Israel issues ‘stop work notices’ to Palestine homes in Bethlehem

Israeli soldiers monitor a demonstration by Palestinians in Bethlehem, West Bank on 12 June 2012 [Najeh Hashlamoun/Apaimages]
Israeli soldiers monitor a demonstration by Palestinians in Bethlehem, West Bank on 12 June 2012

On Friday Israeli occupation authorities issued “stop work notices” to eight Palestinian facilities in the village of Nahalin, west of Bethlehem, Maan News Agency reported.

The facilities, according to the mayor of the village, Sobhi Zaidan, included residential homes and farming shacks.

Zaidan disclosed that this is part of a wide range of Israeli ploys against Palestinian construction in their own properties.

He confirmed that this kind of Israeli violations has increased sharply after the outbreak of the coronavirus, noting that these are part of the Israeli efforts to expand the illegal settlement of Gush Etzion.

The mayor added that the Israeli settlement group Regavim published a video on social media explaining that it is following up the increasing Palestinian construction in the area, stating that it undermines the planned annexation.

READ: UN reports about Israeli violations lack meaningful political action

(Source / 16.05.2020) 

Israel fears new ‘violent’ Intifada in West Bank due to economic crisis

A Palestinian man holds News Israeli Shekels' bills marked with stickers reading "Free Palestine" on March 7, 2011 in the West Bank city of Ramallah, as part of a campaign aimed to peacefully express opposition to Israel's occupation. [ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/Getty Images]
A Palestinian man holds Israeli Shekels’ bills marked with stickers reading ‘Free Palestine’ on March 7, 2011 in the West Bank city of Ramallah

Israeli security officials fear an outbreak of a new “violent” Intifada in the occupied West Bank due to an economic crisis that would undermine the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Despite the limited spread of the coronavirus in the occupied West Bank, it has had a tangible negative impact on the economy that might be deemed an incentive for an uprising if Israel implements the annexation plan, Israeli security officials fear.

The expected Intifada could undermine the PA and the sovereignty of Mahmoud Abbas in the occupied territories.

According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the Israeli security officials were asked to provide a security evaluation of the potential consequences of the annexation plan.

Depending on Palestinian data, Haaretz reported that Israeli security officials found that the main reason that pushed the Palestinians to carry out anti-PA measures in the last two years related to economic issues.

One of these issues is the Israeli freeze of the PA’s tax revenues under the pretext of paying the salaries of the Palestinians killed or imprisoned by Israel.

READ: Palestinians face discrimination, even inside Israel, says HRW

(Source / 16.05.2020) 

Nakba Day: EuroPal Forum webinar highlights Palestinians’ ongoing Nakba and cautions against viewing annexation as independent of Zionism

Palestinians march during a demonstration marking the 69th anniversary of Nakba in Ramallah, West Bank on May 15, 2017 [Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency]
Palestinians march during a demonstration marking the anniversary of the Nakba in Ramallah, West Bank on 15 May 2017

On the 72nd year since the Palestinian Nakba, EuroPal Forum hosted a webinar via ZOOM titled “Nakba72: The Continuation of Colonisation – Impending Annexation and the Future of Peace in the Middle East. The webinar, which heard from Professor Ilan Pappe, Dr Yousef Jabareen MK, Dr Salman Abu Sitta and Dr Hatem Bazian, concentrated on the displacement of Palestinians in 1948 as an inevitable consequence of Zionism and the continuity of this process as seen through today’s impending annexation of 30 per cent of the West Bank.

The webinar was opened by EuroPal Forum’s Public Relations Officer Robert Andrews. In his introductory remarks, Robert noted that the webinar is part of a broad range of initiatives that EuroPal Forum is engaged in, to encourage a more comprehensive understanding of key developments in Palestine. For the organisation, Nakba Day presented a salient opportunity to discuss both the nature of the Nakba and the continuity of Palestinian dispossession as it is seen today with the impending annexation of Palestinian land.

The first speaker of the webinar, Professor Ilan Pappe, a historian and professor at the University of Exeter, focused on the relationship between Zionism and Palestinian dispossession, and the dynamics of Palestine’s “new Nakba”. Pappe started by noting that the Zionist movement arrived in Palestine in the late nineteenth century with a clear colonial ideology of acquiring as much of Palestine as possible with as few Palestinians as possible. With this in mind, the Zionist movement, as described by Pappe: “Never ceased to contemplate the transfer and expulsions of the Palestinians and waited for the right historical moment for implementing this vision.”

