‘Zionist’ Biden in His Own Words: ‘My Name is Joe Biden, and Everybody Knows I Love Israel’

US Vice President Joe Biden gestures upon his arrival at Israel's Ben Gurion International airport on 8 March 2016. [JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images]

US Vice President Joe Biden gestures upon his arrival at Israel’s Ben Gurion International airport on 8 March 2016

By Ramzy Baroud 

“I am a Zionist. You don’t have to be a Jew to be a Zionist,” current Democratic Presidential candidate, Joe Biden, said in April 2007, soon before he was chosen to be Barack Obama’s running mate in the 2008 elections.

Biden is, of course, correct, because Zionism is a political movement that is rooted in 20th century nationalism and fascism. Its use of religious dogmas is prompted by political expediency, not spirituality or faith.

Unlike US President, Donald Trump, or Bernie Sanders, Biden’s only serious opponent in the Democratic primaries, Biden’s stand on Israel is rarely examined.

Trump has made his support for Israel the cornerstone of his foreign policy agenda since his inauguration into the White House in January 2017. The American President has basically transformed into Israel’s political genie, granting Tel Aviv all of its wishes in complete defiance of international law.

Sanders, on the other hand, came to represent the antithesis of Trump’s blind and reckless support for Israel. Himself Jewish, Sanders has promised to restore to the Palestinian people their rights and dignity, and to play a more even-handed role, thus ending decades of US unconditional support and bias in favor of Israel.

READ: The Israel lobby is mobilising to stop Bernie Sanders 

But where does Biden factor into all of this?

Below is a brief examination of Biden’s record on Palestine and Israel in recent years, with the hope that it gives the reader a glimpse of a man that many Democrats feel is the rational alternative to the political imbalances and extremism of the Trump administration.

August 1984: Palestinians and Arabs are to Blame

Biden’s pro-Israel legacy began much earlier than his stint as a vice-President or presidential candidate.

When Biden was only a Senator from Delaware, he spoke at the 1984 annual conference of ‘Herut Zionists of America’. Herut is the forerunner of Israel’s right-wing Likud party.

In his speech before the jubilant right-wing pro-Israel Zionist crowd, Biden derided the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Arab governments, for supposedly derailing peace in the Middle East.

Biden spoke of “three myths (that) propel U.S. policy in the Middle East” which, according to the American Senator, are, “the belief that Saudi Arabia can be a broker for peace, the belief that King Hussein (of Jordan) is ready to negotiate peace, and the belief that the Palestine Liberation Organization can deliver a consensus for peace.”

April 2007: ‘I am a Zionist’ 

Time only cemented Biden’s pro-Israel’s convictions, leading to his declaration in April 2007 that he is not a mere supporter of Israel – as has become the standard among US politicians – but is a Zionist himself.

In an interview with Shalom TV, and despite his insistence that he does not need to be Jewish to be a Zionist, Biden labored to make connections with the ‘Jewish State’, revealing that his son is married to a Jewish woman and that “he had participated in a Passover Seder at their house,” according to the Israeli Ynet News.

Former US Vice President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, PA, United States on 10 March 2020. [Kyle Mazza - Anadolu Agency]

March 2013: ‘Qualitative Edge’

This commitment to Israel became better articulated when Biden took on greater political responsibilities as the US vice-president under Obama’s administration.

At a packed AIPAC conference in March 2013, Biden elaborated on his ideological Zionist beliefs and his president’s commitment to ‘the Jewish state of Israel’. He said:

“It was at that table that I learned that the only way to ensure that it could never happen again was the establishment and the existence of a secure, Jewish state of Israel. I remember my father, a Christian, being baffled at the debate taking place at the end of World War II ..” that any country could object to the founding of Israel on the ruins of the Palestinian homeland.

“That’s why we’ve worked so hard to make sure Israel keeps its qualitative edge in the midst of the Great Recession. I’ve served with eight Presidents of the United States of America, and I can assure you, unequivocally, no President has done as much to physically secure the State of Israel as President Barack Obama.”

December 2014: ‘Moral Obligation’ 

In one of the most fiercely pro-Israel speeches ever given by a top US official, Biden told the annual Saban Forum at the Brookings Institution in Washington on December 6, 2014, that, “If there weren’t an Israel, we would have to invent one”.

In his speech, Biden added a new component to the American understanding of its relationship with Israel, one that goes beyond political expediency or ideological connections; a commitment that is founded on “moral obligation”.

