Category Archives: BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions Movement)

What does Doug Ford’s Election as Premier of Ontario mean for the Palestinian Solidarity Movement?

How will the election of Doug Ford as premier of Ontario effect the pro-Palestinian movement?

In one of his first post-election moves Ford announced that he would seek to ban an annual Palestinian solidarity event. After the recent Al Quds (Jerusalem) Day protest brought over 500 people out in Toronto, Ford tweeted, “our government will take action to ensure that events like Al Quds Day, which calls for the killing of an entire civilian population in Israel, are no longer part of the landscape in Ontario.” Ignoring how Israel has been killing large numbers of Palestinian civilians — 124 to 0 in the latest round in Gaza — the premier-elect added in a subsequent tweet: “Blatantly racist or anti-Semitic ideology should never be permitted on the grounds of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, or anywhere else in our province.”

Ford’s move isn’t surprising since he’s previously campaigned against Palestinian solidarity activism. During his stint on city council Ford sought to defund Toronto’s Pride Parade because Queers Against Israeli Apartheid was allowed to march alongside hundreds of other groups. “We don’t support hate groups, that’s our view. If they want to march in the parade, then we won’t fund them,” said the Councillor.

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, Jewish Defence League and B’nai B’rith immediately applauded or re-tweeted Ford’s call to ban Jerusalem Day protests (as did Canada’s leading Christian Zionist activist and noted opponent of sexual education, Charles McVety, who celebrated Ford’s election by tweeting, “praise God who heard our prayers and delivered victory for the sake of our children.”) During the election campaign B’nai B’rith, JDL and CIJA — to differing degrees — sought to undermine Ford’s main rivals by weaponizing claims of “anti-Semitism” against the NDP. The JDL’s Twitter account repeatedly alleged the NDP was anti-Semitic while B’nai B’rith’s Twitter did the same and its officials participated in a Conservative Party press conference to denounce the NDP’s candidate in Scarborough-Agincourt, Tasleem Riaz, for allegedly posting an Adolf Hitler meme on Facebook five years earlier. More circumspect, CIJA-organized election debates that highlighted NDP candidates’ criticism of Israel and the influential lobby group stayed mum while the Conservatives and right-wing press repeatedly claimed the NDP were anti-Semitic.

Uber Israeli nationalist Toronto Sun columnist Sue Ann Levy wrote a handful of columns criticizing NDP candidates’ purported anti-Israel views and accusing them of being anti-Jewish. So did far right Rebel Media and the Canadian Jewish News repeatedly mentioned NDP candidates’ support for Palestinian rights in its election coverage. A CJN response to a column detailing Ford’s bigotry called  “the NDP, a party rife with anti-Israel, anti-Jewish candidates who promote the BDS [Boycott Divestment and Sanctions] narrative.”

But, it was obvious to anyone familiar with Ford’s history or who followed the election closely that he was the flag bearer for racist sentiment. In the CJN Bernie Farber wrote a piece titled “The depth of Doug Ford’s bigotry”, which highlighted his stereotyping of Jews. For its part, Ricochet ran a story titled “Why Canada’s white supremacists want Doug Ford to win” and Press Progress published stories titled “This White Nationalist Says Doug Ford is Sending Him Anti-Immigrant ‘Dog Whistle’ Messages”, “Pastors Who Preached Homophobic and Anti-Semitic Views Endorse Doug Ford”, “Ontario PC candidate Andrew Lawton: gender and racial discrimination should be legal”, etc.

Softer in tone, a number of corporate media outlets published stories making similar points. “Among Doug Ford’s PCs, yet another candidate with bigoted views emerges”, noted a Toronto Star headline.

Despite associating with racists and stereotyping Jews, Ford was backed (at least implicitly) by the dominant Israeli nationalist Jewish organizations. He also appears to have won the bulk of Toronto’s sizable Jewish vote. A CJN headline noted, “Ontario Tories win big in ridings with large Jewish populations.” In Thornhill, the riding with the highest concentration of Jews in Ontario, Conservative candidate Gila Martow defeated her nearest rival by an astounding 29,000 to 9,000 votes.

Unfortunately a sizable portion of Ontario’s Jewish community, particularly its main lobby groups, has shifted to the right. This could be due to a decline in real anti-Semitism, a rise in the average Jews’ socio-economic standing, or ties to an increasingly racist and right-wing Israeli public (in recent days hundreds protested against an Arab family moving into a Jewish neighborhood in Afula, an Israeli pool admitted to maintaining separate swim times for Bedouin and Jews and a Likud member of the Knesset claimed “the whole Jewish race is the greatest human capital, and the smartest”). Whatever the reason, every person, including Jews, who believe in justice for all, must confront this reality.

So, how will all this play out for the Palestinian solidarity movement?

The election of Doug Ford has already highlighted the Jewish establishment’s preference for a Conservative ‘populist’ over social democrats associated with Palestinian rights. It should also strengthen the link between Israel campaigning and bigoted, right-wing, politics. This will ultimately be a good thing for the Palestinian solidarity movement.

What’s in Trump’s “Deal of the Century”? The Answers are in Plain Sight

There are mounting signals that Donald Trump’s much-delayed Middle East peace plan – billed as the “deal of the century” – is about to be unveiled.

Even though Trump’s officials have given away nothing publicly, the plan’s contours are already evident, according to analysts.

They note that Israel has already started implementing the deal – entrenching “apartheid” rule over Palestinians – while Washington has spent the past six months dragging its heels on publishing the document.

“Netanyahu has simply got on with deepening his hold on the West Bank and East Jerusalem – and he knows the Americans aren’t going to stand in his way,” said Michel Warschawski, an Israeli analyst and head of the Alternative Information Centre in Jerusalem.

“He will be given free rein to do what he likes, whether they publish the plan or, in the end, it never sees the light of day,” he told Middle East Eye.

Eran Etzion, a former Israeli foreign ministry official, agreed: “Israel has a much freer hand than it did in the past. It feels confident enough to continue its existing policies, knowing Trump won’t stand in the way.”

Netanyahu ‘the winner’

According to the latest reports, the Americans may present their plan within days, soon after the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Yossi Alpher, a former aide to Ehud Barak during his premiership in the late 1990s, said it was clear Netanyahu was being “kept in the loop” by Trump officials. He told MEE: “He is being apprised of what is coming. There won’t be any surprises for him.”

Analysts are agreed that Netanyahu will emerge the winner from any Trump initiative.

Yossi Beilin, a former Israeli politician who was a pivotal figure in the Oslo peace process of the early 1990s, said Netanyahu would cynically manipulate the plan to his advantage.

“He knows the Palestinians will not accept the terms they are being offered,” he told MEE. “So he can appear reasonable and agree to it – even if there are things he is unhappy with – knowing that the Palestinians will reject it and then be blamed for its failure.”

Alpher agreed. “If the plan is rejected, Trump will say he did his best, he offered the parties the greatest deal ever, and that they must now be left to settle the issues on their own.”

He added that the only obstacle to Washington presenting the plan were fears about Abbas’s waning health. Trump’s team might then prefer to shelve it.

Even then, he said, Netanyahu would profit.

“He can then continue with what he’s been doing for the past 10 years. He will expand the settlements, and suppress the rights of Israelis who oppose him. He will move Israel towards a situation of apartheid.”

Fragments of land

In an early effort to win Trump’s favour, reported by MEE a year ago, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas proposed a land swap ceding 6.5 percent of the occupied territories to Israel. That was more than three times what had been accepted by the Palestinians in previous peace talks.

But the Palestinians appear to have lost the battle and are now braced for the worst. Abbas has derided the plan as “the slap of the century”, and has said he will not commit “treason” by agreeing to it.

According to Palestinian officials, they are likely to be offered provisional borders over fragments of land comprising about half the occupied territories – or just 11 percent of what was recognised as Palestine under the British mandate.

The Palestinian areas would be demilitarised, and Israel would have control over the borders and airspace.

Israel and the Palestinians would then be left to “negotiate” over the status of Israel’s illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, with Trump likely to back Netanyahu to the hilt, according to the analysts.

It is widely assumed that the Americans have rejected any principle of a right of return for Palestinian refugees, either to Israel or to the areas of the occupied territories that Israel wins US approval to seize.

Gaza and Golan windfalls

The US embassy’s move to Jerusalem last month appears to signal that the Trump administration will recognise all of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. That would deny Palestinians East Jerusalem, long assumed to be the capital of any future Palestinian state.

And separate reports this month suggest that the announcement of the peace plan may be timed to coincide with new measures for Gaza and the Golan Heights. There have been rumours for several years that Washington and Israel have been pressuring Cairo to let Palestinians in Gaza settle in Sinai.

