European hypocrisy: empty words for Palestine, deadly weapons for Israel

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh makes a speech via video conference at the European Parliament Committee meeting on Foreign Affairs, on 12 October 2020 in Brussels, Belgium. [Dursun Aydemir - Anadolu Agency]
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh makes a speech via video conference at the European Parliament Committee meeting on Foreign Affairs, on 12 October 2020 in Brussels, Belgium

By Ramzy Baroud

In theory, Europe and the United States stand on completely opposite sides when it comes to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. While the US government has fully embraced the tragic status quo created by 53 years of Israeli military occupation, the EU continues to advocate a negotiated settlement that is predicated on respect for international law.

In practice, however, despite the seeming rift between Washington and Brussels, the outcome is, essentially, the same. The US and Europe are Israel’s largest trade partners, weapon suppliers and political advocates.

One of the reasons that the illusion of an even-handed Europe has been maintained for so long lies partly in the Palestinian leadership itself. Politically and financially abandoned by Washington, the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas has turned to the European Union as its only possible saviour.

“Europe believes in the two-state solution,” PA Prime Minister, Mohammad Ishtayehsaid during a video discussion with the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs on October 12. Unlike the US, Europe’s continued advocacy of the defunct two-state solution qualifies it to fill the massive gap created by Washington’s absence.

Ishtayeh called on EU leaders to “recognize the State of Palestine in order for us, and you, to break the status quo.”

However, there are already 139 countries that recognise the Stat,me of Palestine. While that recognition is a clear indication that the world remains firmly pro-Palestinian, recognizing Palestine as a State changes little on the ground. What is needed are concerted efforts to hold Israel accountable for its violent occupation as well as real action to support the struggle of Palestinians.

Not only has the EU failed at this, it is, in fact, doing the exact opposite: funding Israel, arming its military and silencing its critics.

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Listening to Ishtayeh’s words, one gets the impression that the top Palestinian official is addressing a conference of Arab, Muslim or socialist countries. “I call upon your Parliament and your distinguished Members of this Parliament, that Europe not wait for the American President to come up with ideas … We need a third party who can really remedy the imbalance in the relationship between an occupied people and an occupier country, that is Israel,” he said.

But is the EU qualified to be that ‘third party’?  No. For decades, European governments have been an integral part of the US-Israel party. Just because the Donald Trump administration has, recently, taken a sharp turn in favour of Israel should not automatically transform Europe’s historical pro-Israel bias to be mistaken for pro-Palestinian solidarity.

Last June, more than 1,000 European parliamentarians representing various political parties issued a statement expressing “serious concerns” about Trump’s so-called Deal of the Century and opposing Israeli annexation of nearly a third of the West Bank. However, the pro-Israel US Democratic Party, including some traditionally staunch supporters of Israel, were equally critical of Israel’s plan because, in their minds, annexation means that a two-state solution would be made impossible.

While US Democrats made it clear that a Joe Biden administration would not reverse any of Trump’s actions should Biden be elected, European governments have also made it clear that they will not take a single action to dissuade – let alone punish – Israel for its repeated violations of international law.

Lip service is all that Palestinians have obtained from Europe, as well as much money, which was largely pocketed by loyalists of Abbas in the name of ‘State-building’ and other fantasies. Tellingly, much of the imaginary Palestinian State infrastructure that was subsidised by Europe in recent years has been blown up, demolished or construction ceased by the Israeli military during its various wars and raids. Yet, neither did the EU punish Israel, nor did the PA cease from asking for more money to continue funding a non-existent State.

Activists laid out 4.500 pairs of shoes in front of the Council of the EU in Belgium on 28 May 2018 to represent every person killed in the Israel-Palestine conflict in the past decade [file photo]
Activists laid out 4.500 pairs of shoes in front of the Council of the EU in Belgium on 28 May 2018 to represent every person killed in the Israel-Palestine conflict in the past decade [file photo]

Not only did the EU fail to hold Israel accountable for its ongoing occupation and human rights violations, it is practically financing Israel, as well. According to Defence News, a quarter of all of Israel’s military export contracts (totalling $7.2 billion in 2019 alone) is allocated to European countries.

Moreover, Europe is Israel’s largest trading partner, absorbing one-third of Israel’s total exports and shipping to Israel nearly 40% of its total import. These numbers also include products made in illegal Jewish settlements.

Additionally, the EU labours to incorporate Israel into the European way of life through cultural and music contests, sports competitions and in myriad other ways. While the EU possesses powerful tools that can be used to exact political concessions and enforce respect for international law, it opts to simply do very little.

Compare this with the recent ultimatum the EU has given the Palestinian leadership, linking EU aid to the PA’s financial ties with Israel. Last May, Abbas took the extraordinary step of considering all agreements with Israel and the US to be null and void. Effectively, this means that the PA would no longer be accountable for the stifling status quo that was created by the Oslo Accords, which was repeatedly violated by Tel Aviv and Washington. Severing ties with Israel also meant that the PA would refuse to accept nearly $150 million in tax revenues that Israel collects on behalf of the PA. This Palestinian step, while long overdue, was necessary.

READ: Zionist War on Palestinian Festival in Rome is Ominous Sign of Things to Come 

Instead of supporting Abbas’ move, the EU criticized it, refusing to provide additional aid for Palestinians until Abbas restores ties with Israel and accepts the tax money. According to Axios news portal, Germany, France, the UK and even Norway are leading the charge.

Germany, in particular, has been relentless in its support for Israel. For months, it has advocated on behalf of Israel to spare Tel Aviv a war crimes investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC). It has placed activists, who advocate the boycott of Israel, on trial. Recently, it has confirmed the shipment of missile boats and other military hardware to ensure the superiority of the Israeli navy in a potential war against Arab enemies. Germany is not alone. Israel and most European countries are closing ranks in terms of their unprecedented military cooperation and trade ties, including natural gas deals.

Continuing to make references to the unachievable two-state solution, while arming, funding and doing more business with Israel is the very definition of hypocrisy. The truth is that Europe should be held as accountable as the US in emboldening and sustaining the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

Yet, while Washington is openly pro-Israel, the EU has played a more clever game: selling Palestinians empty words while selling Israel lethal weapons.

(Source / 20.10.2020)

We have lived to see Arabs enter Al-Aqsa under Israeli protection

Palestinian Muslims await Friday prayers inside the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City on 10 July 2020 [Muhammed Qarout Idkaide]
Palestinian Muslims await Friday prayers inside the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City on 10 July 2020 

By Abdullah Al-Majali

We have lived to see Arabs enter Al-Aqsa Mosque under Israeli protection. It is shameful.

Is there any real difference between an Arab delegation visiting Al-Aqsa Mosque under Israeli protection and hordes of extremist Israeli settlers whose incursions and practice of Talmudic rituals there take place under the protection of the same security forces? The crime of these Arabs is arguably greater.

The storming by Israeli extremists under the guns of the Israeli occupation does not whitewash the image of the occupation in the eyes of the world, nor does it give it legitimate sovereignty over the Noble Sanctuary of Al-Aqsa. The Arabs’ visit does, however, whitewash the image of the military occupation and is “evidence” that all Muslims can go to Al-Aqsa Mosque. It also shows the world the false image of Israel providing protection for religious sites and allowing religious freedom.

