The EU’s shameful complicity with Israeli aggression on Palestinians

European High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell gives a press conference at the end of the Special video conference of European Foreign Ministers to discuss recent developments in the Middle East in particular the ongoing violent confrontation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory in Brussels, on 18 May 2021. [OLIVIER HOSLET/POOL/AFP via Getty Images]
European High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell gives a press conference at the end of the Special video conference of European Foreign Ministers to discuss recent developments in the Middle East in particular the ongoing violent confrontation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory in Brussels, on 18 May 2021

By Motasem A Dalloul

Last week, the European Parliament approved an amendment to block €20 million ($23 million) in aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) if immediate changes promoting “coexistence and tolerance” with the Israeli occupation are not made to Palestinian school textbooks.

According to the amendment, the Palestinian curricula must promote peace with the Israeli occupation based on the two-state solution, which the EU still claims is the best and only way to solve Israel’s settler-colonial enterprise. The EU also wanted the Palestinian curricula to be purged from alleged hate speech against Israel.

But what has the EU done to prevent hate speech uttered by Israeli officials against Palestinians? What has the EU, which protects the Israeli occupation and forges strategic partnerships with it, done to protect the Palestinians who have endured more than 70 years of Israeli violations and aggression?

Going back to the recent past we see that the EU did not demand Israel to stop striking Palestinian civilians in Gaza in May at the time when the occupation army killed more than 200 Palestinian civilians, including more than 60 children, and injured more than 1,500 others over a period of 11 days.

Israel killed at least 254 Palestinians, including 66 children, 39 women, and 17 elderly people during the bombardment. More than 1,900 were wounded, including 380 children, 540 women, and 91 elderly
MEMO #Infographic

The EU, instead, condemned the Palestinian resistance which fought back against the continuous and barbaric Israeli bombardment of mostly civilian facilities and homes. “We condemn the rocket attacks by Hamas and other terrorist groups on the Israeli territory. And we fully support Israel’s right to self-defense,” EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell said.

Here the EU declared its full support for the kind of “self-defense” which targets children, unarmed women and the elderly, as well as civil infrastructure.

The EU has done little to keep the two-state solution as a viable option, but is keeping it going “at the level of rhetoric” only, the Centre for European Reform’s Beth Oppenheim has said.

READ: A badly-wounded ambulance driver is now an inspirational champion weightlifter; I salute him

The Israeli occupation state is not interested in the two-state solution and has been doing its best to make it unviable through the continuous expansion of illegal Jewish-only settlements. The UN Security Council has branded Israeli settlements as illegal and as violations of the Geneva Conventions, but the EU has done nothing to force these actions to cease.

All the while, the occupation has imposed a stifling air, ground and sea blockade on the Gaza Strip, making life almost unlivable. Palestinians live with insufficient electricity, severe lack of medical equipment, shortages in medication, limited access to clean water, strict restrictions on their movement in and from the besieged enclave and the inability of those in need of urgent medical care to access it abroad or in the occupied West Bank.

A picture taken on May 18, 2021 shows a general view of EU ambassadors with European High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell during a special video conference of European Foreign Ministers to discuss recent developments in the Middle East in particular Palestine-Israel in Brussels

“Israel’s policy of de facto annexation in the West Bank and its blockade of Gaza violate international law,” Oppenheim said. But the Israeli “prime minister nurtured relationships with illiberal, nativist governments in Europe, sowing division in the EU and paralysing its decision-making on Israel-Palestine,” she added.

Despite the death of the peace process and the prospects of the two-state solution, “bilateral relationship between Israel and the EU has continued to deepen without conditions… They have signed over a dozen bilateral agreements to supplement the overarching Association Agreement in areas including police co-operation (2018), development (2018), aviation (2013), agriculture (2012) and industry (2010). Israel participates in EU research and innovation programmes, and Israeli students can take part in the educational exchange programme Erasmus+.”

“The EU is Israel’s largest trade partner, comprising a third of Israel’s total exports, and Israel was the EU’s 27th most important partner in 2018.” This proves that the issue is not related to hate speech or promoting the peace process, but is one based on shared interests and benefits.

The EU is able to take punitive measures that would force Israel to stop its crimes and human rights violations, but it does not have the political will to put real pressure on Israel. In 2014, “the EU agreed swiftly to impose hefty economic sanctions targeting Russia’s financial, energy and defence sectors when Moscow seized the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea from Ukraine – land that Russia still holds,” a special report by Reuters says. Thus, if the EU has the will to take real action, it can do so without hesitation.

READ: If Biden is cutting aid to Egypt over human rights violations, why doesn’t he cut aid to Israel?

Many analysts and critics believe that the EU member states can make difference regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Countries which support taking action against Israeli crimes and violations of international law should unite and mobilise against the violations. They should also recognise the State of Palestine.

When it comes to Israeli crimes against Palestinians, the only words the EU has is “concerned” and “worried”, while stressing the occupation state’s “right to self-defense”. Where the acts of the legitimate – under international law – Palestinian resistance is concerned, the EU chooses “terrorists”, “aggression” and “attacks”. The bloc continues to defend the Israeli occupation in international forums.

Andrea Dessì from Social Europe, a Rome-based think tank, wrote: “When coupled with the legal and diplomatic cover for Israel provided by Europe and the US in international fora, such policies amount to complicity in Israel’s policy of creeping annexation and settler-colonial violence against the Palestinians.”

All of this and many other situations prove that the EU is not only complicit, but shamefully involved in the violations and crimes against Palestinians. The EU, if it is serious about its support for peace, must leverage its strength to do so, but the decades of silence and support for bias US policies prove that is not it’s primary aim.

(Source / 04.10.2021)

Normalisation and the betrayal of Palestine by Arab despots

This picture shows the plaque identifying the newly opened Israeli embassy in the Bahraini capital Manama, on 30 September 2021. [MAZEN MAHDI/AFP via Getty Images]
This picture shows the plaque identifying the newly opened Israeli embassy in the Bahraini capital Manama, on 30 September 2021

By Iqbal Jassat

Pinning Palestinians down while applying harsh measures of violent repression accompanied by a fanatical settler movement of arch-racists given free rein to attack and plunder, is a notorious game Israel has made a daily ritual.

