Category Archives: Benjamin Netanyahu

Growing US Public Support for One State Shared Equally by Israelis and Palestinians Falls on Deaf Ears

Two years of Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu as a Middle East peacemaking team appear to be having a transformative effect – and in ways that will please neither of them.

The American public is now evenly split between those who want a two-state solution and those who prefer a single state, shared by Israelis and Palestinians, according to a survey published last week by the University of Maryland.

And if a Palestinian state is off the table – as a growing number of analysts of the region conclude, given Israel’s intransigence and the endless postponement of Mr Trump’s peace plan – then support for one state rises steeply, to nearly two-thirds of Americans.

But Mr Netanyahu cannot take comfort from the thought that ordinary Americans share his vision of a single state of Greater Israel. Respondents demand a one-state solution guaranteeing Israelis and Palestinians equal rights.

By contrast, only 17 per cent of Americans expressing a view – presumably Christian evangelicals and hardline Jewish advocates for Israel – prefer the approach of Israel’s governing parties: either to continue the occupation or annex Palestinian areas without offering the inhabitants citizenship.

All of this is occurring even though US politicians and the media express no support for a one-state solution. In fact, quite the reverse.

The movement to boycott Israel, known as BDS, is growing on US campuses, but vilified by Washington officials, who claim its goal is to end Israel as a Jewish state by bringing about a single state, in which all inhabitants would be equal. The US Congress is even considering legislation to outlaw boycott activism.

And last month CNN sacked its commentator Marc Lamont Hill for using a speech at the United Nations to advocate a one-state solution – a position endorsed by 35 per cent of the US public.

There is every reason to assume that, over time, these figures will swing even more sharply against Mr Netanyahu’s Greater Israel plans and against Washington’s claims to be an honest broker.

Among younger Americans, support for one state climbs to 42 per cent. That makes it easily the most popular outcome among this age group for a Middle East peace deal.

In another sign of how far removed Washington is from the American public, 40 per cent of respondents want the US to impose sanctions to stop Israel expanding its settlements on Palestinian territory. In short, they support the most severe penalty on the BDS platform.

And who is chiefly to blame for Washington’s unresponsiveness? Some 38 per cent say that Israel has “too much influence” on US politics.

That is a view almost reflexively cited by Israel lobbyists as evidence of anti-semitism. And yet a similar proportion of US Jews share concerns about Israel’s meddling.

In part, the survey’s findings should be understood as a logical reaction to the Oslo peace process. Backed by the US for the past quarter-century, it has failed to produce any benefits for the Palestinians.

But the findings signify more. Oslo’s interminable talks over two states have provided Israel with an alibi to seize more Palestinian land for its illegal settlements.

Under cover of an Oslo “consensus”, Israel has transferred ever-larger numbers of Jews into the occupied territories, thereby making a peaceful resolution of the conflict near impossible. According to the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, that is a war crime.

Fatou Bensouda, the chief prosecutor of the court in The Hague, warned this month that she was close to finishing a preliminary inquiry needed before she can decide whether to investigate Israel for war crimes, including the settlements.

The reality, however, is that the ICC has been dragging out the inquiry to avoid arriving at a decision that would inevitably provoke a backlash from the White House. Nonetheless, the facts are staring the court in the face.

Israel’s logic – and proof that it is in gross violation of international law – were fully on display this week. The Israeli army locked down the Ramallah, the effective and supposedly self-governing capital of occupied Palestine, as “punishment” after two Israeli soldiers were shot dead outside the city.

The Netanyahu government also approved yet another splurge of settlement-building, again supposedly in “retaliation” for a recent upsurge in Palestinian attacks.

But Israel and its western allies know only too well that settlements and Palestinian violence are intrinsically linked. One leads to the other.

Palestinians directly experience the settlements’ land grabs as Israeli state-sanctioned violence. Their communities are ever more tightly ghettoised, their movements more narrowly policed to maintain the settlers’ privileges.

If Palestinians resist such restrictions or their own displacement, if they assert their rights and their dignity, clashes with soldiers or settlers are inescapable. Violence is inbuilt into Israel’s settlement project.

Israel has constructed a perfect, self-rationalising system in the occupied territories. It inflicts war crimes on Palestinians, who then weakly lash out, justifying yet more Israeli war crimes as Israel flaunts its victimhood, all to a soundtrack of western consolation.

The hypocrisy is becoming ever harder to hide, and the cognitive dissonance ever harder for western publics to stomach.

In Israel itself, institutionalised racism against the country’s large minority of Palestinian citizens – a fifth of the population – is being entrenched in full view.

Last week Natalie Portman, an American-Israeli actor, voiced her disgust at what she termed the “racist” Nation-State Basic Law, legislation passed in the summer that formally classifies Israel’s Palestinian population as inferior.

Yair Netanyahu, the prime minister’s grown-up son, voiced a sentiment widely popular in Israel last week when he wrote on Facebook that he wished “All the Muslims [sic] leave the land of Israel”. He was referring to Greater Israel – a territorial area that does not differentiate between Israel and the occupied territories.

In fact, Israel’s Jim Crow-style policies – segregation of the type once inflicted on African-Americans in the US – is becoming ever more overt.

Last month the Jewish city of Afula banned Palestinian citizens from entering its main public park while vowing it wanted to “preserve its Jewish character”. A court case last week showed that a major Israeli construction firm has systematically blocked Palestinian citizens from buying houses near Jews. And the parliament is expanding a law to prevent Palestinian citizens from living on almost all of Israel’s land.

A bill to reverse this trend, committing Israel instead to “equal political rights amongst all its citizens”, was drummed out of the parliament last week by an overwhelming majority of legislators.

Americans, like other westerners, are waking up to this ugly reality. A growing number understand that it is time for a new, single state model, one that ends Israel’s treatment of Jews as separate from and superior to Palestinians, and instead offers freedom and equality for all.

• First published in The National Abu Dhabi

Netanyahu’s Predicament: The Era of Easy Wars is over

When Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, ordered his army to carry out a limited operation in the besieged Gaza Strip on November 12, he certainly did not anticipate that his military adventure would destabilize his government and threaten the very survival of his right-wing coalition.

But it did, far more than the multiple police investigations into various corruption cases involving Netanyahu’s family and closest aides.

Thanks to the botched operation in Gaza which led to the killing of seven Palestinians and an Israeli army commander, Netanyahu’s coalition has begun to disintegrate, merely needing a final push for it to collapse completely.

It all began with the resignation of the country’s extremist Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, who quit his post, two days after the Gaza attack, in protest of the country’s ‘surrender’ to Palestinian Resistance.

The even more extreme, far-right leader, Naftali Bennett, was expected to pounce on the opportunity and follow suit. He did not, in a calculated move aimed at capitalizing on the fact that he had suddenly become the government’s ultimate kingmaker.

Now, Netanyahu’s once stable coalition is hanging by a thread, with the support of only 61 members in the Knesset.

This means that the coalition’s once comfortable majority is now dependent on a single MK. One wrong move, and Netanyahu could find himself forced into snap elections, a choice that, at least for now, he dreads.

