Remembering The Sabra And Shatila Massacre 35 Years On

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. 

(Source / 16.09.2019) 


By Ali Abunimah

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:

Michael Bueckert@mbueckert  

Apartheid advertising, Israel 2019 vs South Africa 1987

View image on Twitter
View image on Twitter

4356:45 PM – Aug 24, 2019 · Ottawa, Ontario

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.

(Source / 11.09.2019) 

“I Watched My Father And Brother Killed By Israeli Bombs. For Me, The UK Arms Trade Is Deeply Personal”

10 SEP 3:37 PM

“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.

(Source / 10.09.2019) 

Why ‘Moderates’ Don’t Have A Clue What To Do About Israel’s Settlements

A view of construction works in Ramot, a Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem on 4 October 2018 [Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency]

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.

(Source / 06.09.2019) 

Israeli ban on Tlaib, Omar brought Palestinian cause to spotlight

The two congresswomen were invited by Miftah, a Palestinian NGO chaired by PLO official Hanan Ashrawi. The NGO planned to organise meetings with both Palestinian and Israeli activists and rights groups

By Motasem A Dalloul

US Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar were invited by an unknown PLO group to visit Palestine to stand closely on Israeli crimes, but Israel’s ban on their visit did the job better than the visit.

When Benjamin Netanyahu and three of his cabinet ministers cancelled the visit to Israel of Democratic US Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, he no doubt thought that he had achieved a victory for “the only democracy in the Middle East”. Israel’s Prime Minister said in a statement that his country is a “vibrant and free democracy” and “is open to any visitor and to any criticism.” However, he argued, it is a “norm in other democracies” to prevent the entry of people who are seen to be “harming” such countries.

Netanyahu, though, also made it clear that the real reason for cancelling the Congresswomen’s visit was that they did not plan to meet any Israeli official, either from the ruling party or the opposition. He added that Tlaib and Omar support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which is banned in Israel along with its supporters, although Tlaib pointed out that she would not promote BDS during her visit.

“Sadly,” said Tlaib, “this is not a surprise given the public positions of Prime Minister Netanyahu, who has consistently resisted peace efforts, restricted the freedom of movement of Palestinians, limited public knowledge of the brutal realities of the occupation and aligned himself with Islamophobes like Donald Trump.”

The two Democratic representatives have been critical of Israeli crimes and violations against the Palestinian people for years. With Palestine-born parents, Tlaib has sought to promote the rights and aspirations of the Palestinian people in the occupied territories and diaspora while exposing Israel’s crimes against them. By preventing Tlaib and her colleague from entering Palestine or Israel, Netanyahu probably believed that would be able to put an end to their courageous campaigning.

“When I won [a seat in Congress], it gave the Palestinian people hope that someone will finally speak the truth about the inhumane conditions,” tweeted Tlaib. “I can’t allow the State of Israel to take away that light by humiliating me & use my love for my city to bow down to their oppressive & racist policies.”

The two congresswomen were invited by Miftah, a Palestinian NGO chaired by PLO official Hanan Ashrawi. The NGO planned to organise meetings with both Palestinian and Israeli activists and rights groups.

Miftah described the entry ban as “an assault on the Palestinian people’s right to reach out to decision-makers and other actors from around the world.” The NGO noted that it wanted to facilitate Omar and Tlaib’s “direct contact with the Palestinian people, who are subject to Israel’s cruel regime of colonisation, oppression and land grab.”

If the visit had gone ahead, it would have received modest media coverage and been wrapped up in a couple of days. Netanyahu’s decision, though, has garnered it much wider exposure, and helped to publicise its objectives. Indeed, Miftah has organised several trips for members of the US Congress in the past, but could never have thought that it would one day have AIPAC and other groups in America’s pro-Israel Lobby, as well as Democrats and Republicans in Congress, criticising Israel and thus exposing its sham democracy and fear of the truth.

“We disagree with Reps. Omar and Tlaib’s support for the anti-Israel and anti-peace BDS movement, along with Rep. Tlaib’s calls for a one-state solution,” tweeted AIPAC. “We also believe every member of Congress should be able to visit and experience our democratic ally, Israel, firsthand [sic].” If Tlaib and Omar had been able to make their visit, the leading anti-Palestinian group in the US would never have made such a public rebuke of Israel.

Moreover, the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, described Israel’s ban as a “sign of weakness”. Pelosi, who has been described as having “warm feelings toward Jews and toward Israel,” said: “Israel’s denial of entry to Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar is a sign of weakness, and beneath the dignity of the great State of Israel. The president’s statements about the Congresswomen are a sign of ignorance and disrespect, and beneath the dignity of the Office of the President.”