In fact the routine of inflicting war crimes has all the hallmarks of a rogue regime entirely caught up in a misplaced belief that to engage in ethnic cleansing is a religious obligation.

Conflating Judaism with the racist political ideology of Zionism has been part of a strategy designed to deceive, distort and divert. It has its roots in the first Zionist congress held on the eve of the 19th century.

That this is well documented and widely known. Indeed awareness of Zionism’s goal to dismember and dislodge Palestinians from their centuries old homeland and forcibly impose a foreign entity known as Israel, has always been a bedrock for resistance.

Israel has thus always been considered an enemy thrust upon a native population through the most horrific forms of terrorism. The memories of Deir Yassin remind the world of bloody massacres committed by Zionist terrorists which wiped out hundreds of villages to colonise Palestine.

That more than seven decades later the expansionist goals of Zionism are still being pursued at great human cost to successive generations of indigenous Palestinians is reflected in daily atrocities.

READ: On normalisation, the Kurds, and the sigh of an American commander

None of these facts – as attested to by historians as well as the United Nations – are contested, though of course Israel and its supporters seek to distort such truths as anti-Semitic.

Yet against this background of terrorism and current conditions of siege, occupation, killings and mass imprisonment – recorded and broadcast via mainstream media for all the world to witness – it is bizarre that a handful of Arab regimes have broken rank with Palestine’s freedom struggle. This, at a time when even the Israeli daily Haaretz describes atrocities by Israel as “a pogrom”.

The treachery associated with what has become known as “normalisation” is an outrageous manifestation of betrayal and collaboration. The UAEBahrainSudan and Morocco have in effect confessed that the protection of their shaky thrones counts for more than the legitimate rights of the Palestinians.

The flags of US, Israel, United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain are projected on the ramparts of Jerusalem's Old City on September 15, 2020 in a show of support for Israeli normalisation deals with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. - The decision by the UAE and Bahrain to normalise ties with Israel breaks with decades of consensus within the Arab world that a peace deal with the Palestinians is a prerequisite for establishing relations with the Jewish state. (Photo by menahem kahana / AFP) (Photo by MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP via Getty Images)
The flags of US, Israel, United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain are projected on the ramparts of Jerusalem’s Old City on September 15, 2020 in a show of support for Israeli normalisation deals with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain

As unelected, self-imposed despots fearful of democratic values, they have bargained that “normalisation” with the usurper of Palestine will “guarantee” safety and protection for them. In other words, just as Egypt has done, these oligarchs have outsourced their intelligence networks and security apparatus to Israel, knowing full well that in doing so, they have abandoned Palestine.

Though the abnormality of implicit recognition of an illegal colonial enterprise has been in sharp contrast to countless Arab League resolutions, the deal of “normalisation” pushed by Trump and vigorously backed by the Biden administration has exposed these leaders as surrogates of western imperialism.

The case of Bahrain’s role in the “Abraham Accords” reveals the soft underbelly of Arab dictatorships. Besides being financially dependent on its neighbours, especially the UAE and Saudi Arabia, Bahrain’s alliance with Israel is designed to entrench its power and crush any resistance to authoritarianism or efforts towards freedom and democracy.

READ: Israel must not have a place at the African Union until it ends its occupation of Palestine

In this context one may justifiably condemn Bahrain’s gross insensitivity and abject abdication of Palestine’s freedom struggle as treacherous.

Showcasing Israeli war criminal Lapid’s visit to Manama where he opened the Israeli embassy is utterly outrageous. This follows the opening of a Zionist embassy in Abu Dhabi and one is likely to be established in Rabat. Sudan has reportedly said it has no plans to open an embassy in Khartoum.

Not surprising therefore that the Arab street across these capitals have vowed to end “normalisation”. The iron-fisted grip held by Arab despots notwithstanding, human rights movements (many banned and leaders exiled) have declared their outright rejection of America’s much-vaunted Abraham Accords.

Stirrings in Sudan are becoming more vocal despite Khartoum’s attempts to silence critics. In Bahrain the main opposition group, Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, declared Lapid’s trip as a “threat”, saying: “This is provocative news and this trip is completely rejected, and he (Lapid) should not set foot on Bahraini soil.”

Their message is clear: “Any (Israeli) presence on Bahraini soil means incitement.”

(Source / 01.10.2021)

Israel must not have a place at the African Union until it ends its occupation of Palestine

Then-Chairman of Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) Yasser Arafat addresses in July 1972 in Kampala delegates of the Organisation of African Unity (OUA) [AFP via Getty Images]
Then-Chairman of Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) Yasser Arafat addresses in July 1972 in Kampala delegates of the Organisation of African Unity (OUA)

By Hanan Jarrar

Africa is a symbol of the future and Africa stands with us,” declared Yasser Arafat, then chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) at a meeting of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in July 1975 in the Ugandan capital, Kampala.

Twenty-seven years later, as the OAU stood on the threshold of being reborn as the African Union in 2002, the Palestinian struggle icon was besieged by Israeli troops at his headquarters in Ramallah. Arafat sent his envoy, Farouq Kaddoumi, to attend the final OAU meeting in Durban, South Africa. Through Kaddoumi, Arafat appealed to African leaders for the AU to continue supporting and advocating for Palestinian freedom.

The AU did not fail the Palestinian people; it has been one of Palestine’s most important and loyal allies in the past 19 years.

Israel’s colonisation, illegal occupation of Palestine, and oppression of the Palestinian people have featured prominently at AU summits. The AU, and the OAU before it, has consistently condemned Israel’s use of lethal, unlawful force against Palestinian civilians, its violations of international law, and annexation of Palestinian land.

