[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 9/15/19 8:22am

In April of 2018, the Associated Press reported that the Department of Homeland Security acknowledged that it had detected unauthorized cellular phone surveillance devices operating in Washington, DC.

Commonly known as “StingRays,” the devices are designed to mimic cell phone towers. Essentially, when a StingRay is activated, it forces nearby cellular traffic to go through it rather than through official towers. This allows the operator of the StingRay to know the exact location of a specific cellphone. With more advanced models, the device can force a phone to use older, unencrypted 2G wireless signals allowing a third party to eavesdrop on calls and messages. Some can even attempt to install malicious software on a phone. StingRays are typically the size of a briefcase but can be as small as a cellphone.

Now, according to an exclusive report by Politico, three former senior US officials claim that Israel was most likely responsible for placing the surveillance equipment near the White House and other sensitive locations in Washington. One of the former officials claimed that the StingRays were probably intended to eavesdrop on President Donald Trump and his top associates.

According to the officials, after conducting comprehensive forensic analysis, the FBI and other agencies “felt confident” that Israeli agents had placed the devices.

StingRay, a cellular site simulator used for surveillance. US Patent and Trademark office, via AP.

Unsurprisingly, an Israeli embassy spokesperson denied that Israel was responsible and said, “These allegations are absolute nonsense. Israel doesn’t conduct espionage operations in the United States, period.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also denied the report. He claimed, “There is a longstanding commitment, and a directive from the Israeli government not to engage in any intelligence operations in the US.”

But these statements are extremely unbelievable, if not outright lies. According to a 2014 Newsweek article, Israel engages in “alarming” levels of espionage against the US. A former congressional staffer who attended a classified briefing in 2013 said that, “No other country close to the United States continues to cross the line on espionage like the Israelis do.”

Israel used stolen information to try to undermine US diplomacy regarding the Iran nuclear deal of 2015. More specifically, Israel passed classified intelligence to members of Congress to try to persuade them to derail the negotiations with Iran.

Israel also has a long history of selling American military technology to China. In fact, in the early 1990’s, the CIA director at the time told a Senate Government Affairs Committee that Israel had been selling US secrets to China for around a decade. In 1998, an American scholar wrote that Israel has conducted an “aggressive campaign” of economic espionage in the US since its creation in 1948. He notes that while other countries also engage in such spying, Israel “is the only major recipient of US foreign aid to do so.”

And one cannot forget the case of Jonathan Pollard, an American former intelligence analyst who pleaded guilty to providing thousands of top-secret classified documents to Israel in 1984 and 1985. Despite this major betrayal, a few years later Congress renewed a $3 billion aid package to Israel, and the Ronald Reagan administration gave it the official status of a “major non-NATO ally.”

The perception that Israel is a good American ally is laughable, but not only due to its espionage against the US. Israel routinely denies entry to American citizens, it murdered American peace activist Rachel Corrie with a bulldozer, and in 1967 it killed 34 American sailors in an attack on the USS Liberty while it was in international waters. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has even selfishly commented that the September 11 terrorist attacks were good for Israel.

It is absolutely mind-boggling that despite the many cases of espionage and other hostile acts against the US and Americans, Israel is still treated as one of our greatest allies by many people from all points on the political spectrum. Almost 12 hours after the Politico article was published, there was not a single mention of the report on the homepages of the websites of either CNN or Fox News. If the espionage was committed by Russia or Iran, the American media, government officials, and even the public would all be up in arms. President Trump is quick to lash out on Twitter at anyone who even slightly offends him, but when it comes to Israeli transgressions, he is surprisingly silent.

This lack of accountability or awareness regarding Israel is precisely the problem. One of the former officials mentioned in the report said they were “not aware of any accountability at all.” Even after the FBI and other agencies determined that Israel was most likely responsible for the surveillance devices, “the Trump administration took no action to punish or even privately scold the Israeli government.”

Again, this is a bipartisan affair. Despite being disrespected and treated ungratefully by Netanyahu, President Barack Obama’s actions made him “one of the most pro-Israeli American presidents” since Harry Truman, according to Israeli historian Avi Shlaim. In fact, before he left office, Obama committed a record $38 billion to Israel over 10 years. This was the largest military aid package from one country to another in human history.

From poverty to poor infrastructure to people lacking basic health insurance, there are many problems that need to be solved in the US. Americans must ask their government why billions of their taxes are so swiftly handed to the wealthy, apartheid state of Israel, a state that does not hesitate to spy on the hand that feeds it. American politicians from both parties are more willing to shut down the government than to withhold funding from Israel for its blatant violations of international law and for its brazen espionage and disrespect for our country.

It is time for American citizens to realize that the so-called “special relationship” with Israel is in fact not special nor beneficial. On the contrary, it is a liability and it jeopardizes America’s national security, economic interests, and its reputation throughout the world.

[Category: Opinion, Politico, rachel corrie, USS Liberty]

[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 9/15/19 7:48am

Before a single vote is cast in Israel’s second national election this year, two disturbing facts are clear: the outcome will be as muddled as it was after the April contest and whoever wins, despite the permanent state of denial in which Western liberals find themselves, Israel/Palestine has become one state – an Apartheid state.

Following April’s election, unable to form a governing coalition of 61 Knesset members, Netanyahu called for a new election, hoping to improve his prospects. During the past five months, he pulled out all the stops. He bombed three countries – Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. He announced that if he wins this new contest, he will annex the Jordan Valley in addition to settlements and outposts spread throughout the West Bank. He accelerated his incitement against the Palestinian citizens of Israel including a statement that “the Arabs are trying to steal the election” and an incendiary Facebook post claiming that “The Arabs want to annihilate us all – women, children, and men.” (Netanyahu denied personal responsibility for the post, but most commentators dismissed the denial). And he coerced members of his own party to pledge support for his immunity from prosecution for the multiple corruption charges he is currently facing.

Even with all of this, polls are showing that Netanyahu and his coalition partners will fare no better than they did in April. In fact, it appears that neither Netanyahu’s coalition nor the main opposition to his continued rule have moved beyond the numbers they had in April. The only significant growth appears to be among the ultra-religious and the right-wing secular nationalists. While Netanyahu might like to bring them both into his government, thus giving him in excess of a majority, the secular nationalists are ideologically opposed to the ultra-religious and will not join a government that includes them. At the same time, some of the opposition might be inclined to join a government with Netanyahu’s Likud Party, but at a steep price – namely, that he step down as head of the coalition. Since he is desperate to remain in power to avoid prosecution and humiliation, it is unlikely he will accept. This is precisely why he insisted that his party members pledge loyalty before the election.

Pre-election polls demonstrate that the main opposition coalition, Blue and White, will also have difficulty assembling 61 Knesset seats. An additional problem facing Blue and White’s chances of forming a government is that even the most optimistic tallies of their Knesset counts include the 10-11 seats that will go to the Joint List of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel. The leaders of Blue and White have said that they will not form a government dependent on Joint List members and, for their part, the Joint List leaders have said they will only join a governing coalition that agrees to guarantee equality for the Arab citizens of Israel and agrees to end the occupation of Palestinian lands – demands the Blue and White leaders have rejected.

As a result, we are back to where we started with an election yielding no outcome other than confusion and rancor.

What’s also clear, is that regardless of who wins – if, in fact, anyone does – there will be no change in the reality faced by Palestinians. There will be no end of the occupation and no two-state solution. Israeli politics have moved so far to the right, that it is hard to understand how or why the US media continues to refer to Netanyahu’s opposition – as a “center-left” coalition. Whatever the “left” means in this formulation, it most certainly doesn’t mean anything related to Palestinians, peace, and human rights. Like Netanyahu, Blue and White maintains that the annexation of Jerusalem and the other Palestinian lands around the city will remain. They have claimed that they too support extending Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and the settlements in the West Bank. Maybe the one area where they differ from Netanyahu is in their charge that he has coddled Hamas in Gaza. The Blue and White leader has called, instead, for a major military operation to end the Islamists’ rule in the Strip. Blue and White has also rejected the Palestinian citizens of Israel’s demands to cancel the notorious “Jewish Nation State” law – which maintains that Jews have exclusive rights to national self-determination in “the Land of Israel” and denies full rights to Arab citizens of the state.

This being the case, the hope to which liberals have clung that in the post-Netanyahu era Israel will be different is, at best, an illusion. The only change one might see in a Blue and White-led Israel is an easing of the hold the Orthodox Rabbinate have over aspects of social and religious life in the country. But as far as ending the occupation and meeting the minimum Palestinian requirements for an independent state – neither Netanyahu nor the Blue and White have any interest in moving forward toward that goal.

This is the Israel that Netanyahu and the Likud have built. Since the late 1970’s when they first came to power, the Likud embarked on a settlement program that, in their words would make a Palestinian state an impossibility. After Oslo, they incited against the agreement, the Labor Party that signed it, and the Palestinians. Their efforts led to anti-peace legislation passed by the Republican-led US Congress, the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin, and the 1996 election of Netanyahu on a platform of ending the peace process.

During all this time, liberal voices were largely silent as Israel built new settlements, roads, and infrastructure, seizing Palestinian land and violating their fundamental rights. While, for Palestinians, Oslo was to have led to separation and two states, this was never embraced by liberals until 2001, when Clinton suggested such a possible outcome in his “parameters for peace.”

Even now, when liberal voices are raised in defense of a two state solution the reason they give is not the brutality of the occupation and its violation of Palestinian rights. Rather it is because they say they want to preserve Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. But the reality is that Israel never was nor can it ever be both Jewish and democratic – nor was it intended to be.

In the beginning of the state, following the 1948 expulsion of Arabs, creating what Ben-Gurion called “the double miracle – a state with more land and less Arabs” – Israel believed it could continue with an Arab minority that would be exploited, managed, and repressed. This state of affairs continued until after 1967, when Israel occupied more land, but with it came a larger number of Arabs.

For the first 25 years following the 1967 War, liberals were silent in the face of the brutality of the Israeli occupation. During all this time, as Israel dug deep roots into the territories, no effective voices were raised in opposition to their practices. By now it’s too late – the hole Israel dug is too deep.

With 650,000 Israeli settlers living in the occupied lands and a network of Jewish-only roads and infrastructure connecting them and dividing the Palestinian lands into isolated pockets and with no one willing or able to take the steps to roll back this reality – we now have one state. And it is an Apartheid state since the majority of those living between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea are Palestinian Arabs.

Given this, the liberal lament over the “potential demise of the two-state solution” isn’t a laughable illusion. It’s irritating – because it was their silence and inaction that allowed it to happen and even now their concern is misdirected. They remain more concerned with preserving the Jewish character of Israel than they are with the decades of suffering of the Palestinians. Not only was their inaction responsible for Israeli practices, but it was their silence that created Israeli impunity. Both Netanyahu and Blue and White know that they can claim sovereignty over large parts of the West Bank, continue to strangle Gaza, expand settlements in the West Bank and “Greater Jerusalem” and nothing will happen.

It is for these reasons that this new Israeli election will decide nothing – not for Israel, nor for the Palestinians.

This post first appeared on the Arab American Institute website on Sept. 14. 

[Category: Opinion]

[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 9/14/19 6:26am

Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Settlements

Israel demolishes two Palestinian buildings east of Jerusalem
JERUSALEM (WAFA) 11 Sept — Israel demolished today two Palestinian buildings that were still in the construction phase in the town of Eizariya, east of occupied Jerusalem but on land considered within the Jerusalem municipal lines, under the pretext they were built without a permit and too close to the separation wall, according to the owner. Samer Abu Zayyad, owner of the two buildings, told WAFA that Israeli soldiers gave protection to Israeli Jerusalem municipality staff as they used heavy machinery to demolish the two buildings – one 540 square meters and the other 430 square meters in area – estimating his losses at more than $1 million, not including the price of the land they were built on.

VIDEO: A tour inside the cancerous tunnels under Silwan
SILWANIC 11 Sept Arabic, English subtitles 3:41 —  [The tunnels have obliterated Umayyad and Abbassid layers of settlement in the search for ancient Jewish artifacts and now threaten the Palestinian houses above]

Israeli forces weld shut Palestinian house in Hebron
HEBRON (WAFA) 12 Sept — Israeli army welded shut the main entrance to a house belonging to a Palestinian resident in Shuhada Street in the southern West Bank city of Hebron, according to witnesses. Witnesses said Israeli forces, accompanied by staff from the Israeli civil administration, welded shut the main entrance to Sami Zahdeh’s house, which is located in Shuhada Street. Local sources informed WAFA correspondent that the house was set on fire about two weeks ago, and the occupation forces prevented the fire crews from entering Shuhada Street, forcing them to make a hole in the wall of one of the neighboring houses to extinguish the fire. The civil administration reportedly ordered the family to enter the house from that hole, and told them not to reopen the door they welded shut.

Archbishop Atallah warns against taking over Orthodox real estate in Hebron Gate
MEMO 14 Sept — Atallah Hanna, the archbishop of Sebastia, Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, stated today that the ancient Orthodox real estate in the area of Hebron Gate is under serious threat, and that extremist settlers may seize these properties at any time. “We might witness the same scenario of the building of Saint John the Beloved in the Old City, to which the settlers were allowed years ago, again here in Hebron Gate.” “This is a new and renewed calamity targeting our ancient Orthodox estates in Jerusalem. The seizure of Hebron Gate and its buildings means further weakening, and marginalising Christian presence in Jerusalem,” he declared.

Israeli soldiers confiscate 100 dunams of Palestinian lands near Nablus and Ramallah
[with map] IMEMC 8 Sept — Israeli soldiers confiscated, Sunday, approximately 100 dunams (24.7 Acres) of privately owned Palestinian lands from villages south of Nablus, in northern West Bank, and northeast of Ramallah, in central West Bank. Ghassan Daghlas, a Palestinian official who monitors Israel’s illegal colonialist activities in northern West Bank, said the soldiers handed the confiscation orders to residents of Qaryout and Jaloud villages, near the northern West Bank city of Nablus. He added that similar orders were handed to residents of Turmus Ayya village, north of the central West Bank city of Ramallah. The confiscation of the lands is part of Israeli plans to expand Shilu illegal colony, which was built on private Palestinian lands. The confiscated lands are in the following areas:….

Bedouin village structures demolished for the 159th time
IMEMC 9 Sept — Israeli forces, Sunday, demolished structures of Al-Araqib village, a Bedouin community in the southern Negev region of Israel, for the 159th time. On September 3, 2019, three people, including an elderly woman, were detained by Israeli occupation soldiers, when the village was demolished for the 157th time. The village of 220 people has been the target of an ongoing effort to permanently remove them from the area, by way of constant attacks and destruction of property perpetrated by the Israeli occupation. Israel’s displacement efforts towards this village began in 2010, resulting in the community, repeatedly working together with activists to rebuild. In addition to these incursions and violations, Israeli courts imposed a 1.6 million shekel fine on the villagers, to cover the cost of the relentless demolitions by the occupation authorities.

Days after Palestinian family evicted, Israel settlers move onto West Bank land
MEMO 12 Sept — Just a few days after Israeli occupation forces expelled a Palestinian family from land in the southern occupied West Bank, an unauthorised settler outpost was established there, reported Haaretz. Last month, Israeli authorities carried out the eviction of the Cassia family near Beit Jala, demolishing their home and a restaurant they had been operating on the same site. The land is located in Area C of the occupied West Bank, where Palestinians are systematically denied construction permits by Israeli occupation authorities.

Soldiers confiscate two electricity generators, abduct one Palestinian, in Hebron
IMEMC 8 Sept — Israeli soldiers confiscated, Saturday, two electricity generators in Wad az-Zarzeer area, and abducted one Palestinian near the Ibrahimi Mosque, in Hebron city, in the southern part of the occupied West Bank. Several army jeeps and armored vehicles invaded Wad az-Zarzeer area before the soldiers broke into a property owned by a Palestinian family and confiscated two electricity generators, which he had placed on his land. The soldiers also abducted, Nabeeh Taha Abu Sneina while walking near the Ibrahimi Mosque, in the Old City of Hebron, and took him to an unknown destination.

Israeli soldiers bulldoze large areas of Palestinian lands near Tubas
IMEMC 12 Sept — Dozens of Israeli soldiers, accompanied by bulldozers, invaded large areas of Palestinian agricultural lands, on Thursday morning, and started uprooting them, in addition to destroying water wells. Abdullah Bisharat, the head of [Khirbet al-] Atouf Village Council, said the soldiers invaded lands in Um Kbeish area, in the western part of the village, and started bulldozing and uprooting hundreds of dunams of Palestinian farmlands. He added that the bulldozers are cutting and uprooting dozens of trees and other plants in the farmlands, without a prior notice or any justification. Bisharat also stated that the soldiers also demolished four wells, used by the farmers for irrigation for their lands….

Netanyahu’s Jordan Valley plan violates law: UN spox
ANKARA (Anadolu Agency) 12 Sept by Burak Bir — Israel’s prime minister’s statement that he plans to annex the Jordan Valley is a serious violation of the law, a UN spokesman said Wednesday. “The Secretary-General is concerned by Israeli Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu’s statement declaring his intention, if elected, to annex the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea as a first step to applying Israeli sovereignty over all settlements and other areas in the occupied West Bank,” Stephane Dujarric said in a statement. He highlighted that such steps, if implemented, would constitute a serious violation of international law which would be devastating to potential negotiations and regional peace as well as viability of a two-state solution. He also stressed that the Israeli-Palestinian issue should be dealt with in line with UN resolutions and on the basis of a two-state solution based on pre-1967 borders. Netanyahu said on Tuesday that Israel will impose its sovereignty on the Jordan Valley and other settlements in the occupied West Bank if he wins next week’s Israeli election. Roughly 70,000 Palestinians, along with some 9,500 Jewish settlers, currently live in the Jordan Valley — a large, fertile strip of land that accounts for roughly one-quarter of the West Bank….

Please, Bibi, let annexation begin / Gideon Levy
IAK reposted from Haaretz 12 Sept — There’s no longer any real debate in Israel. The right wants to annex Palestinian land openly, and the center wants to annex, but deceive us. All that’s left now is to admit to the world that in reality Israel annexed the West Bank many years ago… it’s one country with an apartheid system — Here’s one campaign promise by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that we should hope will be fulfilled: annexing the Jordan Valley to Israel. So far, no other campaign promise has been as encouraging as this one. Not one Zionist party has offered even a hint of an idea that could shake up the existing situation like this annexation proposal, and the status quo is crying for a shake-up. I obviously won’t vote for Netanyahu, but I hope that this time he keeps his promise. Let him annex the Jordan Valley, and afterward the entire West Bank. Let him turn the reality in this territory into a political reality, without hiding it any longer. The time has come for truth. The time has come to put an end to the great masked ball that Israel and the world have been holding for 52 years already. The apparently eternal reality in this territory should be translated into legal language. The Jordan Valley was annexed long ago, as was the entire West Bank. The Green Line has been erased; nothing remains of it.  All that’s left now is to say so officially….


