Racist restrictions Imposed Upon Palestinian Christian & Muslim Holidays

Palestinian, Israeli and Christian foreign activists confront Israeli soldiers as they walk toward Beit al-Baraka, a church compound, situated between the Al-Arub refugee camp and the city of Hebron in the occupied West Bank during a demonstration condemning the Israeli occupation, Aug. 15, 2015

By Robert Inlakesh

This Tuesday marked the start of the Holy month of Ramadan, in the Islamic faith, with many Palestinians choosing to enter the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in order to perform prayers. However, this year, Israel is not making the occasion so pleasant and has been slammed for its racist actions.

Drawing staunch criticism, called out as Islamophobic and racist, Israeli forces decided to cut off the loudspeakers in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the third holiest site in Islam. The loudspeakers were cutoff, reportedly preventing Imams from being heard. Israel’s reasoning behind this was that they were holding a memorial for dead occupation forces at the nearby Western Wall and did not want to hear anything in the background to disrupt this.

Hazem Qassem, Hamas spokesman addressing the issue, said the following: “The occupation police cut off the loudspeaker wires in Al-Aqsa Mosque and forbade raising the evening call to prayer on the first day of the month of Ramadan. This is a racist aggression against religious sanctities and a violation of freedom of worship. These actions reveal the extent of the Zionist disdain for the feelings of Muslims everywhere.”

Later that same night, Israel had also reportedly arrested three young Palestinians near the Damascus Gate, in the old city of Jerusalem, after clashes had erupted.

Palestinian Authority (PA) Religious Advisor, Mahmoud al-Habbash, stated that Israel “cutting off the loudspeakers of the call to prayer and the continued attacks by the occupation on Al-Aqsa will lead to a religious war that is now at its doorstep,” with the PA itself putting out a written condemnation of the event.

Israel has also set forth a policy that limits the capacity at the Al-Aqsa compound to 10,000 and all of those who enter are supposed to be vaccinated. This presents a huge problem when it comes to Palestinians who have no access to vaccinations, if being vaccinated is a precondition to entering the holy site, then those from the West Bank and Gaza, which Israel has denied vaccines, cannot enter.

Already for Palestinians, both Muslim and Christian, living in the occupied territories, they are prevented from travelling to visit their holy sites in Jerusalem. Palestinians in the West Bank, some which live minutes away from Jerusalem are banned from entering without a special permit. For elderly Palestinians from the West Bank, they are more frequently granted access to their holy sites than others, yet still endure constant let downs as well as harassment at checkpoints.

For the occasions of Christmas and Easter, Palestinian Christians from the West Bank are each year regularly sent back and refused entry to Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre and other sites. Even when they have permits, Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip can be arbitrarily deported and barred from entering holy sites, based solely on the mood of given occupation soldiers/police.

Each year, around 500 Palestinian Christians from the besieged Gaza Strip apply to travel to Jerusalem to celebrate Christmas and are denied entry on “security grounds”. In 2019, prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus Pandemic, not a single Christian from Gaza was allowed into Jerusalem on Christmas.

The Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem, Atallah Hanna, who regularly speaks out against Israel’s measures against Palestinians, has said on the issue that “The Israeli occupation has built these racist fences and military barriers to prevent Christians and Muslims from visiting their holy sites and places of worship.”

This year, due to the ongoing global Pandemic, gatherings have been restricted in most cases, but the above mentioned incidents are not due to public health concerns. Israel is using the Pandemic in an insidious way. For instance, some 100,000 Palestinians from the occupied territories who work inside Israeli settlements or Israel itself have been offered to be inoculated – this did take a 2 month delay and come after widespread criticism. So why is it that for Palestinians that come into contact with settlers, who despite living in West Bank illegal settlements are vaccinated by Israel, that they are vaccinated but not anyone else?

The answer is, that Israel’s racist ‘apartheid regime’, as top Israeli human rights group B’Tselem calls it, is built on the superiority of Jews over Palestinians. Israel’s practices back the belief that its attitude is that if Palestinians come in contact with Israelis, then they must be vaccinated, but if they are around each other and don’t need to be near Israelis then they shouldn’t have access. Then if those non-vaccinated Palestinians want to see their holy sites in their own country, they can’t because they are unvaccinated and allegedly pose a risk to Israelis. But if Israel can vaccinate those who work in settlements, why not those who want to go to Jerusalem for religious reasons?

(Source / 14.04.2021)

If Israel has committed no war crimes, then why does it refuse the ICC probe?

Israeli occupation state has committed so many crimes against the Palestinian people, but it does not want any internal or external body to look into and expose these crimes

By Prof Kamel Hawwash

On 5 February, Palestinians saw a long tunnel open and a light flicker in the distance for justice. The International Criminal Court (ICC) Pre-Trial Chamber I “decided, by majority, that the Court’s territorial jurisdiction in the Situation in Palestine, a State party to the ICC Rome Statute, extends to the territories occupied by Israel since 1967.”

The ICC now has jurisdiction to investigate crimes the Palestinians say were perpetrated by Israel in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda had previously called for investigations, saying there was “a reasonable basis to believe” war crimes had happened.

Reactions in both Palestine and Israel were as predicted. The Palestinians welcomed the decision. Palestinian Justice Minister Mohammed Al-Shalaldeh welcomed the ICC decision and considered it “historic”.

“The International Criminal Court decision is historic and means immediate commencement in investigating the grave violations on the Palestinian occupied territory,” Al-Shalaldeh said. He added that three files are prioritised for the court, the Israeli war on Gaza in 2014, the Israeli settlements, and the Palestinian detainees in Israeli jails.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the decision in a written statement. “Today, the International Criminal Court has proven once more that it is a political body and not a judicial institution,” Netanyahu said. “In this ruling, the tribunal violated the right of democracies to defend themselves against terrorism, and played into the hands of those who undermine efforts to expand the circle of peace,” he added.

Anyone expecting a change of American position from the new Biden Administration was quickly disappointed. In a call with Netanyahu, American Vice President Kamala Harris told him that the US opposes ICC investigation into possible war crimes in the Palestinian territories, the White House said.