At its last summit in February this year, the AU specifically called on its members to respect the international legal status of East Jerusalem as occupied and as the capital of the future Palestinian state and reiterated the illegality of all Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the Syrian Golan Heights.

READ: African Union slams Israel violence against Palestinians

Supported by AU members and its leaders, African nations have regarded the Palestinian struggle as an African issue. This is a reflection of the bonds between Africa’s liberation and anti-colonial struggles and those of the Palestinian people.

It is within this context, then, that the decision by AU Commission chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat, to unilaterally accept the credentials of Israel’s ambassador to Ethiopia, Aleli Admasu, is all the more bewildering. The move undermines the anti-colonial values that underpin the AU.

Mahamat said Israel’s diplomatic relations with AU member states justified his decision to grant Israel AU observer status. But this decision is not about whether Israeli diplomatic missions exist in African countries.

This is about the type of political and diplomatic recognition — and normalisation of colonialism — that comes with attaining observer status in an institution that serves as an anti-colonial beacon.

Gaining observer status brings Israel into a formal relationship with the AU. That is a privilege that Israel — a violent occupying power whose actions violate the spirit, objectives, and principles of the AU — simply does not deserve at this moment.

Now the AU risks following the example of much of the international community’s inaction.

The Israeli occupation of Palestine has entered its 54th year, while the ongoing violent displacement of Palestinians to make way for the creation of Israel (known as the Nakba) is in its 73rd year. That is 73 years of Israeli colonial policies that manifest through crippling sieges, land theft, and systemic violence in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. Israel has been able to sustain this illegal situation only because of the world’s inaction.

It is unthinkable that some AU member states, which themselves have emerged from painful histories of colonialism and occupation, openly support the presence of a modern-day colonial power such as Israel at the AU.

As long as the international community — now, shockingly, including the AU — continues to welcome Israel with privileges and distinctions, it effectively gives our Israeli colonisers permission to continue the occupation. Words without actions are meaningless.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has collectively objected to Mahamat’s decision to grant Israel observer status. SADC’s position is in line with the positions of Mauritania, Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Comoros, and Djibouti that have also lodged formal objections with the AU. These countries serve as a lodestar for other African nations in how to develop meaningful solidarity with Palestine by moving beyond words and recalibrating their relations with Israel.

OPINION: Has the AU declared war on member states with Israel’s ‘observer status’?

It is also inspiring to see the outpouring of support from dozens of political and civil society groups, trade unions, student networks and religious formations throughout Africa. Coming together as the Pan-African Palestine Solidarity Network, they have collectively rejected Mahamat’s decision. These groups are showing their governments what genuine solidarity looks like, and remind Palestinians that the African people still stand with us in our struggle for liberation.South Africa stands with Palestine - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

South Africa stands with Palestine – Cartoon

When the issue of Israel’s observer status comes before the AU executive council in October, member states must act together to send Israel a clear message that it cannot occupy a people for 54 years, perpetuate apartheid practices, and then be given the privilege of joining the African family for a few hollow words about peace, aid, and investment.

In 1975, the OAU declared that “… the racist [Israeli] regime in occupied Palestine and the racist regime in Zimbabwe and South Africa have a common imperialist origin, forming a whole and having the same racist structure and being organically linked in their policy aimed at the repression of the dignity and integrity of the human being”.

In the 46 years since that declaration, the regimes in then-Rhodesia and apartheid South Africa were dismantled through internal resistance that was supported by an intensive international boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaign. Neither regime was welcomed at the OAU until it ended its apartheid and colonial practices. So how, then, can the apartheid regime occupying Palestine be rewarded with observer status at the AU while it continues its lawlessness and violations?

Until it ends its occupation, colonisation, and apartheid against the Palestinian people, Israel must not have a place at the AU.

(Source / 26.09.2021)

“Don’t fail justice,” victim of Israeli war crimes tells Dutch court

By Adri Nieuwhof

Two senior Israeli military officials should answer for their actions before a court of justice, Dutch judges in The Hague heard on Thursday.

Human rights lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld told the appeals tribunal that a lower court had erroneously disregarded that there was no alternative way to seek justice for her client Ismail Ziada.

Read More: Hamas: US complicit in Israeli war crimes against our people

A Palestinian-Dutch citizen, Ziada has been suing Benny Gantz, Israeli army chief at the time, and Amir Eshel, then air force chief, for the decision to bomb his family’s home during Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza.

Gantz is currently Israel’s defense minister and deputy prime minister. Ziada’s civil lawsuit seeks hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages from the Israeli commanders.

Read More: Appeal Court of Hague to hear case against Israeli Generals

The Israeli attack reduced the three-floor building in al-Bureij refugee camp to rubble.

It killed Ziada’s 70-year-old mother Muftia, his brothers Jamil, Yousif and Omar, sister-in-law Bayan, and 12-year-old nephew Shaban, as well as a seventh person visiting the family.

But in January 2020, the district court in The Hague shut the door in Ziada’s face by granting “functional immunity” to Gantz and Eshel on the grounds that when they committed their alleged crimes they were acting in an official capacity.

That decision flew in the face of decades of jurisprudence following the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals that those who commit the gravest offenses, including war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, cannot hide behind the excuse that they were acting in an official capacity or just following orders.

No other path to justice

Thursday’s hearing was part of Ziada’s appeal of that lower court ruling. The hearing was held in an almost empty room. Only 13 people, including this writer, were allowed to attend.

Many others were disappointed that they couldn’t express their solidarity with Ziada by their presence.

Zegveld, who is renowned in the Netherlands for representing victims of human rights abuses, also told the judges that “Israel maintains an apartheid regime against Palestinians.”

Therefore Ziada’s only viable option is to seek justice in the Dutch courts.

Zegveld made a strong case that it was unjustifiable to grant immunity to the two Israeli military commanders.

She noted that in 2010, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that “in cases where the application of state immunity from jurisdiction restricts the exercise of the right of access to a court, the court must ascertain whether the circumstances of the case justify such restriction.”

