Category Archives: ethnic cleansing

May 14th: Just Another Day in a Collapsing Empire

May 14th was quite a day for the empire, the shit show on full display exhibiting lots of swagger in its death throes. The people on the inside are the last to know. They don’t see it but everyone else does. The rest of the world can see the toxic death culture, they see the rationalizations for idiocy and how silly they seem. The US empire has no clothes but wears only a paper thin emotional veneer resembling a child who attempts to lie for the first time after murdering the family dog. This is the modern American mind of empire. Delusional and full of contrived pablum to excuse their wretched actions. Trump is truly the perfect man to represent this country, its true face. A huckster, a gangster, and a liar that says one thing and does the opposite. The actions and the results before us are the real values of empire and not their diseased words, which are devoid of truth.

On May 14th the empire’s best friend Israel continued to show its reverence for death while inhumanely shooting protestors on the Gaza strip. 58 lives lost and 2,700 injured are the current stats, horrors playing out that we’ll never be able to wrap our minds around, but tomorrow Palestinians will wake up and know a life that has more suffering than the day before. Many of the injured will look forward to death knowing the Israeli government lacks all basic compassion for fellow humans and the wounded know the path ahead will contain even more hardship. The implications of Israeli actions won’t make headlines for long in the US, and the externalities we’ll never see directly tied to this story will cause sadness and turmoil they will struggle to fight past for years – if Israel lets them live that long. We humans are more fragile than what is put onto our TV screens. Characters undergo one torturous event after another with little repercussions, but in reality our emotions break, especially when all community has been stripped out from under us, especially when people we love are killed or maimed for no good reason.

Six who died were under the age of 18. Does the US care? Nope, they’d sooner blame Palestinians for putting kids in the line of fire of Israeli soldiers than take responsibility for supporting a regime who sadistically fires openly into crowds of unarmed people. The corporate media have short memories, convenient memories. We forget how upset we were at the Syrian gas attack that may have claimed 40 lives and later the incident was filled with controversy over if Assad was actually responsible, I do not know the truth about this but I smell bullshit from somewhere, regardless of my bullshit sniffing abilities that number is less than the 58 killed at the protests on May the 14th. And there will be not a chirp, a squawk, a snort, or whinny of angst directed towards Israel for these actions by our overlords. In fact, quite the opposite.

The ignoble Jared Kushner said at the embassy opening that “Those provoking violence are part of the problem and not part of the solution.” referring to protestors who don’t have guns, didn’t wound one Israeli soldier, they don’t have an air force, tanks, humvees, an organized military, or any of the implements of destruction Israel does, yet Palestinians are somehow provoking violence to such an extent the bully state had to slaughter them? Ok Jared, fuck you. There is no respect for life, zero empathy, and not the smallest hint of a lingering humanity remaining in the logic of the state.

The US operates in a good ole boy league where the fellow goombahs get an automatic pass, they are made men, with made nations, they do as they please. So it would also please them on the day of May 14th to move the US embassy to Jerusalem as nothing more than a provocation to invite targets out for the racist Israeli state to gun down. The ostensible provocateurs are a battered people who are being violently edged off this planet for reasons of insanity from a bully regime and their bully death culture. The provoked are a people crying out for someone in the world to stand up to this machine. Provoked to the point they want the world to witness what those in power will do to people who are of no legitimate threat; To show how vicious and small in character those who wield power are, to show how profound their lack of wisdom. Palestinians are no more of a threat to Israel than an ant is to an elephant, yet this particular raging elephant’s sense of entitled justice is to seek out the ant population and stamp it out of existence, then boast as if they were doing a great service.

In other news occurring on the day of May 14th 2018, the supreme court of American shysterism decided to give states the power to legalize gambling. With the current predicament of the world and the myriad of issues I quite frankly get tired of speaking to…the warring, the species extinction this, the climate change that, the wealth inequal…..well, you get the point. Any logical mind might say that we shouldn’t take time to further line the pockets of the wealthy by allowing them to own these new con games. Also, it might seem a tad exploitative to further entice the poor to desperately gamble away their rapidly diminishing savings before addressing those much larger issues, but all dissent will go unheard because there’s money to be made, boys, so instead we’ll hear people say some ridiculous drivel about how this is good for economic growth, and we’ll continue to live by the obvious lies of supply side economics.

And of all the issues in the world to address, of all the ideas in dire need of review, the US government’s highest court chooses to address sports gambling and rules in favor of empowering an industry that has been synonymous with organized crime even in areas it’s legalized. From gangster Bugsy Segal who famously had a role in creating the Las Vegas strip, to Sheldon Adelson who was said to have ties to Chinese mafia, and, of course, like flies attracted to shit Donald Trump comes buzzing around the casino business with plenty of allegations mafia associations, of course, his most verifiable organized crime association being the US government itself.

Legalizing sports betting is an apropos move for an empire doing all it can to emulate the Biff Tannen universe that was widely referenced at the start of the Trump presidency. Sports are already a severely overemphasized part of American culture. The athletes are receiving salaries that rival that of some of the most abusive CEOs, but the US populace worships them, they make excuses for the rampant greed out of addictive impulse. Many of these dollars athletes and billionaire owners earn are subsidized from lower class taxpayers where they are forced to pay for stadiums and surrounding infrastructure owned by the billionaires, just so we can watch athletes whose top salaries are quickly approaching 40 million a year play for meaningless things that will quickly be forgotten in time.

The narrative from states and business interests looking to profiteer off gambling will put on their best act to pretend like the abusive capitalist activity of gambling is some form of freedom, and the narrative of Israeli slaughter of Palestinians is that peaceful protestors are a threat to a heavily armed military, and the narrative from corporate media will be that these are just things happening and not signs of empire collapsing amid the ever growing misery of a global population. And the narrative of the people in the empire who are lonely, sad, and separated from connection will tell themselves that democracy and capitalism will somehow purify to the point that they’ll really deliver on the goods this time around. That surely this twisted form of democracy installed by genocidal slavers will avert disaster in the coming elections. The idea is we wait in futility for events that have no chance of curving the murderous gangsterism inset in this disposable dung heap of a society; I don’t mean to insult dung, lots of good things grow out of dung, nothing good grows out of this disease. It must be transformed at a deep level to be fertile space again, and if we are to heal the disease we cannot continue to sow the lies of false narratives.