According to Israeli reports, Washington may be close to unveiling a scheme that would weaken the border between Gaza and Egypt, and allow Palestinians to work and maybe live in northern Sinai.

The aim would be to gradually shift responsibility for the enclave away from Israel on to Egypt and further undermine prospects for a Palestinian state in historic Palestine.

And in a separate move that would complete Netanyahu’s windfall, an Israeli government minister claimed late last month that the Trump administration may be ready to recognise Israeli sovereignty over the Golan.

The Heights were seized by Israel from Syria during the 1967 war and annexed in violation of international law in 1981.

No longer ‘occupied’

A Jerusalem Post report last month suggested that the White House document would be unlikely to include a commitment to a “two-state solution”, reflecting previous comments from Trump.

That would free Israel’s hand to seize areas of the West Bank it has colonised with its ever-expanding settlements.

Noticeably, the latest annual report from the US State Department on the human rights situation by country, published in April, drops for the first time the term “occupied Palestinian territories”, implying that the Trump team no longer views much of the West Bank as under occupation.

Netanyahu told a recent meeting of his Likud faction: “Our successes are still to come. Our policies are not based on weakness. They are not based on concessions that will endanger us.”

So given Israel’s recent moves, what can we infer about the likely terms of Trump’s peace plan?

1. Gerrymandering Jerusalem

The most sensitive of the final-status issues is Jerusalem, which includes the incendiary Muslim holy site of al-Aqsa. Trump appears to have effectively recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital by relocating the US embassy there last month.

The embassy move is likely to be interpreted by Netanyahu as a retroactive seal of approval from the US for a series of Israeli measures over recent months designed to engineer a Greater Jewish Jerusalem.

The main thrust are two legislative proposals to gerrymander the city’s boundaries and its population to create an unassailable Jewish majority. Both have been put on hold by Netanyahu until the announcement of the peace plan.

The first – called the Greater Jerusalem Bill – is intended to annex several large Jewish settlements close by in the occupied West Bank to the Jerusalem municipality. Overnight that would transform some 150,000 West Bank settlers into Jerusalem residents, as well as effectively annexing their lands to Israel.

In a sign of the impatience of members of Netanyahu’s cabinet to press on with such a move, the bill is due to come up for consideration again on Sunday.

A separate bill would strip residency in the city from some 100,000 Palestinians who are on the “wrong side” of a wall Israel began building through Jerusalem 15 years ago. Those Palestinians will be all but barred from Jerusalem and assigned to a separate council.

In addition, Israel has intensified harsh measures against Palestinians still inside East Jerusalem, including night arrests, house demolitions, the closing down of businesses, the creation of “national parks” in Palestinian neighbourhoods, and the denial of basic services. The barely veiled aim is to encourage residents to relocate outside the wall.

Experts have noted too that Palestinian schools inside the wall are being pressured to adopt the Israeli curriculum to erode a Palestinian identity among pupils.

2. Abu Dis: a Palestinian capital?

With Jerusalem as Israel’s exclusive capital, Trump’s team is reported to be seeking a face-saving alternative location for a future Palestinian “capital” outside Jerusalem’s municipal borders.

According to rumours, they have selected the town of Abu Dis, 4km east of Jerusalem and cut off from the city by Israel’s wall more than a decade ago.

The Abu Dis plan is not new. At the end of the 1990s, the US administration of Bill Clinton proposed renaming Abu Dis “al-Quds” – Arabic for “the Holy”, the traditional name of Jerusalem because of its holy places. That was seen as a prelude to designating it the future capital of a Palestinian state.

Reports about the elevation of Abu Dis in the new peace plan have been circulating since late last year. In January, Abbas rejected the idea outright.

Only last month Yair Lapid, leader of Israel’s centre-right Yesh Atid party, highlighted reports about the imminent change of Abu Dis’s status in comments directed at Netanyahu.

Abu Dis is a densely populated village home to 13,000 Palestinians. In practice, it is all but impossible to imagine how it could function meaningfully as the capital of a Palestinian state – something that makes it an attractive proposition for most of Netanyahu’s coalition.

Currently, most of Abu Dis’s lands are under Israeli control, and it is hemmed in by the wall and Jewish settlements, including the 40,000 inhabitants of Maale Adumim.

Several government ministers have made Israel’s annexation of Maale Adumim a priority. Netanyahu has delayed such a move, again citing the need to wait for the announcement of the Trump peace plan.

Beilin said it was mistakenly believed that he and Abbas agreed on Abu Dis as a Palestinian capital back in the 1990s.

“It wasn’t credible as an idea then, and the map looks very different now,” he said. “The Palestinian capital has to be in East Jerusalem. Nothing else will work.”

3. Access to al-Aqsa

There has also been talk of a plan to create a narrow land corridor from Abu Dis to the al-Aqsa mosque, so Palestinians can reach it to pray.

However, Israel has been allowing ever larger numbers of settlers into al-Aqsa, which is reputedly built over two long-destroyed Jewish temples.

Meanwhile, Israel has been tightly restricting access to the site for most Palestinians. There have been long-standing Palestinian fears that Israel is seeking to engineer a situation where it can impose its sovereignty over the mosque.

David Friedman, Trump’s ambassador to Israel and a benefactor to the settlements, only heightened such fears last month when he was pictured apparently accepting a photo doctored by religious settlers that showed al-Aqsa mosque replaced by a new Jewish temple.

4. Jordan Valley

Under the Oslo accords, some 62 percent of the occupied West Bank was classified as Area C, under temporary Israeli control. It includes much of the Palestinians’ best agricultural land and would be the heartland of any future Palestinian state.

Israel never carried out the withdrawals from Area C intended in the Oslo process. Instead, it has been accelerating the expansion of illegal Jewish settlements there, and making life as hard as possible for Palestinians to force them into the confines of the more densely populated Areas A and B.

The Trump plan is reported to offer recognition of provisional Palestinian borders on about half of the West Bank – effectively awarding most of Area C to Israel. Much of that land will be in the Jordan Valley, the long spine of the West Bank that Israel has been colonising for decades.

Last December, as the Trump plan took shape, Israel announced a massive programme of settlement expansion in the Jordan Valley, designed to more than double the settler population there. Three new settlements will be the first to be built in the valley in nearly 30 years.

At the same time, Israel has lately been intensifying the harassment of the ever-shrinking Palestinian population in the Jordan Valley, as well as other parts of Area C.

In addition to denying Palestinians access to 85 percent of the Valley, Israel has declared military firing zones over nearly half of the area. That has justified the regular eviction of families on the pretext of ensuring their safety.

Israel has also been developing accelerated procedures to demolish Palestinian homes in the Jordan Valley.

5. The rest of Area C

Israel has been speeding up efforts to expand the settlements in other parts of Area C. On 30 May, it announced nearly 2,000 new homes, the great majority of them in isolated settlements that it was previously assumed would be dismantled in any peace deal.

Additionally, Israel has been quietly preparing to “legalise” what are termed “outposts” – settlements, usually built on private Palestinian land, that violate a “no new settlements” agreement with the US dating from the 1990s.

At the same time, Israel has been destroying Palestinian communities in Area C, especially those that stand in the way of efforts to create territorial continuity between large settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

Late last month, France objected after Israel’s supreme court approved a plan to demolish the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, next to Maale Adumim. The families are supposed to be moved to a garbage dump in Abu Dis.

The French statement warned that Israeli actions were threatening “a zone of strategic importance to the two-state solution and the contiguity of a future Palestinian state”.

In its place, it was recently revealed, Israel is planning to build a new settlement neighbourhood called Nofei Bereishit.

In another sign of mounting international concern, some 70 Democratic members of the US Congress appealed last month to Netanyahu to stop the destruction of the Palestinian community of Sussiya, between the Gush Etzion settlements and Jerusalem.

US lawmakers expressed concern that the move was designed to “jeopardise the prospects for a two-state solution”.

6. Gaza and Sinai

It is becoming hard for the Trump administration and Israel to ignore the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza – one Israel helped to engineer with an 11-year blockade and intermittent military attacks. The United Nations warned some time ago that Gaza would soon be “uninhabitable”.

Seeking a solution, the White House hosted 19 countries at a meeting in March to consider the situation in Gaza. The PA boycotted the meeting.

At the time, Arab media reported that the Trump peace plan might include a commitment from Egypt to free up northern Sinai for a future Palestinian state. According to a Hamas official, Cairo offered reassurances that it was opposed to “settling Palestinians in Sinai”.

But a report in Haaretz has revived concerns that the White House may try to achieve a similar end by other means, by launching a Gaza initiative to coincide with the peace plan.

The paper noted that the Trump team had picked up proposals from an Israeli general, Yoav Mordechai, who participated in the White House meeting in March.