Biden said, “We always talk about Israel from this perspective, as if we’re doing (them) some favor. We are meeting a moral obligation. But it is so much more than a moral obligation. It is overwhelmingly in the self-interest of the United States of America to have a secure and democratic friend, a strategic partner like Israel. It is no favor. It is an obligation, but also a strategic necessity.”

US’ Pence: By supporting Palestinian rights, Sanders is siding with Israel’s enemies 

April 2015: ‘I Love Israel’ 

“My name is Joe Biden, and everybody knows I love Israel,” Biden began his speech at the 67th Annual Israeli Independence Day Celebration held in Jerusalem in April 2015.

“Sometimes we drive each other crazy,” the US vice-president said in reference to disagreements between Israel and the US over Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal to halt construction of illegal Jewish settlements.

“But we love each other,” he added. “And we protect each other. As many of you heard me say before, were there no Israel, America would have to invent one. We’d have to invent one because … you protect our interests like we protect yours.”

The Israeli and United States flags are projected on the walls of the ramparts of Jerusalem's Old City, to mark one year since the transfer of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on May 15, 2019. [AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP via Getty Images]

July 2019: US Embassy Stays in Jerusalem

In response to a question by the news website, AXIOS, which was presented to the various Democratic party candidates, on whether a Democratic President would relocate the American embassy back to Tel Aviv, the Biden campaign answered:

“Vice President Biden would not move the American embassy back to Tel Aviv. But he would re-open our consulate in East Jerusalem to engage the Palestinians.”

READ: AIPAC is in a losing battle to preserve Israel’s bipartisan status in America 

October 2019: Support for Israel Unconditional 

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal on October 31, 2019, Biden was asked whether he agrees with the position taken by his more progressive opponent, Bernie Sanders, regarding US financial support to Israel and Jewish settlement.

Sanders had said that, “if elected president he would leverage billions of dollars in U.S. military aid to Israel to push Jerusalem to change its policies toward the Palestinians,” The Hill news website reported.

Biden’s response was that, “ ..  the idea that we would draw military assistance from Israel, on the condition that they change a specific policy, I find to be absolutely outrageous. No, I would not condition it, and I think it’s a gigantic mistake. And I hope some of my candidates who are running with me for the nomination — I hope they misspoke or they were taken out of context.”

March 2020: ‘Above Politics, Beyond Politics’ 

Biden’s fiery speech before the pro-Israel lobby group, AIPAC, at their annual conference in March 2020, was a mere continuation of a long legacy that is predicated on his country’s blind support for Israel.

Biden’s discourse on Israel – a mixture of confused ideological notions, religious ideas and political interests – culminated in a call for American support for Israel that is “above politics and beyond politics”.

“Israelis wake up every morning facing an existential threat from their neighbors’ rockets from Gaza, just like this past week .. That’s why I’ve always been adamant that Israel must be able to defend itself. It’s not just critical for Israeli security. I believe it’s critical for America’s security.”

Palestinians “need to end the rocket attacks from Gaza,” Biden also said. “They need to accept once and for all the reality and the right of a secure democratic and Jewish state of Israel in the Middle East.”

(Source/ 14.03.2020) 

UNRWA suffers $1bn deficit, warns of difficult decisions in April

Matthias Schmale (C), Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza speaks during a press conference held at Press House, a non-profit media organization based in Gaza, on 30 June 2019 in Gaza City, Gaza. [Ali Jadallah - Anadolu Agency]

Matthias Schmale (C), Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza speaks during a press conference held at Press House, a non-profit media organization based in Gaza, on 30 June 2019 in Gaza City, Gaza

Director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) Operations in Gaza, Matthias Schmale, has announced that the international organisation suffers from a $1 billion deficit, warning that it might take difficult decisions in April, Anadolu Agency reported on Friday.

In an interview with Anadolu Agency, Schmale disclosed that the UNRWA is experiencing the “worst” financial crisis to date.

Schmale warned that his organisation might be forced to take difficult decisions at the end of April, relating to offering services should the crisis remained unresolved.

He noted that the annual budget needed to provide proper services in its operation areas is about $1.4 billion.

READ: A coincidence? UNRWA downsizes as deal of the century revealed 

“There are annual pledges from donor countries by $400 million,” he explained, noting that basic services could continue until the end of April and if all pledges were paid, the services could continue until May.

UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty.

The organisation is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions, and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. As a result, the UNRWA programme budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall.

