Associated Press ‘yet to receive evidence’ of Hamas presence in Gaza building

By Ali Harb in Washington

The Associated Press has not seen any evidence that the Palestinian movement Hamas used the building which housed its offices in Gaza before it was bombed by Israel last month.

AP issued a statement on Tuesday after Gilad Erdan, the Israeli envoy to the US and UN, visited the news agency’s New York headquarters and posted photos on Twitter with the company’s president Gary Pruitt.

Read More: Israel’s crackdown on journalists slammed by major international press association

Erdan said the meeting was meant to “explain to top executives that the building housing their Gaza operation was being used by Hamas terrorists trying to jam the Iron Dome,” Israel’s missile defence system.

But Lauren Easton, an AP spokesperson, said the Israeli government did not present proof to back the assertion.

Read More: Israeli airstrike flattens building housing Al Jazeera, AP offices in Gaza

“Israeli authorities maintain that the building housing our bureau was destroyed because of a Hamas presence that posed an urgent threat. We have yet to receive evidence to support these claims,” Eaton told Middle East Eye in an email.

“AP continues to call for the full release of any evidence the Israelis have so that the facts are public.”

‘Positive and constructive’ meeting

In a series of tweets on Tuesday, Erdan said Israel was “willing to assist” the AP rebuild its offices in Gaza.

“AP is one of the most important news agencies in the world and Israel does not suspect its employees were aware a covert Hamas unit was using the building in this way,” he wrote.

On 15 May, during its offensive on Gaza, the Israeli army bombed the al-Jalaa tower housing the bureaus of the AP, Al Jazeera, Middle East Eye and other news outlets. It gave journalists a one-hour notice to evacuate the building.

The attack drew condemnations from press freedom advocates. Pruitt, at the time, said that the agency was “shocked and horrified” by the Israeli air strikes.

On Tuesday, Eaton described AP’s meeting with the Israeli diplomat as a “positive and constructive conversation”.

“The Associated Press appreciates the opportunity to meet with Ambassador Erdan to discuss the attack on the building housing our Gaza bureau and Israel’s support for our efforts to rebuild the bureau,” she said.

The administration of US President Joe Biden had refused to denounce the attack. Instead, American officials merely expressed “concern” for the safety of journalists at the time.

Earlier this week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Israeli authorities had shared information about alleged Hamas activity in the building with Washington through intelligence channels.

However, he was evasive when asked whether he thought the attack was justified during an interview with Axios on HBO.

“Any country would defend itself, and Israel has the right,” Blinken said. 

“However, having said that, Israel as a democracy I think has an added burden to make sure it is doing everything possible to avoid civilian casualties. And that’s what is expected of us. It’s expected of Israel.”

Israel targeted several high-rise buildings in Gaza in last month’s offensive. Israeli air strikes killed more than 256 Palestinians, including dozens of children, while rockets fired by Hamas and other groups killed 12 people in Israel.

Emily Wilder sacking 

The bombing of the media tower in Gaza sparked a campaign by right-wing politicians and commentators against AP, with prominent Republican Senator Tom Cotton suggesting that the news agency was colluding with Hamas.

“Why is the Associated Press sharing a building with Hamas? Surely these intrepid reporters knew who their neighbours were,” Cotton said on the floor of the Senate last month.

“Did they knowingly allow themselves to be used as human shields by a US-designated terrorist organization? Did the AP pull its punches and decline to report for years on Hamas’s misdeeds?”

The campaign also targeted Emily Wilder, a junior Arizona-based AP reporter, over her past advocacy for Palestinian rights. The news agency subsequently sacked the journalist.

AP maintains that Wilder was fired over social media posts she had written during her brief tenure at the agency that violated AP’s policies. 

But Wilder insists that her firing was in response to the campaign targeting her, saying that she was turned into a “scapegoat” by AP.

“This is heartbreaking as a young journalist so hungry to learn from the fearless investigative reporting of AP journalists – and do that reporting myself,” the journalist said in a statement last month.

“It’s terrifying as a young woman who was hung out to dry when I needed support from my institution most. And it’s enraging as a Jewish person – who grew up in a Jewish community, attended Orthodox schooling and devoted my college years to studying Palestine and Israel – that I could be defamed as antisemitic and thrown under the bus in the process.”

(Source / 09.06.2021)

Analysis: A New Mental Health Crisis Is Raging in Gaza

By Yasser Abu Jamei

“Have you ever seen a six-month old baby with exaggerated startle response?” One of my colleagues who works on our telephone counseling service was calling me for advice on how to respond to several distraught mothers asking her how to help their babies who had started showing such distressing symptoms of trauma during the recent bombing. Our telephone service was back and responding to callers on the third day of the attacks on Gaza, though of course with certain difficulties.

The question took me back 20 years to when I was a young resident in the pediatric department at Nasser hospital in Khan Younis, Gaza’s second biggest city, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. Then, my plan was to become a pediatrician. The hospital, on the western side of the city was not far from the Israeli settlements. Often in the middle of the night I used to receive mothers arriving in the pediatric emergency department with tiny children who had started screaming with no clear reason. Physical examination mostly revealed nothing abnormal. Perhaps this was the trigger that made me train to become a psychiatrist.

During those nights, you could often hear shooting from inside the Israeli settlement’s high fortifications, with the bullets mostly ending in the walls of the Palestinian homes and other buildings that faced the settlements. That was the common experience we adults were used to, and of course something that children, even the very youngest, also had to live with.

Thinking about those mothers and babies, I then asked myself about the likely psychological consequences of this 11-day offensive on the people of the Gaza Strip, and how it is going to be different from 2014’s Gaza war which lasted for seven weeks through July and August, including a ground invasion into Gaza. There were then 2,251 Palestinians killed and 11,000 wounded.


In 2014, we formed in the Gaza Community Mental Health Program (GCMHP) what we called crisis response teams, that were usually composed of a man and a woman, both psychologists. Their main task was to provide Psychological First Aid: to give some psychological support and detect and refer cases in need of further interventions to our three community centers. Parents often were talking about changes that their children had begun experiencing. Children were having poor concentration, sleeping difficulties and night terrors, bed-wetting and irritability. Younger children were clinging to their parents.

During the four months that followed the attacks in 2014, 51 percent of children visiting our centers were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), another 11 percent were diagnosed with bedwetting. For adults, 31 percent were diagnosed with PTSD while 25 percent were diagnosed with depression. During those months, almost 20 percent of the people that were visited by the crisis teams were referred to our community centers for further assessment and therapy. The U.N. Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) reported then that more than 370,000 children were in need of mental health and psychosocial intervention. Would these figures predict anything for after the 2021 offensive?


We know now the physical effects: at least 242 people were killed in Gaza, including 66 children, 38 women (four pregnant) and 17 elderly people. The injured are around 1,948 people—an iconic figure for every Palestinian. It includes 610 children and 398 women and 102 elderly people. Moderate-to-severe injuries affect 25 percent of the injured. During the offensive 107,000 people were internally displaced with about two thirds of them seeking shelter at United Nations Relief and Works Agency schools.