A reported initial stage would see Palestinians from Gaza recruited to work on $1.5bn worth of long-term projects in northern Sinai, funded by the international community. The projects would include an industrial zone, a desalination plant and a power station.

Egyptian opposition to such an initiative is reported to be weakening, presumably in the face of strenuous pressure from Washington and Arab allies.

Palestinian protests

The Palestinians are doing their best to try to halt the peace plan in its tracks. They are currently boycotting the Trump administration to show their displeasure.

Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki called last month on Arab states to recall their ambassadors from the United States in protest.

And an emergency meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation has proposed that an international peacekeeping force, modelled on those used in Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s, be deployed to protect Palestinians.

In another sign of anger at the Trump initiative, the Palestinians defied the US by submitting a referral for the International Criminal Court at the Hague to investigate Israel for war crimes last month.

Etzion, the former Israeli foreign ministry official, however, warned that a turning point could be on the horizon.

“A Palestinian implosion is coming and that could change the situation in unexpected ways,” he told MEE. “The question is which implosion comes first: the humanitarian catastrophe about to engulf Gaza, or the political vacuum created when Abbas leaves.”

Arab pressure

Nonetheless, the Palestinians are facing huge pressure to give in to the peace plan.

The Trump administration has already cut funding to the UN refugee agency, UNRWA, which cares for more than two million refugees in the occupied territories. It is also poised to pull more than $200m of funding to the Palestinian Authority this summer.

Trump has also sought to recruit the Arab states to lean on Abbas. According to reports, the Palestinian leader was presented with a 35-page document originating from the Americans when he visited Saudi Arabia last November, and told to accept it or resign.

In recent years the Saudis have increased their aid to the Palestinian Authority, giving them greater leverage over the Palestinian leader.

In exchange for the Arab states acceding to Trump’s plan, Washington appears to be rolling out a more draconian policy towards Iran to limit its influence in the region.

The Arab states understand that they need to first defuse the Palestinian issue before they can be seen to coordinate closely with Israel and the US in dealing with Tehran.

• First published in Middle East Eye

Palestinian Courage Should Spur International Action

After 70 years, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is still unresolved. The conflict simmers for a few years, then erupts again with new massacres and violence. This article describes recent events, the failure of the “two state solution” and need for a different approach.

In the past couple months, Israeli Defence Force (IDF) soldiers have killed 118 Palestinian protesters and seriously wounded many thousands more. The protesters were unarmed and no threat to the soldiers. Gaza hospitals overflow with victims.

In the wake of this violence, human rights groups filed a legal petition to make it unlawful for Israeli soldiers to fire on unarmed protesters. Last week the Israeli Supreme Court rejected the petition.

Israeli violence is usually portrayed as a “response” to Palestinian violence, but the reality is the opposite. The sequence of recent events is as follows:

– From the end of March til May 25, Palestinians in Gaza protested against their oppression as close as they could get to the border fences. About 118 were killed and many thousands seriously injured by Israeli snipers. They were all shot inside Gaza.

– On May 27 – 28, the Israeli military launched tank mortars at Palestinian military outposts inside Gaza, killing four.

– Next day, on May 29, Palestinian militants launched unguided mortars into nearby Israel. Most of them fell harmlessly and there were no Israeli casualties.

– Next day, on May 30, Israeli jets and helicopters launched guided missiles and bombs on 65 different locations within Gaza.

Clearly, the violence started with Israelis killing protesters and then militants inside Gaza, but it’s not portrayed that way. Time magazine began its article with, “Palestinian militants bombarded southern Israel….”

Pro Israel advocates wish to prevent people from seeing what is really happening. They know the potential damage if people see video such as Israeli snipers celebrating the shooting of unarmed protesters. To prevent this, a proposed law will make it illegal to photograph or video record Israeli soldiers. Palestinian journalists have condemned this attempt to criminalize journalism.

The Reality of the Israeli Occupation

Israel calls itself the “Startup Nation” because of the economic and technological achievements. But in Gaza and the West Bank, Israeli policies and actions strangle the economies and worsen living conditions.

Palestinians in Gaza are kept separate from Palestinians in the West Bank. There is no trade, travel or inter-family visitation. This is in violation of international agreements including the Oslo Accords.

The claim that Israel “departed” Gaza is false. Israel controls the borders, sky and waters around Gaza, a coastal strip just 5 miles wide by 25 miles in length. Unemployment in Gaza is approaching 50%, the highest unemployment in the world. Fisherman are prevented from going out into deeper waters and shot at when they go beyond Israel’s imposed zone. Gazan farmers cannot export independently. Israel frequently blocks the import and export of crops and products. It is almost impossible to leave Gaza. Even outstanding students winning international scholarships may have their exit denied. The electrical and water treatment facilities have been bombed and destroyed by Israel. Nearly all the drinking water is contaminated. Israel restricts the amount of food permitted to enter Gaza so there is continual shortage leading to nutritional deprivation, stunted growth and anemia.

This situation is not new. Eighteen years ago, Israeli journalist Amira Hass described the history, the facts and statistics as well as her personal experience living in Gaza in the profound book Drinking the Seat at Gaza: Days and Nights in a Land Under Siege. The situation was extremely grim then but keeps getting worse.

At the northern Gaza border, Israel is now building a sea barrier extending far out into the Mediterranean. It will be above and below the water line. A major reason for this expensive project is to block sewage and pollution from the waters in front of Gaza. Because of Israeli attacks on sewage treatment and electrical infrastructure, sewage flows into the sea. Last summer, Zikim Beach in southern Israel had to be closed due to the inflow of sewage from Gaza. The ‘sea barrier’ now in construction will block the sea currents. This will keep the Israeli beach clean and greatly compound the problem in Gaza.

The strangulation, impoverishment and oppression is not confined to Gaza. In the West Bank, Israeli settlements continue to expand. This increases the number of check points, restrictions and repression. Travel from Bethlehem to Jerusalem is impossible for most Palestinians. The majority of West Bank water from the aquifers is transferred to Israel or provided cheaply to settlers while Palestinians must buy water and store it in tanks on their rooftops. In the last few years, Israel has made it increasingly difficult or impossible for humanitarian groups to provide medical support including breast cancer screening. A compelling new book titled The Other Side of the Wall describes the daily struggle in the West Bank where Palestinians and international allies protest against the theft of land, abuses, random killings and imprisonments.

Defiant Courage

There seems to be a trend toward greater Palestinian unity and strategic agreement. The tens of thousands of Palestinians protesting in Gaza were unarmed and united behind the Palestinian flag rather than separate party or movement flags of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, PFLP, DFLP, etc..    

The Palestinian protesters in Gaza show remarkable courage. Beginning on Friday March 30, they have returned week after week despite seeing thousands of their fellows shot and wounded or killed.

In an article titled “The Gaza Fence that Separates the Brave from the Cowardly“, Amira Hass wrote:

The desperate courage demonstrated by tens of thousands of citizens of Gaza over the past few weeks in general and on Monday in particular hints at the energies, the talents, the dreams, the creativity and the vitality of the inhabitants of this strip of land – who have been subjected to a 27 year policy of closure and siege aimed at suffocating and crushing them.

Steadfast and Persistent

Palestinian resistance continues despite Israeli violence and bloodshed. Seven years ago Palestinian refugees in Syria and Lebanon held “March of Return” protests at the northern borders. Israeli soldiers killed 13 and wounded many more.

In recent days, Gazans have again challenged the Israeli port blockade which prevents ships from departing or arriving. International solidarity with the Palestinian cause is also persistent. Three ships (two Swedish and one Norwegian) recently departed Scandinavia heading for the Mediterranean Sea and Gaza. Named the 2018 Freedom Flotilla, the ships are carrying dozens of international citizens to again demand that Israel stop its blockade of Gaza.

Despite the huge imbalance today, time may be on the side of the Palestinian cause. Systemic apartheid in South Africa existed for a long time and seemed strong. But ultimately it collapsed quickly. The same may unfold in Israel/Palestine.

Today, South Africa is an important supporter of the Palestinian cause. South Africa was the first nation to recall its ambassador to protest the “indiscriminate and grave Israeli attack” in Gaza.

Israel has the military might but Palestinian resistance and courage persists. The Palestinian population is steadfast, persistent and growing. They have increasing number of allies who support their cause. Young American Jews are unlike their parents and increasingly critical of Israeli policies. Some courageous Israelis, such as Miko Peled, speak out unequivocally that Israeli apartheid must end and be replaced by one state with democracy and equality for all. A million registered Palestinian refugees live in Lebanon and Syria, patiently waiting. They have not forgotten their legal claim and right to return.