(Source / 14.03.2020) 

Journalist Among 19 Injured by Israeli Forces in Kufur Qaddoum

Two Palestinians, including a journalist, were shot by Israeli occupation forces, while 17 others suffocated, on Friday, during the weekly protest, in the village of Kufur Qaddoum in the northern West Bank district of Qalqilia, local sources said.

Morad Eshteiwi, the coordinator of the Popular Committee against the Wall and Colonies, told Palestinian WAFA News Agency that Israeli soldiers fired rubber-coated rounds and teargas at the the protesters. 2 people were shot with rubber-coated steel bullets, and 17 others suffered the toxic effects of tear-gas inhalation.

Ja’far Shtayyeh, a journalist affiliated with the Agence France-Presse (AFP) was shot and injured by Israeli forces. The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate condemned the targeting of a photojournalist, describing it as a result of Israeli government’s campaign against Palestinian journalists.

The Palestinians in the village of Kufur Qaddoum and surrounding community have been holding weekly protests since 2002, when the Israeli occupation closed the main road connecting the villages to the city of Nablus. Every Friday, locals come out to show their objection to illegal Israeli settlements and the apartheid wall.

Images: Shehab News Agency

(Source / 14.03.2020) 


Occupied West Bank (QNN)- Confrontations erupted on Friday between Israeli occupiers and the locals of Kafr Qaddum in eastern Qalqilya after the Israeli repression of the village’s weekly anti-settlement protest.

The photojournalist, Ja’far Ishtayyeh, was reportedly wounded with a rubber-coated metal bullet in his leg while he was covering the confrontations.

Another young man was wounded with rubber-coated metal bullets during the confrontations while 17 others were suffocated in the Israeli poisonous tear gas as well.

In Azzun in eastern Qalqilya, local sources told QNN that several Israeli soldiers had burns after locals threw Molotov cocktails at them.

Confrontations erupted near the southern checkpoint of Qalqilya as well.

In the occupied capital city, Israeli forces arrested Khaled Zeir during a tree-planting event in a land that Israeli authorities threaten to confiscate in Wadi Rababah in Silwan.

(Source / 14.03.2020) 


By Karim Kattan

The brand-new Sabat Mall, which opened only a few months ago on one of Bethlehem’s main thoroughfares, lies completely empty. Although most of the mall’s shops are shuttered, George’s supermarket — which was supposed to have its opening last week — is open for all who wish to buy groceries. And yet, hardly anyone is walking into the state-of-the-art store.

Glass elevators glide up and down the mall’s floors. Instrumental covers of contemporary pop hits waft out of them, entertaining no one in particular. A few security guards stand by the door, wearing masks around their necks and smoking. “Foreigner?” they ask. “Palestinian,” we answer.

Foreigners used to be a valuable resource. Now, with the outbreak of the new coronavirus, which has infected at least 31 people in the West Bank, all but one in Bethlehem, they are considered dangerous. The first Palestinian cases of the virus were traced back to a group of Greek tourists.

Outside the mall, the streets of the city are mostly empty as well. The atmosphere is eerie, as if one had stepped into an alternate universe, a Bethlehem magically emptied of its inhabitants. In a painful twist on its main means of survival, the coronavirus outbreak here has upended the upcoming high season of tourism. Images of Manger Square being sterilized, of Palestinian policemen and Israeli soldiers in hazmat suits around checkpoints or inside the city, and of trucks burning frankincense and megaphoning prayers, evoke powerful — though dated — science fiction tropes and depictions of the end of the world.

Everyone seems to worry. The insidious effects of confinement have started to take hold: rising apprehension, inexplicable anger, and uncontrollable paranoia. The rumor mill has been spinning fast on messaging apps and social media, leaving Bethlehem at a fever pitch. Since last Friday, everyone in Bethlehem has at some point received purported lists of people who have the virus (complete with their ID numbers and full names), fake messages from doctors, and alarming voice messages pretending the situation is out of control. Ministries and authorities are urging the population to only read, circulate, and believe official statements.

By the fifth day of the lockdown, it had become increasingly complicated to know who to trust. And so, we turned toward time-tested home remedies: proponents of garlic argued with those who touted the merits of aniseed or those who swore up and down that exposure to the sun would swiftly kill the virus. All seemed to agree that no one knew what they were doing, and the best solution was to stay home and pray this all goes away.

