Calls for UN to investigate Israel’s killing of Palestinian journalists

Palestinian journalists light candles to commemorate Palestinian journalist Yaser Murtaja, who was martyred by Israeli soldiers during "Great March of Return", during a protest in Nablus, West Bank on 7 April, 2018 [Nedal Eshtayah/Anadolu Agency]
Palestinian journalists light candles to commemorate Palestinian journalist Yaser Murtaja, who was killed by Israeli soldiers on 7 April 2018 

Complaints submitted to the United Nations (UN) accuse Israel of intentionally targeting journalists in Palestine and failing to thoroughly investigate its killings of media workers.

The complaints, submitted by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate (PJS) ask the special rapporteurs to secure justice and accountability for the killings and harm that has been inflicted on journalists.

This includes the 2018 killings of Ahmed Abu Hussein, Yaser Murtaja and the maiming of Muath Amarneh in 2019 and Nedal Eshtayeh in 2015, both photographers were shot by snipers in the eye.

They also urge Irene Khan, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, and Agnès Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions to investigate endemic, systematic discrimination that curtails the work of Palestinian journalists.

“For years the world has documented and deplored the killing and maiming of Palestinian journalists by Israeli forces and the daily discrimination they face – denied rights, denied accreditation, denied freedom of movement and, as a result of a blanket impunity, denied justice,” said IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger.

“Words can no longer be enough. The UN must take action and show it will not stand idly by and allow impunity and injustice to continue unchallenged.”

READ: Palestinian Journalists Syndicate calls for boycotting Israel media

The IFJ and PJS have long documented violations of journalists’ rights in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Noting that such attacks have been increasing, they called for all international bodies to pressure Israel and occupation forces to stop their repeated violations against Palestinian journalists.

In 2019 the PJS documented 760 rights violations against journalists, including more than 200 cases of physical assaults, including dozens of injuries caused by rubber-coated steel bullets, and at least ten serious injuries by live ammunition.

Nasser Abubaker, PJS president, added: “We live daily with the systematic targeting, the impunity, watching soldiers kill our colleagues, blind those who document the occupation and the protests against it. No-one ever faces justice for their crimes against our colleagues. For them and the families they leave behind we believe these complaints are a fitting first step towards achieving justice for them and all Palestinian journalists.”

(Source / 10.12.2020)

BREAKING: Morocco builds ties with Israel in return for recognition of its authority over Western Sahara

Moroccan King Mohammed VI (L), Israel's PM Netanyahu, (C) US President Donald Trump (R) have agreed to normalise relations [COP22/Twitter] [MAYA ALLERUZZO/POOL/AFP via Getty Images] [Peter Zay - Anadolu Agency]
Moroccan King Mohammed VI (L), Israel’s PM Netanyahu, (C) US President Donald Trump (R) have agreed to normalise relations

Israel and Morocco have today agreed to normalise relations in a deal brokered with the help of US President Donald Trump.

As part of the agreement, Trump agreed to recognise Morocco’s sovereignty over the Western Sahara, where there has been a decades-old territorial dispute with Morocco pitted against the Algeria-backed Polisario Front, a breakaway movement that seeks to establish an independent state in the territory, Reuters reported.

Trump sealed the agreement in a phone call  with Morocco’s King Mohammed VI today, a senior US official said.

Morocco is the fourth country since August to strike a deal aimed at normalising relations with Israel. The others were the United Arab EmiratesBahrain and Sudan.

Under the agreement, Morocco will establish full diplomatic relations and resume official contacts with Israel, grant overflights and also direct flights to and from Israel for all Israelis.

READ: Morocco launches military operations at Guerguerat border crossing 

“They are going reopen their liaison offices in Rabat and Tel Aviv immediately with the intention to open embassies. And they are going to promote economic cooperation between Israeli and Moroccan companies,” White House senior adviser Jared Kushner told Reuters.”Today the administration has achieved another historic milestone. President Trump has brokered a peace agreement between Morocco and Israel – the fourth such agreement between Israel and an Arab/Muslim nation in four months.”

“Through this historic step, Morocco is building on its longstanding bond with the Moroccan Jewish community living in Morocco and throughout the world, including in Israel. This is a significant step forward for the people of Israel and Morocco.

“It further enhances Israel’s security, while creating opportunities for Morocco and Israel to deepen their economic ties and improve the lives of their people.”