The recent bloodshed and massacres underscore the fact that there is no solution on the current path. It only leads to increasingly unlivable conditions in Gaza plus more illegal settlements and oppression in the West Bank. The so-called “two state solution” has been dead for many years and should be forgotten. As happened in South Africa, the international community can and should help. It is time to increase international pressure and expand BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) against Israel to help bring a peaceful end to this conflict with its constant oppression and recurring massacres.

The alternative is very grim. As described by Israeli journalist Gideon Levy:

The truth is that Israel is well prepared to massacre hundreds and thousands, and to expel tens of thousands. Nothing will stop it. This is the end of conscience, the show of morality is over. The last few days’ events have proved it decisively. The tracks have been laid, the infrastructure for the horror has been cast. Dozens of years of brainwashing, demonization and dehumanization have borne fruit. The alliance between the politicians and the media to suppress reality and deny it has succeeded. Israel is set to commit horrors. Nobody will stand in its way any longer. Not from within or from without.

Palestinian courage should spur international action.

Eight Things I learned About Palestine While Touring Eight Western Nations

On February 20, 2018, I embarked on a global book tour that has, thus far, taken me to eight nations. The main theme of all my talks in various cultural, academic and media platforms was the pressing need to refocus the discussion on Palestine on the struggle, aspirations and history of the Palestinian people.

But, interacting with hundreds of people and being exposed to multiple media environments in both mainstream and alternative media, I also learned much about the changing political mood on Palestine in the western world.

While the nations I have visited – the US, Canada, the UK (England and Scotland), the Netherlands, Austria, Australia and New Zealand – do not in any way represent all western countries, the diverse platforms that were available to me allowed me to gain a reasonably good perspective on the ideas, perceptions and attitudes of people in government, media, academia and civil society:

First, the civil society support base for Palestine is growing exponentially, not only in the number of people who are concerned with- or interested in – learning about Palestine, but also in the nature of that engagement as well. The detachment or sense of despair of the past, has all but completely vanished, being replaced with a proactive approach – as in people wanted to be agents of change at local and national levels.

Second, the consensus regarding the support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is constantly increasing among unions, churches, university campuses, etc. The old view that BDS was divisive and counter-productive hardly has much traction these days, and most of the remaining debates concerning BDS are not concerned with the ethics of the boycott strategy, but the nature and extent of the boycott.

Third, the degree of decisiveness in supporting Palestinians has also been heightened. The wishy-washy stances that wagered on the Israeli “peace movement’ or Labor Party ‘doves’, while condemning ‘extremists on both sides’, has diminishing appeal.

Indeed, the successive Israeli wars on Gaza and the continued siege on the Strip have all gradually, but irreversibly, pushed the narrative on Palestine towards a whole new direction, one that has little room to wait for an Israeli awakening. The recent lethal Israeli response to Gaza’s peaceful ‘Great March of Return’ protests has further galvanized support for Palestinians, even among relatively apolitical audiences.

Fourth, unable to push back against growing pro-Palestine movements, Israeli and pro-Israel supporters are pushing, like never before, the accusation of anti-Semitism against those who question the Israeli Occupation, use the term ‘Israeli Apartheid’ or support BDS.

While the tactic is no longer silencing the discussion on Palestine, it is creating the necessary distraction to divert attention, energy and resources to less urgent issues. A case in point is the British media’s obsession with the, supposedly, rampant anti-Semitism within the Labor Party at a time when thousands of Gazans were injured and scores killed while peacefully protesting in Gaza.

Fifth, young people are less likely to be intimidated by long-standing Israeli tactics. While the older generation of civil society leaders and activists are unwittingly beholden to the many smearing tactics used by Israel and its supporters, the younger generation is not as easily intimidated. Part of the reason is that digital media – social media, in particular – has helped younger people achieve a degree of global connectivity that has heightened their sense of unity and resolve.

The new generation of Palestinian university students and young intellectuals are also reclaiming their role in this trajectory. Their ability to connect with western societies as insiders and outsiders has helped bridge cultural and political gaps.

Sixth, while ‘One Democratic State Solution’ ideas are yet to achieve the critical mass that could, and will, eventually push for a change in policies amongst various governments, the so-called ‘Two State Solution’ no longer commands a dedicated following. It is almost a complete reversal from the views that permeated during my earlier world tours, nearly 20 years ago.

Seven, some intellectual, and even civil society circles, are still obstructed by the erroneous thinking that the best way to convey the Palestinian viewpoint is through non-Palestinians. This belief is even championed by some Palestinians themselves (especially members of previous generations who suffered political and cultural marginalization and discrimination).

Although many anti-Zionist Jewish and Western intellectuals have been placed at the center stage to articulate a Palestinian message, the alienation of the Palestinians from their own discourse has proven costly. Despite strong and growing support for Palestine, there is still a serious deficiency in an authentic understanding of Palestine and the aspirations of the Palestinian people – their history, culture, everyday realities and viewpoints.

Needless to say, what is needed is an urgent and complete reclamation of the narrative over Palestine and the decolonization of the Palestinian discourse.

Eight, the connection between the Palestinian struggle for freedom and that of other indigenous groups is often highlighted, but much more can be done. Israeli supporters are actively pushing the misleading notion that Israelis are the ‘natives’ of the land and are, thus, reaching out to indigenous communities around the world in search for common ground. While the reality is to the contrary, pro-Palestine groups can do much more to link the struggle of the indigenous native Palestinians with that of other indigenous and other oppressed and historically marginalized groups around the world.

A general, but equally important, realization I have experienced throughout my 3-month journey has been the numerous personal and group initiatives carried out by thousands of people  all over the world in solidarity with the Palestinian people: from 11-year-old Salma, who convinced all of her classmates in Perth, Australia, to write Palestine on the map in her geography class, despite knowing that they would all have been marked down for their action, to the elderly couple in Auckland, New Zealand, who, well into their 80s and walking with much difficulty, continue to hand Palestine flyers to passers-by at a busy street corner, every week, for the last 20 years.

It is these people, and millions like them, who represent the real constituency for Palestine. They are fighters in the trenches of human solidarity that neither Israel, nor anyone else, can possibly defeat.

The Ghost of Herut: Einstein on Israel, 70 Years Ago

Albert Einstein, along with other Jewish luminaries, including Hannah Arendt, published a letter in the New York Times on December 4, 1948. That was only a few months after Israel had declared its independence and as hundreds of Palestinian villages were being actively demolished after their inhabitants were expelled.

The letter denounced Israel’s newly-founded Herut party and its young leader, Menachem Begin.

Herut was carved out of the Irgun terrorist gang, famous for its many massacres against Palestinian Arab communities leading up to the Nakba, the catastrophic ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people from their historic homeland in 1947-48.

In the letter, Einstein, and others, described Herut (Freedom) party as a “political party closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to Nazi and Fascist parties.”

For a letter of this nature to appear a mere few years after the end of World War II and the devastation of the Holocaust is a profound indication of the clear chasm that existed among Jewish intellectuals at the time: the Zionists who supported Israel and its violent birth, and those who took the high moral ground and objected to it.

Sadly, the latter group – although still in existence – had lost the battle.

Herut later merged with other groups to form the Likud Party. Begin received the Nobel Peace Prize and the Likud is now the leading party in Israel’s most right-wing government coalition. The ‘Nazi and Fascist’-like philosophy of Herut have prevailed, and it now engulfs and defines mainstream society in Israel.

This right-wing tendency is even more pronounced among young Israelis than previous generations.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is the leader of Begin’s party, the Likud. His current coalition includes Russian-born Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, founder of the ultra-nationalist party, Yisrael Beiteinu.

In response to ongoing popular protests by besieged Palestinians in Gaza, and in justification of the high number of deaths and injuries inflicted on the unarmed protesters by the Israeli army, Lieberman argued that “there are no innocent people in Gaza.”

When the Defense Minister of a country espouses this kind of belief, one can hardly be shocked that Israeli snipers are shooting Palestinian youngsters, while cheering on camera as they hit their target.

This kind of discourse – Fascist par excellence – is by no means a fringe narrative within Israeli society.

Netanyahu’s coalition is rife with such morally-objectional characters.

Israeli politician, Ayelet Shaked, has often called for the genocide against Palestinians.

Palestinians “are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads,” she wrote in a Facebook post in 2015. “Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs  … They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.”

A few months after the publication of the statement, Netanyahu, in December 2015, appointed her as the country’s Justice Minister.

Shaked belongs to the Jewish Home Party, headed by Naftali Bennett. The latter is Israel’s Minister of Education and known for similarly violent statements. He was one of the first politicians who came out in defense of Israeli soldiers accused of violating human rights at the Gaza border. Other top Israeli politicians followed suit.