Bethlehem is a city that is used to being lied to. Whether it is because of the incompetence of the Palestinian leadership, or because of the far-reaching propaganda of the Israeli occupation, or simply because of the public’s distrust of media, the city has learned to believe no one. Rumor and hearsay have become the only way news about the coronavirus travel, as a remedy to the perceived ineptitude (or malevolence, depending on who you ask) of the authorities.

One fake voice message in particular captured our imagination a few days ago. In it, a man purporting to work at the Palestinian Health Ministry announced to his friend that the ministry would impose a curfew over the city the next day, since the situation was allegedly far worse than previously imagined. The prankster was soon caught, and he released an apology.

But his stunt resonated because it spoke to one of the ongoing debates among Palestinians: would the Israelis or the Palestinian Authority impose a curfew on Bethlehem? Should they? Some believe it would be the best way to contain the spread of the virus. Others worry that we have been so thoroughly colonized that we have come to expect Israel’s unacceptable security measures as a means of saving us from ourselves.

We were all reminded of Bethlehem’s history, a city very familiar with confinements and lockdowns. Twenty years ago, practically to the month, Bethlehem had been reduced to a ghost town after the Israeli army laid siege to the Church of the Nativity, where Palestinians had taken shelter during the Second Intifada. During a biblical forty days, the city was emptied of life. Around that time, Israel imposed days or weeks-long curfews on the population to try and undermine morale and destroy the social fabric of West Bank cities.

Today, the atmosphere of the Second Intifada curfews permeates Bethlehem. Except that now, instead of Israeli soldiers and tanks roaming the city, Palestinian police in hazmat suits, wearing the now-ubiquitous masks that signal the presence of coronavirus, try to project an atmosphere of control against this shapeless threat.

These paranoia-fueled debates are in part a result of the complete lockdown of the city. Bethlehem seems to have become radioactive these past few days. Memes mocking the city’s new pariah status abound. Bethlehem is shut down: no-one goes in, no-one leaves, as if the city itself radiates disease. Palestinians have become, all at once, a threat, a health hazard, and a security risk.

The lockdown began in the period leading up to the Jewish holiday of Purim, for which Israel restricts travel for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank every year. Therefore, for many Palestinians, the measures taken by Israel, as the occupying power, as well as by the Palestinian Authority, are ambivalent. They are based on health assessments, but also on political and security considerations. The fact that announcements regarding this double lockdown came from different sources, including Israel’s Defense Ministry and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the Israeli military body responsible for administering the occupation, is seen as evidence of that.

Late Monday evening, Israel’s Health Ministry announced that it would exempt visitors returning from Rachel’s Tomb in the northern outskirts of Bethlehem from quarantine. This site, holy for Muslims, Jews and Christians, is now separated from the city through concrete barriers that are part of Israel’s apartheid wall.

The announcement by the Health Ministry thus traced a topography of danger and contagion, which closely follows that of the wall and of Israel’s imaginary frontier. Although Israel has more cases of the coronavirus than the West Bank, the perception is that a Palestinian body is more likely to fall ill, to contaminate, and to kill.

To be fair, Israel has also imposed stringent health measures in its own territory, quarantining tens of thousands of people and banning most incoming travelers. The shut down in Bethlehem is merely an extreme version of that. A sort of experiment, it seems.

Science fiction can give audiences the impression that the worst can only happen in dystopia — meaning, later, or somewhere far away. Here in Palestine, governments are already taking drastic measures to blur the line between health and security, synthesizing the two into a single tool used to scare us into docility.

This is not to say that there are not legitimate reasons to fear the spread of the virus, nor that confinement and social distancing are poor solutions. As confinement becomes the preferred solution, it is difficult to disagree with the Bethlehem lockdown.

However, the reflex to invoke security measures to contain a health hazard — especially in the West Bank — should make us wary. Israel’s drastic measures, both for its own society and for the occupied territories, are made possible because of its thorough know-how of population management, an expertise it has developed over decades, especially in the West Bank and Gaza. Its current management of the coronavirus is linked to its management of the occupied territories.

Shutting down checkpoints is not a novel measure, nor is sifting through workers to identify those who come from Bethlehem, or creating a distinction between good and bad Palestinian bodies. Confining Palestinians, monitoring their mobility, and surveilling their actions is, arguably, a crucial part of the occupation.

For Palestinians, the current closure on Bethlehem is neither a far-off dystopia nor a twenty-minutes-into-the-future fictional government. If anything, it is a blast from the past. The political uprising of twenty years ago and the health crisis of today are dealt with in familiar ways, using similar tools. These strategies are part of the very fabric of the occupation. The measures that seem unprecedented, terrifying, or confusing to the world are, for Palestinians, business as usual — just slightly worse.

