mind? Police officers versus Black children?  The National Guard versus water protectors? Slaughterhouses versus herd animals?  Monsanto versus organic crops?

Sarkar’s lack of self-awareness is alarming, as when she argues, “[I]t would be fair to say that the military asymmetry of the Israel-Palestine conflict is matched in the media.  Language itself is a battlefield.” Word choice is important to public discourse says the person who just referred to settler colonization as “military asymmetry” in a major newspaper.

Sarkar’s unfortunate tweet gives us an opportunity to examine the uses of language in political and activist formations.  The vocabulary of Palestinian nationalism exists in Arabic and has been subject to debate for over a century. Much of that vocabulary isn’t easily translated, so by having the conversation in English we’re already displacing Palestine onto foreign terrain.

Nevertheless, it’s viable to maintain the spirit of the homeland and to support those seeking its renewal.  Leaving aside the dubious act of forfeiting language important to the very people under discussion, we have to examine who benefits from the forfeiture.  “Resistance” doesn’t simply denote obstinacy; it connotes political and economic self-realization. “Fighting” isn’t an irrational desire to inflict harm; it is a necessary survival mechanism.  The colony cannot maintain its endurance without antagonism. These points are elementary to decolonial theory; it is baffling that a self-proclaimed communist would so breezily dismiss them.

Sarkar and her mentor Dr. Kristin Ross—who came out of nowhere—want to explore what is permissible and persuasive to Western audiences, a useful concern.  But the Western audiences they invoke as universal are in fact media bosses, sitting politicians, think tank wonks, and other such functionaries. We cannot make decolonization palatable to the liberal wing of the ruling class—and even if doing so were possible, it would be undesirable.  The purpose of decolonization is to upend inhuman norms, including those of speech and elocution. Limiting our imagination to rhetorical customs in the metropole commits us to invisibility.

Communicating to people in the West is important—even better if they decide to listen.  I don’t want my argument to be read as a disavowal of conversation in either friendly or hostile environs.  I submit instead that it’s not the responsibility of dispossessed people to assure their oppressors’ comfort.  In the end, if arbiters of respectable opinion won’t accept Palestine’s national liberation movement as it actually exists, then it’s not because of language, but a fundamental difference of politics.  No amount of dissimulation will alter this reality.

Finally, relinquishing the venerable language of Palestinian struggle is a conciliation to Zionist discipline.  The colonized have only a few sources of power: native knowledge, cultural memory, filial bonds, historical legitimacy.  Perhaps their greatest power is a refusal to absolve the colonizer’s perpetual violence. Zionists are desperate for affirmation; the sharp tones of our dialect foreclose that possibility.

Saying “fuck Israel” may not be prudent and yet we should have learned by now that kowtowing to Zionist angst isn’t a prelude to approval, but a voluntary disappearance.

(Source / 21.08.2018)

Gaza without cancer medicine as Haley blames Arabs for Washington’s sins

Three-year-old Luay from Gaza has been transferred to the occupied West Bank for cancer treatment

Three-year-old Luay from Gaza has been transferred to the occupied West Bank for cancer treatment

By Ramzy Baroud

On Sunday, August 12, news from Gaza was distressing: The Ministry of Health announced that it would no longer be able to treat cancer patients in the Israel-besieged Strip.

“Colon and lung cancer, as well as lymphoma patients, cannot be provided with the necessary therapy now,” said Dr Mohammed Abu Silmiya, director of Abdulaziz Al-Rantisi Hospital for Children.

Israel is ultimately responsible for the Gaza siege which has extended for more than 11 years. With direct US backing, Israel has launched three major wars on Gaza in the name of fighting terrorism, destroying much of the tiny region’s infrastructure. A hermetic siege has punished ordinary Gazans, who are now lacking everything, including the most basic needs of clean water and electricity.

Now, even chemotherapy is no longer available.

But the war on the Palestinians has been a joint venture right from the start. The US has stood by Israel for many years and, as of late, orchestrated the demise of Gaza.

Washington has done everything in its power to isolate the impoverished Strip: It warned Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah Party against reconciliation with its Hamas rivals. It fueled and sustained the Israeli war and siege on Gaza. It backed Israelpolitically on every available platform to shield Tel Aviv from its war crimes in the Strip and throughout Occupied Palestinian Territories.

For many years, the US acted as if a peace broker. Although the American act failed to impress Palestinians, it perpetuated the illusion in the minds of US allies that US administrations are forces for good, standing at an equal distance between two parties in an even-handed ‘conflict’.

The arrival of Donald Trump’s to the White House has ended the charade.

Read: Israel approves new settlement units near Bethlehem

While the new administration brazenly defied international law by moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, it also took a series of measures to financially punish international bodies that extended recognition, political support or any sort of aid to Palestinians. In the course of a few months, the US took on the United Nations culture agency, UNESCO, pulled out of the UN Human Rights Council and has cut aid to the Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA.

The attack on UN organizations was led by the US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, who has played a central role in the new, anti-Palestinian discourse.

But she is not alone. In an article for CNN, Haley, along with US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, Jared Kushner, senior adviser to the President and Jason Greenblatt,  US representative for international negotiations, articulated an American point of view that read like textbook Israeli Zionist narrative.

They placed all the blame on Palestinians and spared Israel from any wrong-doing.

“Unfortunately,” they wrote, “Hamas’ malign activity is pushing Israel to engage in increasingly significant acts of self-defence. As in the case of past conflicts, Hamas starts a clash, loses the battle and its people suffer. That is the reality that needs to change.”

That was on July 23. A day later, Haley, using twisted language, chastised Arabs for failing Palestine and the Palestinians. In an 8-minute address to the UN, Haley spoke as if a pro-Palestinian activist, agonizing over the losses and suffering of the Palestinian people.

“Country after country claims solidarity with the Palestinian people … Talk is cheap. No group of countries is more generous with their words than the Palestinians’ Arab neighbours,” she said.

She lamented: “But all of the words spoken here in New York do not feed, clothe or educate a single Palestinian child. All they do is get the international community riled up.”

Welcome to ‘post-truth’ America.

Read: Trump: Israel PM ‘will soon be called Mohammed’

While the Arabs are expected – in fact, required – to stand in solidarity with their Palestinian brethren, the primary reason for the subjugation of the Palestinian people is the continued US support for Israel.

Since 1999, the US has supported Israel through 10-year long Memorandums of Understanding. According to these arrangements, support for Israel does not require Senate approval and, despite the massive aid, it still does not include missile defence funding.

The last US president to sign a decade-long commitment of funding to Israel, which is set to last between 2019-2028, was President Barack Obama, who provided Israel with more money than any other president in US history.

According to US Congressional Research Service, as of April 2018, “Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II.” This means that, to date, “the United States has provided Israel $134.7 billion in bilateral assistance and missile defence funding.”

Most of that military assistance has been used to fight Palestinians and Arab neighbours, to support the Israeli military Occupation of Palestine and to reinforce the Israeli blockade of Gaza. For Haley to rebuke Arabs for not doing enough to help Palestinians is simply disingenuous.

As harmful as US military support for Israel and the manipulation of the comparatively limited aid to Palestinians as it has been, US interference in Palestinian political affairs has been equally destructive.