Zegveld argued that Israel has completely deprived Palestinians in Gaza of access to justice by declaring the coastal enclave to be an “enemy entity” and its residents “enemy subjects.”

Israeli law prohibits “enemy” citizens from bringing claims for damages against the state in Israeli courts.

In response, defense lawyers for Gantz and Eshel repeated their arguments that because their clients had acted on behalf of the state, their acts were protected by functional immunity.

After Zegveld’s thoroughly formulated plea, the lawyers for Gantz and Eshel did not make a strong impression.

At the end of the hearing, the judges offered Ziada the opportunity to speak.

“I never thought that my vision to seek justice would be denied by providing functional immunity to the war criminals,” he told the court.

Mission impossible

Earlier this week, an online panel discussed Ziada’s landmark effort to hold Israeli commanders accountable.

Issam Younis, director of the Gaza-based human rights group Al Mezan, underscored the destructive effect of impunity.

Israel’s four major assaults on Gaza since 2008 demonstrate that “the worst is yet to come” unless the international community seriously addresses accountability, Younis said.

“It is really mission impossible for victims to pursue justice through Israel’s legal system,” Younis stated, after explaining the myriad obstacles Israel places in the face of Palestinians in Gaza who seek to access its courts.

That is why national courts in other countries should provide an avenue for justice for victims of serious international crimes, Younis said.

Utrecht University law professor Cedric Ryngaert noted that Dutch law “offers a forum of necessity” to “avert a denial of justice” when a case cannot be heard anywhere else and is sufficiently linked to Dutch jurisdiction.

Ziada’s Dutch citizenship potentially provides such a link, Ryngaert said.

Ryngaert added that the Dutch lower court’s immunity ruling overlooked the imperative of accountability for international crimes.

Individuals can be held responsible for international crimes not only at the International Criminal Court but also in the domestic courts of other states.

Ziada’s closing words to the Dutch judges on Thursday emphasized that his demand for justice was not just about accountability for past crimes, but preventing further violations.

“The crimes didn’t stop in 2014,” he said. “In May, when Israel again heavily bombarded Gaza, I feared that I would receive a message that my family was in danger.”

Ziada said that during the Israeli attack on Gaza earlier this year, his niece had to flee her home barefoot with two young children because the residential building next door was bombed.

“She lost her parents in the 2014 bombing of our family home. I cannot stop the crimes,” Ziada said. “You, your honors, you can stop it. Don’t fail me, don’t fail justice.”

The judges are expected to issue their ruling on 7 December.

(Source / 25.09.2021)

Reflections on the 39th anniversary of the Sabra and Shatila massacre

By Dr Swee Chai Ang

The steadfastness and courage of Sabra and Shatila are in all of our hearts. Today, we commemorate the cruel injustice inflicted on the Palestinians in the massacre of 1982, knowing that this is just one of the continuous assaults on Palestinians since 1948. We resolve to continue to be with you all in your difficult journey in solidarity, hope and love, knowing that one day, the freedom and peace stolen from the Palestinian people for all these years will be won back through your struggle. We commemorate with tears, but pledge our commitment to this struggle with all our strength and lives. We know that the day will come when our children’s laughter will be the reward of years of sacrifice and endurance.

In June 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon. It bombed Lebanon by land, air and sea, and laid siege to Beirut. Israel killed and wounded thousands of innocent people and made at least 100,000 homeless within a few weeks. Beirut city was denied electricity, medicine, food and water.

I resigned from my job at a hospital in London to help the victims in Lebanon. At that time, my sympathies were with Israel, and I had not known that Palestinians existed. But I could no longer stand by and watch the wounding and killings of women, children and unarmed civilians – or watch them being made homeless as the bombs continuously fell on Lebanon.

Read More: Al-Aqsa Holocaust continues and Judaization and settlements will not change the cultural identity of Jerusalem

I arrived in Beirut in August 1982, and was seconded to Gaza Hospital in Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut. It was one of nine hospitals and 13 clinics of the Palestine Red Crescent Society and the only one that was not flattened by the bombs.

The people of Sabra and Shatila told me about their suffering ever since they were driven out of Palestine to become refugees in 1948. Many of the residents of Sabra and Shatila were third and fourth-time refugees being driven from camp to camp when their families were killed and homes destroyed by Israeli planes. That was the first time I heard about their terrible suffering. That was also the first time I met Palestinians.

Read More: Prisoners in Israeli jails top agenda of political consultations between Palestine and Austria

After resisting the continuous bombardment for ten weeks, the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) evacuated in exchange for peace. The US promised that it would protect the 300,000 Palestinian refugees left behind in Lebanon. They were encouraged to return from the shelters to the refugee camps to rebuild their homes and lives. But this did not happen.

Three weeks later, on 15 September, 1982, Israeli tanks were allowed to overrun Beirut. A large number surrounded and sealed Sabra and Shatila refugee camp so that no one could leave nor enter the camp.

Sniping started once the camp was sealed. Initially, the wounded and dead brought into the hospital were mainly women gathering water and food for their families. By the afternoon of the next day, men, women, children and babies were shot in their homes. Many were brought in dead and filled the mortuary.

More than 2,000 frightened people fled into our hospital with stories that the Haddads, Kataebs and Israelis were killing defenceless families in the camp. They feared for their lives.

They could not escape, and no one protected them.

The hospital ran out of blood, medication and food. Our medical and surgical team worked non-stop. I wanted the nurses to give the last packet of blood to a wounded mother, but she pleaded for it to be given to her child, and she died shortly afterwards.

At night, the skies of Sabra and Shatila were lit with Israeli military flares. We heard explosions and machine gun noises throughout, and the wounded continued to be brought into Gaza Hospital.

It was especially painful to operate on a little boy who was shot along with 27 members of his family. As the bodies fell on him, he passed out and was mistaken for dead by the murderers. When he awoke, he was in great pain. Years later, he told of how he heard women being rounded up and raped. His physical wounds may have healed, but his emotional scars are still with him today. It took my American colleagues four years to get him out of living in the house where his family was murdered. He was not the only child who suffered in this way.