(Source / 14.03.2020) 


By Ihab Rimawi – WAFA

Before March 5, no one would think that vibrant Angel Hotel in the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem, the biblical birthplace of Jesus Christ, would become the main quarantine in the occupied West Bank for patients of the novel COVID-19 pandemic. But this became a fact when about seven guests and staff tested positive for the virus on that day.

From that moment, Antwan Saqqa and three of his friends, who work at the hotel, decided to volunteer to help the patients and the other people quarantined at the hotel.

Saqqa, the three volunteers and five of the hotel staff, all tested negative for COVID-19. Nevertheless, he and three of this friends decided to remain at the hotel to help their colleagues stuck there, both the infected and the not-infected. They are currently staying in the ground floor of the hotel, while the quarantined staff and guests, who also tested negative, are staying in the second floor. Those who tested positive for the virus are quarantined in the third floor.

Ever since the start of the crisis, the volunteers in the ground floor have divided themselves into two groups, with the first group providing quarantined guests and patients with breakfast in the morning and vitamins to improve immunity. Two sterilized wagons are used for delivery of food, vitamins and other supplies, and are placed outside the hotel every time after their use for sterilization and ventilation.

The second group performs the same functions as the first group after midday every day, but is usually accompanied by a doctor who conducts regular checks for the patients and the other people under quarantine, as well as talks to them about their health conditions.

Guests in the ground floor received protective suits and N95 type masks on the third day of the crisis to ensure their safety and protection against infection, and continued with the same precautions until today according to the directions of the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

Saqqa says when each group begins its mission of delivering the food and supplies every day, they wear the protective suits and masks, and when they arrive at each of the rooms of the patients and those quarantined, they leave the items at the door of the room. Then, he continues, they move four meters away and call the occupant of the room by phone to take the food and the other supplies, before closing the door of the room.

“What most guests need in the hotel at the moment is the psychological support which the doctors are focusing on at this stage. This makes them [the patients] feel they are one family, and that their exit from this ordeal will be the result of patience and resilience,” Saqqa adds.

The death of the mother of one of the people quarantined was the most difficult situation for all those quarantined in the hotel. Because his exit from the hotel to bid farewell to his mother would pose the risk of infection for his family and relatives, he had to find a safe way to bid his mother farewell. Hence, the volunteers reached out to the various authorities who decided that the body of the deceased mother would be brought to the entrance of the hotel for her son to bid her farewell, but only after he wore a protective suit.

Saqqa continues, “The young man was fully responsible and wise, and he was aware that his exit would pose a danger to his family. He didn’t want to make a mess but only asked to take a last look of his deceased mother. We fought to achieve his demand.”

Saqqa hopes their ordeal will not take so long. He conducted a preliminary examination on March 5 and will perform other tests at the end of the current week. If the result appears negative, he will return to his home and be quarantined there for a period of two weeks. The same applies to all those at the hotel, both the infected and non-infected alike.

Earlier today, the government’s spokesperson announced that the number COVID-19 patients in the West Bank reached 38, with 37 of them in Bethlehem and only one in Tulkarm.

(Source / 14.03.2020) 


Occupied Jerusalem (QNN)- Israeli authorities forced the family of Tareq Ali in Shu’fat refugee camp to demolish their four-story building.

Local sources told QNN that the family started to demolish the building after receiving a court order to demolish it because it overlooks the illegal settlement of Pisgat Ze’ev.

In the same vein, Israeli forces on Friday attacked worshipers at Al Aqsa mosque during Fajr prayer.

Israeli forces also attacked activists, who were planting trees in Wadi Rababah in Silwan, Jerusalem.

(Source / 14.03.2020) 

What happens if Coronavirus reaches the Gaza Strip

What is needed is a fundamental and structural change that would emancipate the Palestinian healthcare system from the horrific impact of the Israeli occupation

By Ramzy Baroud 

While the question carries great urgency for all Palestinians living under Israel’s military occupation, the Gaza situation is particularly complex and extremely worrying.

Nearly 130 countries have already reported cases of COVID-19 disease, one of several epidemics that are caused by the Coronavirus. If developed countries, such as Italy and South Korea, are struggling to contain the deadly virus, one can only imagine what occupied Palestinians would have to face should the virus strike.