We saw six hospitals and 11 clinics damaged, and there are some ironic stories. It was on May 17 that the Rimal primary health care center situated within the Ministry of Health (MoH) compound in Gaza city was attacked. The center included the main laboratory for COVID-19 tests and was partially affected. The MoH had to stop the testing and asked people who were supposed to get their second shot of vaccine to go to Al-Daraj primary health care center across Gaza City. However, that center, too, came under attack, as there was a house in the area that was bombed in an air strike. The Rimal clinic was also the place to get vaccinated in Gaza city. Luckily the damage to both clinics was partial and the Rimal clinic soon resumed service. However, a young physician, Dr Majed Salha was severely injured on his head, and his condition is critical.


Only weeks ago, COVID was the main concern in Gaza as in any other place in the world. People calling our telephone counseling line at GCMHP or people we were meeting either in the community or at the community centers presented with two main and interlinked complaints or challenges. One was how deeply the economic conditions were affecting their lives. The unemployment rate in Gaza, even before the bombings, was 43.1 percent, and for people under 30 it was 65.5 percent. Even among those working, many are in casual employment, living from hand to mouth. Taxi drivers, or those who sell vegetables at the open markets were badly affected by the COVID-related restrictions on movement and other measures such as social distancing and closing of some of those open markets. Depression and high anxiety were rife as men were unable to provide either sanitizers or simply food for their families.

The second fear was always how to deal with their children under such restrictions and with schools closed. We have on average five children per household, and we live in one of the most crowded areas in the world with more than 13,000 persons in one square mile. Those children, not being allowed to leave their homes because of COVID restrictions, were badly in need of support.

Two weeks before the offensive the MoH was dealing with the second wave of COVID with about 35 to 40 percent of the people being tested showing positive. Suddenly those COVID-related concerns were overshadowed by the fears related to the airstrikes, the bombing and survival. How is that going to impact the psychological wellbeing of the population?


In one night, it was reported, 160 warplanes attacked 450 targets in less than 40 minutes in northern areas of the Gaza Strip. The strikes happened at the same time as 500 artillery shells were fired. People from outside Gaza asked us if this experience was similar to what happened in 2008 when the first strike took place. On Saturday, December 27, 2008, at around 11:20 A.M., suddenly people in the whole Gaza strip were overwhelmed with the sounds of bombardment and the view of a huge mushroomlike smoke plume that was all over the place. It was a moment where children were either going to schools (afternoon shift) or returning from schools (morning shift) and everyone really was in a state of shock. At that moment about 60 fighter planes carried the first attack in less than one minute. People asked us whether this felt the same. Perhaps it looks the same, but there is a critical major difference.

In 2008 the bombing was a single minute or two minutes, and it was across the whole Gaza strip (140 square miles). But what happened in these 11 days is entirely different. The strikes continued for about 25 to 30 minutes, or sometimes up to 40 minutes in the same city or geographical area. You could hear continuous bombing in your own city, in your own small geographical area, that continued for about 25 to 40 minutes. In all that time neither you nor your children nor your wife nor any other family member would feel that they could take even a single breath.

The continuous bombardment and shelling that continued in different cities on different nights meant that no one really could feel any moment of safety. All of us had our nervous system at its very highest alarm level for more than 25 and up to 40 minutes. I can say that this is the most fearful experience that I have had throughout four large offensives over the years.

This type of attack caused extreme fear to the two-million population, traumatizing almost everyone.

Another key difference to keep in mind is that most of the areas that were attacked were in the heart of the cities. We witnessed the flattening of 13- or 14-story towers and many other buildings. Some families were just eliminated during those attacks. In Al-Shati camp one family had 10 people killed including eight children and two women. Fourteen families lost more than three members and some of them were killed outright.

The fear and terror that we lived with through the 11 days was something unprecedented. So, do we expect to see more people and with a similar diagnosis to 2014, or 2012, or 2008? Maybe, but definitely the lower number of people who were killed or injured does not indicate a lesser psychological impact on the population. We already see children presented with night terrors, and pains in their knees and abdomen, and parents report clinging sons and daughters. Men and women alike complain of joint pains, low back pain and difficulty in concentration. Many say that they are not sure if they are living a big dream or a reality. And the worst-affected people show severe psychological impact including dissociative symptoms. In any case, we are still in early days and we will need more time to have a better understanding of the impact.

One might think that this will be our only concern, but that is not the case. In the first few days after the ceasefire with COVID testing resumed, only a few hundred tests were made, but on average one third of the results were positive. Tens of thousands of people were displaced and stayed in school classes or at their relatives’ homes, making the whole community inevitably much more mixed and crowded. As you may imagine, COVID measures were not all carried out.

Our hospitals are already full of injured people, the health system is struggling. And it seems that we are on the verge of a third COVID wave. A wave where out of the two million people only 40,000 have been vaccinated. We have just escaped the hell of airstrikes to find the hell of COVID-19 at our doors. We are moving from living under occupation and offensive to life under occupation and blockade, with COVID.

Ours is a life that you will never understand unless you are a resident of Gaza. Outsiders love to call us resilient human beings, rather than see our reality. As the English poet T. S. Eliot wrote in 1936, “Humankind cannot bear very much reality.”

(Source / 08.06.2021)

Power at any cost: how opportunistic Mansour Abbas joined hands with avowed ‘Arab killers’

By Ramzy Baroud

We are led to believe that history is being made in Israel following the formation of an ideologically diverse government coalition which, for the first time, includes an Arab party, Ra’am, or the United Arab List.

If we are to accept this logic, the leader of Ra’am, Mansour Abbas, is a mover and shaker of history, the same way that Naftali Bennett of the far-right Yamina Party, and Yair Lapid, the supposed ‘centrist’ of Yesh Atid, are also history makers. How bizarre!

Sensational media headlines and hyperboles aside, Israel’s new government was a desperate attempt by Israeli politicians to dislodge Benjamin Netanyahu, the country’s longest-serving Prime Minister, from power. While Lapid is fairly new to Israel’s contentious politics, Bennett and Abbas are opportunists, par excellence.

Read More: Israel hands over body of slain Palestinian woman

Lapid is a former TV anchorman. Despite his claims to centrist ideologies, his political views are as ‘right’ as they get. The problem is that such characters as Bennett, Ayelet Shaked, also of Yamina, and Netanyahu, of course, among others, have relocated the center of Israel’s political spectrum further to the right, to the point that the right became the center and the ultra-right became the right. This is how Israel’s neofascist and extremist politicians managed to become kingmakers in Israel’s politics. Bennett, for example, who in 2013 bragged about “killing lots of Arabs” in his life, is set to be the Prime Minister of Israel.

It is in this strange context that we must understand Mansour Abbas’ position. His meager four seats at the Israeli Knesset made his party critical in forming the coalition that has been purposely created to oust Netanyahu. Ra’am does not represent Israel’s Palestinian Arab communities and, by joining the government, Abbas is certainly not making history in terms of finding common ground between Arabs and Jews in a country that is rightly recognised by Israeli and international human rights groups as an apartheid state.

Read More: Haniyeh calls Arab and Islamic countries to firm stand against Israeli aggression

On the contrary, Abbas is moving against the current of history. At a time that Palestinians throughout historic Palestine – the occupied Palestinian territories and today’s Israel – are finally unifying around a common national narrative, Abbas is insisting on redefining the Palestinian agenda merely to secure a position for himself in Israeli politics – thus, supposedly ‘making history.’