Arab normalisation with Israel
Israel attacks Al-Aqsa Mosque with the help of Arab nations – Cartoon

A delegation from normalising Arab countries entered Al-Aqsa last week under the protection of the Israeli police and intelligence agencies, despite the occupation authorities’ closure of the mosque to Palestinian residents of Jerusalem. More dangerous than that, the normalisation delegation entered Al-Aqsa without informing the Religious Endowment Department there, and this ignored the authority of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan over the holy sites in Jerusalem. According to Jerusalemite activist and member of the Silwan Defence Committee, Fakhry Abu Diab, this also withdraws any recognition by these Arab countries of Jordan’s guardianship; instead, these states demonstrated their acceptance of Israeli sovereignty over the holy sites, especially Al-Aqsa.

This exploratory delegation was a faithful implementation of the deal of the century, which speaks with admiration of the Zionist occupation’s management of the Noble Sanctuary. This is a deliberate and blatant falsehood belied by the facts on the ground. “The State of Israel has been a good custodian of Jerusalem,” claims the Trump deal. “During Israel’s stewardship, it has kept Jerusalem open and secure.” This is a lie.

OPINION: This is what the Palestinians need to do to confront Arab normalisation

“Unlike many previous powers that had ruled Jerusalem, and had destroyed the holy sites of other faiths, the State of Israel is to be commended for safeguarding the religious sites of all and maintaining a religious status quo,” the text continues. “Given this commendable record for more than half a century, as well as the extreme sensitivity regarding some of Jerusalem’s holy sites, we believe that this practice should remain and that all of Jerusalem’s holy sites should be subject to the same governance regimes that exist today. In particular, the status quo at the Temple Mount/Haram Al-Sharif should continue uninterrupted.”

Unfortunately, the normalising delegation was loyal to its masters by implementing this deal, which was rejected by all the Arab and Muslim peoples who were able to express their opinion freely. It is a deal that buries the right of the Muslims to the third holiest site in Islam, after the Two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Madinah, and hands it over to the Israeli occupation on a silver platter. Sadly, it also demonstrated the urgently-issued religious and political opinions urging Muslims to visit Al-Aqsa Mosque with permission from Israeli embassies.

Continuing this naivety and even foolishness, even more Arab delegations are likely to enter Al-Aqsa in collaboration with the Israeli occupation forces and intelligence agencies. They will provide implicit recognition of the occupation’s sovereignty over Al-Aqsa Mosque giving Israel the right to determine who enters the mosque and who is turned away. Everyone already knows the serious restrictions imposed by the Israelis on Jerusalemites and other Palestinians regarding prayers at Al-Aqsa.

READ: Israel exploits normalisation deals to escalate violations against Al-Aqsa Mosque

The new situation places a great responsibility on Jordan, which is the guardian of the holy sites, and its diplomats must act quickly in those Arab countries and explain the threats to the Noble Sanctuary that these delegations pose. If Jordan does not get a response in this regard, then it must tell the Arab and Muslim people explicitly, beginning with the Jordanians and Palestinians, of the dangerous situation that threatens its sovereignty over the sanctities. This is not to absolve itself of responsibility, but to stand together against the danger that is being hatched against Islamic sanctities in Jerusalem in the name of the odious deal of the century.

(Source / 19.10.2020)

Has Fatah betrayed the Palestinian revolution?

Palestinians gather to mark the 55th foundation anniversary of Palestinian Fatah movement in Gaza City, Gaza on 1 January 2020 [Mohammed Asad-Middle East Monitor]
Palestinians gather to support the Palestinian Fatah movement in Gaza City, Gaza on 1 January 2020

By Motasem A Dallou

When it was launched on 1 January 1965, the Palestine National Liberation Movement, Fatah, declared that it intended to fight the Israeli occupation until the liberation of the last piece of Palestine’s soil. According to a study by Dr Mohsen Saleh, most of the movement’s founders were members of the Muslim Brotherhood, but they decided to identify Fatah as a secular movement in order to avoid the complications of the Brotherhood’s relations with Arab governments.

Fatah’s leadership succeeded in mobilising support for the Palestinian revolution against the Israeli occupation. Training camps were established by revolutionaries around the world, mainly in the then communist countries.

Fatah also made its way into the hearts of the Arab regimes, including those in Egypt, Syria and Jordan, and forged good relations with revolutionary forces in non-Arab countries such as Vietnam, which dispatched senior officials to Fatah training camps to give advice and share their expertise.

The regimes which had suppressed the Arab revolutions against the Zionist expansion in Palestine during the time of the British Mandate sought to domesticate the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) led by Ahmed Al-Shukeiri, which stood up to fight the Israeli occupation. When their efforts failed, they did their best to domesticate Fatah. They succeeded, and thereby helped Fatah’s leader Yasser Arafat to oust Al-Shukeiri and take up the leadership of the PLO, of which Fatah became the main component.

READ: Elections or a referendum?

Arab regimes supported the PLO and gradually paved the way for it to tone down its resistance against Israel and the occupation. The current Fatah, PLO and Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas said in a documentary aired by Al Jazeera 15 years ago that Arafat ordered him to start looking for a peaceful way to solve the Israeli-Palestinian struggle. That was the first step of the betrayal of the Palestinian revolution.

In November 1974, Arafat and his senior military aide Hassan Salameh — “the Red Prince” —met with CIA officials and agreed to tone down the movement’s revolutionary approach. Salameh had founded Fatah’s Black September armed group that killed 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Caught between money and politics, though, the Palestinian revolution started to fade out. In the 1970s, Arafat went to the UN bearing an olive branch and the PLO joined the Arab League, which has never served Arab interests.

General Vo Nguyen Giap from Vietnam once visited training camps and the headquarters of the Palestinian revolutionaries. He was shocked by the privileges that the Palestinian leaders had and the opulence of their lifestyle.

The so-called Red Prince, for example, was in love with Georgina Rizk, a Lebanese model and winner of the Miss Universe contest in 1971; they married in 1977 and spent their honeymoon in Hawaii and Disneyland, Florida, on a trip that was apparently partially facilitated and funded by the CIA. Their Vietnamese visitor told the PLO and Fatah leaders that their revolution would never bear fruit because, “Revolution and wealth do not go together.” It seems that he was right.

Wealth and politics really led Arafat to enter the UN General Assembly on 13 November 1974 saying: “Today, I come bearing an olive branch in one hand, and the freedom fighter’s gun in the other. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand. I repeat, do not let the olive branch fall from my hand.”

Gradually and through secret meetings, the PLO conceded a large part of historic Palestine in favour of the Israeli occupation state. In 1988, the Palestinian National Council (PNC), the PLO’s parliament-in-exile, endorsed UN Resolutions 242 and 338, which recognise the right of all states in the Middle East to exist within secure borders. The PNC did not name Israel.