At dawn on 18 September, 1982, soldiers with machine guns forced the entire international medical volunteer team out of the hospital.

When we were marched into Rue Sabra, we saw groups of old men, women and children rounded up by militia. A frightened, desperate young mother tried to give me her baby, but was forced to take it back. She begged them to spare her baby. They were all subsequently executed, including the mother and baby.

There were dead bodies piled up in the camp alleys and bulldozers destroying camp homes. We had struggled for 72 hours non-stop without food and sleep to save dozens of lives. But within the same 72 hours, at least 3,000 were killed.

I was 33 years old then. I grew up a Zionist Christian and never knew Palestinians existed until I stepped foot in Sabra and Shatila. I knew then that it was my human responsibility never to walk away from this horrendous injustice. I also realised that I must speak up on behalf of the victims. The dead could not speak up, and the survivors needed my voice.

After testifying to five Commissions of Inquiry on Sabra and Shatila, including travelling to Israel with Ellen Siegel to give evidence to the Israeli Kahan Commission of Inquiry into the conduct of the Israeli Army in Sabra and Shatila, I returned to the UK. The Palestinians in Lebanon continued to be destitute, homeless and hungry. Justice seemed not to be in sight. The situation was dire for them, and indeed, they continued to suffer and become more desperate. Children were born and grew up in the long, dark shadow of the massacre, and there was no hope of returning to Palestine. Could we make their lives just a little bit easier?

Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) was founded in the aftermath of the Sabra and Shatila massacre, under those circumstances. We wanted to support the Palestinians in any small way that we could. The founders of MAP formed the organisation so that the horrors of the massacre could be turned into a bridge – a positive channel of friendship and solidarity between people in the UK and the Palestinians – not only in Lebanon, but also in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and in the diaspora.

Since then, MAP has not only worked with the Palestinians in Lebanon, but also in Gaza and the West Bank. The existence of MAP is also our way to let them know we will never forsake or forget them. What MAP is doing is minuscule, a drop in the ocean, but we are part of the tide moving towards justice for the Palestinians.

As for me, I count myself privileged and honoured to be able to journey alongside the Palestinians, to be accepted as their family. Whether in Shatila, in Gaza, onboard the Freedom Flotilla Al-Awda to Gaza, in Israeli prison or being deported, I want my life to be an acceptable tribute to the Palestinians. They welcomed me into their broken lives and homes and made me one of their own, offering me Arabic coffee in the midst of the rubble they call home. For this, I will thank God every day of my life, until death do us part.

(Source / 18.09.2021)

Effects of the Israeli blockade on the economic and humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip

By Dr Belal Yasin

Fifteen years ago, the Israeli authorities imposed a severe blockade on the Gaza Strip’s population of more than 2, 200,000 people in a geographical area of just 360 km.

Despite the demands of the international community and legal institutions for Israel to lift its comprehensive siege on the Gaza Strip, the former continues its collective punishment against the residents of Gaza. This has led to the deterioration of the humanitarian situation, whose repercussions have affected various sectors including the economic, agricultural, water, electricity, health care and education.

Read More: Israeli forces shoot killed Palestinian, injured 15 others during Gaza blockade protest

On the ground, the Israeli occupation absolutely controls the Gaza Strip’s crossings, especially the Karim Abu Salim commercial crossing, which is the only crossing specialised in importing and exporting. Accordingly, the occupation carries out inhumane extortion and restrictions against the citizens, as it prevents entry to many of the life necessities on the pretext that they have dual use, in addition to its impulsive closures and openings of the crossing.

In recent months, the Israeli occupation closed the Karim Abu Salim crossing completely during its recent aggression on the Gaza Strip, from 10 – 21 May of this year. After the aggression, the Israeli authorities deliberately reduced the volume of imports, as statistics indicated. The relevant authorities indicated that more than 650 trucks used to arrive daily at the Gaza Strip before the last aggression.

Read More: Israeli warplanes attack Gaza Strip

On the other hand, no more than 130 trucks per day are allowed to enter after the aggression. This has exacerbated the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip to the highest levels, especially since the occupation had deliberately caused complete damage to more than 200 industrial and commercial facilities during the onslaught.

Thousands of Palestinian families lost their homes as a result of the direct Israeli bombing of safe houses, and since the occupation prevents building materials from entering and obstructs reconstruction, the crisis lies not only in sheltering thousands of displaced families but also in directly prohibiting more than 30 professions that can stimulate the economy and alleviate the poverty and unemployment crises.

Additionally, the Israeli occupation intended in its recent aggression to target agricultural lands, hence the sector incurred heavy losses, as the statistics of the Ministry of Agriculture confirmed. More than 36,000 dunums of agricultural lands and greenhouses were directly damaged, in addition to extensive damage caused to dozens of poultry, animal and fish farms.

Although the figure of $200 million announced by the Ministry of Agriculture as direct losses as a result of the recent aggression is indeed of huge financial value, the policy of collective punishment pursued by the Israeli authorities towards the residents of Gaza is actually the most devastating.

After the last aggression ended, the Israeli occupation prevented exporting through the Karim Abu Salim crossing for more than 111 days, thus depriving citizens of promoting household furniture and clothing products as well as the export of their agricultural products, which constitute 90 per cent of exports from the Gaza Strip.

All told, Israel’s blockade on the Gaza Strip has exacerbated the economic and humanitarian crisis in the enclave and created countless problems. The unemployment rate, according to official statistics has reached 67 per cent while the poverty rate has exceeded 70 per cent. Food insecurity has hit 68.2 per cent of the total population, according to United Nations reports.

The continued suffering of the Palestinians in this way compels the international community to play its mandated role, to act urgently and effectively, in order to stop the escalating Israeli violations against the Palestinian people. Immediate and unconditional action is needed to end the oppressive siege as it constitutes a form of collective punishment of the civilian population and only further exacerbates Gaza’s economic and humanitarian crises.