In fact, according to health officials, the Coronavirus may have already reached Palestine following a visit by a South Korean delegation in the period between February 8 and 15, which included a tour in the major Palestinian cities of Jerusalem, Nablus, Jericho, Hebron, and Bethlehem. Nine people who were on the delegation tested positive for Coronavirus after their trip, although it is not known when they contracted the virus.

The Palestinian Authority scrambled to contain the fallout of the news, which caused palpable panic among a population that has little faith in its leadership, to begin with. PA Prime Minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh, “hoped” that the “owners of the unknown facilities” would exercise personal responsibility and shut down their business and other establishments that are open to the public.

The PA Ministry of Health followed this by declaring a “state of emergency” in all hospitals under PA jurisdiction in the West Bank, designating a quarantine centre near Jericho for those arriving from China and other areas that are hard hit by the Coronavirus.

For Palestinians however, fighting an outbreak of the Coronavirus is not a straightforward matter, even if the dysfunctional PA facilities follow the instructions of the World Health Organization (WHO) to the letter.

Palestinians are separated by an Israeli matrix of control that has excluded many communities behind large cement walls, military checkpoints, and impossible to navigate army ordinances that are inherently designed to weaken the Palestinian community and to ease the Israeli government’s mission of controlling Palestinians and colonizing their land.

What can the PA do to come to the aid of tens of thousands of Palestinians in the so-called Area C of the occupied West Bank? This region is entirely under the control of the Israeli army, which has little interest in the welfare of the Palestinian inhabitants there.

Such questions would have to be considered in the context of what WHO refersto as “health inequalities” among Palestinians, on the one hand, and between Palestinians and privileged illegal Jewish settlers, on the other.

In some way, many Palestinian communities are already quarantined by Israel, but for political, not medical reasons. An outbreak of the Coronavirus in some of these communities, especially the ones that are cut off from proper healthcare and well-equipped medical facilities, would prove disastrous.

The worst of fates, however, awaits Gaza, should the deadly and fast-spreading virus find its way from all directions through the hermetic siege, which engulfs this minuscule, but densely populated region.

Gaza, which is enduring its 12th year of Israeli siege and is still reeling under the massive destruction of several Israeli wars, has already been declared “uninhabitable” by the United Nations.

However, the misery of Gaza never ceases to unfold. Not a single UN report on Gaza’s ailing medical facilities or preparedness for at least the last ten years has used any positive or even hopeful language.

Last March, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, Mr. Jamie McGoldrick, bemoaned Gaza’s “chronic power outages, gaps in critical services, including mental health and psychosocial support, and shortages of essential medicines and supplies.”

In January, the Israeli rights group B’Tselem spoke of an unprecedented health crisis in besieged Gaza, one that is not fuelled by the Coronavirus or any other such epidemics but by the fact that Gaza’s barely functioning hospitals are desperately trying to deal with the fall-out of the thousands of injuries resulting from the Great March of Return which has taken place on the Gaza side of the dividing fence.

B’Tselem has already reported on “the unlawful open-fire policy Israel is using against these demonstrations, allowing soldiers to shoot live fire at unarmed protesters who endanger no one, has led to horrific results.”

The Israeli group cited moderate estimations provided by WHO that, by the end of 2019, Gaza physicians had to perform limb amputations on 155 protesters, a number that includes 30 children. This, in addition to dozens of protesters who have become permanently paralyzed because of spinal injuries.

This is only a small part of a much more multifaceted crisis. Not only measles and other highly contagious infectious diseases are finding their way back to Gaza, water-borne diseases are also spreading at an alarming rate.

Ninty-seven percent of all of Gaza’s water is not fit for human consumption, according to the WHO, which begs the question: How could Gaza hospitals possibly confront the Coronavirus epidemic when, in some cases, clean water is not even available in Gaza’s largest hospital, Al-Shifa?

“Even when it is available, doctors and nurses are unable to sterilize their hands because of the water quality,” according to the RAND Corporation.

WHO director in Palestine, Gerald Rockenschaub, spoke assuredly about his meeting with PA Minister of Health, Mai Al-Kaila, in Ramallah on February 25, where they discussed the need for more “preparedness measures” and “additional priority preparedness actions” in the West Bank and Gaza.

WHO also announced that it is “coordinating with local authorities in Gaza” to ensure the Strip’s preparedness to cope with the Coronavirus.

Such soothing language, however, masks an ugly reality, one that WHO and the entire United Nations have failed to confront over the course of a decade.