Having said not so long ago that Tlaib and Omar should “go back” to where they came from, Donald Trump has now praised Israel for not letting Tlaib enter her familial homeland. The irony is probably lost on him.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told the AIPAC conference earlier this year that, “You can be, all at once, completely Jewish, completely pro-Israel and completely American.” He has also been critical of Somali-born Ilhan Omar. Nevertheless, he commented on the ban by pointing out that, “No democratic society should fear an open debate. Many strong supporters of Israel will be deeply disappointed in this decision, which the Israeli government should reverse.”

Many people around the world who support Israel have expressed their criticism of the Israeli ban on Tlaib and Omar, and used the occasion to reveal some of the suffering inflicted on the Palestinians by Israel. A number of Democratic members of the US House of Representatives are considering a statement of no confidence in Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer, and opening an investigation into the conduct of the US Ambassador in Israel, David Friedman, following the ban.

Apart from anything else, Israel’s ban on Tlaib and Omar visiting the country has highlighted the kind of restrictions imposed by the Israeli occupation on the free movement of the Palestinians, not because of alleged “security” reasons, but simply because a Palestinian is a Palestinian, even if elected to the US Congress. Rashida Tlaib now has every right to let the world know — if we didn’t already —that Benjamin Netanyahu is no advocate for peace; she can also use this ban to throw the spotlight on the Palestinian struggle against Israel’s brutal military occupation, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

(Source / 26.08.2019) 

The flame of hatred still burns around Al-Aqsa Mosque

Israeli forces attack Palestinian worshippers in Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque on 11 August 2019 [Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Anadolu Agency]

Israeli forces attack Palestinian worshippers in Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque on 11 August 2019 

By Ahmed Atoun

On the fiftieth anniversary of the infamous act of arson at Al-Aqsa Mosque, when the flames of hatred were ignited and engulfed the Noble Sanctuary, the fire is still burning not only around the mosque, but also in the streets and alleyways of Jerusalem.

Al-Aqsa Mosque and the city of Jerusalem are living through very dangerous times, arguably the most dangerous in their history. The Zionist entity is working hard to eliminate the nature and features of the city through a comprehensive programme of Judaisation. The mentality responsible for this disregards the sacred connection that Muslims and Christians have with the city and works to erase its Arab, Muslim and Christian landmarks.

The Israeli occupation is trying to Judaise the land and city stone by stone; to displace their people by besieging them economically and socially, making them face all kinds of humiliation, harassment and provocation. This includes the demolition of their homes, seizing their property, revoking their residency permits, exiling leaders and elites from Jerusalem, shutting down community organisations, and building ever more illegal settlements and the Apartheid Wall. They have also cracked down on people performing acts of worship and attacked sacred buildings and places.

Neither the living nor the dead have been spared from this campaign. Not even the trees and rocks are spared this daily oppression, abuse and torture of the Jerusalemites.

READ: PA warns of Israel’s plan for spatial division of Al-Aqsa Mosque

When remembering the arson attack on Al-Aqsa, the consequences of which are still with us, we remember that this criminal act provoked several reactions in the Arab, Muslim and international arenas, most notably the creation of the Organisation of Islamic Conference, now known as the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 271, which is binding on UN member states. The resolution condemned the “execrable act of desecration and profanation of the Holy Al-Aqsa Mosque, calls upon Israel scrupulously to observe the provisions of the Geneva Conventions and international law governing military occupation and to refrain from causing any hindrance to the discharge of the established functions of the Supreme Moslem Council of Jerusalem, including any co-operation that Council may desire from countries with predominantly Moslem population and from Moslem communities in relation to its plans for the maintenance and repair of the Islamic Holy Places in Jerusalem.”

The Israeli occupation continues to use all means possible to attack Al-Aqsa Mosque by means of excavations and tunnels intended to undermine the foundations of the buildings and structure. There are also daily intrusions by armed settlers; attempts to impose spatial and temporal divisions within Al-Aqsa; and the adoption of many laws and regulations by the Israelis to damage the Noble Sanctuary. This includes the efforts to take it under the umbrella of Israel’s Ministry of Religious Services, as well as the hateful schemes by the so-called temple groups, which work day and night to demolish Al-Aqsa Mosque and build a temple on its ruins.