READ: On the Nakba anniversary, the two-state politics hold more value for the PA

This opportunity came with the end of the British mandate when the Zionist movement started to contemplate and realise the acceleration of these designs and the systematic removal of Palestinians from Palestine. According to Pappe, the incompletion of this process in 1948 and the continued existence of Israel as a settler colonial project, informs all of the Israeli actions (including the impending annexation of the West Bank) against the Palestinians, until today.

Following Pappe’s segment, member of the Knesset, Dr Yousef Jabareen, also focused on the dynamics of the “new Nakba” and the impending annexation of the West Bank. Jabareen noted that while we discuss the impending annexation of the West Bank, on the ground the annexation process is already being realised by several Israeli laws. Jabareen cites applying Israeli law to academic institutions in the West Bank as one in a number of laws passed that illustrates de facto annexation on the ground.

Knesset Member Dr Yousef Jabareen in Jerusalem

Jabareen went on to note that the question now amongst Israeli decision-makers is whether there is actually a need to declare annexation or whether it can be fully achieved through this “incremental annexation”. Jabareen noted that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is hoping to gain political points through the formal declaration of annexation and exploit the current international and local status quo. For Jabareen, Netanyahu is encouraged by the strength of the new Israeli government, the international community’s pre-occupation with COVID-19, the possibility of annexation deflecting attention from the criminal charges being brought against him and the favourable US administration.

Following Jabareen’s talk, Dr Salman Abu Sitta, chairman of the General Assembly of the Popular Conference for Palestinians Abroad and founder of the Palestine Land Society (PLS), addressed the crowd under the topic of Zionism’s multiple attacks against Palestinians and the likely outcome of 150 years of Zionist colonial history. Abu Sitta started by noting that the Zionist project and the Nakba is the most unique colonial project in the world, as it is a stand-alone case study of colonialism in the twentieth century. According to Abu Sitta, the Nakba constituted a systematic campaign in which: “560 villages were depopulated through an organised military campaign in which nine brigades have participated with 120,000 soldiers operating in 31 military operations.” Abu Sitta expresses that the Nakba is not simply a series of war crimes, but was also accompanied and helped by a range of deceptions not used in other colonial projects. He cites the idea that Palestine was “a land without a people” as particularly striking as it has completely falsified reality, with extensive survey research conducted by the British and French noting that Palestine was vastly populated before the creation of the state of Israel.

READ: Annexation of occupied territory is a crime

To conclude, Abu Sitta highlighted that given the systematic dispossession of the Palestinians, the rejection of the Palestinian right of return is both an immoral and illegal position. Abu Sitta confirms that research is clear that 87 per cent of Jewish Israelis live in only 12 per cent of Israel’s area. If refugees return, therefore, there will be very minor displacement, which is a: “Small price to pay for 72 years of death and destruction of Palestinians.”

Dr Salman Abu Sitta at Middle East Monitor's 'Jerusalem: Legalising the Occupation' conference in London, UK on March 3, 2018 [Jehan Alfarra/Middle East Monitor]

The final speaker, lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley, Dr Hatem Bazian, looked at the future of the international community’s position on Palestine given the status quo and current developments. Bazian started by describing that the dispossession of the Palestinians is not only a Zionist project, but must be viewed as a Zionist, European and an American project simultaneously. Bazian argues that there is an: “Ongoing irredentism that is at the core of right-wing political imagination relative to what is called the loss of the East.” This notion, according to Bazian, informs right-wing thinking across Europe and is centred on the idea that the “East” has been lost to the Muslim world. In this context, the reconstitution of support for Zionism is an “ideological and theological intersection to this possibility of reclaiming the East,” and explains US support for Zionism as well as the “double-speak” that is seen from the Europeans with regard to Palestine.

In this light, in relation to the annexation process, Bazian notes that a unique configuration has emerged in the US in which the heightened dominance of the evangelical Christian right has precipitated an increase in calls for the reconstitution of Jews to Palestine. This configuration is also reflected in the broader European shift to the right-wing and the opposition towards Palestinian human rights in Europe. Netanyahu, in this context, is seeking a “final stage” affirmation in the continued dispossession of the Palestinians.

For a longer version of this webinar report please email 

Webinar video link:

(Source / 16.05.2020) 

Israel: 72 years of catastrophe

Palestinians can be seen fleeing their homes during the 1948 Nakba, also known as 'The Great Catastrophe'
Palestinians can be seen fleeing their homes during the 1948 Nakba, also known as ‘The Great Catastrophe’

By Asa Winstanley 

Between 1947 and 1949, Zionist militias and the newly-formed Israeli army expelled more than half of the indigenous population of Palestine.

