All posts by Ramzy Baroud

How Western Media Bias Allows Israel to Getaway with Murder in Gaza

An Israeli attack on Gaza was imminent, and not because of any provocations by Palestinian groups in the besieged, impoverished Gaza Strip. The Israeli military escalation was foreseeable because it factors neatly in Israel’s contentious political scene. The war was not a question of “if”, but “when”.

The answer came on November 12, when the Israeli military launched a major strike against Gaza, killing an Islamic Jihad Commander, Bahaa Abu al-Ata, along with his wife Asma.

More strikes followed, targeting what the Israeli military described as Islamic Jihad installations. However, the identities of the victims, along with damning social media footage, pictures, and eyewitness accounts indicate that civilians and civilian infrastructure were bombed and destroyed as well.

As of November 14, when a truce was announced, 32 Palestinians have been killed and over 80 wounded in the Israeli aggression.

What truly frustrates any meaningful discussion on the horrific situation in Gaza is the feeble response, whether by international organizations that exist with the sole purpose of ensuring world peace or by Western monopoly media, that ceaselessly celebrates its own accuracy and impartiality.

A most disappointing response to the Israeli violence was offered by Nickolay Mladenov, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process.

Mladenov, whose job should have long been deemed pointless considering that no “peace process” actually exists, expressed his “concern” about the “ongoing and serious escalation between Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Israel”.

Not only Mladenov’s statement creates a moral equivalence between an occupying power, which instigated the war in the first place, and a small group of a few hundred armed men, it is also dishonest.

“The indiscriminate launching of rockets and mortars against population centres is absolutely unacceptable and must stop immediately,” Mladenov elaborated, putting great emphasis on the fact that, “there can be no justification for any attacks against civilians”.

Shockingly, Mladenov was referring to Israeli, not Palestinian civilians. At the time that his statement was released to the media, there were already dozens of Palestinian civilians that had been killed and wounded, while Israeli media reports spoke of few Israelis who had been treated for “anxiety”.

The European Union did not fare any better. The EU parroted the same American knee-jerk response by condemning “the barrage of rocket attacks reaching deep into Israel”.

“The firing of rockets on civilian populations is totally unacceptable and must immediately stop,” a statement by the European bloc read.

Is it not possible that Mladenov and top EU foreign policymakers do not truly comprehend the political context of the latest Israeli onslaught — that embattled Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is using military escalation as a way of fortifying his weakening grip on power.

Considering this, what is one to make of the poor media coverage, the inept analyses and the absence of balanced reports in major Western news media?

In a report published by the BBC on November 13, the British broadcaster referred to “cross-border violence between Israel and militants in Gaza”.

But Gaza is not an independent country and, per international law, it is still under Israeli occupation. Israel declared Gaza a “hostile territory” in September 2007, arbitrarily establishing a “border” between it and the besieged Palestinian territory. For some reason, the BBC finds this designation acceptable.

CNN, on the other hand, reported on November 13 that “Israel’s military campaign against Islamic Jihad” is entering its second day, while emphasizing the UN condemnation of the rocket attacks.

CNN, like most of its American corporate counterparts, reports on Israeli military campaigns as a part and parcel of some imagined “war on terror”. Therefore, analyzing the language of US mainstream media with the purpose of underlining and emphasizing its failures and biases, is a useless exercise.

Sadly, US bias regarding Palestine has extended to mainstream media in European countries that were, to some degree, fairer, if not somewhat sympathetic, with the Palestinian peoples’ situation.

El Mundo of Spain, for example, spoke of a number of Palestinians — making sure to emphasize that they were “mostly militants”, — who “died” as opposed to “were killed” by the Israeli military.

“The escalation followed the death of Gaza’s armed branch leader,” El Mundo reported, failing once more to pinpoint the culprits in these seemingly mysterious deaths.

La Repubblica, which is perceived in Italy as a “leftist” outlet, sounded more like a right-wing Israeli newspaper, in its description of the events that led to the death and wounding of many Palestinians. The Italian newspaper used a fabricated timeline that only exists in the mind of Israeli military and decision-makers.

“Violence continued. Several rockets were thrown towards Israel by Gaza’s Islamic Jihad (militants), breaking the brief truce, according to (right-wing Israeli newspaper) The Jerusalem Post and to the Israeli army”.

It remains unclear what “truce” La Repubblica was referring to.

France’s Le Monde followed suit, reporting the same deceptive and cliched Israeli lines and emphasizing statements by the Israeli military and government. Interestingly, the death and wounding of many Palestinians in Gaza did not deserve a place on the French newspaper’s homepage. Instead, it chose to highlight a comparatively irrelevant news item where Israel denounced the labeling of illegal settlement products as “discriminatory”.

Maybe, one could have excused these across-the-board journalistic and moral failings if it were not for the fact that the Gaza story has been one of the most covered news topics anywhere in the world for over a decade.

It is obvious that the West’s “newspapers of record” have maintained their blindspot on fairly reporting on Gaza and intentionally kept the truth from their readers for many years so as not to offend the sensibilities of the Israeli government and its powerful allies and lobbies.

While one cannot help but bemoan the death of good journalism in the West, it is also important to acknowledge with much appreciation the courage and sacrifices of Gaza’s young journalists and bloggers who, at times, are targeted and killed by the Israeli army for conveying the truth on the plight of the besieged but tenacious Strip.

A Lesson for the Palestinian Leadership: Real Reasons Behind Israel’s Arrest and Release of Labadi, Mi’ri

The release on November 6 of two Jordanian nationals, Heba al-Labadi and Abdul Rahman Mi’ri from Israeli prisons was a bittersweet moment. The pair were finally reunited with their families after harrowing experiences in Israel. Sadly, thousands of Palestinian prisoners are still denied their freedom, still subjected to all sorts of hardships at the hands of their Israeli jailers.

Despite the jubilant return of the two prisoners, celebrated in Jordan, Palestine and throughout the Arab world, several compelling questions remain unanswered: why were they held in the first place? Why were they released and what can their experience teach Palestinians under Israeli occupation?

Throughout the whole ordeal, Israel failed to produce any evidence to indict Labadi and Mi’ri for any wrongdoing. In fact, it was this lack of evidence that made Israel hold the two Jordanian nationals in Administrative Detention, without any judicial process whatsoever.

Oddly, days before the release of the two Jordanians, an official Israeli government statement praised the special relationship between Amman and Tel Aviv, describing it as “a cornerstone of stability in the Middle East”.