On April 19, Israel celebrated its independence. “The Nazi and Fascist” mentality that defined Herut in 1948 now defines the most powerful ruling class in Israel. Israel’s leaders speak openly of genocide and murder, yet they celebrate and promote Israel as if an icon of civilization, democracy and human rights.

Even cultural Zionists of old would have been terribly horrified at the creature that their beloved Israeli has become, seven decades after its birth.

Certainly, the Palestinian people are still fighting for their land, identity, dignity and freedom. But the truth is that Israel’s biggest enemy is Israel itself. The country has failed to part ways with its violent politics and ideology of yesteryears. On the contrary, Israel’s ideological debate has been settled in favor of perpetual violence, racism and apartheid.

In the supposed ‘only democracy in the Middle East’, the margin of critique has grown very limited.

It is the likes of Netanyahu, Lieberman, Bennett and Shaked who now represent modern Israel and, behind them, a massive constituency of right-wing religious and ultra-nationalists, who have little regard for Palestinians, for human rights, international law and such seemingly frivolous values as peace and justice.

In 1938, Einstein had contended with the very idea behind the creation of Israel. It runs counter to “the essential nature of Judaism,” he said.

A few years later, in 1946, he argued before the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry on the Palestinian issue: “I cannot understand why it (meaning Israel) is needed … I believe it is bad.”

Needless to say, if Einstein was alive today, he would have joined the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement, which aims at holding Israel accountable for its violent and illegal practices against Palestinians.

Equally true, he would have surely been branded anti-Semitic or a ‘self-hating Jew’ by Israeli leaders and their supporters. Today’s Zionists are, indeed, unfazed.

But this painful paradigm must be overturned. Palestinian children are not terrorists and cannot be treated as such. They are not ‘little snakes’, either. Palestinian mothers should not be killed. The Palestinian people are not ‘enemy combatants’ to be eradicated. Genocide must not be normalized.

70 years after Israel’s independence and Einstein’s letter, the country’s legacy is still marred with blood and violence. Despite the ongoing party in Tel Aviv, there is no reason to celebrate and every reason to mourn.

Yet, hope is kept alive because the Palestinian people are still resisting; and they need the world to stand in solidarity with them. It is the only way for the ghost of Herut to quit haunting the Palestinians, and for the ‘Nazi and Fascist’ philosophies to be forever defeated.

Countering Israel’s Public Relations Deception

Military strength is one pillar of Israel’s strategy to incorporate all the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and possibly beyond, into its territorial borders. Other pillars are a strong economy to finance the adventure and a worldwide deception plan that confuses those who aid Israel and, if they had all the facts, may object to Israel’s illegal tactics.  Because Israel devotes excessive resources in a worldwide plan of public relations and deception, its government must sense an importance to that battleground.

The economy is robust but vulnerable, depending upon satisfying imports, armaments exports, tourism, US military assistance, limited contributions from the Jewish community, and providing a social net to marginal communities. Not widely publicized is that, at 18.7%, Israel, other than Mexico, has the highest poverty rate of all nations in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and is number 46 in CATO Institute’s Human Freedom Index, just below Hungary and just above Albania. Israel is akin to an industry, whose growth once impeded will reverse its trend and rapidly fall, as the social unbalances contend with shrinking resources. Knowledge of the battlefields and recommendations for combating the plan of worldwide deception is essential to a strategy that leads to Israel’s economic and social decline and forces it to re-evaluate policies.

Those favoring Israel have extensive resources and organizations to sustain their efforts. Those favoring the Palestinians have limited resources, and, except for the Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS) effort have not been sufficiently organized to combat Israel’s deceptions. Yet, countering Israel’s deceptions may be the most vital part of a Palestinian strategic plan  unmasking the clever disguise Israel’s supporters have devised to delude the world from recognizing its true self. Bringing Israel to international scorn can cause its economic and social decline. The plan deserves exceptional attention.

Special relationship

Commentators go to great length to explain the “special relationship” between Israel and the United States, treating it as a unique affair, in which both benefit. This slogan is a hoax, which originated during World War II as a description of the relationship between embattled Great Britain and a still neutral United States. Somehow and somewhere, a clever someone adapted the World War II slogan, applied it to Israel, and managed to insert it in the everyday lexicon. Israel’s protectors use the deceptive expression “special relationship,” to deceive the nature of Israel in most West European capitals. Examples:

The Multi-Annual Strategic Plan for the Palestinian Territory 2012-2015, based on the policy directives as set out by the Netherlands government here:

The Netherlands maintain excellent relations with the Palestinian Authority (PA) and a constructive partnership though our development cooperation programme, while the special relationship with Israel allows for political openings.

Press TV, Jan 30, 2014

The minister met with Israeli Minister of Military Affairs Moshe Ya’alon in Berlin on Thursday. Ya’alon is on a two-day visit to Germany. “This is the first foreign guest I have the pleasure of welcoming here in my function as defense minister. It shows the special relationship between Germany and Israel,” the German defense minister stated.

Visegrad abroad, by Irena Kalhousová, 13. 4. 2012, Czech policy towards Israel. No Hypocritical Pacifism.

Some members of the EU were against the deepening of relations with Israel without the progress in the Peace Process. The Czech plan did not materialize, yet, the “special relationship” between the Czech Republic and the Jewish state remains strong.

Placing the words “special relationship” in government conversations, speeches, reports, articles, and documents so they become part of the everyday vocabulary of Europeans is a significant thrust of Israel’s public relations effort. The words seem harmless but they have a psychological impact. Parental relationship with children is special; parents warn but forgive children for their misdeeds, after all, they are special, which describes western nation relations with Israel. Constant warnings to Israel for its oppressive actions followed by a tacit forgiveness allow Israel to continue its despotic behavior.

The term “special relationship” is childish and manipulative. When the term is used, constant exposure of its nature will force people to re-evaluate their commitment to Israel. “Special relationship” should be replaced by “duplicitous relationship,” a term that more accurately describes any relationship with Israel.

Infiltration

Almost an estimated one million Israelis have left their nation, and live and work overseas. Most are immigrants who seek a different life. Among the immigrants is a cadre of weaponless soldiers, who behave benign, but within their ranks are propagandists, who seek to align foreign institutions in accord with Israel’s interests.

Because the Israeli propagandists work under the radar, the media does not capture their activities. Rather than pass on not entirely proven information and reassert some of the many known Israeli subversive operations, I prefer to describe my own experiences and those I definitely authenticate. These describe an Israeli propaganda machine that invades U.S. industry, public schools, universities, and institutions.

I have witnessed immigrants inviting fellow workers to their homes and lecturing them on why they should support Israel. I know of them going to synagogues and urging the Rabbis to place the Israeli flag next to the American flag. Contracts are given to Israeli organizations and company secrets are easily funneled to Israeli organizations.

In public schools, efforts are made to gain support for Israel by emphasis on the World War II Holocaust (nothing on the Nakba), and with events organized to attack Israel’s adversaries. I know of librarians gathering students in the library to choose general biographies to read, seven out of ten which are of personalities from the World War II Holocaust. One librarian showed her ignorance of the topic by referring to Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg as a Nazi officer who helped the Jews. The World War II Holocaust has a vital place in history but treating it as a purposeful commodity demeans the lost lives.

The Free Darfur movement, accused of being allied with Israeli interests due to Israel’s enmity toward Sudan, organized public school demonstrations against Sudan for purported genocide. Local synagogues advertised the action. No demonstrations during the genocide in Rwanda, or the present one in Southern Sudan, or how about Palestine?

Everyday U.S. citizens act as research centers for Israel, accumulating social, political, and economic statistics on American industrial and commercial life and send it to Israel  unregistered foreign agents whose activities are illegal.

Some students and visiting professors from Israel arrive with more concerns than learning. I have seen them at university conferences countering Palestinian expressions of grievances with statements such as, “The West Bank roads that Israel is building are meant to serve Palestinians one day,” and then congregate after the meeting to discuss what they can do to counter the remarks made at the meeting. A visiting professor to St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, who was prevented from using his grant to teach Holocaust studies, sued the university for anti-Semitism and won his case. St. Cloud now has a Jewish Studies and Resources Center but no courses, only a document center.

Georgetown has a Center for Jewish Civilization (what is Jewish civilization?) that has one core course: INAF-199Introduction to Jewish Civilization. This course provides a foundation for the study of Jewish civilization and is required of all certificate and minor candidates, preferably upon entering the program.

However, the Center for Jewish Civilization has periodic meetings, open to the public whose topics have nothing to do with any Jewish civilization and have much to do with Israel. Some examples:

September 13, 2016
“Regional Cooperation and Cyber Security: Discussion with Israeli MK, Erel Margalit”

September 8, 2016
“The Netanyahu Premiership: A Retrospective”

November 30, 2017
“Holy Land, Holy See: The Hal Israel Endowed Lecture”

The Honorable Zion Evrony to the Vatican and Visiting Assistant Professor at the Catholic University of America discussed his experiences as Israeli Ambassador to the Vatican and Israel’s relationship with the Vatican.