(Source /12.09.2021)

Who is the Escaped Prisoner from “Gilboa”, Zakaria Al-Zubaidi?

Al-Aqsa Brigades commander, the captive Fatah leader Zakaria al-Zubaidi, appears again after he successfully escaped from maximum-security Gilboa prison with five other prisoners. This break is the first of its kind in the history of the Israeli occupation.

Before his arrest in 2019, Al-Zubaidi was among the most powerful figures in Jenin and was a prominent advocate for the continuation of the uprising. He is considered one of the most notable leaders of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs of the Fatah movement. He is a former member of the movement’s revolutionary council, elected on December 4, 2016. 

Al-Zubaidi returned to armed resistance in late 2001, after the martyrdom of a friend. Some months later his mother was martyred just before the invasion of Jenin on March 3, 2002. The occupation forces targeted her while she was standing at the window of a house. His brother Taha was martyred later as well, and their house was demolished 3 times.

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The occupation forces accused Al-Zubaidi of being responsible for several operations, including a bombing attack in Tel Aviv that killed an Israeli settler and injured 30 others in June 2004.

Al-Zubaidi survived four assassination attempts

Al-Zubaidi survived four assassination attempts by the Israeli occupation forces and sustained multiple injuries in the process.

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In one of the attempts in 2004, the occupation forces assassinated five Palestinians, including a 14-year-old child, after targeting a vehicle suspected of carrying Al-Zubaidi. 

In another attempt, the occupation forces stormed the Jenin refugee camp, martyring 9 Palestinians, as  Al-Zubaidi escaped. In 2006, the occupation forces tried to arrest Al-Zubaidi and ailed after being caught in a firefight.

On July 15, 2007, “Israel” announced the release of an amnesty for Al-Aqsa Brigades militants, including Al-Zubaidi. In an interview on April 4, 2008, Al-Zubaidi said that general amnesty did not include him, so he continued to reside inside one of the security services headquarters in Jenin.

On December 29, 2011, the occupation officially canceled the amnesty for Al-Zubaidi, despite his assertion that he had not violated any of its conditions. Palestinian security officials then asked him to surrender himself for fear of an Israeli arrest.

On January 27, 2019, occupation forces arrested Al-Zubaidi and lawyer Tariq Barghouth after storming the city of Ramallah, claiming that they were involved in new incitement activities. The occupation court sentenced Al-Zubaidi to life in prison.

Former Shin Bet officer: We always tried to arrest Al-Zubaidi

Former Shin Bet officer Yitzhak Ilan described him as “A street cat… We have always tried to catch him, but he escaped our grasp. Now he has been re-arrested for his involvement in terrorist activities.”

In an interview with Maariv about Al-Zubaidi, Ilan divulged that “Israel sought to lay its hands on Al-Zubaidi when he was wanted by its security services, but it did not succeed.” He added, “He was arrested in the recent days because of his involvement in planning to carry out armed attacks against Israel.”

It is noteworthy that Al-Zubaidi was born in the Jenin refugee camp in 1976. He was an orphan with seven siblings after his father died of an illness. He speaks Hebrew fluently.

(Source / 08.09.2021)

Opinion: Racism is at the very heart of Israel

By: Dr. Belal Yasin

Many international organisations and human rights groups have confirmed that Israel imposes a racist — “apartheid” — regime which oppresses the Palestinians. This regime denies them basic rights and exposes them to repeated attacks by illegal Jewish settlers, which increases the tension in the occupied Palestinian territories and within Israeli itself. The Palestinians continue to be beaten, killed and forcibly displaced.

On 9 May, the Israeli authorities tried to prevent thousands of Palestinians living in the 1948-occupied Palestinian territories — they are Israeli citizens — from reaching Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem to commemorate the twenty-seventh night of the holy month Ramadan, which is a sacred night for all Muslims. Mass protests followed, and Zionist settlers did not hesitate to attack the Palestinians with live ammunition and hand grenades. The Israeli government encourages a policy of divide and rule, pitting one ethnic group against another, but in this case the Israeli police arrested more than 500 Palestinians rather than the fully armed and dangerous settlers, not one of whom was detained. If nothing else, this was an indication of the institutionalised racism of the Israeli authorities against its own Palestinian citizens.

Who are the Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel?

Although Zionist terrorists displaced more than 800,000 Palestinians from their homes in 1948, a number of Palestinians remained in the occupied cities of what is now called Israel. According to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), in 2019, the number of Palestinians who reside in the territory occupied in 1948 was estimated at about 2 million, one-fifth of the population of the occupation state. They live mainly in the Galilee, the Negev and the “Triangle”, Arab towns and villages adjacent to the Green (1949 Armistice) Line between Israel and the occupied West Bank.

Forms of racism

Although Palestinians in the 1948-occupied Palestinian territories have Israeli citizenship, they are faced with institutional racism. They are not regarded or treated as equals in any aspect of life. Dozens of laws have been enacted to reinforce this racism, most notably:

  • The Jewish Nation-State Law, which limits the right to self-determination to Jews alone within the
    self-styled Jewish state. Muslim and Christian citizens have no such right.
  • The Israeli Citizenship Law, which states that every Jew becomes an Israeli citizen the instant she or he steps on Israeli soil, no matter where in the world they are from. This law excludes Palestinians from their legitimate right to return to their homeland. Palestinian citizens do not have the same rights as Jewish citizens.

Not only have the Israeli authorities enacted racist laws against the Palestinians, but state officials also issue statements that directly affect the Arab Palestinians and their lives, and incite settlers against them. The number of attacks on Palestinians has increased accordingly.

More than 1,700 Palestinian citizens of Israel have been killed between 2000 and 2020. The Israel occupation authorities have refrained from conducting any investigations, which leads us to ask how the Israeli police can arrest the perpetrators of crimes against Jewish settlers often within 24 hours, while refusing to investigate or even care about crimes committed against the Palestinians, the perpetrators of which are subsequently usually registered as “persons unknown”?