Netanyahu’s options are growing limited. It seems that the age of striking Gaza with impunity in order to score political points with Israeli voters, is, perhaps, over.

While much political commentary is being dedicated to Netanyahu’s future and the dirty politicking of his right-wing coalition, Israel’s burgeoning problem is bigger than any single individual.

Israel’s ability to win wars and translate its victories to political concessions from Palestinians and Arabs have been greatly hampered, and this fact has little to do with Netanyahu’s supposed ‘weakness’, as his Israeli detractors often claim.

Some Israeli politicians, however, still refuse to accept that the violence paradigm is changing.

Almost every time that Israel has attacked Gaza in the past, Israel’s own politics factored greatly in that decision.

Gaza has been used as a stage where Israel flexed its muscles and displayed the latest of its war technology.

The 2014 war – dubbed ‘Operation Protective Edge’ – was, however, a wake-up call for the over-confident Israeli leaders.

More than 2,300 Palestinians were killed in that war and over 17,000 were wounded, the vast majority of them being civilians.

While that is quite consistent with the Israeli war trajectory, the number of Israeli casualties indicated a changing trend. 66 Israeli soldiers were killed in that war, and only a few civilians, indicating that the Palestinian Resistance has abandoned the randomness of its past tactics and grown bolder and more sophisticated.

Four years since that war, coupled with a particularly harsh stage of the siege – which has been imposed on Gaza since 2007 – did not change the equation. In fact, the fighting that was instigated by the latest Israeli attack further accentuated the fact.

As Israel pounded Gaza with a massive bombing campaign, Gaza fighters filmed a rare attack using anti-tank missiles that targeted an Israeli military bus on the Israeli side of the fence.

Hours later, a truce, facilitated by Egypt, was announced, to the relief of Netanyahu and the jubilation of Palestinians, who marched in their thousands celebrating the end of fighting.

Considering the disproportionate military power and desperate humanitarian situation in Gaza, it makes perfect sense why Palestinians perceived the outcome as a ‘victory’.

Israeli leaders, not only on the Right but the Left as well, attacked Netanyahu, who understood that continued fighting would lead to another major war, with most unpredictable outcomes.

Unlike Lieberman, Bennett and others, Netanyahu’s political strategy is not only driven by attempting to pacify Israel’s angry public – many of whom protested the Gaza truce in various parts of the country.

The Israeli Prime Minister has a twofold political outlook: laboring to politically divide Gaza from the West Bank, and maintaining a degree of ‘stability’ that would give time and space for American political maneuvering in preparation for Donald Trump’s so-called ‘Deal of the Century.’

Moreover, Israel’s growing challenge in Syria and Lebanon makes a prolonged military operation in Gaza quite dangerous and unsustainable.

But the pressure on the home-front is relentless.

74 percent of the Israeli public is ‘dissatisfied’ with Netanyahu’s performance in the latest round of fighting in Gaza, according to an Israel Television News Company poll released soon after the truce was announced.

Yet Netanyahu has no other option but to commit to the truce in Gaza, which, as per Israeli political logic, means that he must stir trouble elsewhere to send a message of strength and prowess to the disquieted public.

This is precisely why Netanyahu renewed his threats of ethnically cleansing the population of Khan al-Ahmar in the Occupied West Bank.

“It will be demolished very soon,” he declared, in an attempt to move the conversation from Gaza to elsewhere, and to regain the confidence of his right-wing constituency.

While Gazans are getting a badly needed respite, however fleeting, Khan al-Ahmar residents will now become the main target for Israel’s political violence and chauvinism.

The question is how long will Israel be able to sustain this violent paradigm and what will it take for the international community to hold Tel Aviv accountable?

As for Palestinians, Gaza has demonstrated that only Resistance, popular or otherwise, works. It is the only language that registers with Israel, who must understand that the age of easy wars is long gone.

Netanyahu’s Ceasefire is Meant to Keep Gaza Imprisoned

Palestinians in Gaza should have been able to breathe a sigh of relief last week, as precarious ceasefire talks survived a two-day-long, heavy exchange of strikes that threatened to unleash yet another large-scale military assault by Israel.

Late on Tuesday, after the most intense bout of violence in four years, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas, the Islamic movement that rules Gaza, approved a long-term truce brokered by Egypt.

Both are keen to avoid triggering an explosion of popular anger in Gaza, the consequences of which would be difficult to predict or contain.

The tiny enclave is on life support, having endured three devastating and sustained attacks by Israel, as well as a suffocating blockade, over the past decade. Thousands of homes are in ruins, the water supply is nearly undrinkable, electricity in short supply, and unemployment sky-high.

But as is so often the case, the enclave’s immediate fate rests in the hands of Israeli politicians desperate to cast themselves as Israel’s warmonger-in-chief and thereby reap an electoral dividend.

Elections now loom large after Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s hawkish defence minister, resigned on Wednesday in the wake of the clashes. He accused Netanyahu of “capitulating to terror” in agreeing to the ceasefire.

Lieberman takes with him a handful of legislators, leaving the governing coalition with a razor-thin majority of one parliamentary seat. Rumours were rife over the weekend that another party, the ultra-nationalist Jewish Home, was on the brink of quitting the coalition.

In fact, Netanyahu recklessly triggered these events. He had smoothed the path to a truce earlier this month by easing the blockade. Fuel had been allowed into the enclave, as had $15 million in cash from Qatar to cover salaries owed to Gaza’s public-sector workers.

At this critical moment, Netanyahu agreed to a covert incursion by the Israeli army, deep into Gaza. When the soldiers were exposed, the ensuing firefight left seven Palestinians and an Israeli commander dead.

The two sides then upped the stakes: Hamas launched hundreds of rockets into Israel, while the Israeli military bombarded the enclave. The air strikes killed more than a dozen Palestinians.

Lieberman had reportedly expressed outrage over the transfer of Qatari money to Gaza, claiming it would be impossible to track how it was spent. The ceasefire proved the final straw.

Hamas leaders boasted that they had created a “political earthquake” with Lieberman’s resignation. But the shock waves may not be so easily confined to Israel.

Strangely, Netanyahu now sounds like the most moderate voice in his cabinet. Fellow politicians are demanding Israel “restore its deterrence” – a euphemism for again laying waste to Gaza.

Naftali Bennett, the head of the settler Jewish Home party, denounced the ceasefire as “unacceptable” and demanded the vacant defence post.

There was flak, too, from Israel’s so-called left. The opposition Labour party leader Avi Gabbay called Netanyahu “weak”, while former prime minister Ehud Barak said he had “surrendered to Hamas under fire”.

Similar sentiments are shared by the public. Polls indicate 74 per cent of Israelis favour a tougher approach.

Sderot, close to Gaza and targeted by rockets, erupted into angry protests. Placards bearing the slogan “Bibi Go Home” – using Netanyahu’s nickname – were evident for the first time in his party’s heartland.

With this kind of goading, an election in the offing, and corruption indictments hanging over his head, Netanyahu may find it difficult to resist raising the temperature in Gaza once again.

