Palestine After Abbas: The Future of a People at Stake

By Ramzy Baroud

Although intended to inspire his Fatah Party followers, a televised speech by Mahmoud Abbas on the 51st Anniversary of the group’s launch highlighted, instead, the unprecedented crisis that continues to wreak havoc on the Palestinian people. Not only did Abbas sound defensive and lacking in any serious or new initiatives, but his ultimate intention appeared as if it was about his political survival, and nothing else.

In his speech on December 31, he tossed in many of the old clichés, chastising Israel at times, although in carefully-worded language, and insisted that any vital decisions concerned with “the future of the land, people and national rights” would be “subject to general elections and (voted on by the Palestine) National Council (PNC), because our people made heavy sacrifices and they are the source of all authorities.”

Ironically, Abbas presides over the Palestinian Authority (PA) with a mandate that expired in January 2009 and his party, Fatah, which refused to accept the results of democratic elections in the Occupied Territories in 2006, continues to behave as the “ruling party” with no mandate, aside from the political validation it receives from Israel, the US and their allies.

As for the PNC, it served as the legislative body of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) until the PA was established in 1994. Propped up by international funds, the PA was initially formed as a means to an end, that being “final status” negotiations and a Palestinian State. Instead, it became a status quo in itself, and its institutions, which largely reflected the political interests of a specific branch within Fatah, replaced the PLO, the PNC, together with all other institutions that expressed a degree of democracy and inclusiveness.

Whatever PLO structure that symbolically remained in place after the PA soft coup is now a rubber stamp that does not merely reflect the wishes of a single party, Fatah (which lost its majority among Palestinians in 2006), but an elitist, wealthy group within the once-leading party. In some way, Abbas’ current role is largely to serve the interest of this group, as opposed to charting a path of liberation for the entire Palestinian collective, at home, in refugee camps or in the Diaspora.

Nothing was as telling about Abbas’ real mission at the helm of the PA than his statement in his speech of December 31, where he completely ruled out the dismantling of the PA – now that it has failed in its mission, and while an elaborate PLO political structure already exists, which is capable of replacing it. Oddly, Abbas described the PA as one of the greatest achievements of the Palestinian people.

I say, “oddly” because the PA was the outcome of the now practically defunct Oslo “peace process”, which was negotiated by Abbas and a few others in secret with Israel, at the behest of the late Palestinian Fatah leader, Yasser Arafat. The whole initiative was founded on secrecy and deceit and was signed without taking the Palestinian people into account. Worse, when Palestinians attempted to vote to challenge the status quo wrought by Oslo, the outcome of the elections was dismissed by Fatah, which led to a civil war in 2007 where hundreds of Palestinians were killed.

But aside from the historical lapses of Abbas, who is now 80-years-old, his words – although meant to assure his supporters – are, in fact, a stark reminder that the Palestinian people, who have been undergoing a violent uprising since October, are practically leaderless.

While Abbas explains that the reason behind the “habba” or the “rising” – a reference to the current Intifada – is Israel’s continued violations and illegal settlement, he failed to endorse the current uprising or behave as if he is the leader of that national mobilization. He constantly tries to hold the proverbial stick in the middle so that he does not invite the ire of his people nor that of Israel.

Like a crafty politician, he is also trying to reap multiple benefits, siding with the people at times, as if a revolutionary leader, to remind Israel and the US of his importance as someone who represents the nonviolent strand of Palestinian politics, and ride the wave of the intifada until the old order is restored. In fact, signs of that old order – interminable negotiations – are still evident. The PA’s Chief Negotiator, Saeb Erekat, has recently announced that talks between the PA and Israel are still taking place, a terrible omen at a time when Palestinians are in desperate need for a complete overhaul of their failed approach to politics and national liberation.

However, the problem is much bigger than Mahmoud Abbas. Reducing the Palestinian failure to the character of a single person is deeply rooted in most political analyses pertaining to Palestine for many years. (This is actually more pronounced in Western media than in Arabic media). Alas, once aging Abbas is no longer on the political scene, the problem is likely to persist, if not addressed.

While Fatah has made marked contributions to Palestinian Resistance, its greatest contribution was liberating the Palestinian cause, as much as is practically possible, from the confines and manipulation of Arab politics. Thanks to that generation of young Palestinian leaders, which also included leaders of the PFLP and other socialist groups, there was, for once, a relatively unified Palestinian platform that did represent a degree of Palestinian priorities and objectives.

