Its time to end the Israeli culture of impunity that permitted the Sabra and Shatila massacre to happen 35 years ago
By Nabil Mohamed
On September 16, 1982, following the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, the right-wing Christian Phalange militia stormed the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in West Beirut and began a massacre which ended in the deaths of hundreds, maybe thousands, of mostly Palestinian civilians. I was 19 years old at the time. By chance and by luck I managed to survive. My mother and five younger sisters and brothers; and my uncle, his wife and eight kids did not.
Israel’s invasion began June 6, 1982. After much destruction, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which had defended the camps since its inception, agreed to leave Lebanon in August. They were given American assurances that civilians left behind would be protected. The president-elect of Lebanon, and the leader of the Phalange, was assassinated on September 14th. The Israeli army proceeded to invade and occupy West Beirut.
Israeli troops surrounded the camps to prevent the refugees from leaving and allowed entry of the Phalange, a known enemy of the Palestinians. The Israelis fired flares throughout the night to light up the killing field – thus allowing the militiamen to see their way through the narrow alleys of the camps. The massacre went on for two days. As the bloodbath concluded, Israel supplied the bulldozers to dig mass graves. In 1983, Israel’s investigative Kahan Commission found that Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Defense Minister, bore “personal responsibility“ for the slaughter.
The massacre at Sabra and Shatila was a direct consequence of Israel’s violation of the American-brokered ceasefire and the impunity bestowed on Israel by the US and the international community. This tragic anniversary is a reminder that the international community continues to fail to hold Israel accountable for its violations of international law and to defend the basic human rights of the Palestinian people.
If the international community is obliged to remedy its moral responsibility to the victims of the Sabra and Shatila massacre, by working to end Israel’s occupation and other abuses of Palestinian rights, then the lives of my family members and the others we remember on this 35th year will not have been lost in vain.
Thirty-five years after the massacre, Israel continues to abuse Palestinian rights without consequence and to enable the violence of its proxies, whether it is the Phalange as in the past or today, illegal Israeli settlers living on occupied Palestinian land. Settler attacks on Palestinian property, lands, and persons have terrorised thousands and killed almost entire families, such as last year’s arson attack on a Palestinian home that killed a mother, father, and their 18-month baby. Palestinian complaints filed against settlers go unindicted by Israel. In fact, as documented by Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem, “the [Israeli] military serves the settlers by allowing the attackers to simply walk away”. When they do take action, Israeli soldiers are more likely to support the settlers, often allowing them to continue attacking Palestinians rather than shielding innocent civilians.
And the Israeli military itself continues to commit war crimes with impunity, as evidenced by Israel’s repeated attacks on the tiny besieged Gaza Strip over the past decade, which have killed thousands of innocent Palestinians with disproportionate and indiscriminate force.
The dehumanisation of Palestinians by Israel also continues. It was this same dehumanisation that led Israel to allow vengeful militiamen to enter the Sabra and Shatila camps and that permits Israelis to occupy another people for fifty years and inflict humiliation and injury. That indifference to the fate of the Palestinians does not belong solely to Israel. Israel’s 69 years of dispossession and half-century of military rule is supported by unconditional American military aid and diplomatic backing. International bodies like the UN Security Council have repeatedly made note of Israel’s human rights violations, but done nothing more.
A fourth generation is now growing up in the squalid refugee camps in Lebanon. In Sabra and Shatila, most living spaces consist of two very small rooms: a bedroom, where the entire family sleeps, and a living room of sorts. There is no ventilation, and hardly any electricity. Most families use battery-powered lighting. Drinking tap water is prohibited, as it is full of bacteria and very salty – it actually corrodes pipes. There are poor sanitary conditions. Medications for all illnesses are in short supply. Narrow alleyways – some with sewage running through – wind through the camps. When it rains these small paths become muddy. Electrical wires hang from dwellings. Young men connect and reconnect wires; from time to time, someone is electrocuted. Foul odours emanate from those crowded conditions. Illness is rampant. The Palestinian refugees in Lebanon long to return from exile to the homeland they were expelled from but are not permitted to do so by Israel, simply because they are not Jewish.
If the international community is obliged to remedy its moral responsibility to the victims of the Sabra and Shatila massacre by working to end Israel’s occupation and other abuses of Palestinian rights, then the lives of my family members and the others we remember on this 35th year will not have been lost in vain.
About 700 patient Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails are facing the same fate as Bassam al-Sayeh
By Motasem A Dalloul
In addition to being subject to all forms of physical and verbal torture, the Palestinian prisoners are also subject to medical negligence which ends up with their death inside Israeli jails.
Bassam Al-Sayeh was 47 years old when he died in an Israeli prison on Sunday. His family, rights groups and Palestinian campaigners allege that he died because of maltreatment by the Israeli Prison Service and deliberate medical negligence.
Al-Sayeh was diagnosed with cancer in 2011 and was detained while attending his wife’s court hearing on 8 October 2015. He has complained about maltreatment and medical negligence since the start of his detention. Rights groups called for the Israeli occupation authorities to offer him appropriate treatment and medicines, and for international bodies to put pressure on Israel to make sure that this happened.
Commenting on his death, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club (PPC) said that Al-Sayeh’s health deteriorated in the last two months. It also pointed out that he was suffering from heart and lung disease.
On 29 July, Al-Sayeh was moved to Al-Ramleh Prison clinic, which is called “the slaughterhouse” by Palestinian prisoners. As his condition worsened, he was moved to Assaf Harofeh Medical Centre near Tel Aviv on 12 August, where he was pronounced dead.
“The Israeli occupation authorities bear full responsibility for Al-Sayeh’s murder,” said the PPC. Palestinian prisoners inside Israeli jails, it claimed, are subject to “physical and psychological torture and medical negligence.”
In a detailed chart published on its website, the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said that as of July this year, there were 5,248 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. Al-Sayeh’s case has pushed rights groups to raise the issue of maltreatment and medical negligence affecting many of them, citing frequent complaints from prisoners, lawyers and families.
According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), “[Al-Sayeh’s death] reflects the extent of punitive measures it [Israel] employs against [prisoners], especially in terms of medical neglect and inadequate treatment provided to at least 150 prisoners with chronic and serious illnesses.”