All previous reports on Gaza by WHO, while accurately detailing the problem, did little to diagnose its roots or to fashion a permanent solution to it. Indeed, Gaza’s hospitals are as dysfunctional as ever, Gaza’s water is as dirty as ever and, despite repeated warnings, the Strip is still unfit for human habitation, thanks to the brutal Israeli siege and to the silence of the international community.

The truth is, no amount of preparedness in Gaza – or, frankly, anywhere in occupied Palestine – can stop the spread of the Coronavirus. What is needed is a fundamental and structural change that would emancipate the Palestinian healthcare system from the horrific impact of the Israeli occupation and the Israeli government’s policies of perpetual siege and politically-imposed quarantines – also known as apartheid.

(Source / 14.03.2020) 

Israel kills 10,000th Palestinian since 2000, US media largely ignores it

US did not know about him. If one Israeli was killed by the Palestinian resistance, his story would be front page news across the US

By Alison Weir

Israeli occupation forces killed a 15-year-old unarmed Palestinian boy on Wednesday as a sniper shot him in the head with an expanding bullet.

Author of the blog If the Americans Knew Alison Weir reported that this boy, Mohamed Hamayel, is the 10,000th Palestinian killed by an Israeli since the start of the Second Intifada that began in fall 2000. The boy was reportedly shot in the face.

During the same period, Palestinian resistance against the Israeli occupation have killed 1,270 Israeli occupiers.

Because US media rarely cover Palestinian deaths, while often emphasising Israeli deaths, most Americans are unaware that Israeli forces have killed far more people than Palestinian resistance groups.

Weir also said that the Israeli occupation kills first in nearly every aggression that leads to resistance response.

If the situation were reversed, and a Palestinian military forces invaded an Israeli town and shot a teenager in the head, it would in all probability be front page news across the US.

US news reports also fail to mention that the colonisation of Palestine in the early 1900s with the intention of taking over the land for a Jewish state is the reason of all of these killing.

She also said that Israel was established through a war of what an Israeli historian terms “ethnic cleansing.”

Once again, US news media are largely ignoring Israel’s latest killing of a Palestinian youth.

Other than an automatic Associated press feed buried on their websites, there do not seem to have been any reports on the death by NPR, CNN, the New York Times, Washington Post, PBS, etc.

(Source / 14.03.2020) 

Dreaming Of A Life In Palestine

By| Amjad Ayman Yaghi

When Muhammad al-Amoudi was shot during the Great March of Return protests in April 2018, little did the 27-year-old foresee how it would affect the rest of his life.

But the bone-shattering bullet that traveled through one foot before lodging in the other, also marked the beginning of the unlikeliest of love stories that eventually resulted in the construction worker’s marriage to a young Moroccan woman.

Such developments are unlikely, but not unheard of. Over the past few years despite all the obstacles and hardships, it has become something of a phenomenon for young foreigners to seek out Gaza as their destination and home.

Gaza’s ministry of interior registered more than 3,000 entry permits and other documents for foreign and expatriate visitors in 2019. According to ministry statistics seen by The Electronic Intifada, more than 500 are residency requests, either temporary or longer term, for those settled in Gaza.

These foreigners include people like Mahjouba Qanoun, who was watching the news far away in Casablanca, Morocco, when Muhammad’s injury was caught on camera.

Mahjouba, 26, was an office administrator at a private school when she saw Muhammad being stretchered off a field in Gaza, flashing a victory sign to the cameras.

She has closely followed the news from Palestine since she was 11, she told The Electronic Intifada. Since then, and like many people in Morocco, she had dreamed of visiting.

Social media provided another way for her to keep track of Palestinian news, so when she saw Muhammad wounded on the screen it did not take her long to track him down on Facebook.

At first, she was concerned about his condition, checking regularly with him about his rehabilitation. But soon their conversations became more intimate and feelings began to develop. In November 2018, he proposed. She accepted.

Dreams of Gaza

In March last year, Mahjouba went to Cairo where she presented a letter from the Moroccan foreign ministry affirming her intention to marry in Gaza. This allowed her to travel through Sinai. She and Muhammad were married on 9 March 2019 in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip where they now live.

Palestine is hugely popular in Morocco, where the Palestinian struggle, as it is in so many Arab countries, is seen as a common cause. Moroccans will even tell someone who angrily confronts another to “go liberate Palestine,” according to Mahjouba, as a way to tell them that there are more worthy ways for them to expend their anger.