Fanatic Jews, under Israeli police protection, are seen as they raid Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound in Jerusalem on 2 June 2019. [Faiz Abu Rmeleh - Anadolu Agency]

When considering all of this and thinking about what Al-Aqsa Mosque means to the Muslim Ummah, there are some serious questions to be asked. Are there really Arab and Muslim nations, for example? Do they know for certain and see with their own eyes that Al-Aqsa Mosque is being desecrated? Are the Arabs and Muslims able to sleep while the free people of Jerusalem are beaten by Israeli soldiers and women’s headscarves are pulled off? Do the nation’s leaders know that Israeli prisons are filled with Jerusalemite children and young girls? Has the OIC managed to stop the acts of vandalism and desecration carried out against Al-Aqsa over the past 50 years, since the organisation’s founding? The bottom line is simple: are there Arab, Muslim and Palestinian plans in place to achieve victory for Jerusalem and the Noble Sanctuary of Al-Aqsa?

READ: Over 1,700 settlers storm the Al-Aqsa mosque

I could go on and on in describing the situation in Jerusalem and the threats to its Islamic and Christian sanctities, especially Al-Aqsa Mosque. For the situation to be normal, Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque must be liberated and returned to the Arab and Muslim fold, under which it thrived for centuries. Until then, all Arab and Muslim leaders and citizens are, at the very least, required to stand in solidarity with Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa and reinforce the steadfastness of our people there. Jerusalem is unlike any other city and Al-Aqsa is unlike any other mosque. They are at the centre of a radiance that never dies, but is bursting with history, religion and civilisation; giving up on either would be to concede a major part of all three. Moreover, it would be a crime against our past, present and future.

(Source / 23.08.2019) 

‘Gazans’ access to medical care is a basic human right’

Cycling4Gaza will travel across four countries to highlight the freedoms enjoyed by many in Europe but denied to Palestinians in the occupied territories 

By Rebecca Stead 

Cycling4Gaza will travel across four countries to highlight the freedoms enjoyed by many in Europe but denied to Palestinians in the occupied territories

In March 2018, Dr Zara Hannoun visited the Gaza Strip. “I can’t even begin to put the experience into words,” she tells MEMO. “From the start, you can see that there is strict restriction of movement on the people in Gaza. There are no real resources; the infrastructure in the cities is completely devastated.”

“You go to the hospitals and see that they’re doing what they can with what they have, but the situation is dire. Coming back I really struggled, it’s hard to just accept what we call reality and yet know what is out there,” she added.

Zara is just one of a team of volunteers who are working to change this reality. Founded in the wake of Israel’s 2008 assault on the already-besieged Gaza Strip, Cycling4Gaza has been raising money for and awareness of the grave humanitarian situation in the Strip for almost a decade.

“My first cycle was in 2011,” Zara explains, “we were meant to do it in Greece but because there were quite a few logistical problems, it was moved to Jordan. It turned out to be a wonderful route, because we were basically cycling from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea and you could see Palestine just across the border.”

“Every cycle is completely different,” she adds, “each one brings a completely different experience, whether the ride is taking place in Europe, the US or the Middle East.”

READ: Israel killed 54 Palestinians in Gaza during first half of 2019

Cycling4Gaza raises money for humanitarian projects in Gaza, working closely with the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF) to provide for the medical needs of Palestinian children, such as travelling abroad for surgery or having access to adequate treatment within the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt).

“We always look for projects that are underfunded or lack support in Gaza,” Zara explains. “Often this includes focusing on mental health care, because this is something that is quite overlooked and still holds a bit of a stigma in Palestinian society,” she adds.

Yet as the Great March of Return – which has seen thousands of Palestinians demonstrate along the Gaza fence to demand the right of return to the homes from which they were forcibly displaced in 1948 – enters its 18th consecutive month, providing emergency medical aid across the Strip has become increasingly important.

As Salwa Abu Wardeh, who is herself the daughter of a Palestinian refugee and now a member of the Cycling4Gaza committee, explains: “There are very limited resources in Gaza and access to these is difficult. The idea of being able to leave Gaza to access medical care is virtually non-existent because of the blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt.”

“The blockade basically eliminates freedom of movement for the population of Gaza, which has a devastating effect on so many areas of life,” she adds.

READ: Gas bombs have become the Israeli weapon to kill ‘great march of return’ protestors

“Because of this, the theme of this year’s ride is freedom,” Salwa’s colleague Dina Dajani explains. Between 27 August and 1 September, some 50 participants will cycle across four countries, starting in Germany before heading through Luxembourg, France and Belgium, before finishing in front of the European Union (EU) Parliament in the Belgian capital Brussels.

“The idea was to demonstrate the lack of freedom of movement that people in Gaza face as opposed to the freedom of movement that is present in the EU,” Dina tells MEMO.

At a time when thousands of refugees and migrants are braving perilous journeys in search of a better life in Europe, the hope is this theme will resonate beyond the Palestinian context.

“A lot of people are at least able to escape difficult situations in order to pursue a better life, but this is something that’s completely impossible for people in Gaza,” Dina emphasises.