But he also has strong incentives to calm things down and shore up Hamas’s rule.

The suggestion by some commentators that Netanyahu has turned a new leaf as a “man of peace” could not be more misguided. What distinguishes Netanyahu from his cabinet is not his moderation, but that he has a cooler head than his far-right rivals.

He believes there are better ways than lashing out to achieve his core political aim: the undermining of the Palestinian national project. This was what he meant on Wednesday when he attacked critics for missing “the overall picture of Israel’s security”.

On a practical level, Netanyahu has listened to his generals, who warn that, if Israel provokes war with Hamas, it may find itself ill-equipped to cope with the fallout on two other fronts, in Lebanon and Syria.

But Netanyahu has still deeper concerns. As veteran Israeli military analyst Ben Caspit observed: “The only thing more dangerous to Netanyahu than getting tangled up in war is getting tangled up in peace.”

The Israeli army has responded to months of largely non-violent mass protests at Gaza’s perimeter fence by killing more than 170 Palestinian demonstrators and maiming thousands more.

The protests could turn into an uprising. Palestinians storming the fence that imprisons them is an eventuality the Israeli army is entirely unprepared for. Its only response would be to slaughter Palestinians en masse, or reoccupy Gaza directly.

Netanyahu would rather bolster Hamas, so it can keep a lid on the protests than face an international backlash and demands that he negotiate with the Palestinians.

Further, a ceasefire that keeps Hamas in power in Gaza also ensures that Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority, based in the West Bank, can be kept out.

That was in part why Netanyahu, against his normal instincts, allowed the transfer of the Qatari money, which had been opposed by the Palestinian Authority. It is not just a fillip for Hamas, it is a slap in the face to Abbas.

A disunited Palestine, divided territorially and ideologically, is in no position to exert pressure on Netanyahu – either through Europe or the United Nations – to begin peace talks or concede Palestinian statehood.

That is all the more pressing, given that the White House insists that President Trump’s long-delayed peace plan will be unveiled within the next two months.

Leaks suggest that the US may propose a separate “entity” in Gaza under Egyptian supervision and financed by Qatar. The ceasefire should be seen as a first step towards creating a pseudo-Palestinian state in Gaza along these lines.

Palestinians there are now caught between a rock and a hard place. Between vengeful hotheads such as Lieberman, who want more carnage in Gaza, and Netanyahu, who prefers to keep the Palestinians quiet and largely forgotten in their tiny prison.

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

In Breach of Human Rights, Netanyahu Supports the Death Penalty against Palestinians

Right-wing Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is escalating his war on the Palestinian people, although for reasons almost entirely related to Israeli politics. He has just given the greenlight to a legislation that would make it easier for Israeli courts to issue death sentences against Palestinians accused of carrying out ‘terrorist’ acts.

Netanyahu’s decision was made on November 4, but the wrangling over the issue has been taking place for some time.

The ‘Death Penalty’ bill has been the rally cry for the Israel Beiteinu party, led by ultra-nationalist Israeli politician and current Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, during its 2015 election campaign.

But when Lieberman attempted to push the bill in the Israeli Knesset (parliament) soon after the forming of the current coalition government in July 2015, the draft was resoundingly defeated by 94 to 6 with Netanyahu himself opposing it.

It has been defeated several times since then. However, the political mood in Israel has shifted in ways that has obliged Netanyahu into conceding to the demands of the even more hawkish politicians within his own government.

As Netanyahu’s coalition grew bolder and more unhinged, the Israeli Prime Minister joined the chorus. It is time “to wipe the smile off the terrorist’s face,” he said in July 2017, while visiting the illegal Jewish settlement of Halamish, following the killing of three settlers. At the time, he called for the death penalty in “severe cases.”

Ultimately, Netanyahu’s position on the issue evolved to become a carbon copy of that of Lieberman. The latter had made the ‘death penalty’ one of his main conditions to join Netanyahu’s coalition.

Last January, the Israel Beiteinu’s proposed bill passed its preliminary reading in the Knesset. Months later, on November 4, the first reading of the bill was approved by Israeli legislators, with the support of Netanyahu himself.

Lieberman prevailed.

This reality reflects the competing currents in Israeli politics, where the long-reigning Israeli Prime Minister is increasingly embattled, by accusations from within his coalition and outside of being too weak in his handling of the Gaza Resistance.

Coupled with the tightening ring of police investigation pertaining to corruption by Netanyahu, his family and closest aides, the Israeli leader is pounding on Palestinians with every possible opportunity to display his prowess.

Even the likes of former Labor Party leader, Ehud Barak, is attempting to resurrect his failed career as a politician by comparing his past violence against Palestinians with the supposedly weaker Netanyahu.

Netanyahu is “weak”, “afraid” and is unable to take decisive steps to rein in Gaza, “therefore he should go home,” Barak recently said during an interview with Israeli TV Channel 10.

Comparing his supposed heroism with Netanyahu’s ‘surrender’ to Palestinian Resistance, Barak bragged about killing “more than 300 Hamas members (in) three and a half minutes,” when he was the country’s Defense Minister.

Barak’s sinister statement was made with reference to the killing of hundreds of Gazans, including women, children and newly graduated police cadets in Gaza on December 27, 2008. That was the start of a war that killed and wounded thousands of Palestinians and set the stage for more, equally lethal, wars that followed.

When such ominous comments are made by a person considered in Israel’s political lexicon as a ‘dove’, one can only imagine the vengeful political discourse championed by Netanyahu and his extremist coalition.

In Israel, wars – as well as racist laws that target Palestinians – are often the outcome of Israeli politicking. Unchallenged by a strong party and unfazed by United Nations criticism, Israeli leaders continue to flex their muscles, appeal to their radicalized constituency and define their political turfs at the expense of Palestinians.

The Death Penalty bill is no exception.

The bill, once enshrined in Israeli law, will expectedly be applied to Palestinians only, because in Israel the term ‘terrorism’ almost always applies to Palestinian Arabs, and hardly, if ever, to Israeli Jews.

Aida Touma-Suleiman, a Palestinian citizen of Israel and one of a few embattled Arab members of the Knesset, like most Palestinians, understands the intentions of the bill.

The law is “intended mainly for the Palestinian people,” she told reporters last January. “It’s not going to be implemented against Jews who commit terrorist attacks against Palestinians, for sure,” as the bill is drafted and championed by the country’s “extreme right.”

Moreover, the Death Penalty bill must be understood in the larger context of the growing racism and chauvinism in Israel, and the undermining of whatever feeble claim to democracy that Israel possessed, until recently.

On July 19 of this year, the Israeli government approved the Jewish ‘Nation-state Law’ which designates Israel as the ‘nation state of the Jewish people’, while openly denigrating the Palestinian Arab citizens of the state, their culture, language and identity.

As many have feared, Israel’s racist self-definition is now inspiring a host of new laws that would further target and marginalize the country’s native Palestinian inhabitants.

The Death Penalty law would be the icing on the cake in this horrific and unchallenged Israeli agenda that transcends party lines and unites most of the country’s Jewish citizens and politicians in an ongoing hate-fest.