Draft Dodger in Chief Dodges “Historic” Opening of US Embassy, Jerusalem

It was NBC’s Cal Parry who summed up the obscenity of Donald Trump’s ignorant and igniting decision to move the US Embassy to West Jerusalem, then to celebrate the inauguration on Monday, 14th May: “Well dressed American and Israeli officials on one side of the screen: desperation, death and fires on the other.”

In 1948, 700,000 Palestinians began their flight from the city and the region trying to escape the massacres by Jewish militias on that date, seventy years ago. Commemorated ever since as the day of “Nakba” — disaster, catastrophe, cataclysm — following them to this day as land is stolen, families expelled and “settlements” encroach, and Palestinian history is bulldozed.

‘ “When the massacre started the (paramilitaries) took a kid and strapped him on an army jeep and drove him around different neighbourhoods of Jerusalem, saying ‘the same will happen to you if you don’t leave,’ ” Abu Kaya said, retelling his grandfather’s story to Middle East Eye.’

…  not a single country currently has its embassy in Jerusalem because such a move is widely considered to violate international law.

Further:

Under United Nations Resolution 181, which in 1947 set out the conditions for the partition of Palestine into an “Arab State” and a “Jewish State”, Jerusalem was to be administered by the UN under a “special international regime.

The 1949 armistice agreement that formally ended the first Arab-Israeli war divided the city along the “Green Line” into Israeli-controlled western areas, and Jordanian-held East Jerusalem, which included the Old City.

Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war is widely recognised as illegal and violates further United Nations resolutions.

For Palestinians then, sovereignty over the city is not something for leaders of other countries to determine, as US President Donald Trump did when he announced the embassy move in December.

In the few minutes it took to jot down notes for this piece, the Palestinian death toll of those demonstrating rose from twenty-eight dead, shot by Israeli soldiers, to forty-three. The injured rose from 1,693 to “near two thousand.”

Fadi Abo Salah, 30, who lost both legs in a bombing by Israeli aircraft, was one who lost his life, in his wheel chair — targeted by an Israeli sniper — in front of his wife and three small children. (Palestine Live group.)

Israel, frequently declaring itself “the only democracy in the Middle East”, carried out a very democratic slaughter and target practice. Young, old, disabled, male, female, all were equally entitled to be shot, sniped at, tear gassed.

Tiny Laila al-Ghandour who died from tear gas inhalation was just eight months old.1

Journalist Sharif Kouddos recorded:

Wails of grief inside family home of Laila al-Ghandour, 8-month old who died of gas inhalation yesterday. Her aunt says the gas came from everywhere, including drones.

By Monday’s end he Tweeted:

Sharif Kouddous

@sharifkouddous

Casualty toll from today in Gaza now stands at 55 dead, including 6 minors. 2,770 wounded, including 225 children. Of the wounded over 1,350 were hit with live ammunition, according to Ministry of Health.

“It is unbearable to witness such a massive number of unarmed people being shot in such a short time,” stated Médecins Sans Frontières.

As the Embassy partied and visitors “clapped and cheered”, Gaza’s hospitals, already teetering on collapse resulting from restrictions on all coming in to the besieged Strip — including electricity, with water contaminated — had surgeons operating day and night, with the injured being treated in the hospital car parks even, due to the overwhelming influx of those targeted.

In another world, just sixty miles away: ‘Washington’s Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, stood on a stage painted with the US flag and said:

Today’s historic event is attributed to the vision, courage and moral clarity of one person to whom we owe an enormous and eternal debt of gratitude: President Donald J Trump.  The crowd cheered and gave a standing ovation.1

Deaths had risen to fifty nine.

Of the eighty six Ambassadors to Israel, only thirty two attended the ceremony, with fifty four boycotting and only four EU Member countries attending.

Moreover:

The Haaretz newspaper reported that most EU member States did not participate in the ceremony because they have a firm policy towards the transfer of the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. It said that the ambassadors of Russia, Egypt, India, Japan and Mexico also did not attend the celebration.

Fallout has been swift. French President Emmanuel Macron in a telephone call to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and to Jordan’s King Abdullah condemned the “violence of the Israeli armed forces …” and again criticized the moving of the Embassy.

King Abdullah, of course, has custodianship of all Jerusalem’s Holy Sites and: ‘has the right to exert all legal efforts to safeguard them, especially Al Aqsa Mosque, which is defined as “The Entirety of Al Haram Al Sharif.” ‘ As far as can be ascertained thus far, it seems that this important, indeed unique, historic custodianship was neither discussed with the King or his representatives, nor even a consideration of the Trump Administration as they bulldozed their way through diplomacy, history and all norms in their Jerusalem settlement.

NATO ally President Erdogan of Turkey has recalled his Ambassadors to Israel and the US.

South Africa recalled their Ambassador to Israel, with immediate effect, as the Embassy celebrations were ongoing.

Ireland has summoned Israel’s Ambassador to protest Israeli violence.

Kuwait moved for an emergency meeting of the UN, which was blocked by the US. A ‘draft statement included language expressing “outrage and sorrow at the killing of Palestinian civilians exercising their right to peaceful protest.” ‘

‘It also reaffirmed UN resolutions on the status of Jerusalem, saying that recent events had “no legal effect” under international law. The statement was withdrawn once the US indicate that it would block it, a UN diplomat said.’ (CNN, 15th May 2018.)

Qatar condemned “a massacre” and “savage killings.”

Germany, somewhat weakly, expressed concern at the massacre saying: “The right to peaceful protest must also apply in Gaza”, via a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman

In the UK, the Labour Party’s Shadow Foreign Secretary, Emily Thornberry in an unusually unequivocal statement said:

We condemn unreservedly the Israeli government for their brutal, lethal and utterly unjustified actions on the Gaza border, and our thoughts are with all those Palestinians in Gaza whose loved ones have been lied or injured as a result.