Even before Abbas shook hands with Bennett and other Israeli extremists who advocate the killing of Palestinians as a matter of course, he made it clear that he was willing to join a Netanyahu-led government. This is one of the reasons behind the splintering of the once unified Arab political coalition, known as the Joint List.

Following his meeting with Netanyahu in February, Abbas justified his shocking turnabout with unconvincing political platitudes as one “needs to be able to look to the future, and to build a better future for everyone,” and so on.

The fact that Netanyahu was largely responsible for the despairing outlook of Israel’s Palestinian communities seemed entirely irrelevant to Abbas, who was inexplicably keen on joining any future political alliance, even if it included Israel’s most chauvinistic political actors. Sadly, though not surprisingly, this has proved to be the case.

Abbas’ position became impossible to sustain in May during the well-coordinated Israeli war in Gaza and the racist attacks on Palestinian communities in Jerusalem, the occupied West Bank, and throughout Israel. Even then, when Palestinians were finally able to articulate a common narrative linking the occupation, siege, racism, and apartheid in Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel together, Abbas insisted on developing a unique position that would allow him to sustain his chances of achieving power at any cost.

Although it was the Palestinian Arab communities that were under systematic attacks carried by Israeli Jewish mobs and police, Abbas called on his community to “be responsible and behave wisely,” and to “maintain public order and keep the law.” He even parroted similar lines used by right-wing Israeli Jewish politicians, as he claimed that “peaceful popular protests” by Palestinian communities inside Israel have turned “confrontational,” thus creating a moral equilibrium where the victims of racism, somehow, became responsible for their own plight.

Abbas’ position has not changed since the signing of the coalition deal on 2 June. His political narrative is almost apolitical as he insists on reducing the national struggle of the Palestinian people to the mere need for economic development – not fundamentally different from Netanyahu’s own ‘economic peace’ proposal in the past. Worse, Abbas intentionally delinks the state of poverty and under-development in Palestinian communities from state-championed racial discrimination, which constantly underfunds Arab communities while spending exuberant amounts of funds on illegal Jewish settlements that are built on ethnically cleansed Palestinian lands.

“We have reached a critical mass of agreements in various fields that serve the interest of Arab society and that provide solutions for the burning issues in Arab society — planning, the housing crisis and, of course, fighting violence and organized crime,” Abbas said triumphantly on 2 June, as if the rooted inequality, including communal violence and organized crime, are not direct results of racism, socio-economic inequality, and political alienation and marginalisation.

No history has been made by Abbas. He is but an example of a self-serving politician and a direct expression of the endemic disunity in the Palestinian Arab body politic inside Israel.

Sadly, the unprecedented success of the Arab Joint List following the March 2020 elections has now culminated in a tragic end, where the likes of Abbas become the unwelcomed ‘representative’ of a politically conscious and awakened community.

In truth, Mansour Abbas, a Palestinian Arab politician who is willing to find common ground with extremists and proud ‘Arab killers’, only represents himself. The future will attest to this claim.

(Source / 07.06.2021)

Biden, Palestine, and the buttressing of Christian Zionism

Biden’s position on Israel-Palestine does not constitute any real shift from that of Trump and thus similarly gratifies the desires of Christian Zionists

 President Joe Biden speaks during a community event at Grace Lutheran Church in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020

By Mimi Kirk

Former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer recently urged Israel to prioritise maintaining the support of American evangelical Christians over that of American Jews. “People have to understand that the backbone of Israel’s support in the United States is the evangelical Christians,” he said, pointing to the fact that evangelicals comprise about a quarter of Americans while Jews make up less than two percent of the population. He also noted that it’s “very rare” for evangelicals to criticise Israel, while American Jews are “disproportionately among [Israel’s] critics”.

Indeed, white evangelicals were a significant portion of Donald Trump’s base, with 81 percent voting for him in 2016, and he catered to them through such Israel-friendly moves as the transfer of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and support for settlements and Israeli annexation of the West Bank and the Golan Heights. Though President Biden may use less crude rhetoric and have reinstated humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, his position does not constitute any real shift from that of Trump and thus similarly gratifies the desires of evangelicals.

Evangelical devotion to Israel was on full display in a recent sermon by John Hagee, senior pastor at Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas. Hagee is also the founder and national chairman of Christians United for Israel, the main US Christian Zionist organisation that boasts 10 million members. About 80 percent of evangelicals espouse Christian Zionism, the belief that the modern state of Israel is the result of Biblical prophecy, namely the notion that 4,000 years ago God promised the land to the Jews, who will rule it until Jesus’ return to Jerusalem and the rapture – at which time Jews must convert to Christianity or be sent to hell.

Though Hagee had originally planned to speak on marriage and commitment on Sunday, May 16, he shifted to a sermon titled “The Battle for Jerusalem” given recent events in Palestine: attempted expulsions of Palestinians from their homes in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah to make way for Israeli settlers; raids by Israeli security forces of Al-Aqsa Mosque; and Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip, which killed at least 248 Palestinians, including 66 children. Israel has reported 12 dead, including two children, from Hamas rocket fire.

Numerous analysts including Noura Erakat, Mariam Barghouti, Yara Hawari, and Rashid Khalidi have pointed to recent events as the latest in Israel’s expansionist, Zionist settler-colonial project that aims to dispossess Palestinians and Judaise the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea – a project in contravention of international law.

Of course, Christian Zionists see the situation very differently.

In his sermon, Hagee hit the main Christian Zionist talking points, hammering home the idea that God gave the land to the Jewish people, that Jews are the “apple of God’s eye”, and that when Jesus returns he will rule the earth from Jerusalem. “I long for that day,” intoned Hagee.

Hagee also shared his theory about the latest violence, placing sole blame on Hamas and arguing that Russia and Iran put Hamas up to it, ultimately stressing that Russia and China are working to push America’s presence out of the Middle East. “This is a direct challenge of America’s ability to defend Israel,” he said, warning that if the United States does not support Israel, God will not support the United States. This Israel-related prosperity gospel purports that good things – in terms of financial as well as physical wellbeing – are God’s will for those who “bless Israel”.

Hagee criticised Biden and his administration during the sermon, insinuating that Biden is always ineffectively dawdling “in the basement” – an insult of Biden favoured by Trump – and that the current leadership is “trying to get us to forget God”. In contrast, he praised former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a Christian Zionist, as a “dedicated Christian” and “a wonderful man of God”. “Pompeo is the kind of man we need in national leadership,” Hagee said in comments before the sermon, “not someone that hides in the basement all the time.”

Yet Hagee did not criticise Biden’s response to events in Palestine-Israel – and no wonder, as the Biden administration’s response does not fundamentally deviate from the support Trump or, indeed, past US administrations have shown Israel.

The Biden administration’s statements framed the violence in terms of Israel’s “right to defend itself” from Hamas, rather than acknowledge the reality of an Israeli colonial project and ethnic cleansing campaign against Palestinians. It also blocked a statement by the UN Security Council calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and criticising Israel’s expulsion of Palestinians in East Jerusalem. In addition, the Biden administration approved $735 million in arms sales to Israel.

