Last week, the European Parliament approved an amendment to block €20 million ($23 million) in aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) if immediate changes promoting “coexistence and tolerance” with the Israeli occupation are not made to Palestinian school textbooks.
According to the amendment, the Palestinian curricula must promote peace with the Israeli occupation based on the two-state solution, which the EU still claims is the best and only way to solve Israel’s settler-colonial enterprise. The EU also wanted the Palestinian curricula to be purged from alleged hate speech against Israel.
But what has the EU done to prevent hate speech uttered by Israeli officials against Palestinians? What has the EU, which protects the Israeli occupation and forges strategic partnerships with it, done to protect the Palestinians who have endured more than 70 years of Israeli violations and aggression?
Going back to the recent past we see that the EU did not demand Israel to stop striking Palestinian civilians in Gaza in May at the time when the occupation army killed more than 200 Palestinian civilians, including more than 60 children, and injured more than 1,500 others over a period of 11 days.
The EU, instead, condemned the Palestinian resistance which fought back against the continuous and barbaric Israeli bombardment of mostly civilian facilities and homes. “We condemn the rocket attacks by Hamas and other terrorist groups on the Israeli territory. And we fully support Israel’s right to self-defense,” EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell said.
Here the EU declared its full support for the kind of “self-defense” which targets children, unarmed women and the elderly, as well as civil infrastructure.
The EU has done little to keep the two-state solution as a viable option, but is keeping it going “at the level of rhetoric” only, the Centre for European Reform’s Beth Oppenheim has said.
The Israeli occupation state is not interested in the two-state solution and has been doing its best to make it unviable through the continuous expansion of illegal Jewish-only settlements. The UN Security Council has branded Israeli settlements as illegal and as violations of the Geneva Conventions, but the EU has done nothing to force these actions to cease.
All the while, the occupation has imposed a stifling air, ground and sea blockade on the Gaza Strip, making life almost unlivable. Palestinians live with insufficient electricity, severe lack of medical equipment, shortages in medication, limited access to clean water, strict restrictions on their movement in and from the besieged enclave and the inability of those in need of urgent medical care to access it abroad or in the occupied West Bank.
“Israel’s policy of de facto annexation in the West Bank and its blockade of Gaza violate international law,” Oppenheim said. But the Israeli “prime minister nurtured relationships with illiberal, nativist governments in Europe, sowing division in the EU and paralysing its decision-making on Israel-Palestine,” she added.
Despite the death of the peace process and the prospects of the two-state solution, “bilateral relationship between Israel and the EU has continued to deepen without conditions… They have signed over a dozen bilateral agreements to supplement the overarching Association Agreement in areas including police co-operation (2018), development (2018), aviation (2013), agriculture (2012) and industry (2010). Israel participates in EU research and innovation programmes, and Israeli students can take part in the educational exchange programme Erasmus+.”
“The EU is Israel’s largest trade partner, comprising a third of Israel’s total exports, and Israel was the EU’s 27th most important partner in 2018.” This proves that the issue is not related to hate speech or promoting the peace process, but is one based on shared interests and benefits.
The EU is able to take punitive measures that would force Israel to stop its crimes and human rights violations, but it does not have the political will to put real pressure on Israel. In 2014, “the EU agreed swiftly to impose hefty economic sanctions targeting Russia’s financial, energy and defence sectors when Moscow seized the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea from Ukraine – land that Russia still holds,” a special report by Reuters says. Thus, if the EU has the will to take real action, it can do so without hesitation.
Many analysts and critics believe that the EU member states can make difference regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Countries which support taking action against Israeli crimes and violations of international law should unite and mobilise against the violations. They should also recognise the State of Palestine.
When it comes to Israeli crimes against Palestinians, the only words the EU has is “concerned” and “worried”, while stressing the occupation state’s “right to self-defense”. Where the acts of the legitimate – under international law – Palestinian resistance is concerned, the EU chooses “terrorists”, “aggression” and “attacks”. The bloc continues to defend the Israeli occupation in international forums.
Andrea Dessì from Social Europe, a Rome-based think tank, wrote: “When coupled with the legal and diplomatic cover for Israel provided by Europe and the US in international fora, such policies amount to complicity in Israel’s policy of creeping annexation and settler-colonial violence against the Palestinians.”
All of this and many other situations prove that the EU is not only complicit, but shamefully involved in the violations and crimes against Palestinians. The EU, if it is serious about its support for peace, must leverage its strength to do so, but the decades of silence and support for bias US policies prove that is not it’s primary aim.
Pinning Palestinians down while applying harsh measures of violent repression accompanied by a fanatical settler movement of arch-racists given free rein to attack and plunder, is a notorious game Israel has made a daily ritual.
In fact the routine of inflicting war crimes has all the hallmarks of a rogue regime entirely caught up in a misplaced belief that to engage in ethnic cleansing is a religious obligation.
Conflating Judaism with the racist political ideology of Zionism has been part of a strategy designed to deceive, distort and divert. It has its roots in the first Zionist congress held on the eve of the 19th century.
That this is well documented and widely known. Indeed awareness of Zionism’s goal to dismember and dislodge Palestinians from their centuries old homeland and forcibly impose a foreign entity known as Israel, has always been a bedrock for resistance.
Israel has thus always been considered an enemy thrust upon a native population through the most horrific forms of terrorism. The memories of Deir Yassin remind the world of bloody massacres committed by Zionist terrorists which wiped out hundreds of villages to colonise Palestine.
That more than seven decades later the expansionist goals of Zionism are still being pursued at great human cost to successive generations of indigenous Palestinians is reflected in daily atrocities.
