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

Israel has tried to bury inconvenient facts about Lebanon and Gaza

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lebanon is not Hezbollah

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

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

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


Lebanon re-elects its political status quo

Lina Khatib
by Lina Khatib

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

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

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

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

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

Gaza is not Hamas

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

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


Israel-Palestine: Split screens and dissonant narratives

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

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

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

The ‘post-truth’ logic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Source / 21.05.2018)

Banned worshippers pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque gates in defiance of Israeli policy

Palestinian Muslims pray during the first Friday Prayer of Islamic holy month of Ramadan at the Al-Aqsa Mosque after Israeli authorities allowed Palestinians only those who above 40 years of age men and all women, in Jerusalem on 18 May, 2018 [Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency]

Palestinian Muslims pray during the first Friday Prayer of Islamic holy month of Ramadan at the Al-Aqsa Mosque after Israeli authorities allowed Palestinians only those who above 40 years of age men and all women, in Jerusalem on 18 May, 2018

In an attempt to counter Israel’s policy of depriving them of their right to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque, Palestinians banned from doing so by the occupation authorities are resorting to standing at the nearest access points to the Noble Sanctuary gates, Quds Press has revealed. The Israelis want to keep Palestinian visitors away from the Sanctuary as part of their Judaisation plan for the occupied city of Jerusalem.

Those prevented from having access to Al-Aqsa include not only Palestinians from across the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, but also natives of Jerusalem itself. Men and women alike are affected.

Hanadi Halawani — Umm Mahmood — recalled to Quds Press the atmosphere in Al-Aqsa Mosque during the month of Ramadan in previous years with great pain and sorrow. “This year,” she explained, “the occupation has spoiled the most important ritual of the holy month of Ramadan, which is spending time with my family and friends in Al-Aqsa Mosque.” She lives in Wadi Al-Joz neighbourhood, which is the nearest point to the mosque after the Old City. “Painfully, I have to watch buses which pass in front of my house every day loaded with hundreds of worshippers coming to Al-Aqsa, while I am deprived of that opportunity because of an order by the Israeli occupation.”

Umm Mahmood used to accompany her family to the mosque in Ramadan every year to break the fast with a meal which she prepared at home. She would then pray with her companions who stay in Al-Aqsa. However, this year, she is being deprived of her right to enter the mosque and even the Old City for three months by an Israeli police order received last Monday. The order was handed to her at the Qashla Police Station after an interrogation that lasted for hours and was full of threats and intimidation.

This did not deter her, though, and on the first night of Ramadan she went to the nearest point possible to Al-Aqsa Mosque and performed her Tarawih prayers there. These are the special prayers said at night only during Ramadan. Umm Mahmood identified the specific point using the map attached by the police to the banning order. She has to take a roundabout route in order not to violate the order and face further sanctions.

“I prayed the sunset, night and Tarawih prayers with my children,” Umm Mahmood pointed out. “Some of them entered Al-Aqsa with their father, and some stayed with me. I will not abandon my stay at the nearest point of the mosque, and occupation orders will never deprive us of our rights.”

When asked why she thinks the Israel authorities have issued the banning order, the Jerusalemite mentor said that they are trying to silence the voices of those who stay in Al-Aqsa. “The banning orders,” she added, “are issued under false pretences.”

(Source / 21.05.2018)

IOA bans 12 Palestinians from traveling at Karama crossing

Karama crossing 12 passengers

The Israeli Occupation Authority (IOA) prevented last week 12 Palestinian passengers from traveling through Karama (King Hussein) border crossing with Jordan for unexplained security reasons.

According to the Palestinian Authority (PA) police on Sunday, over 32,000 Palestinian and foreign passengers were able to travel through the crossing during the week.

During the same period, 48 passengers were also apprehended for legal reasons by the PA police as they were trying to leave the West Bank through the crossing or upon their arrival.

Most of the detainees have unsettled cases still dealt with by the PA legal authorities in the West Bank, according to the police.

Karama crossing also known as Allenby is a bridge that spans the Jordan River and connects the West Bank with Jordan.

The bridge is the sole designated exit and entry point for West Bank Palestinians traveling in and out of the Israeli occupied territories.

(Source / 21.05.2018)

Prisoners declare 3-day mourning following Oweisat’s death

Aziz Oweisat

The Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails have announced a three-day mourning over the death of prisoner Aziz Oweisat, 53.

Head of the Palestinian Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs Commission, Isa Qaraqe, on Sunday said that tension has prevailed in most Israeli prisons after Oweisat was pronounced dead.

Qaraqe said that the prisoners, when they learned about the death of Oweisat, who died after his health deteriorated after he was assaulted by Israeli guards, started to bang on prison doors in protest at the “heinous crime”.

He called on the UN to immediately send an international commission of inquiry to the Israeli prisons to find out the real causes of this crime and make recommendations to the competent authorities to hold the perpetrators accountable.

The Detainees and Ex-Detainees Commission pointed out that martyr Oweista suffered severe bleeding and a heart attack after being violently beaten by Israeli prison guards in Eshel prison on 2nd May.

According to the Commission, Oweisat entered a coma and was transferred to Ramle prison clinic then to Assaf Harofeh Hospital. His health deteriorated further, so he was taken to Tel Hashomer Hospital.

Oweisat was later returned to Assaf Harofeh, where he died, after the administration of Tel Hashomer refused to allow him to stay there despite his critical condition.