PCHR Report: On 74th Friday of Great March of Return, 75 civilians injured, 35 with live ammunition
14 Sept — On 74th Friday of Great March of Return, 75 civilians were injured as a result of the Israeli military’s continued use of excessive force against peaceful protests along the Gaza Strip’s eastern border; 34 children, 1 woman and 1 journalist, were among those injured this Friday, 13 September 2019. Israeli forces continued to exercise excessive force against Palestinians using live ammunition and targeting protestors’ upper body; PCHR recorded 35 injuries with live bullets this week, 2 deemed extremely critical. Israel’s military has been put on high alert along the Gaza border as the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, threatened to launch a military operation against the Gaza Strip at any time. According to Israeli reports, Israeli military reinforced its presence along the Gaza borders, along with the use of the ‘Iron Dome Missile Defence’ in several nearby cities and villages…
The following is a summary of today’s events along the Gaza Strip border: ….

UN Human Rights Commissioner: 30 journalists covering protests injured by Israel
IMEMC/Anadolu 11 Sept — In Gaza alone, Israeli forces have injured 30 journalists since March 22, a UN rights body said on Monday. “30 journalists covering the protests were injured” by the Israeli army, UN Human Rights High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet said in a statement, referring to the protests held along the Israel-Gaza fence. Since the start of protests in March 2018, known as Great March of Return, a total of four Anadolu Agency journalists were also wounded, two in Gaza and two in occupied West Bank. In the same period, two other journalists working in other media organizations in Gaza were killed. Bachelet said the violations have continued since the adoption of UN Resolution 40/13 on March 22, 2019…

Israel strikes 15 Hamas targets in response to Gaza rocket attack, army says
[behind paywall] Haaretz 11 Sept by Jack Khoury et al. — Israel struck some 15 Hamas targets in the northern and central Gaza Strip overnight Tuesday in response to rockets that were fired from the coastal enclave earlier that night, the Israeli military said …  The Israeli army noted that its strikes were carried out in retaliation for two rockets that were launched from the Strip toward the southern Israeli cities of Ashkelon and Ashdod on Tuesday. The rockets were fired while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was addressing crowds at a campaign rally in Ashdod, and had to be taken off the stage mid-speech.  Palestinian sources said Tuesday night that Israel had carried out several airstrikes near the city of Deir al Balah in central Gaza, in addition to striking in the northern Strip….

Al-Qassam Brigades shoot down Israeli Army drone
IMEMC/Agencies 10 Sept — The al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, has shot down an Israeli drone in the Gaza Strip, a day after the regime carried out a fresh wave of air raids against the besieged coastal enclave. Palestinian media reported, according to Press TV/Al Ray, that Hamas fighters intercepted and downed the quadcopter drone east of Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on Monday night. The Israeli military has confirmed that a drone fell in southern Gaza, stating that an investigation into the incident is underway. The aircraft’s remains are now in the hands of al-Qassam, according to a statement by the group. This is the second unmanned aerial vehicle that the Israeli army has lost in the past 24 hours.
The downing of the drone in the Rafah area comes amid a series of exchanges between Israel and Gaza. Palestinian news agencies said, late Saturday, that Israeli airstrikes had targeted positions allegedly held by Hamas, inside the enclave. Health officials said there were no casualties from the attacks, which lasted for close to an hour. Israeli sources said that the attacks had hit Hamas naval facilities along the Mediterranean, in addition to two military compounds run by the group in central Gaza. There was no confirmation from Hamas and its affiliated groups. The relentless bombardment came after Hamas launched a drone operation targeting Israeli military equipment stationed along its border with the occupied Palestinian territories, following a wave of Israeli aerial assaults. Hamas’ raids have come in response to the Israeli army’s killing of Palestinian protesters marching along the border fence.

Israeli soldiers invade Palestinian lands in Gaza
IMEMC 9 Sept — Several Israeli army vehicles invaded, on Monday at dawn, Palestinian lands in northern and central Gaza, and bulldozed them while military drones flew overhead. Media sources said four armored military vehicles advanced dozens of meters into Palestinian agricultural lands east of Jabalia, in the northern part of the coastal region, and bulldozed them. They added that four other bulldozers invaded lands east of Juhr Ed-Deek town, northeast of the al-Boreij refugee camp in central Gaza Strip, and bulldozed them also while military drones hovered overhead.

Egyptian delegation hastens to Gaza to mediate as tensions increase with Israel
Times of Israel 8 Sept — An Egyptian military intelligence delegation will visit the Gaza Strip Sunday and not later this week as originally planned in light of heightened tensions in the coastal enclave, Gaza news outlets reported. The delegation, which hopes to lower tension between Israel and Gaza against a background of recent cross-border violence, was to enter the Hamas-controlled Palestinian enclave via the Erez crossing later in the day, the Shehab Agency reported. Egypt has in the past helped broker unofficial ceasefires between Israel and Hamas.

Gaza drone drops IED on Zionist occupation troops on Strip’s border
Al-Manar 7 Sept — The Zionist occupation army announced that a drone launched from Gaza dropped an IED on an Israeli military position along the border fence, claiming that no injuries among troops have been recorded. It also alleged that the drone attack caused only a slight damage to military vehicles.

Israel helps Hamas regain control over Gaza, rogue groups
Al-Monitor 10 Sept by Shlomi Eldar — It has now become routine: Almost every weekend, the Code Red alert is sounded in the Gaza envelope localities in the south of Israel, followed by what the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman likes to call “airstrikes on terror targets.” This rather vague term is designed to give the sense that an important airstrike assault has taken place; in truth, however, it describes empty reprisals without any deterrent effect. In turn, this is designed to placate Israel’s public opinion. These “strikes” cost the Israeli taxpayer a lot of money but provide zero efficacy. Most of the IDF responses in recent months have been against unmanned targets such as abandoned Hamas observation posts and unimportant structures … It is a strange game in which each side is very aware of the red lines that it dares not cross in order not to be pulled into a significant escalation — certainly not into war. In other words, each side knows the extent of the “no-choice fire” it must carry out due to internal pressure. It is the extent of fire that would be considered by home public opinion as sufficient response; in reality, it is almost restraint. Israel, on its part, must strike the enemy in order to ward off criticism regarding the loss of deterrence. Hamas, on its part, must fire because it also must ward off criticism from the Strip. One of the ways anti-Hamas criticism has been expressed is through a widening of the “rogue group” phenomenon — heading toward loss of control. Thus, each side must retaliate but tries not to inflict actual harm….

The ecological war on Gaza
Jewish Currents 9 Sept by Rob Goyanes — FOR CENTURIES, the plains that comprise modern-day Gaza were lush with citrus orchards. Though early Zionists claimed to have pioneered the orange industry, Palestinian farmers had maintained orange groves—specifically of the sweet “Jaffa” orange that would later be co-opted as a symbol of Israeli ingenuity—for export since the 1800s. In some cases, these orchards were passed down by generations of Palestinian families. Arabs and Jews set up mutual orange enterprises in the early 20th century, but things started to change following Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, and especially following the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. Citriculture largely disappeared from Gaza in the second half of the 20th century, due in large part to Israeli bulldozing of the orange groves. Through the course of investigating the disappearance of the orchards, a researcher with Forensic Architecture—a research agency based at Goldsmiths, University of London, composed of architects, software developers, and others who investigate human rights violations—learned that the low-lying crops that replaced the groves in recent years were potentially dying due to Israeli actions. This prompted the agency to take a closer look at crop disappearance in Gaza.  In July, Forensic Architecture released a report titled “Herbicidal Warfare in Gaza,” detailing the results of their investigation, which finds that the crop deaths were caused by herbicides sprayed by Israel and carried into Gaza by the wind. The findings raise the disturbing possibility that the Israeli military has been engaging in a form of ecological warfare (a possibility first reported by +972 Magazine in 2015)….

Palestinian fighter killed in tunnel accident in Gaza
IMEMC 12 Sept — The al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, has reported that one of its fighters was killed, on Thursday at dawn, in an accident in a siege-busting tunnel, east of Khan Younis, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. In a statement, the Brigades said the Palestinian, identified as Mohammad Fawzi Najjar, 25, was killed in what it described as an accident in a tunnel, east of Khan Younis. It added that the Palestinian was from Khuza‘a town, east of Khan Younis. It is worth mentioning that Mohammad is the brother of Abdullah Fawzi Najjar, 22, also a member of the al-Qassam Brigades, who was killed when the Israeli war jets fired missiles at a tunnel, on July 29th, 2014, during the summer offensive on Gaza.

Palestinian killed in an accidental explosion in central Gaza
IMEMC 8 Sept — The Palestinian Health Ministry in the Gaza Strip has reported that one fighter was killed, Sunday, in what was described as an accidental explosion in Central Gaza. It stated that the Palestinian has been identified as Mo‘in Suleiman al-‘Attar, 42, was killed in the explosion in Deir al-Balah, in central Gaza. The Palestinian, from Deir al-Balah in central Gaza, was first seriously wounded, before he was rushed to the al-Aqsa Hospital where he succumbed to his serious injuries. The al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad, said the fighter was one of its members.

Israel cuts medical permits for Gazans to halt migration to West Bank
Times of Israel 13 Sept — State prosecutors tell High Court the government is working to stem flow of ‘illegal aliens’ from Hamas-run coastal enclave to PA-controlled territory — Israel has been cutting down on the number of medical treatment permits it issues to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, fearing that they are being abused to move illegally to the West Bank, state prosecutors reportedly told the High Court of Justice this week. Prosecutors disclosed the efforts on Wednesday in a response to a High Court of Justice petition filed by Arab human rights groups, the Haaretz daily reported. According to the report, the prosecutors said cutting the number of permits issued was part of  active steps to “halt the growth” of Palestinians moving from Gaza to the West Bank without a permit from Israel. The response said that Israel regards them as “illegal aliens.” Prosecutors said that since 2017, there has been a sharp uptick in the number of Gazans making the move. As of mid-2018, 2,671 Gazans were living in the West Bank without an Israeli permit. Just over half of them, 1,397, were granted a permit to leave Gaza for medical reasons but never returned. The number is a sharp increase from previous years; in 2016, the total number of Gazans who left the Strip for medical treatment and never returned was 262.  Israel says entire Gaza families are illegally moving to the West Bank chain-migration style. After one family member is granted an exit permit for medical purposes, other relatives then begin applying for permits to enter Israel to visit the sick person, and never return…
The admission from state prosecutors comes less than a month after a senior Israeli official said the government was actively promoting the emigration of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip, and was working to find other countries who may be willing to absorb them.

Gazan’s death abroad shines light on middle-class exodus
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) 8 Sept — With a family of five, a two-story home and a pharmacy, Tamer al-Sultan had a life many in the besieged and impoverished Gaza Strip would envy, but he still felt trapped — Fed up with the heavy-handed rule of Hamas, al-Sultan braved a treacherous journey in hopes of starting a new life in the West — only to die along the way. His death has drawn attention to the growing exodus of middle-class Gazans who can no longer bear to live in the isolated coastal territory. It has also struck a nerve among many Palestinians because he appears to have fled persecution by Hamas, rather than the territory’s dire economic conditions following a 12-year blockade by Israel and Egypt, imposed when the Islamic militant group seized power….

Corpse of missing Palestinian found in Bosnia and Herzegovina
IMEMC 10 Sept — A corpse of a young Palestinian man who went missing around three weeks ago was found by the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, after he tried to immigrate to Europe to escape the dire conditions in the besieged Gaza Strip. The family of Saleh Hamad, 22, from Beit Hanoun, in the northern part of the Gaza Strip, said it was officially informed that its son drowned to death. They stated that he managed to leave the Gaza Strip and was trying to seek refuge in Europe, adding that they lost contact with him three weeks ago.

Not even the beaches in Gaza are safe from the threat of conflict
[with photos from The Washington Post] The Independent 9 Sept — They are supposed to be a reprieve in one of the most tumultuous locations in the world. But the sands of Gaza are slowly becoming uninhabitable, write James McAuley and Hazem Balousha  — The sea was once Gaza’s only escape – the one place in this tiny enclave where residents could depart from their entrapped lives, if only for an hour. But now a ceaseless conflict that seems to impinge on nearly every aspect of life here has claimed the Mediterranean, too. Because of skyrocketing levels of water pollution, attributable to political and economic turmoil, the 25-mile coastline is now another barrier in a place where barriers are all too common. People still come to watch the waves. They still stop to savour the salty breeze. But these days, many stop short of swimming. Even in the heat of summer, to swim is now to tempt fate … The three wars Hamas has waged with Israel since 2009 have devastated the Gaza Strip’s already weak sanitation system. On top of that, Gaza’s sewage treatment plants sit idle many hours a day without the electricity to power them …  According to the World Health Organisation, waterborne diseases constitute about a quarter of all illnesses in the Strip. A 2018 study by the Rand Corporation was likewise clear in its conclusion, predicting an imminent spike in bacterial, parasitic and viral infections such as cholera, giardia and viral meningitis, respectively….

3D printing stethoscopes, tourniquets and crucial dialysis-machine parts in Gaza
BoingBoing 11 Sept by Clive Thompson — Tarek Loubani is a Palestinian-Canadian doctor who works with the Glia Project, a group that creates open-source designs for 3D-printable medical hardware. Their goal is to let local populations manufacture their own medical wares at prices considerably lower than in the marketplace, and in situations where — because of distance or war — it may not even be possible to ship in equipment at any price. Some of their early work has been in blockaded Gaza, for example. So far, Glia has designed a stethoscope that can be made for about $2.83, and a tourniquet that costs about $7 to make. But Glia’s also developing a project that’s even more ambitious, and crazily interesting: An open-source dialysis machine. In the current issue of Logic magazine (which is amazing front to back, BTW), Loubani talked about how regulatory capture has jacked up the price of dialysis, and how to use open-source to design around it. I’ll quote it at length here, because Loubani’s description of the problem and the hack is super eloquent: …  Fundamentally, dialysis machines are a pump, a controller, a flow meter, and a little bit of tubing. Nothing special. The only way for companies to make them profitable is to create vendor lock-in and collude with each other … We have rooms of machines with no disposables, and rooms of disposables with no machines   How can 3D printing help? Our idea is to make a machine that’s generic, where we can create templates for each of the different companies’ disposables….


Israel arrested 120,000 Palestinians after Oslo accords
MEMO 14 Sept — The Israeli occupation has arrested 120,000 Palestinians since the announcement of the Oslo Accords between the PLO and Israel in September 1993, Abdel-Nasser Ferwaneh, a specialist in prisoners’ issues, revealed on Friday. To absorb this large number of Palestinian prisoners, Ferwaneh explained, Israel built and opened several new prisons. He noted that detention decreased between 1993 and 2000, but has sharply risen since 2000, when the second Intifada or ‘Al-Aqsa Intifada’ commenced. Farwaneh, who is a former prisoner, stated that the Israeli detention included men, women, elderly and minors, confirming that about 2,000 women and more than 17,500 children have been detained since the Oslo Accords. Meanwhile, he disclosed that the Israeli occupation has arrested more than half of the Palestinian MPs, a number of ministers, hundreds of academics, NGOs and international organisations’ staff during this period….

Updated: ‘Palestinian detainee dies in Israeli prison’
IMEMC/Agencies 8 Sept — Cancer-stricken Palestinian prisoner Bassam al-Sayyeh, from the northern West Bank district of Nablus, died today in an Israeli prison, due to medical negligence, said the Palestinian Detainees and Ex-Detainees Commission. Al-Sayeh, 47, was detained on August 10, 2015, he was diagnosed with bone cancer in 2011 and blood cancer in 2013. The commission held the Israeli government fully responsible for the racist crimes committed against Palestinians, including the physical and psychological torture and medical negligence of prisoners, among other violations, calling for an investigation into these crimes. His wife, a former political prisoner, identified as Mona Hayes, said that she has been barred from visiting him for the last two years. She added that he started suffering from various serious health conditions four years ago and never received specialized medical care, and over the past year, Bassam suffered serious health issues, and was hospitalized in Israel hospitals, then to Ramla hospital. His latest setback resulted in clinical death due to renal failure and Kidney failure, due to the lack of adequate and professional medical treatment ….
The death of al-Sayyeh brings the number of Palestinian prisoners who have died in Israeli jails since 1967 to 221 prisoners. At least 700 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails suffer from serious health conditions, 160 of whom are in need of urgent medical follow-up….

120 detainees to join hunger strike as tension continues to mount
IMEMC 13 Sept — Two days after 23 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli prisons started a hunger strike, 120 others are planning to join the strike, especially if the Israeli Prison Authority continues to ignore their demands, including implementing what it agreed to in April of this year. The detainees said that the prison authority continues not only to ignore their demands, but is also refusing to implement what it agreed to this past April, after it agreed to install public phones and to remove phone signal jamming devices, it installed in various prisons, which caused health complications to several detainees. The Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS) reported, Thursday, that 23 detainees started an open-ended hunger strike two days earlier, after it became clear that Israel is not interested in implementing the agreement which was reached after their strike in April of this year. The PPS added that it is unlikely that the prison service will agree to the demands in the coming hours, or days, especially since it continues to escalate its violations against them, to force them to stop the strike….

Court actions

Israeli High Court allows army to keep bodies of dead Palestinians as bargaining chip
JERUSALEM (WAFA) 9 Sept — The Israeli High Court today gave the Israeli military the greenlight to keep bodies of Palestinians killed by Israelis as a bargaining chip in any future exchange negotiations, according to the Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center (JLAC). It said an expanded High Court hearing of seven judges ruled 4 to 3 in favor of giving the military governor the power to withhold bodies of dead Palestinians and bury them for a period of time and use them in the future as a bargaining chip. The court said that Israeli emergency regulations permit the Israeli military to order the interim burial of bodies designated as deceased enemies, based on considerations that take into account state security, civil order, and the need to negotiate for the return of the bodies of Israeli soldiers, according to Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel.. The new ruling overturns an earlier decision by a regular High Court which said the military ruler does not have the power to keep the bodies of the dead Palestinians.