Some 800,000 Palestinians were either forced out literally at the barrel of a gun, or fled in fear of being massacred by the Zionist forces.

This is commemorated by Palestinians every year as “Nakba Day” – Nakba meaning “catastrophe” in Arabic. The establishment of Israel was, and remains, a complete and utter disaster for the indigenous people of Palestine.

But Nakba Day is not only about memory – it is about resistance.

The Nakba was not a singular event, centred around 15 May, 1948 – the day after the new state of Israel was established.

READ: How We Became Refugees: The Day My Grandfather Lost His Village in Palestine 

As leading Palestinian intellectual Joseph Massad has for many years explained, the Nakba has never really ended.

Zionist expulsions, dispossessions and killings of the indigenous people of Palestine continue right up until this very day. The Nakba then, not only has a continuous, decades-long history, but it has a future for as long as Zionism endures.

In 1948, the Zionist militias carried out strategic massacres of Palestinians villages in order to act as examples to the rest, encouraging the villagers to flee in fear. The Deir Yassin massacre is only the most well-known example of this.

Nakba Day 1948 - Cartoon [Latuff/MiddleEastMonitor]

The refugees fled in 1948 because they feared for their lives, and because they were expecting to be able to return after the war was over. But they have never been permitted to return – solely because they are not Jewish.

Immediately, Israel began importing Jewish people from around the world – as if they were human cargo – in order to encourage, and (in some cases) compel them to become settlers in the newly-established Jewish state.

In the years immediately following 1948, Israel established a series of racist apartheid laws which permitted Jews from around the world – regardless of the reality of their family links to the country – privileged access to, and the right to settle in and receive citizenship in the new country.

READ: On the Nakba anniversary, the two-state politics hold more value for the PA

This was codified under the “Law of Return” – which is based on the ahistorical contention that all Jews the world over are somehow “ethnically” related to ancient Palestinian Hebrews.

At the same time that Israel established these racist laws, it denied Palestinian refugees and their decedents the right to return to their homeland, despite this right being enshrined in international law.

Palestinian refugees are still denied their right of return until this day.

In recent years, Palestinians in Gaza began a regular “March of Return” (the population of the Gaza Strip is two million-strong – consisting of about 70 per cent refugees). In a series of brutal reprisals for having the sheer audacity to peacefully exercise their rights under international law, Israel mowed hundreds of them down in cold blood using sniper bullets.

READ: The world must halt Israel’s annexation and reverse its colonisation of Palestine

Most world leaders did little more than toothlessly protest – if they were not actively encouraging the slaughter.

After 1948, Israel systematically handed over the land and homes of the dispossessed Palestinians refugees to Jews from Europe, and later from the Middle East.

In fact, many Palestinian villages – more than 500 of them – were systematically wiped off the face of the earth by the Zionist militias and the new Israeli army, using bulldozers and dynamite.

As infamous Israeli General Moshe Dayan admitted some years later: “Jewish villages were built in the place of [Palestinian] Arab villages. You don’t even know the names of these Arab villages, and I don’t blame you, because these geography books no longer exist. Not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either. Nahalal arose in the place of Mahlul, Gvat in the place of Jibta; Sarid in the place of Haneifa, and Kfar-Yehoshua in the place of Tel-Shaman. There is not one single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population.”

It is, however, today untrue to say that such geography books do not exist. Thanks to pioneering Palestinian historians and geographers like Walid Khalidi and Salman Abu Sitta, we know today exactly where the destroyed Palestinian villages were, and which Israeli settlements are built on their ruins and on their lands.

As Abu Sitta has shown, the right to return is no mere abstract principle, but is an eminently practical and realisable goal.

Palestinians have a right to return to their homeland.

Justice, freedom and equality demand it.

There will be no peace in the Middle East until Israel is compelled to recognise these facts.

(Source / 16.05.2020) 

Israeli Forces Isolate Ya’bad Town, Assault Disabled Palestinian Man

Israeli forces blocked all entrances to Ya’bad town, west of Jenin city, on Friday morning, after several days of military invasions into the northern West Bank town.

On Tuesday, a 21-year old Israeli soldier was killed during a pre-dawn invasion of the town, the military has since invaded the town several times and arrested dozens of Palestinians.

WAFA correspondent said that Israeli troops closed the main eastern entrance of the town and secondary roads, with barrels and cement blocks, isolating the town, a possible prelude to even more incursions.