Oweisat, a resident of Jabal al-Mukaber town south of Jerusalem, was arrested in 2014 and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Oweisat’s death brought the number of Palestinians killed while detained by the Israeli authorities since 1967 to 216, 75 of whom were executed, 72 died under interrogation, 62 died as a result of medical negligence, and 7 were deliberately shot by Israeli guards inside prisons.

(Source / 21.05.2018)

112 Palestinians killed by Israeli military on Gaza border in weeks

112 Pal's killed Gaza

The Palestinian Health Ministry kept record of the murder of 112 Palestinians by Israeli gunfire since the launch of the Great March of Return protests on the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel on March 30.

In a Sunday statement, the Health Ministry said 112 Palestinians, including eight minors below 18-years-old, were killed and 13,190 others wounded by the Israeli army since March 30.

The bodies of six more Palestinian protesters have been withheld by the Israeli occupation authorities.

According to the ministry’s data, 2,096 minors and 1,029 women have been left wounded in the protests.

The condition of 332 wounded Palestinians has been identified as critical.

The ministry also said 502 protesters were injured in their heads or necks, 283 in the chests or backs, 938 in their upper limbs, and 325 in their lower limbs.

At the same time, 32 protesters have undergone a limb amputation.

A Palestinian civil defense paramedic was killed and 37 ambulances were damaged, the ministry further pointed out.

(Source / 21.05.2018)

IOF arrests ex-prisoner at checkpoint near Nablus

ex-prisoner Nablus arrested

The Israeli occupation forces (IOF) on Sunday afternoon arrested a Palestinian ex-prisoner a few months following his release from Israeli jails.

Local sources told the PIC reporter that the IOF soldiers erected a checkpoint on Tubas-Nablus road, stopped a Palestinian vehicle, arrested one of the passengers, and transferred him to an unknown destination.

The detainee, identified as Tawfiq al-Kharraz, is a resident of Tubas city and an ex-prisoner who was arrested by the IOF several times before.

Meanwhile, according to local sources, the IOF set up a number of temporary checkpoints south of Nablus city hindering the Palestinian citizens’ movement and causing suffocating traffic jams.

The IOF soldiers every now and then install military barriers on the West Bank roads in search for “wanted Palestinians”.

(Source / 21.05.2018)

Bukairat warns of settlers’ desecration of Aqsa Mosque in Ramadan

Sheikh Najeh Bukairat

Sheikh Najeh Bukairat, director of the Islamic Waqf Authority’s Religious Education, has warned of Israeli attempts to impose a new fait accompli at the Aqsa Mosque through increasing Jewish settlers’ tours of its courtyards during the holy month of Ramadan.

“The Zionist occupation has overstepped all red lines and has no regard for Ramadan, Shaaban or Shawwal. It is trying to impose a new fait accompli [at the Aqsa Mosque],” Bukairat told the Palestinian Information Center (PIC).

Previously, he noted, the Jewish settlers had been banned from entering the Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan.

He affirmed that the Aqsa Mosque becomes full of Muslim worshipers during Ramadan and Jewish settlers’ presence in its courtyards nowadays is considered a deliberate provocation to them.

The Palestinian official expressed his belief that “the settlers’ desecration of the Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan is intended to break the Muslims’ feelings and send a message that Israel is the master that controls everything.”

He described such Israeli violations against the Islamic holy site as “very serious” and called on the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to take action to protect the Muslims’ right to worship and put an end to the settlers’ break-ins at the Aqsa Mosque, especially during Ramadan.

(Source / 21.05.2015)

IOF arrests Palestinian injured child

Mohammed Tamimi 15

The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) kidnapped late Sunday a Palestinian injured child from his Nabi Salah village, to the north of Ramallah.

Mohammed Tamimi, 15, was detained at the entrance to the village and immediately taken to a police station at Benyamin detention center in the occupied West Bank.

Tamimi was previously detained and held for three months for participating in anti-occupation protests.

Two months after his release, he was shot in the face by a rubber-coated metal bullet fired by Israeli soldiers causing him serious damage to his skull that required multiple surgeries and removal of a part of his skull.

Tamimi is the cousin of Ahed Tamimi, an icon of Palestinian peaceful resistance, who was detained and sentenced in March, along with her mother, Nariman, to eight months in prison for humiliating an Israeli soldier.

(Source / 21.05.2018)

Palestinian female detainees enduring harsh conditions in Israel jails

Female prisoners

The Prisoners’ and Ex-Prisoners’ Commission raised on Sunday alarm bells over the dire conditions endured by 62 Palestinian women and girls in Israeli jails.

In a Sunday statement the commission quoted lawyer Hiba Ighbariyah as stating that the Israeli prison service at HaSharon jail decided to reduce the number and quantity of meals handed over to the detainees under the guise of new regulations.

The female detainees said the food handed over to them by the Israeli wardens is rotten and unfit for human consumption.

The commission also said Palestinian female detainees in Damon lock-up have been subjected to mistreatment during their transfer to and back from Israeli courts via the “bosta” vehicle, where they are often forced to seat, handcuffed, on metal chairs and prevented from drinking water and going to the toilet.

(Source / 21.05.2015)

Israel forces launch limited incursion, attack fishermen in Gaza

Limited incursion Gaza

Israeli occupation forces on Monday moved into Gaza’s eastern and northern corners and opened fire on Palestinian fishing boats off Gaza’s seashore.

Israeli military bulldozers launched a limited incursion into the eastern and northern corners of the blockaded Gaza Strip.

The bulldozers leveled Palestinian lands near the border fence, discharging gunfire all the way through.

At the same time, Israeli gunboats opened machinegun fire toward Palestinian fishing vessels setting sail off Gaza’s coast.

(Source / 21.05.2018)