The Centre pointed out that the 47-year-old was the third Palestinian political prisoner to die in an Israeli prison this year, bringing the total since the start of the occupation of the West Bank in 1967 up to 221. Fares Baroud, 51, died on 6 February after spending 28 years in prison. He was pronounced dead, the PCHR explained, just hours after he was admitted to Israel’s Soroka Hospital. “This raised suspicions of deliberate medical negligence.” Baroud suffered stomach, heart and liver pains prior to his death.
After being arrested on 9 June, Nassar Taqatqah, 31, “died while in solitary confinement” just over a month later, on 16 July. Taqatqah was arrested at his home and remained under investigation until his death. His family confirmed that he did not have any health issues — “he was a healthy young man” — when he was taken prisoner by Israeli occupation forces. Family members believe strongly that he must have taken ill in custody and been denied proper medical care.
Claims of medical negligence are not new. Twelve years ago, a Palestinian political prisoner died in his cell in Israel’s Ma’asiyahu Prison on 25 August 2007 due, it is alleged, to medical negligence. Omar Masalma, 23, from the occupied West Bank city of Hebron, was arrested while working illegally in Israel.
He was imprisoned alongside political prisoners but his family, thinking that it would be better for him, asked for him to be taken to Ma’asiyahu in order to be dealt with as an ordinary criminal.
Masalma’s cellmate told his family later on that he had suffered from severe stomach pain and asked to be examined by a doctor. His request was denied and he continued suffering until he could not bear the pain. His cellmate and other prisoners started to knock on their cell doors until Masalma was taken for “treatment”; he returned after five minutes with “a pill”.
“He swallowed this pill, fell asleep, and never woke up again,” his family was told. They insisted that he did not have any health problems prior to his detention. Masalma died just 20 days before completing his 21-month sentence.
Walid Al-Agha from Gaza, who spent 13 years in Israeli prisons and is now an activist for prisoners’ rights, thinks that the pill which was given to Masalma was probably nothing more a painkiller. The Israeli Prison Service, he said, gives painkillers to all prisoners no matter what their ailment is, even if it is something serious like cancer, hypertension or diabetes.
Of course, in several reports and after every such case, the prison service insists that it is offering proper medical care and treatment to all prisoners. The evidence, it claims, is the existence of the clinic in Al-Ramla Prison, the aforementioned “slaughterhouse”.
In all, said Al-Agha, there are around 700 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails in need of serious healthcare. He thinks that they will now be expecting to suffer the same fate as Bassam Al-Sayeh and the other victims of what they all insist is Israel’s deliberate policy of maltreatment and medical negligence. This remains a major cause of death among Palestinian prisoners held by the occupation state.
Past and present, the Palestinians have always shown that they are prepared to pay the ultimate price for justice
By Yvonne Ridley
Instead of keep the issue of Palestine in the minds and hearts of Muslims, Muslims scholars keep silent or encourage normalising ties with Israeli occupation regardless to its oppression.
Palestine polarises people, of that there is no doubt. Those condemning Palestinians usually do so out of their blind loyalty to the concept of the Zionist State. With today’s backdrop of real and alleged anti-Semitism, and the ever pervasive shadow of the Holocaust, it is easy to see why anyone might go along with the black and white narrative that Israel is a force for good, and Palestine is bad.
However, the cold, hard facts present a somewhat different story: Israel was founded on land stolen from the Palestinians after the indigenous people had been driven from their homes at gunpoint, and anyone who resisted the Zionist militias paid with their lives. The Zionist movement’s quest for a “Jewish state” had been boosted by the British government’s 1917 Balfour Declaration in which a man who had neither the moral nor legal right to do so, glibly promised land in Palestine for a “national home for the Jewish people”.
Such facts cannot be refuted, regardless of some of the insane mutterings of Israeli leaders and their supporters. Former Prime Minister Golda Meir, for example, declared infamously in 1969 that the Palestinians “did not exist”. The UN, of course, established its Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in 1949 specifically for the Palestinians. There are now 5.5 million Palestinian refugees registered with UNRWA; they really do exist.
After the 1967 Six Day War, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 242, which called on Israel to withdraw from the land it had taken during the fighting, essentially the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, as well as the Syrian Golan Heights. Israel ignored the resolution, and thus began the military occupation of those territories that is in place to this day. Resolution 242 is one of around 200 which Israel has ignored since its creation on Palestinian land in 1948. In all that time, the people of Palestine have faced a genocidal onslaught against their land, culture and identity. Israel heads the global league table of regimes which take no notice of, or have broken quite deliberately, international laws and conventions.
Just this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu brazenly announced plans to annexparts of the occupied West Bank if he wins next week’s General Election. A promise to impose Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea will, he hopes, be a vote winner, despite it being a breach of international law. He added that he would also look to apply sovereignty over all of Israel’s illegal settlements in the rest of the occupied West Bank as well as “other areas of importance to our heritage.”
Given such aggressive rhetoric and destructive Israeli policies since 1948, is it any wonder that Palestinians have used their legitimate right to resist the occupation in many different ways, all of them justified by international law? Over the decades, such resistance has been more or less backed by the Arab states, but that is no longer the case. Regimes like those in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt would rather extend the hand of friendship to Israel, and are increasingly open about this.
You would think that such “normalisation” of relations with the occupying state of Israel would be condemned by the most learned Islamic scholars, but those who enjoy the patronage of Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Cairo are silent. It seems as if these “scholars for dollars”, who are supposed to interpret Islam’s doctrines and laws without fear or favour, have sold out their spiritual and intellectual obligations to the detriment of the land of Palestine and its people. Have such scholars forgotten that Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem is the third holiest site in Islam; the scene of Prophet Muhammad’s miraculous ascension to the heavens; and the Muslims’ first Qiblah, towards which they turned when praying before it was switched by Revelation to the Kaaba in Makkah?
I was reminded of such scholars’ hollow words when watching an interview on France 24 which was circulated on social networks. US-born Sheikh Hamza Yusuf was attending the Forum for Promoting Peace in Islamic Societies in Abu Dhabi. The UAE often hosts Sheikh Hamza, where he is said to be much favoured by the ruling family. In this interview about Palestine, he gives not one word of comfort or sympathy to the Palestinians.