None of these facts – as attested to by historians as well as the United Nations – are contested, though of course Israel and its supporters seek to distort such truths as anti-Semitic.
Yet against this background of terrorism and current conditions of siege, occupation, killings and mass imprisonment – recorded and broadcast via mainstream media for all the world to witness – it is bizarre that a handful of Arab regimes have broken rank with Palestine’s freedom struggle. This, at a time when even the Israeli daily Haaretzdescribes atrocities by Israel as “a pogrom”.
The treachery associated with what has become known as “normalisation” is an outrageous manifestation of betrayal and collaboration. The UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco have in effect confessed that the protection of their shaky thrones counts for more than the legitimate rights of the Palestinians.
As unelected, self-imposed despots fearful of democratic values, they have bargained that “normalisation” with the usurper of Palestine will “guarantee” safety and protection for them. In other words, just as Egypt has done, these oligarchs have outsourced their intelligence networks and security apparatus to Israel, knowing full well that in doing so, they have abandoned Palestine.
Though the abnormality of implicit recognition of an illegal colonial enterprise has been in sharp contrast to countless Arab League resolutions, the deal of “normalisation” pushed by Trump and vigorously backed by the Biden administration has exposed these leaders as surrogates of western imperialism.
The case of Bahrain’s role in the “Abraham Accords” reveals the soft underbelly of Arab dictatorships. Besides being financially dependent on its neighbours, especially the UAE and Saudi Arabia, Bahrain’s alliance with Israel is designed to entrench its power and crush any resistance to authoritarianism or efforts towards freedom and democracy.
In this context one may justifiably condemn Bahrain’s gross insensitivity and abject abdication of Palestine’s freedom struggle as treacherous.
Showcasing Israeli war criminal Lapid’s visit to Manama where he opened the Israeli embassy is utterly outrageous. This follows the opening of a Zionist embassy in Abu Dhabi and one is likely to be established in Rabat. Sudan has reportedly said it has no plans to open an embassy in Khartoum.
Not surprising therefore that the Arab street across these capitals have vowed to end “normalisation”. The iron-fisted grip held by Arab despots notwithstanding, human rights movements (many banned and leaders exiled) have declared their outright rejection of America’s much-vaunted Abraham Accords.
Stirrings in Sudan are becoming more vocal despite Khartoum’s attempts to silence critics. In Bahrain the main opposition group, Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, declared Lapid’s trip as a “threat”, saying: “This is provocative news and this trip is completely rejected, and he (Lapid) should not set foot on Bahraini soil.”
Their message is clear: “Any (Israeli) presence on Bahraini soil means incitement.”
Africa is a symbol of the future and Africa stands with us,” declared Yasser Arafat, then chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) at a meeting of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in July 1975 in the Ugandan capital, Kampala.
Twenty-seven years later, as the OAU stood on the threshold of being reborn as the African Union in 2002, the Palestinian struggle icon was besieged by Israeli troops at his headquarters in Ramallah. Arafat sent his envoy, Farouq Kaddoumi, to attend the final OAU meeting in Durban, South Africa. Through Kaddoumi, Arafat appealed to African leaders for the AU to continue supporting and advocating for Palestinian freedom.
The AU did not fail the Palestinian people; it has been one of Palestine’s most important and loyal allies in the past 19 years.
Israel’s colonisation, illegal occupation of Palestine, and oppression of the Palestinian people have featured prominently at AU summits. The AU, and the OAU before it, has consistently condemned Israel’s use of lethal, unlawful force against Palestinian civilians, its violations of international law, and annexation of Palestinian land.
At its last summit in February this year, the AU specifically called on its members to respect the international legal status of East Jerusalem as occupied and as the capital of the future Palestinian state and reiterated the illegality of all Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the Syrian Golan Heights.
Supported by AU members and its leaders, African nations have regarded the Palestinian struggle as an African issue. This is a reflection of the bonds between Africa’s liberation and anti-colonial struggles and those of the Palestinian people.
It is within this context, then, that the decision by AU Commission chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat, to unilaterally accept the credentials of Israel’s ambassador to Ethiopia, Aleli Admasu, is all the more bewildering. The move undermines the anti-colonial values that underpin the AU.
Mahamat said Israel’s diplomatic relations with AU member states justified his decision to grant Israel AU observer status. But this decision is not about whether Israeli diplomatic missions exist in African countries.
This is about the type of political and diplomatic recognition — and normalisation of colonialism — that comes with attaining observer status in an institution that serves as an anti-colonial beacon.
Gaining observer status brings Israel into a formal relationship with the AU. That is a privilege that Israel — a violent occupying power whose actions violate the spirit, objectives, and principles of the AU — simply does not deserve at this moment.
Now the AU risks following the example of much of the international community’s inaction.
The Israeli occupation of Palestine has entered its 54th year, while the ongoing violent displacement of Palestinians to make way for the creation of Israel (known as the Nakba) is in its 73rd year. That is 73 years of Israeli colonial policies that manifest through crippling sieges, land theft, and systemic violence in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. Israel has been able to sustain this illegal situation only because of the world’s inaction.
It is unthinkable that some AU member states, which themselves have emerged from painful histories of colonialism and occupation, openly support the presence of a modern-day colonial power such as Israel at the AU.
As long as the international community — now, shockingly, including the AU — continues to welcome Israel with privileges and distinctions, it effectively gives our Israeli colonisers permission to continue the occupation. Words without actions are meaningless.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has collectively objected to Mahamat’s decision to grant Israel observer status. SADC’s position is in line with the positions of Mauritania, Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Comoros, and Djibouti that have also lodged formal objections with the AU. These countries serve as a lodestar for other African nations in how to develop meaningful solidarity with Palestine by moving beyond words and recalibrating their relations with Israel.