Despite Biden’s stance, there are solid signs of a Democratic shift in the US in favour of Palestinian rights. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez introduced a House resolution to block those arms sales, and Senator Bernie Sanders did the same in the Senate. Representative Betty McCollum has also put forward legislation that prohibits US taxpayer dollars from funding Israeli human rights violations. Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar sharply criticised Biden’s response to recent events.

Effective, sustained organising by groups like Students for Justice in Palestine, the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, and Jewish Voice for Peace, as well as intersectional work between Palestine advocates and movements like Black Lives Matter, have helped to push for this change and will ensure that it continues. But in the meantime, whether Hagee realises or acknowledges it, he and Christian Zionism have, while perhaps not a straightforward ally in the Biden administration, a leadership whose failure to stand up for what is just mimics their own support of Israel – just minus the rapture part.

(Source / 29.05.2021)

Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, a microcosm of the Palestine question

By Jamal Kanj

Palestinian diaspora narratives are broad. Sheikh Jarrah is the story of Palestinian families, in one East Jerusalem neighborhood, under the Israeli occupation. In contrast, my diaspora journey traces a family of sheep herders and farmers in the Galilee pushed to a Northern Lebanese refugee camp in 1948 and denied a return to their homes. By miraculous fate, I ended up living in the United States and became a registered civil engineer in the state of California. Through my own life experience growing up as a stateless refugee, I can appreciate the unfortunate threat of expulsion facing Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah.The fight over the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood is a microcosm of the Palestine question. While war and fear were the main Israeli instruments to drive out my parents and more than 700,000 Palestinians from their towns and villages in 1948, current Israeli policies use legal euphemisms to change the demographic makeup of Palestinian communities as in the case of Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.
Sheikh Jarrah, located a little over one mile north of the Old City, is named after Saladin’s physician. Jarrah means surgeon in Arabic. The community, originally built around the tomb of the 13th-century surgeon, grew to become among the first and most affluent Christian and Muslim Palestinian communities outside the walls of the Old City. Following the 1948 war, Sheikh Jarrah expanded with the arrival of Palestinian refugees expelled from the Talbiya neighborhood in occupied West Jerusalem and other villages.

Since the occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967, different Israel governments and city municipalities have used incentives, courts and violence to uproot native Jerusalemites from their homes.

A case in point: Jewish Israeli settlers forcibly occupied a section in the home of the al-Kurd family in 2001, claiming the land was owned by Jews during the Ottoman Empire. Instead of removing the intruders, Israeli courts awarded the home to Jewish settlers. The al-Kurd became tenants — in their own home — ordered to pay rent to the interlopers. When the homeowner refused to pay rent to the settler extremists, Israeli courts found the al-Kurd family delinquent and forced it out of its home of 52 years.

Muhammad al-Kurd, the head of the family, died less than two weeks after he was expelled from his home for a second time. The first was in 1948 from the city of Haifa, and the second was in 2008. His stricken wife, Fawzieh al-Kurd, then 56 years old, moved into a tent outside her home to protest her forceful ejection.

The al-Kurds were not the first Palestinians to lose their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, and they won’t be the last. In 2002, Israel forcibly moved 43 Palestinians from their homes with Israeli settlers moving in. In August 2009, the al-Hanoun and al-Ghaw Palestinian families also lost their homes to extremist settlers. In 2017, the Shamasneh family met a similar fate.

Today, 500 Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah are at risk of dispossession following a lower Israeli court’s order to vacate their homes. Since Palestinians have little to no chance under the Israeli legal system, public protest is the only recourse left to publicize injustice and stop the Israeli government from making them homeless once again.

The Israeli court decisions over land ownership in Sheikh Jarrah expose the blatant institutional discriminatory laws toward non-Jews in the state of Israel. For example, the disputed settlers’ claim of land ownership is not on behalf of any individual asserting rightful inheritance, but rather a religious claim based on a 150-year-old bogus land deed.

The same courts, however, do not avail the same rights to the al-Kurd, al-Hanoun, al-Ghaw and Shamasneh families or the new 500 Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah who possess land deeds for homes in West Jerusalem and Haifa. In Israel, only Jews can reclaim property. Muslim and Christian Palestinians, who live in East Jerusalem, are considered “absentee owners” unable to claim homes from which they were forcefully evicted 70 years earlier.

When asked about laws allowing Jews, but not Palestinians, to reclaim properties, the current deputy mayor of Jerusalem, Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, said, “This is a Jewish country.” As quoted in The New York Times earlier this month, he said, “Of course, there are laws that some people may consider as favoring Jews — it’s a Jewish state. It is here to protect the Jewish people.”
The deputy mayor of Jerusalem unwittingly explained institutional racism in an Israeli hierarchical system that favors one group of people at the expense of others.

*Kanj is the author of “Children of Catastrophe: Journey from a Palestinian Refugee Camp to America.” He lives in East San Diego County. This article first published in the San Diego Union-Tribune Newspaper (

Has Palestine resistance won?

‘Israel’ endured a historic defeat at the hands of a unified Palestinian resistance

By Robert Inlakesh

When this Friday’s ceasefire was announced between Palestinian resistance groups and ‘Israel’, there was only one side celebrating, the Palestinians, who had taken to the streets to celebrate a historic defeat of Israel’s military machine.

During the 11-day conflict between Gaza and ‘Israel’, 248 Palestinians in Gaza were killed, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, this included 66 children, 39 women and 17 elderly people, in addition to 1,948 people having sustained injuries. On the Israeli side, 12 casualties were reported, it is unclear how many Israeli soldiers were killed as ‘Israel’ goes to great lengths to cover this up. Despite the disparity in death statistics, which clearly indicate much greater Palestinian suffering, Israel’s military and politicians were left utterly embarrassed and defeated.

A Unified Palestinian Resistance To Occupation & Netanyahu’s Political Failure

The Israeli aggression against the people of Jerusalem, specifically with its provocative attacks on worshippers at al Aqsa Mosque, its backing of far-right fascist settlers and the planned expulsions of Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, all triggered a nationwide Palestinian response.

For the first time, in such a forceful way, the Palestinian citizens of ‘Israel’ joined in with Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, Jerusalem and the diaspora, to confront ‘Israel’ with all means necessary. National strikes, confrontations with settlers, mass non-violent demonstrations, riots, lone-wolf armed attacks and the unified armed groups in Gaza all piled on ‘Israel’.

Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, had originally backed the hard-line settlers in their provocative actions in order to keep himself aligned with his Religious Zionism Party allies and to maintain support from right wingers in general. He had just lost his mandate to form a coalition, which was handed over to his rival Yair Lapid to form an anti-Netanyahu coalition, a task delayed due to recent tensions, along with the PM’s corruption trial. It seems that Netanyahu thought he would be able to buy time politically through an escalation with Palestinians, yet miscalculated the scale of the response and found himself in an embarrassing predicament. Instead of gathering more support, Netanyahu has instead now further divided the Israeli political scene and has entered a game of pointing fingers, whilst the right-wing is condemning him for his defeat.

The armed resistance from the Gaza Strip also proved more challenging for ‘Israel’ this time around also, no matter what ‘Israel’ did and up until the last moments before the ceasefire, the resistance was firing rockets. The armed groups also revealed new weapons technology, including dronesunmanned submarines and new rockets capable of hitting any part of historic Palestine. The armed groups also fired on Israeli warships, gas pipelines, ports, electrical facilities, chemical plants, airfields, military bases and even gave curfews to be followed for residents of Tel Aviv, along with forcing Israel’s airports to close.