Of course, Israel has already executed hundreds of Palestinians in what is known as “targeted assassinations” and “neutralization”, while killing many more in cold blood.

So, in a sense, the Israeli Bill, once it becomes law, will change little in terms of the bloody dynamics that governs Israel’s behavior.

However, executing Palestinians for resisting Israel’s violent Occupation will further highlight the growing extremism in Israeli society, and the increasing vulnerability of Palestinians.

Just like the ‘Nation-state Law’, the Death Penalty bill targeting Palestinians exposes Israel’s racist nature and complete disregard for international law, a painful reality that should be urgently and openly challenged by the international community.

Those who have allowed themselves to ‘stay on the fence’ as Israel brutalizes Palestinians, should immediately break their silence.

No government, not even Israel, should be allowed to embrace racism and violate human rights so brazenly and without a minimum degree of accountability.

Netanuyahu’s Courting of Bolsonaro is the Latest of Israel’s Alliances with Far-right Figures

The victory of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil’s presidential election last week has won Israel a passionate new friend on the international stage. The world’s fifth-most populous nation will now be “coloured in blue and white”, an Israeli official said, referring to the colours of Israel’s flag.

The Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately called to congratulate Bolsonaro, a former army officer with a pronounced nostalgia for his country’s 20-year military dictatorship. Critics describe him as a neo-fascist.

According to Israeli media reports, it is “highly probable” that Netanyahu will attend Bolsonaro’s inauguration on January 1.

The Brazilian president-elect has already promised that his country will be the third to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem, after the United States and Guatemala. That will further undermine Palestinian hopes for an eventual state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Bolsonaro has told Israel that it can count on Brazil’s vote at the United Nations, and has threatened to close the Palestinian embassy in Brasilia.

One might imagine that Netanyahu is simply being pragmatic in cosying up to Bolsonaro, given Brazil’s importance. But that would be to ignore an unmistakable trend: Israel has relished the recent emergence of far-right leaders across the Americas and Europe, often to the horror of local Jewish communities.

Bolsonaro has divided Brazil’s 100,000 Jews. Some have been impressed by the frequent appearance of Israeli flags at his rallies and his anti-Palestinian stance. But others point out that he regularly expresses hostility to minorities.

They suspect that Bolsonaro covets Israel’s military expertise and the votes of tens of millions of fundamentalist Christians in Brazil, who see Israel as central to their apocalyptic, and in many cases antisemitic, beliefs. Not that this worries Netanyahu.

He has been engaged in a similar bromance with Viktor Orban, the ultra-nationalist prime minister of Hungary, who barely veils his Jew-baiting and has eulogised Miklos Horthy, a Hungarian leader who collaborated with the Nazis.

Netanyahu has also courted Poland’s far-right prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki, even as the latter has fuelled Holocaust revisionism with legislation to outlaw criticism of Poland for its involvement in the Nazi death camps. Millions of Jews were exterminated in such camps.

Israel is cultivating alliances with other ultra-nationalists – in and out of power – in the Czech Republic, Italy, Switzerland, Germany and Austria.

The conclusion drawn by Jewish communities abroad is that their well being – even their safety – is now a much lower priority than bolstering Israel’s diplomatic influence.

That was illustrated starkly last week in the immediate aftermath of a massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue on October 27. Robert Bowers gunned down 11 worshippers in the worst antisemitic attack in US history.

Jewish communities have linked the awakening of the white-nationalist movement to which Bowers belonged to the Trump administration’s hostile rhetoric towards immigrants and ethnic minorities.

In Pittsburgh, huge crowds protested as Trump paid a condolence visit to the Tree of Life synagogue, holding banners aloft with slogans such as: “President Hate, leave our state.”

Equally hard to ignore is that Israeli leaders, while they regularly denounce US and European left-wingers as antisemites for criticising Israel over its abuse of Palestinians, have remained studiously silent on Trump’s inflammatory statements.

Chemi Shalev, a commentator for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, noted the disturbing impression created by Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the US, escorting Trump through Pittsburgh. Dermer looked like a “bodyguard”, shielding the president from local Jewish protesters, Shalev observed.

Meanwhile, tone-deaf diaspora affairs minister Naftali Bennett, leader of largest Israeli settler party, the Jewish Home, milked the local community’s pain over the Pittsburgh massacre to Israel’s advantage. At an official commemoration service, he compared Bowers’ bullets to rockets fired by Palestinians, describing both as examples of antisemitism.

In an online post before the attack, Bowers singled out the synagogue for its prominent role helping refugees gain asylum in the US.

Trump has rapidly turned immigration into a “national security” priority. Last week, he sent thousands of US troops to the border with Mexico to stop what he termed an “invasion” by refugees from Central America.

Drawing on the histories of their own families having fled persecution, liberal Jews such as those at the Pittsburgh synagogue believe it is a moral imperative to assist refugees escaping oppression and conflict.

That message is strenuously rejected not only by Trump, but by the Israeli government.

In a move Trump hopes to replicate on the Mexico border, Israel has built a 250km wall along the border with Egypt to block the path of asylum-seekers from war-torn Africa.

Netanyahu’s government has also circumvented international law and Israeli court rulings to jail and then deport existing refugees back to Africa, despite evidence that they will be placed in grave danger.

Bennett has termed the refugees “a plague of illegal infiltrators”, while the culture minister Miri Regev has labelled them a “cancer”. Polls suggest that more than half of Israeli Jews agree.

Separately, Israel’s nation-state law, passed in the summer, gives constitutional weight to the notion that Israel belongs exclusively to Jews, stripping the fifth of the population who are Palestinian citizens of the most basic rights.

More generally, Israel views Palestinians through a single prism: as a demographic threat to the Jewishness of the Greater Israel project that Netanyahu has been advancing.

In short, Israel’s leaders are not simply placating a new wave of white-nationalist and neo-fascist leaders. They have a deep-rooted ideological sympathy with them.

For the first time, overseas Jewish communities are being faced with a troubling dilemma. Do they really wish to subscribe to a Jewish nationalism in Israel that so strongly echoes the ugly rhetoric and policies threatening them at home?

• First published in The National

The UN “Sheriff”: Nikki Haley Elevated Israel, Damaged US Standing

US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, has made her post a “more glamorous” position than her predecessors – as President Donald Trump described Haley’s 2-year term at the UN, following her resignation announcement.

We may never know the nature of Haley’s purported ‘glamour’ at the UN, but we certainly know that, during her relatively brief stint, Haley has further diminished her country’s struggling reputation, entrenching US isolation in the world’s most vital international political body.

In her own words, Haley concluded that her mission at the UN was accomplished, commending herself on three achievements: the US has become more respected; it saved a lot of money and strongly defended Israel against UN ‘bias.’

“All of those things have made a huge difference in the US standing,” she said. “The US is strong again. And the US is strong in a way that should make all Americans very proud.”

Nothing could be further from the truth and Haley, who is suspected of engineering a run for the White House in the future, has no evidence to back up her claim of new-found ‘strength’ and ‘respect’.