READ: Reconciliation really is the only option for the Palestinians

When Arafat was asked by a journalist about the shocking stance of the PLO and Fatah, his reply made it clear that quite apart from recognising Israel, he recognised it to be a Jewish state: ″This was clear in resolutions adopted in the last session of [the PNC] where we said clearly there are two states in Palestine, the Palestinian state and the Jewish state, Israel.”

In 1993, the PLO agreed on a Declaration of Principles which established a timetable for the Middle East peace process and planned for an interim Palestinian government in the occupied Gaza Strip and Jericho in the occupied West Bank. The Oslo Peace Accords led to Arafat shaking hands with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin at the White House following dozens of secret meetings between PLO and Fatah officials and Israeli officials.

Rabin and Arafat exchanged letters of recognition, and the PLO recognised Israel’s right to exist in return for Israel’s recognition of the PLO as the sole representative of the Palestinian people. This meant that any Palestinian body, group or movement claiming to be struggling for the rights of the people would be illegitimate and the PLO, on behalf of Israel, would fight it through its military wing, the Oslo-created Palestinian Authority security services.

Arafat, Shimon Peres, the then Israeli Foreign Minister, and Rabin were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994. There was no peace on the ground, though, and Israel’s colonial expansion continued unabated.

According to the Oslo Accords, “Israel” refers to the Palestinian lands occupied by Zionist terror gangs in 1948, amounting to over 78 per cent of Palestine. The Accords divided the remaining 22 per cent into three areas: Area A is made up of 18 per cent of the occupied West Bank, and is nominally controlled by the PA, which is dominated by Fatah; area B constitutes 21 per cent, and is partially controlled by the PA; and area C, at 61 per cent, is completely controlled by Israel.

READ: Fatah: No agreement with Hamas on joint electoral list

Simple mathematics reveals that the PA actually only controls five per cent of historic Palestine, which is the besieged Gaza Strip and the canton-style cities and towns of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The PA has no authority to build a seaport or an airport, or even control a border crossing. Additions to the Oslo Accords signed in 1995 restricted the PA’s power over its own economy and income and entitled Israel to collect taxes on its behalf.

Fatah and the PLO did not consult the Palestinians about making peace with Israel and have always been reluctant about recognising any Palestinian faction which happens to oppose their approach to the occupation state. They acknowledge that there are strong factions on the ground aside from Fatah and other PLO-affiliated groups, but they have never agreed to partner them.

When Hamas agreed to run for the parliamentary elections in 2006 under pressure from the Arab states, and won convincingly, Fatah did not recognise its victory and refused to hand over the PA to it. When Hamas insisted on its right to run the PA, Fatah sought Israel’s help in the West Bank and pushed Hamas out of the PA institutions. Hamas was left with the Gaza Strip, its main power base, but the PA led by Abbas cut the salaries of public sector employees and stopped almost all services to the coastal territory despite the strict Israel-led blockade. Abbas imposed his own additional sanctions on Gaza in 2018, making him complicit in the siege.

The Palestinians are now celebrating a positive atmosphere and the potential end of the split between Fatah and Hamas. However, there are signs that Fatah is misleading everyone. For a start, it has denied that there was an agreement in Istanbul to hold elections, as announced by a senior Hamas official. Moreover, the PA security forces — controlled by Fatah — cracked down on popular protests at three offices of the International Red Cross across the West Bank in solidarity with a Palestinian prisoner on his 81st day of a hunger strike inside an Israeli prison.

The PA Prime Minister said that he does not accept Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian hunger striker, Maher Al-Akhras, but his security services crackdown violently on protests held in solidarity with him. What kind of double standards are being used here?

Fatah has not only abandoned the armed struggle against the Zionist occupation of Palestine, but it has also thrown itself into the arms of the Zionist state. Has it betrayed the revolution? How can anyone doubt it?

(Source / 16.10.2020)

The Palestinians need an alternative vision

Tear gas canisters fall among Palestinian protesters during a demonstration near the border east of Gaza City on March 30, 2019. (AFP Photo)
Tear gas canisters fall among Palestinian protesters during a demonstration near the border east of Gaza City on March 30, 2019

By Haidar Eid

Many articles have already been written criticising the normalisation deal signed between the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Israel and calling it a stab in the back of the Palestinian people. Others have argued that it should not have come as a surprise since the ruling oligarchies in the UAE and Bahrain have been in bed with apartheid Israel for years and it was only a matter of time before they made it public in order to strengthen their alliance against the two main threats: Iran and the spread of democracy in the Arab world.

This article will not go down the same path. Rather, it is an attempt to engage with what seems to be a social, political, economic, and historical formulation of an alternative programme to what is offered by the hegemonic imperialist, Zionist, and reactionary powers not only for Palestine, but also for the rest of the Arab world.

In this context, it is useful to bring up American literary critic Fredric Jameson’s theorisation of “cognitive mapping”, a process that repeats, adds, and respects very strongly the laws of dialectics (the development and movement of opposites). In other words, interpreting this deal by only understanding the historical context within which they were signed is not enough; one needs to offer a progressive programme that challenges them on the basis of changing the conditions which have ultimately led to them, namely settler-colonialism and apartheid in Palestine.

Read More: Israeli forces detain 5 Palestinians in the West Bank

The signing of the deal between Israel, Bahrain and the UAE at the White House on September 15 is, admittedly, the beginning of a new era that has started in the Middle East; however, it will not bring about – with its unbalanced power relations – a just solution to the Palestinian question.

The accords of Camp David (1979), Oslo (1993), Wadi Araba (1994), and the Abraham Accord (2020), all of which were borne out of trade deals and backroom diplomacy between Israel and those Arab countries, have sold out the Palestinian cause altogether. None of them addressed the basic Palestinian rights, like the right of return of the refugees, self-determination, equality, and freedom.

Read More: Israeli forces detain 18 Palestinians from West Bank

In a nutshell, all mentioned agreements have guaranteed Israeli control over historic Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, a de facto reality created by the stronger colonial party with no compromise whatsoever.

The current situation is undoubtedly the product of international and regional imbalances prevailing at this specific moment, which is neither static nor eternal, but rather passing and will inevitably be followed by other moments, according to the law of dialectics.

There is no doubt, then, that this specific historical moment is the climax of Palestinian and Arab passivity because of the weakening of progressive Arab nationalism and the fall of the Palestinian right-wing leadership into the trap of the “peace industry”. However, any approaching moment is expected to be heading against what is being offered to us under these circumstances: “All that is solid melts into air” as Karl Marx would have put it.

Opposition to the deals in the Arab world, in general, and the Gulf states, in particular, will grow exactly the same way the Egyptian and Jordanian peoples opposed and fought against the Camp David and Araba after they were signed.

The alternative vision Palestinians have to embrace is a geopolitical production that challenges the space newly drawn by the United States, Israel and their Arab allies – the so-called new Middle East – and puts forward a new map of secular-democratic Palestine, in the heart of a democratic Arab world.

We need an alternative representation of the whole sociopolitical “reality” currently rising in the area which moves away from the much-repeated mantra of the racist two-state solution.