This followed an announcement by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in which he said that Washington “firmly opposes and is deeply disappointed” by the ICC decision. He emphasised that “Israel is not a party to the ICC and has not consented to the Court’s jurisdiction, and we have serious concerns about the ICC’s attempts to exercise its jurisdiction over Israeli personnel,” Blinken said in a statement.

Israel would have been a little confused but certainly disappointed that the same administration recently lifted the sanctions on ICC personnel imposed by Biden’s predecessor, Trump in December 2020. Blinken’s team said: “These decisions reflect our assessment that the measures adopted were inappropriate and ineffective.” The administration continues “to disagree strongly with the ICC’s actions relating to the Afghanistan and Palestinian situations” and to object to ICC “efforts to assert jurisdiction over personnel of non-States Parties such as the United States and Israel.”

The US made this decision despite the investigations that may target US military personnel for crimes committed in Afghanistan. One might have expected Israel to follow suit and accept that the ICC is an independent court and that the chief prosecutor has painstakingly consulted before it was ruled that the court had jurisdiction over the Occupied Palestinian Territory and that it would investigate crimes committed by any party, including Palestinian parties going back to 2014. However, those familiar with Israel’s attitude to necessary external scrutiny won’t have been surprised with its formal rejection of the ICC decision to investigate its leaders’ crimes.

Israel is clearly worried about the ICC decision. Following a meeting of its top brass it decided to send a letter to the court to convey its refusal to cooperate. At the meeting were the prime minister, foreign minister, defence minister, strategic affairs minister, education minister, water minister, attorney-general, National Security Council head, and army Chief Military Advocate, among others.

Israel will not cooperate with the International Criminal Court’s investigation for alleged war crimes and will argue that the court has no jurisdiction to open the probe, consistent with Israel’s longstanding position. At the meeting, Netanyahu argued that “While IDF soldiers fight with supreme morality against terrorists that commit war crimes daily, the court in The Hague decided to denounce Israel”. “There is no other word for this than hypocrisy. A body established to fight for human rights turned into a hostile body that defends those who trample human rights.”

In the letter to be sent to the ICC, Israel will argue that it has its own ‘independent judiciary’ capable of trying soldiers who commit war crimes.

Palestinians would beg to differ as investigations by Israel of its own crimes have yielded no justice. Take the example of the investigation of the 2018 killing of 21-year-old Palestinian paramedic Razan Al-Najjar near the fence in Gaza. An Israeli investigation stated that “during an initial examination of the incident that took place on June 1st, 2018, in which a 22-year-old Palestinian woman was killed, it was found that a small number of bullets were fired during the incident, and that no shots were deliberately or directly aimed towards her”.

Commenting on the investigation Al-Haq Human Rights organisation stated: “The hastily concluded preliminary examination highlights Israel’s inability to conduct an independent, effective and impartial investigation into alleged war crimes.” It further stated: “The Israeli military effectively operates with impunity. Between 2005 and 2009, out of 800 submitted complaints of war crimes, only 49 investigations led to indictments.”

Israel therefore cannot be trusted to conduct its own investigations impartially and that is the reason why external investigation is needed. Furthermore, it has a history of denying impartial international investigating teams’ access to investigate potential war crimes going back decades.

In 2002, the Amnesty International team to investigate potential crimes committed by Israeli troops in the Jenin refugee camp were denied access to the camp. Professor Derrick Pounder, who was part of the three-person team sent to investigate human rights abuses, said: “The refusal to allow us to conduct or even to assist in enabling others to conduct such investigations is very serious and gives rise to questions about the authorities’ motives.”

In 2009 the team led by Judge Goldstone to investigate possible crimes committed during the 2008/9 war on Gaza was denied visas by Israel and had to enter Gaza through Egypt. His report eventually found Israel and Palestinian armed groups were guilty of war crimes. The report also referenced that Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem had been denied entry to carry out their investigations in Gaza.

In 2014, Israel again denied entry to teams that were tasked with investigating potential human rights abuses. The UNHRC investigating team found that both Israel and Palestinian armed groups had committed war crimes.

Israel has also denied entry to UN Rapporteurs Richard Falk and Michael Link, UN special rapporteur on the Palestinian territories.

Does Israel have anything to hide? Yes, of course it does. Its human rights abuses fill page upon page of any notebook. Whether it is about its war crimes during repeated wars against the helpless, entrapped Palestinian population in Gaza or its illegal settlement enterprise, or moving its population into illegally occupied areas, moving Palestinian prisoners into its own territory from occupied territory. What about house demolitions, family evictions?

With that torrid track record, justice requires that Israeli violations are examined, and it faces accountability for them. Its leaders should answer for their alleged war crimes in person and must have their day in court at The Hague. Otherwise, its leaders will continue to commit crimes, safe in the knowledge that they will not have to answer for them. The wheels of justice need to move more quickly, and then Israeli war criminals won’t be able to sleep soundly every night thinking they can just get up in the morning and commit more crimes with impunity.

(Source / 11.04.2021)

Back to democracy: Hamas and the Palestinian elections

By Reem Hadad

Hamas accomplished part of its scheduled internal elections in a move that appeared to be heating up the Palestinian election battle, even if the truth was that these elections took place at its normal time that takes place every four years.

Democratic Victory

Two months before the Legislative Council elections begins, Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip presented a remarkable model of internal democracy, which many Palestinian factions lacked, and are absent from most Arab regimes.

The elections witnessed a real and fair competition between two poles of the movement’s leaders, the freed prisoner Yahya Sinwar, who led Hamas in the Gaza Strip over the past four years, and the leader Nizar Awad Allah, who accompanied the martyrs Ahmed Yassin and Abdel Aziz Al-Rantisi.

For the first time in the history of the movement, the elections in Gaza, and not in other regions, took a public character in its results, as this process took place in stages, under independent judicial supervision, with the election of Shura Councils in all areas of Gaza, and ending with the election of the movement’s president in the Gaza.