The invasion is part of the manhunt for the Palestinian responsible for the death of the soldier, detaining one Palestinian minor, after ransacking his home.

Local journalist, Leila Hamarsheh, told Palestinian WAFA News Agency that Israeli troops detonated the front door to the home, stormed the home and assaulted members of the family, including her disabled father, whom is a former prisoner. Several members of the family were transferred to hospital.

(Source / 16.05.2020) 

Israeli Hospital Guards Kill Epileptic Palestinian Man

Security guards at a Tel Aviv hospital on Wednesday killed an epileptic Palestinian man in front of his mother. He was killed at the entrance to the hospital where he frequently received treatment for his epilepsy.

Mustafa Younis, from Aara town, was killed by the guards after an argument at the entrance to the hospital. A video shows three security guards shooting Younis, who has his hands up and is standing near the driver’s side of his car.

The attack took place at Sheba hospital in Tel Aviv, where Younis had gone with his mother to seek treatment.

The three security guards all shot at him, with seven bullets hitting him at close range, killing him while his mother looked on, horrified but unable to stop the killing of her son.

Israeli sources claimed that Mustafa tried to stab the guards, but that claim contradicts the video evidence — and there was no evidence presented to back the absurd claim.

“My brother was murdered in cold blood,” said Mahmoud Younis, Mustafa’s younger brother. He went to Israeli Sheba Hospital in Tel Aviv at noon today, which refutes the official Israeli account that claimed that the martyr stabbed one of the guards.

The victim’s uncle, Dr. Issam Younis, told reporters with the Palestine News Network, “He used to come to the hospital for treatment every six months, and he had already been there several months ago. For four days, he was preparing for a brain procedure. Apparently a fight broke out between him and one of the hospital guards, who told him to wear a mask. Mustafa responded that the guard himself wasn’t wearing a mask.”

The verbal argument turned lethal in mere seconds, when the guards shot and killed the epileptic man.

A police statement said, “Initial investigations indicated that the young man arrived at the hospital to receive medical treatment, and after the apparent completion of an argument between him and another citizen in the place, he took out his knife and tried to stab him but he did not succeed. When the security personnel arrived, he stabbed one of them and they fired bullets towards him”.

Mustafa’s mother told reporters with Palestine Post 24, “The Israeli police stopped our car and asked my son to get out. He refused, but they pulled him out. When he was pulled out, I also got out, and turned around to see the security guards shooting at him directly from a very close distance.”

(Source / 16.05.2020) 

Israeli Courts Extend Detention of 47 Palestinian Prisoners

Two Israeli military courts reportedly extended, on Saturday, the detention of 47 Palestinian prisoners.

The Ramallah-based Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS) said, early this morning, that the Israeli military courts of Ofer and Salem, extended the detention of 47 Palestinian prisoners, under some pretexts.

The PPS noted that the courts’ decisions to extend the detention of those prisoners, from the West Bank, is attributed to a number of reasons, including completion of interrogation process or awaiting trials.

Those who have recently been abducted by Israeli troops from various West Bank areas, the PPS documented and posted a list of all of their names and places of residence.

Israel holds 400 Palestinians under Administrative Detention, which is an unethical policy utilized by the occupation to incarcerate civilians without charge, and without the prospect of a trial.

According to Addameer, Israel currently Israel holds more than 5,000 Palestinians in its numerous jails, including 185 minors.

Administrative detention (AD) is a procedure that allows Israeli occupation forces to hold prisoners indefinitely on secret information without charging them or allowing them to stand trial. The secret information or evidence cannot be accessed by the detainee nor his lawyer, and can according to Israeli military orders, an administrative detention order can be renewed for an unlimited time. The court issues an administrative detention order for a maximum period of six months, subject to renewal.

– Addameer

(Source / 16.05.2020) 

Israeli Troops Detain 5 Palestinians, Including a Minor and Former Prisoner

Israeli forces, on Thursday evening, detained five Palestinians from the northern districts of Nablus and Qalqilia, in the occupied West Bank.

Local Fatah official, Munir Gaghoub, stated that Israeli troops abducted three Palestinians, including a former prisoner, seized a vehicle at the entrance of Beita town, south of the city of Nablus, Palestinian WAFA News Agency reported.

Witnesses said that the military detained at least two other Palestinians, including a minor, near Israel’s apartheid wall, built on lands confiscated from Kufur Qaddoum village, in the Qalqilia district.