But that relative unity was splintered among Palestinian factionalism: within the PLO itself, and then outside the PLO, where groups and subgroups grew into a variety of ideological directions, many of whom were funded by Arab regimes which utilized the Palestinian struggle to serve national and regional agendas. A long and tragic episode of national collapse followed. When the Palestinian Resistance was exiled from Lebanon in 1982, following the Israeli invasion of that country, the PLO and all of its institutions were mostly ruled by a single party. Fatah, by then, grew older and more corrupt, operating within geographical spheres that were far away from Palestine. It dominated the PLO which, by then, grew into a body mired in political tribalism and financial corruption.

True, Abbas is an essential character in that sorry episode which led to the Oslo fiasco in 1993; however, the burgeoning political culture that he partly espoused will continue to operate independent from the aspirations of the Palestinian people, with or without Abbas.

It is this class, which is fed with US-Western money and perks and happily tolerated by Israel, which must be confronted by Palestinians themselves, if they are to have a real chance at reclaiming their national objectives once more.

The current wisdom conveyed by some, that today’s Intifada has superseded the PA, is utter nonsense. No popular mobilization has a chance of succeeding if it is impeded by such a powerful group as those invested in the PA, all unified by a great tug of self-interest.

Moreover, waiting for Abbas to articulate a stronger, more convincing message is also a waste of time, since the ailment is not Abbas’ use of vocabulary, but his group’s refusal to cede an inch of their undeserved privilege, in order to open up space for a more democratic environment – so that all Palestinians, secularists, Islamists and socialists take equal part in the struggle for Palestine.

A starting point would be a unified leadership in the Occupied Territories that manages the Intifada outside the confines of factions, combined with a vision for revamping PLO institutions to become more inclusive and to bring all Palestinians, everywhere, together.

Abbas is soon to depart the political scene, either because of an internal Fatah coup, or as a result of old age. Either way, the future of Palestine cannot be left to his followers, to manage as they see fit and to protect their own interests. The future of an entire nation is at stake.

(Source / 08.01.2016)

Palestinians march in protest of the deaths of four young teens

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At dawn Friday, hundreds of Palestinians participated in an organized march on Deheisheh refugee camp, south of Bethlehem.

The protesters marched through the streets of the camp and later on outside of it chanting slogans condemning Israel’s extrajudicial killing of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, specifically the death of the four young men and demanding that Palestinian factions respond to the ongoing Israeli crimes against Palestinians.

According to local sources, the march was organized via social media immediately following the deaths.

Hamas official Izzat al-Rashq referred on social media to Thursday’s deaths as a “crime”:

“The execution of three youths of the Kawazba family at the Gush Etzion crossroads is a Zionist crime to be added to the series of hideous crimes against our people.”

Also commenting on the killing of the young Palestinians, the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that their deaths marked a “dangerous escalation” in the current situation.

The Ministry’ statement expressed dissatisfaction over the silence of the international community and rights organizations in regards to Israeli policies amid the recent wave of unrest in the occupied Palestinian territory.

“It is enough for an Israeli to shout ‘terrorist’ at a nearby Palestinian for them to be shot without first having to either confirm the claim or attempt to arrest them,” the ministry’s statement said.

In the other hand, Israeli security officials this week reported that security coordination between the Palestinian Authority and Israeli [occupation] forces has been “exceptionally good” in recent weeks, with the PA reportedly cracking down on activity by Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

(Source / 08.01.2016)

UK Lawmakers Debate Israeli Detention of Palestinian Children

A Palestinian child raises chained hands during a protest in Gaza.

A Palestinian child raises chained hands during a protest in Gaza
The debate comes as Israel has been increasing the detention of Palestinians since violence broke out in the occupied territories in early October.
Members of the United Kingdom Parliament held a special session to discuss for the second time the issue of child prisoners and detainees in Israel-occupied Palestinian territories.

In 2012, the British Foreign Office sponsored a visit by distinguished lawyers to assess Israel’s efforts to improve its record following the publication of the report, “Children in Military Custody,” by a team led by the former British attorney general, Baroness Patricia Scotland.

The debate also came as Israel has been increasing the detention of Palestinians since violence broke out in the occupied territories in early October. Since then, Tel Aviv’s armed forces and police have detained over 1,200 children, according to the Palestinian Liberation Organization.