Women in Hamas.. An Effective Role in Politics and Resistance

Since its inception in late 1987, Hamas has focused on women’s activities, recognizing the role of women in raising the individual, family, and society. Hamas’s interest in women’s affairs was evident from the early stages of the movement’s formation, when women occupied organizational positions. Hamas also formed the Women’s Action Committee, in the late 1980s, as an organizational committee that has its own budget and general activities like any other committee in the movement.

Head of women’s branch of the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, Raja Al-Halabi, stated that the role of women in Hamas is in accordance with the New Electoral System, which women participated in by amending and approving in its final form, explaining that the New Electoral System ensured the presence of women in all positions.

Al- Halabi said, “For decades, we have been practicing our right and role without guardianship, and this thing stems from our origins and roots, which did not prevent women from participating in all aspects of life.”

“Hamas movement has not oppressed women since its inception. This New Electoral System does not mean that women were absent, but are rather present in all fields. Our participation is not marginal, rather it is an active participation in all fields,” she added.

The 2006 legislative elections represented a historic opportunity to shed light on the role of women in Hamas. In an attempt to encourage women’s participation in the elections, Hamas issued a statement on January 2, 2006, announcing its endeavor to advance women, enact legislation that protects their rights and resist any attempts to marginalize their role.

Six female Hamas leaders were elected to Parliament in 2006: Jamila Al Shanti, Maryam Faraha, Samira Al Halaiqa, Mona Mansour, Huda Naim and Maryam Saleh. The former Hamas government also appointed al-Isra’a al-Mudallal as its first English speaker in November 2013.

Fatima Shurrab, a member of the political bureau of Hamas, said that the participation of women in the Hamas electoral list will surprise everyone, and that the movement has competencies and female cadres capable of serving Palestinian women.

Hamas’ Resistance and Democracy

This expresses a genuine and long-standing democratic practice in a movement that is classified by the West and the occupation entity as terrorist, to confirm that the people under occupation are able to defeat their occupiers not only in the field of resistance, but also in freedom, democracy and transparency to raise those who deem it more efficient to fight the battle with the occupier, who owns all the war technology and describes himself as a democratic regime in the Arab world.

Hamas sent an image that it was entering the general elections, united and strong, in front Palestinian factions that claim democracy, yet lack it in their practices.

It is hoped that this will have a positive impact locally, towards strengthening the democratic line in the factions and their strategies.

With these elections, Hamas also presented a distinctive and strong image to the Western world, that it is dealing with a strong movement rooted in the concepts of democracy.

(Source / 27.03.2021)

Analysis: “Palestinians to pay the price of normalization in the Gulf”

By Hamdullah Baycar

As the relationship between the Persian Gulf riparian Arab countries and Israel grew closer by the day, this momentum, led by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), first developed into a reality of normalization, with the parties involved gradually coming to anticipate the establishment of an alliance between them. The UAE became the first Arab country to switch to a visa-free travel regime with Israel. Acting on the maxim “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”, Israel and the UAE have positioned themselves in the same ranks in the new regional order, establishing Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood as common enemies.

So, how did we get from the UAE of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who did not hesitate to suspend oil sales to countries supporting Israel during the 1973 Arab-Israeli War on the principle that “Arab oil is not more valuable than Arab blood”, to a UAE that can allocate $10 billion in funds for direct investments in Israel even though it has only been a year since the normalization began? This normalization, on top of the bilateral ties between these countries, would undoubtedly have significant consequences for Palestine. It will almost certainly cost Palestinians very dearly by further dividing Palestine at home and isolating it internationally.

Although the death of Sheikh Zayed in 2004 is considered as the beginning of the shift in the UAE’s Israeli policy, the drastic change in the regional climate brought about by the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the ideological and military weakening of strong regional countries, has pushed the Gulf countries to the forefront. Correspondingly, the UAE, which has reinforced its position and gained recognition in the region, has overcome the fragility that marked its early years and repositioned its peaceful, diplomatic and agreeable foreign policy into a more interventionist and aggressive context. This shift has made it easier for the UAE to abandon its hesitant stance in its dealings with Israel. The UAE, which had secretly established economic, technological, and even intelligence cooperation with Israel, breathed a sigh of relief with the normalization deal, which former US President Donald Trump served as a guarantor for. The UAE’s explicit support for the agreement, which Trump dubbed the “Deal of the Century”, which only symbolically included the Palestinians, imposed normalization with Israel on countries like Bahrain, further cementing the UAE-Israel relationship.

From closed doors to open diplomacy

It is difficult to provide a precise figure for the pre-normalization trade volume between the two countries since relations between them, which were focused on technology and security, were carried out with extreme secrecy as a “well-known secret”. However, according to leaked data, the annual trade volume between the two countries had exceeded $300 million by 2011. Due to the reciprocal flight restrictions in place between the two countries until normalization; exports, imports and investments were routed through third countries. An $800 million deal (which appears to be a sham) officially made with AGT, a Swiss security company, but is widely believed to have been made with Israel, is just one example of this hidden partnership.

The fact that Israel is regarded as a national security concern in the US, as well as the influence of Jewish lobbies (especially in the US Congress), lobbies powerful enough to punish countries that do not side with them, has accelerated the normalization of UAE-Israeli relations. When we recall events like the Emirate of Dubai’s official port company, Dubai Ports World, being barred from participating in a tender for six major US ports in 2006 on the grounds that it posed a risk to US national interests, we can conclude that the UAE has laid the groundwork for this normalization by establishing ties with Jewish lobbies as well as conducting serious public and lobbying campaigns to improve its image in the US.

Thus, UAE-Israel relations started to flourish in a variety of areas, including diplomacy and sports, in addition to the economy. In fact, Israel named a representative for the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in Abu Dhabi in 2015. Although the UAE argued during the initial selection process that this diplomatic mission was exclusively focused on the affairs of the organization, it was clear that this would not be the case in the long run. It was also revealed that Israel supported the UAE instead of Germany in 2009 meetings on where the headquarters of this organization should be located. Likewise, the participation of the Israeli cycling team in the Dubai cycling championship and the invitation sent to Israel for the Dubai Expo, which was originally scheduled for 2020 but was postponed to 2021 due to the new type of coronavirus (COVID-19), are only some of the examples of how the relations between the two countries have now come out in the open.