The response to Israel’s aggression in Jerusalem was aimed to have ‘Israel’ abandon its settler march planned to raid al-Aqsa compound, the Palestinian resistance achieved the goal of stopping this march. The goal of forcing ‘Israel’ to accept that Palestinians will retaliate and put it in its place when Jerusalem is under attack, was also reached.

The Palestinians are now more unified than ever, with all Palestinians, regardless of their political affiliation, standing together in order to confront their occupier. The ceasefire was also agreed to without ‘Israel’ having achieved any victory against the Palestinian resistance in any of the territories, they simply backed off when confronted with the might of a unified people.

The Israeli “Ground Invasion” of Gaza

The important takeaway from the latest round of tensions is that ‘Israel’ failed to put a dent in any of the Palestinian armed groups and instead turned to targeting Palestinian civilians. ‘Israel’ failed to launch a ground invasion and after announcing it, only then to back track, attempted to paint their failure to do so as the result of a cunning plan to eliminate Hamas tunnel systems.

Much of the mainstream Western Press, which originally had taken the word of ‘Israel’ that its ground troops had entered Gaza, on May 14, also without hesitation published Israel’s excuse as to why it hadn’t done so. It was claimed by the Israeli military that there had been a “miscommunication”, which later turned into Israel’s “cunning plot” to allegedly deal a killer blow to Hamas and its tunnel system.

Israeli analysts, such as Channel 13 TV’s Or Heller, began to claim that ‘Israel’ had tricked Hamas into believing the ground invasion was coming through media reports and drew militants into their complex web of tunnel networks. Then as the Israeli military claimed, it destroyed the tunnels utilising 130 warplanes, bombing the tunnels for a period of 40 minutes.

It sounds like a triumphant story, but there’s one small problem, there isn’t any evidence to suggest this happened at all, in fact all of the evidence points to the contrary. ‘Israel’ did move its reservists close to the separation lines, but not actually “on the border”, they were nowhere to be seen close to the physical barriers. The confusion which was caused also by the countless excuses provided before ‘Israel’ got its narrative together, as to explain what happened, should also invite more scepticism.

‘Israel’, despite having 24 hour drone surveillance, could not provide a single photo proving this alleged destruction of “hundreds of kilometres” of the “metro” tunnel system, nor were there any combatant deaths reported in Gaza from the strikes. On top of this, anyone who was actually following the news cycle closely, or who lives in Gaza, knows that residential areas were heavily targeted during these strikes in the north of Gaza, around Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahia, causing civilian deaths. The strategy which was observed on the ground in Gaza did in fact look like a ground invasion strategy, that is, the Israeli military flattens everything in sight so that it can move its ground forces into an area. Then we have the Hamas sources which reported to al-Jazeera Arabic, that they had thwarted an Israeli attempt to launch a ground invasion.

The credibility of the Israeli military is also very low, it was able to even hide the deaths of at least 5 soldiers – killed in February of 2018 – by the Salahudeen brigades (Palestinian armed group), being forced to admit the incident only after the armed group released video showing the armed attack in the month of November. It also yet to release the proper statistics for its own military losses, soldier deaths, soldier injuries and most likely never will.

Then we next have to ask the question, if ‘Israel’ could actually pull off a successful ground operation, why didn’t it do so at any time. Why did the Israeli military also withdraw from most of the close by areas to the actual separation lines too, which has been shown by drone footage released by Palestinian armed factions? The answer is, ‘Israel’ cannot occupy Gaza and it understands that it likely can’t even defeat the ground forces of Hamas.

If ‘Israel’ had known where the tunnel system actually was, they would have had years to launch attacks on it and to prepare for confronting Hamas’ al-Qassam brigades and Islamic Jihads’ Saraya al-Quds, but resorted to killing civilians.

The truth is, Israel’s military are scared of entering Gaza, or even merely operating too close to Gaza. Israeli military and political leaders understand that high troop casualties will mean the end of them politically, so they do not dare risk it. This is the same case when it comes to dealing with Hezbollah in Lebanon, ‘Israel’ is petrified of confronting Lebanese Hezbollah, so much so that they place dummies along the border hoping to trick the enemy into striking dud targets so as to not escalate tensions.

If a ground invasion was possible, ‘Israel’ would have taken to this straight away, but it clearly was not. Israeli Premier, Benjamin Netanyahu, has been dealt a severe blow by this round of tensions and if a ground invasion would have been an option, he would have taken it to save his own political life.

Israel’s Only Real Military Strategy Was Targeting Civilians

The proof of what really happened is there, on the ground, in Gaza. Over 75,000 people displaced, around half of those killed were women and children, civilian infrastructure was also pummeled the most severely, not key military sites. Were there tunnels hit? Yes, but of real significance? No. ‘Israel’ bombarded areas like al-Wehda street in the more prosperous area of al-Rimal, in Gaza City, it also destroyed factories, agricultural landsmosques, malls, medical clinics, water purification sites, electrical sites, hit schools, bookstores and the list goes on.

After Israel’s announcement of a ground invasion amounted to nothing, the strategy had clearly been to beat down the spirits of the people of Gaza. When they had done massacring scores of innocent civilians, and only killing around roughly 40 members of Palestinian resistance armed wings, they realised that their military “operation”, called “Guardian of the Walls”, was leading nowhere and ‘Israel’ was looking for a way out.

It is also important to note that of the members of armed factions killed in Gaza, ‘Israel’ murdered most of them whilst they were at home and not actively fighting, which means these were not legitimate military targets, especially as some of them were at home with their families. Israeli PM Netanyahu announced, in his first speech after the ceasefire agreement was reached, that around “200 terrorists” had been killed, but even the Israeli public knows this to be a blatant lie. Statistically, it’s impossible for ‘Israel’ to argue it killed a significant number of Palestinian fighters and what is perhaps most ridiculous, is that Netanyahu used images of bombed roads to try and prove he destroyed significant tunnels.

The conclusion that can be drawn from recent events, is that a unified Palestinian people can successfully put the Israeli regime in its place and prevent it from crossing red-lines. A new political awakening has taken place, a new set of rules have been established. This moment, will go down in history as an important marker in the road to the liberation of Palestine and the establishment of Palestinian human rights.

(Source / 22.05.2021)

Gaza lives erased: Israel is wiping out entire Palestinian families on purpose

It is clear that the army knows the number and names of children, women and elderly who live in every residential building it bombs for any reason

By Amira Hass

The numerous incidents of killing entire families in Israeli bombings in Gaza – parents and children, babies, grandparents, siblings – attest that these were not mistakes. The bombings follow a decision from higher up, backed by the approval of military jurists

Fifteen Palestinian nuclear and extended families lost at least three, and in general more, of their members, in the Israeli shelling of the Gaza Strip during the week from May 10 through to Monday afternoon.

Parents and children, babies, grandparents, siblings and nephews and nieces died together when Israel bombed their homes, which collapsed over them. Insofar as is known, no advance warning was given so that they could evacuate the targeted houses.