“The detention of Palestinian children by the Israeli occupation forces is a crime against humanity. What kind of threat would children pose to the Israeli soldiers,” said teleSUR Correspondent Naser Saadat, a Gaza citizen. 

ANALYSIS: Is International Palestine Solidarity Just a Symbolic Gesture?

In February 2014, Israel announced the introduction of a pilot program to issue written summonses instead of arresting children, the move followed the international condemnation on the arbitrary arrests of minors, However, Tel Aviv has not stopped its campaign, according to human rights organizations. Israel also tortures about 95 percent of the Palestinian prisoners it holds in prisons, including minors, women and even ill detainees.

Meanwhile, the U.K. government has continued its unconditional support for Israel. Since 2007, the British multinational security company G4S has provided security for major prisons in Israel where political prisoners are held without trial.

In a challenge to the U.K. government and G4S, considered the world's largest security company, a global network of grassroots activist groups and members of the British Parliament launched the hashtag "Stop G4S," demanding the United Nations cancel its contracts with the security company.

(Source / 08.01.2016)

ROJAVA UPDATE 173 – SYRIAN DEMOCRATIC FORCES PREPARE ATTACK ON MANBIJ, WHILE ISlAMIC STATE COUNTER-ATTACK ON TISHREEN FAILS

By Peter Clifford          ©        (www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-iraq-news-5/)

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news-3

SYRIA – IRAQ – NEWS

In preparation for an Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) attack on Islamic State (IS) held Manbij in the Aleppo province of Syria, the US-led Coalition made 14 airstrikes on IS targets around the town on Wednesday, destroying 24 x IS fighting positions, 4 x IS buildings and suppressing IS vehicle movements and denying them access to terrain.

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Snow Starts Falling in Kobane From January 1st 2016

SDF are said to be less than 18 kilometres south of Manbij and a convoy of reinforcements has been sent from Kobane province across the Euphrates via the Tishreen Dam.

Yesterday, Thursday, IS attempted a counter-attack at the SDF-held town of Tishreen, west of the dam, but after fierce fighting withdrew with losses of at least 50 men killed.

Many other IS Jihadists were wounded or captured by SDF units.

SDF losses were put at 3 killed and 7 wounded.

IS fighters were also ambushed by the SDF west of Tishreen at Abu Qelqel in the same operation.

Turkey will no doubt see the Kurdish involvement with SDF and their presence west of the Euphrates as “crossing a red-line”.

But Jaish Al-Thuwar, a ethnically Arab Opposition group fighting with the SDF issued a statement, presumably to reassure the Turkish Government, saying that they had no connection with the Kurdish PKK battling with the Turkish Army in south-east Turkey and Iraq.

Jaish Al-Thuwar also officially announced the campaign to take Manbij in the same statement and said that they were already launching rocket attacks on IS bases there.

No mention was made of Jaish Al-Thuwar’s close ties with the Kurdish YPG, whom they have fought alongside in northern Syria throughout 2015.

Unfortunately, there is a report that a Coalition strike on the IS-held town of Hazima, which is under attack by the SDF, has killed 11 civilians, including 8 children and 3 women. Investigations are ongoing.

Rumours have been circulating that US special forces helped the SDF with the liberation of Tishreen Dam, but it appears that they were in fact US volunteers fighting as part of the YPG.

At dawn on Wednesday, east of the Euphrates and the Tishreen Dam, a unit of IS Jihadists attacked the village of Qereqozak in south-west Kobane Canton and assaulted multiple YPG security positions in the area.

YPG/YPJ protection units launched a counter-offensive and a number of IS Jihadists were killed and several weapons caches seized.

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Kobane – Even Ruins Look Better With Snow Cover

Again, early yesterday at 5.00am, Thursday, 2 large units of IS fighters crossed the Euphrates and launched an attack on the village of Qadiriye near Sarrin.

Attempting an approach from 2 directions, they were quickly intercepted and driven back by YPG/YPJ units. An unknown number, at this stage, of IS Jihadists were killed or wounded.

The YPG are also reporting a barrage of mortar shells being fired across the Euphrates Thursday evening by IS from positions south of Jarablous and hitting Kurdish villages all down the east bank of the river in Kobane Canton.

Further east near Ain Issa, despite severe weather, the YPG recaptured a further 2 villages from the Islamic State, Abu Shehen and Hebsawy.

Snowfalls in Kobane city this week did not deter another 440 Kurds returning across the border from Turkey on Monday, and the snow cover temporarily “improved” the damaged landscape and gave the children some snowball fun.