Israeli forces commit daily incursions into Palestinian towns and villages, as a matter of policy, with the goal of arresting so-called “wanted” Palestinians across the occupied West Bank.

These arbitrary arrest campaigns are a regular occurrence for Palestinian civilians in the West Bank, and 5,000 Palestinian prisoners remain incarcerated in Israeli prisons, including 183 minors.

(Source / 16.05.2020) 

What does the Nakba mean in 2020? Three young female Palestinians answer

“I always imagine the day that the camps will become empty. I ask myself, as we’re returning, will we feel sad for the camps?”

By Qassam Muaddi 

“People from all ages, entire families with their children were gathering at the bus. It was a completely new idea and we didn’t know how was it going to turn out”. Huda Amer, 27-year-old from Gaza city recalls that morning in 2018 vividly, as if it just had happened. “ Buses came from all over the Gaza Strip towards the Eastern fence. People on the bus were excited. Some, the more innocent ones, were wondering to each other if they were really going to return that day”.

Every year on this date, Palestinians like Huda all over the world repeat one single word more than any other: Nakba. Arabic for “Catastrophe”. It refers to the mass expulsion of Palestinians from their home towns in 1948. And whenever the Nakba is mentioned, the opposite of it, the “return” is mentioned too.

“When we arrived at the fence, we saw the soldiers and their military vehicles on the other side” says Huda, as she brings back the first moments of the “Great March of Return” when Palestinians in Gaza decided to commemorate the Nakba differently. “I got emotional and couldn’t hold my tears, at the sight of people marching towards the fence. It’s our land, it looked so distant, and yet so close”.

The Great March of Return protests started on March 30, the commemoration of Land Day 

At that exact same sight, through television and through the internet, millions around the globe were reminded, while others learned for the first time some basic facts about the Nakba: It happened at the same time the state of Israel was created. It left hundreds of thousands of refugees, who grew to millions, including three-quarters of the people of Gaza. It still is a major issue in the Middle East conflict, and, for some reason, even younger generations of Palestinians identify with it.


Before 1948, Palestinians were one cohesive society living in Palestine, with a growing diaspora of emigrants, especially in the Americas. Today, the Palestinian people are around 13 million, fragmented in different places and political contexts. In historical Palestine, near 6.4 million Palestinians are isolated, between the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Jerusalem city and the 1948 territories. Near 4 million are refugees in different Arab countries and the rest, scattered across the five continents. Lacking political unity, the memory of the Nakba is one of the elements around which millions of Palestinians everywhere, identify with each other as a people.

“The legacy of the Nakba follows you since childhood if you’re born as refugee”, explains 26-year-old Dina Fares from the Jalazon refugee camp near Ramallah, in the West Bank. “It’s a matter of consciousness. How to say where are you from when you’re asked? Am I from Jalazon or from Lydda? You need to identify somewhere and you know the camp is not home. You understand there’s a problem, very early on”.

The Jalazon refugee camp near Ramallah, in the West Bank.

This early consciousness is shared by Huda, who says that “even if we didn’t think or speak about it all the time, the Nakba was always around the corner”. For her too, it all starts at self-identification; “I never got used to the confusion when someone asks where I’m from until I decided to start answering that I’m from where my grandfather was expelled; Yafa”.

For others, the Nakba means to feel and to live as a stranger. “It’s like living with two personalities” says Aminah Al Ashqar, 26-year-old Palestinian from Burj Al Barajneh refugee camp in Lebanon. “At school, I didn’t feel different, until my friend’s parents didn’t let come to my house, because I live in the camp”. Explains Aminah; “All the questions start to pop-up; How did we get here? Why aren’t we going back to where we belong? Why am I Palestinian and not Lebanese? You either deny your identity as a Palestinian or, for most of us, revendicate it even more”


One of the aspects of the Nakba is that it looks always recent, and always personal. One reason for that is that the geographical and political discontinuity of the Palestinians impacts almost every family. In fact, the different status that Palestinians have, depending on where they live, makes it difficult to overcome this fragmentation.

Aminah Al Ashqar, at Burj Al Barajneh Palestinian refugee camp, Lebanon.

“Whenever one person can live, a family member can’t, and vice-versa”, Aminah explains; “For instance, the last time my grandmother saw her son, my father, was in 1993. She is in Lybia. We can’t go visit her, neither she can visit us. My finacé’s family hasn’t seen his uncle since 1991”. It’s common to hear that being Palestinian means having relatives all over the world. But for Aminah, it’s more than that; “The difference is that we, Palestinian refugees, don’t have the choice. If we get separated, we might not be able to reunite. It’s the lack of freedom of choice”.