Palestinians need to move on, but with new ideas emanating from a strong belief that “[wo]men make history, but they do not make it in circumstances chosen by themselves”, as Marx has put it. For far too long, Palestinians have been led by right-wing politicians that have failed to achieve a single basic right of any of the three components comprising the Palestinian people: those living in the diaspora, residents of Gaza and the West Bank, and second-class Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Hence there is a need to stress the importance of Palestinian agency with a progressive leadership that is against all forms of class exploitation, whether national, sexual, or religious, a leadership that is necessarily secular in its deep understanding of the Palestinian question.

Such leadership cannot entertain racist solutions. It has to rise to the historical challenges posed by the new-old alliance of Israel, the US and reactionary Arab regimes and, thus, become an agent for activities of local/national and international character through the promotion of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law.

There is an urgent need for a move beyond the present historical stage that is characterised by a form of prevailing nationalist dogmatism represented in slogans such as “two states for two peoples” and “the only solution is the two-state solution”, and others. Such slogans, in a way, are the product of waves of normalisation with apartheid Israel, a process of remoulding the Arab and Palestinian mind through “ideological state apparatuses”, such as media, education, mosques, law, which try to manipulate and reshape the consciousness of individuals, especially of those with revolutionary potential.

There is also an urgent need for a departure from the nihilistic mood that has been dominating much of the Palestinian Stalinist left-wing discourse lately, by emphasising the importance of human agency and the necessity for a historical understanding of the current post-Oslo historical moment.

We need an alternative vision that can lead to peace and justice. And it seems that colonised Palestinians are meant to be the ones to offer a vision that rehumanises them and their oppressors. That is their moral responsibility being at the receiving end of a multitiered system of settler-colonial oppression.

When things looked so bleak for Black Africans suffering at the hands of another settler-colonial power, in a similar situation to what the Palestinians are going through, Nelson Mandela offered this alternative vision: “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against Black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve.”

The alternative for Palestinians has to be one secular democratic state in historic Palestine, a state in which all citizens are treated equally regardless of their religion, sex, and colour. This state has to embrace the return of refugees and self-determination, both of which are a step towards solving the Palestinian and the Jewish questions. This is what the Palestinian people have to strive for: to turn the whole hegemonic political equation upside down.

(Source / 06.10.2020)

‘Anti-Palestinian racism’: Appointment row at Toronto university

University of Toronto’s law school allegedly blocks hiring of scholar due to her work on Israel’s human rights abuses

By Mersiha Gadzo

University of Toronto blocked hiring of Valentina Azarova as director of International Human Rights Program over her anti-Israeli occupation activism and support for Palestine.

Students and teachers at the University of Toronto have called for the reinstatement of an international scholar’s job offer after it was allegedly rescinded by management over her work on Israel’s human rights abuses in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The university’s law school has been accused of blocking the hiring of Valentina Azarova as director of the International Human Rights Program (IHRP) following pressure by a sitting federal judge, who is also a major donor to the faculty, according to emails seen by the Toronto Star newspaper.

In an email sent to law school Dean Edward Iacobucci on September 12, also seen by Canadian daily The Globe and Mail, two former directors of the IHRP programme said the school made an offer to Azarova that she accepted in August.

When a judge in the Tax Court of Canada, whose name has not been disclosed, expressed concerns about Azarova, Iacobucci rescinded the offer.

However, when a judge in the Tax Court of Canada, whose name has not been disclosed, expressed concerns about Azarova, Iacobucci rescinded the offer, media reports said on Thursday.

The decision led to a series of resignations at the university, including law professor Audrey Macklin, who chaired the hiring committee that unanimously found Azarova to be the best candidate for the position. Then, a second member of the committee, Vincent Wong, resigned.

The IHRP programme’s three-member advisory board – Vincent Chiao, Trudo Lemmens and Anna Su – have also resigned.

‘Apologise for improper interference’

More than 100 IHRP students and alumni have also sent a letter to Iacobucci, calling for a “thorough and public review of donor practices at the law school, as well as of the alleged improper external influence and pressure by, in this case, a member of the judiciary”.

“As a public institution, the Faculty should not be swayed by wealth and influence at the expense of academic freedom and fair and accountable hiring practices,” said the letter, calling on the “Faculty to reinstate Dr Azarova’s offer” and “to apologise for this improper interference in the hiring process”.

“As students, we look to the IHRP to engage with pressing international legal issues, including Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories,” the letter read.

“Dr Valentina Azarova’s scholarship on this topic is principled and reputable. She was unanimously selected by the hiring committee after months of consideration.”

Azarova, an international legal practitioner and researcher, told The Globe and Mail she was offered the IHRP director’s position and accepted it in August through a Zoom call.

She has held positions at several universities, including in the occupied West Bank, with immigration detention, arms trade, and occupation and annexation being her areas of research.

However, in a letter sent to the Faculty of Law on Thursday and shared with Al Jazeera, Iacobucci denied any offer was made for Azarova.

“Even the most basic of the conjectures that are circulating in public, that an offer was made and rescinded, is false,” he wrote, adding that he “would never allow outside pressure to be a factor in a hiring decision”.

Iacobucci said conversations with a candidate were ongoing, but no offer of employment was made due to “legal constraints on cross-border hiring” within the timeframe required.

“Other considerations, including political views for and against any candidate, or their scholarship, were and are irrelevant,” he wrote.

Kelly Hannah-Moffat, vice president of human resources and equity at the university, told Al Jazeera the “hiring process for IHRP director, which is a managerial staff position, not a faculty one, was confidential”.

“[And] the university is continuing to do its best to maintain confidentiality, notwithstanding insinuations and the selective discourse of information,” she said.

‘Anti-Palestinian racism’

Dania Majid, president of the Arab Canadian Lawyers Association (ACLA), said Iacobucci’s denial that an offer was made to Azarova was “appalling” considering that members of the hiring committee had resigned in protest.

“He is throwing his faculty under the bus for an error he has made. It’s unacceptable,” Majid told Al Jazeera.

“It has sent a terrible message to the students at the law school, faculty members, to all prospective Palestinian students, that their voices, their opinions are not welcome on campus and he will not be there to defend their rights to express those opinions if they were to come under attack.”

Majid said the controversy came as no surprise since “anti-Palestinian racism is alive and well in legal institutions as it is in other institutions”.

“This is a story of how Palestinian voices, Palestinian academics or those who work on Palestine are specifically targeted in order to delegitimise the Palestinian voice,” Majid said.

The ACLA has demanded that the law school report “this matter of interference” to the Canadian Judicial Council and an investigation should be conducted.

Corey Balsam, national coordinator for Independent Jewish Voices Canada, said the incident is indicative of “a broader chill being felt throughout the North American academia”.

“Those who openly criticise Israel and support justice for Palestinians are finding themselves under attack left, right and centre,” he told Al Jazeera.

Balsam said pro-Israel groups have intensified their attacks to force universities to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) controversial redefinition of anti-Semitism that includes certain forms of criticism of the Israeli state.

“It’s likely no coincidence that the incident with Azarova occurred at University of Toronto, which has been one of the main targets of this campaign in Canada,” Balsam said.

A bill to adopt the redefinition is currently before the Ontario state government, with Majid being “very concerned” about it.