The reality is that the relationship between the two countries has hit rock bottom in recent years, especially following US President Donald Trump’s advent to the White House and the subsequent, systematic dismantling of the “peace process” by Trump and the Israeli government.

Not only did Washington and Tel Aviv demolish the region’s political status quo, one in which Jordan featured as a key player, top US diplomats also tried to barter with King Abdullah II so that Jordan would settle millions of Palestinian refugees in the country in exchange for large sums of money.

Jordan vehemently rejected US offers and attempts at isolating the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah.

On October 21, 2018, Jordan went even further by rejecting an Israeli offer to renew a 25-year lease on two enclaves in the Jordan Valley, Al-Baqura and Al-Ghamar. The government’s decision was a response to protests by Jordanians and elected parliamentarians, who insist on Jordan’s complete sovereignty over all of its territories.

This particular issue goes back years. Jordan and Israel signed a peace treaty in 1994. An additional annex in the treaty allowed Israel to lease part of the Jordan Valley for 25 years. A quarter of a century later, the Jordan-Israel Peace Treaty failed to achieve any degree of meaningful normalization between both countries, especially as neighboring Palestine remains under Israeli occupation. The stumbling block of that coveted normalization was – and remains – the Jordanian people, who strongly rejected a renewed Israeli lease over Jordanian territories.

Israeli negotiators must have been surprised by Jordan’s refusal to accommodate Israeli interests. With the US removing itself, at least publicly, from the brewing conflict, Israel resorted to its typical bullying by holding two Jordanians hostage, hoping to force the government to reconsider its decision regarding the Jordan Valley.

The Israeli strategy backfired. The arrest of Labadi – who started a hunger strike that lasted for over 40 days –  and Mi’ri, a cancer survivor, was a major PR disaster for Israel. Not only did the tactic fail to deliver any results, it further galvanized the Jordanian people and government regarding the decision to reclaim Al-Baqura and al-Ghamar.

Labadi and Mi’ri were released on November 6. The following day, the Jordanian government informed Israel that its farmers will be banned from entering Al-Baqura area. This way, Jordan retrieved its citizens and its territories within the course of 24 hours.

Three main reasons allowed Jordan to prevail in its confrontation with Israel. First, the steadfastness of the prisoners themselves; second, the unity and mobilization of the Jordanian street, civil society organizations and elected legislators; and third, the Jordanian government responding positively to the unified voice of the street.

This compels the question: what is the Palestinian strategy regarding the nearly 5,000 Palestinian prisoners held unlawfully in Israel?

While the prisoners themselves continue to serve as a model of unity and courage, the other factors fundamental to any meaningful strategy aimed at releasing all Palestinian prisoners remain absent.

Although factionalism continues to undermine the Palestinian fight for freedom, prisoners are fighting the same common enemy. The famed “National Conciliation Document”, composed by the unified leadership of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails in 2006, is considered the most articulate vision for Palestinian unity and liberation.

For ordinary Palestinians, the prisoners remain an emotive subject, but political disunity is making it nearly impossible for the energies of the Palestinian street to be harnessed in a politically meaningful way. Despite much lip service paid to freeing the prisoners, efforts aimed at achieving this goal are hopelessly splintered and agonizingly factionalized.

As for the Palestinian leadership, the strategy championed by Palestinian Authority leader, Mahmoud Abbas, is more focused on propping up Abbas’ own image than alleviating the suffering of the prisoners and their families. Brazenly, Abbas exploits the emotional aspect of the prisoners’ tragedy to gain political capital, while punishing the families of Palestinian prisoners in order to pursue his own self-serving political agenda.

“Even if I had only one penny, I would’ve given it to the families of the martyrs, prisoners and heroes,” Abbas said in a theatrical way during his United Nations General Assembly speech last September.

Abbas, of course, has more than one penny. In fact, he has withheld badly needed funds from the families of the “martyrs, prisoners and heroes.” On April 2018, Abbas cut the salaries of government employees in Gaza, along with the money received by the families of Gaza prisoners held inside Israeli jails.

Heba al-Labadi and Abdul Rahman Mi’ri were released because of their own resolve, coupled with strong solidarity exhibited by ordinary Jordanians. These two factors allowed the Jordanian government to publicly challenge Israel, leading to the unconditional release of the two Jordanian prisoners.

Meanwhile, thousands of Palestinian prisoners, including 500 administrative detainees continue to languish in Israeli prisons. Without united and sustained popular, non-factional mobilization, along with the full backing of the Palestinian leadership, the prisoners are likely to carry on with their fight, alone and unaided.

Microsoft Should Not Fund Israeli Spying on Palestinians

The act of Palestinian activists covering their faces during anti-Israeli occupation rallies is an old practice that spans decades. The masking of the face, often by Kufyias – traditional Palestinian scarves that grew to symbolize Palestinian resistance – is far from being a fashion statement. Instead, it is a survival technique. Without it, activists are likely to be arrested in subsequent nightly raids; at times, even assassinated.

In the past, Israel used basic technologies to identify Palestinians who take part in protests and mobilize the people in various popular activities. TV news footage or newspaper photos were thoroughly deciphered, often with the help of Israel’s collaborators in the Occupied Territories, and the ‘culprits’ would be identified, summoned to meet Shin Bet intelligence officers or arrested from their homes.

That old technique was eventually replaced by more advanced technology, countless images transmitted directly through Israeli drones – the flagship of Israel’s “security industry”. Thousands of Palestinians were detained and hundreds were assassinated in recent years as a result of drones data, analyzed through Israel’s burgeoning facial recognition software.

If, in the past, Palestinian activists were keen on keeping their identity hidden, now they have much more compelling reasons to ensure the complete secrecy of their work. Considering the information sharing between the Israeli army and illegal Jewish settlers and their armed militias in the occupied West Bank, Palestinians face the double threat of being targeted by armed settlers as well as by Israeli soldiers.

True, when it comes to Israel, such a grim reality is hardly surprising. But what is truly disturbing is the direct involvement of international corporate giants, the likes of Microsoft, in facilitating the work of the Israeli military, whose sole aim is to crush any form of dissent among Palestinians.

Microsoft prides itself on being a leader in corporate social responsibility (CSR), emphasizing that “privacy (is) a fundamental human right.”

The Washington-State based software giant dedicates much attention, at least on paper, to the subject of human rights. “Microsoft is committed to respecting human rights,” Microsoft Global Human Rights Statement asserts. “We do this by harnessing the beneficial power of technology to help realize and sustain human rights everywhere.”