That freedom of choice is shared by Dina; “Our family was entirely displaced into the West Bank. We have no relatives left back in Lydda, or elsewhere. Lydda is my place of origin, but I can’t relate to it. I’ve never been there and has certainly changed a lot since 1948”. She then stresses that “It’s not about our original hometown inv itself or about the physical connection to a specific place. It’s more about freedom of choice”.

Still alive …

“One of the things that the Nakba has made to the Palestinian people is fragmentation. It means to cut the natural connections between the different parts of a population” explains Dina, who works today as a legal researcher at Badil, the Palestinian center for refugee rights. She explains that “at Badil, we try to overcome that fragmentation, by reconnecting Palestinian youth from different places and educate them on their rights”. For many young Palestinians, acknowledging and educating about the Nakba is part of its legacy. “When I work on the Nakba and refugee rights, I don’t feel external. It’s my own story”, says Dina.

Huda, who works as journalist in Gaza, has a similar approach; “As a Palestinian, in general, not only as a refugee, I want to do a work that respects the Palestinian cause and advocates for it”. Huda covers news and edits stories, but she saves some time for more direct activism “I participate in media campaigns to advocate for the Palestinian cause, the right of return, the prisoners and Jerusalem”. Huda underlines that “ It’s not a charity, it’s a commitment. It’s about being consistent with myself”.

And Resist …

That consistency, Aminah thinks, is what lacks in the world today, when it comes to Palestine and the Nakba; “The fact that this is continuing, that an entire people are still living in a refugee, temporary status, seventy years on, is a ‘catastrophe’ in itself”. That is why Aminah participates in talking tours, especially in the US as a public speaker, to acknowledge the Palestinian cause; “I try to bring the topic of refugeehood and displacement from a Palestinian perspective. People in the US don’t hear it from our side very often, as Palestinian refugees, especially in Lebanon, rarely get the chance to travel freely and speak about their cause”.

A Palestinian perspective that includes also possible ends of the ongoing Nakba; “return, reparations, self-determination, that is the only way the Nakba can be over”, says Dina. “I always imagine the day that the camps will become empty. I ask myself, as we’re returning, will we feel sad for the camps?”, exclaims Aminah, “I like to call it ‘Day One’ because it will be the first day that we will have real lives and no longer be just refugees, but complete human beings”. Huda thinks that “we have no choice now but to hold to our narrative and pass it over, and hold to any form of resistance until we get our rights back”.

Those rights, according to the Palestinian official stand for the last 25 years, are to be reached through a political settlement, and the creation of a Palestinian state. However, this view isn’t shared by these Palestinian young women, as many of their generation; “Seventy years of politics have got us nowhere” insists Huda, “what we need to do is to resist”. Or as Dina puts it; “Statehood is a separate issue. Our rights are fundamental human ones, they should not be conditioned by political compromises”.

(Source / 16.05.2020) 

Israel’s annexation plan is the Nakba revisited

In its current formulation, Israel knows only one direction: to deepen its domination over a people whose land it has stolen and continues to steal

By David Hearst 

Anniversaries commemorate past events. And you could be forgiven for thinking that an event which happened 72 years ago is indeed in the past.

This is true of most anniversaries, except when it comes to the Nakba, the “disaster, catastrophe or cataclysm” that marks the partition of Mandatory Palestine in 1948 and the creation of Israel.

The Nakba is not a past event. The dispossession of lands, homes and the creation of refugees have continued almost without pause since. It is not something that happened to your great grandparents.

It happens or could happen to you anytime in your life.

A recurring disaster

To Palestinians, the Nakba is a recurring disaster. At least 750,000 Palestinians were displaced from their homes in 1948. A further 280,000 to 325,000 fled their homes in territories captured by Israel in 1967.

Since then, Israel has devised subtler means of trying to force the Palestinians from their homes. One such tool was residency revocations. Between the start of Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967 and the end of 2016, Israel revoked the status of at least 14,595 Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem.

A further 140,000 residents of East Jerusalem have been “silently transferred” from the city, when the construction of the separation wall started in 2002 blocking access to the rest of the city. Almost 300,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem hold permanent residence issued by the Israeli interior ministry.

Two areas were cut off from the city although they lie within its municipal boundaries: Kafr ‘Aqab to the north and Shu’fat Refugee Camp to the northeast.

The residents of neighbourhoods in these areas pay municipal and other taxes, but neither the Jerusalem municipality nor government agencies enter this territory or consider it their responsibility.