The blatant American interference in Palestinian politics is juxtaposed with complete insubordination to the Israeli government, regardless of the fact that Tel Aviv has moved sharply to the right, and is increasingly shedding any claims to true democracy.

Considering that the US anti-Palestinian and pro-Israel stances have accentuated in recent months, one is hardly moved by Haley’s false sympathy with Gaza and the Palestinians.

Only weeks before she criticized the lack of Arab support, she lectured the international community on Israel’s benevolent approach to what she saw as Palestinian violence.

“No country in this chamber would act with more restraint than Israel has,” she said on May 15, shortly after many UN ambassadors stood up for a minute’s silence to mourn 60 Palestinians who were killed while peacefully protesting the siege at the fence separating Gaza from Israel.

Haley’s peculiar attacks on unsupportive Arab governments is designed to distract from the US’ own role that has emboldened Israel and held Palestinians prisoners to military Occupation and an inhumane siege for far too long.

(Source / 21.08.2018)

Seeking ‘humanity’ in the Gaza truce agreement

By Dr Essam Yousef

Once again, the dust of fruitless political thinking and the “demagoguery” that plagued the Palestinian cause from the very beginning have surfaced to deny Gaza the right to get a fresh start and revert to life, after it was transformed into a body suffering as a result of the suffocating siege imposed for more than 11 years.

Who would believe that a truce agreement between the factions of the resistance in Gaza and the Israeli occupation, regardless of its content, would lift the siege on Gaza or alleviate it, or be met with fierce opposition from certain political parties under the pretext of the so-called “Deal of the Century”, or any plans aimed at separating the Strip from the West Bank?

The “micro” vision, through which they approach the agreement, is overlooking a lot of details about the political and humanitarian scene related to it, in addition to the facts related to the nature of the “geopolitical” aspect and the political aspects of the agreement (under consideration) being based upon the illusion of a sense of sovereignty. However, the situation is reined by the reduction of the mentality of hegemony and the acquisition of the entire Palestinian political spectrum and struggle under different pretexts.

One of the most important overlooked or rather “excluded” aspects is the exceptional humanitarian situation in which Gazans are living and suffering because of the unjust siege that has been ongoing for 11 years. During this period of time Gazans have witnessed the suffering of their children and patients, who have no access to medication, as well as the ongoing frustration and despair among its unemployed  youth, poor, orphans and elderly, who are still holding on to the last strings of life.

When Israel starts looking like Azerbaijan, there’s a problem

Opponents of the agreement did not pay attention to the sick and hungry people in Gaza. They chose to get involved into the deep but ​​deaf political dialectics, and go on with the path of political conflict and so on, regardless of the Gazans’ deep wounds and their ongoing suffering. As a result, the residents of the Gaza Strip have developed convictions which proved to them that they are destined to pay the exorbitant price and are caught in the spiral of efforts to liquidate their cause powered by internal political calculations, and that their land, although small, is being one used as one of the hotbeds of conflicts between regional and international forces.

There is an internal political discourse that wants the Gazan to blame himself when wishing to live freely just like any other person, without siege or fear from the unknown.

Palestinians search the debris of their houses, which had been destroyed by Israeli airstrikes, for their belongings in Shujaiya, eastern neighborhood of Gaza City, Gaza on October 23, 2014

Gaza has the right to be baffled by the pattern of “heroic” discourse, which undoubtedly includes establishing racial differences among the components of the same population. These people  would suffer when they do not conform to the abnormal political behaviour that has formed an important link in the series of taking the Palestinian issue to the brink. These include goals such as “security coordination with the occupation“, “depriving the prisoners of their financial allocations“, “cutting the salaries of some of Gaza’s employees“, punishing the sector through reprisals and attempting to impose hegemony over the political decision to the point of “isolation”.

The Israelis do not abide by agreements, understandings or charters

Gaza has been struggling with the rest of its occupied territories, and making sacrifices during difficult years to stay within the struggle of one nation with one countrymen, in order to remain a dam immune to the attempts of the occupier to tear the Palestinian land and separate parts from each other, and prevent the establishment of the Israeli state as well as the denial of Palestinians’ rights to self-determination and the right of the return.

Gaza wanted to express its humanity only and to breathe a sigh of relief after a long siege that did not have mercy on any living or non-living creature. Isn’t it entitled to do so? Why would it not enjoy some aspects of normal life, such as the opening of the crossings, reconstructing what was destroyed during the hard years of the siege, rebuilding infrastructure, establishing desalination stations and electricity networks operating normally to light the homes of Gazans throughout the day without being cut?

The restoration of the normal life of Gaza, within the framework of the truce agreement, is a necessity and a top priority. This does not mean in any way ending its struggle against the occupation and ignoring it in order to build an independent state. Gaza – along with all the components of the Palestinian homeland whether geographical, political or social – is a difficult number in the equation of the Zionist occupation, and is the stumbling block which will always stand in the way of the implementation of its plans.

(Source / 19.05.2018)

One State: A view from Gaza

Great March of Return protest Karni

Great March of Return protest at the Karni crossing between Gaza and Israel, July 20, 2018

By Ahmed Abu Artema

There are those who believe that Israel’s recently-passed Nation-State Law represents a failure of the one-state option, as it formalizes the exclusively Jewish nature of the dominant state in Palestine and with it, the disenfranchisement of the non-Jewish population.

The new law could also be viewed, however, as betraying a fear on the part of the occupying power that the de facto imposition of one state on the ground holds within it the seeds of the dismantling of the colonial project from the inside. Seen in this way, all of the decisions, laws and actions taken by the occupying power to insist upon the specifically Jewish character of the state are but desperate attempts to go against history and legitimize an order that is both unfair and unsustainable.

There are many reasons why the One State idea may never be realized: the tremendous imbalance of power, the rising racism in Israeli society, that Palestinian society itself may not not yet be fully ripe for embracing such an inclusive idea. These challenges, however, should not lead us to underestimate the intrinsic power of the idea itself. History shows that a prophetic vision can begin with few followers and still be carried forward by the intrinsic power of its message.

There are many arguments for One State. First, it is the most realistic option, as it is takes into account both sides of the human equation: on the one hand, the fundamental right of all Palestinians to return to their homes in freedom from occupation, oppression and second-class citizenship, and on the other, the reality of the existence of millions of Jews that live in Palestine.

Concerns about the fate of the Israeli Jews in a liberated Palestine have until now been a major reason for the weakness of international support for our cause. This dilemma is solved by a One State solution that clearly calls, not for “throwing them into the sea” (an idea that is as unfair as it is unrealistic), but for the recognition of full rights and equality for all.

It is true that there are people who came to Palestine with the intention of expelling Palestinians from their homes and taking their place, but guilt can only be ascribed to individuals, not entire nations; and children cannot be held responsible for the crimes of their parents. There are generations of Israelis who know only this land as their home, and they are not responsible for the fact that they were born here.

If my primary goal as a Palestinian is to return to my land, it is of less concern to me who else stays or goes. The most important thing for me is to regain my rights and see the era of displacement and oppression brought to an end.

The idea of One State is aligned with the spirit of our time. The global consciousness has evolved away from the idea of nationalism toward one of citizenship. Millions of Arabs today are citizens in Europe and America who enjoy the same rights as all other citizens of those countries. Why can’t Jews live in Palestine in exactly the same way – on the basis of citizenship and not of Occupation?