In practice, however, Microsoft’s words are hardly in line with its action, at least not when its human rights maxims are applied to occupied and besieged Palestinians.

Writing in the American news network NBC News on October 27, Olivia Solon reported on Microsoft funding of the Israeli firm, AnyVision, which uses facial recognition “to secretly watch West Bank Palestinians”.

Through its venture capital arm M12, Microsoft has reportedly invested $78 million in the Israeli startup company that “uses facial recognition to surveil Palestinians throughout the West Bank, in spite of the tech giant’s public pledge to avoid using the technology if it encroaches on democratic freedoms”.

AnyVision had developed an “advanced tactical surveillance” software system, dubbed “Better Tomorrow” that, according to a joint NBC News-Haaretz investigation, “lets customers identify individuals and objects in any live camera feed, such as a security camera or smartphone, and then track targets as they move between different feeds.”

As disquieting as “Better Tomorrow’s” mission sounds, it takes on a truly sinister objective in Palestine. “According to five sources familiar with the matter,” wrote Solon, “AnyVision’s technology powers a secret military surveillance project throughout the West Bank.”

“One source said the project is nicknamed ‘Google Ayosh,’ where ‘Ayosh’ means occupied Palestinian territories and ‘Google’ denotes the technology’s ability to search for people.”

Headquartered in Israel, AnyVision has several offices around the world, including the US, the UK and Singapore. Considering the nature of AnyVision’s work, and the intrinsic link between Israel’s technology sector and the country’s military, it should have been assumed that the company’s software is likely used to track down Palestinian dissidents.

In July, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz pointed out that “AnyVision is taking part in two special projects in assisting the Israeli army in the West Bank. One involves a system that it has installed at army checkpoints that thousands of Palestinians pass through each day on their way to work from the West Bank.”

Former AnyVision employees spoke to NBC News about their experiences with the company, one even asserting that he/she “saw no evidence that ethical considerations drove any business decisions” at the firm.

The alarming reports invited strong protests by human rights organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Alas, Microsoft carried on with supporting AnyVision’s work unhindered.

This is not the first time that Microsoft is caught red-handed in its support of the Israeli military or criticized for other unethical practices.

Unlike Facebook, Google and others, who are constantly, albeit deservingly being chastised for violating privacy rules or allowing politics to influence their editorial agenda, Microsoft has been left largely outside the brewing controversies. But, like the rest, Microsoft should be held to account.

In its ‘Human Rights Statement’, Microsoft declared its respect for human rights based on international conventions, starting with the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In occupying and oppressing Palestinians, Israel violates every article of that declaration, starting with Article 1, which states that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights,” and including Article 3: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”

It will take Microsoft more than hyperlinking to a UN document to show true and sincere respect for human rights.

Indeed, for a company that enjoys great popularity throughout the Middle East and in Palestine itself, an inevitable first step towards respecting human rights is to immediately divest from AnyVision, coupled with an apology for all of those who have already paid the price for that ominous Israeli technology.

The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestinian Christians that nobody is talking about

Palestine’s Christian population is dwindling at an alarming rate. The world’s most ancient Christian community is moving elsewhere. And the reason for this is Israel.

Christian leaders from Palestine and South Africa sounded the alarm at a conference in Johannesburg on October 15. Their gathering was titled: “The Holy Land: A Palestinian Christian Perspective”.

One major issue that highlighted itself at the meetings is the rapidly declining number of Palestinian Christians in Palestine.

There are varied estimates on how many Palestinian Christians are still living in Palestine today, compared with the period before 1948 when the state of Israel was established atop Palestinian towns and villages. Regardless of the source of the various studies, there is near consensus that the number of Christian inhabitants of Palestine has dropped by nearly ten-fold in the last 70 years.

A population census carried out by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics in 2017 concluded that there are 47,000 Palestinian Christians living in Palestine – with reference to the Occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. 98 percent of Palestine’s Christians live in the West Bank – concentrated mostly in the cities of Ramallah, Bethlehem and Jerusalem – while the remainder, a tiny Christian community of merely 1,100 people, lives in the besieged Gaza Strip.

The demographic crisis that had afflicted the Christian community decades ago is now brewing.

For example, 70 years ago, Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus Christ, was 86 percent Christian. The demographics of the city, however, have fundamentally shifted, especially after the Israeli occupation of the West Bank in June 1967, and the construction of the illegal Israeli apartheid wall, starting in 2002. Parts of the wall were meant to cut off Bethlehem from Jerusalem and to isolate the former from the rest of the West Bank.

“The Wall encircles Bethlehem by continuing south of East Jerusalem in both the east and west,” the ‘Open Bethlehem’ organization said, describing the devastating impact of the wall on the Palestinian city. “With the land isolated by the Wall, annexed for settlements, and closed under various pretexts, only 13% of the Bethlehem district is available for Palestinian use.”

Increasingly beleaguered, Palestinian Christians in Bethlehem have been driven out from their historic city in large numbers. According to the city’s mayor, Vera Baboun, as of 2016, the Christian population of Bethlehem has dropped to 12 percent, merely 11,000 people.

The most optimistic estimates place the overall number of Palestinian Christians in the whole of Occupied Palestine at less than two percent.

The correlation between the shrinking Christian population in Palestine, and the Israeli occupation and apartheid should be unmistakable, as it is obvious to Palestine’s Christian and Muslim population alike.

A study conducted by Dar al-Kalima University in the West Bank town of Beit Jala and published in December 2017, interviewed nearly 1,000 Palestinians, half of them Christian and the other half Muslim. One of the main goals of the research was to understand the reason behind the depleting Christian population in Palestine.

The study concluded that “the pressure of Israeli occupation, ongoing constraints, discriminatory policies, arbitrary arrests, confiscation of lands added to the general sense of hopelessness among Palestinian Christians,” who are finding themselves in “a despairing situation where they can no longer perceive a future for their offspring or for themselves”.

Unfounded claims that Palestinian Christians are leaving because of religious tensions between them and their Muslim brethren are, therefore, irrelevant.

Gaza is another case in point. Only 2 percent of Palestine’s Christians live in the impoverished and besieged Gaza Strip. When Israel occupied Gaza along with the rest of historic Palestine in 1967, an estimated 2,300 Christians lived in the Strip. However, merely 1,100 Christians still live in Gaza today. Years of occupation, horrific wars and an unforgiving siege can do that to a community, whose historic roots date back to two millennia.