A large memorial to those who died in defence of Kobane was also opened on Monday and the Kobane Energy Council announced that it has started work on restoring the electricity power supply from the Tishreen Dam, though this might take 2 months to complete.

In another sign of returning normality to Kobane, 16,000 students in 145 schools will this week be taking mid-term exams.

Interesting interview with Kurdish HDP leader Selahattin Dermitas after his return from a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavro in Moscow, the Turkish Government calling the meeting “treason”, HERE:

Turkey is denying the return across the Syrian border of the bodies of Turkish Kurds who fought and died with the YPG/YPJ. One family have been waiting now for the return of the daughter’s body for 60 days.

Interesting article from the Washington Institute that postulates that with the crossing of the Euphrates by the Kurds as members of the SDF force, “the die is caste” for the creation of a new Kurdish state, HERE:

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Kurdish Kids Enjoying Snow in Kobane

Meanwhile, Colonel Steve Warren, spokesman for Coalition Operation Iherent Resolve in Syria and Iraq, says that IS are now in a “defensive crouch” rather than moving forward.

In a statement on Wednesday, Warren said that the US estimates that IS has lost 40% if its taken territory in Iraq and 10% in Syria, plus no less that 2,500 fighters in December alone.

Warren also said that 65 airstrikes against IS oil facilities had reduced IS production capacity from 45,000 barrels of oil a day to 34,000, a loss of around 30%.

The US Army Colonel also confirmed that in the last 10 days the SDF had killed around 140 x IS Jihadists in north-east Aleppo province in Syria and reclaimed more than 310 square miles after taking and crossing the Tishreen dam.

Over in Ramadi in Iraq, Colonel Warren reported that over 60 x IS Jihadists had been killed in 24 hours, but clearing operations in the city continue.

Iraqi security forces are currently bombing an IS base in the Sarsar area of Anbar province in Iraq.

In response to a question about the rules of engagement against the terrorist army in Iraq and Syria, Warren said, “If you’re part of ISIL we will kill you. That’s our rule.”

This video released by the Coalition from an attack on January 1st 2016 shows the destruction of a bridge near Abu Kamal in Syria in order to impede the movement of IS oil, fighters and supplies, here:

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Memorial Opened to Fighters Who Died Defending Kobane and Rojava

 

Syrian Coalition: Failure to Enforce UNSC Resolutions Encourages Assad to Starve Civilians

The Syrian Coalition sent a letter yesterday via its mission in the United States to the UN Security Council expressing regret at the UN’s decision to commend Assad for announcing aid will be allowed into Madaya. The letter said: “We profoundly regret OCHA’s (The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance) decision to welcome the Assad regime’s announcement to grant UN agencies access to Madaya. It [welcoming the move] wrongly implies that the provision of humanitarian access is optional, rather than being a legal obligation.”

The letter stressed that “the use of starvation as a tool of war is a war crime, for which the Assad regime must be held accountable.”

Today, after more than six months of Assad regime siege on Madaya, OCHA announced that the Assad regime had belatedly approved the delivery of humanitarian assistance to Madaya.

The Coalition’s letter added that “more should be done to apply pressure on the regime, including through renewed look at the feasibility of drone-delivered air drops by those states currently conducting air operations against ISIS in Syria.”

Moreover, the Syrian Coalition emphasized that “promises to grant access are not enough. The Assad regime has not even granted immediate access of aid; it said aid will be allowed after four days…. In the meantime, according to doctors in the city, many more will die.”

The Syrian Coalition demanded the enforcement of Security Council resolutions 2139 (2014), 2165 (2014), 2191 (2014) and 2258 (2015); and urged UN agencies to demand the delivery of aid to besieged and hard-to-reach-areas, irrespective of Syrian regime consent.

The letter called on the UN Security Council to “condemn in the strongest possible terms the Assad regime’s deliberate starvation of innocent civilians in Madaya, and make clear that starvation is not a tool to be employed at the Assad regime’s discretion.”

The letter also stressed that the failure to enforce UN Security Council resolutions only encourages those who starve civilians into submission.

On January 5, the Syrian Coalition also sent a letter to the UN Security Council demanding that it acts immediately to enforce the resolutions with regard to the delivery of relief aid to besieged areas; most importantly to Madaya. It also called for the establishment of a bombing-free area in order to stop the number one killer of civilians, namely the indiscriminate aerial bombardment by the Assad regime and Russian air force.

