Excuses, excuses when the stone-thrower is an Israeli settler and the victim is Palestinian

When a Palestinian child throws a stone at an Israeli soldier hiding in his heavily armoured military vehicle, he gets 20 years in prison, but when an Israeli settler kill a Palestinian civilian, he might get only one year in prison.

In 2015, Israel approved a law that stipulated a 20-year-prison-sentence for individuals caught throwing stones. The intention was to target Palestinians involved in resistance activities, despite the discrepancies between armed Jewish Israeli settlers and Palestinians in terms of weapons available for them to use.

“Tolerance towards terrorists ends today,” commented Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked. “A stone thrower is a terrorist and only a fitting punishment can serve as a deterrent and just punishment.”

Yet despite claiming that Palestinians who throw stones during clashes “provoke” unwarranted violence, stone throwing by Jewish Israeli settler-colonists has many precedents and victims, and is usually overlooked. The latest Palestinian victim of Jewish stone-throwers was Aisha Al-Rabi who was killed last Friday while on her way home in the car. Settlers hurled stones at the family car, killing Aisha and injuring her husband Yacoub.

Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin described the killing and subsequent attachment of blame to Jewish settlers as “a scrap of an incident”. He added, “It is quite galling that it takes an incident like this in relation to a Palestinian vehicle for it [stone throwing] to be raised on the agenda.”

In fact, B’Tselem has documented many instances of settler-colonial violence, including stone throwing by extremist Jews on many occasions. The Israeli rights group has pointed out that there is an absence of law enforcement in such cases.

The Israeli media gives priority to detailing clashes between stone-throwing settlers and the Israeli military, which usually end in a tally of those injured and a notification of temporary arrest. There is an explicit difference in punishment and media portrayal between settler violence and Palestinian resistance. The former is exempt from punishment, whether the violence is directed against Palestinians or the Israeli military; the latter, meanwhile, is criminalised.

Al-Rabi’s case crossed a red line as regards media coverage due to settlers causing her death by stone throwing, hence the need for her murder to be downplayed by Levin. His comments indicate that close scrutiny of Jewish Israeli settler stone throwers is unacceptable to right-wing politicians, particularly when the victim, who was killed, is a Palestinian.

However, if the context is taken into consideration, it is clear that the Israeli state has manufactured a culture of impunity for stone throwing (and other) crimes by its settler population. This precise bequeathing of impunity is evidence of the colonial state’s dependence upon its settlers, no matter that they live in illegal settlements, to preserve its existence.

While condemning the murder, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov failed to address settler stone throwing, focusing instead upon the attack as creating “a new cycle of violence that would further undermine the prospects of peace between Palestinians and Israelis.” This was not, however, a “new cycle of violence”; to describe the crime thus is to absolve the Israeli colonial state and its settlers of embracing stone throwing as the means to terrorise Palestinians merely for being the indigenous inhabitants of historic Palestine.

Palestinian stone throwers, facing heavily armed settlers and the military, face harsh sentences and at times even extrajudicial murder for daring to resist the colonial violence endorsed by Israel. Al-Rabi’s killing was an unprovoked terror attack. Will Shaked’s misplaced words, directed against Palestinians, be fully invoked against Jewish Israeli settler stone throwers when, as in this case, the end result is murder? Or will it be yet another examples of excuses, excuses but no justice from Israel’s Justice Minister?

(Source / 19.10.2018)

The debate on UNRWA takes focus away from the realities of refugees

Ramona Wadi

By Ramona Wadi

In the aftermath of the US decision to end its funding of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the EU has pledged to continue its financial support. In terms of the agency being able to continue providing services to Palestinian refugees, the news is undoubtedly welcome. However, the EU is still failing Palestinian refugees in terms of why it has decided to continue funding UNRWA.

According to a statement partially published by Wafa news agency, “The EU is committed to securing the continuation and sustainability of the agency’s work which is vital for stability and security in the region”. For all diplomatic intents and purposes, Palestinian refugees are merely an appendage to be used and exploited politically. Building upon the absence of historic Palestine and speaking only about a hypothetical Palestinian state, the international community, including the EU, gave Israel a green light to claim, albeit while exonerating its colonial presence from accountability, that there is a perpetuation of maintaining the status quo for Palestinian refugees.

The EU has no vision for Palestinian refugees and does not care whether they will return to their homeland or not. While it will continue to support UNRWA, it must be said that the dynamics are those of institutions supporting other institutions. A viable way to do so without raising the ire of the victims is by emphasising the humanitarian intent. Depoliticising humanitarian aid, however, has opened avenues for political entities to coerce victims into remaining victims.