Like Gaza’s Muslims, these Christians are cut off from the rest of the world, including the holy sites in the West Bank. Every year, Gaza’s Christians apply for permits from the Israeli military to join Easter services in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Last April, only 200 Christians were granted permits, but on the condition that they must be 55 years of age or older and that they are not allowed to visit Jerusalem.

The Israeli rights group, Gisha, described the Israeli army decision as “a further violation of Palestinians’ fundamental rights to freedom of movement, religious freedom and family life”, and, rightly, accused Israel of attempting to “deepen the separation” between Gaza and the West Bank.

In fact, Israel aims at doing more than that. Separating Palestinian Christians from one another, and from their holy sites (as is the case for Muslims, as well), the Israeli government hopes to weaken the socio-cultural and spiritual connections that give Palestinians their collective identity.

Israel’s strategy is predicated on the idea that a combination of factors – immense economic hardships, permanent siege and apartheid, the severing of communal and spiritual bonds – will eventually drive all Christians out of their Palestinian homeland.

Israel is keen to present the ‘conflict’ in Palestine as a religious one so that it could, in turn, brand itself as a beleaguered Jewish state in the midst of a massive Muslim population in the Middle East. The continued existence of Palestinian Christians does not factor nicely into this Israeli agenda.

Sadly, however, Israel has succeeded in misrepresenting the struggle in Palestine – from that of political and human rights struggle against settler colonialism – into a religious one. Equally disturbing, Israel’s most ardent supporters in the United States and elsewhere are religious Christians.

It must be understood that Palestinian Christians are neither aliens nor bystanders in Palestine. They have been victimized equally as their Muslim brethren, and have also played a major role in defining the modern Palestinian identity, through their resistance, spirituality, deep connection to the land, artistic contributions and burgeoning scholarship.

Israel must not be allowed to ostracize the world’s most ancient Christian community from their ancestral land so that it may score a few points in its deeply disturbing drive for racial supremacy.

Equally important, our understanding of the legendary Palestinian ‘soumoud’ – steadfastness – and of solidarity cannot be complete without fully appreciating the centrality of Palestinian Christians to the modern Palestinian narrative and identity.

She Deserves Our Support: Betty McCollum Wants US to Stop Subsidizing Torture of Palestinian Children

In December 2018, 17-year-old Palestinian teen, Ayham Sabah, was sentenced by an Israeli military court to 35 years in prison for his alleged role in a stabbing attack targeting an Israeli soldier in an illegal Jewish settlement in the West Bank.

Sabah was only 14 years old when the alleged attack took place.

Another alleged attacker, Omar al-Rimawi, also 14, was reportedly shot by undercover Israeli forces in the Shufat refugee camp, in occupied East Jerusalem. He later succumbed to his wounds.

Although the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child defines a “child” as “every human being below the age of eighteen years”, Israel chooses not to abide by that definition. In Israel, there are two kinds of children: Israeli children who are 18 years old or younger, and Palestinians children, 16 years and younger.

In Sabah’s case, he was detained for years to ensure that he was tried as an “adult” per Israel’s skewed legal standards.

According to research conducted by the Israeli rights group, B’Tselem, by the end of August 2019, 185 Palestinian children, including two younger than 14 years old were held in various Israeli prisons as “security detainees and prisoners.”

Thousands of Palestinian children are constantly being rotated through the Israeli prison system, often accused of “security” offenses, which include taking part in anti-Israeli occupation protests and rallies in the West Bank. The Palestinian Prisoner’s Association estimates that at least 6,000 Palestinian children have been detained in Israeli prisons since 2015.

In a statement issued last April, the Association, revealed that “98 percent of the children held had been subjected to psychological and/or physical abuse while in Israeli custody” and that many of them were detained “after first being shot and wounded by Israeli troops.”

While Gazan children are the ones most likely to lose their lives or get shot by the Israeli army, the children of occupied East Jerusalem are “the most targeted” by Israeli troops in terms of detention or prolonged imprisonment.

In 2016, the US and Israeli governments signed a 10-year Memorandum of Understanding, whereby, the US “pledges” to grant Israel $38 billion in military aid. The previous agreement, which concluded in 2018, gave Israel over $3 billion per year. Most of the money went to finance Israeli wars and security for illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank. A large portion of that money was, and still is, allocated to subsidize the Israeli prison system and military courts located in occupied Palestine – the kind that regularly detain and torture Palestinian children.

Aside from the US government, which has blindly supported Israel’s ongoing violations of international law, many governments and rights groups around the world have constantly highlighted Israel’s criminally reprehensible treatment of Palestinian children.

In a written submission by Human Rights Watch to the Committee on the Rights of the Child on the State of Palestine last March, the group reported that “Palestinian children aged between 12 and 17 years from the West Bank and East Jerusalem, continue to be detained and arrested by Israeli forces.”

“Israeli security forces routinely interrogate children without a guardian or lawyer present, use unnecessary force against children during arrest, which often takes place in the middle of the night, and physically abuse them in custody,” HRW reported.

While the US government, lawmakers and media often turn a blind eye to such violations, Congresswoman Betty McCollum does not. The representative for Minnesota’s 4th congressional district has taken a stand against the prevailing norm in American politics, arguing that Israel must respect the rights of Palestinian children, and that the US government should not be funding Israel’s violations of human rights.

On April 30, McCollum introduced House resolution H.R. 2407 – “Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act”.

“I am introducing legislation to protect children from abuse, violence, psychological trauma, and torture,” she said in her statement to the Congress.

“The legislation I am introducing is expressly intended to end U.S. support and funding for Israel’s systematic military detention, interrogation, abuse, torture, and prosecution of Palestinian children.”

By introducing H.R. 2407, McCollum has broken several major taboos in the US government. She unapologetically characterizes Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights with all the correct terms – “torture”, “abuse”, and so on… Moreover, she calls for conditioning US military support for Israel on the latter’s respect for human rights.

As of November 17, H.R. 2407 has acquired 22 co-sponsors, with Rep. Mark DeSaulnier being the last Congress member to join the list.

This is not the first time that McCollum has taken such brave initiatives. In November 2017, she introduced the “Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act” (H.R. 4391). Then, she pushed the bill with the same vigor and moral clarity as today’s campaign.