A White House statement on the phone call between Trump and the king of Morocco said Trump “reaffirmed his support for Morocco’s serious, credible, and realistic autonomy proposal as the only basis for a just and lasting solution to the dispute over the Western Sahara territory.”

“And as such the president recognised Moroccan sovereignty over the entire Western Sahara territory,” the statement said.

Palestinians have been critical of the normalisation deals, saying Arab countries have set back the cause of peace by abandoning a longstanding demand that Israel give up land for a Palestinian state before it can receive recognition.

READ: Turkey calls for just solution in Western Sahara

(Source / 10.12.2020)

Israel to test Palestine workers for covid at checkpoints

Palestinians workers at a checkpoint in the West Bank on 4 October 2020 [HAZEM BADER/AFP/Getty Images]
Palestinians workers at a checkpoint in the West Bank on 4 October 2020

Israel is expected to start imposing random mandatory coronavirus tests of Palestinian workers at checkpoints in the occupied West Bank in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.

A spokesperson for the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories warned: “Any worker who refuses to be checked will not be permitted to enter Israel.”

Around 133,000 Palestinians with special permits work in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

The news comes as Israel received its first shipment of the coronavirus vaccines yesterday and a distributor predicted the country would have enough for about a quarter of the population by the end of the year, Reuters reports.

Palestine, however, is only expected to receive its first coronavirus vaccinations in March, Minister of Health Mai Al-Kaila said in a press conference in Ramallah yesterday, the Times of Israel reported.

“We expect that our first vaccination will be around the end of January, early February, by March it will be with us,” said Palestine’s Al-Kaila.

However, she explained that health authorities in the occupied West Bank have warned about the poor choice of storage locations and transportation requirements for the Pfizer vaccine which must be transported at minus 70C and used within five days of thawing.

READ: Occupied Palestine to enter lockdown as Gaza gets Covid-19 test kits from WHO

“The Pfizer vaccine requires logistical factors, freezing, a freezer which can keep its contents at -75 to -80 degrees [celsius]. We have only one freezer in Palestine for storage. And it won’t hold large quantities. We would also need smaller freezers so as to move the vaccine between different provinces,” Al-Kaila explained.

“That’s not available for us, so we’ve struck that possibility,” she added.

Therefore, Palestine is one of the 189 countries that have joined the WHO-led Covax initiative, which is working to ensure equitable vaccine access across the world.

WHO Chief Scientist, Soumya Swaminathanin, said in a press conference in Geneva yesterday that the apex public health organisation hopes to have at least half a billion doses of a working COVID-19 vaccine ready in the first quarter of 2021, through the Covax facility.

According to Al-Kaila, priority access to vaccines as they arrive will be available to medical responders, followed by members of the Palestinian security services and those deemed to be in at-risk groups.

READ: Arab-Israeli medical team in Gaza to assist in Covid-19 response

According to Wafa news agency, 24 people have died of coronavirus in Palestine in the past 24 hours, with 2,181 new cases recorded in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

There are currently 81 coronavirus patients hospitalised and in a serious condition; 24 are on ventilators.

“According to Covax guidelines, the first priority ought to go to medical first responders. We told them that we wanted to also prioritise the security services who work alongside us in the field, the elderly, pregnant women, and the chronically ill,” said Al-Kaila.

Coronavirus spreading in the Middle East - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]
Coronavirus spreading in the Middle East – Cartoon

(Source / 10.12.2020)

Amnesty Condemns AirBnb for Listings in Israeli Settlements

The following statement was released by Amnesty International on December 10,2020: As Airbnb prepares to go public in a multi-billion-dollar Initial Public Offering (IPO) it must withdraw listings of rental properties built illegally on the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), Amnesty International said on 10 December 2020.

The San Francisco-based online accommodation company has around 200 properties for rent in the illegal Israeli settlements that are at the heart of systematic human rights violations faced by Palestinians.

Two years ago, Airbnb said it would remove accommodation in the settlements from its listings, before reversing its decision.

Responding to reports that Airbnb is set to become a publicly-listed company after filing IPO documents in the US, Saleh Higazi, Deputy Regional Director for Middle East and North Africa, said:

“These settlements are a war crime under international law. Airbnb needs to do right by future investors and stop benefiting from illegal settlements built on stolen Palestinian land in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Shamefully, Airbnb has been promoting and benefiting from a situation that is a root cause of the systematic human rights violations faced by millions of Palestinians on a daily basis.”