Consequently, these parts of East Jerusalem have become a no man’s land: the city fails to provide basic municipal services such as waste removal, road maintenance and education, and there is a shortage of classrooms and daycare facilities.

The water and sewage systems fail to meet the population’s needs, yet the authorities do nothing to repair them. To get to the rest of the city, residents have to run the daily gauntlet of the checkpoints.

Another tool of expropriation is the application of the Absentee Property Law, which, when passed in 1950, was intended as the basis for the transfer of Palestinian property to the State of Israel.

Its use was generally avoided in East Jerusalem until the construction of the wall. Six years later, it was used to expropriate “absentee land” from the Palestinian residents of Beit Sahour for the construction of 1000 housing units in Har Homa, in South Jerusalem. But generally its purpose is to provide a mechanism for “creeping expropriation“.

A Nakba in real time

The centrepiece of Israeli Prime Minister Binjamin Netanyahu’s election campaign and the central legislative purpose of the current Israeli unity government would constitute another chapter of dispossession for Palestinians in 2020. Those are the plans to annex one third – or at worst two thirds – of the West Bank.

Three scenarios are currently under consideration: the maximalist plan to annex the Jordan Valley and all of what the Oslo Accords referred to as Area C. This is about 61 percent of the territory of the West Bank which is administered directly by Israel and is home to 300,000 Palestinians.

The second scenario is to annex the Jordan Valley alone. According to Israeli and Palestinian surveys conducted in 2017 and 2018, there were 8,100 settlers and 53,000 Palestinians living on this land. Israel split this land into two entities: the Jordan Valley and the Megillot-Dead Sea regional council.

The third scenario is to annex the settlements around Jerusalem, the so-called E1 area, which includes Gush Etsion and Maale Adumin. In both cases Palestinians who live in the villages around these settlements are threatened with expulsion or transfer. There are 2600 Palestinians who live in the village of Walaja and parts of Beit Jala who would be affected by the annexation of Gush Etsion, as well as 2000-3000 Bedouins living in 11 communities around Maale Adumin, such as Khan al-Ahmar.

What would happen to Palestinians who live on land that Israel has annexed?

In theory they could be offered residency, as was the case when East Jerusalem was annexed. In practice, residency will only be offered to a very select few. Israel will not want to solve one problem by creating another.

Most of the Palestinian population of the areas annexed would be transferred to the nearest big city, as happened with the Bedouins in the Negev and East Jerusalemites who find themselves in areas cut off from the rest of the city.

The generals’ warning

These plans have generated expressions of horror amongst Israel’s security establishment, that has grown used to being listened to, but who now wield less influence over policymaking than they once did.

This is not because the former generals hold any moral objection to expropriation of Palestinian land or because they think Palestinians have a legal right to it. No, their objections are based on how annexation could imperil Israel’s security.

A fascinating resume of their thinking is provided by an open-source document published anonymously by the Institute for Policy and Strategy (IPS) in Herzliya. They state that annexation would destabilise the eastern border of Israel, which is “characterised by great stability, a quiet and a very low level of terror”, and that it would cause a “deep jolt” to Israel’s relationship with Jordan.

“To the Hashemite regime, annexation is synonymous with the idea of the alternative Palestinian homeland, namely, the destruction of the Hashemite kingdom in favor of a Palestinian state.

“For Jordan, such a move is a material breach of the peace agreement between the two countries. Under these circumstances, Jordan could violate the peace agreement. Alongside this, there may be a strategic threat to its internal stability, due to possible unrest among the Palestinians in combination with the severe economic hardship Jordan is facing,” the IPS document says.

That would only be the start of Jordan’s problems with annexation. Even a minimalist option of annexing E1 – the area around Jerusalem – would sever East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank, endangering Jordan’s custodianship of Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem.

Annexation would also lead to the “gradual disintegration” of the Palestinian Authority, the IPS claims.

Again, there is no love lost here. What concerns the Israeli analysts is the burden that would be placed on the army. “The effectiveness of security cooperation with Israel will deteriorate and weaken, and who will replace it? IDF! Forcing many forces to deal with riots and order violations and the maintenance of the Palestinian system.”

The security establishment goes on to say that annexation could trigger another intifada, strengthening the idea of a one-state solution “which is already acquiring a growing grip in the Palestinian arena”.

The Saudi factor

In the wider Arab world, the paper notes that Israel would forfeit many of the allies it believes it has made in Saudi Arabiathe United Arab Emirates, and Oman and intensify the BDS campaign internationally.