READ: EU using Israel drones to track migrant boats in the Med

Asked what difference initiatives like Cycling4Gaza can make, the team tells MEMO it is about sparking a “butterfly effect”, introducing new supporters to the Palestinian cause and exposing already-well-informed followers to fresh information.

“Firstly it’s about the awareness we raise in local communities in the countries in which we’re cycling,” Dina tells me. “We have a big event at the finish line, hand out flyers, and talk to people along the way. It’s one of the reasons we chose cycling, because we can pass through a lot of places in one ride.”

Yet even those taking part in the cycle, many of whom are often well-informed on Palestine, have the opportunity to learn more. “We try to get children who have been treated by the PCRF, in one capacity or another, to join the cycle,” Salwa adds.

“So for example, in 2014, we had one young man called Ahmad Abu Namous who was a recent amputee; he had been shot at close range in the knee and lost the bottom half of his leg. He was fitted with a prosthetic and he cycled 360 kilometres with us in the US that year.”

“I think this really gives everyone, the people we encounter along the way, the cyclists themselves and us as team members an opportunity to get real life, first-hand accounts from people in Gaza.”

Gaza revived: How an Irishman is giving hope to Palestinian amputees

Finishing this year’s ride in Brussels, Cycling4Gaza hopes to highlight the role – large or small – that everyone in the international community can play.

“Landing in front of the EU parliament we’re hoping to say, look, Palestine is still on the map, and the humanitarian situation there is dire,” Salwa stresses.

The situation is getting worse and we need to understand that in order to address it. No one can pretend it’s not happening anymore.

“The international community as a whole has to push for lifting the blockade – that’s the most urgent and desperate situation right now. For us as an organisation, it’s just about being able to create a world where those people who can make a difference are aware that every action counts and to put as much onus as possible on the international community to help lift the siege on Gaza.”

The Cycling4Gaza team concludes: “Ultimately access to food and medicine is a freedom enshrined in international law; it’s a freedom stipulated in the Geneva Convention on Human Rights. So we’re not asking for anything that doesn’t apply to us [in Europe and elsewhere] and shouldn’t apply to everyone in the world.”

“It’s really easy to say ‘my actions aren’t going to make a difference.’ But we just need to take that first step”.

READ: Palestinians in Jerusalem protest EU bias towards Israel

You can follow the Cyling4Gaza team as they ride on MEMO’s social media accounts, or find out more about the initiative here

Cycling4Gaza will travel across four countries to highlight the freedoms enjoyed by many in Europe but denied to Palestinians in the occupied territories [Cycling4Gaza]
Cycling4Gaza will travel across four countries to highlight the freedoms enjoyed by many in Europe but denied to Palestinians in the occupied territories [Cycling4Gaza]
Cycling4Gaza will travel across four countries to highlight the freedoms enjoyed by many in Europe but denied to Palestinians in the occupied territories [Cycling4Gaza]
People participate in Cycling4Gaza -an event that aims to raise awareness and money for Palestinians in need to aid [Cycling4Gaza]
People participate in Cycling4Gaza -an event that aims to raise awareness and money for Palestinians in need to aid [Cycling4Gaza]
Cycling4Gaza will travel across four countries to highlight the freedoms enjoyed by many in Europe but denied to Palestinians in the occupied territories [Cycling4Gaza]
People participate in Cycling4Gaza -an event that aims to raise awareness and money for Palestinians in need to aid [Cycling4Gaza]

(Source / 21.08.2019) 

Are new Palestinian construction permits paving the way for annexation?

Israel’s decision to approve 715 housing units in Palestinian towns could be a token gesture, or preparation for a broader takeover of West Bank land

By Ben White

The recent Israeli security cabinet decision to approve construction permits for Palestinian homes in Area C of the occupied West Bank was somewhat of a rarity, “the first such decision since 2016”.

While the figure of 715 housing units in Palestinian towns sounds positive, thus far no details have been revealed – including for example, whether the plans relate to new construction or the retroactive legalisation of homes built without Israeli-issued permits.

In addition to this lack of clarity, these housing units are a drop in the ocean – according to Peace Now, “it is estimated that there are at least a thousand young Palestinian couples in need of housing in Area C each year”.

From 2009 to 2016, Israeli occupation authorities approved just 66 construction permits for Palestinians in Area C – a mere two percent of total applications. Over the same time period, there were 12,763 housing unit construction starts in Israeli settlements in Area C.

However, while the new construction permits barely scratch the surface of the needs resulting from an intentionally discriminatory system, it is still an unusual development. Why would a hard-right government – in the run up to elections – take such a step?