It is also inspiring to see the outpouring of support from dozens of political and civil society groups, trade unions, student networks and religious formations throughout Africa. Coming together as the Pan-African Palestine Solidarity Network, they have collectively rejected Mahamat’s decision. These groups are showing their governments what genuine solidarity looks like, and remind Palestinians that the African people still stand with us in our struggle for liberation.
South Africa stands with Palestine – Cartoon
When the issue of Israel’s observer status comes before the AU executive council in October, member states must act together to send Israel a clear message that it cannot occupy a people for 54 years, perpetuate apartheid practices, and then be given the privilege of joining the African family for a few hollow words about peace, aid, and investment.
In 1975, the OAU declared that “… the racist [Israeli] regime in occupied Palestine and the racist regime in Zimbabwe and South Africa have a common imperialist origin, forming a whole and having the same racist structure and being organically linked in their policy aimed at the repression of the dignity and integrity of the human being”.
In the 46 years since that declaration, the regimes in then-Rhodesia and apartheid South Africa were dismantled through internal resistance that was supported by an intensive international boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaign. Neither regime was welcomed at the OAU until it ended its apartheid and colonial practices. So how, then, can the apartheid regime occupying Palestine be rewarded with observer status at the AU while it continues its lawlessness and violations?
Until it ends its occupation, colonisation, and apartheid against the Palestinian people, Israel must not have a place at the AU.
A Palestinian-Dutch citizen, Ziada has been suing Benny Gantz, Israeli army chief at the time, and Amir Eshel, then air force chief, for the decision to bomb his family’s home during Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza.
Gantz is currently Israel’s defense minister and deputy prime minister. Ziada’s civil lawsuit seeks hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages from the Israeli commanders.
It killed Ziada’s 70-year-old mother Muftia, his brothers Jamil, Yousif and Omar, sister-in-law Bayan, and 12-year-old nephew Shaban, as well as a seventh person visiting the family.
But in January 2020, the district court in The Hague shut the door in Ziada’s face by granting “functional immunity” to Gantz and Eshel on the grounds that when they committed their alleged crimes they were acting in an official capacity.
That decision flew in the face of decades of jurisprudence following the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals that those who commit the gravest offenses, including war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, cannot hide behind the excuse that they were acting in an official capacity or just following orders.
No other path to justice
Thursday’s hearing was part of Ziada’s appeal of that lower court ruling. The hearing was held in an almost empty room. Only 13 people, including this writer, were allowed to attend.
Many others were disappointed that they couldn’t express their solidarity with Ziada by their presence.
Zegveld, who is renowned in the Netherlands for representing victims of human rights abuses, also told the judges that “Israel maintains an apartheid regime against Palestinians.”
Therefore Ziada’s only viable option is to seek justice in the Dutch courts.
Zegveld made a strong case that it was unjustifiable to grant immunity to the two Israeli military commanders.
She noted that in 2010, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that “in cases where the application of state immunity from jurisdiction restricts the exercise of the right of access to a court, the court must ascertain whether the circumstances of the case justify such restriction.”
Zegveld argued that Israel has completely deprived Palestinians in Gaza of access to justice by declaring the coastal enclave to be an “enemy entity” and its residents “enemy subjects.”
Israeli law prohibits “enemy” citizens from bringing claims for damages against the state in Israeli courts.
In response, defense lawyers for Gantz and Eshel repeated their arguments that because their clients had acted on behalf of the state, their acts were protected by functional immunity.
After Zegveld’s thoroughly formulated plea, the lawyers for Gantz and Eshel did not make a strong impression.
At the end of the hearing, the judges offered Ziada the opportunity to speak.
“I never thought that my vision to seek justice would be denied by providing functional immunity to the war criminals,” he told the court.
Earlier this week, an online panel discussed Ziada’s landmark effort to hold Israeli commanders accountable.
Issam Younis, director of the Gaza-based human rights group Al Mezan, underscored the destructive effect of impunity.
Israel’s four major assaults on Gaza since 2008 demonstrate that “the worst is yet to come” unless the international community seriously addresses accountability, Younis said.
“It is really mission impossible for victims to pursue justice through Israel’s legal system,” Younis stated, after explaining the myriad obstacles Israel places in the face of Palestinians in Gaza who seek to access its courts.
That is why national courts in other countries should provide an avenue for justice for victims of serious international crimes, Younis said.
Utrecht University law professor Cedric Ryngaert noted that Dutch law “offers a forum of necessity” to “avert a denial of justice” when a case cannot be heard anywhere else and is sufficiently linked to Dutch jurisdiction.
Ziada’s Dutch citizenship potentially provides such a link, Ryngaert said.
Ryngaert added that the Dutch lower court’s immunity ruling overlooked the imperative of accountability for international crimes.
Individuals can be held responsible for international crimes not only at the International Criminal Court but also in the domestic courts of other states.
Ziada’s closing words to the Dutch judges on Thursday emphasized that his demand for justice was not just about accountability for past crimes, but preventing further violations.
“The crimes didn’t stop in 2014,” he said. “In May, when Israel again heavily bombarded Gaza, I feared that I would receive a message that my family was in danger.”
Ziada said that during the Israeli attack on Gaza earlier this year, his niece had to flee her home barefoot with two young children because the residential building next door was bombed.