These actions are made all the worse because they come not as the result of a disproportionate over-reaction to one day’s protests, but as the culmination of six weeks of an apparently systemic and deliberate policy of killing and maiming unarmed protestors and bystanders who pose no threat to the forces at the Gaza border, many of them shot in the back, many of them shot hundreds of metres from the border, and many of them children.

Throughout that six-week period, the UN’s Secretary General has been calling for an independent investigation into these incidents, one that should urgently determine whether international law has been broken, and hold the Netanyahu government to account for their actions. The UK should lead calls for the UN Security Council to order such an investigation today.

These incidents must also be the catalyst for urgent and concerted international pressure on the Netanyahu government to lift the blockade on Gaza, and end Israel’s illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories. No longer can Netanyahu act as a law unto himself, under the protection of the Trump administration, whose decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem today has further inflamed the situation.

Chile, with the largest population of Palestinians outside the Arab world, raised Palestinian flags outside the main entrance of the Presidential Palace of La Moneda.

Sacha Sergio Llorenty Soliz, Bolivia’s UN Ambassador, read the names of the Gaza massacre victims at the UN session, wearing a Palestinian keffiyeh.

The mayor of Barcelona Ada Colau has demanded an arms embargo on Israel, demanding backing of Amnesty International’s call for a global arms embargo on Israel. Amnesty has condemned: “ … an abhorrent violation of International Law and human rights. “

Zeid bin Ra’ad al-Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stated: “Those responsible for outrageous human rights violations must be held to account.”

Writer, broadcaster and academic, Kenan Malik Tweeted:

@kenanmalik

Mark Regev, Israeli ambassador to the UK, considers the shooting dead of 58 Palestinians and the wounding of 2700 as “measured” and “surgical”. I’d hate to know what is his definition of “unmeasured” or “non-surgical.”

The death toll became sixty.

From the Trumposphere, Donald Trump input:

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

May 14

Big day for Israel. Congratulations!

However, on this day of diplomatic thuggery  — which the US State Department flagged as a “historic move” — the five times Draft Dodger in Chief it seems reverted to type. The man to whom limelight is seemingly indispensible, stayed in Washington and addressed the Embassy gathering by video, from a safe 5,897 miles away, dodging any potential conflict, demonstrations, dissent. Trump, of course, pulled out of a visit to London in February, to open the new US Embassy, which has also relocated, reportedly for fear of the massive protests planned at his stay.

The man who can menace Iran, threaten North Korea with: “ … fire and fury and frankly the power the likes of which like this world has never seen”, cowers from peaceful protesters with placards. No wonder he had no intention of showing up in Jerusalem, even as guest of honour, surrounded by steel rings of security, in a region destabilized by the US and “allies” for decades, with the unarmed, indigenous population simply demanding some justice sixty miles away.

Donald Trump, it seems, talks the talk but can’t walk the walk. Perhaps someone also told him Armageddon is in Israel (site now named Megiddo.)

  1. Guardian, 15th May 2018.

An Affront to History: Giro d’Italia’s ‘Sport-Washing’ of Israeli Apartheid

For the first time since its inception in 1909, the legendary Italian cycling race, Giro d’Italia kicked off outside Europe and, strangely enough, from the city of Jerusalem on May 4.

The inherent contradictions in that decision are inescapable. Italy is a country that has experienced a ruthless forging occupation and was ravaged by fascism and war. To be a party in Israel’s constant attempts at whitewashing or, in this case, “sport-washing’ its military occupation and daily violence against the Palestinian people is appalling.

Every attempt aimed at dissuading the race organizers from being part of Israel’s political propaganda has failed. The millions of dollars paid to the Giro d’Italia organizers, the RCS Sport, seemed far more compelling than shared cultural experiences, solidarity, human rights and international law.

Legendary Italian novelist, Dino Buzzati wrote various accounts in Italian newspapers in the 1940s, describing the symbolism of the race in the context of a battered nation resurrecting from the ashes of untold destruction.

Just after WWII had ended, Giro d’Italia organizers found themselves contending with the seemingly impossible task of organizing a race with a few bicycles and even fewer athletes. The roads were disfigured and destroyed in the war, but the determination to triumph was stronger.

The 1946 Giro D’Italia, especially the legendary competition between Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali, became a metaphor of a country rising from the horrors of war, reanimating its national identity, symbolized in the final struggle between heroic athletes pedaling through the torturous mountainous roads to reach the finish line.

Understanding this history, Israel exploited it in every possible way. In fact, the Israeli government recently gave the late Gino Bartali an honorary Israeli citizenship. The decision was made as an acknowledgment of the Italian athlete’s anti-Nazi legacy. The irony, of course, is that the Israeli practices against Palestinians – military Occupation, racism, Apartheid and abhorring violence –  is reminiscent of the very reality that Bartali and millions of Italians fought against for years.

When Israeli officials announced last September that Giro D’Italia would start in Jerusalem, they labored to link the decision with Israel’s celebration of 70 years of independence.

Also, 70 years ago, Palestinians were dispossessed from their homeland by Zionist militias, leading to the Nakba, the catastrophic destruction of Palestine and the establishment of Israel as a Jewish state. It was then that West Jerusalem became part of Israel, and the rest of the Holy City, East Jerusalem, was also conquered through war in 1967, before it was officially, but illegally, annexed in 1981, in defiance of international law.

RCS Sport cannot claim ignorance regarding how their decision to engage and validate Israeli Apartheid will forever scar the history of the race. When their website announced that the race would kick off from ‘West Jerusalem’, the Israeli response was swift and furious. Israeli Sports Minister, Miri Regev and Tourism Minister, Yariv Levi, threatened to end their partnership with the race, claiming that “in Jerusalem, Israel’s capital, there is no East or West. There is one unified Jerusalem.”

Alas, Giro d’Italia organizers publicly apologized before removing the word ‘West’ from their website and press releases.