The first achievement of the UAE’s normalization with Israel is the disclosure of the UAE’s previously secret trade activities. As a result, Dubai’s economic relationship with Israel — being just one of the seven emirates — has surpassed $270 million in only five months. Other accomplishments include pledges of mutual support in the transportation, tourism, and construction sectors, with the parties setting a goal of $5 billion in annual trade and investment volume in the short term. The fact that 40 thousand Israelis traveled to the UAE in December 2020 alone despite the pandemic indicates an upward curve in the tourism volume between them. The future of their commercial relations looks bright, considering that the two countries, both of which are strong players in the port management sector, have launched an initiative to jointly participate in the privatization tender for Israel’s Haifa port. Another important achievement of the UAE is that Israel has promised to support, rather than oppose, its procurement of F-35 fighter jets from the US.

Aside from the economy and politics, the public relations activities that the UAE has been carrying out for years may also be included in its list of achievements in that they have also paved the way for this normalization. These activities are just as important to the UAE as its economic, political, and diplomatic interests, as well as identity building. A pope visiting the Arabian Peninsula for the first time (i.e., Pope Francis’ visit to the UAE in 2019), normalization with Israel — a Jewish country –, and its image as “a country where over 200 nationalities live together in peace” are all used as advertising material in the international space. The UAE has been making concerted efforts to divert foreign attention away from its domestic human rights violations by portraying itself as a country where “tolerance and interfaith dialogue triumph over extremism” and declaring itself the region’s “peace center.”

What about Palestine?

The issue of Palestine was once the hottest issue of Arab nationalism and topped the agenda of all Arab countries. However, with the nation-states gaining relative significance, the changing global and regional conjuncture, the deaths of charismatic Arab leaders and their ideologies losing popularity, the Palestinian issue gradually evolved into a story of brotherhood based merely on rhetoric, rather than action. Indeed, Palestine was taken into account neither in the Deal of the Century nor the normalization steps in question. The UAE, in particular, not only ignored Palestine while initiating these agreements but also exacerbated Palestine’s political fragmentation. As a matter of fact, it is well-known that the UAE views Palestinian Mohammed Dahlan, whom it gave substantial support in order for him to play an active role in both the normalization process and the Deal of the Century, as a viable alternative to Mahmoud Abbas. Dahlan, a former member of Fatah who is currently in exile in the UAE, is the brains behind the UAE’s Palestinian policies. The UAE is happy that Dahlan, by leading the way in the implementation of certain measures, has been endeavoring to undermine Abbas’ authority. We may recall that the UAE sent two COVID-19 relief packages to Palestine in two separate air deliveries to Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport, ignoring Palestinian authorities. Abbas had no choice but to reject the relief packages because they were sent through Israeli authorities. The UAE thereby attempted to destroy the image of Abbas in the eyes of Palestinians.

The UAE’s ostensibly pro-Palestinian moves in the context of normalizing relations with Israel with regard to the annexation of the West Bank, which is considered Palestinian territory but which Israel intends to annex, are not genuine. Although the UAE claims that the annexation plans have been abandoned, Tel Aviv states that they have only been postponed and that annexation is going to take place in the future. The UAE’s attempts to cover up this truth by using different statements in the Arabic and English texts on the normalization reveal its insincerity. While the English text states that the West Bank plan “… led to the suspension of Israel’s plans to expand its sovereignty”, the Arabic text reads “… led to the halting of Israel’s plans to annex Palestinian territory”, demonstrating the UAE’s ambivalent attitude.

Palestine’s suffering is not limited to its internal divisions and Israel’s insincerity in its commitment to stopping the annexation of the West Bank. With the normalization with Israel initiated by the UAE, shortly followed by countries such as Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan, the Palestinians’ final trump card of Arab states refusing to recognize Israel and isolating it in the region has vanished into the dusty pages of history. This wave of normalization could encourage other countries with secret relationships with Israel to follow suit. In this sense, the recognition of Israel, even by “the once arch-enemies of Israel”, will exacerbate the impossibility of restoring the 1967 borders, i.e., establishing a fair, two-state solution, and further weaken the Palestinian position.

(Source / 24.03.2021)

Save Sheikh Jarrah: Palestinians have a right to remain on their land

As Israel continues its ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah district, Palestinians are ramping up pressure on the international community to act

The hashtags #SaveSheikhJarrah and its Arabic equivalent began appearing on my Twitter timeline recently. As a Palestinian activist, my first move was to find out more – to determine what new challenge faced the residents of this Palestinian neighbourhood.

Sheikh Jarrah, a district of Jerusalem, always sparks flashbacks to my boyhood. While both my parents are from Jerusalem, I was born in Saudi Arabia before the 1967 war and the fall of what remained of Palestine, including East Jerusalem, into Israel’s hands.

I distinctly remember my mother talking about the occupation of her city of birth with deep sadness and concern for her family, which was also my father’s family, as they were cousins. I remember seeing her and other Palestinian women working together to fundraise for Palestine, which included making many Palestinian flags.

We were able to visit occupied Palestine a couple of years after that, when my grandmother applied for a permit for my mother and father to visit. Half the family lived in Jericho, and the rest in Jerusalem’s Wadi al-Joz neighbourhood. After a few days in Jericho, we headed to Jerusalem for our summer holidays.

I distinctly remember making friends with my cousin Jamal in Jerusalem. He was a fiery boy, adventurous and fun-loving. He would take me from our grandmother’s home in Wadi al-Joz to his home in Sheikh Jarrah. It was a quick climb down a hill onto a main road in an industrial area, where buses and coaches parked and departed.

Then, it was across some empty land, and I remember him pointing out some caves as we walked. We soon arrived at his home, which he shared with his sister, Ghada; his mother, my aunt Fawziah; and her husband, Harbi Atieh, who had a small shop in their garden. We ate some of my auntie’s delicious food and played before Jamal took me back to my grandmother’s house.