“She lost her parents in the 2014 bombing of our family home. I cannot stop the crimes,” Ziada said. “You, your honors, you can stop it. Don’t fail me, don’t fail justice.”
The judges are expected to issue their ruling on 7 December.
The steadfastness and courage of Sabra and Shatila are in all of our hearts. Today, we commemorate the cruel injustice inflicted on the Palestinians in the massacre of 1982, knowing that this is just one of the continuous assaults on Palestinians since 1948. We resolve to continue to be with you all in your difficult journey in solidarity, hope and love, knowing that one day, the freedom and peace stolen from the Palestinian people for all these years will be won back through your struggle. We commemorate with tears, but pledge our commitment to this struggle with all our strength and lives. We know that the day will come when our children’s laughter will be the reward of years of sacrifice and endurance.
In June 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon. It bombed Lebanon by land, air and sea, and laid siege to Beirut. Israel killed and wounded thousands of innocent people and made at least 100,000 homeless within a few weeks. Beirut city was denied electricity, medicine, food and water.
I resigned from my job at a hospital in London to help the victims in Lebanon. At that time, my sympathies were with Israel, and I had not known that Palestinians existed. But I could no longer stand by and watch the wounding and killings of women, children and unarmed civilians – or watch them being made homeless as the bombs continuously fell on Lebanon.
I arrived in Beirut in August 1982, and was seconded to Gaza Hospital in Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut. It was one of nine hospitals and 13 clinics of the Palestine Red Crescent Society and the only one that was not flattened by the bombs.
The people of Sabra and Shatila told me about their suffering ever since they were driven out of Palestine to become refugees in 1948. Many of the residents of Sabra and Shatila were third and fourth-time refugees being driven from camp to camp when their families were killed and homes destroyed by Israeli planes. That was the first time I heard about their terrible suffering. That was also the first time I met Palestinians.
After resisting the continuous bombardment for ten weeks, the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) evacuated in exchange for peace. The US promised that it would protect the 300,000 Palestinian refugees left behind in Lebanon. They were encouraged to return from the shelters to the refugee camps to rebuild their homes and lives. But this did not happen.
Three weeks later, on 15 September, 1982, Israeli tanks were allowed to overrun Beirut. A large number surrounded and sealed Sabra and Shatila refugee camp so that no one could leave nor enter the camp.
Sniping started once the camp was sealed. Initially, the wounded and dead brought into the hospital were mainly women gathering water and food for their families. By the afternoon of the next day, men, women, children and babies were shot in their homes. Many were brought in dead and filled the mortuary.
More than 2,000 frightened people fled into our hospital with stories that the Haddads, Kataebs and Israelis were killing defenceless families in the camp. They feared for their lives.
They could not escape, and no one protected them.
The hospital ran out of blood, medication and food. Our medical and surgical team worked non-stop. I wanted the nurses to give the last packet of blood to a wounded mother, but she pleaded for it to be given to her child, and she died shortly afterwards.
At night, the skies of Sabra and Shatila were lit with Israeli military flares. We heard explosions and machine gun noises throughout, and the wounded continued to be brought into Gaza Hospital.
It was especially painful to operate on a little boy who was shot along with 27 members of his family. As the bodies fell on him, he passed out and was mistaken for dead by the murderers. When he awoke, he was in great pain. Years later, he told of how he heard women being rounded up and raped. His physical wounds may have healed, but his emotional scars are still with him today. It took my American colleagues four years to get him out of living in the house where his family was murdered. He was not the only child who suffered in this way.
At dawn on 18 September, 1982, soldiers with machine guns forced the entire international medical volunteer team out of the hospital.
When we were marched into Rue Sabra, we saw groups of old men, women and children rounded up by militia. A frightened, desperate young mother tried to give me her baby, but was forced to take it back. She begged them to spare her baby. They were all subsequently executed, including the mother and baby.
There were dead bodies piled up in the camp alleys and bulldozers destroying camp homes. We had struggled for 72 hours non-stop without food and sleep to save dozens of lives. But within the same 72 hours, at least 3,000 were killed.
I was 33 years old then. I grew up a Zionist Christian and never knew Palestinians existed until I stepped foot in Sabra and Shatila. I knew then that it was my human responsibility never to walk away from this horrendous injustice. I also realised that I must speak up on behalf of the victims. The dead could not speak up, and the survivors needed my voice.
After testifying to five Commissions of Inquiry on Sabra and Shatila, including travelling to Israel with Ellen Siegel to give evidence to the Israeli Kahan Commission of Inquiry into the conduct of the Israeli Army in Sabra and Shatila, I returned to the UK. The Palestinians in Lebanon continued to be destitute, homeless and hungry. Justice seemed not to be in sight. The situation was dire for them, and indeed, they continued to suffer and become more desperate. Children were born and grew up in the long, dark shadow of the massacre, and there was no hope of returning to Palestine. Could we make their lives just a little bit easier?
Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) was founded in the aftermath of the Sabra and Shatila massacre, under those circumstances. We wanted to support the Palestinians in any small way that we could. The founders of MAP formed the organisation so that the horrors of the massacre could be turned into a bridge – a positive channel of friendship and solidarity between people in the UK and the Palestinians – not only in Lebanon, but also in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and in the diaspora.
Since then, MAP has not only worked with the Palestinians in Lebanon, but also in Gaza and the West Bank. The existence of MAP is also our way to let them know we will never forsake or forget them. What MAP is doing is minuscule, a drop in the ocean, but we are part of the tide moving towards justice for the Palestinians.