(Source: Syrian Coalition / 08.01.2016)

Why isn’t IDF razing homes of Jewish terrorists?

A Palestinian man smokes a cigarette as he sits near his belongings after the Israeli army demolished his home, near the Israeli West Bank settlement of Maale Adumim, near Jerusalem, Jan. 6, 2016

“Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin.” (Deuteronomy 24:16)

Amiram Ben-Uliel was charged this week with the July murder of the Dawabsha family in the West Bank village of Douma. If convicted, Ben-Uliel, 21, who is married and a new father, will likely spend the coming years behind bars. If he is granted furloughs, he will be able to visit his Jerusalem apartment and his parents’ home in the settlement of Karmei Tsur. The Ben-Uliel family’s neighbors needn’t fear that explosives experts will come to their neighborhood or that the force of a blast will crack their walls and shatter their windows. The neighbors of Yosef Haim Ben-David, accused of killing Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir in July 2014, needn’t worry, either. If Ben-David is convicted, he can expect life imprisonment, but his family home will remain intact. And that’s for the best.

These two vicious terror attacks set off waves of violence that have resulted in the deaths of dozens of Israelis and Palestinians. And we have not seen the end of it.

On Jan. 4, the prime minister declared on the Knesset podium that “Terror is terror is terror.” It stands to reason, then, that the law is the law is the law. And the law says that a punishment shall be a punishment shall be a punishment. But that is not the case in the West Bank’s Areas B and C, under Israel’s military control, and in Area A, under Palestinian Authority control. Also, despite Jerusalem being under Israeli law (and not military law), only the families of Palestinian attackers are losing their homes in the eastern part of the city. The families of Jewish perpetrators are not. Last November, the Israel Defense Forces blew up four houses in the Palestinian city of Nablus and in the village of Silwad. They were the residences of the four men charged with the Oct. 1 murder of the Henkins near the settlement of Itamar, and the June 29 murder of Malachi Rosenfeld in the Binyamin region (none of them, just like Ben-Uliel and Ben-David, have been convicted yet). Old people and babies were thrown out of their homes into the rain and cold. The parents paid for the sins of their sons.

In a December 2014 ruling on home demolitions, Supreme Court Justice Noam Solberg discussed the claim that the government practices discrimination on the grounds of nationality in its use of Emergency Regulations, a legacy of the British Mandate in Palestine, to demolish these homes.

“While one cannot deny that there are, indeed, incidents of attacks by Jews against Arabs,” the judge wrote. Solberg cited the “terrible murder of Mohammed Abu-Khdeir, not to mention the shocking murder of the Dawabsha family members.” Nonetheless, Solberg argued that there is no justification for equal rulings against an Arab terrorist and a Jewish terrorist, saying that whereas Jews aren’t incited to attack Arabs and condemn such acts “across the board” and in a determined and assertive manner, the same cannot be said of the other side. Therefore, the judge explained, “In the Jewish sector there is no need for such broad deterrence, which is the purpose of house demolitions.”

Does the Jewish population, unlike the Palestinian one, indeed firmly and assertively denounce Jewish terrorists, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu often says? Is it true that Jews don’t incite? They would do well to peek occasionally at the social networks and glance at the online commentary, which daily calls for “death to Arabs,” encourages revenge attacks, curses the name of the Prophet Muhammad and incites against Arab soccer players. Let’s not forget the prime minister’s unforgettable words on the last election day that “Arab voters are coming out in droves to the polls.”

It would be interesting to hear what the honorable justice and the prime minister would say if a Palestinian terrorist had gotten his own national television show, been appointed editor of a newspaper or become a columnist for important newspapers. Human rights activists and members of watchdog organizations will soon be required to wear a badgeidentifying themselves when visiting the Knesset. But absent a similar law requiring convicted terrorists to wear a badge, few viewers of the Knesset Channel and readers of the newspapers Makor Rishon and Maariv will remember that the TV anchor and opinion writer Haggai Segal (Makor Rishon’s editor-in-chief) is a terrorist convicted of causing grievous harm, illegal weapons possession and membership in a terror organization. Segal was arrested in 1984 with other members of the Jewish Underground and sentenced to five years in prison, two of them suspended. He ended up serving two years.