According to international law, East Jerusalem is an occupied Palestinian city. This fact has been stated time and again through United Nations resolutions, including the most recent Resolution 2334, adopted on December 23, 2016. It condemns Israel’s illegal settlement constructions in the Occupied Territories, including East Jerusalem.

This reality stands as a stark contradiction to the claims made by Giro d’Italia organizers that their race is a celebration of peace. In truth, it is an endorsement of Apartheid, violence and war crimes.

The fact that the race was held according to plan, despite the ongoing killing of Palestinian protesters in Gaza, also underlines the degree of moral corruption by those behind the effort. Over 50 unarmed Palestinians have been killed since the start of the peaceful protests at the Gaza border, known as the ‘Great March of Return’ on March 30. Over 7,000 were wounded, among them 30 athletes, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Youth and Sports.

One of those wounded is Alaa al-Dali, a 21-years-old cyclist whose leg was amputated after being shot on the first day of protests.

‘Canadian-Jewish philanthropist’, Sylvan Adams, one of the biggest funders of the race, claimed that his contribution is motivated by his desire to promote Israel and to support cycling as a ‘bridge between nations.’

Palestinians, like Alaa, whose cycling career is over, are, of course, excluded from that lofty, and selective definition. Was the 12 million dollars received by the organizers from Israel and its supporters a worthy price to ignore the suffering of Palestinians and to help normalize Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people?

Sadly, for the RSC Sport, the answer is ‘yes’.

Many Italians, and more around the world, of course, disagree. Despite Italian media’s partaking in Israel’s ‘sport-washing’, hundreds of Italians protested at various stages of the race.

The fourth stage of Giro d’Italia, which was held in Catania, Sicily, was delayed by a protest, against a race which is “stained with the blood of Palestinians”, in the words of activist, Simone Di Stefano.

Renzo Ulivieri, the head of the Italian Football Managers Association, was one of prominent Italian voices that objected to the decision to hold the race in Israel. “I could have remained indifferent, but I fear I would have been despised by the people I respect. Viva the Palestinian people, free in their land,” he wrote in Facebook post.

The RCS Sport has done the ‘Giro’ race, sport cycling and the Italian people an unforgivable disservice for the sake of a few million dollars. By agreeing to start the race in a country that is guilty of apartheid practices and a protracted military occupation, they will stain the race forever.

However, the general wave of indignation caused by this reckless decision seems to indicate that Israel’s efforts at normalizing its crimes against Palestinians are failing to alter public opinion and perception of Israel as an occupying power – that deserves to be boycotted, not embraced.

• Romana Rubeo, an Italian writer, contributed to this article.

My Home is Beit Daras: Our Lingering Nakba

When Google Earth was initially released in 2001, I immediately rushed to locate a village that no longer exists on a map, which now delineates a whole different reality.

Although I was born and raised in a Gaza refugee camp, and then moved to and lived in the United States, finding a village that was erased from the map decades earlier was not, at least for me, an irrational act. The village of Beit Daras was the single most important piece of earth that truly mattered to me.

But I could only find it by estimation. Beit Daras was located 32-kilometers northeast of Gaza, on an elevated ground, perched gently between a large hill and a small river that seemed to never run dry.

A once peaceful village, Beit Daras had existed for millennia. Romans, Crusaders, Mamluks and Ottomans ruled over and, even tried to subdue Beit Daras as in all of Palestine; yet they failed. True, each invader left their mark – ancient Roman tunnels, a Crusaders’ castle, a Mamluk mail building, an Ottoman khan (Caravanserai) – but they were all eventually driven out. It wasn’t until 1948 that Beit Daras, that tenacious village with a population of merely 3,000 was emptied from its population, and later destroyed.

The agony of the inhabitants of Beit Daras and their descendants lingers on after all of these years. The tragic way that Beit Daras was conquered by invading Zionist forces has left behind blood stains and emotional scars that have never healed.

Three battles were bravely fought by the Badrasawis, as the dwellers of Beit Daras are called, in defense of their village. At the end, the Zionist militias, the Haganah, with the help of British weapons and strategic assistance, routed out the humble resistance, which consisted mostly of villagers fighting with old rifles.

The ‘massacre of Beit Daras’ that followed remains a subdued scream that pierces through the hearts of Badrasawis after all of these years. Those who survived became refugees and are mostly living in the Gaza Strip. Under siege, successive wars and endless strife, their Nakba – the catastrophic ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1947-48 – has never truly ended. One cannot dispel the pain if the wound never truly heals.

Born into a family of refugees in the Nuseirat Refugee Camp in Gaza, I took pride in being a Badrasawi. Our resistance has garnered us the reputation of being ‘stubborn’ and the uncorroborated claims of having large heads. We truly are stubborn, proud and generous, for Beit Daras was erased but the collective identity it has given us remained intact, regardless of whichever exile we may find ourselves.

As I child, I learned to be proud from my grandfather: A handsome, elegant, strong peasant with unshakable faith. He managed to hide his deep sadness so well after he was expelled from his home in Palestine, along with his entire family. As he aged, he would sit for hours, between prayers, searching within his soul for the beautiful memories of his past. Occasionally, he would let out a mournful sigh, a few tears; yet he never accepted his defeat, or the idea that Beit Daras was forever gone.

“Why bother to haul the good blankets on the back of a donkey, exposing them to the dust of the journey, while we know that it’s a matter of a week or so before we return to Beit Daras?” he told his bewildered wife, Zeinab as they hauled their children to navigate an endless exile.

I cannot pinpoint the moment when my grandfather discovered that his “good blankets” were gone forever, that all that remained of his village were two giant concrete pillars, and piles of cactus.

It isn’t easy to construct a history that, only several decades ago, was, along with every standing building of that village, blown to smithereens with the very intent of erasing it from existence. Most historic references written of Beit Daras, whether by Israeli or Palestinian historians, were brief, and ultimately resulted in delineating the fall of Beit Daras as just one among nearly 600 Palestinian villages that were often evacuated and then completely flattened during the war years. It was another episode in a more compounded tragedy that has seen the dispossession and expulsion of nearly 800,000 Palestinians.