The next time I visited their house was in 2015. It was now Jamal’s home, shared with his wife and children – his parents having passed away decades earlier. We had a traditional Palestinian hummus and falafel breakfast in the garden. Five years later, Jamal passed away after a long battle with cancer.

Those happy and sad memories came flooding back when I read the hashtags calling for Sheikh Jarrah to be saved. The call is for the remaining Palestinian families, comprising some 550 people, to be saved from eviction by the occupying force, Israel.

Targeted by settlers
The story goes back to 1956, when Jordan struck an agreement with the United Nations to build housing units for 28 families in Sheikh Jarrah, in exchange for them renouncing their refugee status with the UN. Under the deal, titles to the properties would be transferred to the families three years later. The Atieh family was among these families, but that final transfer did not happen, making the area a target for Israel and its settlers.

In the early 1970s, Israeli settler organisations, determined to expand the Jewish presence in East Jerusalem, began targeting Sheikh Jarrah with a view to evicting Palestinian families and replacing them with Jewish settlers. An Israeli court ultimately allowed settler groups to “reclaim” their property in the neighbourhood, despite a lack of official ownership papers.

The takeover of Sheikh Jarrah by Jewish settlers has not been wholesale, but creeping. In 2002, 43 Palestinians were evicted from Sheikh Jarrah after losing a legal battle to settlers. And who can forget the image of the al-Kurd family being evicted in 2008? The elderly couple was literally thrown out of their home of five decades, while Jewish settlers took over. A year later, the Hanoun and Ghawi families were forcibly evicted in favour of settlers.

The ethnic cleansing of Sheikh Jarrah continues unabated. The Israeli District Court recently ordered four more families to leave their homes or face eviction by 2 May, prompting the Sheikh Jarrah community to organise a campaign to resist this immoral and illegal act, with a Facebook page and resources explaining the background to the painful story and the families’ demands.

Their demands are essentially that their rights to ownership of their homes are recognised by the occupying force, Israel, and that the families who have already been evicted be allowed to return to their homes.

Immoral policies
Are these demands, after 65 years of de facto ownership of their homes, really that difficult for Israel to recognise – or does this situation merely confirm Israel as a settler-colonial, racist state? East Jerusalem is illegally occupied under international law. Israel is therefore committing a war crime by evicting Palestinians from their homes and moving its own settler population into them.

It is also acting hypocritically, barring Palestinian refugees from West Jerusalem from reclaiming the homes from which they were expelled in the 1948 Nakba.

Sheikh Jarrah does not stand alone as an area that Israel wants to Judaise. Another area that has suffered terribly from Israel’s aggressive and immoral policies is Silwan, on the other side of al-Aqsa Mosque. Plans have been unveiled to force out 100 Palestinian families in the Batan al-Hawa area, to be replaced by Jewish inhabitants.

It seems that Israel was emboldened by the Trump administration’s support, and the recent “normalisation” agreements with some Arab countries, to strangle East Jerusalem, extinguishing its Palestinian presence in favour of Jewish settlers. This will change its historic character, and its look and feel, forever.

Britain has a historic responsibility to act, as it was the birthplace of the dreadful Balfour Declaration in 1917. Its consulate sits on a hill in Sheikh Jarrah, a stone’s throw from the site of the Palestinian evictions. It is not helpless to act, though its silence might indicate otherwise. It could at least show solidarity with Palestinians, but it does not. That was left to more than 80 British parliamentarians in a letter to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.

Pariah state
The screams of anguish and worry from these families, including the family of my late cousin Jamal, should not fall on deaf ears. The world should be united in condemning another deliberate act by a country that claims to be a democracy, but has been revealed as an apartheid state, even in a report by an Israeli human rights group.

Raab and all foreign secretaries of so-called western democracies should be summoning their Israeli ambassadors and demanding an end to the eviction of Palestinians from their homes – without which they should begin treating Israel as the pariah state that it is. The same applies to the Arab normalisers, who together with Israel, have lost their moral compass.

(Source / 24.03.2021)

Israeli ‘Water-Apartheid’ in Palestine constitutes systemic attack, says rights group

Marking World Water Day, al-Haq said, in a press release, that since the initial observation of the United Nations World Water Day on 22 March 1993, ‘Israel’ has continued to consolidate and expand its domination of the Palestinians through its discriminatory and unlawful policies and practices around the control and distribution of water.

The human right to water encompasses a number of elements, including availability, quality, and accessibility, and includes the ability to both physical access water and the principle of non-discrimination in the distribution of water.

The occupied Palestinian Territories’ natural water supply comes from three main sources: the Jordan Valley, the Mountain Aquifer, which stretches from the West Bank across the Green Line, and the Coastal Aquifer, located around the Gaza Strip.

Each of these sources are under Israeli military control, and have been the subject of extensive restrictions introduced either by the Israeli occupying forces or Mekorot, the Israeli national water company, into which the Palestinian water system has been integrated, said al-Haq.

“Palestinian direct access to water in the occupied West Bank is denied in favour of providing access to illegal Israeli settlements.”

Approximately 50,000 Palestinians residing in Area C of the West Bank are denied access to clean, safe, and affordable water, while as of 2016, Palestinians in the occupied West Bank consumed on average only 73 litres of water per day, well below the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommended 100 litres.

Conversely, Israeli settlers consumed approximately 369 litres per day, over three times the recommended average. It is estimated that Israeli settlers, illegally residing in the occupied Palestinian Territory (oPT), consume three to eight times more water than the entire Palestinian population of the West Bank, excluding East Jerusalem.

Israel’s denial to Palestinians of the human right of access to water has been aggravated by COVID-19, with the pandemic presenting a disproportionate and substantial threat to a Palestinian society deliberately denied for decades the right to develop a functioning healthcare system, as a result of apartheid policies and practices imposed by Israel’s occupation, it.

Al-Haq said that ‘Israel’, as Occupying Power, has failed and is continuing to disregard its obligations under international humanitarian law and human rights law, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic is borne out not only by the absence of any effort at adopting and applying ‘the prophylactic and preventive measures necessary to combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics,’ but by Israel’s discriminatory policies and practices, which actively deny Palestinians access to adequate water and sanitation.