November 2, 2017
“Values and Interests: The United States, Israel, and the Arab World”

October 19, 2017
“The Soviet-Israeli War, 1967-1973”

Most other talks are on the World War II Holocaust and anti-Semitism. No talks on Maimonides and other Jewish philosophers. No talks on past Jewish life in Spain, Tunisia, Iraq, and Europe.

Political, “think tank,” peace, and cultural organizations in Washington, D.C. are unusually populated with Israelis and Israel supporters. One route that I have noticed is where a person obtains credentials from an Israeli institute, is awarded a grant to visit the United states by a sketchy organization, eventually receives an invitation (by a friend) to lecture at a university and becomes recognized as an expert on the Middle East. This leads to a recommendation for a fellowship at a Middle East “think tank,” more recognition, and soon we have an artificially prepared “Middle East expert” who ingratiates with peace groups and tries to steer everyone, including those at the institutions and universities, to lessen aggressive attitudes toward Israel. Nothing too extreme, only a neutralization of activity.

During 2010, the FBI uncovered 10 unregistered Russian agents living in the U.S. as ordinary citizens, engaged in harmless activities, such as meeting people in high places in order to influence their attitudes and reporting American views on foreign and domestic affairs to Moscow. Multiply the number of discovered Russian agents by tens of thousands and you will have the number of Israeli expatriates in the U.S., many of whom take the opportunity to do the same for Israel, become U.S. citizens, and vote for Israel friendly candidates.

It all seems harmless and operates smoothly. However, considering the number of Israelis who have migrated to the U.S. and other western nations in the last decades the amount can form a massive propaganda organization that steers westerners to favor Israel. Estimates by the Israeli government ministries and the Los Angeles-based Israeli American Council, which represents Israelis across the United States and promotes their interests, have between 500,000 and 800,000 Israelis living in the U.S., about 150,000 live in the New York area, 120,000 in Los Angeles, and 80,000 in Miami.

What are the more important voting areas in the United States? New York, California and Florida are significant. Enough dual citizen and American-Israelis can shape the ballot in those regions, and may have in the disputed 2000 presidential election.

This immigration needs intensive investigation and a full report. Americans deserve protection from foreign influence. Anyone representing the interests of a foreign nation should be registered as a foreign agent. Those placing the interests of a foreign nation before their own should be exposed.

Israel‘s Global Influencers

Extend the most deceptive propaganda mechanism in history from AIPAC, ADL, CAMERA, and a multitude of acronym named Israel support organizations in the United States to the international scene.

A more complete description of this mechanism can be found here, where a report titled: The Israel lobby and the European Union, “researched and written by Public Interest Investigations and Spinwatch, and published by EuroPal Forum, seeks to explore a number of Israel lobby groups in the European Union, the power they wield and the dubious sources that fund them, while also uncovering the secretive transatlantic networks behind them. Perhaps the timeliest chapters in this report are the ones that deal with the issue of criminalising resistance and silencing dissent.”

A few examples will be mentioned.

In France, Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions (CRIF) gathers an assortment of groups dedicated to Israel. On example of their thrust and how they operate.

French Jewish group CRIF fined for defaming pro-Palestinian charity, April 8, 2014.

(JTA) – France’s largest Jewish organization defamed a pro-Palestinian charity by accusing it of financing Hamas, a French court ruled. The ruling against the CRIF umbrella group handed down by the Nancy Court of Cassation last month was first reported Sunday by the news site al-kanz.org. CRIF staff were ordered to pay the equivalent of $4,140 to the Committee for Charity and Support for the Palestinians, or CBSP – a group that CRIF researcher Marc Knobel in 2010 wrote “collects funds for Hamas.”

Former Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar (why him?) leads The Friends of Israel Initiative (FII), which defines its thrust as “countering the growing efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel and its right to live in peace within safe and defensible borders.”

A July 2014 working paper, Understanding the Issue of Israeli Settlements and Borders claims that:

…settlements have become an exaggerated issue in the diplomatic discourse over Israel. Settlement activity, like the construction of homes and schools, does not constitute a violation of Israel’s signed agreements with the Palestinians. The assertion that settlement activity is a violation of international law is not universally accepted, though it is frequently stated in UN debates and in the declarations of the European Union.

A July 2017 event featured this statement:

As goes Israel – so goes the United States of America and so goes Western civilization. And so many of our adversaries and enemies know that. That’s what we’re facing all across the Middle East and, truthfully, all across the world.

United Kingdom has almost as many pro-Israel organizations as there are Israelis. Three of them are:

Labour Friends of Israel (LFI), a parliamentary group affiliated with the Labor Party, which promotes support for a strong bilateral relationship between Britain and Israel.

We run and promote campaigns to help create a lasting peace in the Middle East with Israel safe, secure and recognised within its borders; living alongside a democratic, independent Palestinian state.

Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI), a parliamentary group affiliated with the Conservative Party and dedicated to strengthening business, cultural and political ties between the United Kingdom and Israel.  CFI has given £377,994 to the Conservative party since 2004, mostly in the form of fully-funded trips to Israel for MPs, according to the Electoral Commission website. Directors of CFI have also given money directly to the Tory party.

Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM) seeks to present Israel’s case to journalists.

Our Strategic Assessments provide expert analysis of the ever changing challenges to Israeli security. From sub-state actors and foreign states to domestic concerns, the strategic threats to Israel and the Middle East are explored in depth.

Russia, yes Russia, has formation of a new lobby.

Jerusalem Post, Pro-Israel caucus forming in Russian parliament, By GIL HOFFMAN, 05/25/2013

A select group of Russian parliament members will soon be urging their colleagues to say “da” to Israel after a delegation of Israelis took steps to initiate the formation of a pro-Israel caucus in the Duma in meetings last week in Moscow.

Digest all of this. Why the existence of this plethora of helpful groups for one small country that has a strong military and is economically well off? Do any equivalent assemblies of forces that promote a specific nation exist in the world?

The global influencers might cite glorious Israel as the principal motive for their operation, but it looks more like following the MONEY. They perform dutiful services and are rewarded — by salaries, campaign contributions, or by meeting the right people. Between the years 2010 to 2013, FII Inc. raised $5,778,135.

These pro-Israel groups, who proudly announce their agendas, should be exposed and criticized for their subterfuge, deceit, and aid and comfort to an Israel that seizes lands from others, oppresses a population, and commits crimes with the excuse of “security” need. How to combat them is not a simple matter; each incident is unique and requires a unique response. One problem is that they force responses to become as low as their efforts ─ charge them and they’ll discharge with the use of the anti-Semite epithet which leads to countercharges of racist, fascist and who knows what. It takes cool heads and careful consideration to respond wisely.

The trick is to expose them only to their audiences and not publicize their efforts to the public, a complex and doable effort  gather the probable names of their targets and target the information. This is not always contradictory information but real information — facts and logic that present an honest portrayal of events. In some cases, campaign contributions or grants may be the answer — fund raising and a huge war chest will be needed. For those who cherish social justice and preservation of the human race, support for a worthwhile cause is a pleasure.

Conclusion

Repetitions of the biblical David and Goliath story, the novel and film Exodus, and the moribund Kibbutz make it difficult to ascertain if Israel is a country or a public relations stunt. The many organizations that perpetuate the myths and influence parliamentary bodies to favor only Israel have no equivalents in the international scene. Evidently, they have a positive affect for Israel; why else would anyone be supporting Israel’s oppression and diabolical nature — the daily killings of Palestinians, land seizures, heartless evictions — and why would these organizations continue to operate and prosper? Number one on the agenda of those who recognize and oppose Israel’s nefarious activities is combating the deception, infiltration, and global army of pro-Israel groups.

Publicity is successful by shouting loud and often. It is more successful by shouting louder and more often. A slow shift to active support of the Palestinian cause by those who recognize they have multitudes who will protest with them, after being discouraged by deliberate attacks on them by pro-Israel deceitful practices, and an awakening from those who realize it is not moral (how about Christian) to be pro-oppression, will start a trend that soon cascades past an inflection point. Reaching the inflection point takes courage, money, and energy. Once reached, the billions of world’s people who are cognizant of the dangers Israel is to the world community, will place into motion the mechanisms for correcting Israel’s deceptive and harmful practices.

Legislators will find themselves opposed and begin to reverse themselves. Tourists will watch where their money goes and avoid Israel. BDS will advance and have an effect on Israel’s economy and its citizens. Israelis will begin to see themselves in a proper perspective and demand change. When no longer living in a society that lives and prospers by taking from others, Israelis will seek more favorable places.