Lack of transparency in IPO documents

Earlier this year, Airbnb was one of more than 100 companies around the world listed in a UN databaseof firms whose business operations linked them to Israeli settlements in the OPT. These settlements are illegal under international law.

However, Airbnb’s Registration Statement with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) ahead of the IPO makes no mention of business operations in the Israeli settlements or the fact that the company appears on the UN database. This information is missing from the “Risk Factor” section of the documents, which informs shareholders of a company’s legal, reputational and other risks.

Airbnb stock is expected to be purchased by investment and pension funds across the world, which could mean that a large number of people will indirectly hold investments in Airbnb without understanding the full ramifications.

The major global banks that are underwriting Airbnb’s IPO, including Goldman Sachs, Barclays Capital and Morgan Stanley, also have a responsibility to ensure that material disclosure to shareholders is accurate.

Airbnb’s shameful change of heart

Though Airbnb claims to donate the profit it generates through these listings, allowing them to remain in place means that a wider tourist industry is being supported and allowed to flourish at the expense of Palestinian rights and livelihoods.

In January 2019, Amnesty published a major report called “Destination Occupation” showing how Airbnb, TripAdvisor, Expedia and Booking.com were fuelling systematic human rights violations against Palestinians by listing hundreds of rooms and activities in Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land, including East Jerusalem.

The previous year, Airbnb had announced it would remove listings for 200 rental properties in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, excluding East Jerusalem, “at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians”. The company said one of the principles it applied when making the decision had been to “evaluate whether the existence of listings is contributing to existing human suffering”.

However, in April 2019, Airbnb shamefully reversed this decision following a number of lawsuits and said the company would allow the listings to remain but would “take no profits from this activity in this region”.

Settlement expansions feared

There is now concern that Israeli settlements on Palestinian land are expanding, with thousands of new housing units announced in 2020. The surge in settlement-building is widely believed to reflect the broad political support the Israeli authorities have received under the US presidency of Donald Trump.

In November, Mike Pompeo visited a winery in the Israeli settlement of Psagot, the first time a serving US Secretary of State has ever visited an Israeli settlement. This follows his announcement in November 2019 that the US no longer considers Israeli settlements to be illegal under international law.

The expansion proposals come after more than a half century of Israeli military occupation in the OPT, during which more than 50,000 Palestinian homes and structures have been demolished. Tens of thousands of Palestinians have been forcibly removed.

In their place, more than 600,000 Israelis have been allowed to move into around 250 mostly purpose-built settlements, many serviced by settler-only roads and guarded by military checkpoints.

Approximately 1,000 square kilometres of Palestinian land has been expropriated by Israeli settlers in the past 50 years.

This has had a devastating impact on Palestinians’ rights to an adequate standard of living, to work, to housing, to health, and to education and has progressively crippled the Palestinian economy.

“No company should be party to human rights abuse and until Airbnb ends its business relationship with the Israeli settlements it will be deeply compromised,” said Saleh Higazi.

(Source / 10.12.2020)

Israeli Forces Threaten to Demolish Palestinian Homes and Water Wells near Hebron

Demolition order (archive image)

Israel military forces issued demolition notices to a number of Palestinian landowners in Yatta village, near Hebron in the southern West Bank. The pretext for the demolition order was that the homes and water wells were ‘constructed without licenses’ — despite the fact that Israeli military authorities have refused to issue licenses for Palestinian landowners since they began their military occupation of the West Bank in 1967.

According to the Coordinator of the Protection and Steadfastness Committee of Hebron, Fuad Al-Amour, the occupying Israeli military, which has ruled the Palestinians in the West Bank under martial law since 1967, issued demolition orders for six homes, two water wells and four agricultural sheds in the al-Jawaya community east of Yatta.

In addition to the claim that the buildings and wells ‘lack licenses’ from the Israeli military occupation, the military also noted on the demolition order that these properties must be destroyed because they are located too close to an Israeli-only bypass road and the Israeli-only settlement of Ma’on.

This settlement is constructed on illegally-seized Palestinian land, as is the bypass road.

The coordinator of the Popular and National Committees to Resist the Wall and Settlements, Ratib al-Jabour, told reporters from the Wafa News Agency that the homeowners whose homes are being threatened are: Adham Ahmad Al-Shawahin, Ahmed Muhammad Al-Shawahin, Muhammad Ali Hussein Al-Shawahin, Muhammad Ahmad Al-Shawahin, and Awad Al-Nawajaa.