The ongoing pillage by ‘Israel’, and with the complicity of corporate actors, of Palestinian water resources in the occupied West Bank is having a disproportionate affect on Bedouin and herder communities and Palestinian farmers.

These communities depend fully or partially on water for their survival and livelihoods, and are particularly severely affected by Israeli and corporate pillage of their natural resources including water.

Bedouin communities are most affected by Israeli policies of fragmentation, discriminatory planning and zoning, resulting in demolitions and land confiscations, promotion of ‘relocation’ plans, forced evictions, denial and restrictions on access to essential services and natural resources, including to farming and grazing land and water; restrictions on freedom of movement; lack of enforcement of settler violence and exposure to military trainings and activity in closed military areas and firing zones, and related temporary displacement, as well as the risk posed by unexploded munitions.

Israeli ‘Water-Apartheid’ constitutes a systemic attack on the Palestinian people’s right to water and sanitation as well as a concerted assault on the broader right of Palestinians to the highest attainable standard of health, at a time of unprecedented global crisis, it said.

Al-Haq called upon third States, the international community, and private entities to recognize Israeli policies and practices with regards to access to water in the OPT as a gross and systematic denial of the right to health and to water and sanitation.

Al-Haq also called on to recognize the contributing factor of the construction, and maintenance, of Israel’s institutionalized regime of systematic racial domination and oppression, amounting to the crime of apartheid, over the Palestinian people as a whole.

“In line with their obligations erga omnes under international law, we urge all States to take positive measures, address the root causes of the apartheid and occupation and to bring this unlawful situation to an end,” it stated.

(Source / 22.03.2021)

The Israeli and Palestinian elections offend democracy – each in their own way

Polls taking place months apart simply highlight the two-tier system that denies Palestinians any real voice or freedom

By Salem Barahmeh

For the first time in decades, the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israel will hold legislative elections a few months apart. Many in the international community and media will see this as a joint exercise in democracy but it is, in fact, a window into the reality of a two-tiered system that denies Palestinians the basic freedom and rights that many across the world take for granted.

Drive across the winding roads of the West Bank this spring and you will see election posters interrupting the beautiful landscape of olive and almond trees. Upon further inspection, you may soon realise that the candidate advertised is not an eager Palestinian campaigning for a parliamentary seat. It is likely to be an Israeli candidate running for the Israeli parliament.

This raises a very valid question: why are Israelis campaigning in the West Bank, the territory designated by international law and consensus to become part of a future Palestinian state?

Israel occupies and controls the entirety of the West Bank and has de facto annexed large portions of it through the settling of 650,000-750,000 Israelis on Palestinian land. Under the Rome statute of the international criminal court, a settlement enterprise of this nature is not only illegal but also considered a war crime. Yet these illegal settlers are able to run, campaign, and vote in Israeli elections and have come to occupy the position of king-makers in Israeli coalition politics.

Israel’s famed “democracy”, like its expansionist policies, doesn’t stop at or recognise the green line – if anything it has bulldozed them into oblivion. In practice, Israel effectively exercises total control over the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

The Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem don’t get to vote for the regime that rules every aspect of their lives, even though the Israelis living on the same land do. These 5 million Palestinians vote for the PA, an administrative body that today has only partial control over 40% of the West Bank and is dependent on Israel for its survival. The PA was supposed to exist for five years while Palestinians transitioned to statehood, but that state never came. Successive Israeli governments made sure of that, using settlements and annexation to turn the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem into an archipelago of disconnected Palestinian population centres.

PA legislative elections set for 22 May come after years of political repression and a recent wave of anti-democratic laws that were ushered in by Palestinian presidential decrees and have targeted the independence of the judiciary and civil society. Many consider the upcoming elections as a rubber stamp for power-sharing between the two ruling parties, Fatah and Hamas, with which they can solidify the gains they made from the last parliamentary election in 2006. The reality is that in a society where the average age is 21, the majority, if not all leadership positions are held by those with an average age of 70.

Despite real hunger among young Palestinians to participate in a democratic process and choose representatives, recent PA changes to electoral laws have made it virtually impossible to compete and break the monopoly of the ruling factions in the West Bank and Gaza. For example, the age requirement for candidates is 28, which is among the highest in the world and excludes many Palestinians from running. To get on the electoral list, candidates must pay a fee of $20,000 (US dollars) and resign if they work in certain jobs, which is extremely difficult in an economy that has very high unemployment rates. Finally, the election was announced with only a few months’ lead-up time under a new voting system built on proportional representation, which favours established parties that have a strong national presence rather than young political upstarts.

Beyond these structural limitations there is the crushing impact of the military occupation on Palestinian political participation. Israel has consistently denied Palestinians the ability to hold elections in Jerusalem and has arrested elected members of parliament. Palestinians under occupation live under Israeli military orders and therefore have no civil rights; they have no freedom of assembly, association or expression, and it is illegal to start a Palestinian political party.

The tale of these two elections is not of democracy but of giving the veneer of legitimacy to a system that maintains the supremacy and domination of one people over another. In this reality, Palestinians are stripped of sovereignty and the agency to shape their lives, their futures and the ability to challenge this oppression. This system cannot offer true democracy and as such it must be dismantled. A new social contract must be built where every person can practise true self-determination and is free and equal.

Palestinians need an institutional vehicle to re-energise their national movement so it can challenge the status quo. The way forward starts with a reformed political system that is democratic and representative and can give a voice to all 13 million Palestinians around the world. The road to freedom starts with us.

(Source / 19.03.2021)

Opinion: Gaza is still under siege, in case we’ve forgotten

By Maher Al-Tabba

The Palestinians in the Gaza Strip continue to suffer from the Israeli-led blockade imposed since 2007. Add to this Israel’s military offensives and frequent incursions and it is easy to see why the economic crisis is acute. The destruction of the infrastructure has affected all sectors, including the economy. The delay in reconstruction, especially in the economic sector, and the failure to compensate business owners, have had a serious impact in Gaza. Many international institutions have warned of the repercussions if the blockade continues unabated.