Still, many of her friends opposed the move, wondering how she would live under occupation and in such difficult conditions. Mahjouba did not worry about the dangers.

“Many think Gaza is a place of fear,” she said. “But there are beautiful mosques, art and science here. These are people who love to live, for their children and for peace.”

Nevertheless, and for all that she has been paying attention, she was caught unaware of some vital matters. She did not realize how separated the Gaza Strip is from the West Bank. She fully expected hardships, but did not realize how sociable Palestinians in Gaza can be in spite of the numerous challenges they face.

She welcomed Gaza’s religious spirit and said the only danger she feels is from Israeli bombings.

Muhammad, who has not been able to work since his injury, is happy but concerned for his new wife.

“She is fearful when she hears the sounds of Israeli bombings. She is experiencing electricity and water shortages for the first time.”

But, he said, she has accepted these conditions and acclimatized well. She has also, he said, helped him as he tries to overcome an injury that kept him at home for six months and is still causing him pain.

Muhammad is awaiting Palestinian Authority financial assistance to have an operation in Egypt.

A life of steadfastness

Mahjouba is not the only woman who traveled from North Africa to live in Gaza. Amina Radi, 26, arrived in mid-October last year to marry Ehab Hamid, 28, a mechanic from Nuseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip.

She left her job as a French teacher in a primary school in Bejaia province in northern Algeria after meeting Ehab online at the beginning of 2019. They decided to marry and she agreed to come and live in Gaza for what she already understood, she told The Electronic Intifada, would be “a life of steadfastness.”


Like Mahjouba, Amina has felt a strong connection to Palestine since she was a child. Partly, this connection is religious attachment, she said, referencing the centrality of Palestine in Islam.

And part of the connection is historical. Algeria, which fought off French colonial shackles to secure independence in the early 1960s, has long been a strong supporter of Palestinian rights to freedom and self-determination.

When Amina first set foot in Gaza, she dropped to her knees, kissed the land and cried, she told The Electronic Intifada.

“It was a great feeling.”

Having spent several months there now, she said, the Palestinians of Gaza, with their ability to remain steadfast under the toughest of circumstances, have only grown in her estimation.

“People have adjusted themselves to the simplest and most basic necessities of life. Even as the ambulances hurry and funerals are held during the day, before sunset you will hear the sounds of wedding celebrations.”

Also like Mahjouba, Amina’s family and friends were against her move, mostly fearing for her safety. She tries to assure them, but mostly she is just happy to be in Gaza.

“I tell people every day how close-knit the community in Gaza is and how much people care, for each other and for outsiders like me. People here love me because I am Algerian.”

And she’s not the only one. Amina has two new Algerian friends who both traveled to Gaza last year to marry: Fatima Bou Qalqal, 27, from Msila Province, northern Algeria, and Nawal Bou Abdulkarim, 30, from Algiers, the capital.

They both now live in Gaza City.

From Syria with love

Lina Sbaih’s situation is a little different. Lina, 26, met her Syrian husband in Gaza.

Anas Qaterji came to work in Gaza in 2013 purely because an opportunity presented itself. His family’s restaurant in Aleppo was destroyed during that country’s ongoing conflict and he had managed to escape to Egypt, where he was offered a job at a restaurant in Gaza by someone he met.

The 32-year-old has since worked in several eateries and hotels in Gaza, until he opened his own restaurant in the Nuseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip three years ago.

The restaurant is called Jar al-Qalaa (The Castle) 2, a reference to his family’s restaurant of the same name.

Anas’ was a journey from fire to fire. Just a year after he arrived in Gaza, Israel launched its 2014 offensive that killed more than 2,200 people, the vast majority of them civilians.

Despite this, he said, and the hardships he has to contend with, he loves life in Gaza. This is especially so in the refugee camp where, he said, the sense of community reminds him of Aleppo.

“Gaza is a loving community. I lived in the city and the camp. I found the camp residents are close to the customs and traditions of Aleppo,” he told The Electronic Intifada.

He and Lina married in 2018. They had met in another restaurant where Anas, according to Lina, had “boldly asked” for her address to seek permission from her family to marry.

It worked.

“It was a strange thing to do, but it turned out to be the most beautiful event in my life,” said Lina, who now is a homemaker. “I’ve found my happiness with him.”

Said Anas: “Here we live with joy whatever the difficulties and even at times of war.”

(Source / 14.03.2020)