Israel to hand over body of slain Palestinian after withholding it for five months
RAMALLAH, Monday, September 09, 2019 (WAFA) – The Palestinian Detainees and Ex-detainees Commission said the Israeli prosecution has decided to hand over the body of martyr Omar Abdel Karim Younis, from Qalqilia’s village of Siniriya, within a maximum period of two weeks. The body of Younis has been withheld by the Israeli authorities for over five months, along with the bodies of dozens of other martyrs, including the bodies of four Palestinian prisoners who died while in Israeli custody. Younis died on April 4th while in custody at an Israeli hospital, a week after he was shot by Israeli soldiers near Za’atara checkpoint, south of Nablus.

Israel bans ‘dangerous’ settler from northern West Bank home
Ynet 11 Sept by Elisha Ben Kimon — Israel has issued an administrative order banning a settler from entering the northern West Bank, including his home in the settlement of Yitzhar, for three months. Neria Zarug is also forbidden from contacting 16 of his friends. According to defense sources, “Zarug is a dangerous, violent and extreme activist, who is well known to security forces in the area. He was banned from entering the region because of recent violent acts against both Palestinians and the security forces.” Zarug, who is a goatherd in the area, told Ynet that he was, “working against the Palestinian efforts to take control in the region.” “Every time my herd and I get to the area between us and the Arabs, I’m harassed by Border Police forces. I wasn’t a part of any price tags,” he said, referring to attacks by Jewish extremists against Palestinians in response to settlement freezes or demolitions, or Palestinian attacks on Jews.  According to Zarug, friction between Palestinians and settlers has actually reduced since he started herding in the area. “The Palestinians see me with my herd, and they understand this is our land,” he claimed. The residents of Yitzhar, where Zarug lives with his wife and two children, decided to protest the decision, with dozens protesting in front of the house of the IDF’s GOC Central Command Maj. Gen. Nadav Padan. On Monday, Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich joined the protest and appealed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reverse the order….

Three family members charged in killing of Palestinian woman
News Agencies 12 Sept — Palestinian AG says ‘honor killing’ not a factor in death of Israa Ghrayeb, a makeup artist from Bethlehem area, who died last month after being hospitalized with severe wounds; women’s rights activists suspect male relatives beat her over video showing with a man who had proposed … In conservative parts of the Middle East, women have been murdered by male relatives over suspicions they violated strict rules on relationships and marriage. Such killings are rare in the Palestinian territories, and the case sparked an outcry online and in Arab media, leading to widespread calls for justice …  The family said in a statement that police took testimony from them and interviewed Ghrayeb in hospital prior to her death.

West Bank: 3 doctors resign after ‘anomalies’ in Israa Gharib’s autopsy
MEMO 11 Sept — Three Palestinian doctors have retired in protest against the improper handling of the murder and autopsy of Israa Gharib. Israaa was purportedly murdered at the end of August at the hands of her brothers after she reportedly posted a picture with her fiancé, in what has been labeled an “honour killing”. Palestinian newspaper Al-Hadath revealed that official bodies cooperated in the murder. The Undersecretary of State of the Palestine Ministry of Justice, Mohammad Abu Al-Sondos, had allegedly misled the attorney general by claiming that samples of Israa’s body was sent for examination, when only samples of body fluids were issued, causing serious violations in the forensic department. As a result, three doctors in the Department of Forensic Medicine retired and accused Abu Al-Sondos of failing to announce the autopsy and laboratory results. Al-Hadath said the officials were meant to participate in writing the medical report, but didn’t. They also said that the violations that occurred in the forensic department affected their work and caused major delays in carrying out the procedure. Abu Al-Sondos denied any involvement in the investigation. With US-backed Alhurra news station reporting that Abu Al-Sondos expressed that the doctors’ resignations were because “some of them were on charges of corruption, including some who were about to be dismissed, and they used public opinion to escape the measures that were taken against them and trying to arouse public opinion”… The official medical report carried out in Bethlehem by the Ministry confirmed that Israa’s death was due to “severe respiratory failure” which were a result of multiple injuries. According to Egyptian newspaper El Dostor, Israa also suffered from “old and recent bruises on the upper limbs” and fractures on her wrist.

West Bank / Jerusalem

Army injures many Palestinians, including children, in Jerusalem
IMEMC 14 Sept — Israeli soldiers injured, Friday, dozens of Palestinians, among them children, including a girl with special needs, in the al-‘Issawiya town, in occupied East Jerusalem. Media sources said the soldiers invaded the town and fired gas bombs at many homes and streets without any provocation, causing dozens of Palestinians, including children, to suffer the effects of teargas inhalation. One of the wounded children is a little girl with special needs, who passed out for around three minutes while in her room after suffering the severe effects of teargas inhalation, the Wadi Hilweh Information Center in Silwan (Silwanic) has reported.

Israeli soldiers injure several Palestinians in Kufur Qaddoum
IMEMC 14 Sept — Israeli soldiers attacked, Friday, the weekly procession against the illegal Annexation Wall and Colonies, in Kufur Qaddoum village, east of the northern West Bank city of Qalqilia, causing many injuries. The Popular Committee in Kufur Qaddoum said the Palestinians, accompanied by international peace activists, marched from the center of the village, heading towards the village’s main road, which has been blockaded for the last sixteen years. It added that the soldiers attacked the protesters immediately after they started marching in their village, an fired many gas bombs, concussion grenades, and rubber-coated steel bullets at them. Medical sources said dozens suffered the effects of teargas inhalation, and others suffered cuts and bruises, before receiving treatment at the local clinic. The soldiers also tried to ambush and abducted the protesters by hiding behind trees, or around homes and their yards …  the main road was blockaded by the military fifteen years ago, to enable easy access for colonialist settlers driving to and from the Kedumim colony, built on private Palestinian lands.

Illegal Israeli colonists attack Palestinian cars and homes near Nablus
IMEMC 8 Sept — Many fanatic illegal Israeli colonialist settlers attacked, on Sunday at dawn, Palestinian homes and cars in Aseera al-Qibliyya village, south of the northern West Bank city of Nablus, causing property damage. Hafeth Saleh, the mayor of Aseera al-Qibliyya village, said the attack was carried out by at least twenty assailants, who came from the nearby illegal Yitzhar colony, which was built on Palestinian lands near the village. He added that the Israeli assailants targeted many homes and cars in the eastern area of the village, causing damage to a few homes and three cars, in addition to puncturing car tires. Owners of some of the attacked homes and cars have been identified as Abdul-Basset Mohammad Abdul-Rahman, Rafiq Abdul-Basset Ahmad and Abdul-Wahab Abdul-Rahman Ahmad. Saleh also stated that the attacks were carried out approximately at five in the early morning, and added that some of the assailants were masked, and others were armed.

Israeli soldiers abduct a university student near Ramallah
Israeli soldiers abducted, on Saturday at dawn, a young female student of Birzeit University, after storming her home in al-Biereh city, near Ramallah. Media sources in Ramallah said several army jeeps invaded al-Biereh, before the soldiers stormed and ransacked the home of Samah Jaradat, and abducted her. It Is worth mentioning that, a week ago, the soldiers abducted Mais Abu Ghosh, a journalism student at Bir Zeit University, from her home in Qalandia refugee camp, north of Jerusalem, in addition to abducting another woman, who teaches journalism at Bir Zeit University, from her home in Kobar town, northwest of Ramallah.
In related news, the soldiers invaded Ein Qiniya village, northwest of Ramallah, before storming the home of a political prisoner, identified as Aysar Ma‘rouf, in addition to the home of his brother, Tal‘at, and several homes of their relatives. Aysar’s wife, Nour Hamed, said the soldiers caused excessive damage to her home while violently searching it, and confiscated a memory card from the property.

Teenager injured, three students among 15 detained in West Bank, Jerusalem
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 9 Sept – Israeli forces shot and injured a teenager today and detained three students who were among at least 15 Palestinians detained in various raids in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Local sources said Israeli military stormed Beit Rima village, northwest of Ramallah city, where soldiers ransacked two houses and detained three children who were on their way to school. During ensuing confrontations, soldiers opened fire towards local youngsters injuring one in the neck with a rubber-coated steel bullet. Israeli forces also raided Silwad and al-Mazra‘a al-Sharqiya towns, northeast of Ramallah, rounding up six Palestinians, including a former prisoner. In the northern West Bank, local sources said the Israeli military raided Qabatya town, south of Jenin city, and detained two Palestinians. In Hebron district in the south of the West Bank, local sources confirmed that two Palestinians were rounded up in an Israeli military raid in Beit Kahel town, west of Hebron city. Israeli forces also raided ‘Issawyieh in occupied East Jerusalem and detained two young men after raiding and searching their homes.


A clean energy scheme to entrench a dirty occupation
EI 12 Sept by Maureen Clare Murphy — An Israeli renewable energy company is suing a human rights group over its investigation of a wind farm the firm plans to build in the occupied Golan Heights with government backing. Al-Marsad, the group which Energix is suing, has found that the Tel Aviv-based company’s wind turbine project violates the indigenous Syrian population’s right to self-determination. The scheme also serves to strengthen Israel’s control over the territory. The group says Energix’s filing against it sets “an extraordinarily dangerous precedent.” Along with 15 other organizations, the group is urgently requesting that United Nations experts “intervene immediately to protect human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan.” The Energix lawsuit is the first to be brought forward by an Israeli firm under Israel’s anti-boycott law to suppress the activity of a human rights group.  That law, enacted in 2011, imposes sanctions on groups advocating boycotts of Israel or its settlements in the occupied West Bank and Golan Heights.

Canada appeals court ruling against settlement wines labeled ‘Product of Israel’
MEE 9 Sept by Jillian Kestler-D’Amour — The Canadian government is appealing a court’s recent decision against Israeli settlement wines, which it said should no longer be labeled “Product of Israel” when sold in Canada. The Federal Court of Canada found on 29 July that “Product of Israel” labels on wines made in Jewish-only settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories are “false, misleading and deceptive”. The court said it was “unreasonable” to continue selling the wines under that label, ordering the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to find an alternative – a decision that was hailed by pro-Palestine advocates across the country. But Canadian media first reported over the weekend that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government planned to appeal the ruling, amid pressure from pro-Israel lobby groups … In its appeal, the federal government is also challenging whether the court applied a stricter standard of review than is necessary at the CFIA’s Complaints and Appeal Office, the agency’s spokesperson said. While pro-Israel group B’nai Brith Canada welcomed the government’s plan to appeal as “the only reasonable option”, Palestine advocates decried the decision as politically motivated. A federal election will be held in Canada next month and Trudeau’s biggest challenge for re-election comes from the right-wing Conservative Party, which is staunchly pro-Israel….

‘I watched my father and brother killed by Israeli bombs. For me, the UK arms trade is deeply personal’
IMEMC/Agencies 10 Sept — …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 … 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<

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 9/13/19 1:41pm

Editor’s Note: The following is an open letter from California Scholars for Academic Freedom. Mondoweiss occasionally publishes press releases and statements from organizations in an effort to draw attention to overlooked issues.

September 13, 2019

To Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Minister of Justic Ayalet Shaked, and Minister of Higher Education Rafi Peretz:

We, the California Scholars for Academic Freedom, a group of over 200 academics working in higher education in California, write to condemn in the strongest terms the brutal invasion of the home of Professor Widad Barghouti and her subsequent detention without cause on September 1, 2019.  Professor Barghouti, who teaches communications and media at Birzeit University, has been put under administrative detention subject to interrogations without cause and without recourse to due process.

Administrative detention, which can be imposed without charges and be indefinitely and arbitrarily extended, is a form of legal violence imposed by the Israeli State on Palestinian society and, in this instance, on a respected educator as well as members of her family. Palestinian faculty and students alike have a right to education, a right that is systematically undermined by harassment and administrative detention.

We call for the immediate release of Professor Widad Barghouti. We call for an end to the unjust practices of harassment and administrative detention that are aimed at denying Palestinians their right to education. Educators and intellectuals should be free to express their views and pursue their profession without obstruction or harassment. We call for an end to this continued suppression of Palestinian society.

California Scholars for Academic Freedom
Contact Persons
Professor Judith Butler,
Maxine Elliot Professor of Comparative Literature,
Department of Comparative Literature
University of California, Berkeley USA

Professor Emeritus Lisa Rofel,
Department of Anthropology
University of California, Santa Cruz USA
Co-coordinator, California Scholars for Academic Freedom

Professor Claudio Fogu
Associate Professor, Department of French and Italian
University of California, Santa Barbara USA

Professor Vida Samiian
Professor and Dean Emerita
California State University, Fresno USA

[Category: Activism]

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 9/13/19 11:13am

Following outrage over a message on his official Facebook page telling voters “Arabs want to annihilate us all,” Facebook has suspended the chatbot feature of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s page.

According to reports, the message was suspended over its violations of Facebook’s hate speech codes.

The suspension was reportedly put in place for 24 hours, starting at 10:30am local time Thursday.

“After careful review of the Likud campaign’s bot activities, we found a violation of our hate speech policy,” Facebook said in a statement.

The social network added that “should there be any additional violations, we will continue to take appropriate action.”

Reports surfaced on Wednesday that upon accessing Netanyahu’s official page, viewers were being greeted with an automated popup message, generated by a chatbot, with a message to voters imploring them to “make sure” their friends and family vote Likud.

“A secular left-wing weak government that relies on Arabs who want to destroy us all – women, children and men, and will enable a nuclear Iran that will eliminate us,” the message read, saying “we cannot allow this to happen!”

The Facebook message came on the heels of several anti-Arab comments made by Netanyahu and his campaign in an effort to draw right-wing supporters to the polls.

The premiere has repeatedly referred to Palestinians as a “threat” to the right-wing government and the Jewish character of the state, and campaign ads targeting “Anglo” voters.

Critics have accused the premiere of race-baiting ahead of the hotly contested elections, which are set to be held on September 17th.

On Friday, Netanyahu made comments insinuating that his government could launch an offensive on the besieged Gaza Strip “at any moment.”

“An operation in Gaza could happen at any moment, including four days before the elections. The date of the elections does not factor [into a decision to go to war],” the Times of Israel quoted Netanyahu as saying.

According to the latest polls, reported by Haaretz on Friday, the Blue and White party led by Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid is projected to win 33 seats, compared to Netanyahu’s Likud with with 31 seats. Other polls show Netanyahu with a lead, including one reported in Maariv which gives Likud a considerable advantage over Blue White, 36 seats to 32.

[Category: Media Analysis, 2019 Israeli Elections, facebook]

[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 9/13/19 10:12am

On Tuesday, Israel will be going to elections for the second time this year, since the failure to create a government in the wake of the April elections.

Today, Friday, is the last day for polls to be published, since the law prohibits polls from the end of the last Friday before elections.

Although the major rival parties Likud and Kahol Lavan (Blue White) have been more or less even in the recent months (around 30-32 seats each), yesterday’s poll published in Maariv gives Likud a considerable advantage over Blue White (36 to 32). This would be important in relation to who would get a first try at forming a government – by this, it would certainly be Netanyahu. A majority coalition would have to have more than 60 seats in the 120-seat Knesset.

This latest poll measured the Kahanist Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) just under the threshold of 4 seats, but they have been hovering above that in the past week, in various polls, after many weeks where they polled below the threshold. Otzma refused to join the right party union Yamina (Rightward) led by Ayelet Shaked, which got together at the end of July, because of bad blood from the recent elections.

Yamina, which joins the earlier United Right Wing Parties (URWP) and New Right, has been polling great since Ayelet Shaked was chosen to lead this block, it’s been around 10 seats since.

When you count Likud with 36, Yamina with 10, and the religious parties Shas and United Torah Judaism with 15 between them (that has been rather consistent), you can actually count to 61. If Otzma does make it above the threshold after all, we are talking about an even more solid 65.

This would no doubt be Netanyahu’s dream scenario, and it would be a sweet revenge against Avigdor Lieberman. Lieberman has basically become the kingmaker since the last elections, where he prevented the coalition formation by insisting on tougher military draft measures for the ultra-orthodox, which the religious parties could not accept. Netanyahu has directly blamed Lieberman for this failure. That move gave Lieberman more power, and his party Yisrael Beitenu (Israel is our Home) came to poll double as well as before, with about 10 seats since. It has been widely considered that he would be kingmaker also in the coming elections, forcing a center-right government without religious parties, which was his condition. But if this latest scenario comes true, then Netanyahu might be able to have his cake without Lieberman, and this would be very significant for Netanyahu. This will improve his possibilities to get immunity for his corruption charges, a hearing about these is scheduled for two weeks after the elections. In any case Netanyahu would have greater leverage on Lieberman, even if Lieberman is offered a place in a right-wing government with religious parties. This will leave Lieberman in an embarrassing place, because his earlier insistence would rule out such a partnership, and it would leave him out of a right government although he is further right than Netanyahu.

A left government is not even something to talk about in Israel these days, it can’t happen – Blue White doesn’t want the parties representing Palestinians – just forget it. The only realistic scenario talked about recently was that center-right unity government. But Netanyahu would certainly want to avoid that if possible, and it may well become possible.

The recent poll also shows the Labor-Gesher party at just 4 seats, and there’s a chance it will go into oblivion. The Democratic Union, which is the merger of the leftist Meretz, Ehud Barak’s Democratic Israel Party and Labor defector Stav Shafir, is polled at about 5 seats. They might well make it through, but their chances of governing are rather non-existent.

Netanyahu has recently promised to annex large swaths of the Palestinian occupied West Bank if elected. Although 40 percent do not believe he will make good on it, it seems to have had an effect. Gantz has no real antidote to such a proclamation. Gantz has also vowed that the Jordan Valley – the area Netanyahu promised to annex first – would remain in Israel’s control forever.

Thus, there seems to be a good likelihood that Netanyahu will continue to be the face of Israel for the foreseeable future.

[Category: News, 2019 Israeli Elections, Benjamin Netanyahu, Likud]

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 9/13/19 9:51am

In a September 10th speech, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that he would annex a third of the West Bank if reelected. Netanyahu’s declaration comes just a month after dozens of congress members (Republicans and Democrats) traveled to Israel as part of a trip sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF), a branch of AIPAC. Recent comments by Republican members of the delegation suggest that the trip is being sold as an indictment of the two-state solution and an attack on the BDS movement. These statements indicate that GOP support for Israel is moving beyond cynical two-state solution rhetoric and toward a more public embrace of Netanyahu’s annexation vision.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) led AIPAC’S Republican delegation to Israel. After the trip, he told the Jewish News Syndicate that pushing a two-state solution on the region wasn’t the United States’ job. “The world is constantly changing,” he said, “Look at Lebanon. Look at Syria. Things are always in flux in these areas, so how can we choose a solution now without knowing what’s going to happen in a few years?”