One vital piece of context is the White House “peace plan”; Haaretz citedunnamed “political sources” who believe the move “could be due to American pressure”. The approvals came ahead of a visit by a US delegation led by White House adviser Jared Kushner, part of a regional tour promoting the plan.

This possibility was a cause for concern for some in the settler movement; two senior leadersdescribed the Palestinian construction permits as “particularly worrying”, given what they described as the Palestinian Authority’s “clear goal of establishing a terrorist state in the heart of the country”.

They needn’t worry. Reports quickly emerged that the Israeli cabinet decision is in fact “part of a policy shift intended to push out the Palestinian Authority’s involvement in planning and construction in the [occupied] territories”, with Haaretz citing “sources familiar with the details”.

Moreover, Transportation Minister and Union of Right-Wing Parties MK Bezalel Smotrich took to Facebook to publish a detailed explanation for the permits.

Affirming that one of the central goals of his political career is “to prevent the establishment of an Arab terror state in the heart of Israel” (referring to the West Bank), Smotrich wrote: “Now, finally … Israel is forming a strategic plan to stop the creation of a Palestinian state.”

According to Smotrich, the cabinet decision marked “the first time” Israel “will make sure that in Area C, there will only be construction for the Arabs who were original residents of the area since 1994 and not Arabs who came later from Areas A and B”.

Palestinian construction then will be allowed “only in places that do not harm the settlement enterprise and security, and do not create territorial contiguity or a de facto Palestinian state”.

That wasn’t all. “For the first time ever,” the minister went on, “the State of Israel will implement its sovereignty over the entire territory and take responsibility for what happens inside it.”

So, there we have it. The permits for Palestinians in Area C are a demonstration of Israeli “sovereignty” – yet another precursor to formal annexation. In this light, a connection between the permits and the Trump administration’s plan takes on a more disturbing – though hardly surprising – dimension, suggestive not of a “concession” to lubricate talks, but of Israeli-US coordination with respect to Area C annexation.

Instructively, in parallel to advancing permits for Palestinians, the Israeli cabinet approved some 6,000 housing units in Israeli settlements; the day after, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared on a visit to the Efrat settlement: “No settlement or settler will be uprooted … What you’re doing here is forever.”

But, whether the Palestinian construction permits – should they ever materialise – are merely a token gesture, or preparation for annexation, these developments highlight the limitations of a purely humanitarian-framed critique of Israeli policies of demolition and displacement.

Israel’s crude “separate and unequal” approach to communities and housing in Area C of the West Bank has quite rightly prompted growing international criticism in recent years, with the likes of Amnesty International condemning Israel’s discriminatory planning regime as “unique globally”.

As Israel moves towards a formalisation of Area C annexation, however, there will be those who argue that such a development will benefit Palestinian residents on the basis that Israel will grant them citizenship, legalise their communities, issue permits, and so on.

Of course, such an argument can be countered on its own terms, including by citing the arguments openly made by the likes of Smotrich that planning policy will continue to prioritise Jewish communities (as, indeed, has always been the case inside the 1967 lines).

However, a much stronger position is to understand Israel’s demolition and displacement in Area C, including those permits it does issue, in the context of a much broader apartheid regime where Palestinians are expelled, fragmented and segregated to serve the primary goal of maintaining a “Jewish state” – and the control of land and demography that such a goal necessitates.

Israel’s discriminatory planning regime is a humanitarian and human rights crisis, but it is not only that – and if opposition to demolitions is expressed purely in such terms, critics make themselves vulnerable to Israeli moves such as a token increase in permits, or even annexation.

Ultimately, as elsewhere across Palestine, Israeli policies can be best understood and confronted as part of a decades-long, settler-colonial project – a framing that retains its relevancy whether we soon see formal annexation of Area C, or a continuation of the status quo.

(Source / 20.08.2019) 

Jewish settlers rule the roost in Israel, but at what cost?

Israeli settlers can be sen after they stormed into Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem on 22 July 2018 [Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency]

By Ramzy Baroud 

Jewish Israeli settlers are on a roll as they rampage across the occupied Palestinian West Bank. While settler violence is part of the daily routine in Palestine, the violence of recent weeks is linked directly to the General Election in Israel, scheduled to be held on 17 September.

The previous election, just four months ago on 9 April, failed to bring about political stability. Although Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu is now the longest-serving Prime Minister in the 71-year history of the country, he was still unable to form a government coalition.

Tarnished by a series of corruption cases involving himself, his family and aides, Netanyahu’s leadership is in an unenviable position. Police investigators are closing in on him, while opportunistic political allies, such as Avigdor Lieberman, are twisting his arm in the hope of exacting future political concessions.