Despite Israel’s repeated announcements about easing the blockade, the reality at the nominal border crossings is quite the opposite. It still prevents the entry of hundreds of kinds of goods and raw materials from entering Gaza, as well as the export to the West Bank of many industrial and agricultural products.

Last year saw no change in this situation. Most of the commercial crossings are closed, and some have been removed completely. This is inconsistent with the 1994 Paris Economic Agreement and the crossings agreement signed with the Israelis under US and European auspices on 15 November, 2005, when Israeli settlers were withdrawn from the Gaza Strip. This stipulates that the Muntar crossing, which was closed in 2011, should be kept open and, in emergency situations, that Israel will allow the export of all agricultural products from Gaza during the appropriate seasons. At the moment, only the Karam Abu Salem crossings is operational. Nothing has changed in terms of the opening hours, the number of trucks allowed to enter the territory, and the type and quantity of imported goods.

Despite the destruction, the import of building materials is severely restricted. They are only allowed into Gaza in restricted quantities in accordance with the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism.

Karam Abu Salem crossing has not been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, as imports and exports have remained at their now “normal” siege levels. The crossing is operating at a minimum capacity, with the annual number of non-fuel trucks more or less the same since 2018. In terms of export goods leaving the Gaza Strip last year, the number of trucks is around 50 per cent of what it was prior to the start of the siege.

The main market for Gaza exporters at the moment is the West Bank, as and when exporters can get their products out of the territory. The lack of facilities at Karam Abu Salem crossing makes exporting goods a major problem. Goods have to be unloaded and reloaded several times, which affects their quality, especially of agricultural products. Combined with packaging specifications, this means that transportation costs are doubled for Palestinian exporters.

After 14 years of the suffocating siege, it is surely time for international institutions to carry out their legal and humanitarian duties towards the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, and ensure that their basic needs are provided. They must liberate them from the largest open-air prison in the world, and apply real and serious pressure on the Israeli occupation authorities to open all Gaza crossings for the movement of people and goods, and to end this unjust blockade immediately.

This article first appeared in Arabic in Felesteen on 10 March 2021

(Source / 18.03.2021)

Don’t let the Israeli lobby fire David Miller

University of Bristol academic David Miller, 1 March 2021 [Youtube screengrab/CAGE]
University of Bristol academic David Miller, 1 March 2021

By Asa Winstanley

I first met sociology professor David Miller a decade ago. His depth of knowledge and thoughtful research impressed me right away.

At the time, I was reporting on the story of Raed Salah, a Palestinian Muslim preacher and political activist who was doing a small speaking tour in the UK. He had been the victim of a deliberate smear campaign and was briefly imprisoned.

Salah, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, had been granted a visa to the UK and entered the country in the normal fashion. But soon after, something changed. Israel’s agents and proxies in the UK were used to mount a smear campaign against Salah.

Read More: Israeli occupation forces open fire at Palestinian farmers in southern Gaza

Disturbingly, it turned out that a British charity called the Community Security Trust (CST) was used as a go-between from Israel to the Home Office. Much of the information that the Home Office relied on upon its decision to rescind Salah’s visa seemed to have come from Israeli disinformation campaigns. For example, a poem that Salah wrote was mangled and twisted to make it appear anti-Semitic.

Israel’s long disinformation war against Salah was ultimately successful, and he is currently a political prisoner in Israeli jails, convicted on trumped-up charges of “incitement”. In reality, Israel considers any form of Palestinian existence to be “incitement” and any form of Palestinian resistance – no matter how non-violent – to be “terrorism”.

Read More: Israel opens fire towards Gaza’s fishermen and farmers

David Miller provided an expert testimony in Salah’s trial. He was able to give the proper context to the CST’s particular slanted views on Palestinian political activism, which has a long history of smearing and attacking. As Miller put it, the CST has a: “Tendency to treat denunciation of Israel or Zionism as evidence of anti-Semitism.”

Salah was ultimately vindicated by the British court system. He never intended to stay in the UK, but after being arrested, he knew that if he were to be deported, it would have been used by the Israeli occupation authorities against him back home. So he fought the case, enduring almost a year of house arrest.

The judge finally ruled that the then-Home Secretary Theresa May had been “misled” as to the facts on Salah’s poem. Somewhere along the lines, the word “Jews” had been inserted into a translation of Salah’s poem – a word he had not used and, as the original Arabic showed, he had not implied. It was a poem criticising “oppressors”, implicitly denouncing Israeli occupation forces as criminal bombers of mosques.

Miller played a key role in thwarting the Israeli plot to have a popular Palestinian leader deported from the UK. But today, Israel and its lobby are running an all-out campaign to have Miller fired from his job at Bristol university.

It’s hard to escape the impression that they have long memories – long and vindictive.

Since 2011 Miller, an expert researcher into the shadowy machinations of corporate and state lobbying and influence networks, has commissioned and written a series of major reports on the Israel lobby.

In 2013, his organisation Spinwatch published an important report on BICOM, a major Israel lobby group in the UK. Contrary to the Zionist smears which falsely claim that Miller and people like him (including this author) promote “conspiracy theories” about some “all-powerful Jewish lobby”, Spinwatch’s report on BICOM showed how the group has actually lost the battle to influence British public opinion and was actually retreating on that front, which had been its initial main goal.

In 2016, Spinwatch published another ground-breaking report, this time on the Israel lobby in the European Union. This one showed how anti-Muslim groups in the US had funded the Israel lobby in Europe. The links between the Zionist movement and the global anti-Muslim network have been a major theme in Miller’s work for years.

As revenge for Miller’s exposure of their activities, pro-Israel networks in the UK are currently waging a war against Miller. This is part of what he, accurately, describes as Israel’s war on British universities.

Pro-Israel activists, both on and off campus, are demanding that Miller be fired. Emboldened by their successful campaign to purge Jeremy Corbyn from the Labour Party and hold veto power over the party’s membership, the Israel lobby is growing in ambition.