“If Palestinians leave violence,” said the scholar, “and instead said, ‘We are weak and helpless, help us,’ by God, much of the world will sympathise with them. But when they strike with petty weapons against powerful weapons, it destroys everything. Then people will think Palestinians initiated the assault. This is the world’s perception now.”
I watched this interview several times and there was not one crumb of comfort or support for a people who have been dispossessed and displaced, and faced all kinds of oppression, for more than 70 years. Even if it was in the Palestinians’ nature to say “we are weak and helpless” does Sheikh Hamza really think that they would have survived all this time while demanding with great resolution their legitimate right to return to their land?
Without being critical of them in any way, I would call the Rohingya weak and helpless, and look what has happened to them; more than 750,000 have been ethnically cleansed and live in desperate conditions in neighbouring Bangladesh.
Equally as weak and helpless are the people in Indian-occupied Kashmir who have been under a brutal lockdown imposed by the Indian military for more than a month now. The situation is still nowhere near being resolved by the United Nations. The world has not rushed to their aid simply because they are helpless and have right on their side.
So who or what motivated Sheikh Hamza in this interview? Granted, he admitted at the end that, “I cannot judge the Palestinians because I am not in their situation, perhaps the situation has driven some of them mad, it is a tough condition.” Sadly, his views are either endorsed or echoed by half a dozen other US-based scholars.
Political cowardice appears to be the defining feature of some learned Ulema and their institutions, which promote a theology of obedience rather than standing up for what is right and legitimate resistance. Enjoying the financial largesse of their patrons, they opt to ignore the thousands of political prisoners held in dungeons from Cairo through Riyadh to the UAE. Silenced by fear, apathy or greed — I’m not sure which — from East to West these scholars have long forgotten what binds Muslims together around the world.
Funded by some Arab rulers, these spiritual leaders are essentially neutralising the Muslim faithful. If Hamza Yusuf is right about the Palestinians being “driven mad” then little wonder. Could it be because someone so learned assesses their situation and basically tells them to go down on their knees to their oppressors led by a Prime Minister who told the world just a few days ago that he is determined to take the rest of their land?
Yes, it would be easier for all concerned if the Palestinians didn’t exist, or if they abandoned their legitimate rights and handed over control of their future to Israel and America. If the Palestinians had gone quietly, they would now be living in Argentina and Chile according to crackpot planssuggested by the Bush Administration. Condoleezza Rice, the then Secretary of State of George W Bush, wanted to send five million Palestinian refugees to South America rather than allow them to return to their former homes in what is now Israel and the occupied territories. The astonishing proposal was raised in a June 2008 meeting with US, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in Berlin.
Moreover, if not for the heroic resistance of the Palestinians, no doubt the Gulf States would today be enjoying open trade and diplomatic relations with Israel. According to an article inMEMO last month, some are already ignoring trade boycotts and doing business under the table. The UAE, for example, has signed a deal to buy sophisticated spy planes from Israel. The deal, first mooted ten years ago, is said to be worth $3 billion and was brokered through Israeli businessman Mate Kochavi. The UAE has already received one of the aircraft.
Relations between Tel Aviv and Riyadh have also thawed, judging from an interview by Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman with The Atlantic Magazine in spring last year: “There are a lot of interests we share with Israel and if there is peace, there would be a lot of interest between Israel and the [Gulf Cooperation Council].” This is quite a departure for the Kingdom. Back in 1947, the government of Saudi Arabia was among the first to oppose the creation of the state of Israel, voting against the UN Partition Plan. As the Custodians of the two Holy Mosques (in Makkah and Madinah), the Saudi Kings have always positioned themselves as the leaders of the Muslim world and supporters of the Palestinian cause.
However, under the latest regime in Riyadh, there are well documented reports indicating extensive behind-the-scenes diplomatic and intelligence cooperation with the Zionist State. During the Warsaw Mideast Summit in February, Netanyahu’s office deliberately leaked a video of a closed session in which the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates spoke out in defence of Israel’s right to exist and defend itself. One of them said that confronting Iran is more pressing than solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
These are the same men who demand complete obedience around the Muslim world and use Islamic scholars at home and abroad to enforce this. Their “scholars for dollars” and their organisations are being paid to stifle discussion among the masses and prevent talk of political and institutional oppression.
It could be argued that those in the pay and sway of petrodollars are the ones who are really weak and helpless, and deserving of our pity. To their eternal credit, the Palestinians’ cause has become a global concern because of, not despite, their resilience and resistance over eight decades. Thanks to their refusal to become eternal victims, they are demanding the right to return to their ancestral homes from which they were expelled in 1948 when Zionist militias ethnically cleansed 750,000 Palestinian men, women and children and wiped more than 500 towns and villages off the map.
It took great courage to confront the oppressors then, and it takes great courage to stand up to the Israeli army snipers who fire at protesters taking part in the Great March of Return every Friday since March last year. Past and present, the Palestinians have always shown that they are prepared to pay the ultimate price for justice. That must be an alien concept for those “scholars for dollars” whose silence on such matters, apparently, can be bought so cheaply.
Israeli forces demolish a restaurant belongs to Palestinians in the West Bank on 26 August 2019
By Asa Winstanley
The liberal Zionist “two state solution” supporters have been out in force, tweeting about how they “condemn” and are “concerned” about Benjamin Netanyahu and his plan to annex as much as a third of the occupied West Bank. With Israel’s latest General Election coming up next week, on Tuesday Netanyahu detailed his landmark plan to formally declare a huge swathe of the occupied Palestinian territory a part of the present day state of Israel, should voters give him the mandate.
Netanyahu has talked up the possibility of annexing large parts of the West Bank before, but this is his most detailed plan to date. The map he unveiled at a press conference on Tuesday showed the entire Jordan Valley annexed to Israel. The blue swathe is a declaration of intent, killing the prospect of a Palestinian state in less than 22 per cent of historic Palestine that the West Bank already represents.
The Jordan Valley is the West Bank’s nominal border with the state of Jordan. Cutting it off like this means that any “Palestinian state” in the West Bank will be entirely surrounded by Israel. That would not be a state, but a Bantustan, like the puppet Black statelets that the South African apartheid regime held up as a pretence of “democracy” and Black self-rule.