There are many Palestinians who have emigrated to the West whose interests have become linked to their new homeland. They – and still less their children and grandchildren – would not necessarily return to a liberated Palestine, because their new countries have become an integral part of their lives. It is also possible for new generations of Israeli Jews, who are similarly connected to Palestine, to have a way to live in this land without remaining in the unacceptable position as occupiers.

There are some who reject the idea of coexistence with Israeli Jews in a shared land out of a subconscious fear that sharing the same society with people of other ethnicities and religions means we will all become alike. Yet Palestinians in the West already live together with many other groups, including Jews and even Zionists, in one state and under one law. In a single multi-ethnic Palestinian state each group will still be able to maintain its shared bonds of religion and culture without having to live in walled ghettoes like the people in Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem today.

We Palestinians can have our full rights in a single state. We may still have to struggle for them using the tools of peaceful civil struggle, as Palestinian Member of the Knesset Haneen Zoabi and activist Raed Salah do today, but it will be far less costly and bloody than the struggle we face today in West Bank, Gaza and the Diaspora.

The truth is that we already live in a single state, governed by Netanyahu in coordination with the Palestinian Authority (as former PLO chief Saeb Erekat has publicly admitted), and we are left imploring the Israeli government to open its checkpoints to let patients out for treatment and medical supplies in for our hospitals. The Gaza Strip is a prison inside this one state, whose people are struggling to break down their prison walls. 1948 (“Arab Israeli”) and West Bank Palestinians also live in ethnic enclaves within this single state as second-class citizens and non-citizens in the land of their birth.

Thus, the One-State thesis does not call for the establishment of a new reality, but for a struggle based on the existing reality: a struggle to bring down the walls, end ethnic discrimination, and build in their place a state that insures equality, dignity and freedom for all people. This is more realistic than seeking the end of Israel or even the creation of a separate Palestinian state – and also more just.

Implementing a One-State solution will not be easy, and the Occupation will fight hard against it, but since when has a ruling elite’s refusal of change been a reason to give up the struggle for fairness and basic human equality? The power of the One State idea is not its amenability to the Occupier, but its intrinsic nature as both the least costly and the morally superior solution. That should make it worth our while to reimagine our struggle in the light of this vision.

Our problem is with the racism and the occupation of Israel, not with the existence of Jewish people in Palestine. Our goal is to topple the project of Occupation while allowing anyone born in Palestine to remain here based on equal human rights as citizens of a single state.

The simplicity and justness of this vision should compel us to reformulate our struggle toward its attainment.

(Source / 18.08.2018)

Gaza is not a country, and so Israel is not protecting its borders

Palestinian workers remove the rubbles from el-katiba building that was damaged in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City, on August 15, 2018

By  Aida Winfred

A BBC report published July 20, 2018 accepts the framing of killing of Palestinian civilians as a “defense of a borders.”  But Gaza is not a country, and so Israel cannot be protecting its borders.  Rather, Gaza is an enclave, an imprisoned neighborhood where its borders are controlled by Israel.  Israel decides who moves in and out of Gaza, which includes everyone from students and the sick, to foreign diplomats, to NGO workers. Israel controls what goods move in and out of Gaza.  All infrastructure and utility projects for water, electricity and gas etc., even if internationally funded are reliant on Israeli approval.

Gaza is an enclave inhabited by Palestinians, most of whom are refugees.  Gaza does not have sovereignty, rather it is under occupation. As such, while Western media outlets like to portray this as a war, it is not. Under International law and conventions the occupying power first has a responsibility to those citizens under its control, which Israel has neglected completely.  Second, under international law those under occupation have a right to resist through whatever means available to them.

The controlling narrative of the two-state framework of the post-Oslo period engenders a purposefully confusing political context for Palestinians.  While the Agreement on Gaza Strip and Jericho Area 1994 explains that there will be disengagement from Palestinian territories, it simultaneously outlines all the ways in which Israel will maintain control, and as such sovereignty over these territories.

Outside actors pretend as if Palestine is a state, and thus they use phrases such as Hamas, they “run Gaza” (quoted from the aforementioned BBC article).  Hamas does not run Gaza. It receives its salaries from the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah who withhold these salaries for their own purposes and for which there have been recent protests in the West Bank of Palestine.  Hamas has little control over the Gaza economy; they use the Israeli currency, the Shekel, and have no control over their own international trade.  Prior to the second-intifada many laborers, and still today many workers rely on laborers for work and to supplement their incomes. And Hamas certainly does not have control over Gazan borders, because there are no state borders in any legal, physical or economic sense. These are not borders militarily either.

So when Israel says that is it defending its borders, this language legitimizes its actions in the eyes of Western media outlets and governments.  It legitimizes a kind of warfare that makes sense to the European, American and Israeli viewers. The framing of borders suggests this is a war, and therefore Israel can claim that it is attacking military targets in the Gaza strip.  Israel can claim that it is defending its borders. These borders belong to Israel; it manages their daily activity, both militarily and through its civilian administration office, COGAT. It is Israel’s occupation and management of Gaza that has led its Palestinian inhabitants to march in protest.

The BBC article contains plenty of language that maintains this mistaken framing: “Israel says it has only opened fire in self-defence, or on people trying to infiltrate its territory under the cover of the demonstrations.”

Israel cannot claim infiltration, because it occupies Gaza. Gazan citizens are under full control of the Israeli occupation and the Israeli administration of this occupation. It cannot claim self-defence. While Israel and Western media want to claim that Hamas controls the attacks from Gaza, Hamas is under occupation just like the rest of Palestinians who reside in Gaza.  Hamas members are not allowed to leave Gaza without Israeli permission and they do not have sovereign control over Gazan territory.

The end of the BBC article quotes Israeli Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, “If Hamas continues to fire rockets then Israel will respond in a much tougher way than they think.”

The BBC repeats a statement that could foretell the mass killing of a people who are denied the citizenship and rights of belonging to a state and yet are targeted and killed as if they did belong to a country at war with another.  Israeli language, which is accepted by media outlets maintains this limbo status, which allows it to continue its attack on Palestinians under the purposefully false pretense of defending borders. There are no borders in occupied territories.

(Source / 17.08.2018)

Gaza: Meet the Palestinian doctor who watched his son die

Doctor Dahoud al-Shobaki had spent his career saving lives, but nothing prepared him for the heartbreak of failing to save his own son

By Ghazal Othman

In the 22 years of Sari al-Shobaki’s life, his father rescued him from death seven times, but the eighth time, when he was shot by the Israeli occupied snipers, he failed.

The first time, Dr Dahoud al-Shobaki recalls, was when his son was born three months premature and turned blue from lack of oxygen in an incubator. Then there was also the time when he had a dangerously high fever at age four.

But the last five occurred in the span of two months this year.

“I wish that I had been able to save my son’s life like I am used to … but the eighth time, it was God’s decree,” Dahoud tells Middle East Eye.

As a retired doctor now turned public health consultant in the Gaza Strip, Dahoud, 56, knows the difficulties faced by wounded and sick patients in the besieged Palestinian enclave’s hospitals.

But despite the health scares he has faced over the years, nothing prepared Dahoud to witness first-hand the slow death of his son Sari, shot in the neck by Israeli soldiers in May, only to succumb to his wounds two months later.