As for me, I count myself privileged and honoured to be able to journey alongside the Palestinians, to be accepted as their family. Whether in Shatila, in Gaza, onboard the Freedom Flotilla Al-Awda to Gaza, in Israeli prison or being deported, I want my life to be an acceptable tribute to the Palestinians. They welcomed me into their broken lives and homes and made me one of their own, offering me Arabic coffee in the midst of the rubble they call home. For this, I will thank God every day of my life, until death do us part.
Fifteen years ago, the Israeli authorities imposed a severe blockade on the Gaza Strip’s population of more than 2, 200,000 people in a geographical area of just 360 km.
Despite the demands of the international community and legal institutions for Israel to lift its comprehensive siege on the Gaza Strip, the former continues its collective punishment against the residents of Gaza. This has led to the deterioration of the humanitarian situation, whose repercussions have affected various sectors including the economic, agricultural, water, electricity, health care and education.
On the ground, the Israeli occupation absolutely controls the Gaza Strip’s crossings, especially the Karim Abu Salim commercial crossing, which is the only crossing specialised in importing and exporting. Accordingly, the occupation carries out inhumane extortion and restrictions against the citizens, as it prevents entry to many of the life necessities on the pretext that they have dual use, in addition to its impulsive closures and openings of the crossing.
In recent months, the Israeli occupation closed the Karim Abu Salim crossing completely during its recent aggression on the Gaza Strip, from 10 – 21 May of this year. After the aggression, the Israeli authorities deliberately reduced the volume of imports, as statistics indicated. The relevant authorities indicated that more than 650 trucks used to arrive daily at the Gaza Strip before the last aggression.
On the other hand, no more than 130 trucks per day are allowed to enter after the aggression. This has exacerbated the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip to the highest levels, especially since the occupation had deliberately caused complete damage to more than 200 industrial and commercial facilities during the onslaught.
Thousands of Palestinian families lost their homes as a result of the direct Israeli bombing of safe houses, and since the occupation prevents building materials from entering and obstructs reconstruction, the crisis lies not only in sheltering thousands of displaced families but also in directly prohibiting more than 30 professions that can stimulate the economy and alleviate the poverty and unemployment crises.
Additionally, the Israeli occupation intended in its recent aggression to target agricultural lands, hence the sector incurred heavy losses, as the statistics of the Ministry of Agriculture confirmed. More than 36,000 dunums of agricultural lands and greenhouses were directly damaged, in addition to extensive damage caused to dozens of poultry, animal and fish farms.
Although the figure of $200 million announced by the Ministry of Agriculture as direct losses as a result of the recent aggression is indeed of huge financial value, the policy of collective punishment pursued by the Israeli authorities towards the residents of Gaza is actually the most devastating.
After the last aggression ended, the Israeli occupation prevented exporting through the Karim Abu Salim crossing for more than 111 days, thus depriving citizens of promoting household furniture and clothing products as well as the export of their agricultural products, which constitute 90 per cent of exports from the Gaza Strip.
All told, Israel’s blockade on the Gaza Strip has exacerbated the economic and humanitarian crisis in the enclave and created countless problems. The unemployment rate, according to official statistics has reached 67 per cent while the poverty rate has exceeded 70 per cent. Food insecurity has hit 68.2 per cent of the total population, according to United Nations reports.
The continued suffering of the Palestinians in this way compels the international community to play its mandated role, to act urgently and effectively, in order to stop the escalating Israeli violations against the Palestinian people. Immediate and unconditional action is needed to end the oppressive siege as it constitutes a form of collective punishment of the civilian population and only further exacerbates Gaza’s economic and humanitarian crises.
Al-Aqsa Brigades commander, the captive Fatah leader Zakaria al-Zubaidi, appears again after he successfully escaped from maximum-security Gilboa prison with five other prisoners. This break is the first of its kind in the history of the Israeli occupation.
Before his arrest in 2019, Al-Zubaidi was among the most powerful figures in Jenin and was a prominent advocate for the continuation of the uprising. He is considered one of the most notable leaders of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs of the Fatah movement. He is a former member of the movement’s revolutionary council, elected on December 4, 2016.
Al-Zubaidi returned to armed resistance in late 2001, after the martyrdom of a friend. Some months later his mother was martyred just before the invasion of Jenin on March 3, 2002. The occupation forces targeted her while she was standing at the window of a house. His brother Taha was martyred later as well, and their house was demolished 3 times.
In one of the attempts in 2004, the occupation forces assassinated five Palestinians, including a 14-year-old child, after targeting a vehicle suspected of carrying Al-Zubaidi.
In another attempt, the occupation forces stormed the Jenin refugee camp, martyring 9 Palestinians, as Al-Zubaidi escaped. In 2006, the occupation forces tried to arrest Al-Zubaidi and ailed after being caught in a firefight.
On July 15, 2007, “Israel” announced the release of an amnesty for Al-Aqsa Brigades militants, including Al-Zubaidi. In an interview on April 4, 2008, Al-Zubaidi said that general amnesty did not include him, so he continued to reside inside one of the security services headquarters in Jenin.
On December 29, 2011, the occupation officially canceled the amnesty for Al-Zubaidi, despite his assertion that he had not violated any of its conditions. Palestinian security officials then asked him to surrender himself for fear of an Israeli arrest.
On January 27, 2019, occupation forces arrested Al-Zubaidi and lawyer Tariq Barghouth after storming the city of Ramallah, claiming that they were involved in new incitement activities. The occupation court sentenced Al-Zubaidi to life in prison.
Former Shin Bet officer: We always tried to arrest Al-Zubaidi
Former Shin Bet officer Yitzhak Ilan described him as “A street cat… We have always tried to catch him, but he escaped our grasp. Now he has been re-arrested for his involvement in terrorist activities.”