“What does that mean for those who are doing work on Palestine? They are going to come under attack [if they] speak up for Palestinian rights.”

(Source / 03.10.2020)

Abbas is still lying to the Palestinians

Palestinians hold a poster of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during a protest against the deal between the UAE and Israel in Gaza City, Gaza on 20 August 2020 [Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency]
Palestinians hold a poster of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during a protest in Gaza City, Gaza on 20 August 2020 

By Motasem A Dalloul

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced recently that he would accept all the outcomes of the conference of the factional secretaries-general held last month in Beirut. They included an end to the internal division, unity between all of the Palestinian factions, and restructuring the PLO so that Hamas and Islamic Jihad in particular can join.

Such measures are needed urgently, the secretaries-general of the factions said, in order to face the threats against the Palestinian cause at the top of which is normalisation between Arab states and Israel, as well as the US deal of the century. The people of Palestine and the factions have been waiting for this to happen. According to Hamas after its officials held bilateral meetings with Fatah, a timetable for the implementation of these goals would be declared before the start of October. Fatah officials said that Abbas would issue a presidential decree setting the date for elections after delivering his speech to the 75th meeting of the UN General Assembly. Abbas has made his speech and today is 1 October, but no timetable has appeared, and no election date has been announced.

I don’t think anything will actually happen because Abbas, who heads the PLO and Fatah as well as the PA, is not serious about his pledges to the secretaries-general or to the Palestinian people. There is a lot of evidence that suggests that he was lying about ending the Palestinian division, uniting the factions and restructuring the PLO.

Abbas continues to use his armed wing in the West Bank — the PA security services — to keep a tight grip on Palestinian necks in the occupied territory. He has ordered the security services to crackdown on his opponents within Fatah and the PA itself because of their alleged links to his rival, the former senior Fatah official and security head Mohammed Dahlan.

READ: The best hope for Palestine lies with its people 

Under Abbas, the PA is still restricting people’s freedom to protest, even against the Israeli occupation. He controls the Transitional High Judicial Council, which he formed as a substitute for the freely-elected parliament and to serve his own interests. Moreover, his hands are still extended to the Israeli occupation, which continues to kill Palestinians, steal their resources and demolish their homes, instead of extending them to his own people.

This was very clear in his speech at the UN General Assembly, where he stressed that he wants a just peace based on the Arab Peace Initiative and international resolutions. Is Israel willing and able to achieve such a peace today? Backed by the US and the silence of the international community Israel has swallowed Palestinians land and legitimate Palestinian rights. Why does it need to give Abbas anything?

The PA government run by Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh continues to take part in the Israeli-led siege which has been imposed on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip since 2007. The Abbas PA does not pay salaries to thousands of its employees in Gaza; it has stopped paying monthly benefits to thousands of poor families in Gaza; and it does not send medicines and medical equipment to hospitals in Gaza.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh in Ramallah, West Bank on 9 June 2020 [Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency]
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh in Ramallah, West Bank on 9 June 2020 

When PA Health Minister Mai Keila visited the besieged territory last month, the head of the ministry’s central warehouse, Moneer Al-Borsh, told her that her officials in Ramallah sent just seven per cent of Gaza’s medical needs. He pointed out that the shelves of the ministry’s pharmacies in Gaza are almost empty.

Yesterday, Welfare Minister Ahmed Majdalani called for the salaries of PA employees in Gaza who are still being paid by his government to be cut, claiming that they do not go to work. He was lying. Most of them have returned to their jobs — having been ordered by Abbas years ago to stay at home and not work for the elected Hamas government, even though they were still paid their salaries — something that Majdalani and Abbas know very well because the president himself asked them to go back when he claimed that he wanted to end the division in 2018 and sent his prime minister to Gaza.

READ: PA issues ‘strict’ directions for West Bank Dahlan supporters

The Chief Editor of Al-Ray News Agency in Gaza, Ismail Al-Thawabta, called the pledges made by Abbas a “mirage” unless and until their effects are seen on the ground. This would include lifting the sanctions that Abbas imposed on Gaza and its people; paying the salaries of PA employees in Gaza as well as the stipends paid to Palestinians who have been wounded, prisoners and martyrs’ families; and paying benefits to poor families, he explained.

He added that Abbas “must stop political detention” in the occupied West Bank and “end other violations,” stressing that the PA head “is throwing dust in the eyes of the Palestinians through his emotional speeches.”

Regarding Abbas’s calls for resuming peace talks with the Israeli occupation authorities, earlier this week the PA’s Permanent Observer to the UN, Riyadh Mansour noted that the PA’s mission to the UN has taken diplomatic steps to hold an international conference at the beginning of 2021. The pledge to start the implementation of these changes before the start of October, meanwhile, has simply not materialised.

It is obvious that Abbas has no real intention to serve the Palestinian cause at all. That much was clear when his envoys agreed with Hamas to end the internal division and form a new national unity government. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked him to choose between Hamas and Israel, so Abbas renounced the reconciliation move and chose Israel.

In addition to the above, the Secretary General of Fatah’s Central Committee, Jebril Al-Rajoub, who spearheaded the rapprochement with Hamas, said yesterday that Abbas “will not set a date for elections until all factions agree on national action.” This was Fatah backtracking on Abbas’s pledges, because Al-Rajoub started to set conditions where there is no place for them, as all the Palestinian factions have already agreed on national action.

READ: Will the latest reconciliation talks between Fatah and Hamas succeed?

If Abbas is serious about his intention to carry out the pledges made during the secretaries-general conference last month, why doesn’t he travel to Gaza and start working with Hamas and the other Palestinian factions who cannot travel to the occupied West Bank because of the siege? Abbas owns a villa in Gaza which has been protected by Hamas security officials since the start of the political split in 2007, so it will cost him virtually nothing at all to go there.

However, it seems that he is ready to do anything and everything except reconciliation. He doesn’t want to give the people of Palestine the opportunity to choose their leaders because he doesn’t want to risk having to give up one or more of his positions. Israel is happy as long as Abbas is leading the major Palestinian institutions as he does not do anything before receiving directions from Tel Aviv. For his part, it looks as if Abbas is happy as long as Israel is happy. That’s why he is still lying to the Palestinians.

(Source / 02.10.2020)

Everything you need to know about the reasons why AOC canceled attending an event praising Rabin

A shot from a painful video footage of Israeli soldiers breaking the bones of a Palestinian young man during the Intifada following Rabin’s “breaking bones” policy

By Robert Inlakesh

Well known progressive congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), in a shock move to her supporters, was set to attend an event which is to commemorate the legacy of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. But after pressure from Pro-Palestinian activists and prominent Palestinian figures in the US, cancelled attending the event.

For most in the West Yitzhak Rabin is remembered as a hero of peace, who took the step towards achieving a peace deal with the Palestinians. Most remember the images of former leader of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), Yasser Arafat, on the white house lawn shaking the hand of Yitzhak Rabin, signing the Oslo Accords. But for Palestinians and for the people of the Global South, Yitzhak Rabin is remembered for a very different record he left behind.