The political crisis in Israel is not the outcome of a resurrected Labor or invigorated central parties, but the failure of the Right (including far-right and ultra-nationalist parties) to articulate a unified political agenda.

READ: PA warns of Israel’s plan for spatial division of Al-Aqsa Mosque 

Illegal Jewish settlers understand well that the future identity of any right-wing government coalition will have a lasting impact on their colonial enterprise. The settlers, however, are not exactly worried, since all major political parties, including that of the Blue and White, the supposedly centrist party of Benjamin Gantz, have made support for Jewish colonies an important part of their election campaigns.

The decisive vote of the Jewish settlers of the West Bank and their backers inside Israel became very clear in the last election. Their power has forced Gantz to adopt an entirely different political approach.

The man who, two days before polling day in April, criticised Netanyahu’s “irresponsible” announcement regarding his intention to annex the West Bank, is now apparently a great supporter of the settlements. According to the Israeli news website Arutz Sheva, Gantz has vowed to continue expanding the settlements “from a strategic point of view and not as a political strategy.”

Considering the shift in Gantz’s perspective regarding the settlements Netanyahu is left with no other option but to up the ante. He is now pushing for complete and irreversible annexation of the West Bank.

Annexing the occupied Palestinian territory is, from Netanyahu’s point of view, a sound political strategy. The Israeli Prime Minister, of course, is oblivious to international law which regards Israel’s military and settler presence as illegal. Neither Netanyahu nor any other Israeli leader, though, has ever cared about international law. All that truly counts as far as Israel is concerned, is that it has Washington’s support, both blind and unconditional.

Israeli settlers gather next to their flag on a rooftop of a house in Bethlehem, in the occupied West Bank on 12 June 2018 [Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images]

According to the Times of Israel, Netanyahu is now officially lobbying for a public statement by US President Donald Trump to back Israel’s annexation of the West Bank. Although the White House refused to comment on the story, and an official in Netanyahu’s office claimed that it was “incorrect”, the Israeli right is on the fast track to make that annexation possible.

Encouraged by US Ambassador David Friedman’s comment that, “Israel has the right to retain some of the West Bank,” more Israeli officials are speaking boldly and openly regarding their intentions to annex the occupied territory. Netanyahu actually hinted at that possibility in August during a visit to the illegal settlement of Beit El. “We come to build. Our hands will reach out and we will deepen our roots in our homeland, in all parts of it,” he said at a ceremony celebrating the expansion of the illegal settlements with another 650 housing units.

Unlike Netanyahu, former Israeli Justice Minister and leader of the newly-formed United Right, Ayelet Shaked, didn’t speak in code. In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, she called for the full annexation of Area C, which constitutes nearly 60 per cent of the West Bank. “We have to apply sovereignty to Judea and Samaria,” insisted Shaked, using Biblical terminology to describe Palestinian land as if that somehow strengthened her case.

Public Security, Strategic Affairs and Information Minister Gilad Erdan, however, wants to go the extra mile. According to Arutz Sheva and the Jerusalem Post, Erdan has called for the annexation of all illegal settlements in the West Bank as well as the ouster of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

READ: French Jews march through Hebron, claiming all West Bank belongs to Israel 

Now situated at the centre of Israeli politics, Jewish settlers are enjoying the spectacle of being courted by all major political parties. Their increased violence against the indigenous Palestinians in the West Bank is a form of political muscle-flexing, an expression of dominance and a brutish display of political priorities.

“There’s only one flag from the Jordan to the sea, the flag of Israel,” was the slogan of a rallyinvolving over 1,200 Jewish settlers who roamed the streets of the Palestinian city of Hebron on 14 August. The settlers, together with Israeli soldiers, stormed along Al-Shuhada Street and harassed Palestinian residents and international activists in the beleaguered city.

Just a few days earlier, an estimated 1,700 Jewish settlers, backed by Israeli police, stormed into Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem. According to the Palestinian Red Crescent, over 60 Palestinians were wounded when Israeli forces and settlers attacked Muslim worshippers. The violence was repeated in Nablus, where armed women settlers stormed the town of Al-Masoudiya and conducted “military training” under the protection of the Israeli occupation army. The settlers’ message is clear: we now rule the roost, not only in the West Bank, but in Israeli politics as well.

At what cost, though? All of this is happening as if it is entirely an Israeli political affair. The PA, which has now been dropped out of US political calculations altogether, is left to issue occasional, irrelevant press releases about its intention to hold Israel accountable according to international law.

Moreover, the guardians of international law are also suspiciously absent. Neither the United Nations, nor advocates of democracy and international law in the European Union, seem to be interested in confronting Israeli intransigence and blatant violations of human rights.