On Saturday, a representative of the Palestinian Health Ministry brought listed the names of 12 families who were killed, each one at its home, each one in a single bombing. Since then, in one air raid before dawn on Sunday, which lasted 70 minutes and was directed at three houses on Al Wehda Street in the Rimal neighborhood of Gaza, three families numbering 38 people in total were killed.

Some of the bodies were found on Sunday morning. Palestinian rescue forces only managed to find the rest of the bodies and pull them out from the rubble only on Sunday evening.

Wiping out entire families in Israeli bombings was one of the characteristics of the war in 2014. In the roughly 50 days of the war then, UN figures say that 142 Palestinian families were erased (742 people in total).

The numerous incidents then and today attest that these were not mistakes: and that the bombing of a house while all its residents are in it follows a decision from higher up, backed by the examination and approval of military jurists.

An investigation by the human rights group B’Tselem that focused on some 70 of the families who were eradicated in 2014, provided three explanations for the numerous nuclear and extended families that were killed, all at once, in one Israeli bombing on the home of each such family. One explanation was that the Israeli army didn’t provide advance warning to the homeowners or to their tenants; or that the warning didn’t reach the correct address, at all or on time.

In any case, what stands out is the difference between the fate of the buildings that were bombed with their residents inside, and the “towers” – the high-rise buildings that were shelled as of the second day of this latest conflict, during the daytime or early evening.

Reportedly, the owners or the concierge in the towers got prior warning of an hour at most that they must evacuate, usually via phone call from the army or Shin Bet security service, then “warning missiles” fired by drones. These owners/concierges were supposed to warn the other residents in the short time remaining.

Not only highrises were involved. On Thursday evening Omar Shurabji’s home west of Khan Yunis was shelled. A crater formed in the road and one room in the two-story building was destroyed. Two families, with seven people altogether, live in that building.

About 20 minutes before the explosion, the army called Khaled Shurabji and told him to tell his uncle Omar to leave the house, per a report by the Palestinian center for human rights. It is not known whether Omar was there, but the residents of the house all hastened to get out, so there were no casualties.

This very fact that the Israeli army and Shin Bet trouble to call and order the evacuation of the homes shows that the Israeli authorities have current phone numbers for people in each structure slated for destruction. They have the phone numbers for relatives of the people suspected or known to be activists for Hamas or Islamic Jihad.

The Palestinian population registry, including that of Gaza, is in the hands of the Israeli Interior Ministry. It includes details such as names, ages, relatives and addresses.

As the Oslo Accords require, the Palestinian interior ministry, through the civil affairs ministry, transfers current information regularly to the Israeli side, especially concerning births and newborns: The registry data must receive Israeli approval, because without that, Palestinians cannot receive an identity card when the time comes, or in the case of minors – they can’t travel alone or with their parents through border crossings controlled by Israel.

It is clear, then, that the army knows the number and names of children, women and elderly who live in every residential building it bombs for any reason.

B’Tselem’s second explanation for why whole families were erased in 2014 is that the army’s definition of an attackable “military target” was very broad, and it included the homes of Hamas and Islamic Jihad people. These houses were described as operational infrastructure, or command and control infrastructure of the organization or terror infrastructure – even if all it had was a telephone, or just hosted a meeting.

The third explanation in the B’Tselem analysis from 2014 was that the army’s interpretation of “collateral damage” is very flexible and broad. The army claimed and claims that it acts according to the principle of “proportionality” between harm to uninvolved civilians and achieving the legitimate military goal, in other words, that in every case the “collateral damage” caused to Palestinians is measured and considered.

But once the “importance” of a Hamas member is considered high and its residence is defined as a legitimate target for bombing – the “allowable” collateral damage, in other words the number of uninvolved people killed, including children and babies – is very broad.

In the intensive bombing of three residential buildings on Al Wehda Street in Gaza, before dawn on Sunday, the Abu al Ouf, Al- Qolaq and Ashkontana families were killed. In real time, when the number of dead from one family is so great – it is hard to find and encourage a survivor to tell about each family member, and their last days.

So one must make do with their names and ages, as listed in the daily reports of the human rights organizations that collect the information and even note, when they know, if any family member belonged to any military organization. So far, it is not know whether and who among the residents of the Al Wehda buildings was considered such an important target, that “permitted” the obliteration of entire families.

The members of the abu al Ouf family who were killed are: The father Ayman, an internal medicine doctor in Shifa Hospital, and his two children: Tawfiq, 17, and Tala, 13. Another two female relatives were also killed – Reem, 41, and Rawan, 19. These five bodies were found shortly after the bombing. The bodies of another eight members of the Abu al Ouf family were removed from the ruins only in the evening, and they are: Subhiya, 73, Amin, 90, Tawfiq, 80, and his wife Majdiya, 82, and their relative Raja (married to a man from the Afranji family) and her three children: Mira, 12, Yazen, 13, and Mir, 9.

During the air raid on those buildings, Abir Ashkontana was also killed, 30, and her three children: Yahya, 5, Dana, 9, and Zin, 2. In the evening, the bodies of two more girls were found: Rula, 6, and Lana, 10. The Palestinian center’s report does not mention whether these two children are Abir’s daughters.

In the two neighboring buildings 19 members of the Al-Qolaq family were killed: Fuaz, 63 and his four children; Abd al Hamid, 23, Riham, 33, Bahaa, 49 and Sameh, 28, and his wife Iyat, 19. Their baby Qusay, six months old, was also killed. Another female member of the extended family, Amal Al-Qolaq, 42, was also killed and three of her children were killed: Taher, 23, Ahmad, 16, and Hana’a – 15. The brothers Mohammed Al-Qolaq, 42, and Izzat, 44, were also killed, and Izzat’s children: Ziad, 8, and three-year-old Adam. The women Doa’a Al-Qolaq, 39, and Sa’adia Al-Qolaq, 83, were also killed. In the evening, the bodies of Hala Al-Qolaq, 13, and her sister Yara, 10, were rescued from under the rubble. Palestinian center’s report does not mention who their parents were and whether they were also killed in the bombing.

(Source / 21.05.2021)

‘Only my 5-month-old infant still alive,’ father from Gaza says

Two entire families perished in the same Israeli airstrike in Al Shatei Refugee Camp, west of Gaza City

By Motasem A Dalloul

It was midnight when Mohammad al Hadidi heard the sound of a huge explosion near to his house. He immediately opened the window of his bedroom to know what happened before he was shocked to see a massive cloud of smoke covering the whole neighbourhood.

“Only one minute, I went downstairs and heard people screaming from everywhere,” he told Palestine Post 24. “I could identify the direction of the screams and directly ran towards it amidst heavy think smoke and darkness. I was shocked to reach the house of my brother-in-law.”

Maha, Mohamad’s wife, went to visit her brother family who lives in the same neighbourhood. While sitting with him along with her five children, an Israeli airstrike hit the three-story house turning it into rubble and tearing the bodies of the two families into pieces.

“I recognised that all of my family members would have died in the attack because I know they were there,” Mohammad said. “I started to scream while people, who immediately gathered, started to look for survivors.”

As he was weeping, he said: “After a while, rescue teams arrived and about 10 minutes later they pulled out the first body. It was one of my brother-in-law’s siblings. Then, the signs of the catastrophe started to appear clearly.”