Left to die

At only 22, Sari al-Shobaki dreamt of getting married and becoming a father. An enterprising young man, he worked hard to make his dream come true, working a series of odd jobs such as selling cold drinks and stockings or working at a photography studio.

The second-eldest of eight children, Sari used his earnings to help out his family in the Daraj neighbourhood of Gaza City and to try to build a future for himself.

At 10am on 14 May, the young man walked out of the house without telling his family where he was going. What exactly transpired then remains a mystery to his family until now.

Dahoud’s phone rang an hour after Sari left home.

On the other end of the line, someone told him that his beloved son had been killed by Israeli soldiers in Gaza’s buffer zone near Israel.

That fateful Monday ended up being the single bloodiest day of the Great March of Return. Since 30 March, thousands of Palestinians have protested against living conditions in Gaza and called for the right of return for those Palestinian refugees whose families were displaced during the establishment of Israel.

At least 58 died on 14 May after Israeli forces opened fire, with a further seven Palestinians later dying from injuries sustained that day. Many had come out to denounce the inauguration of the US embassy in Jerusalem, which happened on the same day.

Dahoud rushed to the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, which was overwhelmed that day with casualties from the protest. The medical authorities did not have anyone registered under Sari’s name, so Dahoud combed every department of the medical centre for hours.

Amid the chaos, he finally found his son lying in a corner of the reception area. On his chest lay a piece of paper marked “Unidentified”. He was in dire straits, but still breathing.

Father and doctor

Dahoud could barely control his emotions when he saw that no one was providing his son with medical care.

“Oh Sari, how many hours you have been bleeding alone? Is this what you deserve?” he remembers asking.

Dahoud immediately took matters into his own hands and saved his son’s life for a third time, transfusing 12 units of blood and infusing more than 100 saline solution units.

Sari stabilised, but the bullet that penetrated his neck had hit his spinal cord, rendering him quadriplegic and leaving him with respiratory and intestinal paralysis.

After 10 days at the al-Shifa hospital, all the doctors who examined Sari agreed that his condition was irreversible, especially given the limited medical care available in Gaza, where extensive power cuts and a shortage of medical supplies due to the 11-year Israeli siege have devastated its health sector.

Dahoud, like many desperate relatives in Gaza, tried hard to find care for his son outside the enclave, a difficult process given the small number of medical exit permits granted by Israel to Palestinian patients.

Finally, on 25 May, Dahoud and Sari were allowed to travel to East Jerusalem for treatment at the Saint Joseph hospital.

Hopeful recovery

Despite the diagnosis and the lack of proper medical care in Gaza, Dahoud did not lose hope.

Father and son began communicating through eye contact: Sari would blink to say “yes” and raise his eyebrows to signify “no”.

“I will be happy even with only your eyes with me, even without your body,” Dahoud recalls saying. “I do not ask for more.”

Soon, the two devised a more elaborate system of communication. Dahoud would recite the alphabet, and Sari would blink when he reached the desired letter, slowly spelling out his sentences.

Dahoud would warmly encourage his son through rehabilitation exercises. Some sessions were filmed and posted online, prompting waves of support on social media.

“One more time, love of my life, do you want to get out of here?” he would say, kissing Sari’s forehead as the young man would blink once for “yes”.

Between 5 June and 5 July, Sari made a slow but promising recovery in the East Jerusalem hospital, Dahoud says, as he kept up his involvement in his son’s treatment.

“I was checking on everything, even on his breath. I would massage him for three hours or more every day until I noticed that he was trying to move his neck,” Dahoud says.

“He regained his sense of smell, and was able to defecate and speak again,” Dahoud says. “He also moved the muscles of his stomach and thigh, and moved his knee when I pulled it.”

Dahoud could not believe the great improvements made by his son.

He remembers kissing Sari and telling him: “We will not go back to Gaza until you can stand on your feet.”

Sari had replied: “I want to stand up. I want to walk, dad.”

Sari’s last days

But just as his condition looked hopeful, Sari’s health took a drastic turn for the worse.

A tracheostomy operation to insert a tube into Sari’s neck to help him breathe did not go as planned, causing a tracheoesophagal fistula – an abnormal connection between his oesophagus and windpipe – and a drug-resistant bacterial infection.

The fistula made it impossible for Sari to eat. Dahoud watched helplessly as his son withered away, knowing that he was hungry and thirsty yet unable to satisfy these basic needs.

On 17 July, slightly more than two months after he was shot, Sari al-Shobaki died.

“When Sari passed away, he hadn’t seen a single tear from my eye,” Dahoud says. “When I was with him, I held myself together completely. And I was strong, very strong. And I’m really happy about this, that Sari never saw me cry.

“Sari’s spirits were as high as the sky, while my spirits were as low as the ground. I would leave him in the intensive care unit and go the waiting room to break down in tears,” Dahoud adds, his voice cracking.

According to the Gaza health ministry, Sari was the 142nd Palestinian to be killed by Israeli forces in Gaza since the beginning of the Great March of Return.

At least 25 more Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since, according to ministry figures.

“It makes me and the world proud that he didn’t get injured and die because of a brawl or a fight,” Dahoud says. “No, he got injured by the enemy.”

Despite the heartbreak and the grief, Dahoud vowed to move forward.

“I’m really happy that I was the one taking care of him and not anyone else,” he says. “I will return to my job as a doctor stronger than before.”

(Source / 15.08.2018)

‘Farmer Terrorism’ Is the New Slogan for Jewish Settlers

Farmer terrorism

Jewish settlers regularly set fire to Palestinian lands, destroying crops and olive trees

By Ramona Wadi

In less than three months, Jewish settlers have destroyed over 2,000 trees and grapevines in the occupied West Bank. Rights group B’Tselem has issued a detailed report on this destruction, including testimony from Palestinian farmers. Bales of hay and barley fields were also destroyed. The destruction wrought by Israel’s settler-colonists equates Palestinian agriculture to terrorism; slogans sprayed on Palestinian property following the destruction included “No to farmer terrorism”.

The personal testimonies show that Israel has once again refused to act in order to deter settler violence against Palestinians and their land. Ultimately, the aim is to displace Palestinians forcibly by terrorizing those seeking access to their own land. “This process has erected invisible walls throughout the West Bank, which Palestinians know crossing will expose them to violence and even danger to their lives,” says B’Tselem.

Israel is using complementary forms of violence: direct destruction by targeting crops and using the same destruction to levy a psychological threat against the colonized population. In the documented cases, the destruction was so severe that new plants have to be cultivated, thus having a negative impact on the sliver of economic independence that Palestinians can gain from agriculture.

There is an outcome of resilience mingled with imposed resignation; the farmers will still tend to their fields yet the threat of another round of settler violence fuelled by impunity is always imminent. No matter how well rights organizations document the violations, though, the Palestinians have no recourse other than awareness. This is partly because Israel has moved ahead in terms of normalizing colonial expansion.

Hassan ‘Issa discovered that 168 out of 250 grapevines in his fields had been destroyed by settlers. “What happened to my vines feels like a terrible injustice, and I feel incredibly frustrated and sad.” It is painful to read this. Compare the vagueness of ‘Issa’s statement — made in the knowledge that there are no rights for the colonized in apartheid Israel — with the threat left by the settlers: “No to farmer terrorism.”