The 2017 bill was not enacted in the previous Congress. McCollum is hoping to change that this time around, and there are good reasons to believe that H.R. 2407 could succeed.

One public opinion poll after another points to a shift in US perception of Israel, especially among Democrats and even US Jewish voters.

Eager to exploit the political chasm, US President Donald Trump accused Jewish Democrats who don’t support Israel of being “disloyal”.

“The Democrats have gone very far away from Israel,” Trump said last August. “In my opinion, you vote for a Democrat, you’re being very disloyal to Jewish people and very disloyal to Israel.”

In fact, it seems that an increasing number of American voters are now linking their perception of Israel to their perception of their own polarizing President and his relationship with the equally polarizing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The above reality is now widening the margins of criticism of Israel, whether in the US Congress, media, or other facets of American life which have historically stood on the side of Israel despite the latter’s dismal human rights record.

While one hopes that McCollum’s congressional bill pays dividends in the service of human rights in Palestine and Israel, one hopes equally that the current shift in American political perceptions continues unhindered.

The Last Lifeline: The Real Reason Behind Abbas’ Call for Elections

The call by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for elections in the Occupied Territories is a political ploy. There will be no true, democratic elections under Abbas’ leadership. The real question is: why did he make the call in the first place?

On September 26, Abbas took on the world’s most important political platform, the United Nations General Assembly, to call for “general elections in Palestine – in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip”.

The Palestinian leader prefaced his announcement with a lofty emphasis on the centrality of democracy in his thinking. “From the outset, we have believed in democracy as a foundation for the building of our State and society,” he said with unmistakable self-assurance. But, as it turned out, it was only Hamas – not Israel, and certainly not the PA’s own undemocratic, transparent and corrupt legacy – that made Abbas’ democratic mission impossible.

Upon his return from New York, Abbas formed a committee, whose mission, according to official Palestinian media, is to consult with various Palestinian factions regarding the promised elections.

Hamas immediately accepted the call for elections, though it asked for further clarifications. The core demand for the Islamic group, which controls the besieged Gaza Strip, is a simultaneous election that includes the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), the PA presidency and, most importantly, the Palestine National Council (PNC) – the legislative component of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

While the PLO has fallen under the tight grip of Abbas and a clique within his own Fatah party, the remaining institutions have operated without any democratic, popular mandates for nearly 13 years. The last PLC elections were held in 2006, followed by a Hamas-Fatah clash that resulted in the current political rift between the two parties. As for Abbas’ own mandate, that, too, expired sometime in 2009. It means that Abbas, who supposedly believes “in democracy as the foundation for the building of our State” is an undemocratically reigning president without any real mandate to rule over Palestinians.

Not that Palestinians are shying away from making their feelings clear. Time after time, they have asked Abbas to leave. But the 83-year-old is bent on remaining in power – however one defines “power” under the yoke of Israeli military occupation.

The prevalent analysis following Abbas’ call for elections is that such an undertaking is simply impossible, considering the circumstances. To begin with, after winning US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Israel is unlikely to allow the Palestinians to include occupied East Jerusalem in any future vote.

Hamas, on the other hand, is likely to reject the inclusion of Gaza if the elections are limited to the PLC, and exclude Abbas’ own position and the PNC. Without a PNC vote, the reordering and resurrection of the PLO would remain elusive, a belief that is shared by other Palestinian factions.

Being aware of these obstacles, Abbas must already know that the chances of real, fair, free and truly inclusive elections are negligible. But his call is the last, desperate move to quell growing resentment among Palestinians, at his decades-long failure to utilize the so-called peace process to achieve his people’s long-denied rights.

There are three, main reasons compelling Abbas to make this move at this, specific time.

First, the demise of the peace process and the two-state solution, through a succession of Israeli and American measures, has left the PA, and Abbas, in particular, isolated and short on funds. Palestinians who supported such political illusions no longer constitute the majority.

Second, the PA constitutional court resolved, last December, that the president should call for an election within the next six months, that is, by June 2019. The court, itself under Abbas’ control, aimed to provide the Palestinian leader with a legal outlet to dismiss the previously elected parliament – whose mandate expired in 2010 – and create new grounds for his political legitimacy. Still, he failed to adhere to the court’s decision.

Third, and most importantly, the Palestinian people are clearly fed up of Abbas, his authority and all the political shenanigans of the factions. In fact, 61 percent of all Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza want Abbas to step down, according to a public opinion poll held by the Palestinian Center for Political and Polling Research in September.

The same poll indicates that Palestinians reject the entire political discourse which has served as the foundation for Abbas and his PA’s political strategies. Moreover, 56 percent of Palestinians oppose the two-state solution; up to 50 percent believe that the performance of the current PA government of Mohammed Shtayyeh is worse than that of his predecessor; and 40 percent want the PA to be dissolved.

Tellingly, 72 percent of Palestinians want legislative and presidential elections held throughout the occupied territories. The same percentage wants the PA to lift its share of the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip.

Abbas is now at his weakest political position since his advent to leadership, many years ago. With no control over political outcomes that are determined by Tel Aviv and Washington, he has resorted to making a vague call for elections that have no chance of success.

While the outcome is predictable, Abbas hopes that, for now, he would once more appear as the committed leader who is beholden to international consensus and the wishes of his own people.

It will take months of wasted energy, political wrangling and an embarrassing media circus before the election ploy falls apart, ushering in a blame game between Abbas and his rivals that could last months, if not years.

This is hardly the strategy that the Palestinian people – living under brutal occupation and a suffocating siege – need or want. The truth is that Abbas, and whatever political class he represents, have become a true obstacle in the path of a nation that is in desperate need of unity and a meaningful political strategy. What the Palestinian people urgently require is not a half-hearted call for elections, but a new leadership, a demand they have articulated repeatedly, though Abbas refuses to listen.

Administrative Torture: Free Heba al-Labadi, a Jordanian Citizen in Israeli Prison

On August 20, Heba Ahmed al-Labadi fell into the dark hole of the Israeli legal system, joining 413 Palestinian prisoners who are currently held in so-called administrative detention.

On September 26, Heba and seven other prisoners declared a hunger strike to protest their unlawful detention and horrific conditions in Israeli prisons. Among the prisoners is Ahmed Ghannam, 42, from the village of Dura, near Hebron, who launched his hunger strike on July 14.

Administrative detention is Israel’s go-to legal proceeding when it simply wants to mute the voices of Palestinian political activists, but lacks any concrete evidence that can be presented in an open, military court.