It now demands nothing less than the power to veto membership of British academia. Any opponent of Zionism, Israel’s racist state ideology, is to be purged. Make no mistake: Miller is merely a test case.

This is nothing less than an attempt at state capture by a hostile foreign power.

But despite the powerful forces arrayed against Miller, including influential MPs and academics, there is a growing groundswell of support for the professor, including from his academic colleagues at British university.

An important online rally with rapper and activist Lowkey, journalists Jonathan Cook and Matt Kennard and anti-Zionist Israeli Moshe Machover will be held at 5 pm on Saturday afternoon.

Please register and join here if you can.

(Source / 13.03.2021)

Palestine’s impossible democracy dilemma

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By Ramzy Baroud

Many Palestinian intellectuals and political analysts find themselves in the unenviable position of having to declare a stance on whether they support or reject upcoming Palestinian elections that are scheduled for May 22 and July 30. But there are no easy answers.
The long-awaited decree by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas last January to hold legislative and presidential elections in the coming months was widely welcomed, not as a triumph for democracy but as the first tangible positive outcome of dialogue between rival Palestinian factions, mainly Abbas’ Fatah party and Hamas.
As far as inner Palestinian dialogue is concerned, the elections, if held unobstructed, could present a ray of hope that, finally, Palestinians in the Occupied Territories will enjoy a degree of democratic representation, a first step toward a more comprehensive representation that could include millions of Palestinians outside the Occupied Territories.
But even such humble expectations are conditioned on many “ifs”: Only if Palestinian factions honor their commitments to the Istanbul Agreement of Sept. 24; only if Israel allows Palestinians, including Jerusalemites, to vote unhindered and refrains from arresting Palestinian candidates; only if the US-led international community accepts the outcome of the democratic elections without punishing victorious parties and candidates; only if the legislative and presidential elections are followed by the more consequential and substantive elections in the Palestinian National Council (PNC) — the Palestinian Parliament in exile — and so on.
If any one of these conditions is unsatisfactory, the May elections are likely to serve no practical purpose, aside from giving Abbas and his rivals the veneer of legitimacy, thus allowing them to buy yet more time and acquire yet more funds from their financial benefactors.
All of this compels us to consider the following question: Is democracy possible under military occupation?
Almost immediately following the last democratic Palestinian legislative elections in 2006, the outcome of which displeased Israel, 62 Palestinian ministers and members of the new parliament were thrown into prison, with many still imprisoned.
History is repeating itself as Israel has already begun its arrest campaigns of Hamas leaders and members in the West Bank. On Feb. 22, more than 20 Palestinian activists, including Hamas officials, were detained as a clear message from the Israeli occupation to Palestinians that Israel does not recognize their dialogue, their unity agreements or their democracy.
Two days later, 67-year-old Hamas leader, Omar Barghouti, was summoned by the Israeli military intelligence in the occupied West Bank and warned against running in the May elections. “The Israeli officer warned me not to run in the upcoming elections and threatened me with imprisonment if I did,” Barghouti was quoted as saying by Al-Monitor.
The Palestinian Basic Law allows prisoners to run for elections, whether legislative or presidential, simply because the most popular among Palestinian leaders are often behind bars. Marwan Barghouti is one.
Imprisoned since 2002, Barghouti remains Fatah’s most popular leader, though appreciated more by the movement’s young cadre, as opposed to Abbas’ old guard. The latter group has immensely benefited from the corrupt system of political patronage on which the 85-year-old president has constructed his authority.
To sustain this corrupt system, Abbas and his clique labored to marginalize Barghouti, leading to the suggestion that Israel’s imprisonment of Fatah’s vibrant leader serves the interests of the current Palestinian president.
This claim has much substance, not only because Abbas has done little to pressure Israel to release Barghouti but also because all credible public opinion polls suggest that Barghouti is far more popular among Fatah’s supporters — in fact all Palestinians — than Abbas.
On Feb. 11, Abbas dispatched Hussein Al-Sheikh, the minister of civilian affairs and a member of Fatah’s Central Committee, to dissuade Barghouti from running in the upcoming presidential elections. An ideal scenario for the Palestinian president would be to take advantage of Barghouti’s popularity by having him lead the Fatah list in the contest for the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). Hence, Abbas could ensure a strong turnout by Fatah supporters while securing the chair of the presidency for himself.
Barghouti vehemently rejected Abbas’ request, thus raising an unexpected challenge to Abbas, who now risks dividing the Fatah vote, losing the PLC elections, again, to Hamas and losing the presidential elections to Barghouti.
Between the nightly raids and crackdowns by the Israeli military and the political intrigues within the divided Fatah movement, one wonders if the elections, if they take place, will finally allow Palestinians to mount a united front in the struggle against Israeli occupation and for Palestinian freedom.
Then, there is the issue of the possible position of the “international community” regarding the outcome of the elections. News reports speak of efforts made by Hamas to seek guarantees from Qatar and Egypt “to ensure Israel will not pursue its representatives and candidates in the upcoming elections,” Al-Monitor also reported.
But what kind of guarantees can Arab countries obtain from Tel Aviv, and what kind of leverage can Doha and Cairo have when Israel continues to disregard the UN, international law, the International Criminal Court, and so on?

Nevertheless, can Palestinian democracy afford to subsist in its state of inertia? Abbas’ mandate as president expired in 2009, the PLC’s mandate expired in 2010 and, in fact, the Palestinian Authority was set up as an interim political body whose function should have ceased in 1999. Since then, the “Palestinian leadership” has not enjoyed legitimacy among Palestinians, deriving its relevance, instead, from the support of its benefactors, who are rarely interested in supporting democracy in Palestine.
The only silver lining in this story is that Fatah and Hamas have also agreed on the restructuring of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which is now largely monopolized by Abbas’ Fatah movement. Whether the democratic revamping of the PLO takes place or not largely depends on the outcome of the May and July elections.
Palestine, like other countries, including Israel, does have a crisis of political legitimacy. Since Palestine is an occupied land with little or no freedom, one is justified in arguing that true democracy under these horrific conditions cannot possibly be achieved.

(Source / 10.03.2021)