In truth, the situation in the West Bank has for decades already been a Bantustan. The entire purpose of the Oslo Accords was to employ a Palestinian subcontractor for Israel’s occupation; step forward the Palestinian Authority.
The transit crossing points in the Jordan Valley have been entirely controlled by Israel alone since 1967, and remain so until today. This newest annexation plan represents a formal recognition by Israeli law of that reality. It also represents the newest stage in Israel’s decades-long colonisation of Palestinian lands.
In typically racist fashion, Netanyahu boasted that “not a single Palestinian” would be annexed to Israel as part of his plan. The primary colonisation goal of the Zionist movement has always been “maximum amount of Palestinian land, minimum number of Palestinians”.
However, any analysis of Netanyahu’s map comparing it with credible population figures in the Palestinian land affected by his plan show that his claim is a complete lie in any case. One conservative Israeli analysis of the map concluded that 6,000 Palestinians in isolated villages in the Jordan Valley will be affected. Their fate is unknown, but the annexation will make them even more vulnerable to Israeli expulsion and displacement than they already are. An analysis by Israeli group Peace Now, though, shows that the plan will leave more than 44,000 Jordan Valley Palestinians living in isolated areas, effectively living inside “Israel”, but permanently deprived of citizenship or voting rights.
The conservative analysis, by The Times of Israel, excludes the large population of Jericho, a historic Palestinian city which was shown on Netanyahu’s map as an orange island surrounded by a sea of Israeli blue annexation. The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics estimates the population of the entire Jericho local authority region (including the city) to be more than 51,000 Palestinians.
Comparing the map to one prepared by the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Jerusalem (page 13) shows that Netanyahu’s proposed Jordan Valley annexation zone passes through regions of the West Bank where as many as 50,000 Palestinians live in Area C (non-urban areas designated under the Oslo Accords). It’s hard to tell exactly how many of these people will be affected by the annexation plan, as the map does not recognise the Palestinian Authority’s local government regions.
Moreover, almost nobody in Israel is talking about the possibility of granting Palestinians any basic human or political rights, especially the right to vote. Netanyahu’s boast about how not a single Palestinian is supposedly annexed by his plan is a declaration of intent to continue denying them the same democratic rights that Jewish settlers already enjoy.
For years, all credible population figures have pointed to the fact that Israeli Jews are no longer a demographic majority in historic Palestine, and may well already be a narrow minority. The Jewish majority was always artificial in any case, violently gerrymandered from 1947 onwards by expelling most of the indigenous people from the country, and denying their internationally recognised right to return to their homes ever since. As such, a true democracy implementing a system of one person, one vote, would mean that a future Palestinian majority would simply vote for the return of Palestine, and the return of their relatives from violently enforced exile.
Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq has called for international sanctions on Israel in response to Netanyahu’s latest annexation threats. It warned “that the international community’s failure to hold Israel to account for previous illegal acts of annexation in Jerusalem and the occupied Syrian Golan, has granted Israel a carte blanche to continue its belligerent occupation and colonialist annexationist expansion, unconstrained.”
European powers make a big show of expressing toothless “concerns” about such Israeli plans, but they continue to endorse them tacitly nonetheless by taking precisely zero enforcement action. Supposedly left-wing Zionist organisations in Britain are also clutching their pearls at the plan. The Jewish Labour Movement, for example, tweeted that it “unequivocally condemn[ed]” the plan. This is pure sophistry, and a PR move designed to dampen down the increasingly critical reception that the JLM has within the Labour Party grassroots.
The Netanyahu plan is, in fact, if anything a more moderate version of the infamous Allon Plan of 1967, which would have annexed an even larger swathe of land along the Jordan Valley, as well as the entire central region of the West Bank, splitting it in half. This plan was advocated by Yigal Allon, a former general (a leader of the Nakba’s ethnic cleansing operations starting from 1947) and then a minister in the Israeli government led by the party of the “Labor Zionist” movement at the time, the Labor Alignment. That the JLM should be condemning the plan of their own ideological predecessor is a sign that Netanyahu’s move actually has its origins in the dreams and practices of the “Labor Zionist” movement. It is, in short, actually a liberal Zionist dream.
Israeli occupation has never stopped trying to evacuate historical Palestinian from its indigenous residents because any single Palestinian in Palestine poses danger on the state of Israel multiple times more those in diaspora.
Since the 1948 Nakba when Israel was created in the historic land of Palestine, which resulted in the ethnic cleansing of more than 700,000 Palestinians from their homeland, successive Israeli governments have continued to propose political and demographic plans for the displacement of more Palestinians from the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and from within Israel itself. This is all with the aim of creating an ethnically pure “Jewish state” emptied of its indigenous population.
Although the majority of these plans were destined to fail, this hasn’t deterred Israel. A few days ago, another plan was unveiled which seeks to encourage Palestinians to leave the Gaza Strip. Israel will open its airports to facilitate this migration and make other travel arrangements to whichever countries are willing to host them. A senior Israeli official stressed that this matter was proposed several times in cabinet meetings, and the government has tried to convince some countries to host Palestinians, but without any success.
Palestinian and Israeli reactions suggested that this is related to the US “deal of the century”. If it is, why did Israel reveal the details now, and which countries have been approached to take Palestinians from Gaza? There are also questions about whether this would be considered as a resettlement of Palestinian refugees, or “merely” emptying Gaza of its inhabitants. What is Hamas’s position on this, and the PA’s in Ramallah? Indeed, what do ordinary Palestinians think about it.
According to Israel’s Minister of Public Security, Gilad Erdan, the government has discussed the displacement of Palestinians from Gaza on five occasions, but it was felt to be unfeasible. The leader of the New Right party and former Justice Minister, Ayelet Shaked, believes that such displacement is at the top of Israeli interests. She has called for anyone who wants to migrate from Gaza to be allowed to do so. Apparently, this is because she believes that Gaza is overpopulated, so it is time for Israel to wake up and let people go.