Not that Israel’s military courts are an example of fairness and transparency. Indeed, when it comes to Palestinians, the entire Israeli judicial system is skewed. But administrative detention is a whole new level of injustice.

The current practice of administrative detention dates back to the 1945 Defense (Emergency) Regulations issued by the colonial British authorities in Palestine to quell Palestinian political dissent. Israel amended the regulations in 1979, renaming them to the Israeli Law on Authority in States of Emergency. The revised law was used to indefinitely incarcerate thousands of Palestinian political activists during the Palestinian Uprising of 1987. On any given day, there are hundreds of Palestinians who are held under the unlawful practice.

The procedure denies the detainees any due process, and fails to produce an iota of evidence to as why the prisoner – who is often subjected to severe and relentless torture – is being held in the first place.

Heba, a Jordanian citizen, was detained at the al-Karameh crossing (Allenby Bridge) on her way from Jordan to the West Bank to attend a wedding in the Palestinian city of Nablus.

According to the Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network Samidoun, Heba was first held at the Israeli intelligence detention center in Petah Tikva, where she was physically abused and tortured.

Torture in Israel was permissible for many years. In 1999, the Israeli Supreme Court banned torture. However, in 2019, the court explicitly clarified that “interrogational torture is lawful in certain circumstances in Israel’s legal system”. Either way, little has changed in practice before or after the Israeli court’s “clarification”.

Of the dozens of Palestinian and Arab prisoners I interviewed in recent months for a soon-to-be published volume on the history of the Palestinian prison experience, every single one of them underwent a prolonged process of torture during the initial interrogation, that often extended for months. If their experiences differed, it was only in the extent and duration of the torture. This applies to administrative detainees as much as it applies to so-called “security prisoners”.

Wafa Samir Ibrahim al-Bis, a Palestinian woman from Jablaiya refugee camp in Gaza, told me about the years she was held in Israeli jails. “I was tortured for years inside the Ramleh prison’s infamous ‘cell nine’, a torture chamber they designated for people like me,” she said.

“I was hanged from the ceiling and beaten. They put a black bag on my head as they beat and interrogated me for many hours and days. They released dogs and mice in my cell. I couldn’t sleep for days at a time. They stripped me naked and left me like that for days on end. They didn’t allow me to meet with a lawyer or even receive visits from the Red Cross.”

Heba is now lost in that very system, one that has no remorse and faces no accountability, neither in Israel itself, nor to international institutions whose duty is to challenge this kind of flagrant violation of humanitarian laws.

While Israel’s mistreatment of all Palestinian prisoners applies equally regardless of faction, ideology or age, the gender of the prisoner matters insofar as the type of torture or humiliation used. Many of the female prisoners I spoke with explained how the type of mistreatment they experienced in Israeli prisons seemed often to involve sexual degradation and abuse. One involves having female prisoners strip naked before Israeli male interrogators and remaining in that position during the entire duration of the torturous interrogation, that may last hours.

Khadija Khweis, from the town of Al-Tour, adjacent to the Old City of Occupied East Jerusalem, was imprisoned by Israel 18 times, for a period ranging from several days to several weeks. She told me that “on the first day of my arrival at prison, the guards stripped me completely naked”.

“They searched me in ways so degrading, I cannot even write them down. All I can say is that they intentionally tried to deprive me of the slightest degree of human dignity. This practice, of stripping and of degrading body searches, would be repeated every time I was taken out of my cell and brought back.”

Heba and all Palestinian prisoners experience humiliation and abuse on a daily basis. Their stories should not be reduced to an occasional news item or a social media post, but should become the raison d’être of all solidarity efforts aimed at exposing Israel, its fraudulent judicial system and Kangaroo courts.

The struggle of Palestinian prisoners epitomizes the struggle of all Palestinians. Their imprisonment is a stark representation of the collective imprisonment of the Palestinian people – those living under occupation and apartheid in the West Bank and those under occupation and siege in Gaza.

Israel should be held accountable for all of this. Rights groups and the international community should pressure Israel to release Heba al-Labadi and all of her comrades, unlawfully held in Israeli prisons.

The Africa-Palestine Conference: Why South Africa Must Lead the Way 

On September 16, I visited South Africa, a country where many Palestinians have always felt welcomed, if not overwhelmed by the degree of genuine and meaningful solidarity.

While having the honor to address many audiences in six major cities, I have also learned a great deal. An important and sobering lesson is that while apartheid laws can be dismissed in a day, economic apartheid and massive inequality can linger on for many years. Thanks to my interactions with many South African intellectuals, activists and ordinary folk, I learned not to romanticize the South African struggle, a crucial lesson for those of us fighting to end Israeli apartheid in Palestine.

My hosts at the Afro-Middle East Center ensured that I met with diverse audiences, including top members of the African National Congress, the leadership of the country’s two major union groups, anti-apartheid scholars and activists, and a large number of students and other people throughout the country.

The main, obvious conclusion from all of these meetings and interactions is that South Africans are serious about their solidarity with Palestine, and that they see themselves as partners in the Palestinian struggle for justice and peace.

While South Africans are always ready to take their solidarity with Palestine to a whole new level, however, there is a general feeling that decisive political moves can prove costly for South Africa.

True, the South African government has taken several steps in the right direction. On May 14, 2018, Pretoria recalled its ambassador to Israel, Sisa Ngombane, to protest the killing of hundreds of unarmed protesters taking part in the Great March of Return in besieged Gaza. On April 5, 2019, it began to actively downgrade its ties with Israel, in response to a call made by the ANC leadership itself.

While these steps are significant, South Africa is yet to take the kind of action that, when combined with others measures of international solidarity, could finally force Israel to dismantle its system of Apartheid in Palestine.

The problem is not the lack of willingness nor that of diplomatic doublespeak. There is a growing, and justifiable, sense that Arab governments no longer see the liberation of Palestine as a common objective. While the Arab peoples remain committed in their support of Palestinians, Arab governments have fallen into warring camps and political divisions.

Yet, a top ANC leader told me that South Africa’s policy regarding Palestine is guided by the agendas of the Arab League and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Sadly, neither the Arab League nor the PLO are serving the roles they were entrusted with decades ago. The former is marred in divisions, and the latter has been effectively replaced by the provisional, factional Palestinian Authority in Ramallah.

Using ineffectual organizations as a legal and moral frame of reference is hurting South Africa’s chances of converting its solidarity with Palestine into tangible political assets.