Other Republican attendees expressed similar sentiments. Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-VA) said that, “The United States must step back and simply support Israel’s right to exist and to secure itself.” Rep. Clay Higgins (R-LA) curiously compared the conflict to Chicago: “I would never suggest dividing Chicago to end the troubles stemming from cultural differences and economic disparities in different parts of the city. No matter where you draw the map, someone will be ticked off.”

Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN) posted a write-up of his trip on his website. He said that Netanyahu expressed appreciation for Congress’ support for Israel, but was concerned with some of the “anti-Semitic rhetoric” coming from the chamber. Roe then devoted an entire paragraph to the importance of opposing BDS. He mentioned his co-sponsorship of H.Res. 246 (a resolution condemning the movement that overwhelmingly passed in July) and called for lawmakers to support the Combating BDS Act, a piece of legislation that would make it easier for states to crack down on BDS locally. “Divestment is a form of economic warfare and attempting to prevent international businesses from interacting with Israel is a direct threat to its security,” he wrote. Roe also claimed that Jerusalem was under “Palestinian rule” until 1947 and that people weren’t allowed to visit the Temple Mount as a result. “Today it’s open to people of all religions to visit and worship,” wrote Roe, “This is the way it should be.”

In an interview with Jewish Light, Rep Ann Wagner (R-MO) indicated that her position on the two-state solution was “evolving”, but she seemingly chose her words carefully:

I think that the [two-state solution] position is one that you will see evolve over time. I’m always careful to be certain that we are stating what U.S. policy and positions are. I’m a former U.S. ambassador, and I worked for the State Department, so I never want to get ahead of my skis in that regard. So I would say evolving is a good statement to make and accurate, just as I would say the area is evolving. Things have changed a great deal in Israel in five years — especially in the West Bank, so we are hopeful to the extent that it brings peace and harmony and safety and security and economic prosperity to all people living in Israel, that’s what our goal should be.

However, when she asked what the alternative to a two-state solution would be, Wagner made it clear that Israel would take complete control of the region. “Well, recognizing some of these areas that have been talked about in terms of settlements or occupied areas as actually part of the sovereign country of Israel,” she responded.

Wagner was also asked about annexation directly, but dodged the question entirely:

What we want is peace and harmony, safety and security and economic development in the entire region and a de-escalation. That’s what I hope. It’s certainly not my place to dictate the outcome of that. That’s up to Israelis and Palestinians. That’s up to their leadership and policy makers, but I was encouraged with what I saw. I thought there was great hope there.

Although the aforementioned H.Res. 246 passage was celebrated by Netanyahu as a victory for Israel, 21 Israeli lawmakers sent a letter to House leaders criticizing the bill. Their issue wasn’t with the condemnation of BDS, but with portions of the bill that referenced a two-state solution. The letter declares that a two-state solution is actually “far more dangerous to Israel” than BDS and attacks pro-Israel groups like AIPAC because they’ve recently advocated for it. “Pressure to establish a Palestinian state contradicts President Trump’s position, which he has stated many times — that the solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict shall be determined by the parties,” reads the letter.

[Category: News, AIPAC, GOP, Israel, Netanyahu]

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 9/13/19 9:01am

With only days left until Election Day in Israel, candidates are doubling down on their proposed policies and promises to voters. For Netanyahu, that means vows to annex swaths of West Bank land, and messages to voters about “Arabs annihilating us all.”

In what many analysts have likened to US President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016, much of this year’s race for Prime Minister in Israel has been colored by anti-Arab sentiment, race-baiting, and pandering to the far right.

Between Israel and the occupied territories, nearly 5 million Palestinians are living under the control of the state and the occupation, but only a fraction of those with Israeli citizenship — some 1 million people — are allowed to participate in national elections.

Arguably, it is the Palestinians under occupation in Gaza, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank who will be most affected by the outcome of the elections, but they have no say in the matter.

With the topic of this year’s election focused heavily on annexation, the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians living in Area C — the more than 60% of the West Bank under full Israeli control — are hanging in the balance.

Mondoweiss spoke to three Palestinians living in areas of the West Bank– in close proximity to settlements, Area C, and the Jordan Valley — that would likely be the first ones affected if Netanyahu sees his plans through.

Ilham Abu Eid, 70, Beit Jala

Ilham Abu Eid has lived in Palestinian town of Beit Jala, characterized by its large Christian community and sprawling hills famous for its wine and olive oil, all of her life. She was born and raised there, and the land she lives on now was passed down to her from her grandparents.

Ilham Abu Eid sits in her garden in Beit Jala (Photo: Amjad Khawaja)

Beyond the hilltop of Beit Jala, which is surrounded by a network of Israeli settlements, walls, and checkpoints, Abu Eid owns land in the Makhrour valley, which has been under threat of confiscation for years.

“Years ago, they built the Route 60 highway on our land [in Makhrour], and recently we received news that they want to finish another road for the settlers that will take most of our land for Israel,” Abu Eid told Mondoweiss.

Recounting the losses her family has suffered at the hands of the Israeli occupation over the years, Abu Eid told Mondoweiss: “In Beir Ona, they stole our land, cut our olive trees, and in Makhrour they took our land, and in Cremisan they did the same thing. Most of the land in Beit Jala, and much of our family’s land, has been lost to the settlers.”

She speaks of the difficulties she faces accessing her family’s land in the Makhrour valley, as they have been banned by Israel  from paving anything more than a rocky dirt path.

“It is hard, but we walk on it anyways to go to our land because we love it and want to save it. We will not leave our land,” she says. “In the face of the occupation, and the soldiers, and the checkpoints, our lands and our trees are the ones that are suffering.”

It is for these reasons, Abu Eid tells Mondoweiss, that she “completely rejects Netanyahu’s speech and statements about annexation.”

“He is doing this so that he can get more votes from the Israelis, but it is we the Palestinians who are always the victims in these Israeli elections,” she says. “Every time they want to have elections, they promise their people to take more land from the Palestinians.”

The view of Route 60 and the Separation Wall from Abu Eid’s home in Beit Jala (Photo: Amjad Khawaja).

When asked if she was fearful that Netanyahu would follow through on his promises, Abu Eid tells Mondoweiss “of course I am scared that my land will be taken under Netanyahu’s government, and with Trump’s support in America.”

“Nothing is impossible for Netanyahu to do, as long as it means he can be sitting in that chair of Prime Minister at the end of the day,” she continues, saying that the results of the Israeli election will disproportionately affect Palestinians like her that are living in or own land in Area C of the West Bank.

“This will affect everything in our life as Palestinians: our freedom of movement, the right of return, our economy, our agriculture, everything,” she says.

Abu Eid sees no difference between Netanyahu and Gantz, or any other Israeli politicians. For her, “they are two faces of the same coin.”

“When you look at all these candidates, all of them go from bad to worse,” she says. “I am sure that there is no Israeli politician who could come and do anything positive for the Palestinian people.”

“We are under one of the toughest situations in the world, under this occupation. You can’t have your freedom, you can’t move inside your country between towns and cities without passing through checkpoints, and you can’t even vote in the elections that decide your fate.”

Rashid al-Khdeirat, 36, Jordan Valley 

A husband, father, activist, and farmer, Rashid al-Khdeirat and his family have lived in the northern Jordan Valley of the West Bank for generations.

“My grandfather, father, myself, and my kids were all born here. We have lived on this land and worked on this land long before Oslo and long before it became Area C,” al-Khdeirat says of his family.

Rashid al-Khdeirat with his daughter (Photo courtesy of al-Khdeirat)

Much of his life, he says, has been characterized by a “clear effort by the Israeli occupation and the settlers to kick us off of this land.”

“Since the 1970’s the have killed and confiscated our livestock, attacked the farmers, destroyed the land, and burned our trees,” he says. “Most of the people in this area are farmers and shepherds, so they think that when they kill our animals and trees we will leave this area.”

“After that, they started to pressure us using water. They reduced our water access and confiscated pipe lines, to try and force us out that way,” he continues. “Then they began conducting military training exercises in the area, that scare the local community, and in some cases injure and kill people.”

Upon reelection, Netanyahu told voters that the “one place where it is possible to apply Israeli sovereignty immediately after the election” would be the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea area, making al-Khdeirat and his community among the first to be affected by possible annexation.

But for al-Khdeirat, hearing those words were no surprise. “We have seen how for years, through their violent tactics against the Palestinians in this area, they have tried to take the Jordan Valley. Now Netanyahu is simply saying it out loud.”

Echoing the sentiments of Ilham Abu Eid from Beit Jala, al-Khdeirat tells Mondoweiss, “whether it is Netanyahu or his opponents, for us as Palestinians they are pretty much all the same.”

“Yes, we have no say in the matter, but even if I could, I would not vote in the Israeli elections,” he says. “Why? Because we know what their agenda is and what the Israelis want to do.”

“If they try to take our land after the elections we will defend it, we will defend our homes, as we have been doing for years. We will never live under the state of Israel, we will not stand for Netanyahu’s plans. We will only live under a free Palestine.”

Omar al-Qaisi, 60, Battir

Like Abu Eid and al-Khdeirat, Omar al-Qaisi is living on land passed down by his family for generations, in the southern West Bank village of Battir, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

He tells Mondoweiss of the dozens of acres of land he inherited, and all the papers he has to prove it belongs to his family: deeds from the time of the Ottoman Empire, papers from the British mandate, and documents from the Palestinian Authority.

Battir, photograph by David Kattenburg

From the 80’s until the present day, he says, it has become increasingly difficult to use the land as his ancestors did.

“The Israelis do not allow us to bring machinery onto our land in order to farm it and harvest it. Anyone that tries to fix their land and farm on it, the Israelis start to make problems for them, take them to court, and try to take the land,” he tells Mondoweiss.

Everywhere in the world, al-Qaisi says, “governments support their people to farm and plant trees, for the environment. Except for Israel. When they see our trees, Palestinian trees, they will do anything they can to uproot them and destroy the land.”

When he saw Netanyahu’s speech, al-Qaisi says he was filled with sadness, but also a sense of validation of “what we have known for years: the Israelis do not care about us, they only want to take as much as they can from us.”

“If they can’t find an existing law to kick us out, they will make new laws to steal our land,” he says.

“Netanyahu’s ideas are not just his own, they are representative of all past Israeli politicians and governments, and the plans that they have been trying to achieve for years. Their political motives are clear: kick Palestinians off the land, take the land, bring in new settlers to live on the land, and then call the land Israel.”

“Netanyahu is not proposing something new, this has all been set in motion long ago.”

With virtually no accountability from the international community, al-Qaisi says he fears Netanyahu will be able to move forward with his plans unaffected.

“They were doing it before, but now they have no qualms about saying it loud and clear, because they know they will not face any consequences.”

“The Israeli elections are going to affect us as Palestinians, especially the farmers and people who live in Area C. This will affect us as Palestinians because we don’t have a choice in deciding who will decide our lives,” al-Qaisi says, adding that Gantz is “no better” than Netanyahu.

“Whoever wins, they will not be different or better than the other. They all have the same goal: to control the land. Maybe the ways they go about it are different, but at the end of the day they are all trying to achieve the same thing. All of these Israeli politicians are only concerned with helping Israel arrive to this goal, of full control of Palestinian land and people.”

Even if he could vote, al-Qaisi says that he would not participate in elections, “because the entire system was designed to support the colonial practices of Israel.”

“If I really believed Israel was a true democracy that represents everyone’s interests, yes, maybe I would participate. But how it stands now? Absolutely not.”

Akram al-Waara and Amjad Khawaja contributed to this report from the West Bank.

[Category: News, 2019 Israeli Elections, annexation, Area C, Jordan Valley]

[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 9/13/19 7:49am

On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced his plans, if elected, to annex the Jordan Valley and immediately apply Israeli sovereignty over it. To anyone who has observed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over the years, this decision should come as no surprise. While Israel has illegally occupied the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem since 1967, the ascendance of Netanyahu and the corresponding shift in Israeli politics further to the right has taken Israeli impunity to new heights. Aside from the usual policies undertaken by Israel in the Occupied Territories that are meant to induce the displacement of Palestinians—such as forced evictions, home demolitions, home takeovers by settlers, administrative detention, and collective punishment—Netanyahu has demonstrated an abrasive willingness to defy official longstanding policies regarding the two-state solution.

In addition to accelerating the construction of illegal settlements, Netanyahu helped pass the Nation-State Bill, thereby enshrining into law the exclusively Jewish nature of the State of Israel. This piece of legislation comes at the expense of Israel’s ostensibly secular, democratic, and inclusive character—a move so contentious that it elicited criticism from across the political and intellectual spectrum. Critics included prominent Zionist organizations traditionally supportive of Israel, such as J Street, as well as a number of Israeli center-left politicians like then Labor Party Chairman Avi Gabbay and Tzipi Livni. Naturally, its opposition extended to Arab Members of Knesset, such as Ahmad Tibi, Ayman Odeh, and Jamal Zahalka, who along with other non-Jewish minorities, view it as exclusionary. This view was largely affirmed in March when the prime minister stated that that “Israel is not a state of all its citizens. According to the nation-state law we passed, Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people — and not anyone else.”

Netanyahu has also praised US president Donald Trump’s decision to move the American embassy to Jerusalem and recognize Tel Aviv’s sovereignty over the Israeli-occupied Syrian Golan Heights, which were captured by Israel in 1967 and annexed in 1981. Both actions are considered in direct contravention of international law.

He has consistently employed racist and demeaning rhetoric against Arabs, the latest of which is a campaign message to Israel’s voters that a right-wing government is needed to neutralize the Arabs from their desire to “annihilate” the Jews of Israel. This is in spite of the fact that Palestinian citizens of Israel now constitute close to 20 percent of the population over which he presides as prime minister. Of course, this is not to mention the 4.5 million Palestinian Arabs in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip over which his leadership assumes responsibility as the sole occupying force. What’s more, Netanyahu has allied with Israel’s far right and has struck deals with political parties like the Kahanists, whose leader Otzma Yehudit espouses an ideology driven by a visceral hatred for Arabs, irrespective of whether or not they possess Israeli citizenship.

Even prior to Bibi’s latest moves, which were largely motivated by political desperation and served as electoral maneuvers, his cabinet had incorporated voices like Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett, both of whom were selected to serve alongside him when his Likud Party formed a coalition government in 2015 with the considerably more right-wing Jewish Home Party. Shaked served as minister of justice and Bennet served as minister of education. Both have an established record of articulating, supporting, and sharing racist and degrading tropes about Palestinians. For example, just two months prior to the 2014 Gaza war, Shaked shared a poem on Facebook that called Palestinians “little snakes” and advocated murdering their mothers. Bennet, likewise, has notoriously stated that he has “killed many Arabs in [his] lifetime, and there’s no problem with that”. This is not to mention Avigdor Lieberman, whose relationship with Bibi, although currently complicated by partisan politics, goes back decades, and whose political career has centered on the violent dehumanization of Arabs.

Netanyahu’s rebuke of international legal norms, coupled with his domestic maneuvers, corruption charges, and discriminatory remarks have unmasked the illiberal face of Israeli politics. Moreover, his actions have brought to the surface the sociopathic attitudes endemic to the Israeli political establishment that have defined its policies towards Palestinians within the Occupied Territories for decades. From Gaza to Hebron, the abuses carried out against Palestinians in the name of upholding Israel’s security are seldom criticized within political circles of power. On the contrary, they are often celebrated. For example, in 2017, Israeli army medic Elor Azaria was convicted of manslaughter for shooting dead in 2016 an incapacitated Palestinian assailant while on duty in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron. As a result, he was sentenced by an Israeli military court to 18 months in jail in what is a rare occurrence. Even then, however, a number of ministers from the Likud Party and others on the right called on President Reuven Rivlin to pardon Azaria before the sentence was ultimately shortened to 14 months. They included Lieberman, Bennett, and Netanyahu, in addition to Culture Minister Miri Regev and Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovley. After serving just half of his original sentence, Azaria was received home to a hero’s welcome. Azaria, who later stated in an interview that he “has no regrets” and would act “exactly the same” if needed to, was made ‘man of the year’ by two Israeli media outlets, Channel 10 and Makor Rishon.

Should Bibi announce the full annexation of these territories, as he has proposed on more than one occasion in the past and as his current minister of education, Raif Peretz, has reiterated, he would effectively be doing little more than enforcing the defining paradigm that dominates Israel’s mainstream political discourse: the belief that the territories between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea belong exclusively to Israel, the home of the Jewish people. Even though Israel maintains as its official policy a commitment to a negotiated two-state solution based on the 1967 boundaries, since entering the Oslo Accords, successive Israeli governments have expanded settlements in a manner cynically designed to undermine the prospect of the establishment of a contiguous Palestinian state. Today, Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank have a recorded population of settlers four times that which existed on the eve of Oslo, a number that is considerably higher if you factor in East Jerusalem and the proliferation of ‘outposts’ not technically (but often tacitly) sanctioned by the State of Israel.

Israeli leadership, to which Netanyahu’s government is exceptional only in the brazen vulgarity of its methods—but not intent—has effectively killed Oslo, along with it the possibility of a Palestinian state negotiated along the 1967 lines. His defiance of the perennial norms that frame the conflict both within Israel and on the regional stage have made him impossible to ignore. His military pursuit of targets across the Middle East, namely in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq, the latter two of which are US allies, and his relentless attempt to push the Trump Administration towards a catastrophic war with Iran, demonstrate his bold re-writing of Israel’s rules of engagement. Moreover, his recent refusal to accept entry to Israel of two Muslim-American congresswomen (one of Palestinian descent), unless they explicitly agree not to partake in boycott-related activities bears the hallmark of an authoritarian state, not a liberal democracy. Revealingly, even the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), known for their hawkish defense of Israel’s actions, condemned this decision. In stark contrast, when the prime minister wanted to prevent the Iran Nuclear Deal from passing in 2015, he delivered a speech to US Congress without the invitation of then-President Barack Obama, in violation of international diplomatic protocols.