The Palestinian factions have condemned this displacement policy as very dangerous. It should be seen, they insist, in the context of the eventual “transfer” of all Palestinians from their homeland. The theory is that Israel, with US support, wants Palestinians to migrate and obtain other nationalities so that they forget about their rights as Palestinians. It is yet more ethnic cleansing by any other name.
Like its predecessors, this Israeli plan will also fail, because Palestinian perseverance will continue to come to the fore, despite the unjust siege and Israel’s shoot-to-kill policy, ongoing displacement and house demolitions. They will remain steadfast until they achieve liberation and fulfil their legitimate right of return.
The real danger to the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip is the repetition of the mass expulsion that occurred in 1948, but this can only be achieved through a comprehensive war against Palestinian civilians in the territory, under the diplomatic, political and military cover of the United States and some Arab countries. This would make the Rafah Border Crossing the main route to safety in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Israel’s thinking is that the Palestinians can leave Gaza for the Sinai, ending at stroke any chance of a Palestinian state, or even quasi-state, coming into being and posing a strategic threat.
It is a fact that the Zionist ideologues who planned and created the state of Israel always knew that they would have to displace the indigenous population in Palestine. The first Prime Minister of Israel, David Ben Gurion, believed that the Arabs shouldn’t be there, as did American Jews. He made it his objective to ensure that the Palestinians live in an Arab country.
Moreover, Israel’s Operation Yohanan (1949-1953) intended to provide farms for “Arab Israelis” in Argentina, specifically Christians living in the Galilee. This was followed by a plan to provide jobs for Palestinians in Europe, which needed workers after World War Two. It received support under the US Marshall Plan, but neither plan was implemented and both had disappeared by the mid-1950s.
Similar proposals emerged after the 1967 Six Day War, geared towards the Palestinians in the newly-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. In 1968, the Israeli Foreign Ministry prepared a plan whereby the movement of Palestinians from Gaza to the West Bank, and some to Jordan, would be facilitated, leading to their onward migration to other parts of the Arab world. The intention was for this to appear to be spontaneous, rather than on the orders of Israel. The “El Arish Plan” included the development of projects such as water desalination plants, energy production and factories that would provide jobs for the Palestinians who would move to the Egyptian-Sinai town, but they did not leave.
Also in 1968, a US Congressional Committee considered a plan for the voluntary displacement of 200,000 Palestinians from Gaza to a number of countries, including West Germany, Argentina, Paraguay, New Zealand, Brazil, Australia, Canada and the United States. The plan was never put into effect, not only because the Palestinians did not agree to emigrate, but also because those countries did not agree to host them.
In the same year, the Israeli army collected thousands of Palestinian youths and transported them in hundreds of buses to the Egyptian side of the Suez Canal; Israel occupied the Sinai side from 1967 to 1982. The Israelis then offered money to anyone who would leave Gaza. In 1970, Israeli General Ariel Sharon wanted to empty Gaza of its inhabitants by moving them to El Arish so that he could put an end to the resistance and solve the overpopulation problem in the coastal enclave, where 400,000 Palestinians were then living.
As part of its efforts to encourage migration, Israel claims that 35,000 Palestinians left Gaza last year, although this did not make a dent in the population. That is hardly surprising, given that there were more than 57,000 births in the territory in 2018.
The idea of the “transfer” of Palestinians from their homeland is entirely consistent with the racist Jewish Nation State Law. Gaza may be the focus at the moment, but Israel’s eye is also on the displacement of the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem. Its expansion of illegal Jewish settlements is all part of this plan.
Removing the Palestinians from the Gaza Strip makes sense from Israel’s colonial-expansionist perspective, but it will require close coordination with major countries such as the US, Russia and the members of the EU, as well as places closer to home like Egypt. It is ironic that the proposals put forward by the likes of Rabbi Meir Kahane in the 1970s and 1980s, for which he was banned by Israel for being too extreme, are now being discussed in mainstream political circles.
Israel is aware that Western countries have enough problems with migrants on their borders and do not want to add to these. Why do Israeli politicians, therefore, believe that they will now agree to host tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees as part of a new plan to help the state of Israel? Whatever the answer is, rest assured that Israel is still planning to displace even more Palestinians than it has already.
Benny Gantz, chief of the Israeli army during Israel’s 2014 massacre in Gaza, is borrowing apartheid South Africa’s talking points to boost his election campaign.
Gantz heads the allegedly center-left opposition coalition hoping to unseat Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel’s elections later this month.
In a campaign attack on Israel’s prime minister, Monday, Gantz declared that, unlike Netanyahu, he would have allowed US congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib to visit Israel and the occupied territories.
Had they visited, Gantz claimed, they would have seen “with their own eyes” that “the best place to be an Arab in the Middle East is in Israel … and the second best place to be an Arab in the Middle East is the West Bank.”
Gantz’s contention that Israeli military occupation and colonization is a blessing to Palestinians is a direct echo of South Africa’s apartheid rulers who insisted that their brutal white supremacist regime was good for Black people.
Writer Ben White pointed to a 1977 New York Times interview with John Vorster, who was then prime minister of South Africa’s racist regime.
“The standard of living of the South African Black is two to five times higher than that of any Black country in Africa,” Vorster claimed.
This assertion was a staple of South African propaganda as the global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement gained strength during the 1980s.
It is not surprising, as colonialists always claim that their violent rule is a gift to the people they exploit and oppress.
The echoes of apartheid South Africa’s propaganda in Israel’s current efforts are strong:
Apartheid advertising, Israel 2019 vs South Africa 1987
And similar to the South African racists who tried to fight the isolation of their regime, Gantz declared that “everybody who cooperates with BDS is operating against the state of Israel.”
The former army chief also claimed that BDS – the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement for Palestinian rights – is a “form of anti-Semitism.”
It is in fact an anti-racist movement rooted in international law and universal rights.
Gantz’s statements show that despite efforts to whitewash him as an alternative, he represents nothing different from Netanyahu.
Gantz faces war crimes lawsuit
Israel’s re-do election falls on 17 September.
That same day there will be a court hearing in the Netherlands in Ismail Ziada’s lawsuit against Benny Gantz.
Ziada, a Palestinian-Dutch citizen, is suing Gantz and another Israeli commander for the 20 July 2014 attack on his family’s home in Gaza’s al-Bureij refugee camp.