In its report dated 15 March 2017, the UN Social and Economic Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) answered this question, stressing that the Israeli authorities have established an apartheid regime that dominates the entire Palestinian people. The facts and evidence prove beyond reasonable doubt that Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid as defined by international law.

Human Rights Watch also accused Israel of apartheid in its report dated 27 April this year. Indeed, it accused the state of committing two crimes against humanity, by pursuing a policy of apartheid and persecution against the Arab citizens of Israel as well as the inhabitants of the 1967-occupied Palestinian territories.

According to the facts backed up by the UN and other reports, the Israeli authorities practice the ugliest forms of racism against the Palestinian people residing in the 1948-occupied Palestinian territories. This reinforces the continuous tension and increases the chance of violence. The UN and its member states are legally obligated to take urgent action to end all forms of apartheid and take appropriate steps against the guilty party. Racism is at the very heart of Israel; its impunity must end.

(Source / 27.08.2021)

Israel must be brought to account for its crimes against Palestinian children

By Motasem A Dalloul

More than 1.2 million Palestinian children in the occupied territories returned to their schools for the new academic year on 15 August. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA), most of them have been counting down the days and looking forward to schools reopening. “Because for many young people in Palestine, 2021 has truly been a long, hot year to date.”

Explaining why, the UN OCHA pointed to the Covid-19 pandemic, throughout which keeping up with classes remotely was a challenge. In the Gaza Strip, nearly 180,000 Palestinian children will be returning to schools that are still damaged after the Israeli military offensive in May, which killed 255 people, including 67 children; more than 41,000 homes were totally or partially destroyed.

The pandemic is still affecting Gaza badly, and Israel has been blocking medical equipment and hygiene disposables at the nominal border. The children are particularly affected by Covid-19 when their parents are infected or have to isolate. It is a traumatic experience, especially for the youngsters. Indeed, many thousands of children in Gaza also suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder; every time they hear a drone or other Israeli aircraft they expect bombs to follow.

Read More: Save the Children condemns violence against children after three deaths in one week

“Children not only have a right to a safe education but are afforded special protections under international human rights law in view of their specific vulnerability,” explained UN OCHA. “Since the beginning of 2021 [though], a total of 79 Palestinian children have been reported killed and 1,269 injured.” Eleven of those killed lived in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem, where 19 boys and five girls have been wounded in attacks by illegal settlers.

Furthermore, Israel is holding 170 children aged between 12 and 17 in prison, Military Court Watch has reported. That was the number as of the end of June, and the organisation pointed out that this was a six per cent increase on the previous month. A number of children are being held in administrative detention, with neither charge nor trial.

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“According to the Israeli Prison Service,” said Military Court Watch, “69 per cent of child detainees were forcibly transferred and/or unlawfully detained in Israel in June. This is in violation of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and Article 8 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.”

Palestinian children under Israeli occupation do not enjoy a safe and secure life as there is always a possibility that they will be attacked by Israeli security forces or illegal settlers. Even the US, Israel’s main supporter in the international community, says that the occupation state “has a responsibility to protect children and teachers from harassment and violence by settlers on their way to and from school – and in any event.”

It is worth noting that Israel is not only targeting Palestinian children, but is also targeting the organisations which defend them or expose Israeli crimes against them. On 29 July, for example, Israeli occupation forces raided the offices of Defence for Children International – Palestine and confiscated equipment, including computers and hard drives. Among the items stolen by the Israeli occupation forces were the legal aid files of the children facing charges in military courts.

Military Court Watch has reported the case of a 16-year-old Palestinian boy from the West Bank who had a painful back injury which prevented him from sleeping in April. About 30 Israeli soldiers banged on the door of his house one night and told his father that he had “five seconds” to open it. Fifteen soldiers entered the family home and arrested the boy. After a harsh interrogation, during which he said that he was insulted repeatedly, the child was placed in solitary confinement for 18 days during which he made 20 or so appearances in a military court. After three months in prison he was released with an eight month suspended sentence.

14-year-old child from Nablus told Military Court Watch that he was walking to his friend’s house when an Israeli military jeep drove towards him and stopped. It was 3 o’clock in the afternoon. “A soldier stepped out and asked me what I was doing,” the boy explained. He was handcuffed — “very tight and painful” — and taken to the jeep where he was hit with a rifle butt by a soldier.

“The jeep drove to Huwwara military base where I was taken to a shipping container. The soldiers then turned the air conditioner on very cold and I was freezing.” After several questions, an Israeli soldier who claimed that he was a Muslim “asked me if I wanted to collaborate with them… and I told him I would never collaborate even if he stuck his gun to my head. Then he asked me if I wanted a cigarette and I told him I did not smoke. Then he asked to see my Facebook page. Then the commander came and told the soldier to leave me alone.”

About two hours later, he was taken outside and left in the sun. “I asked for some water but the soldiers did not respond. One of them spat at me and I started to shout. Soldiers heard my shouts and came to see what was going on. One of them slapped me and then made fun of me.”

Many rights groups around the world, including Israeli organisations have reported that Israel abuses Palestinian children systematically, but their reports are largely ignored. The UN’s own agencies conduct investigations and publish reports, but the international organisation simply expresses its “concern” and calls upon Israel to respect UN human rights guidelines and conventions.

Israel ignores such concerns, of course, and is allowed to act with impunity. This was confirmed by Amnesty International in a report last year. Such impunity, said Amnesty, allows Israel to get away with “torture and other ill-treatment of detainees, including children… Palestinian civilians, including children, from the Occupied Palestinian Territories were prosecuted in military courts that did not meet international fair trial standards.”