By promoting the provision, or withdrawal of, financial support for humanitarian aid depending upon the actors involved, Palestinian refugees are deprived from a collaborative political commitment to change the passiveness enshrined within UN Resolution 194.

Trump’s decision adds to the consequences of the earlier colonial ethnic cleansing and displacement, while the EU’s reiteration that it will continue funding UNRWA ensures that its provision of basic services for Palestinian refugees can proceed. Yet, common to both US and EU actions, is the underlying motive to ensnare refugees in perpetual dependency. The most convenient way to achieve that is to balance contrasting actions in a way that promotes and maintains refugee dependency upon international humanitarian aid. With that balance, obligations are forced upon Palestinian refugees to accept whatever the international community deems as suitable parameters. A Palestinian right of return that departs from the Palestinian narratives was never on the agenda for the complicit international community.

Currently, the only discourse that defines the existence of Palestinian refugees is eclipsed by UNRWA and the funding saga. The international community has willingly participated in the snare created by Israel and the US – that of amalgamating Palestinian refugee identity to the agency providing basic needs, instead of speaking about Palestinians in direct relation to historic Palestine. Israel’s plan, carried out by the US, seeks to disrupt UNRWA and, as a result, refute recognition of the Palestinian refugee condition and their right of return. A strong rebuttal from the international community is non-existent; the reason being that Palestinian refugees and their right of return are externally defined by a flawed, non-binding resolution endorsing Israel’s colonisation first and foremost.

(Source / 09.09.2018)

Palestinian popular resistance must be free of PA impositions

Israeli forces fire at Palestinian protesters during the Great March of Return in Gaza on 9 August 2018 [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]

By Ramona Wadi

With the Bedouin village of Khan Al-Ahmar still targeted by Israel for demolition, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas has availed himself of the opportunity to call for mobilisation in the form of popular resistance. This, he maintains, is “the only means of struggle towards independence and statehood”, to the exclusion of all other forms of anti-colonial struggle. Khan al-Ahmar’s context, however, was necessary for Abbas to make his argument.

In other remarks during the 29thmeeting of the Palestinian Central Council, he reiterated his authoritarian plans for Gaza and for reconciliation to happen on terms that have been imposed by the international community upon the Palestinians. If popular resistance is implemented according to Abbas’s directives, it will undoubtedly be a limited endeavour, fraught with restrictions and transformed into another tool for the PA to allow Israel to complete its colonisation of the whole of Palestine.

Just as Abbas wishes to eliminate all other possibilities of Palestinian leadership, “popular resistance” in PA rhetoric means abandoning all other legitimate forms of resistance for one that is easier to control in terms of conforming to the authority’s demands. Furthermore, endorsement of popular resistance by the PA is being used to project purported differences between Gaza and the occupied West Bank, despite the fact that Palestinians in Gaza are the embodiment of popular resistance as part of the collective struggle for freedom from Israel’s occupation.

READ: Claims of torture in PA prisons resurface as prisoner dies in custody 

The PA has often called for popular resistance, only to distance itself from the outcome on many occasions while letting Palestinians become fodder for Israeli jails. It is clear, therefore, that the Ramallah authority utilises popular resistance to embellish its rhetoric. When Palestinians in the occupied West Bank protest against Abbas’s punitive measures imposed on the people in Gaza, for example, the PA’s security services never hesitate to target peaceful demonstrators with excessive violence. A recent protest at the PLO Headquarters in Ramallah saw PA security officers tearing down the placards of activists asking Abbas to lift his sanctions on Gaza.

The PA is trying hard to monopolise Palestinian popular resistance through differentiation. If popular resistance is restricted to occasional demonstrations against Israeli violations, or if it is necessary to promote any PA diplomatic stunts abroad, Abbas and his aides do not hesitate to endorse it. If, however, Palestinians utilise popular resistance to protest against PA violations, there are no qualms about using violence to disperse protestors. Hence, it is clear that in the PA’s vision of popular resistance, it is the same individuals who determine what popular protest is and how it should be utilised. The result is that such protest becomes yet another form of PA control over Palestinian resilience and resistance to Israel’s military occupation.

Popular resistance requires no endorsements or exhortations from Abbas. The Palestinian concept of liberation is not derived from PA “sacred security cooperation” with Israel and the international community. If the PA thinks it can manipulate the concept of popular resistance to be attributed to their leaders, their political delusion is even greater than it seems. This is especially so given that there is no denying that the Palestinians have decided to implement popular resistance as part of the struggle against all forms of oppression, including the PA’s own collaboration with Israel.