In an interview with Maariv about Al-Zubaidi, Ilan divulged that “Israel sought to lay its hands on Al-Zubaidi when he was wanted by its security services, but it did not succeed.” He added, “He was arrested in the recent days because of his involvement in planning to carry out armed attacks against Israel.”
It is noteworthy that Al-Zubaidi was born in the Jenin refugee camp in 1976. He was an orphan with seven siblings after his father died of an illness. He speaks Hebrew fluently.
Six Palestinian detainees dug a tunnel and made it out of the high-security Israeli prison
By Awad Al-Rujoub
In the early hours of this morning, six Palestinians escaped from Israel’s Gilboa Prison after they dug a tunnel out of the high-security prison.
Five of the prisoners were members of the Islamic Jihad movement, and one was a former commander of Fatah. They are all from the city of Jenin and were all serving life terms. Israeli media said that three of the escapees had previously attempted to escape from Israeli jails.
But who are they?
Zubeidi, 49, from Jenin refugee camp, was a former commander of Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. In 2006, Zubeidi was elected a member of Fatah’s Revolutionary Council. He was detained by Israeli forces in Ramallah on 27 February 2019 and accused of being affiliated with the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. He has not been sentenced to any crime.
Nafaya, from Ya’bad town near Jenin city, was detained by Israeli forces in 2006 before being released in 2015. He was rearrested in 2016 and again in 2020 and accused of membership in Islamic Jihad’s armed wing and involvement in staging attacks against Israeli occupation forces.
Nafaya has not yet received a final sentence.
Yaqoub Qadiri, 39, from Bir Al-Basha village northwest of Jenin city, was wanted by Israeli occupation forces since 2000.
Qadiri stood against the occupation’s massacre in the Jenin refugee camp in 2002. On 18 October 2003, he was detained and handed two life sentences.
In 2014, he along with other detainees attempted to escape from Shatta prison but were unsuccessful.
Kahmaji, 35, from Kafr Dan village near Jenin city, was wanted by Israeli occupation forces since 2003. He was detained on 4 July 2006 and handed two life terms.
Mahmoud Al-Arida, 46, from Arraba town southwest of Jenin city, was first detained in 1992 before being released in 1996.
He was detained again in September 1996 and handed a life sentence after being accused of being a member of Islamic Jihad’s military wing and carrying out attacks against Israeli occupation forces.
Mohammad Al-Arida, 39, from Arraba town, was arrested on 7 January 2002, before being released in March of the same year.
He was rearrested on 16 May 2002 in Ramallah city and handed three life terms.
The legacy of Israel’s 50-year occupation of the Palestinian territories has been systematic human rights violations on a mass scale. One of its most devastating consequences is the impact of Israel’s discriminatory policies on Palestinians’ access to adequate supplies of clean and safe water.
Soon after Israel occupied the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, in June 1967, the Israeli military authorities consolidated complete power over all water resources and water-related infrastructure in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). 50 years on, Israel continues to control and restrict Palestinian access to water in the OPT to a level which neither meets their needs nor constitutes a fair distribution of shared water resources.
In November 1967 the Israeli authorities issued Military Order 158, which stated that Palestinians could not construct any new water installation without first obtaining a permit from the Israeli army. Since then, the extraction of water from any new source or the development of any new water infrastructure would require permits from Israel, which are near impossible to obtain. Palestinians living under Israel’s military occupation continue to suffer the devastating consequences of this order until today. They are unable to drill new water wells, install pumps or deepen existing wells, in addition to being denied access to the Jordan River and fresh water springs. Israel even controls the collection of rain water throughout most of the West Bank, and rainwater harvesting cisterns owned by Palestinian communities are often destroyed by the Israeli army. As a result, some 180 Palestinian communities in rural areas in the occupied West Bank have no access to running water, according to OCHA. Even in towns and villages which are connected to the water network, the taps often run dry.
While restricting Palestinian access to water, Israel has effectively developed its own water infrastructure and water network in the West Bank for the use of its own citizens in Israel and in the settlements – that are illegal under international law. The Israeli state-owned water company Mekorot has systematically sunk wells and tapped springs in the occupied West Bank to supply its population, including those living in illegal settlements with water for domestic, agricultural and industrial purposes. While Mekorot sells some water to Palestinian water utilities, the amount is determined by the Israeli authorities. As a result of continuous restrictions, many Palestinian communities in the West Bank have no choice but to purchase water brought in by trucks at a much high prices ranging from 4 to 10 USD per cubic metre. In some of the poorest communities, water expenses can, at times, make up half of a family’s monthly income.
The Israeli authorities also restrict Palestinians’ access to water by denying or restricting their access to large parts of the West Bank. Many parts of the West Bank have been declared “closed military areas”, which Palestinians may not enter, because they are close to Israeli settlements, close to roads used by Israeli settlers, used for Israeli military training or protected nature reserves.
Israeli settlers living alongside Palestinians in the West Bank – in some cases just a few hundred meters away – face no such restrictions and water shortages, and can enjoy and capitalize on well-irrigated farmlands and swimming pools.
In Gaza, some 90-95 per cent of the water supply is contaminated and unfit for human consumption. Israel does not allow water to be transferred from the West Bank to Gaza, and Gaza’s only fresh water resource, the Coastal Aquifer, is insufficient for the needs of the population and is being increasingly depleted by over-extraction and contaminated by sewage and seawater infiltration.