With Jewish settlers dictating the political agenda in Israel, and constantly provoking Palestinians in the occupied territories, violence is likely to grow exponentially in the coming months. As is often the case, this will be used strategically by the Israeli government, this time to set the stage for a final and complete annexation of Palestinian land. That will be a disastrous outcome, no matter which way you look at it.

(Source / 19.08.2019) 

What’s happening in Kashmir looks a lot like Israel’s rule over Palestine

By Abdulla Moaswes

The last few weeks have seen a sharp escalation in tensions in the Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir, ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi revoked the territory’s long-standing autonomy, putting it on lockdown and plunging the region into chaos.

India has ordered all tourists and religious pilgrims to evacuate the territory, while sending in tens of thousands of armed soldiers and shutting down virtually all telecommunication networks. These soldiers join an occupying force estimated to number within the hundreds of thousands in what is already considered the most militarized place on earth.

India’s oppression of Kashmiris, however, cannot be seen in a vacuum. Over the past decades, the country’s growing ties with Israel have created a situation in which the the oppression of Kashmir is linked to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

The Indian occupation of Kashmir and the establishment of Israel in 1948, which resulted in the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, began only months apart from one another. In July 1949, two years after India and Pakistan declared independence from British rule, the two countries signed an agreement to establish a ceasefire line, dividing the Kashmir region between them. Indian rule in the territory has led to decades of unrest.

Although the Indian presence in Kashmir never amounted to settler colonialism like in the Palestinian case, where a large proportion of the existing population of the region was expelled and replaced by a settler population, India has maintained a heavy military presence in the area and has acted as a police state vis-à-vis Kashmiri civilians and politicians.

Kashmiri solidarity with the Palestinians can be traced as far back as the 1950s and 60s, when the Kashmir liberation movement sought to align itself with other anti-imperialist struggles abroad. It was also during this period when India first established relations with Israel. Although then Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru publicly championed the Palestinian cause, he permitted the opening of an Israeli consulate in Mumbai in 1953. The consulate gathered information on India’s Evacuee Property Laws, which served as a model for Israel’s Absentee Property Law, a legal instrument that allowed the state to expropriate land belonging to Palestinian refugees.

The late stages of the Cold War saw a dramatic improvement in Indian-Israeli relations. In 1992, under the premiership of Narasimha Rao, a member of the Indian National Congress, India and Israel established normal relations, with India opening an embassy in Tel Aviv in January. Two main factors explain this development, both of which are related to the outbreak of the First Intifada against Israel’s occupation as well as armed insurrection in Kashmir against Indian rule in the late 1980s.

The first reason stems from the decline of the Soviet Union, which forced India to search for a new supplier of arms and military technology. Israel, whose flagging economy at the time necessitated entering new markets, represented an ideal partner. The relationship was further strengthened when the U.S. imposed sanctions on arms sales to India after the latter conducted nuclear tests in 1998. Those sanctions resulted in India becoming Israel’s largest client for arms and military technology, a legacy that persists until today.

The second reason is based on the convergence of the logic that Israel and India employed in suppressing popular resistance in the occupied territories and armed insurrection in Kashmir, respectively, highlighting issues of security, counterterrorism and the threat of Islamic extremism. In 1992, then Indian Defense Minister Sharad Pawar admitted to Indian-Israeli cooperation on issues of counterterrorism, including exchanging information on so-called terrorist groups, national doctrines, and operational experience – in other words, strategies, methods, and tactics of occupation and domination. This lead to a shift in India’s position on Palestine, which began mirroring Israel’s insistence that Kashmir was primarily a matter of Indian domestic concern.

Between Zionism and Hindu Nationalism
Relations between India and Israel grew even closer with the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the 1990s. The BJP, which today is led by Modi, adheres to the political ideology known as Hindutva, or Hindu Nationalism. The history of Hindu nationalists’ affinity with Zionism is well documented by professor Sumantra Bose of the London School of Economics, who traces it back to the 1920s when Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, the father of Hindutva, supported the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. The BJP and other Hindu Nationalists have since become obsessed with replicating the Zionist project in turning a constitutionally secular India into a Hindu ethnocratic state.

Many of the BJP’s aspirations and policy proposals for Kashmir are imitations of extant Israeli practices in Palestine. Key among these is the desire to build Israeli-style Hindu-only settlements in Kashmir as a way of instigating demographic change. For example, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a non-state volunteer Hindu paramilitary volunteer group to which the BJP are affiliated, have long desired the repeal of the state subject laws that have maintained the demographic make-up of Kashmir.