The Jewish zealots embarking on arson sprees in Palestinian villages are inspired by the legends of the Jewish Underground active in the 1980s. They remember that then-President Chaim Herzog couldn’t withstand the political and public pressure exerted on him and granted clemency to the Jewish Underground prisoners, including those sentenced to life in prison for murdering three Palestinian students and for maiming two West Bank mayors. Herzog commuted their sentences three times. With their time further shortened for good behavior, they were released from prison after seven years.

Along with the moral issue of punishing parents (and often neighbors as well) for the sins of their grown children, discrimination in punishments for nationalist crimes and the questionable legality of demolition as a punishment, there is disagreement over its effectiveness as a deterrence. Haaretz military analyst Amos Harel wrote in 2005 that the IDF presents cases of families turning in their sons before they headed out to commit attacks, explaining that they were motivated by fear that the army would demolish their homes. But, he noted, there have apparently been no more than 20 such cases throughout the years of conflict.

Harel also wrote that an internal IDF study published at the end of 2003, after 1,000 days of clashes in the second intifada, concluded, “To date, there is no proof of the deterrent effect of house demolitions.” According to the study, several months after the IDF started razing homes, the number of terror attacks increased. Maj. Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Eitan, who served as head of the Central Command at the height of the intifada, said that home demolitions provide an incentive for revenge attacks. A military commission headed by Maj. Gen. Udi Shani that studied the demolition policy in 2005 recommended the practice be stopped because the damage from the hatred it promotes outweighs the benefits. The recommendations were presented to Moshe Ya’alon, then the IDF chief of staff.

Today, Defense Minister Ya’alon is one of the leading proponents of the demolition policy — only for houses of Arab terrorists, of course. As his coalition colleague Knesset member Bezalel Smotrich said, “Jews cannot be terrorists.”

(Source / 08.01.2016)

The endless occupation For Palestinian children, a world of fear, humiliation, frustration and mistrust

Daily news comes of the death of a Palestinian teenager at the hands of the Israeli security services. The list lengthens — Abdullah Nasasra (15), Mustafa Fanoun (15), Lama al-Bakri (16), Ibrahim Dawoud (16), Ayman Abassi (17), Samah Abdul-Mo’men (18).

Over 150 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli state security over the past two months – most of them children.

Most of these Palestinian children were killed in cold blood. An eyewitness to the death of Abdullah Nasasra told me that he watched the boy stand beside the road with his hands in the air. Abdullah had been walking along the road when he was stopped by the Israeli military. A second later, for no reason, the boy was shot dead.

Samah Abdul-Mo’men was shot in crossfire near a checkpoint. She was sitting in the passenger seat as her father drove their family car. Both children died instantly. There has been no word of an investigation of these deaths.

Some of these children have been killed while they attempted “knife attacks” in Jerusalem. Such attacks took place in October, killing about 20 Israelis. Why have these children taken to such desperate measures?

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that these children — a minority of those killed in the past eight weeks — have been “bred from nearly five decades of Israeli occupation.” Their drastic actions, he said, are “the result of fear, humiliation, frustration and mistrust.

It has been fed by the wounds of decades of bloody conflict, which will take a long time to heal. Palestinian youth in particular are tired of broken promises and they see no light at the end of the tunnel.”

Frustration is the order of the day. I meet some young men from a camp near Ramallah. They see no outlet for their anger. Every day they see their families and friends humiliated by the Occupation. This situation drives them to desperation – “we have to do something,” says one young man. His eyes are tired. He looks older than his teenage years. He has lost his friends to Israeli violence.

“We marched to Qalandiya last year,” he says, “in a peaceful protest. They fired on us. My friend died.”

Colonial violence bears down on his spirit. Around him young children are eliminated by the Israeli military. His body twitches with anxiety and fear.

Inside Jerusalem’s Old City I meet some settlers. One – Josh from Pennsylvania – tells me that he is happy to be in his “homeland.” He never felt comfortable in America, he says. Another settler won’t use the term Palestinian. “The Arabs,” she says, “are vermin. They should not be here. This is our holy city.”

George, a well-respected Armenian businessman, tells me that the settlers periodically march through the city chanting, “Death to the Arabs.” The security forces try to push them along, afraid that this provocation would create a riot. “This is the normal situation,” says George. It sets the clock to confrontation.

It helps little that the Israeli political establishment eggs on the settlers and brings their ideology to the mainstream. In 2014, Israel’s Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked declared that the “entire Palestinian people is the enemy.” She called Palestinian children “little snakes.”