The Israeli bombing killed seven people – Ismail Ziada’s 70-year-old mother Muftia Ziada, three brothers, a sister-in-law, a 12-year-old nephew and a friend who was visiting.
The 2014 assault on Gaza commanded by Gantz killed 2,200 Palestinians, including 550 children.
Far from being ashamed of his crimes, Gantz actually ran ads in Israel’s April election – which failed to produce a clear winner, thus precipitating this September’s poll – boasting about how many Palestinians he slaughtered in 2014.
EU “dialogue” with a war criminal
Gantz’s blood-soaked record and advocacy of colonialism also provide a yardstick by which to measure the European Union’s alleged support for human rights.
Instead of standing with Gantz’s victims and their campaign for justice, the EU is boosting the perpetrator.
Just last month, Emanuele Giaufret, the EU ambassador in Tel Aviv, and his European colleagues met for a cozy chat with Gantz.
“We look forward to continuing the dialogue,” Giaufret tweeted.
It goes to show that there is no level of racism and crime that an Israeli leader can commit against Palestinians that will disqualify them from the EU’s warm embrace.
Let’s hope Dutch judges have the sense of justice, decency and courage that most of Europe’s diplomats and politicians so abjectly lack.
“The UK has, for the first time, officially invited the Israeli government to participate in the world’s largest arms fair at DSEI, set to take place in London, this month. I’m calling on UK citizens to make their voices heard.” – Amal Samouni
For many people who have lived a life free from war and military occupation, the global arms trade may seem like a distant or even irrelevant issue. But, for Palestinians like me, it is an inescapable and painful reality.
I am a 19-year-old who has spent my entire childhood in the Gaza Strip, a place sometimes described as the world’s “largest open air prison”. This is because of the crippling military blockade enforced on the region by the Israeli state, which denies us access to basic rights and resources every single day.
Not only this, but Gaza has been the target of a number of major bombing assaults by Israeli forces during my lifetime. The attack during “Operation Cast Lead” took place over 22 days, in 2008-9, when I was just 10 years old, and changed my life forever.
In the midst of the bombings on 4 January, 2009, Israeli forces stormed my family home, ordered my father out, and shot and killed him at our front door. Then, they set fire to our home and starting shooting at the rest of us, injuring my four-year-old brother Ahmed and two other children. Next, over 100 extended family members were rounded up and forced into the house of my uncle Wa’el al-Samouni, where we stayed for a day and a half, with only the food or water that was in the house.
It was there where my little brother succumbed to his injuries, as none of the injured were allowed to leave, and one of my aunts gave birth during the ordeal. A cousin and two of my uncles were bombed and killed while looking for firewood, or standing at the door. The Israeli government denies that it ordered residents to gather in one house.
Finally, Israeli forces bombed the building, killing 23 family members and leaving me trapped under rubble, next to their bodies, for three days. On 7 January, I was somehow found alive. Over 29 members of my extended family were killed over these days, with many others permanently injured. Shrapnel, which I can still feel, has remained lodged in my brain, which, as I grew up, left me to endure nose bleeds, pain in my eyes and ears, and headaches that continue today.
No human being should have to endure this kind of trauma and violence, let alone any child. Yet Operation Cast Lead alone killed 1,400 people, including more than 330 children. My story is just one of thousands of others lived by Palestinians in Gaza -– and the deadly attacks against my people continue to this day.
A decade later, me and my family continue to resist Israel’s brutality and the oppression of our community. Since March of last year, hundreds of thousands have been protesting at the Gaza fence, in a series of protests called the “Great Return March”. We are calling for an end to the siege and for the realisation of our fundamental right, as enshrined in international law, to return to the homes from which the majority of Palestinians have been forcibly displaced.
In response, despite repeated denials that its troops intentionally target civilians, Israel has met our unarmed protests with brutal live fire, killing over 250 and injuring over 27,000. A decade on from Operation Cast Lead, Israeli bullets and bombs are still tearing our community apart.
So, how can any government or organisation that claims to uphold human rights condone these crimes? I would like to put this question, in particular, to the UK government.
The UK has, for the first time, officially invited the Israeli government to the world’s largest arms fair at DSEI, set to take place in London, this month. This is despite my story, thousands of other Palestinian testimonies and even a UN Commission of Inquiry report, earlier this year, which found that Israeli forces had committed grave violations against protesters in Gaza, which, in the words of the report, may have constituted “war crimes or crimes against humanity.”
By welcoming Israeli arms companies which market their weapons as “battle-tested” –- due to them being tested on us Palestinians in Gaza -– the UK government is directly complicit in the Israeli government’s ongoing crimes against us, well-documented by all the major human rights organisations.
But, this is only half the story.
Since the bombing of Gaza, in 2009, Britain has also increased its arms imports and exports to and from Israel. Israel’s arms trade with countries maintains our systematic oppression –- and countries like the UK are directly profiting from it. We are told that the UK’s own policy on arms exports, if applied consistently, would prohibit the sale of arms when there is a risk that they would be used for the abuse of human rights and grave violations of international law.
As such, the UK government is demonstrating a total disregard for Palestinian lives and for the memory of all those murdered by the Israeli state, including my own precious father and brother, whom I lost in front of my eyes, as a child.
I’m calling on UK citizens to show international solidarity with Palestinians by joining hundreds of human rights activists in taking action against the upcoming DSEI arms fair. I also call on the UK government to implement an immediate two-way arms embargo, between the UK and Israel, until it ceases its violations against me and my people.
A commitment to human rights means nothing if it’s simply words on a piece of paper. The UK government must act immediately, to end its complicity with the violent repression of the Palestinian people. Not just in memory of my father, brother and all the other victims of Israel’s regular bombing of our people, but to stop yet more tragedies happening to other families, like it did to ours.
A view of construction works in Ramot, a Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem on 4 October 2018
Earlier this month, the High Planning Committee (HPC) of the Israeli Civil Administration authorised the construction of 2,304 new settlement units, just days after the approval of another 6,000 units in the occupied West Bank. These alarming developments are nothing if not predictable to those following recent events in the region, and the sordid course of US President Donald Trump’s “Deal of the Century”. With Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledging during Israel’s April General Election campaign to annex settlements; US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman giving an approving nod to such a move; the US defunding of UNRWA and unilateral recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital; and with Senior US Advisor Jared Kushner declining to speak of a “two state solution”, the stage is almost set for the worst-case scenario. The inexorable march towards annexation is winding down to its last few strides.