Fatah: We will reject any truce in Gaza agreed without us 

(Source / 22.08.2018)

‘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)

Palestinians are being impoverished by the manipulation of aid

Ramona Wadi By Ramona Wadi

 

In March, the World Bank issued a press release stating that the deterioration in Gaza’s humanitarian situation is preventing economic growth. Among the destabilisation factors mentioned were the lack of access to basic services, unemployment and cuts in UNRWA funding. Israel’s colonial violence was excluded completely from the analysis presented in the press release. Furthermore, the communication also stated that, “Effective governance systems and institutional strengthening under the Palestinian Authority’s leadership are also key for a sustainable recovery.” This was despite it being common knowledge that the PA is corrupt from top to bottom, and there to serve Israel’s interests, not the Palestinians’.

On Wednesday, the World Bank announced recommending an allocation of $90 million “to accelerate much needed economic welfare for the Palestinian people.” In its statement, the Bank’s Group Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa, Ferid Belhaj, clarified the institution’s involvement in humanitarian and development aid, while appearing to exclude politics from the wider framework. Yet, the same formula still applies: Israel is absolved of its crimes which catapulted Palestinians into a dire humanitarian crisis in the first place, while the PA – Israel’s collaborator in depriving Gaza of its basic needs – takes centre stage as a tool for recovery.

In the words of Marina Wes, Country Director for the West Bank and Gaza, “Building on its partnership with the Palestinian Authority, the World Bank will continue its support in strengthening the institutions to efficiently manage public finances and deliver services to citizens.”

Most Palestinians would beg to differ. PA institutions are strengthening themselves to ensure their survival, at the expense of the Palestinian people who are exploited under the adopted neoliberal model. As Palestinians are rendered more peripheral and their exclusion becomes normalised, dependency upon financial humanitarian aid is consolidated. This results in a convenient political approach that adopts the humanitarian context and presents it as depoliticised. As the gap between the leadership and the people increases, with the latter being marginalised further, the remaining actors, in this case the World Bank and the PA, are free to form a narrative of development that plays upon the usual formula of donors and the obfuscation of economic development alongside the prevailing humanitarian situation.

Since leaders and institutions refrain from contextualising Palestinian deprivation within the colonial and collaborative context, the World Bank action is shielded from additional scrutiny. It must be noted that marginalising Palestinians has another dangerous repercussion which is overlooked; Israel’s crimes against them are also pushed aside as the perpetrators are allowed to act with impunity.

There is no empowerment of Palestinians in Israel’s settler-colonial context. Failing to acknowledge this, as well as the PA’s role in maintaining “empowerment” as rhetoric, is contributing to a scenario wherein financial aid is funding the continuation of crimes against Palestinians, while the people are forced to bear responsibility for the institutions’ and leaders’ compromised decisions.

Looking at the statement by UN Special Coordinator Nickolay Mladenov regarding the World Bank announcement, we find a dissociated admission which, besides being repetitive, is also an example of how the UN encourages this neoliberal model: “This significant increase in funding comes at a critical time when urgent interventions are required to prevent renewed conflict and to boost Palestinian economic opportunities and livelihoods.” He also described working with the PA as “exactly the type of response that is needed right now.”

If, as Mladenov suggests, the institutions are presenting the necessary solutions to the humanitarian deprivation experienced by Palestinians (this, keeping in mind that there is a perpetual cycle of alleged solutions that have solved nothing), is it not time to refute the propagation of the international institutions’ narratives and, more importantly, to expose how Palestinian deprivation is a source of profit for Israel, the PA and the international community? Humanitarian and economic aid should not be manipulated for the benefit of the colonial-occupiers and to the detriment of their victims.

(Source / 27.07.2018)

UN’s divisive tactics will not alienate Palestinians from their right of return

UN has always described Palestinian resistance as terror acts that must be stopped, while Israeli aggression against them an act that only to be restrained

Nobody takes the UN seriously anymore. It has bred an array of detractors from across the entire political spectrum while continuing to function as an organisation that facilitates the continuation of violence.

For oppressors, the UN serves as a base where aggression can be justified and later secured through the usual correlation between humanitarian aid and human rights abuses. The victims have been pressured to accept that there is no other option to claim their human rights, apart from the same institutions that legitimised violence against them.

Nickolay Mladenov’s statements on Sunday continue to illustrate this fact. Gaza’s Return March protests – a course of action chosen to claim their rights to historic Palestine – have been used an excuse by Israel to claim purported self-defence.

The UN has not attempted to downplay the number of Palestinians murdered and permanently injured by Israeli snipers. However, it is downplaying Palestinian rights, including the right of return, by treating the protests as an isolated display of discontent. So much that Mladenov declaring that the UN will continue working with Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Egypt to find a solution for Palestine has long become an acceptable framework to invoke for press releases when necessary.