But for my family, it was much more than that. Beit Daras was our very dignity. Grandpas’ calloused hands and leathery weathered skin attested to the decades of hard labor tending the rocky soil in the fields of Palestine. It was a popular pastime for my brothers and I to point to a scar on his body to hear a gut-busting tale of the rigors of farm-life.

Later in life, someone would give him a small hand-held radio to glean the latest news and he would, from that moment, never be seen without it. As a child, I recall him listening to the Arab Voice news on that battered radio. It once had been blue but now had faded to white with age. Its bulging batteries were duct-taped to the back. Sitting with the radio up to his ear and fighting to hear the reporter amidst the static, grandpa listened and waited for the announcer to make that long-awaiting call: “To the people of Beit Daras: your lands have been liberated, go back to your village.”

The day grandpa died, his faithful radio was lying on the pillow close to his ear so that even then he might catch the announcement for which he had waited for so long. He wanted to comprehend his dispossession as a simple glitch in the world’s consciousness that was sure to be corrected and straightened out in time.

But it didn’t. 70 years later, my people are still refugees. Not just the Badrasawis, but millions of Palestinians, scattered in refugee camps all across the Middle East. Those refugees, while still searching for a safe path that would take them home, often find themselves on yet another journey, another dusty trail, being pushed out time and again from one city to the next, from one country to another, even lost between continents.

My grandfather was buried in the Nuseirat Refugee Camp cemetery, not in Beit Daras as he had wished. But he remained a Badrasawi to the end, holding so passionately onto the memories of a place that for him – for all of us – remain sacred and real.

What Israel still fails to understand that the ‘Right of Return’ for Palestinian refugees is not merely a political or even a legal right to be overpowered by the ever-unfair status quo. It has longed surpassed that into a whole different realm. For me, Beit Daras is not just a piece of earth but a perpetual fight for justice that shall never cease, because the Badrasawis belong to Beit Daras and nowhere else.

High Alert For Palestinian Slaughter and Conflict With Iran

Above: Protest against US war in the Middle East in Los Angeles from DreamsTime.com.

There will be a confluence of trigger events this week that could lead to an escalation of conflict. At the same time that the US has reneged on the nuclear agreement and Israeli missiles are attacking Iranians in Syria, the US embassy will be moved to Jerusalem and Palestinians will protest the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, capping six weeks of actions.

Palestinians protest move of US Embassy by burning U.S. and Israeli flags in Gaza City. Mahmud Hams for AFP and Getty Images.

United States moves embassy to controversial site

On Monday, May 14, the United States will move its embassy to Jerusalem, even though the new US embassy is not yet built. Jerusalem is considered by both Israelis and Palestinians as their capital. This action is part of a 100-year history of Zionist colonization of Jerusalem.

When the announcement of the move was made, there was widespread anger. In Gaza, protesters took to the streets bearing Palestinian flags and denouncing the decision. Students held demonstrations in the West Bank. Bernard Smith of Al-Jazeera reported from Gaza, “People here compared the protests to a small ball of fire that would roll and turn into a much larger ball later on.” The decision unified Palestinians, putting aside their divisions to focus on Trump and Israel.

Arab governments issued statements of condemnation and emergency meetings of both the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation were held while the UN voted 128-9 to reject the Trump administration’s decision and approve a resolution urging countries to not move their embassies to Jerusalem. Reuters reported that Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, Imam of Egypt’s al-Azhar mosque, one of Islam’s most important institutions, said the decision incites “anger among all Muslims and threatens world peace.” Sheikh added, “The gates of hell will be opened in the West before the East.” Hamas leader Ismail Haniya described it as a “flagrant aggression…that will know no limit to the Palestinian, Arab and Muslim reaction.”

Thousands of people rallied in Turkey and Jordan on Friday to protest against the decision to move the US embassy. Tens of thousands of Muslims  gathered in Jakarta, Indonesia on Friday to protest the United States. Israelis in Jerusalem are also protesting the move.

The Jerusalem Post reported that Palestinians have called for a day of rage and that mass protests are being mobilized for the opening of the US embassy. Choosing to move on the day before the Nakba is a provocation by Israel and the United States.

Israeli Soldiers shoot tear gas at Palestinians in Gaza participating in the “March of Return” (Amir Cohen/Reuters)

Israel is illegitimate

The Great March of Return held its seventh Friday of protests last week. At least 49 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli snipers since the protest began on March 30, and 8,500 have been wounded (see e.g. 9 killed 780 wounded and violence continues 16 killed 1,500 wounded). The protests will culminate May 15 on the Nakba, or Catastrophe when Palestinians memorialize being forced from their homes, their villages being destroyed, hundreds of thousands becoming refugees and scores being killed during the founding of Israel 70 years ago. Land theft and ethnic cleansing have continued, often legalized by property law. Palestinian protesters are demanding the right to return to their homes and marching after decades of Israeli violence and injustice. They proclaim they will not wait another 70 years.

The reality is clear, as Miko Peled, whose grandfather signed the Declaration of Independence of Israel 70 years ago and whose father was an Israeli general, says — that Israel has no legitimacy. Peled emphasizes that people in the US have a responsibility to take action to end the occupation of Palestine and outlines ways to do so, including an aggressive BDS campaign. Peled says “Israel” is an illegitimate state and “the area should be called Palestine.”

Peled is correct to focus on the responsibility of the people of the United States. No other country has been more supportive of Israel. The US gave “more than 250 billion dollars in direct government aid to Israel, [and] the USA has used its veto more than 70 times in the Security Council to prevent passage of resolutions condemning Israeli policies.” Alexander Haig, the former Secretary of State who served as chief of staff to Presidents Nixon and Ford and was a four-star general who served as the supreme commander of NATO, told the truth, saying, “Israel is the largest American aircraft carrier in the world that cannot be sunk, does not carry even one American soldier, and is located in a critical region for American national security.”

Protests against Israel and AIPAC, the DC-based Israeli lobby, consistently occur in the US, even though the media hides the truth about the Israeli lobby. Even YouTube censors information about Israel but people still see the reality of Israeli violence. Israel works to inject pro-Israel propaganda in the media while US universities censor speech about Palestinian justice. The massacre of nonviolent Palestinians is leading to calls for an arms embargo against Israel, a BDS that includes a military embargo.