In this strike, Maha al Hadidi, 36, her son Sohaib, 14, Abdul-Rahman, 8, Usama, 6, and Yahya, 11, were killed, while the only five-month-old infant Omar was rescued alive. These are the members of Mahmoud’s family.

“Thanks to Allah, who kept one of my sons alive,” he said. “I was not left alone and he is not alone with me. He is my hope.”

Mohamad’s brother-in-law Alaa abu-Hatab, his wife Yasmin, 37, Mariam, 15, Yamin, 5, Bilal, 10, Yousef, 11, were killed in the attack. Two children are still alive, including one in critical condition.

(Source / 16.05.2021)

The Ethnic Cleansing Of Sheikh Jarrah Highlights Israel’s Racist Apartheid Laws

By  Robert Inlakesh

Israeli settler organisations seek to expel up to 26 Palestinian families from the East Jerusalem Neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, highlighting the racist laws implemented by ‘Israel’ and the State’s Apartheid System.

At least four Palestinian families are awaiting the decision of an appeal made to the Israeli Supreme Court, on eviction orders presented to them by a Jerusalem court. If evicted, this will mean that dozens of Palestinians will be made homeless, to the benefit of Israeli settler extremists poised to steal their homes.

Six Palestinian families were originally destined to be evicted from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah on May 2, with a further 7 families having been ruled to leave their homes on August 1, however the May 2 case was extended in order to facilitate an agreement between a settler company and the current Palestinian residents.

Four Jerusalem households, facing eviction, were given until this Thursday to reach an agreement with a settler company named Nahalat Shimon, which will be granted the properties of those being expelled. The Palestinian families told the court that no such agreement, to facilitate the hand over of their homes to the settler company had been reached and an appeal has been filed to the Israeli ‘High Court of Justice’, which is set to make a ruling on the issue as early as next week.

The legal justification that ‘Israel’ gives for handing over Palestinian homes to illegal Israeli settlers, leaving the former residents homeless, is the 1950 Absentees’ Property Law which grants Israelis the right to claim land that Jews had allegedly owned prior to the 1948 conflict, a 1977 Israeli cabinet resolution is also often evoked.

The newly released Human Rights Watch (HRW) report ‘A Threshold Crossed’, which accuses ‘Israel’ of committing the crime of Apartheid, explains how the law was previously used:

“Israeli authorities applied the law to take hold of most of the land belonging to the hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees who came to reside outside of Israel, as well as land belonging to Palestinians internally displaced as a result of the events of 1947 and 1948. Israeli authorities placed the land under the control of the Custodian for Absentees’ Property and eventually converted it to state land, almost exclusively used to build new Jewish communities”

What was mentioned in the report from HRW, is crucial to understanding how the State itself has implemented the very law used to claim ownership of Palestinian property in the eastern part of Jerusalem. It is clear that, due to Palestinians not having been granted a Law permitting them to claim back property, the legal system is racially biased and that the State is clearly attempting to seize more land through ethnic cleansing.

Israeli top human rights organisation B’Tselem has declared ‘Israel’ as an Apartheid Regime, implementing policies of Jewish Supremacy over Palestinians, so under this regime there are often legal loopholes which favour Jewish settler extremist takeovers of Palestinian land.

In the case of Sheikh Jarrah, most of its residents were in fact refugees from other cities and towns that had been ethnically cleansed by Israeli terrorist militias between 1947-1948. These refugees were actually re-located in the neighbourhood whilst it was under Jordanian control between 1948-1967. Israeli propaganda often attempts to present the idea that the homes being seized were once owned by Jews, but this is a flat out lie, the Jordanian authorities were the ones to finance the construction of the homes. Palestinians have since lived in these homes and the legal argument largely presented against them by settler organisations is that their paperwork was not fully finished to prove their residency under Jordanian rule.

Even if we were to believe that the homes were once, over 73 years ago, owned by Jewish people, why are Jewish religious extremists settlers, who have no family lineage which can be connected to the ownership of that land, being granted the homes? Also, why are Palestinians not being compensated and offered real justifiable alternatives if this was to be the case? The fact is, Palestinians are viewed by the Israeli courts as lesser human beings and Jewish Israelis, many of which come from New York to steal homes, are viewed as superior beings by virtue of what they are born as.

When we take the situation away from Israel’s rules, which operates on the basis of whatever Israel’s master race decides to do to the inferior race goes, we will see that under International Law everything that is happening to Sheikh Jarrah’s residents has no legal basis. ‘Israel’ was never entitled to any of Jerusalem from the first 1947 partition resolution and when it attacked and expanded into West Jerusalem illegally, this was just eventually accepted by the International Community.

When ‘Israel’ was admitted into the UN as a member state in 1948, it was so on the basis that it would eventually head to what was stipulated under the non-binding resolution 181 (partition plan) and UN resolution 194 (the Palestinian right of return GA res.), yet never bothered abiding by either. UN general assembly resolution 181 had Jerusalem as an autonomous zone, but this was never addressed or enforced and Israel’s violation of this had been ignored. Come 1967, ‘Israel’ illegally annexed all of Jerusalem, ‘Israel’ later in 1980 forced a de jure annexation of East Jerusalem, thus applying Israeli law onto it.

The International Community does not recognise Israel’s claim to sovereignty over East Jerusalem and upholds that it is a violation of international law for a power to acquire territory through warfare. This is key to point out, as all of Israel’s legal justifications, for what it is doing to Sheikh Jarrah residents, are viewed by the International Community and all reputable international organisations, courts etc. as invalid.

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Tor Wennesland, has said on the issue that “The latest developments related to the eviction of Palestine refugee families in Sheikh Jarrah…are very worrying. I urge Israel to cease demolitions and evictions, in line with its obligations under international humanitarian law,” rights groups throughout the world have also condemned Israel’s actions.

It is more than clear that the evictions of Palestinian residents of Sheikh Jarrah are the product of a racist court system, backed by a racist legal system, spearheaded by billionaire-backed racist settler colonisers. The Palestinian Authority has now handed the case of Sheikh Jarrah over to the International Criminal Court, for an investigation into the war crime that is being committed there, but the question still remains will the ICC be strong and rule against ‘Israel’? If so, this may help the residents of Sheikh Jarrah, at least in seeking justice if not anything else.

(Source / 07.05.2021)

Postponing of Palestinian Election Proves Abbas Is Closer to Israel’s Interests Than His Own People

A screen displaying a live broadcast of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's speech, West Bank, April 2021.Credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/ REUTERS
A screen displaying a live broadcast of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s speech, West Bank, April 2021

By Amira Hass

The decision to postpone to an unknown date the Palestinian general election, announced Thursday by President Mahmoud Abbas, proves that he and his handful of Fatah cronies – whose advice he listens to – are more loyal to Israel’s interests to preserve the status quo and prevent any shocks or changes.

In postponing the May 22 election for the Palestinian Legislative Council, they’re showing that Israel’s objection to holding the vote – the Palestinians’ first since 2006 – outweighs the views of 93 percent of the electorate, who registered to vote and thus clearly expressed their yearning for the democratic process.

The status quo, ironically, isn’t that: It constantly changes to the detriment of the Palestinians, as a people and as individuals, and in favor of the Israeli takeover of their lands and homes.