The agricultural sheds and water wells belong to Musa Hassan al-Shawahin, Muhammad Husayn al-Shawahin, Hassan Muhammad al-Shawahin, and Abdul-Jamal al-Nawajah.

These demolition orders follow the recent demolition of dozens of Palestinian homes and water wells in the nearby Palestinian village of Masafer Yatta, forcing the Palestinian residents into homelessness. Those demolitions were carried out by the Israeli military using armored D-9 bulldozers supplied by the U.S. government, in order to push the Palestinian residents out of the area, to expand the Israeli colony of Ma’on.

All Israeli settlements are considered illegal under international law, but despite numerous United Nations resolutions condemning the colonial expansion of Israeli territory onto Palestinian land, no international body has stepped in to stop Israel from its continued and ongoing theft of Palestinian land.

(Source / 10.12.2020)

Morocco agrees to normalize ties with Israel, Trump says

Morocco has agreed to normalize ties with Israel, US President Donald Trump tweets on Thursday, making Morocco the fourth Arab country to normalize ties with Israel this year.

“Another HISTORIC breakthrough today! Our two GREAT friends Israel and the Kingdom of Morocco have agreed to full diplomatic relations – a massive breakthrough for peace in the Middle East!”


Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump

Another HISTORIC breakthrough today! Our two GREAT friends Israel and the Kingdom of Morocco have agreed to full diplomatic relations – a massive breakthrough for peace in the Middle East!

5:10 PM · Dec 10, 2020

.S. President Donald Trump also agreed to recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over the Western Sahara.

Trump sealed the agreement in a phone call on Thursday with Morocco’s King Mohammed VI, a senior U.S. official said.

“They are going reopen their liaison offices in Rabat and Tel Aviv immediately with the intention to open embassies. And they are going to promote economic cooperation between Israeli and Moroccan companies,” White House senior adviser Jared Kushner told Reuters.

He added, “Through this historic step, Morocco is building on its longstanding bond with the Moroccan Jewish community living in Morocco and throughout the world, including in Israel. This is a significant step forward for the people of Israel and Morocco.”

(Source / 10.12.2020)

Trump administration plans to release list of BDS groups

The Trump administration plans to release a list of organizations that support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS), a senior Trump administration official told JNS.

The groups are still in the works, according to the official.

This step comes after the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared last month that the US will label the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign as “anti-Semitic” and would withdraw funding from groups that support the BDS movement.

“We will immediately take steps to identify organizations that engage in hateful BDS conduct and withdraw US government support for such groups. The time is right,” Pompeo stated.

Aside from government-funding issues, the purpose behind the list is to issue a “public condemnation” of the BDS movement, according to the official.

The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement works to end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law.

(Source / 10.12.2020)

Amnesty: Airbnb is deeply compromised by Israeli settlement properties

Ahead of preparing to go public in a multi-billion-dollar Initial Public Offering (IPO), Amnesty International said that Airbnb must withdraw listings of rental properties built illegally on the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

“The San Francisco-based online accommodation company has around 200 properties for rent in the illegal Israeli settlements that are at the heart of systematic human rights violations faced by Palestinians,” Amnesty declared.

Saleh Higazi, Amnesty’s Deputy Regional Director for Middle East and North Africa, said Airbnb needs to stop benefiting from illegal settlements built on stolen Palestinian land in the Occupied Palestinian Territories because settlements are a war crime under international law.

Higazi noted, “Shamefully, Airbnb has been promoting and benefiting from a situation that is a root cause of the systematic human rights violations faced by millions of Palestinians on a daily basis.”

Airbnb stock is expected to be purchased by investment and pension funds across the world, which could mean that a large number of people will indirectly hold investments in Airbnb without understanding the full ramifications.

Although Airbnb, two years ago, said it would remove accommodation in the settlements from its listings, it reversed its decision, following a number of lawsuits and said the company would allow the listings to remain but would “take no profits from this activity in this region.”

Airbnb was one of more than 100 companies around the world listed in a UN database of firms whose business operations linked them to Israeli settlements in the OPT. These settlements are illegal under international law.

(Source / 10.12.2020)

Pakistan’s crystal-clear case against normalizing with Israel

Putting aside the relics of past Cold War theatrics, Pakistan has been consistently struggling to advance peace and justice in the world. The struggle though has intensified. Pakistan currently experiences unprecedented pressure from the Gulf monarchies of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), as well as the United States, to accept the apartheid state of Israel.