The value of people and land is misplaced to set the accelerated pace for forced displacement and a re-enactment of the image of Palestine being barren, one of the false premises behind Palestine’s colonization by Israel. The only difference is that Israel now prefers sustained acts of violence that are documented and discussed almost routinely.

“Farmer terrorism” is, of course, a complete falsehood, yet it is on such premises that expansion has been facilitated. The more that Israel utilizes such absurd claims, the further it is removed from reprimand by the international community. This lends Israel ample time and space — and total immunity — to construct its variety of “terror” narratives to make such purported threats endemic to its settler-colonial presence. Why would anyone even seek to challenge the notion of “farmer terrorism”? At first glance, it is void of any logic; a second reading flaunts its depravity, embodied by state and settlers alike.

Palestinian resilience has always laid bare the Zionist myths. Having no other means to sustain itself, Israel is eager to create the conditions for myths to become a manifested reality, even if it means acknowledging Palestinian existence through accusations which serve to embellish its purported “security concerns”. Nothing, though, justifies the wanton destruction of crops by illegal Jewish settlers or anyone else.

(Source / 14.08.2018)

Allying Against Iran: Repercussions for Palestine

When the Iran deal – or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – was signed three years ago, Al-Shabaka analysts did not see significant changes in store for US-Palestinian relations, although they predicted that Palestinians’ situation would worsen when the US inevitably placated Israel and its lobby for, in Ali Abunimah’s words, “mildly defying” them. 1 Indeed, the following year, the US pledged to give Israel $38 billion in military assistance over a 10-year period – the largest military aid package ever given to Israel, or to any country, by the US.

Now, with the Trump administration having pulled out of the JCPOA and the US reinstituting sanctions against Iran, what does the U-turn mean for Palestinians? Diana Buttu, Osamah Khalil, and Mouin Rabbani examine how the closer relations among Israel, the US, and the Gulf states – with Iran as their common enemy – have informed US actions to the detriment of Palestinians, the repercussions of these developments on Hamas-Iran relations, and what Palestinians can do to challenge the forces against them.

Osamah Khalil

The benefits to Israel were in evidence before the US withdrew from the JCPOA, particularly with Trump’s decision on Jerusalem. The level of coordination and shared perspectives between the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government appears to be even closer than the cordial relationship between George W. Bush and Ariel Sharon. At the same time, Trump’s Jerusalem announcement fit into a broader historical pattern of the US attempting to impose a solution on the Palestinians and appeared to have the support of Saudi Arabia and the UAE. It also appears that Trump’s eventual peace plan will rely in part on Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and other Arab states pressuring Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian leadership to accept a proposal that will be far less than their minimal demands. Washington will again blame the Palestinians for failing to seize the moment and will demonize the Palestinian leadership, including calls for change. This has already begun and was demonstrated again with the interview given by Jared Kushner, the President’s son-in-law and advisor, to al-Quds.

In some respects, Abbas has already prepared for this with his convening of a Palestinian National Council (PNC) meeting in April. The PNC members were Fatah cronies selected by Abbas. Although the goal was to provide Abbas with the appearance of legitimacy at a time when his domestic and international support has waned, it had the opposite effect. Abbas further demonstrated how ineffectual and unimaginative he and the Palestinian leadership have become.

Palestine and the Palestinians remain the major impediment to open and friendly relations between Israel and the Arab Gulf states. Although the Gulf states publicly object to Israel’s continuing occupation and oppression of the Palestinians and unwillingness to reach an agreement that would lead to the creation of a Palestinian state, their protestations are increasingly less strident and support for Palestinian self-determination is not a priority. Instead, the Gulf states are focused on maintaining and extending their rule as well as curtailing Iran’s real or perceived influence.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) is susceptible to pressure from the Arab governments, Israel, and the United States because it is dependent on aid for its survival. Moreover, the PA’s authoritarian rule is in line with that of other Arab states. The PA’s repression of critics is not merely to satisfy Israel and the United States, although those are important factors, but to ensure the continued dominance of a discredited leadership whose rule is maintained by patronage, fear, and a perceived lack of alternatives. With Abbas in poor health, it is likely that his replacement will be an individual from the security services who has been approved by Israel and the United States. Indeed, there are reportsthat representatives of the Palestinian security services have held meetings with their Israeli and Arab counterparts to prepare for the announcement of the Trump plan. Thus, Palestinians can expect an even more repressive PA that seeks to curry favor with the Trump administration, Israel, and the Arab states.

One way to challenge the US and its allies in the region is to focus on divestment from fossil fuelsCLICK TO TWEET

As for Hamas, it is in a difficult position. Although it still holds power in Gaza, regionally it is weaker than ever before. Nor has it demonstrated an ability to break Israel’s siege on Gaza or improve the movement’s standing regionally or internationally. Relations between Hamas and Iran and Syria are strained. It has a tenuous marriage of convenience with Egypt. Its ties to Qatar have also weakened, although Turkey has provided some limited support. Meanwhile, the US and Israel continue to portray Hamas as an extension of Iran’s influence in the region. Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah have encouraged this portrayal.

Though Abbas has negotiated and signed multiple national unity agreements with Hamas, he has no intention of implementing them without the movement’s total surrender. Abbas and his advisors do not appear to care how many Palestinians in Gaza suffer as a result of their policies, as they have hoped for over a decade that if conditions in Gaza are intolerable the population will eventually overthrow Hamas. Meanwhile, Abbas and the PA security services conveniently label any critic of their repressive rule as Hamas supporters. They have even extended this to protests in support of Palestinians in Gaza, as occurred recently in Ramallah. The PA’s security services and Fatah thugs dispersed a June protest with violence, intimidation, and sexual harassment. With the US’s withdrawal from the JCPOA, the above trends can be expected to continue.

As in Yemen and Gaza, Washington and its allies view Syria as another arena to curtail Iranian influence, real or perceived. Bashar al-Assad’s regime currently has the advantage against the opposition, whose control over territory is shrinking and support from outside powers has decreased. Regime and allied forces have recaptured most of the territory held by the opposition in southern Syria and may focus their efforts on Idlib next. At the same time, there is a concerted effort by the United States, Israel, Turkey, and the Arab Gulf states to ensure that Syria remains divided and unstable. As demonstrated by the destruction of the Yarmouk refugee camp, Syrian Palestinians will reflect the country’s political and geographic fragmentation.

As part of a broader Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) effort, there are opportunities to challenge the policies of the US and its allies in the region. One way is to focus on divestment from fossil fuels by major pensions funds and employers. Although Saudi Arabia and the UAE are attempting to diversify their economies, they are still heavily reliant on revenues from oil. Indeed, there is already a concerted effort by leading universities, cities, states, and major employers in the United States and internationally 2 to divest from these holdings. Studies indicate that divestment from fossil fuels coupled with investment in renewable energy can have a positive impact on portfolio performance. Activists and civil society organizations can therefore make a financial and moral argument in favor of divestment.

Similarly, the United States benefits through the recycling of petrodollars, particularly through arms sales to the Persian Gulf autocracies. A divestment effort focused on major military contractors, in particular those whose weapons have been used across the region, can demonstrate the implications of the policies and actions of the US and its allies in the region as well as the complicity of investors in gross human rights abuses. This is particularly important as many pension funds and major investors have corporate and investment responsibility guidelines and policies.