Working with the coloniser and its collaborators is not in the interests of Palestinians. Neither are the misplaced appeals by Mladenov to Palestinians “to step back and keep the protests peaceful.” Or to call upon Palestinian factions “to stop the firing of rockets and mortars, to stop the incendiary kites and give peace a chance.”

Not when the UN Special coordinator uses far less restrictive recommendations to Israel “to be very restrained in its responses to the situation in Gaza” and to “appeal to snipers not to shoot children.” A pertinent reminder here that Israel’s response to the protests was premeditated – the Israeli government ordered snipers positioned along the border long before Palestinians retaliated to the sniper killings through the use of rudimentary weapons.

The overt hypocrisy in Mladenov’s statement is the following: “Our allies in this are the Palestinian people in Gaza themselves. Our partners are in the Palestinian government and everybody who wants to see an end to this current escalation.”

Just as there is a discrepancy in equating the Palestinian people with the PA, there is also a difference between the aims of both entities. Undoubtedly, the PA will collaborate with the UN to prolong Gaza’s humanitarian crisis with the aim of crushing the anti-colonial struggle.

To expect Palestinians to present themselves as allies of the UN when its representatives have prioritised Israel’s colonial demands is ludicrous. In this case, Mladenov has legitimised Israeli violence while distancing Palestinians from their legitimate right of return. In turn, his comments also distance the UN from its General Assembly Resolution 194, so that the only thing that remains is the complicity of the organisation from the Partition Plan to its persistence about the two-state compromise.

Palestinians know that for the UN, the right of return has become an issue as marginalised as the Palestinians themselves. Mladenov and the entire institution would do well to remember that, unlike other scenarios where divisive tactics have weakened the will of the people, there is no way that Palestinians will divest themselves of their legitimate rights, to satisfy the UN’s hyperbole of purported “allies.”

(Source / 21.07.2018)

Purported Neutrality at the UN is Harmful to Palestinians

Ramona Wadi

By Ramona Wadi

On Monday, Israeli lawyer Yuval Shany was appointed to chair the UN Human Rights Committee – a body of experts that monitors the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Article 1(1) of the covenant states: “All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right, they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.”

Commenting on his appointment as quoted in Haaretz, Shany stated:

“Currently the UN’s Human Rights Committee faces several challenges, chiefly that we live in an international climate that no longer supports human rights.”

His aim as committee chair, he said, is:

“To harness its positive and apolitical influence to secure human rights for all citizens of the world.”

There are always discrepancies between the UN and human rights. Shany’s appointment, which is not the first occasion in which an Israeli has held influential positions at the UN, is another example of how the international institution exists to serve human rights violations. By allowing Israel this platform, the committee is also calling attention to the fact that the UN is in favor of normalizing Israel’s colonial violence against Palestinians.

According to the Times of Israel, Shany described the committee as being less dictated by global politics. This specification seems to be making the case against other UN organizations which have been deemed as having an “anti-Israel bias”, notably by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley. However, the play upon what constitutes political, particularly in terms of power, is always subject to manipulation at the UN.

Self-determination – the subject of Article 1 in the mentioned Covenant – is a political right. The presence, or absence, of such a right, cannot be divested from political acts. If by commenting upon “apolitical influence”, Shany is indicating neutrality, there is also no escaping the fact that taking such a stance is also a clear political act.

The overseeing of implementation of the Covenant, which is the committee’s role,  takes the form of reviewing individual state reports and offering “concluding observations” accordingly. It is a strategy that is employed across several UN institutions and that leaves severe political implications for Palestinians.

One of these implications is the constant pleading by Palestinian officials to the UN for international protection; the latest by PLO Executive Committee Member Hanan Ashrawi. Wafa news agency carried Ashrawi’s comments, in which she emphasized the need for “serious intervention from the international community”.

Shany, however, does shine a light on international complicity in rendering the Palestinian cause apolitical. The underlying purported neutrality across UN institutions with regard to Palestine, particularly its persistence regarding the two-state compromise, makes the organization a very dangerous platform. It is easy to forget that behind the international banner, individual countries are exerting their power and building allegiances to the detriment of the oppressed.

In Palestine’s case, there is no doubt it is in dire need of political action. However, expecting such a stance from institutions that wield their political power behind screens of alleged neutrality is to cede what remains of Palestine’s political rights.

Looking within and returning to the roots of the anti-colonial struggle is important. Yet it is precisely the foundations that are being neglected, with the result that Palestinians are constantly exploited at an international level, to pave the way for the international community’s manipulation of politics that marginalizes Palestine and puts another Israeli representative at the helm.

(Source / 08.07.2018)

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)

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)

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)