Sell before the crash.

Israel has accelerated its Annexation of the West Bank from a Slow Creep to a Run

Seemingly unrelated events all point to a tectonic shift in which Israel has begun preparing the ground to annex the occupied Palestinian territories.

Last week, during an address to students in New York, Israel’s education minister Naftali Bennett publicly disavowed even the notion of a Palestinian state. “We are done with that,” he said. “They have a Palestinian state in Gaza.”

Later in Washington, Mr Bennett, who heads Israel’s settler movement, said Israel would manage the fallout from annexing the West Bank, just as it had with its annexation of the Syrian Golan in 1980.

International opposition would dissipate, he said. “After two months it fades away and 20 years later and 40 years later, [the territory is] still ours.”

Back home, Israel has proven such words are not hollow.

The parliament passed a law last month that brings three academic institutions, including Ariel University, all located in illegal West Bank settlements, under the authority of Israel’s Higher Education Council. Until now, they were overseen by a military body.

The move marks a symbolic and legal sea change. Israel has effectively expanded its civilian sovereignty into the West Bank. It is a covert but tangible first step towards annexation.

In a sign of how the idea of annexation is now entirely mainstream, Israeli university heads mutely accepted the change, even though it exposes them both to intensified action from the growing international boycott (BDS) movement and potentially to European sanctions on scientific co-operation.

Additional bills extending Israeli law to the settlements are in the pipeline. In fact, far-right justice minister Ayelet Shaked has insisted that those drafting new legislation indicate how it can also be applied in the West Bank.

According to Peace Now, she and Israeli law chiefs are devising new pretexts to seize Palestinian territory. She has called the separation between Israel and the occupied territories required by international law “an injustice that has lasted 50 years”.

After the higher education law passed, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his party Israel would “act intelligently” to extend unnoticed its sovereignty into the West Bank. “This is a process with historic consequences,” he said.

That accords with a vote by his Likud party’s central committee in December that unanimously backed annexation.

The government is already working on legislation to bring some West Bank settlements under Jerusalem municipal control – annexation via the back door. This month officials gave themselves additional powers to expel Palestinians from Jerusalem for “disloyalty”.

Yousef Jabareen, a Palestinian member of the Israeli parliament, warned that Israel had accelerated its annexation programme from “creeping to running”.

Notably, Mr Netanyahu has said the government’s plans are being co-ordinated with the Trump administration. It was a statement he later retracted under pressure.

But all evidence suggests that Washington is fully on board, so long as annexation is done by stealth.

The US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, a long-time donor to the settlements, told Israel’s Channel 10 TV recently: “The settlers aren’t going anywhere”. Settler leader Yaakov Katz, meanwhile, thanked Donald Trump for a dramatic surge in settlement growth over the past year. Figures show one in 10 Israeli Jews is now a settler. He called the White House team “people who really like us, love us”, adding that the settlers were “changing the map”.

The US is preparing to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May, not only pre-empting a final-status issue but tearing out the beating heart from a Palestinian state.

The thrust of US strategy is so well-known to Palestinian leaders – and in lockstep with Israel – that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is said to have refused to even look at the peace plan recently submitted to him.

Reports suggest it will award Israel all of Jerusalem as its capital. The Palestinians will be forced to accept outlying villages as their own capital, as well as a land “corridor” to let them pray at Al Aqsa and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

As the stronger side, Israel will be left to determine the fate of the settlements and its borders – a recipe for it to carry on with slow-motion annexation.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat has warned that Mr Trump’s “ultimate deal” will limit a Palestinian state to Gaza and scraps of the West Bank – much as Mr Bennett prophesied in New York.

Which explains why last week the White House hosted a meeting of European and Arab states to discuss the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

US officials have warned the Palestinian leadership, who stayed away, that a final deal will be settled over their heads if necessary. This time the US peace plan is not up for negotiation; it is primed for implementation.

With a Palestinian “state” effectively restricted to Gaza, the humanitarian catastrophe there – one the United Nations has warned will make the enclave uninhabitable in a few years – needs to be urgently addressed.

But the White House summit also sidelined the UN refugee agency UNRWA, which deals with Gaza’s humanitarian situation. The Israeli right hates UNRWA because its presence complicates annexation of the West Bank. And with Fatah and Hamas still at loggerheads, it alone serves to unify the West Bank and Gaza.

That is why the Trump administration recently cut US funding to UNRWA – the bulk of its budget. The White House’s implicit goal is to find a new means to manage Gaza’s misery.

What is needed now is someone to arm-twist the Palestinians. Mike Pompeo’s move from the CIA to State Department, Mr Trump may hope, will produce the strongman needed to bulldoze the Palestinians into submission.

• First published in the National

Theresa May recruits Royalty to thwart BDS

Prince William, second in line to the throne, is being sent to the Holy Land by the UK Government “to promote diplomatic and cultural ties”. In effect he’ll be helping to normalise 70 years of Israeli occupation and sanitise the unimaginable cruelty that has gone with it. His trip cuts across the Boycott Divestment & Sanctions movement’s efforts to bring pressure for justice.

*****

Kensington Palace has announced in a tweet that “the Duke of Cambridge will visit Israel, Jordan and the Occupied Palestinian territories in the summer.”

The visit “is at the request of Her Majesty’s Government.”

The Jerusalem Post reports that the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately welcomed the news, saying: “It is a historic visit, the first of its kind, and he will be received here with great enthusiasm.” And President Reuven Rivlin wrote on his Twitter account that Prince William will be “a very special guest” and his visit will be “a very special present for our 70th year of independence.”

Royals are supposed to remain aloof from politics, at home and abroad. The Monarch, for good reason, has avoided any state visit to Israel since the entity established itself in treacherous circumstances back in 1948.

So why the sudden change in Palace policy?

Recruiting Prince William to shmooze the Zionists follows the warm welcome extended to Netanyahu by Theresa May to the infamous Balfour Declaration celebrations in London last November and her earlier speech oozing adoration for Israel. In that speech she attacked the successful BDS campaign calling it unacceptable and warning that her government would “have no truck with those who subscribe to it”.  The Israel lobby meanwhile has agitated furiously for the UK to shut down BDS.

Mrs May was ticked off for her hostility to BDS by 200 legal scholars and practising lawyers from all over Europe who pointed out to her that BDS is a lawful exercise of freedom of expression and outlawing it undermines a basic human right protected by international convention. Any efforts to repress BDS amount to support for Israel’s violations of international law and a failure to honour the solemn pledge by States to ‘strictly respect the aims and principles of the Charter of the United Nations’.

So why is she so stiff-necked about it? After all, Netanyahu is on many a wanted list for crimes against humanity and should, in a sane world, be locked up. What’s more, he is under investigation for corruption in his own country. Israel, as everyone knows, is in flagrant breach of umpteen UN resolutions of the sort that would have brought crippling sanctions down on any other offender.

The international community’s failure to act has left civil society no option but to fill the vacuum with BDS.

All the same Mrs May and the Israel lobby are pressing ahead with their anti-BDS programme and it looks like they’re getting special help from the Royal Family. But if Prince William seeks to undo the efforts of civil society he sets himself against the people.

According to May’s Middle East minister Alistair Burt, the official reason for the royal trip is that it’s “an important and unique opportunity to promote diplomatic and cultural ties in the region”, which is shorthand for enriching big business post-Brexit. So that’s OK then. Don’t let the misery of decades-long military occupation get in the way of new riches, eh?

Prince William’s mission needs to be very different to the one intended by May and Netanyahu

Kensington Palace’s tweet received this reply from a certain Suzanne Levy, who describes herself as a full-time ‘kook’: “Fantastic news, but please correct your erroneous terminology. The Palestinian Territories are not occupied by Israel – they are under the rule of Hamas and the PA.” As if jumping to her kooky instruction the British embassy in Israel released a Hebrew-language version of the Kensington Palace announcement omitting the words “occupied territories” and replacing them with “Israel and the Palestinian Authority”.

In denying the Israeli occupation Ms Levy, like other hasbara trolls, is at odds with the United Nations, international law, world opinion and documented history. Even the UK Government officially refers to Palestine as the OPT (Occupied Palestinian Territories), so the edit by its own embassy is puzzling.

Unless, of course, it tells the truth and the plan is to prevent Prince William from actually experiencing the Occupied Territories by confining him to the witless ‘Palestinian Authority’. The PA has precious little legitimacy and is led by a ‘quisling tendency’ who have done next to nothing for the Palestinians. Their reward for wasting the nation’s time and wrecking its prospects is a life of comparative luxury, very different from that suffered by the unfortunate people they are supposed to serve. They can be relied upon to give the Prince a suitable skewed view of things.