Read More: Mass rejection in Ramallah and Gaza of postponing the election

But this fake status quo lets a fossilized Fatah movement hold on to positions of economic, administrative and political power in the West Bank’s Palestinian Authority-controlled enclaves. It allows unelected officials – who rely on their past glory as fighters against the occupation in exile or in the Palestinian territories Israel captured in 1967, or who won an election long expired – to keep developing and maintaining a stratum of senior civil servants and key security lords. It allows them as well to continue controlling many initiatives in the private sector while promoting and giving preference to associates and confidants.

The PA and Fatah leadership’s strict adherence to the Oslo Accords, and especially to the security cooperation with Israel, preserves some stability in the region. This adherence is in turn translated into donations and funding from the international community, which – even if reduced in recent years – is still important to the authority’s functioning.

Read More: Electoral lists reject Abbas’s postponing the Palestinian elections

This stability, more accurately known as Israel’s security at the expense of the security and rights of the Palestinians, is important to the many donor countries, led by EU members and the United States, which under President Joe Biden has resumed financial support for the Palestinians. The European Union may have expressed support for a democratic election and promised it was striving for the vote to take place, but it’s hard to see it using its leverage against the PA – halting its financial support – because an election isn’t held. It’s the very stick the EU used against the Palestinians before, after Hamas’ rise to power in 2006.

A Palestinian election is bad for Israel and bad for the unelected Palestinian ruling stratum for the following reasons: It had the potential to impact some changes, above all when it comes to the split in rule between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank’s enclaves. After all, this split has been a linchpin of Israeli politics since 1991. An election campaign means exchanging views, voicing criticism, and constant debates and arguments that skirt the boundaries of the internal Palestinian censorship that Abbas is orchestrating.

In such an election campaign, Israel too would be under an international magnifying glass – to see how far it would go to sabotage the election via arrests and a ban on voicing opinions (opposed to the official Fatah position). An election with 36 parties running guarantees surprises, unplanned changes, new coalitions. There are 1,400 candidates, 405 of them women, and 39 percent of them are age 40 and under, vying for 132 seats. This would have ensured a younger parliament whose legislators have to listen to their voters.

The issues bothering the Palestinian public pertain to corruption and nepotism, Oslo, security coordination as Israel constantly expands the settlements, the lack of transparency and accountability of the people in charge, the helplessness against settler violence, and the issue of establishing a state, in contrast to the political weakness. All these questions had a chance to be raised in such a parliament.

It’s not at all certain that Hamas would have been the main beneficiary in this election. Its slate may well have become the largest in parliament, but not with a majority that let it form a coalition.

Two Fatah tickets, in addition to the official slate, could have received the votes of Fatah supporters sick of Abbas’ rule and who voted in 2006 for Hamas as a protest vote. The three parties, along with others that object to political Islam, could have been a dominant force in the new parliament and formed a coalition, but without Abbas’ absolute hold there’s an absolute hole – which is also convenient for Israel.

The postponement of the election to the Palestinian Legislative Council will also delay the attempt to reinstate the Palestinian National Council, which is supposed to represent the entire Palestinian people, both here and in exile. The third stage of the election, after the election of the president, was supposed to be the election for the National Council, the parliament of the Palestine Liberation Organization, while the members of the legislative council were supposed to be automatically included in it.

In recent years, calls to revive this pan-Palestinian institution have grown, as one of the attempts to restore the PLO to its status as the body that sets Palestinian policy. During the Oslo years, the situation was reversed and the PA – which on paper is subordinate to the PLO – became the chief political institution, leaving the PLO as an empty shell.

In the PA, Fatah is the dominant movement, and Abbas and a small circle of his associates are the sole decision-makers. It’s very convenient for Israel that Palestinian politics is run by a small group of senior officials whose privileges and financial futures – for them and their families – are held hostage by Israel.

The mantra “no election without Jerusalem” was increasingly voiced by Abbas’ associates in recent weeks as the election campaign’s opening date, Friday, April 30, approached – without Israel giving its official consent to voting in Jerusalem. On Wednesday, the head of Fatah’s party slate and Abbas’ deputy, Mahmoud Aloul, said that holding an election without Jerusalem was treason and a crime.

He and others completely ignored the other option to canceling the election, one suggested repeatedly by other parties: Find ways to hold the election in East Jerusalem without official Israeli approval. For example, set up polling stations in UN buildings, churches and mosques, including the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and go house to house with a ballot box, or put more polling places in the parts of the Jerusalem governate that haven’t been annexed to Israel.

Both Aloul and Abbas (in his speech Thursday evening) have spoken with characteristic contempt of the people who made these suggestions, as if the election in Jerusalem were merely a technical matter for them. They have totally ignored the subversive element in these suggestions – rocking the illusion of normality in Jerusalem and launching a popular resistance campaign by the very act of getting East Jerusalem Palestinians to vote in any way possible.

Abbas, Aloul and many of their loyalists didn’t explain why it was necessary to wait for Israeli approval for voting in East Jerusalem, and thus surrender to the Israeli veto over the election. Their silence here exposes characteristic hypocrisy: Senior Fatah and PA officials always raise the “popular struggle” as their standard, as a counterpoint to the slogan of the armed struggle. By not exploiting the opportunity, this proves what everybody knows: The Fatah leadership doesn’t believe in a popular struggle and isn’t interested in it, and certainly isn’t interested in leading it.

Before the expected decision on postponing the election was announced, the opponents of the delay expressed their position in several ways in addition to social media – Zoom gatherings, interviews with independent media outlets, a demonstration in Gaza by supporters of Mohammed Dahlan’s independent slate, as well as a vigil on Ramallah’s Manara Square.

On Thursday night, after the official announcement of the election’s postponement, a few hundred people came out to protest the decision in Ramallah – including a discernible group of supporters of the independent slate.

A lecturer in law at Birzeit University, Mahmoud Dudin, said last week, before the expected official announcement of the cancellation/postponement, that the executive branch’s postponing of the election breached the Palestinian constitution (Basic Laws). He spoke at a Zoom gathering initiated by Masarat – the Palestinian Center for Policy Research and Strategic Studies, one of the main independent bodies fighting the Palestinian political schism and encouraging critical discussion on how to find a way out of the status quo.

Dudin said postponing the election is solely under the jurisdiction of the Central Elections Commission, and only if it provides convincing reasons. He said the commission has announced that it’s possible to hold an election in Jerusalem even without official Israeli permission. But on Thursday night the election commission declared that it was halting the entire process.

The Palestinian public has two options, according to Dudin: One is to file petitions to the Palestinian Supreme Court against the decision to postpone/cancel the election. But the chances of such petitions succeeding are slim because the justice system and judges are appointments of the political leadership (Abbas) and are its captives, Dudin says. The second option is “revolutionary” – civil disobedience that creates “revolutionary legitimacy, the equivalent of constitutional legitimacy, and a way to rehabilitate it.”

It’s hard to imagine 35 parties ignoring the order to cancel/postpone the election and continuing to prepare for the vote as normal. But just raising the idea in public reflects the huge distance between the Palestinian public and its unelected senior officials. In the shadow of this decision and the general disgust for it, it’s hard to see the official Fatah slate trying to run in any general election soon.The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Days Of Palestine.

(Source / 05.05.2021)