These changes are clearly inspired by the Israeli settlement model, as expressed by BJP lawmaker Ravinder Raina, who, in 2015, stated that the government of India will use its army to protect Hindu-only settlements in Jammu and Kashmir. This type of securitization and protection would entail an expansion of the security apparatus that already restricts the flow of life for most Kashmiris, using them as a pretext to justify a new level of domination and intrusiveness.

Aside from the parallels in policy objectives, the discourse used by supporters of the current regime in India resemble old Israeli refrains. Both Israel and India claim to be exceptional democracies, despite their treatment of large swaths of populations under their control. Additionally, both Zionists and Hindu Nationalists argue that the existence of many Muslim countries in the world necessitates a Jewish and Hindu state, respectively. This perpetuates the lie that Palestinians and Indian Muslims can supposedly live elsewhere, yet choose to live in Palestine and India only to antagonize Jews and Hindus.

Meanwhile, the variety of tactics used by India to control the civilian population of Kashmir strongly resembles those used by Israel in Palestine. These include, “arbitrary arrests, extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, curfews, collective punishment, administrative detention, torture, rape and sexual abuse, the suppression of freedom of speech and assembly, house demolitions, and so forth.”

Decades of Solidarity
The bond of solidarity that exists between Palestinians and Kashmiris runs deep, and can be traced as far back as the 1960s, when protests erupted in Kashmir over Israel’s behavior around Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa Mosque, resulting in deaths and curfews. Since then, Kashmiri solidarity with the Palestinian cause can be loosely understood as having gone through three, relatively overlapping stages.

The first of these stages, which began during the 1960s, saw the Kashmiri Plebiscite Front first cast India as an “imperialist state” that rejected the Kashmiri right to self-determination. In doing this, the Kashmiri liberation movement aligned itself with similar global causes, including the Vietnamese struggle against the United States, the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, and the Palestinian struggle against Israel. Kashmiri scholar Mohamad Junaid writes that Palestine “became an evocative metaphor among Kashmiris to describe their own condition, reflecting an incipient fear of ethnic cleansing, land dispossession, and an ever-tightening architecture of the occupation.”

The second stage, which began during the 1980s, saw the basis of solidarity take on a more religious character. This period coincided with the Afghan Jihad against the Soviet Union, which indirectly led to the rise of armed Islamist resistance groups such as Hamas in Palestine and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen in Kashmir. Rather than the discourse of solidarity being based largely in the language of anti-imperalism and nationalism, it became characterized by concepts of jihad and Islamic solidarity. This trend was further strengthened during the 1990s with the rise of the BJP, which led to an increase in communal tensions and insecurity surrounding Muslim life in India.

The third and current stage of Kashmiri-Palestinian solidarity comes as a response to the growing ties between India and Israel. It has no longer become accurate for Palestinians and Kashmiris to view Israel and India as simply analogous oppressors — many now view them as partners in occupation. As has been demonstrated by the transnational Palestinian response to the recent events, solidarity with Kashmir has taken on an increasingly more practical importance.

An Instrument of Surrender
The revocation of Articles 35A and 370 paves the way for Indian presence in Kashmir to further mirror Zionist presence in historic Palestine, since this allows the Indian state to rule Kashmir directly without the need for Kashmir’s state legislature, which was also recently abolished. Furthermore, it facilitates the execution of plans to alter the demographic make-up of Kashmir by allowing Indians from across the country to purchase property and settle there under the protection of the Indian military presence, just as the demographic make-up of the West Bank continues to be altered with the construction of Jewish-only settlements.

The Kashmiri state legislature and its main politicians, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, have long acted as middlemen who manage the natives on behalf of the occupying power, facilitating the occupation in much the same way as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas does in the West Bank. Just as Edward Said once referred to the Oslo Accords as “an instrument of Palestinian surrender,” many Kashmiris regard the 1975 Indira-Sheikh Accord as a betrayal of past liberation movements. The Accord allowed previously popular Kashmiri leader Sheikh Abdullah to become the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir in exchange for forfeiting the longstanding Kashmiri demand for self-determination.

With the unprecedented change of Jammu and Kashmir’s legal status from a special status state to a union territory without a legislative assembly, India’s colonial domination over the contested region will only become more overtly coercive in representing Indian interests. This is a crucial development to be observed closely by Palestinians who live in areas where the Israeli occupation is currently facilitated by the Palestinian Authority.

As things move forward, it is increasingly clear that the colonial processes in Kashmir and Palestine will become further interdependent on one another. What Israel does in Palestine is likely to happen in Kashmir, and what India does in Kashmir is likely to happen in Palestine. In aiming to dismantle Israeli apartheid and settler colonialism, it is essential to observe its global consequences, for it is highly likely that these interdependent processes will require a multilateral confrontation.

(Source / 16.08.2019)