Such language is echoed by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef who said of the Palestinians – “You must send missiles to them and annihilate them. They are evil and damnable.” Much the same kind of objectionable language has come from Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu and Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburg, as well as most of the cabinet of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Highly charged rhetoric leads to dangerous outcomes. No exit from the Israeli occupation suggests perilous times ahead. The two-state solution has been largely invalidated by the Israeli settlement policy. Israeli settlers have seized most of the best land in the Jordan Valley – given to Palestine under the Oslo agreement.

U.S. charitable money (namely tax free) goes to underwrite these illegal settlements. The one-state solution is anathema to the Israeli political consensus, which would like to move towards the open declaration of the country as a Jewish State. A sizable Palestinian population would dilute this ethno-nationalist claim.

What remains is endless occupation and frustration.

It is the cause of the silent murder of Palestinian children.

Vijay Prashad, who teaches at Trinity College, is at work on his next book The Lotus and the Settler: India-Palestine-Israel.

(Source / 08.01.2016)

Gaza electricity crisis: ‘People are dying daily’

Gaza – Three years ago, a teenage boy plummeted three storeys to the ground in the pitch dark after accidentally stepping out of the side of his Gaza home, which was missing a wall due to Israeli shelling.

Taken to the emergency room at al-Shifa hospital, he was handed over to Ben Thomson, a volunteer doctor from Canada.

Thomson began inserting a chest tube to drain the air and blood that had accumulated outside of the boy’s lungs – a procedure that usually takes only a few minutes to complete. With the power out, however, Thomson struggled to operate.

“I couldn’t see. I was trying to put this [chest tube] in, in the dark. What would have normally taken me five minutes or less, took me about 25 to 30 minutes, and the boy died … because of something that was easily preventable,” Thomson told Al Jazeera.

“That could have been fixed. He could have survived, had I been able to see what I was doing. People are dying in Gaza quite often, regularly, every single day because of the lack of electricity.”

In Gaza, the availability of light in an emergency room often determines whether a patient lives or dies. The besieged Palestinian territory has been suffering from a chronic power deficit for years amid Israel’s blockade – a situation that worsened after the 2014 Israeli assault, which destroyed Gaza’s power plant. Even before the war, Israeli-supplied electricity to Gaza met less than half of the territory’s estimated needs.

Outages can last for more than 16 hours a day. When it is available, power comes in sporadic, five to eight-hour intervals.

“The solution to this seemed very obvious,” Thomson said. “The solution was [that] we need to have a sustainable, consistent, reliable source of energy that can be stored and used.”

Fortunately, Gaza is one of the richest countries worldwide in such a resource: sunlight. Gaza has an average of 320 days of sunshine a year, making solar energy an attractive alternative power source.

Recognising this, Thomson teamed up with several Canadian doctors last summer to launch Empower Gaza, a project that aims to install solar panels in major hospitals throughout the territory.

Organisers raised more than $215,000 on Indiegogo, enough to fund the installation of solar panels at al-Aqsa hospital. Islamic Relief Canada donated another $1.5m, which will help fund six major hospitals in total, including al-Aqsa.

Construction of solar panels at al-Aqsa hospital will start this month, and by June 2017 the panels should be installed in four hospitals.

They will provide a reliable source of energy for emergency rooms, intensive care units and operating rooms 24 hours a day. Currently, diesel generators are the primary power source for hospitals.

Two hospitals in Gaza, al-Shifa and Nasser, already use solar energy to run their intensive care units. Since Shifa installed solar panels in the autumn of 2014 with Japanese assistance, there have been no power interruptions in intensive care, a unit which houses 14 beds linked to monitors, ventilators and lab equipment.

“We have [protected patients] from the electricity problems occurring in the rest of the hospital, due to shortages of fuel and dependency on generators that consume fuel equal to $10,000 daily,” Medhat Abbas, the director of Shifa hospital, told Al Jazeera.

The United Nations Development Programme is supporting the Empower Gaza project by transporting batteries and panels into Gaza from Israel.

The UNDP has also installed solar panels in schools, healthcare clinics and water facilities in support of the Palestinian Solar Initiative, which aims to meet30 per cent of energy demands in the coastal enclave with renewable sources by 2020.

Private use of solar power is also catching on. One solar power unit worth $1,500 can supply a family home with electricity to power fridges, heaters, lamps, water pumps and other appliances. Even so, many families cannot afford this, and instead resort to warming their homes by burning wood and coal.