During his speech before the General Assembly on September 25, Trump’s preposterous claims were not met with thundering applause but humiliating laughter. So much for respect.

However, there is no question that Haley was a good fit to be Trump’s representative to the international community. Her aggressive and self-aggrandizing language tallies with the political discourse emanating from the White House.

That aside, considering the violations of human rights committed by Israel during Haley’s time at the UN, her relentless defense of Israel is no laughing matter.

Haley’s supposed ‘achievements’ of saving money and supporting Israel are intrinsically linked. Indeed, the US saved $1.3 billion dollars – by cutting off funds to organizations that were critical of Israel or supportive of the Palestinian people.

Haley’s political outlook is not influenced by true conviction.  In his bestselling book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, Michael Wolff describes Haley as an “opportunist” who is as “ambitious as Lucifer.”

In fact, there can be no rational explanation for Haley’s palpable hatred of Palestinians and Arab and love of Israel, other than sheer opportunism.

The US-Israel pact at the UN is as old as Israel itself, but the last two decades have taken this relationship to new heights. The already slanted US position on Israel’s Occupation of Palestine, and its brazen use of the ‘veto’ power to shield Israel from international criticism, reached its zenith during the term of George W. Bush’s ambassador to the UN, John Negroponte (2001-04).

The ‘Negroponte doctrine’ – the instant rejection and, if necessary, vetoing of any UN Security Council resolution critical of Israel – remained a staple in US foreign policy until today, with the notable exception of Resolution 2334.

On December 23, 2016, the Obama Administration abstained from voting on a resolution that condemned Israel’s construction of illegal Jewish settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Obama’s final act violated the main tenet of US diplomacy at the UN.

Soon after, Haley arrived in New York with a clear and urgent mandate: to do everything in her power to recover the traditional US position in support of Israel.

Eager to reassure Israel that it has not been abandoned, Haley launched her pro-Israel campaign at the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in March 2017, using bizarre, tactless language.

“There’s a new sheriff in town,” she announced before nearly 18,000 conference attendees, intoxicated with excitement. “I wear heels. It’s not for a fashion statement,” she declared. “It’s because if I see something wrong, we’re going to kick ’em every single time.”

Haley was true to her words. The ‘Haley doctrine’ went even further than Negroponte’s, as the latter was largely confined to blocking resolutions critical of Israel. Haley, on the other hand, supported Israel at every possible opportunity, and, along with Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, she conspired to punish countries and UN agencies, such as UNESCO, UNRWA and others for recognizing Palestinian rights or providing aid to Palestinian refugees.

Haley, therefore, tried to manage the UN from within – rewarding and punishing as she saw fit – to end what she wrongly perceived the organization’s systematic targeting of Israel.

On a visit to Israel in June 2017, she accused the UN in a press conference held jointly with Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, of ‘bullying’ Israel. “If there’s anything I have no patience for, its bullies – and the UN was being such a bully to Israel because they could,” she said.

The notion, that of the UN’s supposed unfairness to Israel, was at the heart of Haley skewed discourse.

In December 2017, the self-proclaimed anti-bullying diplomat, threatened those who voted in favor of an Egypt-sponsored draft resolution that expressed “deep regret at recent decisions concerning the status of Jerusalem.” She vetoed the draft, which was supported by all other members of the Security Council, calling the vote an ‘insult’ that would not be forgotten.

On May 14, Israeli snipers opened fire at unarmed protesters at the fence separating besieged Gaza from Israel, killing more than 60 and injuring thousands. Haley was the only member of the Security Council who could not comprehend the international outrage over one of the worst Israeli massacres in years.

“No country in this chamber would act with more restraint than Israel has,” she lectured the other ambassadors.

While Haley was duly criticized by Palestinians for impeding international law, she was enthusiastically celebrated by Israel and its friends in Washington for being a ‘true friend of Israel.’

Soon after her resignation was announced, Danon spoke fondly of Haley for challenging ‘anti-Israel bias’ in the UN.

For Palestinians, however, Haley was a stumbling block in their efforts to finally achieve the justice and rights they need and deserve.

The US-Israeli love affair at the UN, and their ongoing war on Palestinian rights, are likely to remain unchanged, long after Haley’s departure.

Bearing in mind the irreparable damage created by the “new sheriff in town”, Haley certainly will not be missed in Palestine.

Trump’s Alliance with Body-Choppers, Death Squads and Child Killers

In recent weeks the White House has embraced the contemporary version of the world’s most murderous regimes. President Trump has embraced the Saudi Arabian “Prince of Death” Mohammad bin Salman who has graduated from chopping hands and heads in public plazas to dismembering bodies in overseas consulates – the case of Jamal Khashoggi.

The White House warmly greeted the electoral success of Brazilian Presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro, ardent champion of torturers, military dictators, death squads and free marketers.

President Trump grovels, grunts and glories before Israel, as his spiritual guide Benjamin Netanyahu celebrates the Sabbath with the weekly murders and maiming of hundreds of unarmed Palestinians, especially youngsters.

These are President Trump’s ‘natural allies’. They share his values and interests while each retains their particular method of disposing of the cadavers of adversaries and dissenters.

We will proceed to discuss the larger political-economic context in which the trio of monsters operate. We will analyze the benefits and advantages which lead President Trump to ignore and even praise, actions which violate America’s democratic values and sensibilities.

In conclusion, we will examine the consequences and risks which result from Trump’s embrace of the trio.

The Context for Trump’s Triple Alliance

President Trump’s intimate ties with the world’s most unsavory regimes flows from several strategic interests. In the case of Saudi Arabia, it includes military bases; the financing of international mercenaries and terrorists; multi-billion-dollar arms sales; oil profits; and covert alliances with Israel against Iran, Syria and Yemen.

In order to secure these Saudi assets, the White House is more than willing to assume certain socio-political costs.

The US eagerly sells weapons and provides advisers to Saudi’s genocidal invasion, murder and starvation of millions of Yeminis. The White House alliance against Yemen has few monetary rewards or political advantages as well as negative propaganda value.

However, with few other client states in the region, Washington makes do with Prince Salman ‘the salami slicer’.

The US ignores Saudi financing of Islamic terrorists against US allies in Asia (the Philippines) and Afghanistan as well as rival thugs in Syria and Libya.

Alas when a pro-US collaborator like Washington Post journalist and US resident Jamal Khashoggi was assassinated, President Trump was forced to adopt the pretense of an investigation in order to distance from the Riyadh mafia.He subsequently exonerated butcher boy bin Salman: he invented a flagrant lie-blaming ‘rogue elements’ in charge of the interrogation,– read torture.

President Trump celebrated the electoral victory of Brazilian neo-liberal fascist Jair Bolsonaro because he checks all the right boxes: he promises to slash economic regulations and corporate taxes for multi-national corporations. He is an ardent ally of Washington’s economic war against Venezuela and Cuba. He promises to arm right-wing death squads and militarize the police. He pledges to be a loyal follower of US war policies abroad.