The other dilemma is that the African continent itself is no longer united regarding Palestine. Israel has successively driven a wedge between African countries, which, at one point, were united in their unconditional support of the Palestinian struggle against Israeli military occupation and Apartheid.

Israel’s successes in Africa, especially through the penetration of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), have made Tel Aviv a political player on the African continent. Boosted by the welcome he received from various African leaders, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu had hoped to hold the Israel-Africa Summit in October 2017. Thanks to the efforts of African countries like South Africa and Algeria, the conference was postponed.

If Israel continues to score political victories while facing little resistance, however, it will eventually dominate the African continent. The absurdity of this matter goes beyond the struggle in Palestine. A continent that was ravaged by colonialism, racism and apartheid should not embrace the likes of Israel, the exemplification of the very ills that have cost Africa so dearly for hundreds of years.

In fact, the issue of solidarity with Palestine, and the pressing need to block Israel’s scourges in Africa, are intrinsically linked. In this very link, South Africa can find a way to reclaim its natural role as a vanguard against racism and apartheid everywhere.

My suggestion to the ANC is that South Africa should update its frame of reference, moving away from tired clichés of a defunct, two-state solution and such, to a whole new way of thinking. And it should not go about doing it alone; all of Africa and all Palestinians should be part of this effort.

I strongly believe that South Africa is ready to counter Israel’s efforts on the continent by initiating an Africa-Palestine Conference, a major gathering that aims to harness all the solidarity for the Palestinian people throughout all African countries.

Whether the conference is held under the auspices of the African Union (AU) or independently, the gathering of like-minded African and Palestinian leaders, parliamentarians, scholars and civil society leaders can develop a new frame of reference, which South Africa, the African continent, and, in fact, the rest of the world can use as a guiding principle of new thinking on Palestine. Based on the call made by Palestinian civil society in 2005 to boycott Israel, the Palestinian people have been demanding and expecting this new thinking for at least 15 years.

Those who might find the idea that Africa can lead the way on forming a new, global understanding on Palestine far-fetched, need to remember that it was the Organization of African Unity’s resolution 77 (XII) of August 1975 that recognized and condemned the “organic link” between “the racist regime in occupied Palestine and the racist regime in Zimbabwe and South Africa”. That very resolution served as a major frame of reference used in UN Resolution 3379 of November 1975 that determined that “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination”.

Africa must reclaim its position as a global leader in the fight against racism and apartheid, and South Africa is very qualified to spearhead these efforts, because, after all, as iconic South African leader Nelson Mandela once said, “We all know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians”.

Netanyahu on Steroids: What a Gantz-led Government Means for Palestine 

Experience has taught Palestinians not to pay heed to Israeli elections. But to every rule there is an exception.

Although it is still true that no Israeli Zionist leader has ever been kind to the Palestinian people, the dynamics of the latest Israeli elections on September 17 are likely to affect the Occupied Palestinian Territories in a profound way.

Indeed, the outcome of the elections seems to have ushered in a new age in Israel, ideologically and politically. But the same claim can also be made regarding its potential influence on Palestinians, who should now brace themselves for war in Gaza and annexation in the West Bank.

Former chief of general staff of the Israeli army, Benny Gantz, who had orchestrated the destructive war on the besieged Gaza Strip in 2014, is likely to be tasked with the job of forming Israel’s new government. Gantz had recently boasted about sending “parts of Gaza back to the Stone Age”.

There is little discussion in Israeli, and, by extension, western media of Gantz’s numerous war crimes during the Gaza war. The focus is mainly placed on the fact that he seems to have finally dislodged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from a position he had held for nearly 13 years, a scenario that was, until recently, deemed inconceivable.

The leader of the Kahol Lavan (Blue and White) party had plotted the ouster of Netanyahu back in January 2018, when he formed the Israeli Resilience Party. Following several political mergers and a strong showing in the previous elections in April, the centrist politician has finally edged past Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party in the most recent elections.

With 33 seats in the Israeli Knesset – compared to Likud’s 31 seats – Gantz now needs a broad coalition to rule Israel. The vehemently anti-Palestinian politician has made it clear that he will not enter into a coalition with the Joint List, the alliance of various Palestinian Arab political parties. The latter has managed to achieve an outstanding 13 seats, making it the third largest political force in Israel.

But, according to Gantz’s previous statements, the inclusion of Arab parties in the coalition is out of the question, despite the fact that Ayman Odeh, the leader of the Joint List, had indicated his willingness to join a Gantz-led government.

It is now likely that Gantz will seek a coalition government that includes the Likud, along with Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu. The country’s former ultra-nationalist defense minister, Lieberman, with 8 seats, has restored his previous “kingmaker” status. He, too, is keen on such a coalition. Gantz is open to such a scenario, with one condition: Netanyahu should stay out.

While the “king of Israel” has finally been dethroned, however, Palestinians have little to rejoice over. True, Netanyahu has destroyed any chance of a just peace in Palestine through the entrenching of the illegal military occupation and inhumane siege of the West Bank and Gaza. However, future possibilities are equally, if not even more, grim.

Once upon a time, outright discussion of annexing large parts of the Occupied Palestinian Territories were relegated to the margins of Israel’s political discourse. This is no longer the case. The call for annexing major illegal settlement blocs, along with the Jordan Valley, is now a common demand made by all of Israel’s main political parties, including Gantz’s own.

Gantz, possibly Israel’s next prime minister, has repeatedly made it clear that he would be strengthening, rather than dismantling, the illegal settlements in the West Bank, and has even attempted to take ownership of Netanyahu’s pledge to annex the Jordan Valley.

“We are happy that the Prime Minister has come around to adopt the Blue and White plan to recognize the Jordan valley,” Gantz’s party said in a statement shortly before election day.

The annexation of these areas would amount to illegally seizing more than 60 percent of the West Bank.

Given that Israel has successively normalized the concept of annexation in its own, political discourse, and that it has already received an American nod on the matter, it is then a matter of time before such a step takes place.

The likelihood of it taking place sooner than later is that a broad, center-right-ultranationalist coalition would serve as an insurance to Israel’s leadership, in case of a political or security fallout once the decision is taken and enforced.

That political insurance simply means that no single party or official would bear the blame or shoulder the consequences alone, should Palestinians rebel or the international community push back against the flagrant Israeli violation of international law.

The same logic is applicable to the case of a future war on Gaza.