The combination of current events reveal the true costs of the creation of Israel. Israel is a fortress-like apartheid state that practices ethnic cleansing and whose government applauds snipers using Palestinians as targets. Some of its citizens watch the slaughter and cheer the death of Palestinians. Israel has created a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza with a decade-long embargo with intermittent mass destructive bombings. Even people of Jewish faith who criticize the barbarism of Israel are characterized as traitors and threatened by the government.

Press TV reports the Israeli military will be doubling the number of forces around the Gaza Strip and in occupied West Bank territories ahead of the controversial opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are expected to hold massive protests along the Gaza fence.

Widespread attacks on Palestinians are expected. In preparation for the massacre, people are urged to donate to help the wounded in Palestine.

May 9, 2018 from Syrian news agency SANA, flames rising after an attack by Israel in Syria in Kisweh, south of Damascus, Syria

Israel is provoking Iran in Syria

On May 4, military and intelligence analyst, the Saker, described how Israel was attacking Iranian bases in Syria in an attempt to get Iran to respond and pull the United States into a war with Iran.

On May 10, Voice of America reported that Israel launched an assault on more than 50 Iranian targets in Syria. Israel hit weapons depots, logistics sites and intelligence centers used by Iranian forces, many near Damascus.

In between these reports, Israel claimed that Iran fired rockets into the Golan Heights (Israeli occupied territory, part of Syria). Iran described the Israeli claims as “fabricated” and “baseless.” Holly Dagres, an Iran analyst for the Iranist questions why Iran would conduct such an attack “right after Trump’s decision and while Tehran is looking for European support to stay in the [nuclear deal]?” Other analysts also doubt the Israeli claim, and Iran says Syria fired into the Golan Heights, quoting a Syrian official. Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah describes Syria responding to multiple Israeli attacks in Syria to set new rules of engagement and plans to retake the Golan Heights from Israeli occupation.

Dr. Roham Alvandi, a professor at the London School of Economics suggests this is the United States and Israel “working hand in glove to escalate the military confrontation.” He adds, they seek to “provoke the Iranian leadership into taking action that will isolate and ultimately weaken the Islamic Republic.”

Israel is concerned about Iranian soldiers amassing in Syria close to its border. As Peled reports, the Israeli media and political leadership are banging the drums for Israel’s own war with Syria and Iran.

The Independent describes the situation as “bringing two of the region’s major powers closer to the brink of direct confrontation than ever before.” While Russia and European countries urged de-escalation, the United States repeated their refrain, “Israel’s right to act in self-defense.”

Protest in support of nuclear deal and for peace with Iran. Source CODE PINK.

US withdraws without cause from the Iran Agreement

All of this comes when Trump has decided to renege on The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the nuclear agreement between France, Britain, Germany, Russia, China, the United States and Iran. In a belligerent speech filled with lies, Trump provided no evidence that Iran had violated the agreement and leaders of France, Britain, Germany, Russia, and China tried to convince the US to live up to the agreement.

Israel urged Trump to leave the agreement, presenting an intelligence dossier that claimed Iran had violated it. However, the dossier contained information weapons inspectors had already found to be false. Netanyahu made a big public relations presentation to urge Trump to get out of the agreement. Telesur summarizes the reaction, writing, “After Netanyahu’s speech the International Atomic Energy Agency said it has ‘no credible’ evidence Iran was developing nuclear arms since 2009.”

US activists published an open letter apologizing to Iran. The letter described Trump’s decision as “reckless, baseless, and dangerous” and expressed that we are “ashamed that our government has broken a deal that was working.” The signers promised, “We will do everything in our power to stop Donald Trump from strangling your economy and taking us to war with you.” People in Iran took to the streets to protest the US’ decision.

The decision is part of the long history of the US trying to dominate Iran going back to the 1953 coup, continuing in recent years, during which the US has spent tens of millions of dollars annually to build opposition inside Iran, and to the US’ involvement in recent protests. Activities today are consistent with a 2009 Brookings Institution report, Which Path To Persia? Options For A New American Strategy For Iran,” which put forward various paths to regime change, including Israel taking the lead and the US and Israel falsely claiming that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons.

Richard Johnson, a top US nuclear expert, handed in his resignation after Trump’s unilateral withdrawal. And the chief inspector of the UN nuclear agency stepped down unexpectedly, a few days after the US withdrew from the nuclear agreement.

The decision may hurt the United States in many ways. The sanctions Trump will reintroduce do not just limit U.S. dealings with Iran, but will also penalize other countries, causing a riff with US allies. John Bolton threatened to enforce the sanctions against European corporations and countries, while Europe punched back supporting the Iran agreement and planning legislation to protect European companies. Iran is entering agreements with Russia and China, who are its protectors. Iran will seek to build its relationship with European and Latin American countries as well. The US may be left out, its credibility damaged. Given the failure of US military power in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria, traditional allies recognize the limitations of the US as a super power.

2007 anti-war protest. Photo: Thiago Santos/cc/flickr.

There are many reasons a war with Iran would be a disaster for the US and Israel. Moon of Albama describes that the Bush administration considered it but war games ended badly for the US. This remains true. So, if the US is rational, war can be averted.

No war on Iran

While escalation makes no sense, the leaders of Israel and the US may see a political benefit.  Prime Minister Netanyahu is facing charges of corruption.  Prosecutors recently questioned him and his wife for five hours at the same time but at different locations, both as suspects. Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, had his home and office searched and documents and tapes were seized by prosecutors. Trump’s legal team is a mess. Rudy Guiliani recently resigned from his law firm after making counterproductive comments in the media. Israeli and US leaders may seek to change the subject and play to their conservative political base; a military conflict could aid both.

The 2018 election, which currently looks like a potential Democratic sweep, is also a factor. Sheldon Adelson, a top donor to Trump and Republicans in 2016 who gave $83 million to the campaigns and $5 million to Trump’s inauguration, pushed for moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, even offering to finance the move, and for quitting the Iran nuclear pact. Adelson also urges a US nuclear attack on Iran.