“Some leave the fire on when they go to sleep. Last winter, we had at least three or four incidents where the fire spread in the home because the family left it while they were sleeping … It was a real tragedy,” said 29-year-old Gaza resident Nader Abd el-Naby.

Amid Israel’s blockade, firewood and gas are scarce, while liquid fuel is expensive and not easily available.

“These days, people are suffering from a lack in cooking gas. Every one of us wakes up and goes to bed thinking of how to get a filled canister,” said Mosab Mostafa, 23, an unemployed graduate in Gaza.

Private businesses in Gaza cite electricity shortages as one of the key obstacles to investment and growth as reported in a study by the World Bank. Gaza’s unemployment rate, at 43 per cent, is the highest in the world.

Back at Shifa, Thomson recalls an incident when all the respirators were shut off in the intensive care unit. A young man, Ahmed, had his mother by his side, and she learned to squeeze the oxygen bag in and out until the electricity came back on, allowing her son to continue breathing. Other patients died that day.

“Ahmed was only alive because his mother was by his bedside the entire time,” Thomson said. “Empower Gaza was inspired by local Palestinian healthcare workers and engineers … This is by Palestinians, for the Palestinians.”

(Source / 08.01.2016)

Israeli undercover soldiers kill Milhem

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)– Israeli undercover soldiers killed Nashaat Milhem, who launched the Tel Aviv shooting attack a week ago, in a mosque in Wadi Ara in 1948 occupied Palestine on Friday evening.

Two Israelis were killed and ten others were wounded, four of them in serious condition, in the shooting attack in Tel Aviv on the first day of 2016.

Israeli security apparatuses asked the Palestinian Authority to help in finding the attacker after he succeeded in fleeing the scene of the attack unharmed.

A statement for the Israeli police said that soldiers of the Yamam unit clashed with Milhem and killed him in the area near to Um el-Faham town.

No other source confirmed the report, yet the Israeli TV Channel Two published photos for Milhem’s body.

(Source / 08.01.2016)

Report: Egypt asks Israel to prevent Turkish involvement in Gaza

Report: Egypt asks Israel to prevent Turkish involvement in Gaza

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (L) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyah

Egypt has expressed concern over potential Turkish involvement in the dispute over the blockade of the Gaza Strip amid recent efforts by Israel and Turkey to re-establish diplomatic relations and has asked Israel to keep Turkey away from Gaza, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on Thursday.

Haaretz claimed that Egyptian officials are disturbed by media reports suggesting that Israel has “agreed to take significant steps in easing the maritime siege on Gaza.” Egypt approached Israel after the reports emerged and asked whether it “had committed to any easing of restrictions in the closure imposed on Gaza.” The report says Egypt conveyed its objection to any Israeli concessions to Turkey with regard to the Gaza Strip.

Egypt keeps the Rafah crossing — Gaza’s only gate to the outside world other than the closed border gates with Israel — closed to isolate Hamas. Cairo views Hamas as a Palestinian offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, which was removed from power in Egypt in 2013 after a military coup led by Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the current president.

Turkey and Israel have recently held talks to reconcile after relations between the two hit their lowest levels when Israeli forces stormed a Gaza-bound humanitarian flotilla that sought to breach the Israeli blockade on Gaza in 2010.

The raid left nine Turks and a Turkish-American citizen dead. Efforts since then to bring about reconciliation have failed to yield a positive result despite an Israeli apology in March 2013, one of the conditions set by Ankara for restoring relations with Tel Aviv. Turkey also demands an end to the Israeli blockade on Gaza.

Turkey has problematic relations with both countries. When President Mohamed Morsi, the first democratically elected president in modern Egyptian history, was toppled by the military, Ankara did not recognize the military intervention, prompting Egypt to sever diplomatic ties with Ankara.

Cairo accused Ankara of meddling in its internal affairs and Turkey has not had an ambassador in Cairo since the military coup and refuses to recognize Sisi as the legitimate president of the country. However, there have been media reports suggesting that Turkish and Egyptian diplomats have made efforts behind closed doors to mend ties between Ankara and Cairo.

An Egyptian TV channel recently claimed that Sisi will attend an event in İstanbul in April where he is set to meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Sada el-Balad presenter Ahmed Moussa said Saudi Arabia had exerted efforts to persuade Sisi to attend a ceremony in April in which Egypt will hand over the rotating presidency of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to Turkey.

Erdoğan, however, recently reiterated his refusal to recognize Sisi as the legitimate leader of Egypt.

(Source / 08.01.2016)