However, Bolsonaro cannot support Trump’s trade war especially against China which is the market for almost forty percent of Brazil’s agro-exports. This is especially the case since agro-business bosses are Bolsonaro’s principal economic and congressional supporters.

Given Washington’s limited influence in the rest of Latin America, Brazil’s neo-liberal fascist regime acts as Trump’s principal ally.

Israel is the White House’s mentor and chief of operations in the Middle East, as well as a strategic military ally.

Under the leadership of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel has seized and colonized most of the West Bank and militarily occupied the rest of Palestine; jailed and tortured tens of thousands of political dissidents; surrounded and starved over a million Gaza residents; imposed ethno-religious conditions for citizenship in Israel, denying basic rights for over 20% of the Arab residents of the self-styled ‘Jewish state’.

Netanyahu has bombed hundreds of Syrian cities, towns, airports and bases in support of ISIS terrorists and Western mercenaries. Israel intervenes in US elections, buys Congressional votes and secures White House recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state.

Zionists in North America and Great Britain act as a ‘fifth column’ securing unanimous favorable mass media coverage of its apartheid policies.

Prime Minister Netanyahu secures unconditional US financial and political support and the most advanced weaponry.

In exchange Washington considers itself privileged to serve as foot solders for Israeli targeted wars in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen and Somalia … Israel collaborates with the US in defending Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan. Netanyahu and his Zionist allies in the White House succeeded in reversing the nuclear agreement with Iran and imposing new and harsher economic sanctions.

Israel has its own agenda: it defies President Trump’s sanctions policies against Russia and its trade war with China.

Israel eagerly engages in the sales of arms and high-tech innovations to Beijing.

Beyond the Criminal Trio

The Trump regime’s alliance with Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Brazil is not despite but because of their criminal behavior. The three states have a demonstrated record of full compliance and active engagement in every ongoing US war.

Bolsonaro, Netanyahu, and bin Salman serve as role models for other national leaders allied with Washington’s quest for world domination.

The problem is that the trio is insufficient in bolstering Washington’s drive to “Make the Empire Strong”. As pointed earlier, the trio are not completely in compliance with Trump’s trade wars; Saudi works with Russia in fixing oil prices. Israel and Brazil cuts deals with Beijing.

Clearly Washington pursues other allies and clients.

In Asia, the White House targets China by promoting ethnic separatism. It encourages Uighurs to split from China by encouraging Islamic terrorism and linguistic propaganda. President Trump backs Taiwan via military sales and diplomatic agreements. Washington intervenes in Hong Kong by promoting pro-separatist politicians and media propaganda backing ‘independence’.

Washington has launched a strategy of military encirclement and a trade war against China .The White House rounded-up Japan, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines and South Korea to provide military bases which target China. Nevertheless, up to the present the US has no allies in its trade war. All of Trump’s so-called Asian ‘allies’ defy his economic sanctions policies.

The countries depend on and pursue trade with and investments from China. While all pay diplomatic lip service and provide military bases, all defer on the crucial issues of joining US military exercises off China’s coast and boycotting Beijing.

US efforts to sanction Russia into submission is offset by ongoing oil and gas agreements between Russia , Germany and other EU countries. US traditional bootlickers like Britain and Poland carry little political weight.

More important US sanctions policy has led to a long-term, large-scale strategic economic and military alliance between Moscow and Beijing.

Moreover Trump’s alliance with the ‘torture trio’ has provoked domestic divisions. Saudi Arabia’s murder of a US resident-journalist has provoked business boycotts and Congressional calls for reprisal. Brazil’s fascism has evoked liberal criticism of Trump’s eulogy of Brazilia’s death squad democracy.

President Trump’s domestic electoral opposition has successfully mobilized the mass media, which could facilitate a congressional majority and an effective mass opposition to his Pluto-populist (populist in rhetoric, plutocrat in practice) version of empire building.

Conclusion

The US empire building project is built on bluster, bombs and trade wars. Moreover, its closest and most criminal allies and clients cannot always be relied upon. Even the stock market fiesta is coming to a close. Moreover, the time of successful sanctions is passing. The wild-eyed UN rants are evoking laughter and embarrassment.

The economy is heading into crises and not only became of rising interest rates. Tax cuts are one shot deals – profits are taken and pocketed.

President Trump in retreat will discover that there are no permanent allies only permanent interests.

Today the White House stands alone without allies who will share and defend his unipolar empire. The mass of humanity requires a break with the policies of wars and sanctions. To rebuild America will require the construction, from the ground-up, of a powerful popular movement not beholden to Wall Street or war industries. A first step is to break with both parties at home and the triple alliance abroad.

Limiting Israel: Russia Deploys the S-300 to Syria

Relations between Russia and Israel have been those of an estranged couple punctuated by occasional breakouts of tense understanding.  As with other such couples, a public row does not necessarily reflect the more placid, if stern, discussion that might happen behind closed doors.

On the public side of things, Russia’s decision to deploy the S-300 anti-aircraft missile system to Syria has made Israeli officials apoplectic.  That said, Israel’s security establishment were privy to prospects of a possible Russian deployment of the modern, more discriminating air-defence system.  The former head of the Israeli Defence Force’s Strategic Division, Brigadier General Assaf Orion at the Institution for National Security Studies, was reflective.  “However one may keep in mind that for the last twenty years Israel was preparing for this to appear in theatre.”

In April, Amos Yadlin, the country’s retired Military Intelligence chief stuck his head out to issue a warning: should Russia supply Syria with S-300 anti-aircraft missiles, Israel’s air force would retaliate.  Israel Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman also upped the ante, suggesting that Israel would destroy any S-300 targeting Israeli aircraft.  Would Russia call Israel’s bluff?

Any indecision on Russia’s part evaporated in the aftermath of the downing of a Russian Il-20 surveillance plane by Syrian government forces on September 17, leading to the death of 15 personnel.  The Syrian action had been prompted by attacks from Israeli F-16 jets on facilities in the province of Latakia.

In the words of Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, “It is a system which is defensive in nature rather than offensive, and is intended for the defence of the Syrian airspace.” Russian Defence  Minister Sergei Shoigu has only praise for the batteries, which are “capable of intercepting aerial attacks at the distance of over 250 kilometres, and simultaneously countering several targets”. Deploying it was a necessary “retaliatory” measure.

The tone, at this point, has become far more reserved on Israel’s part.  While Moscow “made a move, the playing field is very large,” came an unnamed Israeli official’s view.  Israel was “dealing” with the aftermath of the decision made by President Vladimir Putin, but would “not necessarily” attempt “to prevent the delivery” of the anti-aircraft system.  This stands to reason: the presence of other Russian missile systems in the Syrian conflict – the S-400, for instance – did not deter Israel’s previous strikes; nor did it cause much by way of open remonstration. Symbolism is everything.

Gideon Levy, writing in Haaretz, was impressed by Moscow’s move.  Israel’s regional bullying would finally, at least in some fashion, be contained.  “For the first time in years another state is making it clear to Israel that there are restrictions to its power, that it’s not okay for it to do whatever it wants, that it’s not alone in the game, that America can’t always cover for it and there’s a limit to the harm that it can do.”