Taken together, his recent announcement doesn’t constitute a significant deviation from the rejectionist norm that he has crafted throughout his time in office. While alarming, the only shock in the matter is that some observers still fixate on the two-state solution or allow themselves to be astonished by yet another one of Netanyahu’s serial violations—and the perils of Israeli politics more broadly. For the Palestinians, he has simply made obvious to the rest of the world a reality that they have intuitively understood for generations: Israel is uninterested in affording them their right to self-determination. Netanyahu has propelled the two-state derision to the forefront of Israel’s politics.

[Category: Opinion, 2019 Israeli Elections, annexation]

[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 9/13/19 6:49am

On April 9, 2019, the Palestinian leadership inside Israel — represented by the Joint List (JL), the four major Arab parties who formed an unprecedented alliance in 2015 elections — woke to a shocking reality: more than 51 percent of Palestinian citizens boycotted Israel’s national elections. This move dropped JL representation in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, to nine seats from the 13 seats (out of 120) they had gained in 2015 elections. Before accepting these results, the Knesset voted, with JL support, to hold a repeat election.  The boycott and subsequent repeat election plan occurred as a result of Benjamin Netanyahu’s inability to form a coalition government. 

The expected September 17, 2019, repeat national elections granted the Palestinian leadership in Israel a golden opportunity to seek lessons from April’s results and work to strengthen their presence in the legislative body. Claiming to respond to Palestinian citizens’ demands for unity — the same demands they ignored in April elections – JL leaders began to negotiate its restoration. However, and to the great disappointment and fury of Palestinian citizens, fierce disagreement accompanied by threats to run independently erupted among different JL components over the allocation of Knesset seats, but not over political agenda or strategies. Mainly, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), which represents the national stream, significantly delayed unity. JL, was finally declared on July 30, 2019, after losing significant credit and support among many Palestinian citizens.  Long before JL was declared, on May 7, 2019, a survey by Stat-Net Institution showed that Palestinians would not get more than 47 percent of the votes in the next elections and no more than 9-10 seats. It also revealed that JL lost 5 percent of the people’s support for each week of delay in reaching unity.

 Examining the significant low turnout among Palestinian citizens (49 percent) in the April 2019 elections, I suggest two main reasons for the drop in participation: the 2018 Nation-State basic law, which further relegated the status of Palestinians to second-class citizens, and the failure of the main Arab parties to maintain their unity through JL in April elections. I contend that voter turnout will continue to be low in the upcoming September elections and that Palestinian citizens will punish their leadership again for hindering the agreement to restore JL for many months. JL leaders have placed their narrow party and personal interests above the national need for unity as a response to the major challenges facing the Palestinian minority in Israel, especially since the passing of the mentioned law. This article is based on interviews I conducted in summer 2018 and summer 2019.

Regarding Palestinian citizens in Israel as a fifth column is the internal aspect of the Israeli-Arab conflict, which is considered the prominent security factor shaping the character of Israel’s political system. The Israeli government has been using legislation to marginalize Palestinian citizens in Israel for decades, and Palestinians are systematically discriminated against in all spheres of life, including education, housing, municipal funding, and income. 

The Israeli Nation-State of the Jewish People Law states that the “right of national self-determination” in Israel “is unique to the Jewish people.” The passage of this law on July 19, 2018, by right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reaffirms that Israel is a state of international Jewry, not of all its citizens, thus excluding 1.8 million indigenous Arab citizens and undermining the already fragile democratic character of the state.

The low turnout in national elections was due to the effective and organized boycotting campaign led by young activists frustrated by the failure of JL’s different components to unite, especially in the face of growing racism and incitements against Palestinian citizens. Many have echoed the stance of the outlawed Northern wing of the Islamic Movement and other players, such as Abnaa al-Balad Movement (Sons of the Country), who objected to the Knesset as a symbol of the Zionist project, and others who have long emphasized and brought attention to the insufficiency of Arab representation in the Israeli Knesset. 

In an interview with Democratic Front for Peace and Equality (DFPE), former Knesset member Issam Makhoul commented on the campaign:  “This is the first time we have such an organized and financed campaign that obviously has parties that benefit from it. I was reserved on the creation of JL because alliances should be based on political programs, not on ethnicity. But we had huge challenges facing us that required such unity, mainly the Nation-State law. JL should be a tactic and should not be a strategy.” 

Desperate to avoid April’s low electoral turnout, Arab leaders panicked and tried everything to encourage voters to vote: “They begged the people to go and vote, they used the mosques, entered people’s houses carrying the Quran and forged the results in electoral stations under the government’s eyes. Officials knew what was going on but opted to close their eyes on these violations.” said one boycott campaign leader, Aleef Sabbagh.

Sabbag denied the accusations that the campaign was financed by external sides and stressed that “the youth in the campaign worked very hard, and they paid for it entirely. It cost 7000-8000 shekels [about U.S. $2,300], and all came from their pockets. I did not know most of them. They were active in social media, hung posters in Haifa, etc.”

Sabbagh further said that even if the Arabs win 13 seats in the next elections, that will not help in anything, “because the Nation-State Law closed the door completely on the possibility of correcting the Arab citizen’s status and his/her dream of equality.”  Sabbagh explained that “for decades, the Knesset had proved its failure to absorb the Arab electorate and was an enemy of the Arab citizens and their rights. The law sent a very clear statement that the vote of the Arab members in the Knesset is unacceptable, and if their vote is not worth anything, what are they still doing in the Knesset?”

Esheh Hajjar, former activist of the outlawed Islamic Movement, believes the new law is connected to two variables: one is “the changes in Israeli society that have made it increasingly  a society of hatred toward Arabs and other minorities; the second is the inability of communities to prevent the passing of such laws due to weak and ineffective leadership.” 

Esheh further explains, “Hatred has blinded Israeli society, and their fear of minorities made them act unreasonably — to support anything against these groups that would ensure their inability to have any influence. The question, in my opinion: how would a democratic state look when ignorance and hatred drown out the sound of reason?”

The Trend to Boycott the Elections Continues

Several activists had voiced a strong concern that voter turnout will remain low in the upcoming elections in many Arab localities because certain geographic area such as the Little Triangle and the Negev are not represented. Activists argue that there are other prominent personalities in the Arab sector, outside of JL, that can recruit thousands of votes and should be considered in the Joint List. 

For Abu Maher, an internal refugee from the Iqrith village that was demolished by Israel in 1947-9, his disappointment reflects 70 years of suffering and frustration: “I never voted in Israeli elections, and I will not vote this time too. I used to believe that we will go back to Iqrith one day, but now I do not believe this anymore, and this is killing me. The Arab Knesset members only care about their seats and the material benefits.”

An active member in the boycott campaign during April 2019 elections, Nashed Abdel-Nour’s critique is also directed against the members of the JL in Israel, who did not dare to submit their resignation after passing the law, fearing the loss of their personal benefits: “This is a weak opposition that lacks a program against the continuing Israeli provocations and policies. Their only way of reaction is screaming and seeking the cameras’ attention.” Abdel-Nour grew critical of the campaign and decided to quit and not take part in any campaign. According to him: “The slogan that the Knesset is illegal is weak and ridiculous, because why is voting illegal while carrying the Israeli ID or passport is legal? The Arabs in Israel live in unbelievable contradictions. In addition, there have been so many accusations on social media, mainly Facebook; every time someone does not agree with the other, he is accused of betrayal.  Also, there are have been swindlers in the campaign. The discourse has become nasty. I will continue to boycott but will not be part of a campaign.” Sabbagh, too, decided not to continue his activism after significant pressure and personal accusations from some Arab party members.

Many have argued that there was nothing new about the law; it only legalized a reality that had existed since the establishment of the state, as activist Zuhriyeh Azab suggested. According to her, “This law mirrors Israel’s failing democracy. I have to say that whoever calls for equality in this country is still naïve. The real shock was for the Druze,  who thought that serving in the military would make them citizens with equal rights.”

Because Israel is one of the few nations in the contemporary world without a formal written constitution, it is interesting to ask whether this law, as well as the lack of a constitution, undermines further the status of Palestinian citizens in Israel.  Makhoul, who served two terms (eight years) in the Knesset, explained his opposition to a constitution in Israel by saying, “During my whole service in the Knesset, the Knesset was discussing creating a constitution. I opposed a constitution because of the racist climate that existed at that time, which would’ve been reflected in the new constitution. Nations create new constitutions after gaining independence or after a revolution. Israel did not do that. Instead, it created Basic Laws to become the constitution one day. The Nation-State Law is a basic law and will be part of the constitution, so should I give my approval to such a constitution?”

Sabbagh also echoed on Makhoul’s assessment saying that all basic laws in Israel are “bad for Arabs.” The only basic law that might have led to some degree of equality and democracy was the Basic Law Human Dignity and Freedom in the 1990s, but the Nation-State law replaced it and killed its potential.

Since Israel’s establishment, Palestinian citizens have been exempted from compulsory service in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), mainly for security reasons, though voluntary service is encouraged. However, in 1957, IDF service became mandatory for the Druze community with the support of some Druze leaders. In a summer 2019 interview with Ghaleb Saif, the head of the Druze Initiative Committee, Saif said that the law is part of “a bigger conspiracy to uproot the Palestinians from their land.” The law’s effects on the Druze community, Saif said, was shocking to the Druze because they had never expected the state to treat them like that: “For those who are so tight to the state, the shock was bigger than death. We in the Druze Initiative Committee called for fighting another law, the Kaminitz bill , that is considered the executive arm of the Nation-State Law. The law basically said, ‘You do not have anything in this state.’ The state never really treated the Druze as anything except Palestinians. Some are trying to absorb the shock by working to modify the law.” 

Muhammad Amer, a member of the Druze Committee for Land’s Defense, said that the law “caused a huge disappointment to all, but in particular to the Druze army officers who were ready to give their lives and die for the state and strongly believed that this state is their state and that they matter. But, suddenly they discovered that they are two types; the Jews are type one, and the Druzeare guests in this state.” 

According to Sabbagh, “The Druze on the Zionist party lists were not placed in advanced places, thus they could not achieve much. They did not get more than their percentage in the population, which is 5 percent, and there were even members from these parties that objected to the 5 percent and thought it comes at the expense of the Jewish candidates.”

There are five Druze members in different Zionist parties, said Amer, “and look what happened with Ayoub Qara, who was the Communication minister in Netanyahu’s government. He voted with the Nation-State law after he was promised to be placed in a secure slot in April elections, but he was out. He discovered that he was a rubber stamp, and now, after quitting the Likud, he is waging a war against his former party. If the Arabs in this country do not unite, we will be in a very bad situation.”

When some Druze activists called the law an “apartheid” law, Netanyahu ended a meeting with the Druze leadership; however, after a massive demonstration of about 90,000 Druze on August 4, 2018,  in Tel-Aviv, which was attended by two ex-directors of the Mossad (Israel’s intelligence agency) and one ex-director of the Shabak (Israel’s internal security service), Netanyahu announced his intention to create a special committee to advance the special ties with the Druze representatives that serve in the IDF. Netanyahu did not bother, however, to react to the Arab leadership protests, including that of the Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel.

Amer also opposed the boycott of the elections and questioned its intentions: “If someone wants to boycott, why only the elections? Why not the Social Security? The factories that sell its products to the settlements? When we boycott, we give the opportunity for an additional right wing member to sit in the Knesset. Unfortunately, the trend to boycott the forthcoming elections is still going.”

Still, Makhoul says, “The Druze regarded the law as an insult, and that was a lesson. The problem is that they do not want to be like the rest of the Arabs in Israel, and they regard themselves as having a blood bond with Israel. They are similar to the rest of the Arabs in their duties, and at the critical moment, Israel puts its identity above all.”

Amer viewed the problem for the Druze as bigger than that, saying, “The problem is that Arabs in Israel are not good at uniting to face challenges, and they are unaware of the ‘Zionist conspiracy’ against their existence in their land.”

The emergence of New Arab Parties?

As’ad Ghanem, a professor at Haifa University, attacked JL and the Follow-Up Committee and accused the Palestinian Authority of interference in the internal politics of the Arabs in Israel. He also claimed that some Gulf countries loyal to Netanyahu are financing some of the Arab parties in JL. In the spring Ghanem launched a new party called the Popular Unity party to confront racism against the Palestinian Arab minority that was not adequately addressed by the JL. Moreover, Ghanem’s party allows Palestinian independents to run for Knesset, a departure from the JAL who only runs candidates affiliated with the four main Arab political factions.

Commenting on the emergence of the Popular Unity, Makhoul believed that these are people who are searching for positions and seats and that external arms work to dismantle JL. Amer also believed that the new party is a very bad move and urged its leadership not to burn Arab votes and harm the struggle of JL that represents all streams (national, Communists, Islamist). Ghalib Saif questioned the alternative: “There is no other option but voting for JL. Leftist Zionist parties such as MERETZ were part of racist governments that do not fight for core questions that concern us. Ghanem will burn votes, and our objective is fighting the right wing. The focus is not Bibi [Benjamin Netanyahu], but the right wing that created Bibi.”

While all interviewees suggested that this party will not be able to make it to the next Knesset, the party will not back off and will not withdraw, as assured to Sabbagh by several in the Popular Unity: “They will not withdraw, as JL is wishing for and will run until the end even knowing that they will not succeed. Withdrawing will mean the end of their project. Popular Unity candidates are preparing for the next elections and want to prove that they can attract votes.” 

Meanwhile, the fight over Arab votes has been intensifying within the Zionist parties. Ehud Barak, former prime minister and leader of the Independent Party suggested in an interview on a local Arabic channel that a new basic law, called the Equality law and based on the equality concept in the 1948 Declaration of Independence, should be passed to replace the Nation-State law.  According to him, this should happen not because the Nation-State law is bad for the Druze and the Arabs but to protect the foundation of Israel: “Arabs ‘have the right of equality because they are citizens, not because we want their votes.'”  Even general Benny Gantz, Netanyahu’s main competitor in the Kahol Lavan (Blue-White)party, acknowledged that a fundamental shift in his party’s approach to Arab voters had taken place after his inability to secure enough Jewish votes to form a government in April elections. Gantz spread many empty promises to “reach out to the Arab citizens and their representatives in the next Knesset.” However, he avoided a promise to repeal the Nation-State law. Amir Peretz, Labor party leader, started his campaign from Tamra city in the north and has been sending buses with big ads to promote his party’s promise for equality. 

Meanwhile, the streets in Arab localities are almost dead, and Arab candidates are still silent. They continue their old ways of conducting home circles, mainly among their supporters, leaving behind the disappointed segments who are in most need of leadership. This oversight leaves the door open for Zionist candidates to roam Arab communities, spreading promises to counter the law and bring equality for desperate Palestinian citizens.

[Category: Opinion, 2019 Israeli Elections, Ayman Odeh, Israel elections, Joint Arab List, Netanyahu, Palestinian citizens of Israel]

[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 9/11/19 10:21am

In a September 10 speech, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that he would annex part of the West Bank if he were reelected. “Give me the mandate. No previous Israeli prime minister has proposed doing so. Give me the strength to decide Israel’s eastern border,” he told voters.

Netanyahu’s announcement potentially creates a political dilemma for the Democrats. Most of the party continually stresses the need for a two-state solution, but rejects the idea of pushing equality via the nonviolent Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. This summer, nearly every Democrat voted in favor of a resolution that championed a two-state solution and condemned BDS. However, Netanyahu’s move proves that reciting rhetoric about two states eventually living in harmony is wildly insufficient against the backdrop of the current reality and that other forms of agitation are desperately needed.

In July, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) was one of the only lawmakers to vote against the aforementioned anti-BDS resolution. Seemingly in response to that bill she introduced her own resolution, one that affirms Americans’ right to boycott foreign countries in the name of furthering human rights. On Tuesday, Omar condemned Netanyahu’s announcement on Twitter. “This is the nail in the coffin to a two-state solution or any peace deal,” she wrote, “Anyone who does not condemn this or take action to prevent it cannot credibly say they support a two-state solution. Speak up!!!”

This is the nail in the coffin to a two-state solution or any peace deal.

Anyone who does not condemn this or take action to prevent it cannot credibly say they support a two-state solution.

Speak up!!!https://t.co/T1kSwYcU8l

— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) September 11, 2019

Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) used the moment to call for a floor vote on House Resolution 326, his bill affirming that the United States supports a two-state solution.

My response to Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech today: pic.twitter.com/6aYFMau1hW

— Rep. Alan Lowenthal (@RepLowenthal) September 10, 2019

In June, Democrats stripped any mention of the occupation or settlement activity from Lowenthal’s legislation in attempt to generate GOP support for the bill. Despite these changes, no Republican has backed it yet.

Rep. Ro Khanna also called on Congress to stand up for a two-state solution. “If Netanyahu pursues this, he will shatter what is left of a two state solution,” he wrote, “For those of us who believe in democracy, international law, and human rights, it’s on us to stand up and make it clear the United States Congress opposes this annexation.”

If Netanyahu pursues this, he will shatter what is left of a two state solution. For those of us who believe in democracy, international law, and human rights, it’s on us to stand up and make it clear the United States Congress opposes this annexation. https://t.co/GlHBqVg33e

— Rep. Ro Khanna (@RepRoKhanna) September 10, 2019

So far, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is the only presidential candidate to comment on the issue. “Netanyahu’s proposal to annex occupied territory would violate international law and make a two state solution nearly impossible,” tweeted Sanders, “All who support Israeli-Palestinian peace must oppose it.”

Netanyahu's proposal to annex occupied territory would violate international law and make a two state solution nearly impossible. All who support Israeli-Palestinian peace must oppose it. https://t.co/7TNM5U4bYc

— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) September 10, 2019


While dedication to the idea of a two-state solution is a staple of almost all Democratic rhetoric on the subject, Justice Democrats’ Waleed Shahid tweeted about how merely adopting such a position is insufficient at the moment. “This is why just saying ‘I believe in a two-state solution’ is a pretty out-of-touch response to what Netanyahu is doing,” he wrote in response to Netanyahu’s comments.

This is why just saying “I believe in a two-state solution” is a pretty out-of-touch response to what Netanyahu is doing. https://t.co/YEnPxXO1nI

— Waleed Shahid (@_waleedshahid) September 10, 2019

This certainly isn’t the first time that Netanyahu has referred to annexation and his previous comments on the subject have actually generated a something of a political backlash. In June, South Bend Mayor and Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg declared that he would block U.S. taxpayer money from being used for a West Bank annexation if elected. That same month, five Democratic Senators (including presidential hopefuls Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders) introduced a resolution targeting the possibility of annexation.