The event that AOC was set to attend on the 20th of October, is being set up by a pro-Israel group ‘Americans for Peace Now’, where it is doubtful that they will detail the record of horrifying war crimes and racism which he left behind.

As AOC has now cancelled the event, it is especially relevant that people understand the true record of Yitzhak Rabin. First starting with the Nakba, or the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, between 1947-1949 saw the mass expulsion of approximately 800,000 Palestinians from their homelands.

During the course of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, several dozen massacres were committed against largely unnarmed Palestinian civilians, with perhaps the bloodiest of all being the massacre committed during the Lydda-Ramle death march, in which approximately 70,000 Palestinians were expelled from the towns of Lydda and Ramle, as well as from surrounding villages. Yitzhak Rabin was directly implicated in this massacre, signing off on the order to expel the people of Lydda and surrounding areas. To quote the Israeli Right Wing Historian, Benny Morris, “ Israeli soldiers threw grenades into houses they suspected snipers were hiding in. Residents ran out of their homes in panic and were shot. Yeruham Cohen, an IDF intelligence officer, said around 250 died between 11:30 and 14:00 hours.”. It is also important to note that Benny Morris only quotes Israeli sources and does not include the oral history of the survivors, which detail the horrific executions and torture of Palestinians.

One may say that the 1948 Lydda-Ramle death march was long ago, so he may have repented and become a changed man, but that is far from the truth. In 1967 Yitzhak Rabin, whilst head of Israel’s military, was responsible for the destruction of three more villages and the expulsion of their inhabitants.
But what about his record outside of Palestine you may ask, well this is also a troubling thing to honour also when “remembering the legacy” of Yitzhak Rabin also. For example, in 1976 Yitzhak Rabin threw a Banquet for the Prime Minister of Apartheid South Africa, John Vorster, expressing that Israel and Apartheid South Africa both faced “foreign-inspired instability and recklessness”, he then went on to praise Apartheid South Africa and hailed “the ideals shared by Israel and South Africa”.

But surely one would argue, his record must have gotten better over time. In fact the only thing that seemed to happen, was that Yitzhak Rabin garnered a larger Arab body count. In 1987 the first Intifada (uprising) occurred in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, in which over 1,000 Palestinians were massacred in what was overwhelmingly an unarmed uprising. The policy introduced by Yitzhak Rabin, then Minister of War, in mid-January of 1988 was one of what he described as “force, might and beatings”, under which Israeli troops were instructed to break the bones of unarmed protesters.

But perhaps he repented for his “bone breaking” policy, the thousands injured as a result of it, the hundreds beaten to death and the torture inside prisons which went on under his command? Not a chance, he bragged about it even in 1992. In 1992 Yitzhak Rabin also stated, of the occupied coastal enclave, that “I would like Gaza drown in the sea”.

After this, in 1993, Yitzhak Rabin led Israel into a seven day war on Lebanon in which around 130 people were massacred, causing 400,000 civilians to flee their homes due to the well documented indiscriminate bombardment of Lebanon. This was the same year that the Oslo Accords were signed.

Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in 1995 by a fanatical Right-Wing Israeli extremist, who was motivated to kill Rabin over his cooperation with the PLO. But before he died, in his last address to Knesset, he had promised to give Palestinians “less than a State” and to ensure a “united Jerusalem”, which would mean denying Palestinians the right to establish a capital in East Jerusalem as part of a so-called Two-State solution.

This is the record that the Palestinians remember, a legacy of racism, torture, ethnic cleansing and massacres. Anyone who claims to hold true to progressive values, cannot defend this or honour such a figure. Especially at an event which will almost certainly not even entertain the war crimes committed by the former Israeli Prime Minister.

Politicians who side with unjust causes and corrupt their values must be challenged, because otherwise they will continue to be pressured into becoming the opposite of what their supporters originally saw them as being. It is doubtful that AOC understood the true record of Yitzhak Rabin until she was made aware by Palestinians.

(Source / 30.09.2020)

Israel’s ‘silent transfer’ of Palestinians out of Palestine

By allotting a fragile residency status in East Jerusalem, Israel has succeeded to revoke and subsequently uproot more than 14,200 Palestinians

By Ibrahim Husseini

While the Arab states are giving Israel occupation the best they have through formal recognition and normalisation of ties, the occupation continues its aggression on the Palestinians, including forcing them out of the occupied city of Jerusalem.

As more Arab countries normalise relations with Israel, it presses on with a policy of “silent transfer” – an intricate system that targets Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem with residency revocation, displacement through house demolitions, barriers in obtaining building permits and high taxes.

Palestinian researcher Manosur Manasra notes Israel launched this policy of transfer against Palestinians in East Jerusalem almost immediately after the 1967 war and the subsequent occupation of the eastern part of the city.

The policy continues to this day with the aim to dominate East Jerusalem.

Land expropriation for Jewish settlements has taken place around East Jerusalem and in the heart of Palestinian neighbourhoods such as the Old City’s Muslim and the Christian Quarters and beyond in Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan, Ras al-Amoud and Abu Tur since as early as 1968.

Following the June 1967 occupation, Israel applied Israeli law to East Jerusalem and granted Palestinians “permanent resident” status. However, in effect, it is a fragile one.

B’tselem, the Israeli human rights information centre in the occupied Palestinian territories describes this status as one “accorded to foreign nationals wishing to reside in Israel”, except that Palestinians are indigenous to the land.

Palestinians of East Jerusalem do not have a right to automatic Israeli citizenship nor are issued Palestinian passports by the Palestinian Authority (PA). They are usually able to obtain temporary Jordanian and Israeli travel documents.

By allotting a fragile residency status to Palestinians in East Jerusalem, Israel has succeeded to revoke and subsequently uproot more than 14,200 Palestinians from East Jerusalem since 1967. These measures coincide with an aggressive house demolition practice.

Home demolitions in the West Bank did not stop despite the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the United Nations, there was a nearly fourfold increase in the number of people displaced from January-August 2020, and a 55 percent rise of structures targeted with demolitions or confiscations compared with a year earlier.

In East Jerusalem, 24 structures were demolished last month, half of them by their owners following the issuance of demolition orders by the Jerusalem municipality.

The “permanent residency” status is maintained as long as Palestinians keep a physical presence in the city. However, in some cases, the Israeli authorities move to withdraw the residency status of Palestinians in East Jerusalem as a retribution measure because they are political dissidents. Israel’s pursuit of Palestinian activists is extensive and does not exclude any faction.

The most recent case is that of 35-year-old Salah Hammouri, a lawyer and activist. Arye Deri, Israel’s interior minister, says Salah is a member of the Palestine Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Israel outlawed the group and wants him out of the country.

In some cases, Israeli authorities cancel the residency permits of spouses of political activists as a punishment. Shadi Mtoor, a Fatah member from East Jerusalem, is currently fighting a case in the Israeli courts to keep his wife’s residence in East Jerusalem. She is originally from the West Bank.

In 2010, Israel revoked the Jerusalem residency of four Palestinian MPs who were elected to the Palestinian Parliament in 2006 and one who served as a cabinet minister – on the grounds they pose a danger to the state.