Like other players, Russia and Israel will continue to be careful in avoiding any undue engagements.  Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu has made various utterances to that effect, though the deployment has put him on notice that the Israeli action in Syria can no longer take place with brazen impunity.

Then comes the issue as to which outfits will be manning the batteries.  Netanyahu, pushing the familiar line that certain weapons systems are only appropriate in the right hands, sees the S-300 finding its way to “irresponsible players”.  Orion fears those “incompetent and reckless” hands fidgeting and firing.  On that score, it is unlikely that the Russians intend giving their Syrian recipients full leverage in using the system.  At this stage of the conflict, it is clear that Moscow is calling many of the shots in the field, having, for instance, restrained Syrian government forces in launching a blood-soaked offensive on rebel forces in Idlib in favour of an accord with Turkey.

Moves such as the S-300 announcement say less about a conflict that has killed with remorseless drive than it does about the pieces of furniture that keep being moved in one of the most atrocious wars in recent memory.  A weapons system is deployed in one place to discourage another “player” from overconfidence and bellicosity; airstrikes are undertaken against the forces of another group or state to nip any growing influence.  Brief agreements are brokered, short-term understandings reached.  Israel gazes wide-eyed upon the influence of Iran and any umbilical cord to Hezbollah; Turkey watches warily the influence of the Kurds and any overly patriotic tendencies. Syrian soil becomes the staging ground for amoral plays of power.

The critics and observers add to this, using sterile terms that give the impression that states are participants in a robust conversation free of blood, a gentlemen’s dispute rather than a murderous fight to the finish.  Syria remains a carcass swarmed over by various enthusiasts, pecking it into cruel oblivion.

Where is the Hope?

Situated on a coastal location on the outskirts of Tripoli, with golden sands and an expansive view of the Mediterranean Sea, the Palestinian Refugee Camp of Nahr al-Bared could be a beautiful environment in which to raise a child… It isn’t.

Nahr al-Bared Beach location

The sense of despair is as dark as I have known it during these past three years of visiting and listening to camp residents. The US Government, under the Trump administration, has cut all UNWRA funding to Palestinian Refugee Camps. Palestinian refugees living in refugee camps in Lebanon are not allowed to work, own property or have Lebanese citizenship. It is only from being recognized as refugees and the international law of ‘right of return’ (resolution-194) that prevents them from being stateless. Although UNWRA funding keeps them trapped in a state of dependancy, it is also what keeps them alive. UNWRA heavily supports the funding required for medical, educational and social care. Without the contribution of the US, the over strained resources in the camps will reach breaking point. (We are already witnessing a slow, calculated genocide taking place in Gaza.) Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States have offered to pick up the short fall left by the loss of the US contribution, but there are conditions…. conditions that are impossible for Palestinians to accept.

Youngsters in the Nahr al-Bared Refugee Camp in Lebanon

Netanyahu is claiming that there are no longer any Palestinian refugees. It’s been stated by Israeli officials that only those Palestinians who were born and fled the 1948 NAKBA (Catastrophe) qualify as refugees. Under this edict the five generations of descendants born in dismal, impoverished refugee camps, would not, therefore, qualify as refugees. Trump, no doubt persuaded by deep state policy directives, would appear to agree.

‘Right of Return’ is enshrined in human rights law. This contrived political move to try to take the ’Right of Return’ away is not only a violation of international law, it makes a mockery of all that is decent and human. Although UNWRA is mandated to support refugees, without proper funding its services are calculated to collapse.

Nahr al-Bared Refugee Camp in Lebanon

Already medical services have been cut so that besides the limited availability of drugs and medical supplies, a single doctor is responsible for around 5,000 patients. In the UK the ratio is less than 400, and in other European countries the ratio is significantly lower. With poor nutrition and salty, undrinkable tap water the strain on doctors is likely to be even more demanding in Palestinian refugee camps.

As was stated by one of the Palestinian elders at Nahr al-Bared:

All this flies in the face of human rights. This is a fake deal made to bring about our destruction. They keep us busy just trying to survive so there is no time to plan around the crucial matters. Are we to become a non-people, who, by no fault of our own, are to be cast out of the human race without rights or the means to protect the lives of our children?

Rubble remaining from the 2007 attack by the terrorist group Fatah al Islam

UNWRA was never set up to be a permanent source of funding but with political intransigency with regard to the recognition of human rights law, Palestinians have been trapped in limbo for over seventy years. It’s only been the hope of returning to their homeland that has sustained them – (Awad Sumud – steadfastness). ‘Right of return’ is the corner stone of the Palestinian Struggle. The US in alliance with the UK and France, along with (Saudi Arabia aka Israel) and the Gulf States, are likely to herald any refusal on the part of Palestinians to give up ‘hope of return’ as a refusal to negotiate peace. The authors of this Machiavellian manoeuvre will know this to be a lie. With truth thrown into the  trash bin of fake news, the message of ‘the fault’ being placed on the Palestinians may ‘yet again’ be widely believed. The convenient label of Palestinian terrorists by subservient – cut and paste ‘mainstream’ journalism, allow those who actually do initiate terror to act with an impunity that defies credible belief. Any criticism by right thinking people that Israel is actually the aggressor here, is labelled as anti-semitic.

Palestinian leaders fear for the youth in the camp. Deprived of a future they are vulnerable to outside corruption or worse. “We are trapped by circumstances. We don’t want to be used to support anyone’s terrorism.”

Youngsters in Nahr al-Bared Refugee Camp

The elders’ fears are fully justified. In 2007 the terrorist group Fatah Al Islam fled into Nahr al-Bared after robbing a bank and were pursued by the Lebanese Army. The resulting conflict resulted in a number of deaths and forced Palestinians to flee the camp. Their homes and what little they did possess were bombed to rubble. The evidence of the widespread bombing is still present today. At the time Seymour Hersh reported that the funding for the group had originated from the US through Saudi Arabia and had Lebanese connections through Saad Hariri.

Rubble from the 2007 terrorist attack

However, other sources consider that funding came from groups in Syria or Al Qaeda. Why they chose to flee to Nahr al-Bared does raise interesting questions. Nahr al-Bared was the refugee camp where the PLO financial centre was located. Whether the camp being situated on prime real estate has any relevance, one can only speculate. Whatever the truth behind Fatah Al Islam, Palestinians remain anxious about such groups ever gaining any kind of foothold in the camps among their dispossessed youth.

Today the camp is slowly being re-built and around two-thirds of the population have been able to return. Compared to many of the other camps the roads are wide, the sky is visible and fresh air is able to enter. However it was pointed out that the roads are wide so that tanks can enter. Not withstanding the impact of visual space there is in reality little room for family expansion. Families are not permitted to built beyond four floors and moving out horizontally is also prohibited. Some of the bombed buildings of 2007 have yet to be cleared. With families moving into their fifth and sometimes the sixth generation, crowding is a serious problem. This has been compounded in part by a section of the camp being allocated to Palestinian refugees fleeing terror groups in Syria.