Israel has been itching for a major military campaign in Gaza since its last onslaught of 2014. Since then, Gaza has been bombed numerous times, and hundreds of innocent lives have been lost. But Netanyahu steered clear of an all-out war, fearing a high death toll among his soldiers and the blame game that often follows such military misadventures.

Mandated by a large coalition, bringing together Israeli army generals, right-wing politicians and ideologues, Gantz would feel far more empowered to go to war, especially since the former military chief has repeatedly accused Netanyahu of being “weak” on Gaza, “terrorism” and security.

If a future war goes as planned, Gantz would be happy to claim the accolades of victory; if it does not, due to Gaza’s stiff resistance, the political damage is likely to remain minimal.

When it comes to war, Gantz is Netanyahu on steroids. He has participated, orchestrated or led many military campaigns, including ones aimed at suppressing any resistance in Gaza, in Lebanon and during the previous popular uprisings.

For Gantz, war is the answer, as indicated by one of his campaign slogans, “Only the strong survive.”

While it is typical, and understandable, to dismiss all Israeli governments as one and the same, a Gantz-led government will possess the needed political legitimacy, popular mandate and strategic tools to achieve a job that Netanyahu himself couldn’t finish: a war on Gaza, and annexation of the West Bank.

Apartheid Made Official: Deal of the Century is a Ploy and Annexation is the New Reality

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is moving quickly to alter the political reality in Palestine, and facing little or no resistance.

On September 10, Netanyahu declared his intentions to annex swathes of Palestinian land adjacent to the Jordan River, an area that covers 2,400 square kilometers, or nearly a third of the Occupied West Bank. That region, which extends from Bisan in the north to Jericho in the south, is considered to be Palestine’s food basket, as it accounts for an estimated 60 percent of vegetables that are produced in the West Bank.

While Israel has already colonized nearly 88 percent of the entire Palestinian Ghoor (or Jordan Valley), dividing it between illegal agricultural settlements and military zones, it was always assumed that the militarily occupied region will be included within the border of a future Palestinian state.

Netanyahu’s announcement has been linked to Israel’s general elections of September 17. The Israeli leader is desperate, as he is facing “unprecedented alliances” that are all closing in to unseat him from his political throne. But this cannot be all. Not even power-hungry Netanyahu would alter the political and territorial landscape of Israel and Palestine indefinitely in exchange for a few votes.

Indeed, talks of annexation have been afoot for years and have long preceded the September elections, or the previous ones in April.

A sense of euphoria has been felt among Israel’s right-wing officials since the advent of Donald Trump to the White House. The excitement was not directly linked to Trump but to his Middle East team, like-minded pro-Israel US officials whose support for Israel is predicated on more than personal interests, but religious and ideological beliefs as well.

White House senior adviser, Jared Kushner, selected his team very carefully: Jason Greenblatt as special envoy for Middle East peace, David Friedman as United States Ambassador to Israel, and layers of other second-tier officials whose mission was never aimed at resolving conflict or brokering peace, but supervising a process in which Israel finalizes its colonization of Palestine unhindered.

Kushner’s master stroke is epitomized in the way he presented his objectives as part of a political process, later named “Deal of the Century”.

In all fairness, Kushner’s team hardly labored or even pretended to be peacemakers, especially as they oversaw the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and of the occupied Golan Heights as Israeli territories. Indeed, none of these officials tried to hide their true motives. Just examine statements made by the just-resigned Greenblatt where he refused to name illegal Jewish settlements as such, but as “neighborhoods and cities”; and Friedman’s outright support for the annexation of parts of the Occupied West Bank, and much more.

The US political discourse seemed in complete alignment with that of Israel’s right-wing parties. When right-wing extremist politicians, the likes of Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, began floating the idea of annexing most or all of the Occupied West Bank, they no longer sounded like marginal and opportunistic voices vying for attention. They were at the center of Israeli politics, knowing full well that Washington no longer had a problem with Israel’s unilateral action.

It could be argued, then, that Netanyahu was merely catching up, as the center of gravity within his right-wing coalition was slipping away to younger, more daring politicians. In fact, Israel, as a whole, was changing. With the Labor Party becoming almost entirely irrelevant, the Center’s political ideology moved further to the right, simply because supporting an independent Palestinian state in Israel has become a form of political suicide.

Therefore, Netanyahu’s call for the annexation of Palestinian land east of the Jordan River must not be understood in isolation and only within the limited context of the Israeli elections. Israel is now set to annex large parts of the West Bank that it deems strategic. This is most likely to include all illegal settlement blocks and the Jordan Valley as well.

In fact, Netanyahu said on September 11 that he was ready to annex the Jordan Valley region even before the election date, but was blocked by the Attorney General’s office. Netanyahu would not have taken such a decision if it represented a political risk or if it faced a push-back from Washington. It is, then, sadly, a matter of time.

Suspiciously absent in all of this are the Palestinian Authority (PA), the Arab League, the European Union and, of course, the United Nations and its many outlets and courts. Aside from a few shy statements – like that of the spokesperson of the UN, Stéphane Dujarric, decrying that “unilateral actions are not helpful in the peace process” – Israeli leaders are facing little or no hindrance whatsoever as they finalize their complete colonization of all Palestinian land.

Unable to stage any kind of meaningful resistance against Israel, the Palestinian leadership is so pathetically insisting on utilizing old terminologies. The official Palestinian response to Netanyahu’s annexation pledge, as communicated by Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh, came only to underscore the PA’s political bankruptcy.

“Netanyahu is the chief destroyer of the peace process,” Shtayyeh said, warning that annexing parts of the West Bank would have negative consequences.

For his part, the PA leader Mahmoud Abbas resorted, once more, to empty threats. Abbas said in a statement, “All agreements and their resulting obligations would end if the Israeli side annexes the Jordan Valley, the northern Dead Sea, and any part of the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967.”

Neither Abbas nor Shtayyeh seem troubled by the fact that a “peace process” does not exist, and that Israel has already violated all agreements.

While the PA is desperately hanging on to any reason to justify its continued existence, Netanyahu, with the full support of Washington, is moving forward in annexing the West Bank, thus making apartheid an official and undisputed reality.

The Palestinian leadership must understand that the nature of the conflict is now changing. Conventional methods and empty statements will not slow down the Israeli push for annexation nor Tel Aviv’s determination to expand its apartheid to all of Palestine. If Palestinians continue to ignore this reality altogether, Israel will continue to single-handedly shape the destiny of Palestine and its people.