The day after Trump left the pact, Adelson had lunch with him in the White House. Not long after, Paul Ryan went with former senator, Norm Coleman, who chairs the Republican Jewish Committee, and others from a Republican PAC, to meet Adelson and his wife at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas. They urged support for keeping Republican control of the House. Ryan left the room (since he is not legally allowed to ask for seven-figure donations) and Coleman made the ask, with the Adelsons donating $30 million to the Congressional Leadership Fund, doubling their cash on hand. Adelson’s company recorded a $670 million income tax windfall from the GOP tax law in the first quarter.

The forces are aligning right now in a disastrous way. We must not allow the administration to lie us into another prolonged and costly war. We must oppose the slaughter of more Palestinians. We must be clear that we do not support war and that we do support the rights of Palestinians. Protests are being planned across the US. Join them or organize your own. And spread the truth to your neighbors and your community. You can also support the 2018 Freedom Flotilla, which has left Norway, to bring supplies to Gaza.

Western Leaders Betrayed Palestinians 70 Years Ago; there is no sign that’s about to change

On Tuesday, Palestinians will commemorate the anniversary of the Nakba, or catastrophe, their mass expulsion and dispossession 70 years ago as the new state of Israel was built on the ruins of their homeland. As a result, most Palestinians were turned into refugees, denied by Israel the right to return to their homes.

Israel is braced nervously for many tens of thousands to turn out in the occupied territories this week to protest against decades of its refusal to make amends or end its oppressive rule.

The move on Monday of the US embassy to Jerusalem, a city under belligerent occupation, has only inflamed Palestinian grievances – and a sense that the West is still conspiring in their dispossession.

The expected focus of the protests is Gaza, where unarmed Palestinians have been massing every Friday since late March at the perimeter fence that encages two million of them.

For their troubles, they have faced a hail of live ammunition, rubber bullets and clouds of tear gas. Dozens have been killed and many hundreds more maimed, including children.

But for more than a month, Israel has been working to manage western perceptions of the protests in ways designed to discredit the outpouring of anger from Palestinians. In a message all too readily accepted by some western audiences, Israel has presented the protests as a “security threat”.

Israeli officials have even argued before the country’s high court that the protesters lack any rights – that army snipers are entitled to shoot them, even if facing no danger – because Israel is supposedly in a “state of war” with Gaza, defending itself.

Many Americans and Europeans, worried about an influx of “economic migrants” flooding into their own countries, readily sympathise with Israel’s concerns – and its actions.

Until now, the vast majority of Gaza’s protesters have been peaceful and made no attempt to break through the fence.

But Israel claims that Hamas will exploit this week’s protests in Gaza to encourage Palestinians to storm the fence. The implication is that the protesters will be crossing a “border” and “entering” Israel illegally.

The truth is rather different. There is no border because there is no Palestinian state. Israel has made sure of that. Palestinians live under occupation, with Israel controlling every aspect of their lives. In Gaza, even the air and sea are Israel’s domain.

Meanwhile, the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their former lands – now in Israel – is recognised in international law.

Nonetheless, Israel has been crafting a dishonest counter-narrative ever since the Nakba, myths that historians scouring the archives have slowly exploded.

One claim – that Arab leaders told the 750,000 Palestinian refugees to flee in 1948 – was, in fact, invented by Israel’s founding father, David Ben Gurion. He hoped it would deflect US pressure on Israel to honour its obligations to allow the refugees back.

Even had the refugees chosen to leave during the heat of battle, rather than wait to be expelled, it would not have justified denying them a right to return when the fighting finished. It was that refusal that transformed flight into ethnic cleansing.

In another myth unsupported by the records, Ben Gurion is said to have appealed to the refugees to come back.

In truth, Israel defined Palestinians who tried to return to their lands as “infiltrators”. That entitled Israeli security officials to shoot them on sight – in what was effectively execution as a deterrence policy.

Nothing much has changed seven decades on. A majority of Gaza’s population today are descended from refugees driven into the enclave in 1948. They have been penned up like cattle ever since. That is why the Palestinians’ current protests take place under the banner of the March of Return.

For decades, Israel has not only denied Palestinians the prospect of a minimal state. It has carved Palestinian territories into a series of ghettos – and in the case of Gaza, blockaded it for 12 years, choking it into a humanitarian catastrophe.

Despite this, Israel wants the world to view Gaza as an embryonic Palestinian state, supposedly liberated from occupation in 2005 when it pulled out several thousand Jewish settlers.

Again, this narrative has been crafted only to deceive. Hamas has never been allowed to rule Gaza, any more than Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority governs the West Bank.

But echoing the events of the Nakba, Israel has cast the protesters as “infiltrators”, a narrative that has left most observers strangely indifferent to the fate of Palestinian youth demonstrating for their freedom.

Once again, these executions, supposedly carried out by the Israeli army in self-defence, are intended to dissuade Palestinians from demanding their rights.

Israel is not defending its borders but the walls of cages it has built to safeguard the continuing theft of Palestinian land and preserve Jewish privilege.

In the West Bank, the prison contracts by the day as Jewish settlers and the Israeli army steal more land. In Gaza’s case, the prison cannot be shrunk any smaller.

For many years, world heads of state have castigated Palestinians for using violence and lambasted Hamas for firing rockets out of Gaza.

But now that young Palestinians prefer to take up mass civil disobedience, their plight is barely attracting attention, let alone sympathy. Instead, they are criticised for “breaching the border” and threatening Israel’s security.

The only legitimate struggle for Palestinians, it seems, is keeping quiet, allowing their lands to be plundered and their children to be starved.

Western leaders and the public betrayed the Palestinians in 1948. There is no sign, 70 years on, that the West is about to change its ways.

• First published in the National Abu Dhabi

The Israeli Government Role in Promoting Islamophobia Internationally

Much of the study of Islamophobia is directed at the social and political causes and manifestations, including religious and political dimensions and racist characteristics.  However, Islamophobia is also used as a strategic tool or weapon; i.e., in pursuit of national agenda.