Section of Nahr al-Bared where Palestinian refugees from Syria are housed

Security around entry into the camp is high. For foreigners, passports have to be submitted well in advance so that the intelligence services can check out anyone who wishes to enter. Does this make Palestinians safer? It’s debatable. While it might keep the likes of terror groups like ‘Fatah Al Islam’ out, it also keeps  Palestinians in a ‘prison camp’  like environment. One only has to remember how Israeli forces surrounded the entrances to Sabra and Shatilla in September 1982 and sanctioned the Christian Phalange massacre of over 3,000 undefended Palestinians to feel a chill at the thought of not being totally free to pass though the entrance unchecked

Nahr al-Bared Refugee Camp in Lebanon

Palestinians cannot achieve justice alone. It will require a huge awakening on the part of all people everywhere to recognize that injustice for one is injustice for all. To be silent is to be complicit.

• All photos by Heather Stroud

Where is the Hope?

Situated on a coastal location on the outskirts of Tripoli, with golden sands and an expansive view of the Mediterranean Sea, the Palestinian Refugee Camp of Nahr al-Bared could be a beautiful environment in which to raise a child… It isn’t.

Nahr al-Bared Beach location

The sense of despair is as dark as I have known it during these past three years of visiting and listening to camp residents. The US Government, under the Trump administration, has cut all UNWRA funding to Palestinian Refugee Camps. Palestinian refugees living in refugee camps in Lebanon are not allowed to work, own property or have Lebanese citizenship. It is only from being recognized as refugees and the international law of ‘right of return’ (resolution-194) that prevents them from being stateless. Although UNWRA funding keeps them trapped in a state of dependancy, it is also what keeps them alive. UNWRA heavily supports the funding required for medical, educational and social care. Without the contribution of the US, the over strained resources in the camps will reach breaking point. (We are already witnessing a slow, calculated genocide taking place in Gaza.) Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States have offered to pick up the short fall left by the loss of the US contribution, but there are conditions…. conditions that are impossible for Palestinians to accept.

Youngsters in the Nahr al-Bared Refugee Camp in Lebanon

Netanyahu is claiming that there are no longer any Palestinian refugees. It’s been stated by Israeli officials that only those Palestinians who were born and fled the 1948 NAKBA (Catastrophe) qualify as refugees. Under this edict the five generations of descendants born in dismal, impoverished refugee camps, would not, therefore, qualify as refugees. Trump, no doubt persuaded by deep state policy directives, would appear to agree.

‘Right of Return’ is enshrined in human rights law. This contrived political move to try to take the ’Right of Return’ away is not only a violation of international law, it makes a mockery of all that is decent and human. Although UNWRA is mandated to support refugees, without proper funding its services are calculated to collapse.

Nahr al-Bared Refugee Camp in Lebanon

Already medical services have been cut so that besides the limited availability of drugs and medical supplies, a single doctor is responsible for around 5,000 patients. In the UK the ratio is less than 400, and in other European countries the ratio is significantly lower. With poor nutrition and salty, undrinkable tap water the strain on doctors is likely to be even more demanding in Palestinian refugee camps.

As was stated by one of the Palestinian elders at Nahr al-Bared:

All this flies in the face of human rights. This is a fake deal made to bring about our destruction. They keep us busy just trying to survive so there is no time to plan around the crucial matters. Are we to become a non-people, who, by no fault of our own, are to be cast out of the human race without rights or the means to protect the lives of our children?

Rubble remaining from the 2007 attack by the terrorist group Fatah al Islam

UNWRA was never set up to be a permanent source of funding but with political intransigency with regard to the recognition of human rights law, Palestinians have been trapped in limbo for over seventy years. It’s only been the hope of returning to their homeland that has sustained them – (Awad Sumud – steadfastness). ‘Right of return’ is the corner stone of the Palestinian Struggle. The US in alliance with the UK and France, along with (Saudi Arabia aka Israel) and the Gulf States, are likely to herald any refusal on the part of Palestinians to give up ‘hope of return’ as a refusal to negotiate peace. The authors of this Machiavellian manoeuvre will know this to be a lie. With truth thrown into the  trash bin of fake news, the message of ‘the fault’ being placed on the Palestinians may ‘yet again’ be widely believed. The convenient label of Palestinian terrorists by subservient – cut and paste ‘mainstream’ journalism, allow those who actually do initiate terror to act with an impunity that defies credible belief. Any criticism by right thinking people that Israel is actually the aggressor here, is labelled as anti-semitic.

Palestinian leaders fear for the youth in the camp. Deprived of a future they are vulnerable to outside corruption or worse. “We are trapped by circumstances. We don’t want to be used to support anyone’s terrorism.”

Youngsters in Nahr al-Bared Refugee Camp

The elders’ fears are fully justified. In 2007 the terrorist group Fatah Al Islam fled into Nahr al-Bared after robbing a bank and were pursued by the Lebanese Army. The resulting conflict resulted in a number of deaths and forced Palestinians to flee the camp. Their homes and what little they did possess were bombed to rubble. The evidence of the widespread bombing is still present today. At the time Seymour Hersh reported that the funding for the group had originated from the US through Saudi Arabia and had Lebanese connections through Saad Hariri.

Rubble from the 2007 terrorist attack

However, other sources consider that funding came from groups in Syria or Al Qaeda. Why they chose to flee to Nahr al-Bared does raise interesting questions. Nahr al-Bared was the refugee camp where the PLO financial centre was located. Whether the camp being situated on prime real estate has any relevance, one can only speculate. Whatever the truth behind Fatah Al Islam, Palestinians remain anxious about such groups ever gaining any kind of foothold in the camps among their dispossessed youth.

Today the camp is slowly being re-built and around two-thirds of the population have been able to return. Compared to many of the other camps the roads are wide, the sky is visible and fresh air is able to enter. However it was pointed out that the roads are wide so that tanks can enter. Not withstanding the impact of visual space there is in reality little room for family expansion. Families are not permitted to built beyond four floors and moving out horizontally is also prohibited. Some of the bombed buildings of 2007 have yet to be cleared. With families moving into their fifth and sometimes the sixth generation, crowding is a serious problem. This has been compounded in part by a section of the camp being allocated to Palestinian refugees fleeing terror groups in Syria.

Section of Nahr al-Bared where Palestinian refugees from Syria are housed

Security around entry into the camp is high. For foreigners, passports have to be submitted well in advance so that the intelligence services can check out anyone who wishes to enter. Does this make Palestinians safer? It’s debatable. While it might keep the likes of terror groups like ‘Fatah Al Islam’ out, it also keeps  Palestinians in a ‘prison camp’  like environment. One only has to remember how Israeli forces surrounded the entrances to Sabra and Shatilla in September 1982 and sanctioned the Christian Phalange massacre of over 3,000 undefended Palestinians to feel a chill at the thought of not being totally free to pass though the entrance unchecked

Nahr al-Bared Refugee Camp in Lebanon

Palestinians cannot achieve justice alone. It will require a huge awakening on the part of all people everywhere to recognize that injustice for one is injustice for all. To be silent is to be complicit.

• All photos by Heather Stroud