Here’s acid test number 1. The Occupied Territories include Gaza. So will the Israelis and May allow Prince William to visit there, shoot the breeze with Hamas (whose political wing are not proscribed as terrorists in the UK and who struggle to run the devastated place after 10 years of vicious blockade, almost daily air strikes, repeated military ground incursions and occupation of its territorial waters and airspace by Israel) and to see for himself the true horror of the humanitarian crisis all this has caused? If the answer is no, the entire visit should be called off. But it won’t be.

Acid test number 2 is this. Prince William will likely succeed to the throne one day and become Defender of the [Christian] Faith, a 500 year old obligation. As a true Christian – if that is what he is – he’ll know all about the cry for help issued only months ago by the National Coalition of Christian Organizations in Palestine to the World Council of Churches and the entire ecumenical movement. It was signed by over 30 organisations in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.

They say:

We are still suffering from 100 years of injustice and oppression that were inflicted on the Palestinian people beginning with the unlawful Balfour declaration…. A hundred years later and there is still no justice! Discrimination and inequality, military occupation and systematic oppression are the rule…. Despite all the promises, endless summits, UN resolutions, religious and lay leader’s callings – Palestinians are still yearning for their freedom and independence, and seeking justice and equality.

The message ends with these ominous words:

Things are beyond urgent. We are on the verge of a catastrophic collapse…. This could be our last chance to achieve a just peace. As a Palestinian Christian community, this could be our last opportunity to save the Christian presence in this land.”

William must be allowed to hear direct the serious concerns of the Christian and Muslim communities and take a robust line that involves consequences for the occupier if those concerns are not properly dealt with.

Prince William’s wife Kate (Duchess of Cambridge) is expecting their third child towards the end of April so he’ll probably make the trip without her. But expect the visit to be accompanied by waves of media rapture over the new arrival, with Israel’s propaganda machine working flat-out to milk maximum PR benefits and subliminally stamp the Royal seal of approval on their apartheid regime.

If Prince William does set foot in the Holy Land his mission must obviously be very different to the one described by Alistair Burt or wished for by Netanyahu and May.  If he is seen to lend legitimacy to a grasping, racist enterprise like the Israel Project, which shows no respect for human rights or international law, it will surely come to haunt him.

Freedom for Palestine: Another New Democratic Party Resolution

At next week’s New Democratic Party convention in Ottawa Palestinian rights are set to be a major flashpoint. The NDP Socialist Caucus has submitted a resolution calling on the party to:

actively campaign in support of the demand of Palestinian unions, civil society and unions across Canada and around the world which call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against the Israeli state until it dismantles the apartheid wall, allows refugees to return home, ends its demolition of Palestinian homes and olive groves, lifts the siege of Gaza, ends its occupation of Palestinian lands, and terminates its apartheid practices.

A more moderate “Palestine Resolution: renewing the NDP’s commitment to peace and justice” has been endorsed by two dozen riding associations. The motion mostly restates official Canadian policy, except that it calls for “banning settlement products from Canadian markets, and using other forms of diplomatic and economic pressure to end the occupation.”

Already the Canadian Jewish News, Electronic Intifada, National Post, Ottawa Jewish Bulletin, Toronto Star, Le Devoir, Mondoweiss, Canada Talks Israel Palestine and Rabble have published stories regarding the resolutions. The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs has called on the party leader to “push back against marginal elements within the party” promoting Palestinian rights while the more explicitly antidemocratic Canadian Friends of Simon Wiesenthal has “Urged NDP to Disallow Anti-Israel Resolution at Upcoming Convention”.

Unfortunately, corporate-media-focused party operatives may heed the CIJA/Wiesenthal call. Party insiders will no doubt do everything in their power to avoid discussing the Socialist Caucus BDS resolution and will probably seek to block the Palestine Resolution from being debated publicly on the convention floor. If their backroom procedural shenanigans fail to stop the resolutions from a public airing expect a great deal of concern about associating with the international BDS movement.

For NDPers scared of BDS here is an alternative resolution that places no demands on Israel:

  1. The NDP will refrain from excluding electoral candidates who speak up for Palestinian rights.

(During the 2015 federal election the NDP responded to Conservative party pressure by ousting as many as eight individuals from running or contesting nominations to be candidates because they defended Palestinian rights on social media.)

  1. NDP MPs will refrain from participating in any Israel parliamentary group until the party is represented on a Nigerian, Algerian or Spanish parliamentary group.

(Vancouver Island MPs Randall Garrison and Murray Rankin are currently members of the Canada Israel Inter-parliamentary Group.)

  1. The NDP foreign critic will refuse requests to participate in all expense paid trips to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual

(Hélène Laverdière spoke at the 2016 AIPAC conference in Washington DC.)

  1. NDP MPs will participate in all expense paid lobbying trips to Israel at no greater rate than Paraguay, which is of similar size and distance from Ottawa.

(A 2014 calculation found that 20 NDP MPs had been to Israel with a Zionist lobby organization and 13 months ago recently elected party leader Jagmeet Singh went on an organized trip to the country.)

  1. NDP officials will abstain from attending events put on by explicitly racist organizations.

(In 2016 Hélène Laverdière participated in an event in Jerusalem organized by the openly racist Jewish National Fund while NDP MP Pat Martin spoke at a JNF event in Ottawa to “recognize and thank the people that have helped to make JNF Canada what it is today.” Owner of 13 per cent of Israel’s land – which was mostly taken from Palestinians forced from their homes by Zionist forces in 1947-48 – the JNF openly discriminates against the 20% of Israelis who are not Jewish. Its website notes that “a survey commissioned by KKL-JNF reveals that over 70% of the Jewish population in Israel opposes allocating KKL-JNF land to non-Jews, while over 80% prefer the definition of Israel as a Jewish state, rather than as the state of all its citizens.”)

My alternative resolution makes no demands of Israel so it’s hard to link it to the BDS bogeyman. Best of all, the party has the power to immediately implement this small gesture of support for the long-suffering Palestinians.

I will be speaking about “What’s Wrong with NDP Foreign Policy?” on the sidelines of the convention.

Academics Who Serve as Israel’s Useful Idiots

How is that highly schooled people, those who have risen to positions of authority and influence within the west’s higher education systems, so often behave as if the bit of their brain governing rational thought has turned to mush whenever the issue of Israel is raised?

Let’s take the case of Richard Carver, a senior lecturer in human rights and governance at Oxford Brookes University. He has just published a letter in the London Review of Books in which he seeks to discredit support for BDS – boycott, divestment and sanctions – as evidence of what he (like Israel’s supporters) terms “the new anti-semitism”.

In short, he presents the BDS campaign’s positive support for Palestinian rights as if it were intended to be a negative campaign to harm Jews. The illogic of that ought to be obvious to all.

But let’s dig deeper. Here’s Carver in the LRB:

I would be more inclined to respect the bona fides of the BDS movement if it were equally exercised about China, Morocco, Turkey or any other country engaged in long-term illegal occupations – or, for that matter, war in Syria, torture in Egypt or suppression of dissent in Iran. But the Jewish state is judged by a different standard, which is precisely the phenomenon described by the concept of the ‘new anti-Semitism’.

How derisively would we have treated an academic – an expert in human rights, no less – who argued back in the 1980s that those who supported a boycott of apartheid South Africa must have been secretly anti-white or anti-Christian because they did not equally prioritise a boycott of Israel?

Carver can get away with his intellectually risible logic – and get his letter published in the LRB – only because the combination of words “Israel” and “anti-semitism” make otherwise sensible people become gibbering idiots.

In fact, if we apply some proper logic to Carver’s position, we find that even my counter-proposition above is too kind to him.

Apartheid South Africa was, and Israel still is, a product of western political, diplomatic and economic patronage. Grassroots campaigns like boycott movements can make, and have made, a difference to the viability of these European-originated settler colonial regimes. South Africa was, and Israel is, vulnerable to sanctions from western allies.

Much harder to make the same case for western activism against China, Iran and Syria, for example, which are official “enemies” of the west.

After all, grassroots action in the west is designed to discomfit not just Israel, or before it apartheid South Africa, but the western elites who prop up these regimes. Activism in the west was/is targeted chiefly against the complicity of western elites in these colonial offshoots.

None of that is true of China, Syria or Iran. Western governments are only too ready to harm these states – and the civilians in them – if they think they can get away with it. They don’t need our encouragement. Any grassroots activism directed against Syria or Iran is, at best, doomed to be wasted energy and, at worst, likely to be exploited to justify intensifying the west’s hostile manoeuvres against official enemies.

Those are deductions a schoolchild could make. And yet, for some reason, they elude our esteemed professor of human rights.