In principle, liberals and centrists tend to oppose annexation, as it would sound the death knell for the two-state solution that they’ve always maintained optimistically is just around the corner. However, despite these developments, “moderates” in the US Democratic Party (and even some “progressives”) have instead rallied around a bipartisan resolution decrying the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement as “…destructive of prospects for progress towards peace.” BDS presumably hampers peace more than the demolition of 70 Palestinian homes that occurred the day before the vote on that resolution in Washington. This latest assault on Palestinian solidarity is entirely consistent with the general “moderate” position: call for Palestinian rights, then obstruct anything that might achieve them.
How do moderates pull off the delicate balance between empathy and enmity to Palestinians? The go to move is to recruit “nuance” as a means of deflection. The blockade of Gaza and seasonal massacres have caused unthinkable suffering to 2 million Palestinians, but what about Hamas rockets? The matrix of control in the West Bank has brought daily human rights violations, crippled the Palestinian economy and denied Palestinians the right to self-determination for decades, but what about the stabbings and terror attacks? After all, Israel-Palestine is “complex”, and moderates protest loudest when an attempt is made to extract something substantive from that complexity. The obvious asymmetry in power and suffering holds no weight on any occasion that the moderate can point to grievances that Israelis might also have, even if those grievances spring directly from the brutalising effects of their country’s apartheid. Hence, in each dimension of the conflict, moderates can conjure some justification (however tenuous) for imagining that the situation is not “black and white” and there is “wrong on both sides”. And if Israel is not responsible for 100 per cent of the injustice in the region, why should they be the sole target of boycotts? Nice, neat, simple.
But there is one dimension where moderates are at a loss: Israel’s illegal settlements. Unlike other Israeli violations of international law, settlements can’t be explained away by vague “security concerns”. Even the most gullible centrist won’t buy the claim that transferring Israeli Jews into the heart of occupied Palestinian land somehow increases their level of security. Nor can moderates countenance Netanyahu’s use of settlements as collective punishment for individual acts of Palestinian violence. Settlements are patently illegal, give rise to the overtly racist “Jew-only” roads, and structure the labyrinth of military checkpoints and roadblocks that Palestinians must navigate daily. The presence of 132 settlements, 113 outposts and 622,000 settlers has made those still speaking of a contiguous and viable Palestinian state, look increasingly out of touch.
There is no semi-plausible “nuance” to find with settlements and so moderates will happily condemn them with no ifs and buts. What they won’t do (or won’t do convincingly), though, is question why they’re being built in the first place and whether it has anything to do with Zionism.
Zionism, like many ideologies, is a disputed term. Zionists will often claim the term simply represents the belief that Jews have the right to self-determination in their historic homeland. Moderates are mostly content to accept this at face value and won’t probe much further. Anti-Zionists and BDS supporters typically identify Zionism with settler-colonialism, an ideology seeking to capture “as much of Palestine, with as few Palestinians there as possible”. We’re at an impasse then. Whether we believe Zionism is a benign nationalism or a dispossessing colonialism should depend on which definition more lucidly brings out the features of Israeli policy and political culture. The settler-colonialism framework accounts for the violent subjugation of indigenous resistance; the second-class citizen status of Palestinians in Israel; the stubborn persistence of the occupation; the historic and ongoing displacement of Palestinians; the aggression towards neighbouring states; and, crucially, the settlement project. By diminishing or distorting them, the “benign nationalism” view can give alternative accounts for most of these aspects of Israeli policy, and the remaining unsavoury elements can be attributed lazily to a right-wing, militaristic government.
However, “benign nationalism” has nothing to say about settlements. It can’t explain why the settlement project began under a Labour government and has continued ever since, regardless of which party or coalition has been in power. It can’t explain why Israel is willing to risk the consternation of the international community and its closest allies to keep subsidising a war crime. It can’t explain why the building of Jew-only settlements was enshrined as a national value in the Nation-State Law. It can’t explain why the homes of Palestinians in Wadi Hummus have been demolished, despite having legitimate building permits issued by the Palestinian Authority, and in breach of previous agreements. It can’t explain why illegally built settlement homes (even by Israel’s dismal standards) are ignored and legalised retroactively, or why Israel now refuses to freeze settlement-building as part of the “peace process”. This unwavering commitment to settlement building coheres perfectly with the settler-colonialism understanding of Zionism, and it has no place whatsoever in the benign nationalism view. Even if moderates insist on an ahistorical analysis of Israel-Palestine, forgetting the Nakba and the clear colonial context in which Zionism emerged, the pieces are all there to put together.
BDS supporters do not want moderates to condemn settlements, they want them to contextualise them. If the settler-colonialism view provides a fuller analysis of the settlements, then it will also prove to be better in understanding all the other dimensions of the conflict. The shameless essentialising and false equivalences that obscure the true nature of the conflict will quickly ring hollow, and observers can understand why the world’s longest ongoing occupation is the world’s longest ongoing occupation. They can understand that every peace initiative till now has stalled, not due to Palestinian intransigence – as if occupied peoples have any interest in forever deferring their liberation – but so the process of creeping annexation can continue. And in this view, we can say that the party that holds all of the cards and bears almost none of the costs, is the legitimate target for boycott. When moderates stop admiring their own talents for finding nuance and look more seriously at the issues, a path towards justice reveals itself.
Israeli officials have reportedly said the state was willing to help Palestinians leave Gaza – provided they don’t come back
A man and a child are pictured at a refugee camp in southern Gaza on 24 June
Israeli officials recently admitted what they have really been aiming to achieve through the inhumane, 13-year siege of Gaza.
The blockade has not been imposed for security reasons, or to punish a specific Palestinian faction. Rather, it is part of an ongoing process of “more land, less Arabs”, initiated by Zionist gangs to expel and displace the indigenous people of Palestine.