These actions would dovetail with existing BDS efforts focused on divestment from companies benefiting from the Israeli occupation. This can be expanded by emphasizing the shared interests and policies of the Trump administration, Netanyahu’s government, and the Gulf autocracies.

Diana Buttu

It is important to highlight how Israel benefited both from the JCPOA and from the US withdrawal from it. It is also important to underscore that Israel continues to evade de-nuclearization by continuing with its clandestine nuclear program. By some estimates, Israel has between 80 to 400 nuclear warheads, yet Israel has never submitted to inspections or even declared that it has nuclear weapons despite the real threat that it poses to Palestinians and neighboring countries. It is this double standard – one standard for Israel and other for Iran – and the benefits that Israel has reaped despite refusing to submit to inspections that should be highlighted.

Meanwhile, Israel’s strategy toward Iran is the same strategy it has adopted toward Palestinians: Make a ruckus and demand harsh sanctions with concomitant aid or weapons, and after receiving the compensation, push for the cancellation of any agreement and for even more aid and even more weapons. With the US withdrawing from the JCPOA, Israel will continue to demand even more US aid and weaponry while simultaneously attempting to link Hamas with Iran with the aim of ensuring that it has carte blanche to maintain the siege on Gaza and demand additional sanctions against Palestinians in exchange for not attacking Iran. The current US regime will undoubtedly oblige, given Trump’s close relationship with Sheldon Adelson, who has not only bankrolled Israel’s Birthright program, an Israeli university in an illegal settlement, and the right-wing newspaper Israel Hayom, but has donated to Trump’s campaign and had expressed frustration that Trump had not moved the embassy sooner. This will mean that while Israel continues to build and expand settlements in the West Bank, it will push to impose an even harsher blockade on Gaza under the guise of fighting Iran.

Israel benefited both from the Iran deal and from the US withdrawal from itCLICK TO TWEET

Assistance from Arab neighbors cannot be counted on. For decades, the Arab world’s support for Palestine has never been unconditional, and for several years countries like the UAE and Saudi Arabia have simply paid lip service that they support Palestinian freedom. These countries, like others around the world, are driven by their own narrow interests and not by larger regional interests. This means that, when fearing Iran’s nuclear program, they willingly side with Israel, fulfilling the adage that “my enemy’s enemy is my friend.” Their views, however, are shortsighted: Though Jordan has cozier relations with Israel than with other countries in the Arab world, this has not prevented Israel from killing Jordanian citizens with impunity or stealing Jordanian resources. It will simply be a matter of time before Israel once again turns against these nations.

The cozier relationship between Israel and the Gulf states may also translate into increased pressure on Palestinians to accept any proposed American “deal.” In the past, Palestinians were believed to be the key to normalizing relations between Israel and the Arab world. Now, however, the Trump administration is viewing things through a different lens: Palestinians will be delivered through the Arab world. Using this logic, the Trump administration will continue to exert pressure on Iran to appease Israel and the Gulf states, with the quid pro quo that these same Gulf states will exert pressure on Palestinians. Again, this is shortsighted: Palestinians will not support any leader who makes these major capitulations to their rights, and it will only be a matter of time before the tide turns against such leaders, too.

Mouin Rabbani

The US withdrawal from the JCPOA has been an Israeli strategic objective from the moment the agreement was signed, and thus represents a major Israeli achievement and one that will further embolden Israel regionally and strengthen its sense of impunity in its dealings with the Palestinians. It is also relevant to note that this US decision was accompanied by a number of others, such as the US recognition of Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem, the relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the US assault on UNRWA, and the US withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council, that were conceived and implemented as US measures to further strengthen Israel in its relationship with the Palestinians. In other words, we are dealing with a US administration that is not only fully aligned with Israel like its predecessors, but is increasingly aligned with the most extreme forces in Israel when it comes to the Palestinians and the Question of Palestine more broadly.

On this basis, the question is not so much how the US renunciation of its international legal obligations pursuant to the JCPOA will affect the Palestinians, but rather how this decision reflects a broader US initiative to align even more closely with Israeli policy. And what we have seen is a change in US policy, from becoming a tireless advocate and uncritical defender of Israel policy to what might better be characterized as an implementer of Israeli policy, including vis-à-vis the Palestinians. If Palestinian civil society wants to make a meaningful contribution to opposing these developments it should focus primarily on the rejuvenation of the Palestinian national movement.

It also seems fairly clear that the US is determined to pursue increasingly confrontational policies toward Iran, both in the region and with the objective of regime change in Tehran. And in this context the constant denunciation of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Palestinians more generally as Iranian proxies, much like the PLO was habitually written off as a Soviet proxy during the Cold War, suggests that the US considers Israel’s war against the Palestinians as contributing to its own campaign against Tehran. We have seen this with the tirades in the UN Security Council by US Permanent Representative Nikki Haley, and in Jared Kushner’s obscene censure of murdered Palestinian demonstrators in Gaza as “part of the problem.” Hence we should expect even greater Israeli impunity in its dealings with the Palestinians.

The reality of Iran-Hamas relations is that they took a substantial turn for the worse after the Hamas leadership broke with the Assad regime and relocated to Qatar in 2012, and Iran began to focus primarily on assisting Islamic Jihad. Relations began to improve again with the installation of the current Hamas leadership, particularly Yahya Sinwar. Sinwar’s approach has been that Hamas cannot afford to limit its regional relationships to Qatar and Turkey, and has thus sought to diversify them by reaching out not only to Iran but also Egypt and others. The new Hamas leadership also felt it was important to repair relations with Tehran because Iran, along with Hizbullah, are its main sources of military support (a form of support it did not receive from Qatar or Turkey, at a time when the Abdel Fattah El-Sisi regime in Egypt has severely constrained its ability to smuggle weapons into the Gaza Strip via the Sinai Peninsula).

Iran recognized that while it may have more affinity with Islamic Jihad, Hamas is much larger and more influentialCLICK TO TWEET

For its part Iran recognized that while there may be more affinity between Iran and Islamic Jihad, Hamas is a much larger and more influential organization. So the relationship had already been improving for reasons that have little to do with the US renunciation of the JCPOA. But with both Iran and the Palestinians now under siege by the Trump administration, and the prospect of a new conflict substantially greater, this will have helped strengthen the relationship further.

In regard to Arab regimes, there is no doubt that they would like to be rid of the Palestinian question in order to remove remaining obstacles to their alliance with Israel, based on a shared understanding that Israel is an ally and not an enemy, whilst Iran is an existential threat rather than a neighbor. But, particularly in Saudi Arabia, which has the most substantial population of the Gulf states, this is easier said than done. Even under the current circumstances of regional upheaval and polarization, Palestine remains a central concern for public opinion, and can thus affect the legitimacy of the regimes in question, particularly when they are already confronting intra-elite dissent as in Saudi Arabia. That said, it’s undeniable that these relations have improved very substantially in recent years, and that this has cost the Palestinians dearly. But it’s too easy to simply denounce Gulf autocrats for collaborating with Israel –  true as that assertion may be. The absence of a unified Palestinian leadership able and willing to exercise influence in the Arab arena is a key part of this equation.