Israel Policy Forum’s Policy Director Michael Koplow sensed a developing political issue for Israel as soon as Buttigieg made his speech. At the time he wrote:

[W]hatever Buttigieg meant, the takeaway is that a leading Democratic presidential contender – one who is viewed as a moderate, as pro-Israel, and someone who has gone out of his way in the past to defend Israel and Israelis – sees a clear political benefit in challenging Israel over annexation. It is naïve to think that this will be confined to Buttigieg, either among presidential hopefuls or among Democrats writ large. Rather than U.S. assistance to Israel being the rhetorical equivalent of a motion that passes with unanimous consent, it is now going to be an open question that is asked of politicians, brought up at presidential debates, and everyone will be forced to defend a position on it one way or the other.

Koplow also worried that annexation would boost support for the BDS movement:

Making annexation a central plank of Israel’s politics and diplomacy is going to create protests against Israel on college campuses and in progressive enclaves around the country, and the BDS movement will be the greatest political beneficiary as it convinces more and more people that the problem to be solved is not the occupation but Israel itself.

A tweet yesterday following Netanyahu’s announcement from Rep. Jackie Speier echoes this sentiment. “Annexation is not an option,” she wrote, “Proceeding would be a boon for BDS, cripple 2 states & hamper those of us who believe in a Jewish, democratic Israel. Israel needs secure borders but they must come from negotiations. Bibi & [Trump] stop risking Israel’s security for political gain!”

Annexation is not an option. Proceeding would be a boon for BDS, cripple 2 states & hamper those of us who believe in a Jewish, democratic Israel. Israel needs secure borders but they must come from negotiations. Bibi & @POTUS, stop risking Israel’s security for political gain!

— Jackie Speier (@RepSpeier) September 10, 2019

While Rep. Speier worries about the potential rise of BDS, Rep. Ilhan Omar’s resolution affirming Americans’ right to boycott has gained a few new co-sponsors since Congress returned from its summer recess: Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), and Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA).

[Category: News, annexation, Democratic Party, Netanyahu]

[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 9/11/19 9:35am

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is coming under fire again for anti-Arab comments made by his campaign, this time for a message on his official Facebook page telling voters “Arabs want to annihilate us all – women, children and men.”

Israeli media reported that upon accessing Netanyahu’s official page, viewers are greeted with an automated popup message in Hebrew with a message to voters, imploring them to “make sure” their friends and family vote Likud.

The preset message is written from the perspective of a volunteer with Netanyahu’s campaign, who tells voters “I am donating my time because we cannot have a dangerous left-wing government… in a week’s time,” according to Haaretz’s translation of the message.

“A secular left-wing weak government that relies on Arabs who want to destroy us all – women, children and men, and will enable a nuclear Iran that will eliminate us,” the message continues, saying “we cannot allow this to happen!”

The message also boasts that Netanyahu “brings a right-wing policy of a Jewish state, security, and a strong Israel.”

According to Haaretz, following their report on the message, Likud claimed that the message “originated in a staffer’s mistake” and that Netanyahu had not seen it prior to publication.

Despite claims that the message was not approved by Netanyahu, anti-Palestinian sentiment has been a feature of his current and past campaigns for reelection in an effort to rile up support amongst his rightwing base.

The premiere has repeatedly characterized Palestinian citizens of Israel, who make up 20% of the population, as a “threat” to the right-wing government and the Jewish character of the state.

“Netanyahu’s most recent statement demonstrate a marked increase in his racial incitement against Arab citizens of Israel,” Palestinian rights group Adalah said in a statement on Wednesday.

The group compared the premiere’s statements to those of the ultra-nationalist Michael Ben Ari, who was disqualified by the Supreme Court from participating in the elections over racist remarks against Palestinians and Arabs.

“The Israeli Supreme Court has already ruled that Michael Ben Ari’s identical statements constituted grounds for disqualification of his candidacy for Knesset, so there is no disputing that this is unacceptable propaganda,” Adalah said.

The group added that they issued an incitement complaint on behalf of the Arab Joint List to the Central Elections Committee (CEC) chairman and to the Israeli attorney general.

“Netanyahu is a psychopath with no red lines and he wants to see blood,” Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh tweeted on Wednesday.

נתניהו פסיכופט ללא קווים אדומים והוא רוצה לראות דם. העבריין הבזוי הזה ימשיך להתיר את דמנו כל עוד הוא מאמין שזה יסייע לו להמלט מהכלא.

פנינו לפייסבוק – הם מוכרחים לפעול מיד לשים סוף להסתה הגזענית ומסוכנת של נתניהו נגד האוכלוסייה הערבית.

— Ayman Odeh (@AyOdeh) September 11, 2019

Odeh added that he had reached out to Facebook to “immediately put an end to Netanyahu’s racist and dangerous incitement against the Arab population.”

Just hours after Odeh’s tweets, the Palestinian lawmaker came head to head with Netanyahu on the Knesset floor as the latter argued in favor of the widely condemned bill that seeks to allow representatives of Likud to bring cameras into polling stations during next’s week election.

Odeh confronted Netanyahu with his cell phone camera and began recording the Prime Minister before being kicked off the floor.

The “cameras bill,” which despite Netanyahu’s continued efforts, is expected to fail a parliamentary vote, and has been widely criticized as an attempt to intimidate Arab voters from participating in the election.

The messages on Netanyahu’s Facebook page come just one day after Netanyahu published a video on Twitter specifically targeting “Anglo” voters with campaign video in English.

An important message to the Anglos >> pic.twitter.com/2GJKkMJPzL

— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) September 10, 2019

Entitled “An important message to the Anglos,” the video published on Tuesday features Netanyahu saying “to all my English speaking friends, thank you for your warm support.”

“The question in this election is a simple one. Who is going to be the next Prime Minister of Israel?” Netanyahu tells the camera.

“Will it be me, at the head of the Likud? Or will it be Lapid and Gantz at the head of a leftist government that will include Ahmed Tibi and Ayman Odeh as minister in their government?” he continues, referencing two prominent Palestinian MKs.

Hours later, Netanyahu held a press conference where he announced his plans to annex almost one third of the occupied West Bank if reelected, drawing anger amongst Palestinians and accusations from his opponents of “spinning” Israeli voters.

Ironically, though Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party initially attempted to stop Netanyahu’s annexation announcement from broadcasting under the pretext that it constituted “illegal electioneering, Blue and White later responded saying Netanyahu had “copied” them.

“The residents of the Jordan Valley are not Netanyahu’s propaganda props. Blue and White has declared that the Jordan Valley will be part of Israel forever. It was Netanyahu who concocted a plan to surrender the Jordan Valley in [peace talks in] 2014,” the statement read. 

“We’re glad Netanyahu came to his senses and adopted Blue and White’s plan for recognition of the Jordan Valley.”

[Category: News, 2019 Israeli Elections, Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian citizens of Israel]

[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 9/11/19 8:02am

Benjamin Netanyahu’s last-ditch campaign announcement yesterday that if he reelected he will annex West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley has brought a divided response from American Jewish groups.

Right and center Zionist orgs have said nothing. AIPAC’s twitter feed doesn’t mention the big plan. The American Jewish Committee is praising John Bolton. Even the Democratic Majority for Israel group is quiet about annexation. They all surely approve the policy and don’t want to contribute to the divisiveness over Israel in U.S. politics.

But liberal Zionist groups are very upset about the announcement, as a threat to the “two state solution,” the Oslo dream of establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Liberal Zionists believe they can only preserve Israel by separating Jewish and Palestinian majorities in adjacent states. Netanyahu’s announcement, and his political rivals’ endorsement of a portion of the plan, mocks this vision by affirming there is just one state, in which Palestinians are second-class citizens or worse, living in bantustans.

One liberal Zionist organization explicitly called for “separation” of Jews and Palestinians today so that Israel can be a democracy. Mara Lee, the director of OneVoice, says that annexation threatens Israel’s “very identity as the national homeland for the Jewish people and a democratic state for all its citizens” and she links to her Israeli partner Darkenu’s site, “Say Yes to Separation.” It warns that adding “millions of Palestinian citizens” will endanger “Israel’s character.”

“Separation” is obviously not the sort of language that progressives in the U.S. use. It sounds a lot like “segregation” in the Jim Crow era. OneVoice is evidently appealing to a more conservative Jewish base that views Palestinians as a “demographic” threat.

The statement issued yesterday, by the “Progressive Israel Network” of ten liberal Zionist organizations, including Peace Now, T’ruah, J Street, Ameinu, New Israel Fund etc., does not ever mention Zionism or a Jewish state or a Jewish majority. Those terms are now dirty words on the American left.

But the concern at the bottom of the urgent statement is the same as OneVoice’s fear: if Israel loses its Jewish majority it will be branded as an apartheid state.

A democratic and peaceful future for Israelis and Palestinians requires national self-determination for both peoples. Any step to unilaterally impose Israeli sovereignty over Palestinian people and territory in the West Bank is a step away from the two-state vision and toward the formalization of two separate and unequal legal systems…

[Annexation] harms millions of Palestinians living under occupation and poses an existential threat to Israeli democracy

PS Amos Oz, the saint of J Street, often called for separation explicitly. But American liberals know that terms like “separation” are red flags for actual progressives.

Illinois Rep. Jan Schakowsky openly worried in a tweet about the “Jewish” democracy that is one of Zionism’s claims.

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s announcement today that if reelected, he intends to annex the Jordan Valley and all Israeli settlements in the West Bank, would mean the end of the Jewish, democratic, State of Israel as we know it.

The Union for Reform Judaism is also explicit about the Jewish state in its condemnation of Netanyahu:

 These are unilateral moves endangering Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and further limiting the possibility of a two-state solution.

Israel Policy Forum (center left Zionist) says Netanyahu’s “disastrous policy”  endangers the “Jewish and democratic state” and will alienate Jews.

Unilateral West Bank annexation, no matter how partial or in what form, will have disastrous consequences for Israel, its security, and its status as a Jewish and democratic state. Once the annexation process begins, it will become exceedingly difficult to control or limit in any effective way, and to take any steps down this path is unprecedentedly irresponsible and reckless…

It marks the beginning of the fundamental destruction of the two-state vision, which is supported by the international community, an overwhelming majority of American Jews, and pluralities of Israelis and Palestinians. To do so will exacerbate partisan divisions on Israel in the United States, ultimately erode Israel’s security, give an unnecessary and clear victory to the BDS movement, and upend decades of carefully calibrated policy on Israel.

Note that IPF refers to “decades of carefully calibrated policy on Israel.” This is implicitly an acceptance of occupation and managed conflict.

Netanyahu’s announcement is clearly a challenge to liberal Zionists. Daniel Gordis writes today in the New York Post that liberal American Jews are in for “a rude awakening” from the next government involving their ideals about Israel.

They claim Netanyahu’s 2018 law declaring Israel the nation-state of the Jewish people has eroded the country’s democracy. Above all, they blame Netanyahu for the lack of progress on the Palestinian front.

Matt Brooks of the Republican Jewish Coalition couldn’t help trolling the liberal Zionists and anti-occupation activists.

My goodness…the folks at  @jstreetdotorg and @IfNotNowOrg  must be besides themselves today. A total and complete rejection of their agenda.

Anyone who frequents our site is aware that Palestinians say clearly that Israel is not a democracy, it is the nation state of the Jewish people in which Jews have primary rights, including to land. And as to the “formalization” of separate/unequal systems the Progressive Israel Network warns about, those systems have been in place for many years now in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

As I noted at the start, mainstream rightwing Zionist American Jewish organizations have had nothing critical to say about Netanyahu’s declaration. “ Outrageous that establishment American Jewish groups who claim to represent the community — @AIPAC, @AJCGlobal , & @Conf_of_Pres — spent yesterday praising Islamophobic, war-hawk John Bolton yet had nothing to say about Netanyahu’s pledge to annex 30% of the West Bank if elected,” IfNotNow says. 

The Conference of Presidents praised Bolton as an Israel-supporter. So did the American Jewish Committee:

John Bolton is a stalwart defender of US global interests; steadfast ally of [Israeli flag] and the Jewish people; and fierce adversary of anti-democratic, weapons-proliferating, and terrorist-sponsoring regimes, most notably in Tehran. We thank him and wish him well.

[Category: News]

[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 9/11/19 7:35am

With the Israeli elections only one week away, Netanyahu is pulling the same tricks he always has to rile up his base and appeal to the far-right in Israel. With polling numbers showing his Likud party and Gantz’s (his former Chief of the General Staff, also known as the Commander-in-Chief of the IDF) Blue and White Party neck in neck, Netanyahu is doing all he can to secure a majority, including – among other things – inciting against Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel, attempting to push through a bill that will allow him to place cameras at the ballots to supress the Arab vote, meeting with the UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson to boast about his foreign relations capabilities, and, yesterday, threatning to illegaly annex parts of the West Bank. Speaking to reporters at a press conference, Netanyahu pledged that he will annex the Jordan Valley and parts of the northern Dead Sea – an area that comprises a third of the occupied West Bank – if he is reelected; a promise he also made two days before the previous elections were held.

Netanyahu’s proposed annexation will make the occupied West Bank an enclave within Israel, further restricting the freedom of movement of Palestinians (as if they had a “freedom” to move before), and completely cut off the West Bank from Jordan. This may very well be the first step in Netanyahu’s plan for a one-state solution. Nearly all Arab Palestinian cities, towns, and villages that comprised historic Palestine west of the 1949 armistice line were uprooted and destroyed by Israel during the Nakba. Those that did survive were slowly surrounded by Jewish settlements and cities, wherein they became neighborhoods within larger Jewish cities. Netanyahu is implementing that same strategy to take over the entire West Bank. Surround the entirety of the West Bank and slowly uproot, demolish, and occupy homes and stolen lands until the Palestinian people have no choice but to be a part of Israel!

Here's the map of Netanyahu's proposed annexation. It would essentially slice off the entire eastern edge of the West Bank and mean Jericho is a Palestinian island inside Israel territory.

Very hard for anyone to pretend Two States is still viable if this happens. pic.twitter.com/lfJp2PutW7

— Raf Sanchez (@rafsanchez) September 10, 2019

It is also worth noting the main opposition party’s response to such a declaration. In a statement, the party said:

“The residents of the Jordan Valley are not Netanyahu’s propaganda props. Blue and White has declared that the Jordan Valley will be part of Israel forever. It was Netanyahu who concocted a plan to surrender the Jordan Valley in [peace talks in] 2014.

“We’re glad Netanyahu came to his senses and adopted Blue and White’s plan for recognition of the Jordan Valley.”

This is yet another blunder for the Blue and White party, showing it is nothing more but the Likud with a different name. Netanyahu’s continued push farther to the right has shifted the Overton window drastically to the right of the political spectrum, where so called “centrist” parties now advocate for annexation that is banned under international law according to United Nations Security Council Resolutions 2334, 242, and 446. Netanyahu’s extreme, nationalist rhetoric has lead to a surge in far-right extremism and hate crimes in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, with the Palestinian people facing the brunt of the storm.

So, what does this all mean? For now, probably nothing considering the fact that he has used this play countless times in the past to gain political points and votes at the ballot boxes. However, that does not mean we should not take this statement seriously. With the Trump Administration rolling out its so called “Deal of the Century” peace plan following the Israeli elections, and Trump’s indisputable loyalty to Israel and complete disregard for the Palestinian people, it is safe to say that, given the current circumstances, Donald Trump will very much not only allow Netanyahu to annex parts of the West Bank, but will also recognize Israeli soverighnty over them. Needless to say, Jared Kushner’s “peace” plan so far seems to have no intentions of alleviating the struggles facing the Palestinian people, both within Israel and the West Bank and Gaza. Moreover, with Blue and White not objecting to such a statement, despite branding themselves as a “center-left” party, it is clear there is nothing standing in Netanyahu’s way to finally make good on his long standing promise.

[Category: Opinion, 2019 Israeli Elections, annexation, Deal of the Century, Jared Kushner, One state/Two states]

[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 9/11/19 6:41am

Last Friday, just before winding down for the weekend, Canada’s attorney general announced he was appealing a recent federal court ruling that banned labeling wines made in West Banks settlements as products of Israel. 

The announcement was not unexpected, especially as Canada is gearing up for the federal elections on October 21. However, it put the Canadian government squarely in the limelight as openly violating the Fourth Geneva Convention, and as the Jerusalem Post announced: “David Lametti, Canada’s attorney-general, has taken a stand in favor of labeling West Bank wines ‘Products of Israel’.” Not that multiple Canadian governments haven’t repeatedly flaunted international law (and even official Canadian policy) when it comes to Palestinian rights, but Liberal governments in particular usually prefer to do it in a less flashy and more duplicitous manner.

All of the major Zionist lobby groups in Canada, as well as the Israeli foreign ministry, had weighed in on the necessity of appealing the ruling that had determined that putting the “Product of Israel” label on illegal settlement wines was “false, misleading and deceptive”. The foreign ministry claimed the court ruling emboldened the BDS movement and added: “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Israeli embassy in Canada will continue to act against discriminatory treatment and the singling out of Israel in the matter of product labeling in Canada.” 

But the Canadian federal election looms on the horizon, and if the chances were slim that the government would not appeal under normal circumstances, they were now reduced further. Both the Liberal and Conservative Parties in Canada are eager to prove who is more capable of implementing the pro-Israel agenda; John Baird, Canada’s former foreign minister under Stephen Harper, already threw down the gauntlet at a campaign fund-raising dinner on August 29 in Montreal saying : “Israel needs friends on the tough days who stand behind her when she needs help.” 

Independent Jewish Voices Canada had intervenor status in the original court case, and their national coordinator Corey Balsam noted in a press release on September 9, 2019: “Sadly, the appeal looks to be solely for political reasons–to appeal to certain voters and lobbyists–rather than to pose any legitimate challenges to the judge’s interpretation of Canadian law.”

Meanwhile, in a supreme act of petty revenge or sour grapes, the Canadian government last month held up a previously approved shipment of Taybeh wines and beer from Palestine, citing the court ruling and claiming further direction from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency was needed. However, in contrast to this, the wines from illegal Israeli settlements with the “Product of Israel” label were and are still on the shelves for sale. Those, it seemed, didn’t need to be “put on hold” requiring possible “corrective work.” As Karen Rodman with Palestine Just Trade , the Taybeh importers, stated: “ LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) imported Taybeh beer and Nadim wine by Taybeh, approving it as “Product of Palestine.” To base their decision on a conflation with wines produced in settlements occupied illegally under international law is illogical.”