The Pakistani people would never succumb to this pressure. They have always stood in solidarity with the Palestinians and the Kashmiris, and no amount of coercion now is going to diminish their resolve. There is hardly a more pro-Palestinian population than the Pakistanis.

No one should dare propose to Islamabad normalizing ties with a state that militarily occupies, brutalizes and prevents justice to an occupied people.

Israel has effectively destroyed any iota of a “peace process,” has expanded settler colonization of the West Bank and East Jerusalem and ruthlessly displaced the Palestinians for decades.

The Gaza Strip has been converted into an “open-air prison,” regulating all aspects of the lives of these people who are subject to routine Israeli bombardment and massacres. The “normalization” then is that of deep injustice, sheer violence, ceaseless land theft and constant humiliation.

Indeed, Palestine is a symbol of an ongoing struggle for justice and dignity in a world where oppression of the weak reigns strong. Pakistan cannot bow down to these pressures if it is to maintain the moral authority to stand against any form of oppression, including that of India in Kashmir.

Pakistani prime minister, Imran Khan, cannot follow the morally bankrupt path of his predecessors. He would be morally accountable to the Pakistani population, as well as to the Palestinians and everyone who has struggled for decades to end this oppression.

Islamabad not only has to take into consideration the wishes of its own people but also the objective interests of the state. There are many compelling reasons as to why Islamabad should stand firm on its stance. There are several Gulf countries, like Qatar and Kuwait, that are already standing strong and are not moving an inch toward recognition.

Even if one puts aside the question of the inherent immorality of Israeli barbarism toward the suffering Palestinians, from the point of view of pure self-interested realpolitik, there is nothing to be gained by Pakistan here.

Giving in to these threats is not going to benefit Pakistan. It is certainly not going to give any leverage to Pakistan with Israel or India; rather, the vice versa will occur. It is laughable to believe that recognizing Israel will engender Tel Aviv to jeopardize its deeply intimate friendship with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to appease a groveling Islamabad. The costs for Islamabad, on the other hand, will be incalculable: Pakistan will be at an utter loss in maintaining its legitimate moral high ground on the Kashmir issue.

The pressures to normalize, too, will most likely be short-lived. It is just a matter of standing strong till it dies out. Once Joe Biden takes over as the U.S. president on Jan. 20, the pressure will diminish. Besides, many powerful countries do not support normalization. These include Turkey and Iran.

These threats are mostly hollow or far-exaggerated and lack substance. The power of the axis, consisting of the UAE, Saudi Arabia, particularly the kingdom’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), and Israel, is overstated as evident in their inability to weaken Qatar or defeat the Yemeni resistance.

At the same time, Pakistan has diplomatic and security levers against the UAE and Saudi Arabia that it can use strategically to cripple the not-so-subtle configuration of protective military power Islamabad has in the Gulf.

Even if we take some of these possible threats to Pakistan at face value and assume that Pakistani workers will be expelled from Saudi Arabia and potentially the UAE, the loss of remittances is likely to be harmful to the Pakistan economy in the short-term but also be harmful to the UAE and Saudi Arabia – since it will take at least one to two years to replace these workers.

It is to be noted that the percentage of these workers is quite high. In the medium- and the long-run, the return of these workers to Pakistan could reverse the brain drain, reduce reliance on remittances and create opportunities within the country itself.

This could potentially create a policy window for greater reform. Pakistan can use this moment of humiliating pressure and threats by ostensibly “brotherly Muslim countries” as a catalyst to reset Pakistan’s foreign, domestic and socioeconomic relations, as well as rebuild its economic structure.

The Pakistani state needs to unequivocally proclaim that recognition of the current Israeli apartheid state is simply off the table. Khan needs to mobilize the people and take the National Assembly into confidence about the intense pressures on Islamabad to submit to this act of treachery.

The military high command should also be informed and persuaded of the dangers to Pakistan at this critical juncture by being on the wrong side of history once again – when in fact we thought we had finally escaped those archaic and reactionary winds that blew us in that direction in the previous decades of Pakistan’s short history as a nation.

Defending Palestine’s rights in the current conjuncture means resisting the Palestinization of Kashmir and defending Kashmir’s rights means preventing Pakistan from becoming Balkanized like Palestine.

Moral imperatives, religious obligation, Islamic solidarity and national interests are all aligned to reject any move to recognize Tel Aviv. To do otherwise would be a betrayal of not only the Palestinians but the country of Pakistan, its people, its future – and would also be a rejection of our faith.

(Source / 10.12.2020)