Saudi Arabia’s role in dousing the flames of Arab reaction to Netanyahu’s annexation plan was specifically mentioned in Israeli security circles recently. The Saudi support for any form of annexation was deemed crucial.

True to form, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s regime has been trying to soften Saudi hostility to Israel in the media and particularly television drama. A drama called Exit 7 produced by Saudi Arabia’s MBC TV recently contained a scene of two actors arguing about normalisation with Israel.

“Saudi Arabia did not gain anything when it supported Palestinians, and must now establish relations with Israel….The real enemy is the one who curses you, denies your sacrifices and support, and curses you day and night more than the Israelis,” one character says.

The scene produced a backlash on social media and eventually a fulsome statement of support for the Palestinian cause by the Emirati foreign minister.د. عبدالله النفيسي@DrAlnefisi  

هذا القمع إللّي حاصل في دول مجلس التعاون الخليجي لكل رأي ضد التطبيع مع العدو الصهيوني لن تحصد منه إلاّ المُر . حتى مجرد المناقشه ولو ( أونلاين ) لا يستطيع التنظيم الصحراوي في الخليج تحمّله . والله إن هذا أخطر من كورونا .16KTwitter Ads info and privacy

Translation: This oppression taking place in the GCC muzzling any opinion against normalisation with the Zionist enemy can only reap a bitter harvest. They cannot tolerate debate (even if it is online), by god, this is more dangerous than coronavirus.

The attempt demonstrated the limits of Saudi state mind control, which will be weakened still further by the drop in the price of oil and the advent of austerity across the Arab world.

The future Saudi king will no longer be able to buy his way out of trouble.

The Committee

It is worth repeating again that the motive for enumerating the destabilising effects of annexation is not some inherent disquiet at the loss of property or rights. The security establishment’s central concern stems from the possibility that Israel’s existing borders could be imperilled by overreach.

For similar reasons, a number of Israeli journalists have forecast that annexation will never happen.

They could be right. Pragmatism could win the day. Or they could be underestimating the part that nationalist religious fundamentalism plays in the calculations of Netanyahu, David Friedman, the US ambassador, and the US billionaire Sheldon Adelson, the three engineers of the current policy.

While the US role as “an honest broker” in the conflict has long been exposed as a sham, this is the first time I can remember that a US ambassador and a major US financier make more zealous settlers than a Likud prime minister himself.

Friedman is chairman of the joint US-Israel committee on settlement annexation which will determine the borders of post-annexation Israel. This committee is meaningless in international terms, as it has no representation of any other party to the conflict, let alone the Palestinians whose leaders have boycotted the process.

Two separate sources from the joint committee have told Middle East Eye that it is leaning towards a once and for all expansion of Israel in the West Bank, and not an incremental one. One source said that it will go for the whole of Area C – in other words the maximalist option.

Again they could be wrong. Both say the annexation that is chosen will tailor itself to the contours of Donald Trump’s “Deal of the Century” which reduces the current 22 percent of historic Palestine down to a group of bantustans scattered around Greater Israel.

The climax

The Nakba, 72 years old today, continues to live and breathe venom. The Nakba is not just about original refugees but their descendants – today some five million of them qualify for the services of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA).

Trump’s decision to stop funding UNWRA, and Israel’s insistence that only the original survivors of 1948 should be recognised, has sparked an international campaign in which Palestinians sign a declaration refusing to relinquish their right of return.

“My right of return to my homeland is an inalienable, individual and collective right guaranteed by international law. Palestinian refugees will never yield to the ‘alternative homeland’ projects. Any initiative that strikes at the intrinsic foundations of the right of return and negates it is illegitimate and null, and does not represent me in any possible manner,” the declaration says.

Significantly it was launched in Jordan, another sign that feelings are running high there.

The Israeli security assessment that a two-state solution is dead in the minds of the majority of Palestinians is surely correct. Most Palestinians see annexation as the climax of the Zionist project to establish a Jewish majority state, and confirmation of their belief that the only way this conflict will end is in its dissolution.

But by the same token, the annexation plans under discussion should be proof to the international community, if one were needed, that far from being a country living in fear, and under permanent attack from irrational and violent rejectionists, Israel is a state which cannot share the land with Palestinians, let alone tolerate Palestinian self-determination in an independent state.

In its current formulation, Israel knows only one direction: to deepen its domination over a people whose land it has stolen and continues to steal.

(Source / 16.05.2020)