According to a report last week in Ynet News, a government source acknowledged that Israel has sought to push Palestinians to leave Gaza, noting that “attempts have been made” to persuade “certain nations” to take in Palestinians, but the attempts failed.
The source revealed that the Israeli government was even willing “to arrange transportation” for Palestinians wishing to leave the Gaza Strip, “at least to one of the airports in the Negev”.
Gilad Erdan, Israel’s public security minister, reportedly confirmed these statements, noting that the Israeli government has discussed encouraging Gaza’s Palestinians to leave the coastal enclave.
The admission by Israeli officials of their goal to push Palestinians to leave Gaza only compounds Israel’s crimes against the two million Palestinian civilians living there
In an interview with Army Radio, Israeli politician Ayelet Shaked criticised measures taken by the Israeli government and army to deny Gaza’s population an exit from the blockaded territory, stressing that she supported their departure. Shaked noted that Gaza has been experiencing a population explosion and extreme overcrowding, and that it was time for Israel to allow them to leave the country.
These statements of sudden empathy for Gaza’s tragic reality ignore several facts: that around two-thirds of Gaza’s Palestinians are refugees, whose grandparents were expelled by Israel from their villages in 1948, and that Gaza’s overpopulation would have been much less damaging if Israel did not further occupy a third of the territory in the so-called “buffer zone”.
The statements also disregard the fact that Gaza’s humanitarian crisis is the result of Israel’s decision to close Gaza’s crossings, restrict the movement of individuals and goods, and prevent real economic development in the territory.
Instead of being implicit, Israel’s strategic goal to empty Palestine of its indigenous population has become explicit.
In 1948 when Israel established its state, Zionist gangs committed more than 70 massacresagainst Palestinians, destroyed more than 530 villages and towns, and killed at least 15,000 Palestinians. More than 750,000 Palestinians were forced to flee, enabling Israel to control 78 percent of Palestinian lands.
Israel’s desire for more land was never curbed, continuing to expand as it occupied the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Egypt’s Sinai and Syria’s Golan Heights in 1967. Israel later seized control of southern Lebanon in 1982.
While Israel was ultimately forced to withdraw from the Sinai and Lebanon’s south, it continues to occupy the Golan Heights and the West Bank while keeping Gaza under blockade. According to data from B’Tselem, Israel established more than 200 illegal settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, between 1967 and 2017, housing 620,000 settlers.
This past March, US President Donald Trump signed a declaration recognising Israel’s annexation of Syria’s Golan Heights. Expressing gratitude for the US bias towards Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu named a settlement in the Golan Heights after Trump.
Israel has revealed its intentions to annex Area C, which comprises 60 percent of the West Bank. It is simultaneously working to get rid of as many Palestinians as it can, including through the Absentee Property Law, which transfers housing owned by Palestinian refugees to the state – which then gives it to Jewish immigrants.
“Demographic threat” is one of the most widely used terms in Israel’s academic and political space, reflecting Israel’s perception of Palestinians as a threat to its character as a Jewish state. In this context, we can understand Israel’s refusal to withdraw from the Jordan Valley, as this would give Palestinians direct physical contact with Jordan, potentially allowing thousands of refugees to return to the West Bank and to disrupt Israel’s settler-colonial presence.
Israel’s strategic objective in Gaza is justified by the logic of the “demographic threat”, whereby Palestinians are seen as a “ticking time bomb”. This perception speaks to Israel’s deeply embedded racism and discrimination against Palestinians.
The admission by Israeli officials of their goal to push Palestinians to leave Gaza only compounds Israel’s crimes against the two million Palestinian civilians living there. The first crime is the collective punishment they have endured for more than a decade; the second is Israel’s intention to displace them yet again.
Israeli police arrested a well-known Palestinian activist in East Jerusalem earlier this week, accusing him of encouraging drivers to run over Israeli officers while he directed traffic in his neighborhood.
Muhammad Abu Hummus, one of the most prominent activists in Issawiya who has been documenting the daily police incursions into the neighborhood over the last several months, was arrested on Sunday after uploading a video of himself guiding a Palestinian driver through a traffic jam.
Abu Hummus was brought before the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on Monday, where police representatives told the judge that he had encouraged the driver to run them over. In the video, Abu Hummus can be heard helping to direct traffic in the middle of Issawiya as police officers look on. When a reluctant Palestinian driver approaches, Abu Hummus can be heard telling her “id’asi,” the Arabic equivalent of “keep driving.” However, to most Jewish Israelis, it sounds similar to the Hebrew word “tidresi,” which means “to run over.” Abu Hummus was arrested four days after the video was uploaded to Facebook.
The court released Abu Hummus a day after his arrest. The police appealed the decision to the Jerusalem District Court, which extended his remand until Tuesday afternoon and ordered him to stay away from the neighborhood for 15 days. Abu Hummus has been sleeping in a gas station at the entrance to Issawiya since.
Despite what the police claim, the video shows that the officers present were not in danger, did not respond directly to Abu Hummus as he spoke in Arabic to the driver, and did not arrest him on the spot. The minutes of his hearings reveal that the police had other motives for the arrest.
“He appears at every disturbance or whenever police officers arrive in Issawiya. He agitates and taunts the police. All the officers know him,” police representative Haitham Trody told the District Court judge on Monday. “We arrested him because he is not a force for good in Issawiya,” said another police representative.
Michal Peleg, an activist with the anti-occupation group Ta’ayush who was present when the video was filmed, said it was just another routine day in Issawiya. “At around 6:30 p.m., young Border Police officers began marching through the neighborhood. We followed them along with Abu Hummus and took photos. When we were on the main street, one of the officers turned around suddenly and without any cause fired a stun grenade at us, which smashed a car windshield.”
She says the police vehicles that enter the neighborhood on a daily basis block Issawiya’s narrow streets, causing major traffic jams and creating chaos.
“Abu Hummus was trying to solve a traffic jam created by the police. The driver was next to us and he signaled her to go ahead so as not to block traffic,” she added.
Peleg has no doubt that the police are looking for any way to stop Abu Hummus. “They want any excuse to arrest him, so someone came up with the idea that the video could help. They have an interest in removing him because he is a source of nonviolent civil resistance and documents what they are doing in the neighborhood.”