So, what’s the takeaway message from this whole affair to date? One is that we should have no illusions about the intentions of the Canadian government and the Liberal party regarding their support for Israel. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s words have been very clear over the years (although he does try to muddy the waters with his alleged commitment to multiculturalism). He hasn’t been shy to tell us repeatedly, “We have more than an ally in Israel, we have a trusted and longstanding friend,” or that the BDS call is anti-Semitic and that “Canadian values” dictate that it must be opposed, or “…we will continue to condemn BDS and any movement that attacks our Israeli friends, Jewish Canadians, and the values we share.”

The pro-Israel advocates were right on one thing – the way this labeling fiasco has played out will probably help the BDS movement, but not for the reasons they cited. Given this insistence on blurring any distinctions between settlement wines and products of Israel, consumers of conscience have been shown the only reasonable option is to boycott all Israeli wines (and products). 

And lastly, as activists for Palestinian rights, we must not allow ourselves to be seduced by the fervour and illusory quick fix of electoral party politics. The more difficult grassroots work of developing principled campaigns and community allies is the only way to achieve any real change, and developments in Canada in the last six months have shown it can bring genuine results. 

[Category: Activism, Canada, human rights, settlements, wine]

[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 9/11/19 6:37am

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts to install cameras at Israeli voting stations failed on Monday after a parliamentary committee voted down his party’s proposed bill, which rights groups warned was aimed at lowering Palestinian turnout in next week’s elections.

Last week, Netanyahu’s Likud party put forward a bill that proposed allowing its party representatives to film at polling stations should they suspect “voting offenses” are taking place.

The bill was approved by Netanyahu’s cabinet on Sunday before being struck down by parliament 24 hours later, on Monday.

The legislation was seen as an attempt to circumvent a prior decision by the Central Election Committee (CEC) that forbade the placement of cameras at polling stations on Election Day, except in specific cases where the ballot secretary, a CEC employee, was granted  advance permission from the committee.

The CEC decision came following the intervention of rights groups in Israel who petitioned for the banning of cameras at polling stations, after it was found that Likud’s polling committee had planted some 1,200 hidden surveillance cameras in polling stations across Arab communities during the April elections.

“While the Central Election Committee decided that cameras may be placed randomly at polling stations across the country, or where problems arose in the past, Likud’s initiative would allow each party running in the election to place cameras at every polling station it sees fit,” Haaretz reported. 

In the lead up to elections, which were called take place on September 17th after Netanyahu failed to form a governing coalition back in April, the premiere has doubled down on his claims that the last election was “stolen” by voter fraud.

“We know that large-scale fraud exists, and it must be prevented. Allowing party-affiliated observers to film the voting process is the only way to prevent election theft,” Netanyahu said on Sunday.

His rhetoric has been largely centered around anti-Arab sentiment, intended to rile up his right-wing base ahead of next week’s vote.

In 2015, Netanyahu was condemned for inciting racial tension for his comments that Arab voters were “going to the polls in droves.”

Many critics have compared his “intimidation tactics” to that of U.S. President Donald Trump, who centered alleged voter fraud in largely black communities during his 2016 presidential campaign.

Palestinian MK Ayman Odeh took to Twitter on Monday to celebrate Netanyahu and Likud’s failure, saying “Netanyahu is fighting a battle against Arab society, the judiciary, and the entire democratic space.”

Odeh accused Netanyahu of “triggering a panic vote” among his right-wing supporters and “suppressing the Arab vote.”

The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel (Adalah), one of the groups that petitioned for a ban on cameras at polling stations, praised Monday’s decision, saying the “sole purpose” of the bill  “was to influence the upcoming elections via racial incitement and overt attacks on law enforcement bodies and the very rule of law itself.”

Adalah emphasized that while the bill was not passed, it “has already caused harm by injecting bald-faced lies into the public political discourse under the premise of preserving the ‘purity of elections’.”

“It is now abundantly clear to all that this proposed law would never pass a constitutional litmus test,” Adalah said, reiterating its calls for a criminal investigation to be launched into the Likud party’s use of surveillance cameras in the April election.

“Indeed, evidentiary materials handed over to police confirmed that the mere deployment of the cameras in polling stations interfered with the proper course of the elections.”

[Category: News, 2019 Israeli Elections]

[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 9/11/19 6:30am

Recently I watched a 45-minute Spanish documentary “Born in Gaza” (“Nacido en Gaza”) about the impacts of war on children. Watching the documentary focused my attention to the fact that long after the tanks left, children still feel the stress and anxiety of war. No parent wants to imagine his or her child going through pain, loss or fear, but Gaza’s youngest generation is coping with trauma, having lived through three wars over the last ten years.

In 2008-2009, 2012 and 2014, Gaza was at war with Israel, the highest escalation of violence in the coastal strip since the 1967 war when Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territory began. In the last war in 2014, over 2,200 Palestinian civilians were killed including 551 children and more than 3,000 children were injured. Six Israeli civilians were killed and 270 children were injured.

As a mother of a ten-month-old baby, I was having ruminative thoughts about the implications of war on children. 

According to a report published by Save the Children earlier this year, researchers found 62 percent of children in Gaza in 2018 reported feelings of depression and 55 percent reported feelings of grief. Over half of the children said they feel nervous and feel fearful when away from their parents. Many have nightmares. Fifty-three percent said they wet their beds. Caregivers and parents were also interviewed and 42 percent said their children temporarily lost the ability to speak as a result of trauma. 

Alarmingly,  a 2010 study conducted by the World Health Organization and the CDC found that a quarter of teens in Gaza aged 13 to 15 said they had suicidal thoughts and had considered plans to commit suicide in the previous 12 months. Palestinian teens ranked the highest for suicidal thoughts among those surveyed in the Middle East. While the research did not investigate the relationship between war and suicide, the results reflect the deep sense of despair among children in Gaza. 

I wanted to interview children to have a closer look at what they remember from the war and how those memories still impact their lives today. 

Palestinian Wael al-Namla and his son Sharif, who were both injured during the 50-day war between Israel and Hamas in the summer of 2014, play in on the bed at their house on Feb. 28, 2016 in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Wael al-Namla, 27, and Sharif, 5, were reportedly amputated after being injured during an Israeli strike on August 1, 2014, which has become known as "Black Friday.” (Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib/APA Images)

Palestinian Wael al-Namla and his son Sharif, who were both injured during the 50-day war between Israel and Hamas in the summer of 2014, play in on the bed at their house on Feb. 28, 2016 in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Wael al-Namla, 27, and Sharif, 5, were reportedly amputated after being injured during an Israeli strike on August 1, 2014, which has become known as “Black Friday.” (Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib/APA Images)

Sharif al-Namla , a toddler amputee

One incident during the 2014 war that Gazans may never forget is the story of the al-Namla family from Rafah city in southern Gaza.

On the morning of August 1, 2014, Israel reportedly invoked the Hannibal directive, an army protocol for responding with force to the capture of a soldier. At the time Israeli forces were searching for Hadar Goldin, a soldier who was reportedly abducted by Hamas. Hadar and more than 121 Palestinians, of whom at least 72 were civilians, were killed in intense fighting that day. It was the single most bloody day during the war, sometimes referred to as “Black Friday.”

Human rights groups later accused Israel of committing war crimes, citing the use of tank shelling, gunfire, and airstrikes on civilians.

That day Wael al-Namla, 27, his wife Asraa, and three-year-old son Sharif were in the processing of evacuating when their house was struck by a missile. The damage killed three relatives in the home and caused Wael and his son to lose a leg, and for Asraa to have both legs amputated. Sharif additionally lost his right eye.

Today, Sharif is 8.

“Sharif doesn’t like to leave the house. He feels ashamed of his injury, he doesn’t talk a lot like his peers and always prefers to stay alone,” his father Wael told me. 

Recently Wael convinced his son to join a one-month summer camp in July. The program included 55 children who lost their limbs either because of congenital malformation or injuries. 

Wael said that his son needs several surgeries for his right eye, and surgery in preparation for an artificial limb. 

Wael said Sharif “became more active after the camp, but it’s not enough. He needs a lot of care and time to engage in the community.” 

Zidan Qarmout. (Photo: Sarah Algherbawi)

Zidan Qarmout 

On August 1, 2014, on the 27th day of the 2014 war between Israel and Gaza, Zidan Qarmout was ten years old and standing by a window of his house eating sweets. The 2014 war was 50 days long and it’s become common to refer to events by what day in the war an incident occurred, rather than by the date alone. 

Zidan’s mother Monira, 50, did not allow her children to leave the house during the war, even during hours-long ceasefires when other children went outside to play. She explained this was to protect them from any errant fire in their neighborhood. The family lives in Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza where Israeli forces had carried out a ground invasion. 

Three days before, a school functioning as a United Nations shelter in the neighborhood was struck. The neighborhood felt unsafe. Suddenly, a bomb was dropped near Zidan’s house while he was standing near the window. The pressure of the explosion threw Zidan to the ground.

It turned out that the explosive struck a house that belongs to Abu al-Qomsan family. The house was rented by a displaced family from Beit Hanoun, the Wahdan family, who had evacuated their house after 12 members of their family were killed in a different Israeli airstrike. This explosion killed three, including two women, and injured 10, including Zidan.

In total 12,000 houses were destroyed during the 2014 war.

Zidan was slightly wounded by shrapnel that hit his face and shoulders. He was hospitalized that same day and sent home with medication at home. A neighbor, a nurse, helped with wound care at home.

“Five years have passed now but I’ll never forget the flame ball that exploded in front of my eyes. Sometimes, I feel that it’s chasing me while I’m sleeping,” Zidan said in a hesitant voice.  

Later he told me, “I’ll be a surgeon or heart transplant doctor when I grow up. I always watch documentaries about doctors and read a lot. I think I can make it.”

That was not Zidan’s first war. When he was eight, specifically in the fall of 2012, at 6 a.m. one day, Zidan and his family woke to plumes of dust and the sound of stones knocking into their newly built house. A neighbor’s home, the Salah family, was struck by three missiles dropped from an F16 plane. 

“I was eight years old in the second war, I used to sleep beside my mother every night. At that night, suddenly, my mother pulled me from my hand to leave the room. I didn’t see anything because dust and the smell of gunpowder were filling the place,” Zidan said.

“With difficulty, we were able to find our way out, we started going down the stairs, which were almost destroyed until we reached the ground. I can’t believe I’m still alive until now,” he said.

Zidan is now 15, the youngest among his six siblings. His mother Monira describes him as a “very clever child, he’s always getting the top rank in his class. But he has a nervous personality that increases with each escalation and Israeli violence.”

Yet the most traumatic event Zidan has experienced in his young life occurred outside of wartime. On February 4, 2008, his father was killed in a targeted  Israeli airstrike. He was a member of the armed wing of the Popular Resistance Committees in Gaza , which is designated as a terrorist group by the U.S. and Israel. 

“I don’t remember a lot of things that happened between me and dad, I was very young. But I remember him when he used to hold me on his shoulders and I pulled his hair and we would start to laugh after that,” Zidan added

Ahmad Abu Dahrouj and his cousin, baby Jana

Zidan’s story is not unique. Many children in Gaza survived bombings and were forced to flee their homes during wars. In the 2014 war, more than 500,000 Palestinians or roughly one-third of the population were displaced. 

In the same Save the Children study, 78 percent of caregivers said their children were scared of sounds of bombing, airplanes, and drones. Sixty percent of both children and parents said they were in a state of “constant insecurity” in anticipation of bombings or a resumption of war. 

During the 2014 war Ahmad Abu Dahrouj, aged 10, evacuated his house in western Gaza with his parents and two siblings, sheltering in his grandfather’s house in the middle of Gaza City. 

At the start of the war, all of Ahmad’s aunts and their families moved in with his grandfather. Ahmad was very close to his youngest aunt, Susan who was 22 then. She had evacuated from her house in the al-Buraij camp.

What made Ahmad close to his aunt was her baby girl Jana, 1. She was his favorite playmate.

“Wherever I would go, Jana used to follow me. My aunt kept her with me most of the time during our stay at my grandfather’s house. When I left Jana for a few minutes, she used to cry immediately,” Ahmad said. 

On July 29, 2014, there was a temporary ceasefire and Susan decided to return to her house in al-Buraij. She took Jana with her. 

Later that night Ahmad’s uncle Ramadan, 35, decided to visit his sister Susan to check on her and took Ahmad with him on his motorcycle.

The moment Ahmad and Ramadan arrived, a huge explosion hit the  place. “I fell on the ground. I remember that I could only see darkness and stones flying in the air,” Ahmad recalled.  

When the dust cleared, Ahmad saw the point of impact was Susan’s house.

Watching from behind the motorcycle, Ahmad saw ambulances arrive and first responders holding Susan. She was alive but injured. Around 30 minutes later rescue workers found Jana lifeless under the rubble. 

“I still remember Jana’s burned body,” Ahmad said, “I see her body every time I visit my grandfather’s house. In fact, I hated going there after that incident.” 

Ahmad didn’t say much else about that day, but he ensured that what he saw can’t be described in words. He hopes one day to honor Jana’s memory. He trains on a parkour team, it’s an urban acrobatic sport.

“When I become a trainer for this sport, I’ll form a team and call it Jana to immortalize my childhood baby friend,” he said. 

Sarah Abu el-Tarabesh in a still from “Innocent Kid’s Diaries.”

Sarah Abu el-Tarabesh, the promising actress and painter

Among the children I interviewed for this article was Sarah, my husband’s sister. She is 13 now. Sarah’s story is a bit different from the other children I interviewed.

Sarah was only 8 in the last war, she was neither injured nor lost a house nor a relative. However, she was cast in a local production, “Innocent Kid’s Diaries,” which aired on television dramatizing a child’s visit to sites bombed during the 2014 war.

Sarah said about this experience, “I didn’t expect that the war can cause all this destruction, I was shocked the first time I visited the destroyed places. After that, every time I knew I had to film a new video, I couldn’t sleep at night imagining the places I’ll see the next day.”

“When the films were released, I didn’t watch them. I didn’t want to see the destruction again. I kept watching only one film that included me distributing flowers,” Sarah added describing a final scene where she gives out flowers as a signal of renewal.

Today, Sarah’s left hand shakes every time she is startled by a loud sound.

“I hate our house during wars and escalations,” she said. The roof, made of asbestos as is common in Gaza, “makes a very loud sound that makes me terrified. I felt that every missile falling down will fall on our house.”

While Sarah is still impacted by the war, however, there is one positive implication. Sarah learned to express her feelings by painting.

“I didn’t expect to be a painter. I always dreamed of being a media correspondent, but it seems that my aspirations changed after I started drawing after the 2014 war,” she said. 

[Category: News, childhood, Gaza, human rights, war]

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 9/10/19 11:09am

Every Israeli prime minister – not least Benjamin Netanyahu – understands that a military entanglement with Hezbollah, Lebanon’s armed Shia movement on Israel’s northern border, is a dangerous wager, especially during an election campaign.

It was Shimon Peres who lost to Netanyahu in 1996, weeks after the former prime minister had incensed Israel’s Palestinian minority – a fifth of the population – by savagely attacking Lebanon in a futile bid to improve his military, and electoral, standing.

Lebanon proved a quagmire for Ehud Olmert too, after he launched a war in 2006 that demonstrated how exposed Israel’s northern communities were to Hezbollah’s rockets. The fallout helped pave Netanyahu’s path to victory and his second term as prime minister three years later.

Netanyahu has faced off with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah for the full 13 years he has been in power. But unlike his political rivals, he has preferred to play a cautious hand with his Lebanese opponent.

Which makes a recent spate of drone attacks by Israel across the region, including in Lebanon, all the more surprising, even in the context of a highly contested election due to take place next week. During the campaign, Netanyahu has been buffeted by yet more corruption allegations.

According to the Israeli media, two drones dispatched over Beirut late last month were intended to destroy Iranian-supplied equipment that would allow Hezbollah to manufacture precision-guided missiles.

It was the first such Israeli attack on Lebanese soil since a ceasefire ended the 2006 war. Hezbollah and Israel have preferred to flex their muscles in neighbouring Syria, weakened after more than eight years of war.

The attack outraged Lebanon’s leaders, with Nasrallah warning that Hezbollah would shoot down any Israeli drones encroaching on Lebanese airspace. He also vowed revenge, which finally came a week ago when Hezbollah fired at an Israeli military vehicle carrying five soldiers close to the border. Israel said there were no casualties.

That was followed by Hezbollah shooting down an Israeli drone in southern Lebanon early on Monday. The Israeli army confirmed the drone had been on a “routine mission” when, it claimed, it fell in Lebanese territory.

In retaliation for last week’s attack, Israel shelled Hezbollah positions, a clash Israeli media described as being a “hair’s breadth” from escalating into all-out war.

Neither Israel nor Hezbollah appear to want such an outcome. Both understand the likely heavy toll in casualties and the damaging political consequences.

Nonetheless, Netanyahu appears to be stoking a fire he might ultimately struggle to control – and not just in Lebanon. Around the time of the Beirut attack, Israeli drones were also in action in Iraq and Syria.

First, Israel hit a building near Damascus, killing two Hezbollah operatives. According to Israel, they were working with Iranian forces to prepare a drone attack on the Golan Heights, Syrian territory annexed by Israel in violation of international law.

Then a day later, more Israeli drones – apparently launched from Azerbaijan – targeted depots housing Iranian weapons close to the Iraqi-Syrian border.

More strikes occurred early this week when 18 people were reportedly killed on the Syrian side of the border with Iraq, and a further 21 Iraqis died a day later in an explosion in Iraq’s Anbar province.

There have been reports of more than half a dozen such attacks since mid-July. They are the first known Israeli strikes on Iraq’s territory in four decades.

The running thread in these various incidents – apart from Israel’s violation of each country’s sovereignty – is Iran.

Until recently, Israel had launched regular forays deep into Syrian airspace to target what it said was the transport through Syria of long-range precision missiles supplied by Iran to Hezbollah, its Shia ally in Lebanon.

Hezbollah and Iran view this growing stockpile of precision weapons – capable of hitting key military installations in Israel – as a vital restraint on Israel’s freedom to attack its neighbours.