The resulting disparity in access to water between Israelis and Palestinians is truly staggering. Water consumption by Israelis is at least four times that of Palestinians living in the OPT. Palestinians consume on average 73 litres of water a day per person, which is well below the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommended daily minimum of 100 litres per capita. In many herding communities in the West Bank, the water consumption for thousands of Palestinians is as low as 20 litres per person a day, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). By contrast, an average Israeli consumes approximately 300 litres of water a day.
50 years on, it is time for the Israeli authorities to put an end to policies and practices which discriminate against Palestinians in the OPT and to address their desperate need for water security. The Israeli authorities must lift the restrictions currently in place which deny millions of Palestinians access to sufficient water to meet their personal and domestic needs as well as to enjoy their rights to water, food, health, work and an adequate standard of living.
Devastating toll on communities in the Jordan valley
In September 2017 Amnesty International researchers met with residents of the Jordan Valley and witnessed first-hand the catastrophic impact the water restrictions have had on people’s daily lives.
Ihab Saleh, a squash and cucumber farmer living in Ein al-Beida, a Palestinian village of about 1,600 people located in the northern part of the West Bank, is one of hundreds of thousands of people whose lives and livelihoods have been destroyed by Israeli water restrictions. Over the past 25 years he has seen the local spring gradually dry up after the Israeli company Mekorot drilled two wells near the neighbouring Palestinian community of Bardala, to serve Mehola, an Israeli settlement. The amount of water the Israeli authorities allocate to the village has been decreasing over the years, he says, and has been fully cut off on numerous occasions. Despite an agreement to compensate the Palestinian villages of Bardala and Ein al-Beida, since the mid-1970s, Israel has significantly reduced the amount of water available to both communities.
In addition to the farming villages, many Bedouin communities in the Jordan Valley face severe restrictions as a consequence of Israel’s control of Palestinian natural water resources. Often the land they live on is designated by Israel as a “closed military area”. Not only is their access to water limited, they also live under the constant threat of forced evictions through demolition orders on their homes and properties.
Two families living beside highway 90 near the village of Ein Al-Beida have had their houses and property destroyed twice in the last two years. Most recently, in December 2016, the Israeli army destroyed two home structures and all of the water tanks belonging to the families.
In al-Auja, a village of about 5,200 people, 10 kilometres north of Jericho in the Jordan Valley, the situation is much the same. In 1972, Mekorot sunk a well and established a pumping station, close to the Wadi Auja spring. According to residents, the spring used to provide a plentiful supply of water to the village and surrounding agricultural land via a series of irrigation channels.
Even the Palestinian Authority does not realize that this used to be a centre for agriculture… People are left with no options. In 1967, when they [the Israeli authorities] started taking the water it was like a sickness in a body… slowly the land dried up.
Issa Nijoum speaking to Amnesty International, Al-Auja.
Due to water shortages, farmers in Al-Auja were forced to diversify from their traditional livelihoods, and now grow crops that are less water-intensive and also less profitable. While in the past they grew mainly citrus fruit and were capable of exporting them, they rely now on less water intensive vegetable crops such as zucchini, cucumber and squash, which can sustain a cultivation period of three to four months through the winter season. Many residents of Al-Auja have also been forced to find work in farms located in three neighbouring Israeli settlements, which have unrestricted access to water.
Israeli settlements’ access to water
Qais Nasaran a store owner from Al-Jiftlik, a village with an estimated population of approximately 4,700, located in the northern Jordan Valley, used to farm a small plot of land. After his well dried up, he has been forced to find a new way to make a living. He now runs a grocery store.
The store is located in an old pump house for a well which was sunk in 1966 with permission from the Jordanian authorities who controlled the West Bank at the time. A year later, after Israel occupied the Palestinian territories, the Israeli authorities stopped Qais Nasaran’s family from using it. There was water in the well until 2014 when it finally dried up. Qais explained how, each year, when the well was full, the Israeli military would check to see no one was using it.
Qais still owns a cistern on his land, but cannot always afford to fill it as it costs around 8,000 NIS (approximately 2,278 USD). He buys his water from a landowner in the Jordan Valley.
For Mustafa Al-Farawi, a date farmer from Al-Jiftlik, the situation is similar. The amount of water available from the well on his land has been decreasing steadily over the years.
He explains that, in the 1980’s, the well would provide enough water to irrigate an area of 1,000 acres, and provide water for the animals, as well as supporting the family. Now the majority of water used for his date farm has to be bought and transported with a water tank from a spring 7km away, which is the only spring that can still be accessed by Palestinians.
We have not enough water and no control of it. The Israeli authorities’ tactic is to slowly decrease the water so we have to leave the land.
Mustafa Al-Farawi, Al-Jiftlik
In recent years, Mustafa wanted to sink a new well at a different location that would guarantee more water. He says that an engineer came to check and there was water closer to ground level on another part of the farm’s land. He applied for drilling rights but the Israeli authorities denied the application. Eventually he decided to sink the well anyway without permission, but the Israeli army came and prevented him from doing so. He was told that sinking the well was against Israeli military orders and the construction was halted.
The village of Furush Beit Dajan, in the northern West Bank with a population of about 930, used to be a producer of citrus fruit. From the mid 1990’s, farmers have had to diversify their crops due to insufficient water supplies.
The villagers say that they used to have an abundance of water but in recent years the wells have been supplying less and less. Residents of the village mentioned that the aquifer is being exhausted by Israeli wells used to supply the neighbouring Israeli settlements of Hamra and Mehora. According to Azim Mifleh, a farmer from the village, Israeli wells started pumping in the vicinity of the village in the 1970’s and slowly the local wells lost their efficiency. Since the Oslo Accords signed between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1995, Israel has extracted far in excess of the agreed quantity of water from the Eastern Aquifer.