Three live in Ramallah now and one is under administrative detention. A hearing at the Israeli High Court is scheduled for October 26.

In some cases, Israel does not issue a residency ID for a child whose father is from Jerusalem and mother from the West Bank.

International law explicitly condemns the forcible transfer of civilians. “Ultimately our decision is to remain in this city,” says Hammouri.

In early September, Hammouri was summoned by the Israeli police and informed of the Israeli interior minister’s intent to revoke his Jerusalem residency.

“I was told I constitute a danger to the state and that I belong to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine,” said Hammouri.

A French citizen, Hammouri was born in Jerusalem to a Palestinian father and a French mother. In 2017, the family was split when Israel barred his wife, Elsa, who is also a French national and at the time pregnant, from entering the country. The reason was said to be based on a secret file that Israel had.

Hammouri expects Israel to expel him to France after his residency is formally revoked. The French government, in response, issued a statement calling on Israel to allow Hammouri to continue to reside in Jerusalem.

“Mr Salah Hammouri must be able to lead a normal life in Jerusalem where he was born and where he resides,” it said.

The Israeli foreign ministry alleges Hammouri is a “senior operative” of a terrorist organisation and continues to engage in “hostile activity” against the state of Israel.

A solidarity campaign calling for Hammouri’s right to retain his Jerusalem residency is now under way in France, and French diplomats in Jerusalem are currently negotiating with Israeli officials in order to get it to reverse its decision. He intends to challenge the case to withdraw his residency in court.

Hammouri spent more than eight years in Israeli prisons over different periods. In 2011, at the end of a seven-year jail sentence, he was freed in a prisoner exchange deal between Hamas and Israel (known as the Shalit deal).

Sahar Francis, director of the Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association known as Addameer, told Al Jazeera “the cancellation of residency is illegal according to international law”.

“The occupation state has no right to cancel the residency of protected people under the Fourth Geneva Convention. This is called forcible transfer and forcible transfer is forbidden,” Francis said.

The PFLP first opposed the 1993 Oslo Accords but then came to accept the two-state solution. However, in 2010 it beckoned the PLO to end negotiations with Israel and asserted that only a one-state solution for Palestinians and Jews is possible.

“I see a very dark horizon,” says Khaled Abu Arafeh, 59, a former PA minister.

“Israel will invest the recent local and regional developments of normalisation and the result will be the expulsion of the inhabitants of the West Bank and the reformulation of the position of Palestinians of 1948,” he adds.

Abu Arafeh served as the minister for Jerusalem affairs between March 2006 and March 2007 in Ismail Haniyeh’s government, which was formed after the Hamas won a majority of seats in the 2006 parliamentary elections.

Two months after the formation of the Palestinian government, the Israeli police notified three Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) members and cabinet minister Abu Arafeh, all from Jerusalem, they had 30 days to quit their posts or their residency status would be revoked.

The Israeli police threat was rejected and the four went to court to contest the interior ministry’s ultimatum.

On June 29, 2006, the Israeli police carried out a broad arrest campaign that targeted 45 newly elected PLC members and 10 cabinet ministers. Jerusalem PLC members Muhammad Abu Teir, Muhammad Totah, Ahmad Atoun and Abu Arafeh were among those arrested. Israel charged them with belonging to the “reform and change” list, which was affiliated with the Islamic movement Hamas.

Abu Arafeh was sentenced to 27 months in prison and was released in September 2008. Abu Teir and Totah were handed longer sentences and were not released until May 2010.

On June 1, 2010, the Israeli police summoned the men again. This time they were ordered to surrender their Jerusalem IDs and were given one month to leave Israel.

Just as the period was about to expire, the Israeli police arrested Abu Teir.

Abu Arafeh, Atoun and Totah, sensing imminent arrest, took refuge in the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) building in Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem. Their stay lasted for 19 months; living in a tent within the premises. The Israeli police finally stormed the building and arrested the three men.

They were charged with belonging to a “terror group” and holding senior ranks in the Hamas movement, as well as incitement against the state of Israel. They were sentenced to two years in jail. Upon their release, they resided in Ramallah.

“Away from al-Quds, I feel estranged, very estranged,” Abu Arafeh lamented about his situation.

Abu Arafeh’s family continues to reside in East Jerusalem. “I live in Ramallah and they live in al-Quds,” Abu Arafeh told Al Jazeera. “They visit me every weekend then they go back home.”

Atoun is currently under administrative detention, his fourth since 2014.

In 2018, the Israeli High Court ruled the interior ministry’s decision to withdraw the residency status was illegal as there were no laws to support it. However, it gave the interior ministry six months to go to the Knesset to enact a law. The Knesset passed a law that allows the revocation of residencies for individuals who are deemed not loyal to the state of Israel.

The four Palestinians to this day have no identification papers that would allow them to cross Israeli checkpoints within the West Bank. The only document they were able to obtain was a driver’s licence from the PA, but only after the Israeli army approved.

Because they do not have IDs, they rarely venture outside Ramallah for fear of being stopped and arrested at an Israeli checkpoint.

The four appealed the High Court’s ruling and demanded that Israel provide them with an alternative residency to enable them to live legally in the West Bank. A court hearing is scheduled for October 26, but Abu Arafeh does not expect a ruling.

“We do not expect a decision; the occupation authorities are using time against us,” he said.

A Palestinian woman who asked to be identified as JA, 24, was born in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. Her father is from East Jerusalem and holds a Jerusalem ID. But her mother is from Bethlehem and holds a PA-issued ID card.

The Israeli interior ministry has rejected all applications to issue JA an ID card because she was born in the West Bank. The PA also did not provide an ID card because her father holds a Jerusalem ID.

So currently she has no documents whatsoever. This situation has caused JA endless problems registering in schools, finding employment, opening bank accounts, and other usual necessities. She has never travelled.

JA is now suing the Israeli ministry of interior in an attempt to receive a legal residency.

(Source / 30.09.2020)

Another Painful Anniversary for Palestine

By Rana Shubair

This isn’t a political analysis or a report about the twentieth anniversary of the Al-Aqsa Intifada. This is a recount from a witness who tries to recapture some of the most harrowing images which have left indelible memories that can never be erased.

Twenty years have flown by and today we commemorate the Second Intifada which broke out on September 28, 2000. It’s not a pleasant memory to recall, but it’s an integral part of our Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and self- determination.

I sifted through my memory for pictures and found that the colossal image that has stuck with me all those years is one of 12 year-old Mohammed Al-Durra cowering behind his father for protection. The deadly incident was filmed and this was my first encounter with a video of someone getting killed on camera. The short film shocked us to the core and somehow I believed the when the world saw this video– which was as bright as daylight, countries would be propelled to do something if anything. But the other shock which we had to absorb was the deafening silence of the world. There were demonstrations in many countries near and far, but nothing tangible happened to stop the carnage. Yes, this video continues to give me psychological tremors till this day, but what’s just as painful is that the perpetrators remain at large.