Over the past year, Israel’s ability to hit missile convoys as they pass through Syria has narrowed as Bashar Al Assad has regained control of Syrian territory and installed more sophisticated, Russian-made air defences.

Now Israel appears to be targeting the two ends of the supply chain, from deliveries dispatched in Iraq to their receipt in Lebanon. In the words of Netanyahu, Iran “is not immune anywhere”.

The US has not taken kindly to Israel’s actions in Iraq, fearing that a local backlash could endanger the 5,000 troops it has stationed there and push Iraq further into Iran’s arms. In response, the Pentagon issued a statement condemning “actions by external actors inciting violence in Iraq”.

So what is Netanyahu up to? Why risk provoking a dangerous clash with Hezbollah and alienating his strongest asset, a supportive US administration headed by Donald Trump, at this critical moment in the election campaign?

The answer could be that he feels he has little choice.

The same weekend that Israel launched its wave of attacks across the region, French President Emmanuel Macron engineered an unexpected visit by Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, to the G7 summit in Biarritz.

It was part of efforts by Macron, and Europe more generally, to encourage Trump to repair relations with Tehran after the US pulled out of the 2015 nuclear agreement last year and reimposed sanctions. Netanyahu has taken credit for the administration’s tough stance.

Now he has been jolted by Trump’s apparent willingness to reconsider, possibly to protect shipping lanes and oil supplies in the Gulf from Iranian disruption, just as the US president seeks re-election.

Any U-turn would conflict sharply with Netanyahu’s agenda. Domestically he has long presented Iran as the ultimate bogeyman, hellbent on gaining a nuclear bomb to destroy Israel. His strongman image has been built on his supposed triumph both in reining in Tehran and recruiting the Trump administration to his cause.

If Trump indicates a readiness for rapprochement with Iran before polling day, Netanyahu’s narrative is sunk – and the corruption allegations he faces are likely to take a stronger hold on the public imagination.

That was why, as he headed to London last Thursday, Netanyahu issued a barely veiled rebuke to Trump: “This is not the time to talk to Iran.”

It might also be why a report in the New York Times last week suggested that Israel is contemplating a risky, go-it-alone strike on Iran, something Netanyahu has reportedly been mulling for several years.

Presenting them this week as “new revelations”, he also recycled old claims of Iranian nuclear activity predating the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and the US.

Certainly, Netanyahu has every interest in using attacks like the recent ones to provoke a reaction from Iran in the hope of pre-empting any US overture.

It is a high-stakes gamble and one that risks setting off a conflagration should Netanyahu overplay his hand. These are desperate times for Israel’s longest-serving but increasingly embattled prime minister.

A version of this article first appeared in the National, Abu Dhabi.

[Category: Opinion, Hezbollah, Iran, Iraq]

[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 9/10/19 11:09am

Last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for a boycott of the HBO docudrama Our Boys. This month, a global pro-Israel campaign is promoting The Spy, a new series on Netflix starring Sacha Baron Cohen.

Our Boys dramatizes the events that occurred after three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and murdered in the West Bank in June 2014, leading to the brutal killing of Palestinian teenager by Israelis and ultimately the Gaza War of that summer. In a Facebook post, Netanyahu denounced the series as “anti-Semitic” and said that it “gives a bad and false name to Israel.” He also called for people to boycott the show, along with the Israeli company Keshet who co-produced it. Netanyahu has previously criticized Keshet for its coverage of the Prime Minister’s corruption scandals.

While Netanyahu is calling for a boycott of one American show, Israel’s anti-BDS app is promoting another one. The Spy is a Netflix miniseries based on the life of Eli Cohen, an Israeli spy who did espionage work in Syria. It stars Sacha Baron Cohen (best known for creating and portraying fictional characters like Borat and Ali G) and was co-directed by Gideon Raff, an Israeli director and former IDF paratrooper. In Haaretz, Adrian Hennigan writes that Netanyahu certainly won’t find any content worth boycotting in the series. “I didn’t hate ‘The Spy’ – and I’m sure some people will enjoy it,” writes Hennigan. “But I was crying out for something that didn’t just present us with a one-sided story about a heroic Israeli spy thwarting dastardly Arabs.”

Act.IL is a worldwide pro-Israel campaign that is funded by the country’s government. The organization has its own app, which sends thousands of trolls on missions to promote Israel and denounce pro-Palestinian stories on social media. Its main focus has been combatting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement on the web. Its users are able to gain points by prizes by completing online “missions” in support of Israel.

Michael Bueckert is PhD student in sociology and political economy at Carleton University. He runs a Twitter account that tracks the Act.IL  app and discovered that it was encouraging its users to share a trailer

Israel's app is sharing the trailer for @SachaBaronCohen's new Netflix movie. pic.twitter.com/NohkEVSoap

— Behind Israel's Troll Army (@AntiBDSApp) September 2, 2019

At the same time, the app is calling on its users to leave negative reviews of Our Boys on IMDB:

Israel's app is sharing an email campaign by far-right Im Tirtzu to demand that @HBO apologize for the show #OurBoys, and directing users to give the show negative reviews on IMDB https://t.co/DL8tltwNW5 pic.twitter.com/uZrIJk0dcN

— Behind Israel's Troll Army (@AntiBDSApp) September 5, 2019

Earlier this year, the Emmy Award-winning actor David Clennon turned down the chance to audition for the Netflix series Fauda over its depiction of Palestinians. In a piece for Truthout, Clennon declared that he has supported Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel since the Gaza War of 2014. “I’ve come to think of Israel as a European settler-colonial state, which practices apartheid to control the Indigenous population it has conquered militarily,” he wrote.

Clennon emailed Mondoweiss a statement about such programs, drawing a direct link between Hollywood’s growing Israeli ties and the current fracturing of the pro-Israel consensus in the Democratic Party. “Hollywood and Tel Aviv’s television industry are forming closer ties every month, it seems, binding themselves together more and more tightly,” wrote Clennon. “This is happening as Israel’s most powerful American lobbying agency, AIPAC, is being exposed and is starting to lose a little of its control over US politicians.”

He continued:

In one sense, it doesn’t matter so much what the content of these programs is; it doesn’t matter so much whether Israelis, or Palestinians or Syrians are portrayed sympathetically or not.  What I feel is of equal importance is the prestige, the legitimacy and the credibility that Israel gains from its association with Hollywood, the Dream Machine, the world’s biggest purveyor of entertainment.

That’s why I feel it’s so important for actors, writers and other cultural workers in our entertainment industry to think about the nature of the work we sign on to do.  What are the political and moral and economic implications of the projects we sell our talents and our energies to?

If we choose to work for an Israeli television company — partnered with a US company or distributor — are we supporting the oppression of a dispossessed indigenous people, the Palestinians?  Are we reinforcing the apartheid system by which Israel controls Gaza and the occupied territories?  Are we perpetuating the deceitful mythology that disguises the brutal establishment of the state of Israel?

[Category: News, HBO, Netflix, Our Boys]

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 9/10/19 10:54am

Today in an unprecedented show of autonomy, Donald Trump fired the firebreathing national security adviser John Bolton. Bolton was gifted to the Trump administration in 2018 by Sheldon Adelson, Trump’s biggest donor, and Trump duly ended the Iran deal once Bolton came aboard.

Now Trump has fired Bolton, thereby signalling that he is open to renegotiating the Iran deal. And Trump’s Defense Department has all but criticized Israel for its drone war in Iraq and Syria that is threatening Americans and American proxies.

Trump is showing more independence of the rightwing Israel lobby than he has his entire administration. After three years of doing everything for Israel that the rightwing lobby wanted, from Jerusalem to the Golan to UNRWA.

The simple explanation for Trump’s conduct is that he at last has the upper hand in his relationship with Netanyahu and Sheldon Adelson.

Benjamin Netanyahu desperately needs Trump to deliver on a huge deliverable, greenlighting the annexation of the Jewish settlements and the Jordan Valley, a historic achievement of Zionists in completely colonizing the land of Palestine– “forever,” as Netanyahu promised today in his own desperate announcement of his intentions. In that speech, Netanyahu pleaded with Israeli voters to vote for him not Benny Gantz, because Netanyahu would be able to “recruit” Donald Trump in this plan in the weeks to come, in conjunction with Trump’s deal of the century, yet to be announced.

No one else can deal with Trump as I can, Netanyahu said. No one else can “recruit” Trump.

Netanyahu makes apartheid official policy, in speech announcing he will annex portions of West Bank if reelected. i24 news screenshot, September 10, 2019.

Netanyahu’s Hail Mary should be seen for what it looks like: a sincere moment of Flop Sweat. Now he really needs Donald Trump to come through. We have a historic opportunity here, Netanyahu said, to go forward on annexation. I.e., to kill the idea of a Palestinian state, “forever.”

Does that opportunity really exist? Trump knows that Netanyahu’s future rides on his next gesture. The rightwing annexationist program rides on Trump’s signals in the next few days.

Whatever Sheldon Adelson’s differences with Netanyahu, Sheldon Adelson’s own agenda, of ending the idea of a Palestinian state, and establishing Jewish sovereignty throughout the ancient biblical land of Israel, is on the line here.

If Gantz and Yair Lapid and Blue/White get into the prime minister’s office, they are not likely to proceed with annexation. Blue/White need to satisfy their center-left base, much of which still believes in a Palestinian state. Netanyahu has been running away from any idea of a Palestinian state (Just yesterday Likud leaped to object when Naftali Bennett said that some in Likud support a Palestinian state).

All eyes are on Trump. After doing anything for Adelson’s $170 million over the last three years, after being Sheldon Adelson’s “perfect little puppet” as Trump warned us Marco Rubio would be —

Sheldon Adelson is looking to give big dollars to Rubio because he feels he can mold him into his perfect little puppet. I agree!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 13, 2015

Trump is finally free. For a few weeks anyway, the hammer is in his hand. All those Adelson millions are ancient history, and 2020 might as well be the next century.

Who is king now? Adelson is the humble petitioner.

All Netanyahu’s marbles are on the line, his freedom too. And Donald Trump has warmed to the haggling by cutting off Adelson’s proxy: John Bolton.

The deal is likely to be just what was predicted last month. Netanyahu will win on West Bank annexation. Donald Trump will do his part, signing off on apartheid forever, telling Palestinians they are subhuman. Telling Israelis that he and Netanyahu are peers. Netanyahu’s only hope to hold on to the premiereship.

Trump will deliver for Netanyahu, but he will extract a price. He will gain autonomy to deal with Iran; Netanyahu will lose on Iran.

And P.S. the biggest victor in all this process will be…

Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. Europe will totally be on board. A movement smeared as anti-Semitic by US legislatures and Bari Weiss and the New York Times and all the Israel lobby groups will emerge as the only real opposition to apartheid.


[Category: Opinion, annexation, Donald Trump, Netanyahu, Sheldon Adelson]

[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 9/10/19 9:40am

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Tuesday that he would annex all Israeli settlements, the Jordan Valley, and the northern Dead Sea area of the occupied West Bank if he wins Israel’s general elections next week.

During a press conference Netanyahu vowed to “extend sovereignty” to all Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, effectively annexing swaths of land where more than 190 settlements have been built in contravention of international law.

“I want from you a clear mandate to place Israeli sovereignty on all the settlements,” he says, seemingly addressing voters in the upcoming election.

In addition to annexing all West Bank settlements, Netanyahu vowed to annex the Jordan Valley area of the West Bank, saying it was a place “that can have sovereignty immediately applied to it after the elections.”

Here's the map of Netanyahu's proposed annexation. It would essentially slice off the entire eastern edge of the West Bank and mean Jericho is a Palestinian island inside Israel territory.

Very hard for anyone to pretend Two States is still viable if this happens. pic.twitter.com/lfJp2PutW7

— Raf Sanchez (@rafsanchez) September 10, 2019

According to B’Tselem, the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea constitute almost 30% of the West Bank, and “serves as the Palestinians’ most significant land reserve.” It is home to some 65,000 Palestinians and 11,000 settlers.

Channel 13 reporter Barak Ravid, who broke the news that Netanyahu would be announcing annexation plans, tweeted that Israeli officials told him that “Netanyahu updated the White House today about the content of his statement” prior to the press conference.

Israeli officials tell me Netanyahu updated the White House today about the content of his statement

— Barak Ravid (@BarakRavid) September 10, 2019

During his speech, Netanyahu referenced President Donald Trump’s proposed peace plan, which is set to be released days after the Israeli election, saying he would wait until the release of the plan to begin annexation procedures “out of respect for President Trump and out of great faith in our friendship”

Netanyahu also said the Deal of the Century would create a “historic opportunity” for annexation of the West Bank.

“As much as it is possible, I want to apply sovereignty in the communities and other areas with maximum coordination with the U.S .,” he said. “But there is one place where it is possible to apply Israeli sovereignty immediately after the election. If I receive a clear mandate to do so from you, the citizens of Israel. “

Throughout his speech, Netanyahu continued to ask supporters for votes, saying “this is a democracy. I won’t do anything without a clear mandate.”

“So I’m asking for a mandate, to do this thing that enjoys a broad consensus, to define at long last Israel’s permanent borders, promising that Judea and Samaria don’t turn into Gaza. This map defines our eastern frontier. We haven’t had this kind of opportunity since the [1967] Six Day War, and may not have it against for another 50 years,” Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu has made continuous calls for annexation of the West Bank since the April election cycle, when just two days before the election, he said he would move towards annexation if re-elected.

“A Palestinian state will endanger our existence and I withstood huge pressure over the past eight years, no prime minister has withstood such pressure. We must control our destiny,” he said at the time.

Just last week, Netanyahu gave a speech in a West Bank settlement, saying he “aspires to apply Israeli sovereignty all Jewish West Bank settlements.”

Netatanyahu’s speech on Tuesday sparked a flood of reactions from both supporters and opponents.

Even before Netanyahu spoke to the press, the settler chief of the Jordan Valley regional council, David Elhayani, thanked the premiere for a “historic moment for the State of Israel.”

“After 11 years of serving [as council head], which were filled with fear for the future of the Valley, this is one of the most important and exciting moments I have experienced,” Elhayani said, according to the Times of Israel.

Former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman mocked Netanyahu’s “dramatic announcement” on Twitter with several laughing emojis.

הצהרה דרמטית

[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 9/10/19 8:59am

If there is one thing that unites American university presidents, it is opposition to the academic boycott of Israel.  The leaders of more than 250 universities have posted letters or made public statements denouncing the boycott.  The provost and president of Johns Hopkins proclaimed in a joint statement, “To curtail the freedom of institutions to participate in the exchange of ideas because of the policies of the government of the country where they reside is to strike at the very mission of our university.”  Harvard’s president wrote, “Academic boycotts subvert the academic freedoms and values necessary to the free flow of ideas, which is the lifeblood of the worldwide community of scholars.”  The president of California State University Northridge, where I teach, echoed the Chancellor of the 23 campus California State University system when she wrote, “the boycott tarnishes the gold standard of academic review and undermines academic freedom — the very heart of the academic enterprise.”

University leaders have placed a higher value on what they describe as academic freedom than the opposition to racism and discrimination that the boycott seeks to rectify.   However, by invoking academic freedom, they misrepresent the academic boycott of Israel. As with the boycott of Apartheid South African institutions decades ago, the current boycott is not a denial of academic freedom, but rather an exercise of it by scholars from around the world who choose not to collaborate with Israeli state institutions complicit in Israel’s apartheid policies.  Examples of boycottable activities include conferences, symposia, workshops, and study abroad programs convened or co-sponsored by Israeli institutions. The academic boycott of Israel is aimed at institutions and does not target individuals such as research collaborators.

But do university leaders oppose the academic boycott of Israel because they actually believe that it undermines academic freedom, or are there other reasons?  If academic freedom were the real reason, wouldn’t their reactions to targeted boycotts of other regions besides Israel, U.S. states for example, be the same?

Several U.S. states boycott other states in opposition to discriminatory laws, especially those that marginalize and harm LGBTQ people.  Connecticut, for example, restricts state employee travel, including university faculty, to North Carolina. Minnesota, New York, Vermont and Washington have blocked funding for state personnel from traveling to North Carolina and Mississippi. California bars University of California and California State University faculty, among other state employees, from funded travel to Alabama, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas.  Why? Because these states have “laws that authorize or require discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.” And these sanctions are more than symbolic.  Millions of dollars have been lost from canceled hotel bookings and conventions on account of them.  The boycotts are working.

If the academic boycott of Israel violates the hallowed principle of academic freedom, don’t the boycotts of states like North Carolina also violate it?   Both boycotts curtail attendance at academic conferences, for example, and both boycotts follow the honorable tradition of nonviolent opposition to discrimination against a group of people, Palestinians in one case and LGBTQ people in the other.   So then, where are the public proclamations from university leaders against the boycott of U.S. states?

Another way to assess the sincerity of university leaders’ proclamations on the primacy of academic freedom is to check their reactions, or lack thereof, when the Israeli government denies it to Palestinians.  Israel regularly denies visas to international scholars to visit Palestinian universities, and Palestinian students and professors are denied academic freedom in countless crushing ways. Perhaps the starkest examples are the bombings of half of the schools in Gaza, including eight kindergartens and the University of Gaza, by Israel in 2009.

One of the leading Palestinian universities, Birzeit University, has been closed by Israel at least 15 times, with the longest closure lasting four years.  Birzeit University students have been held in Israeli prisons, many without charge.  Students have suffered travel restrictions and have been abducted, shot at and tortured.  The former president of Birzeit University, Dr. Hanna Nasir, in the course of his duties was handcuffed, blindfolded, and deported for 19 years by Israel, and forced to serve as university president in exile. He was never charged with a crime or given an explanation.  Where are the letters of outrage when academic freedoms are denied to Palestinians?

If denial of academic freedom were of any real concern to the many university administrators who have so stridently denounced the academic boycott of Israel, then surely they would find time to post condemnations of the various boycotts of U.S. states, and they would assuredly denounce the unambiguous and sometimes lethal denials of academic freedom to Palestinians.  So then, what could account for the nearly uniform hypocrisy of America’s leaders of academe when it comes to boycotts? No doubt a handful are staunch advocates of Zionism, the ideology of Jewish supremacy, but most are likely worried about crossing the Israel lobby or offending wealthy donors. Congresswoman Ihan Omar undoubtedly got it right when she wrote, “It’s all about the Benjamins baby.”

[Category: Activism, academic boycott, BDS]

As of 9/15/19 10:01am. Last new 9/15/19 8:56am.

Next feed in category: Strategic Culture