How long is the world going to allow such abuses to continue? It is clear for all to see that Israel is not the haven of democracy that it claims to be. The reality is that it is an apartheid state which treats international laws and conventions with contempt, and the world lets it get away with doing so, to the detriment of the people of occupied Palestine, including children. If we are to believe that the UN, the US, Britain and countries in the West generally really do care about human rights (as we have heard all week about the situation in Afghanistan), then Israel’s impunity must be brought to an end, and the colonial occupation state must be held to account for its crimes, not least those against children.

(Source / 23.08.2021)

Analysis: The Murder of the ‘Menacing’ Water Technician: On the Shadow Wars in the West Bank

By Ramzy Baroud 

There is an ongoing, but hidden, Israeli war on the Palestinians which is rarely highlighted or even known. It is a water war, which has been in the making for decades.

On July 26 and 27, two separate but intrinsically linked events took place in the Ein al-Hilweh area in the occupied Jordan Valley, and near the town of Beita, south of Nablus.

In the first incident, Jewish settlers from the illegal settlement of Maskiyot began construction in the Ein al-Hilweh Spring, which has been a source of freshwater for villages and hundreds of Palestinian families in that area. The seizure of the spring has been developing for months, all under the watchful eye of the Israeli occupation army.

Now, the Ein al-Hilweh Spring, like most of the Jordan Valley’s land and water resources, is annexed by Israel.

Less than 24 hours later, Shadi Omar Salim, a Palestinian municipal employee, was killed by Israeli soldiers in the town of Beita. The Israeli army quickly issued a statement which, expectedly, blamed the Palestinian for his own death.

The Palestinian victim approached the soldiers in a “menacing manner”, while holding “what appeared to be an iron bar,” before he was gunned down, the Israeli army claimed.

If the “iron bar” claim was true, it might be related to the fact that Salim was a water technician. Indeed, the Palestinian worker was on his way to open the pipes that supply water to Beita and other adjacent areas.

Beita, which has witnessed much violence in recent weeks, is facing an existential threat. An illegal Jewish settlement, called Givat Eviatar, is being built atop the Palestinian Sabih Mountain, in Arabic, Jabal Sabih. As usual, whenever a Jewish settlement is constructed, Palestinian life and livelihood are threatened. Thus, the ongoing Palestinian protests in the area.

The struggle of Beita is a representation of the wider Palestinian struggle: unarmed civilians fighting against a settler-colonial state that ultimately wishes to replace a Palestinian village or town with a Jewish settlement.

There is another facet to what may seem a typical story, where the Israeli army and Jewish settlers work together to ethnically cleanse Palestinians: Mekorot. The latter is a state-owned Israeli water company that literally steals Palestinian water and sells it back to the Palestinians at an exorbitant price.

Unsurprisingly, Mekorot operates near Beita as well. The Palestinian worker, Salim, was killed because his job of supplying water to the people of Beita was a direct threat to Israeli colonial designs in this region.

Let us put this in a larger context. Israel does not just occupy Palestinian land, it also systematically usurps all of its resources, including water, in flagrant violation of international law which guarantees the fundamental rights of an occupied nation.

The occupied West Bank obtains most of its water from the Mountain Aquifer, which is divided into three smaller aquifers: the Western Aquifer, the Eastern Aquifer and the North-Eastern Aquifer. In theory, Palestinians have plenty of water, at least enough to meet the minimally-required water allotment of 102-120 liters per day, as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). In practice, however, this is hardly the case. Sadly, most of the water in these aquifers is appropriated directly by Israel. Some call it “water capture”; Palestinians call it, more accurately, “theft”.

While in Israel the daily per capita water consumption is estimated at 300 liters, illegal Jewish settlers in the West Bank consume over 800 liters per day. The latter number becomes even more outrageous if compared to the meager amount enjoyed by a Palestinian, that of 70 liters per day.

This problem is accentuated in the so-called ‘Area C’ in the West Bank, for a reason. ‘Area C’ consists of nearly 60 percent of the total size of the West Bank and, unlike ‘Areas A’ and ‘B’, it is the least populated. It is mostly fertile land and it includes the Jordan Valley, known as the ‘breadbasket of Palestine’.

Despite the fact that the Israeli government had, in 2019, decided to postpone its formal annexation of that area, a de facto annexation has been in effect for years. The illegal appropriation of the Ein al-Hilweh Spring by illegal Jewish settlers is part of a larger stratagem that aims at appropriating the Jordan Valley, one dunum, one spring, and one mountain at a time.

Of the more than 150,000 Palestinians living in ‘Area C’, nearly 40 percent – over 200 communities – suffer from “severe shortage of clean water”. That shortage can be remedied if Palestinians are allowed to drill new wells, expand current ones or to use modern technologies to allocate other sources of freshwater. Not only does the Israeli army prohibit them from doing so, even rainwater is off-limits to Palestinians.

“Israel even controls the collection of rainwater throughout most of the West Bank and rainwater harvesting cisterns owned by Palestinian communities are often destroyed by the Israeli army,” an Amnesty International report, published in 2017, concluded.

Since then, the situation became even worse, especially since the idea of officially annexing a third of the West Bank obtained widespread support in the Israeli Knesset and society. Now, every move made by the Israeli army and Jewish settlers in the West Bank is directed towards that end, controlling the land and its resources, denying Palestinians access to their means of survival and, ultimately, ethnically cleansing them altogether.

The Beita protests continue, despite the heavy price being paid. Last June, a 15-year-old boy, Ahmad Bani-Shamsa, was killed when an Israeli army bullet struck him in the head. At the time, Defense for Children International-Palestine issued a statement asserting that Bani-Shamsa did not pose any threat to the Israeli army.

The truth is, it is Beita that is under constant Israeli threat, as well as the Jordan Valley, ‘Area C’, the West Bank and the whole of Palestine. The protest in Beita is a protest for land rights, water rights and basic human rights. Bani-Shamsa and, later, Salim, were killed in cold blood simply because their protests were mere irritants to the grand design of colonial Israel.

The irony of it all is that Israel seems to love everything about Palestine: the land, the resources, the food and even the fascinating history, but not the indigenous Palestinians themselves.

(Source / 18.08.2021)