Read More: Yet another Zionist plot to smear Scottish pro-Palestine activists is exposed


On that ominous day of September 28th 2000, the Israeli Occupation Prime Minister had plotted to instigate an uprising by storming into Al-Aqsa Mosque compound with more than 1,000 troops. Sharon knew that the Palestinians would retaliate. They wouldn’t just sit around watching this murderer desecrate their Mosque.

Read More: Palestinians mark 20th anniversary of the second intifada with a rally in Ramallah

Another hideous crime that took place four months into the Intifada was the gruesome cold-blooded murder of 21 year-old Shaker Hassouna from Hebron. The young man was shot and dragged in the street. With no respect for the dead– or yet murdered, the martyr can be seen with blood dripping from his head and soldiers hauling him by his jacket. I thought of his parents and how this gruesome image would devastate them for life.  The settlers in Hebron later celebrated his death by dancing over his body and distributing candy and cheering his death. I can’t imagine a more sickening mentality among mankind than that of the Israeli occupation and their settlers who lavish in shedding Palestinian blood.


I remember at the end of March 2002, I had undergone a surgery and was recuperating at home. A day later, blood was in the air. Ariel Sharon announced commencing what he dubbed as Operation Defensive Shield and gruesome massacre was perpetrated against the people of Jenin in which 52 people were killed. The massive bloodshed had reverberating ripple effects which extended to Gaza. My doctor called me and said if anything happens, we have to move you to the hospital where it would be safer. All kinds of bloody scenarios flashed before my eyes and I tried to imagine what would become of me and my people. I also thought about how surviving, which is any human’s natural wish, would be just as painful. Having followed up the atrocious massacre on television, my heart would remain heavy forever.

Twenty years have passed since the Second Intifada which left at least ‘4,973 Palestinians dead including 1,262 children, 274 women and 32 medical personnel, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.’ What has happened ever since? Has the international community held the killers accountable for their hideous crimes? Have any of the martyrs’ families been recompensed? And more importantly, has the killing stopped? The answer to all the above is: No.

(Source / 30.09.2020)

Opinion: Palestinians are Not Numbers: On the Future of the Palestinian Discourse

By Ramzy Baroud

Palestine can never be truly understood through numbers, because numbers are dehumanising, impersonal, and, when necessary, can also be contrived to mean something else entirely. Numbers are not meant to tell the story of the human condition, nor should they ever serve as a substitute for emotions.

Indeed, the stories of life, death – and everything in-between – cannot be truly and fully appreciated through charts, figures, and numbers. The latter, although useful for many purposes, is a mere numerical depository of data. Anguish, joy, aspirations, defiance, courage, loss, collective struggle, and so on, however, can only be genuinely expressed through the people who lived through these experiences.

Numbers, for example, tell us that over 2,200 Palestinians were killed during the Israeli war on the Gaza Strip between July 8 and August 27, 2014, over 500 of them being children. Over 17,000 homes were completely destroyed, and thousands of other buildings, including hospitals, schools, and factories were either destroyed or severely damaged during the Israeli strikes.

This is all true, the kind of truth that is summarised into a neat infographic, updated occasionally, in case, inevitably, some of the critically wounded eventually lose their lives.

But a single chart, or a thousand, can never truly describe the actual terror felt by a million children who feared for their lives during those horrific days; or transport us to a bedroom where a family of ten huddled in the dark, praying for God’s mercy as the earth shook, concrete collapsed and the glass shattered all around them; or convey the anguish of a mother holding the lifeless body of her child.

It is easy – and justifiable – to hold the media accountable for the dehumanisation of the Palestinians or, sometimes, ignoring them altogether. However, if blame must be apportioned, then others too, including those who consider themselves ‘pro-Palestine’, must reconsider their own position. We are all, to an extent, collectively guilty of seeing Palestinians as sheer victims, hapless, passive, intellectually stunted, and ill-fated people, desperate to be ‘saved.’

When numbers monopolise the limelight in a people’s narrative, they do more damage than merely reduce complex human beings to data; they erase the living, too. Regarding Palestine, Palestinians are rarely engaged as equals; they persist at the receiving end of charity, political expectations, and unsolicited instructions on what to say and how to resist. They are often the fodder for political bargains by factions or governments but, rarely, the initiative takers and the shapers of their own political discourse.

The Palestinian political discourse has, for years, vacillated between one constructed around the subject of victimhood – which is often satisfied by numbers of dead and wounded – and another pertaining to the elusive Fatah-Hamas unity. The former only surfaces whenever Israel decides to bomb Gaza under any convenient pretext at the time and the latter was a response to western accusations that Palestinian political elites are too fractured to constitute a potential ‘peace partner’ for Israeli rightwing Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Many around the world can only understand – or relate to – Palestinians through their victimisation or factional affiliation – which, themselves, carry subsidiary meanings relevant to ‘terrorism’, ‘radicalism’, among others.

The reality is, however, often different from reductionist political and media discourses. Palestinians are not just numbers. They are not spectators either, in a political game that insists on marginalising them. Soon after the 2014 war, a group of Palestinian youth, together with supporters from around the world, launched an important initiative that aimed to liberate the Palestinian discourse, at least in Gaza, from the confines of numbers and other belittling interpretations.

‘We Are Not Numbers’ was launched in early 2015. The group’s ‘About Us’ page reads: “numbers don’t convey … the daily personal struggles and triumphs, the tears and the laughter, the aspirations that are so universal that if it weren’t for the context, they would immediately resonate with virtually everyone.”

Recently, I spoke to several members of the group, including the Gaza Project Manager, Issam Adwan. It was, indeed, inspiring to hear young, articulate, and profoundly resolute Palestinians speaking a language that transcends all the stereotypical discourses on Palestine. They were neither victims nor factional and were hardly consumed by the pathological need to satisfy western demands and expectations.

“We have talents – we are writers, we are novelists, we are poets, and we have so much potential that the world knows little about,” Adwan told me.

Khalid Dader, one of the Organisation’s nearly 60 active writers and bloggers in Gaza, contends with the designation that they are ‘storytellers.’ “We don’t tell stories, rather stories tell us … stories make us,” he told me. For Dader, it is not about numbers or words, but the lives that are lived, and the legacies that often go untold.

Somaia Abu Nada wants the world to know her uncle, because “he was a person with a family and people who loved him.” He was killed in the 2008 Israeli war on Gaza, and his death has profoundly impacted his family and community. Over 1,300 people were also killed in that war. Each one of them was someone’s uncle, aunt, son, daughter, husband, or wife. None of them was just a number.

“‘We Are Not Numbers’ made me realise how necessary our voices are,” Mohammed Rafik told me. This assertion cannot be overstated. So many speak on behalf of Palestinians but rarely do Palestinians speak for themselves. “These are unprecedented times of fear when our land appears to be broken and sad,” Rafik said, “but we never abandon our sense of community.”

Adwan reminded us of Arundhati Roy’s famous quote, “There’s really no such thing as the ‘voiceless’. There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard.”

It was refreshing to talk to Palestinians who are taking the decisive step of declaring that they are not numbers, because it is only through this realisation and resolve that Palestinian youth can challenge all of us and assert their own collective identity as a people.

Indeed, Palestinians do have a voice, and a strong, resonating one at that.

(Source / 24.09.2020)