The Syria conflict produced an interesting realignment within the Palestinian political system. Hamas, which despite its affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood had enjoyed a close relationship with the Assad regime, ruptured with Damascus while Fatah, which has been either at odds or in open conflict with Damascus for decades, improved its relations substantially.

More generally the Syria conflict and the attendant regional polarization has been politically catastrophic for the Palestinians. It should hardly come as a revelation that for virtually all of the regional and international parties involved in the Syria conflict in its various dimensions Palestine has become an at best secondary concern in recent years. Arguably, Syria was the arena in which the promise of a renewed and more energetic Arab approach toward the Palestinian cause, widely anticipated after the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings, died a premature death.

The Syria conflict has also been not only a political but also a human and humanitarian catastrophe for the Palestinian community in that country. Entire Palestinian camps and neighborhoods have been reduced to rubble, and in many cases stateless Palestinians resident in Syria have encountered greater difficulty escaping the conflict than Syrian citizens. Syria is arguably the only country that since 1948 consistently afforded Palestinian refugees on its soil the same rights and privileges extended to its own citizens. Its destruction is beyond tragic, not only for the Syrian people, but also for the Palestinians.

(Source / 14.08.2018)

Talking through our fears: Resisting the Palestinian complacency of silence

Israeli forces intervene in a protest against construction of Israeli settlement and separation wall at Kafr Qaddum village in Nablus, West Bank on 28 July, 2018 [Nedal Eshtayah/Anadolu Agency]

Israeli forces attack Palestinians during a protest against the construction of Israeli settlement in Nablus, West Bank on 28 July, 2018

By Samah Jabr

On a few occasions, my mother has awakened me anxiously to let me know who is the latest to be arrested for a Facebook statement, and to warn me from posting my views on my page. And when I tell her goodbye before my trips abroad, she responds with a warning: “Don’t get involved in politics and don’t say anything about Israel!” I always reply with an effort at humour, “My talk is about Palestinian mental health. Israel has nothing to do with mental health – it has to do with mental illness.” But my mother doesn’t relax or laugh at my attempts at reassurance. I leave quickly before I am affected by her contagious fears.

My mother is not the only one to hand over to the occupation a free service of self-censorship. There are common expressions encouraging silence in Palestine: “The walls have ears” and “Walk quietly along the wall and ask God to cover you.” Yet even worse is the clergy who maintain that “silence is a sign of acceptance” when confronted with a silent bride in a marriage ceremony.  One does not need to be a psychiatrist to see that silence is more often a sign of intimidation and fear.

The Palestinian reality has silenced a few Palestinians forever, such as the writer Ghassan Kanafani and the cartoonist Naji Al-Ali who were killed on account of their opinions. Several others have been arrested for expressing their thoughts freely. The poet Dareen Tatour was convicted for her poem, “Resist, my people, resist them”, that was judged by the Israelis as an “incitement to violence”.

Israel’s online incitement of violence against the Palestinians

Yet all the while, the posts of the Israeli rapper “The Shadow” are not considered an “incitement to violence,” although one of his posts displays him holding an image of testicles accompanied by the words: “Revenge, Bibi [the nickname of Israeli Prime Minister], I think you forgot these!” In another post, the rapper calls on the Israeli army’s medical team to cut out the organs of Palestinians whom they have killed in order to donate them to the Israeli National Transplant Centre. Israel is equally tolerant of the “free speech” of the authors of “The King’s Torah”, who explain that the injunction “Thou Shall Not Kill” applies only to “a Jew who kills a Jew.” “The King’s Torah” then states that non-Jews are “uncompassionate by nature” and attacks upon them are justified because they “curb their evil inclinations”. Similarly, the babies and children of Israel’s enemies may be killed without compunction, since “it is clear that they will grow [up] to harm Jews.”

Israelis get away with saying such things, even gaining popularity and status because of these statements. We remember in this context how Alelet Shaked as a member of the Knesset described women in Gaza as “snakes” and incited killing them during the attack of 2014. Today she is the Israeli Minister of Justice!

Recently, Lama Khater, a Palestinian journalist critical of Israel, was sent to prison in Israel – joining 22 other journalists who are likewise imprisoned. And frequently, people in Palestine are dismissed from their jobs or lose other opportunities for daring to voice political views that do not properly conform to acceptable opinions. Outside of Palestine, students whose activism focuses on Palestine are threatened in their studies and in their opportunities for employment. Even retired persons internationally who are friends of Palestine worry about the right to travel to Palestine and receive threats, such as the Jewish Brigade’s menace to scalp French activists in the Association France Palestine Solidarite.

Paradoxically, while some are harmed for speaking up, others are harmed for choosing not to speak. Among my psychiatric patients in Palestine, I have seen a woman suffering from aphonia – the loss of her voice – because intelligence forces working for the Israelis blackmailed her about her socially prohibited phone calls to her lover. A young Palestinian activist with a secret homosexual relationship was threatened with being “outed from the closet”, and intentionally inflicted with hemorrhoids and sexually transmitted diseases if he refused to collaborate with the Israelis. There were those who were injured but left to die in Gaza because they refused to inform on activists in exchange for permission to gain access to medical services outside of Gaza.

Working through silence is a daily activity in my work.  I see many people with shortness of breath and chest pain – symptoms caused because they feel they are drowning in society. There are many people with sexual dysfunctions brought about because they cannot communicate openly about their relationship. There are victims of torture who are silent about their experience because they believe that reporting is hopeless or because they fear further revenge. There are depressed individuals who remain quiet about their suicidal thoughts because they anticipate rejection or fear being locked up in a hospital. I know the cost of silence, found in the pathology, acting out aggression or becoming dysfunctional.

Outside my clinic, I am always confronted with questions of safety regarding my public speaking: “Don’t you worry about going to prison, or fear that other harms will come to you because you’re speaking up and writing?” Those with less good intentions might say, “But isn’t the very fact that you are here and able to speak itself evidence that Israel is a real democracy?”

I talk – not only in order to be a coherent person, both inside and outside my professional role – but because I cannot do otherwise. I cannot pretend I do not know; I cannot deny my feelings about the political reality; I cannot turn my face the other way. I speak to protest against violence and to attempt to engage in a genuine critical dialogue with the other. This is the best that I can do in the face of an oppressive reality. Expressing my thoughts is the heartbeat of my humanity. This is the most basic right, without which no other human rights can be established.

In my work, I have seen hypochondriacal patients who act as if they are sick, out of their fear of being sick. In my daily life, I encounter people who live like the poor, out of their fear of poverty. I have seen people who are not able to communicate in their relationships, out of their fear of abandonment. I do not want to waste my opportunities as these people have done and live imprisoned in my own mind, out of fear of being thrown into a concrete prison. I do not deny that I have this fear, but I am trying to talk through it and in spite of it.

When Israel attacked Gaza in 2014, I initiated a petition calling professionals to stand in solidarity with Palestinians. I then discovered that the attack on Gaza left some collateral damage in my heart – once I saw that some close colleagues were unwilling to sign the petition and indeed pressured me to withdraw it. While I respect and empathise with the factors which may constrict the choices of many of the people around me,

I want people to stop working as unconscious, unpaid agents for Israeli authorities through their self-censorship and their pressure on others to be quiet.