Azim Mifleh, a farmer and coordinator for the Agricultural Development Association (PARC) from Furush Bei Dajan, says he used to have 800 trees on his land; mostly lemon and grapefruit. Now he only has two trees left next to the house.
The land is occupied and the [Israeli] occupiers should be looking after the people…Israel should be doing what they are supposed to; they have to pay the price for occupying, and act in the best interest of the occupied people.
Azim Mifleh, Furush Beit Dajan
There are five water wells in the vicinity of Furush Beit Dajan village- all are privately owned by Palestinians. According to residents from the village, they have suffered drastic decreases in their output of water due to Israeli wells being sunk in the area to supply the settlement of Hamra, which farms an extensive area of land. The settlement of Hamra has a 100 acre date farm and also harvests water-intensive crops such as bananas and citrus fruits.
The right to water
The human right to water is indispensable for leading a life in human dignity.
UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, General Comment No. 15, para 1
The right to water has been recognized as being derived from the right to an adequate standard of living, and therefore implicitly contained in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and other instruments. The right to water includes availability of sufficient water for personal and domestic uses, physical access within or in the immediate vicinity of each household, affordability, and adequate quality of water. States must prioritize, as part of their immediate obligations, access for everyone to the minimum essential amount of water that is sufficient and safe for personal and domestic uses to prevent disease. States have to adopt the necessary measures directed towards the full realization of the right to water, including by taking positive measures to assist individuals and communities to enjoy the right.
Under international law, Israel, as the occupying power in the OPT, has well defined responsibilities to respect the Palestinians’ human right to water. It must not only refrain from taking actions that violate this right or undermine the Palestinian population’s opportunity to realize the right, but also protect the Palestinian population from interference by third parties in their enjoyment of the right to water, and it must take deliberate, concrete and targeted steps to ensure that this right is fulfilled and fully realized.
Many international organisations and human rights groups have confirmed that Israel imposes a racist — “apartheid” — regime which oppresses the Palestinians. This regime denies them basic rights and exposes them to repeated attacks by illegal Jewish settlers, which increases the tension in the occupied Palestinian territories and within Israeli itself. The Palestinians continue to be beaten, killed and forcibly displaced.
On 9 May, the Israeli authorities tried to prevent thousands of Palestinians living in the 1948-occupied Palestinian territories — they are Israeli citizens — from reaching Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem to commemorate the twenty-seventh night of the holy month Ramadan, which is a sacred night for all Muslims. Mass protests followed, and Zionist settlers did not hesitate to attack the Palestinians with live ammunition and hand grenades. The Israeli government encourages a policy of divide and rule, pitting one ethnic group against another, but in this case the Israeli police arrested more than 500 Palestinians rather than the fully armed and dangerous settlers, not one of whom was detained. If nothing else, this was an indication of the institutionalised racism of the Israeli authorities against its own Palestinian citizens.
Who are the Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel?
Although Zionist terrorists displaced more than 800,000 Palestinians from their homes in 1948, a number of Palestinians remained in the occupied cities of what is now called Israel. According to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), in 2019, the number of Palestinians who reside in the territory occupied in 1948 was estimated at about 2 million, one-fifth of the population of the occupation state. They live mainly in the Galilee, the Negev and the “Triangle”, Arab towns and villages adjacent to the Green (1949 Armistice) Line between Israel and the occupied West Bank.
Forms of racism
Although Palestinians in the 1948-occupied Palestinian territories have Israeli citizenship, they are faced with institutional racism. They are not regarded or treated as equals in any aspect of life. Dozens of laws have been enacted to reinforce this racism, most notably:
The Jewish Nation-State Law, which limits the right to self-determination to Jews alone within the self-styled Jewish state. Muslim and Christian citizens have no such right.
The Israeli Citizenship Law, which states that every Jew becomes an Israeli citizen the instant she or he steps on Israeli soil, no matter where in the world they are from. This law excludes Palestinians from their legitimate right to return to their homeland. Palestinian citizens do not have the same rights as Jewish citizens.
Not only have the Israeli authorities enacted racist laws against the Palestinians, but state officials also issue statements that directly affect the Arab Palestinians and their lives, and incite settlers against them. The number of attacks on Palestinians has increased accordingly.
More than 1,700 Palestinian citizens of Israel have been killed between 2000 and 2020. The Israel occupation authorities have refrained from conducting any investigations, which leads us to ask how the Israeli police can arrest the perpetrators of crimes against Jewish settlers often within 24 hours, while refusing to investigate or even care about crimes committed against the Palestinians, the perpetrators of which are subsequently usually registered as “persons unknown”?
In its report dated 15 March 2017, the UN Social and Economic Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) answered this question, stressing that the Israeli authorities have established an apartheid regime that dominates the entire Palestinian people. The facts and evidence prove beyond reasonable doubt that Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid as defined by international law.
Human Rights Watch also accused Israel of apartheid in its report dated 27 April this year. Indeed, it accused the state of committing two crimes against humanity, by pursuing a policy of apartheid and persecution against the Arab citizens of Israel as well as the inhabitants of the 1967-occupied Palestinian territories.
According to the facts backed up by the UN and other reports, the Israeli authorities practice the ugliest forms of racism against the Palestinian people residing in the 1948-occupied Palestinian territories. This reinforces the continuous tension and increases the chance of violence. The UN and its member states are legally obligated to take urgent action to end all forms of apartheid and take appropriate steps against the guilty party. Racism is at the very heart of Israel; its impunity must end.