I am not by nature an impulsive, risk-taking individual. In speaking out, I calculate the necessary risks and balance these risks against the benefits of achieving wider margins for freedom of expression. I sometimes consult with Israeli lawyers to ensure that my actions are not in breach of the unjust laws governing the occupation. During the First Intifada, it was illegal to hold the Palestinian flag; nowadays, it is illegal to associate with BDS. Although these two actions are just and moral, I never held a Palestinian flag and I have not joined BDS. My aim is to create alternative forms of expression that are not in breach of unjust laws – and are probably therefore more effective strategies for me.

I have always calibrated the scope of my articulated opinions with the dimensions of my professional identity and financial autonomy. Moreover, I am careful in my risk-taking that I do not implicate others. I continue to avoid deriving my personal income from Israeli institutions and remain a public employee in the Palestinian system. Clearly, being an employee, especially a public employee, is often antagonistic with free expression and over time can pollute one’s conscience and capacity to think freely. But until I am no longer employed as a public employee, I will try to maintain diversified sources of income through freelance consultations and work with more than one institution at the same time; in this way, I hope to avoid being wholly dependent upon a single employer, who can dictate my speech.

To further protect myself, I base my writings and talks on well-established facts. I share my opinions based on such facts, referring not only to Palestinian experience, but also to international human rights and universal values that are presumed to govern both Israelis and Palestinians alike. I write in foreign languages in order to recruit more witnesses to my experience. I trust that many people in solidarity will speak up on my behalf, should something bad befall me.

I am mindful as well that I have been protected by the activities of more courageous Palestinians than I, who have kept the Israelis busy with more weighty struggles than I can undertake. I count on the premise that Israeli “intelligence” that will make the judgment call that “stopping” me would be counterproductive, as it would bring more attention to the very voice that they hope to silence.

And perhaps I am simply naïve; perhaps my risk assessment is nothing more than my sophisticated denial of political threat. If that be the case, then let this article be my manifesto- a refusal to surrender the right to speak and to fall into the collective complacency of silence.

(Source / 11.08.2018)

Israel’s siege of Gaza is anything but legal

By Motasem A. Dalloul

Israeli occupation army and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tell lies about their 12-year-old siege imposed on Gaza. They claim the siege keeps up with international law to justify their attack on freedom boats.

On Sunday 29 July, Israeli commandos boarded a boat taking part in a Freedom Flotilla which was taking humanitarian aid to the besieged Gaza Strip. The boat — Al-Awda (The Return) — was captured by Israel while sailing in international waters. If anyone else had conducted the raid, it would have been condemned as an act of piracy on the high seas. Instead, Israel stopped the much-needed aid going to the 2 million Palestinians in what has been described as an open-air prison.

Twenty humanitarian activists from around the world were on board Al-Awda. They have since reported that they were humiliated and beaten by the Israelis who captured them. Yonatan Shapira, a former Israeli Air Force officer who was on board the boat, said that the commandos beat them up, tasered several people and stole most of the passengers’ and crew’s property.

Commenting on the attack, the Israeli military tweeted: “The boat was tracked and stopped in accordance with international law.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the commandos for “their determined and efficient action in detaining the passengers on the [Al-Awda] ship that tried to reach the Gaza coast in contravention of the law.”

Last Saturday, 4 August, at dawn, Israeli commandos raided and seized another boat in the Freedom Flotilla, which was also on its way to deliver medical aid to the coastal enclave, which has been under a tight Israeli-led blockade for 12 years. The siege has resulted in severe shortages of medicines, medical equipment and medical disposals that all hospitals and patients, including those in besieged Gaza, depend on.

Yet again, the Israelis claimed that the ship “was monitored and intercepted in accordance with international law.” They added that the ship’s passengers were told that they “violated the legal naval blockade” imposed on Gaza.

The Israeli occupation authorities and officials, including Netanyahu, keep describing the siege as legal and claim that it is imposed within international law. Such claims are based on the lie that the Israeli Navy is stopping weapons from getting to the Palestinian resistance groups. Their resistance to Israel’s military occupation, by the way, is entirely legitimate according to international laws and conventions.

The reality on the ground is that Israel is blockading 2 million Palestinians in Gaza and tightening restrictions in order that they might take to the streets and overthrow Hamas. This is what the Western-backed Palestinian Authority did in the occupied West Bank, with the help of the Israeli occupation forces, in 2007, shortly after the Islamic Resistance Movement won the “free and fair” democratic elections across the occupied Palestinian territories.

International organisations were prompted to investigate the legality of the Israeli siege by a 2010 attack by commandos on another Freedom Flotilla. Nine Turkish nationals were killed by the Israeli troops as they sailed to Gaza in an attempt to break the siege and deliver vital humanitarian aid; a tenth died later of his injuries. Yet again, the Israeli attack took place in international waters; yet again, it had all the hallmarks of an act of piracy on the high seas.

Throughout the 12 years of the Israeli siege on Gaza, many UN officials and human rights groups have described what the Israeli occupation is doing in and to Gaza as illegal and a flagrant violation of international law. In 2010, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said that the blockade of Gaza violates the Geneva Conventions and called for it to be ended. “The whole of Gaza’s civilian population is being punished for acts for which they bear no responsibility,” said the ICRC in a five-page statement. “The closure therefore constitutes a collective punishment imposed in clear violation of Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law.”

The Head of ICRC Operations for the Middle East, Beatrice Megevand-Roggo, commented, “We are urging Israel to put an end to this closure and call upon all those who have an influence on the situation, including Hamas, to do their utmost to help Gaza’s civilian population.”

Following the ICRC statement, a panel of five independent UN rights experts reported to the UN Human Rights Council, stressing that the Israeli blockade on the coastal enclave had subjected Gazans to collective punishment in “flagrant contravention of international human rights and humanitarian law.” The UN Mission, which investigated the Israeli blockade on Gaza and found it was imposed as a result of the Palestinians participating in free elections, said: “The Mission considers that one of the principal motives behind the imposition of the blockade was a desire to punish the people of the Gaza Strip for having elected Hamas. The combination of this motive and the effect of the restrictions on the Gaza Strip leave no doubt that Israel’s actions and policies amount to collective punishment as defined by international law.”

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) have also said that the siege is illegal. UNOCHA called it “collective punishment, a violation of international humanitarian law,” while the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, stated that it “is illegal and should be lifted.”

All of this makes it very clear that Netanyahu and his cronies are lying when they claim that the siege of Gaza is legal. So too are members of the pro-Israel Lobby in world capitals as they seek to influence politicians, aided and abetted by a compliant mainstream media.

Anna Dressler, a Swedish activist who was on board Al-Awda, described Gaza accurately when she said that it is a place where human rights laws seem to have been forgotten. “I believe that every person can change the world, in their own way, wherever they are and in whatever way they can,” she added. “Let’s start here, with a blockade that should never have existed and yet continues, along with all other man-made catastrophes.”

According to Yonatan Shapira, those of his former colleagues in the Israeli armed forces who are blocking the efforts to break the siege should really think about what they will tell their grandchildren in years to come. “Don’t think about what your friends will say about you today, think about your grandchildren. Refuse to take part in this ongoing war crime. Refuse to continue murdering people who are locked in the biggest prison in the world. I was once one of you and I know that among you there are some who can still think. Refuse to be the guards of the Gaza ghetto.”

(Source / 11.08.2018)