Many of us are familiar with Islamophobic movements within the Buddhist majority in Myanmar (against the Rohingya minority), and within Hindu nationalist parties in India. It is important to note, however, that it is characteristic of these movements that they direct their Islamophobia against particular groups of Muslims within their own societies, and are less concerned with creating an international movement against Islam.

This is what makes the case of Israel unique.  Although Israel, like Myanmar and India, seeks to marginalize and ultimately eliminate a specific population of Muslims – in this case the mostly Muslim Palestinians – part of its strategy for doing so includes encouraging and fostering Islamophobia internationally.  Thus, for example, Israel has successfully pursued strong military and diplomatic ties with the governments of Myanmar and India, and especially the Islamophobic movements within those countries.

It is clear, therefore, that Islamophobia within Israel is not only a matter of organized bigotry and social hatred, which one finds in other societies, but also of instrumentalizing or weaponizing Islamophobia as a strategic tool to legitimize and justify the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in the territories under Israel’s control, as well as to support Israeli aggression towards other mostly Muslim countries in the region. Promoting and fostering Islamophobia internationally helps to increase and solidify international support for the Zionist genocidal project.  It is therefore treated as an important tool of Israeli and Zionist international influence.

My attention was first brought to this fact in casual but unusual circumstances. In early 1993 my family and I were on vacation at a Club Med in France where there were also Israeli intelligence officers and their families.  I got into a discussion with one in particular, who said that with the fall of the Soviet Union, Islam would replace communism as the new enemy.  It sounded a bit far-fetched, but in retrospect he knew what he was talking about, and more important, he was in a position to help make it happen, which of course it did.

The groundwork was laid much earlier.  As Deepa Kumar at Rutgers University reports, the effort to tie Islam to terrorism started at a Zionist funded neoconservative conference on international terrorism in 1979. Then, after a second such conference in 1984, “both US neocons and Zionists worked together to convince Western policy makers that ‘Islamic terrorism’ would replace communism as the West’s next great threat. By tying Islam to terrorism, neocons would gain political cover for their imperialistic ambitions in the Middle East, and Zionists would benefit from garnering Western sympathies for their struggle against Palestinian ‘terrorism.’”

Since then, researchers like Sarah Marusek, David Miller and others have cataloged international Zionist networks that sponsor Islamophobic propaganda and policies.  The work of Pamela Geller and the so-called American Freedom Defense Initiative is one of the well-known examples.  Geller’s anti-Islam billboards and bus advertisements are familiar to many, as well her so-called “Muhammed Art Exhibit and Contest” in Garland, Texas in 2015, resulting in the police killing of two armed men.

Geller is hardly alone, however.  According to the Center for American Progress, the US has six major organizations that manipulate Islamophobia in order to further US support for Israel. These are the Center for Security Policy, the Society of Americans for National Existence, the Middle East Forum, Jihad Watch, Stop Islamization of America, and the Investigative Project on Terrorism.  Sarah Marusek includes even more groups in her paper entitled “The Transatlantic Network: Funding Islamophobia and Israeli Settlements”, published in the anthology, What is Islamophobia?

These organizations constitute a network, as Marusek says, but the complete network is much wider and more diverse than the assets concerned with promoting Islamophobia.  They are known as the sayanim, the Hebrew word for helpers or assistants, and are composed of Zionists who have achieved important and useful positions in societies from which they can exercise powerful initiatives, especially when they operate in concert. Thus, for example, friendly journalists can work with lobbyists and others to quickly and massively spread influence, information, analysis and disinformation that are useful to Israel.

Such initiatives require coordination, intelligence, strategic planning, covert action, technical assistance, and other expertise.  For many years, the sayanim were coordinated by the Mossad. However, following a 2010 report from the influential Reut Institute (a prestigious strategic think tank in Israel), organizational changes were made that moved such responsibility to the Ministry of International Relations, Intelligence and Strategic Affairs – better known as the Ministry of Strategic Affairs.  The report also notes that there are as many as 4000 sayanim in each of the major centers of power and influence, such as London and New York. A concentration of sayanim in important sectors of society that inform the public, such as film, entertainment, journalism, education and social media permits them to help shape public opinion.

In line with Reut Institute recommendations, the Strategic Affairs Ministry has grown in size and secrecy over the last decade.  Reut projected that Israel’s main strategic threat would no longer be to its military security but rather to its image and influence in other countries, especially the US and Europe.  According to this view, BDS was to be regarded as a serious threat, as well as the human rights NGOs, Palestine solidarity groups and the critical alternative press.  The Ministry of Strategic Affairs was therefore selected to coordinate a major new effort to combat this perceived threat.

The Strategic Affairs Ministry has informally been called the Hasbara Ministry, using the Hebrew word for explanation or propaganda. It certainly is that, but also much more.  The reorganization of the Strategic Affairs Ministry can be compared in scope to that of the Homeland Security Department.  A lot of security and intelligence functions were transferred from or shared with Mossad.  The Ministry became responsible for propaganda, influence and manipulation in other countries.  Coordination of the sayanim became part of its purview, as did thousands of students who were paid or received scholarships in return for haunting social media and the comments sections of websites.  The purpose was to dominate the media, insofar as possible, in countries vital to Israel’s plans and intentions, and to sway public opinion toward outcomes determined by Israel’s strategic goals.

Many readers are familiar with the “Brand Israel” campaign. Its function, suggested by the Reut Institute, is to mold Israel’s image in the media of the US and other countries.  Its tactics are PR on steroids, such as, for example, slipping subliminal questions into the Jeopardy quiz program and idyllic holy land vacations into Wheel of Fortune, but permeating nearly everything we see, hear and read in film, entertainment, journalism, education and social media for the purpose of molding public opinion.  With enough effort of this kind, we will presumably think of Israel as Disneyland.

Another example is Facebook and the personal collaboration between Mark Zuckerberg and Benjamin Netanyahu. After a meeting with Netanyahu, Zuckerberg hired a former employee at the Israeli embassy in Washington to be in charge of censoring so-called “fake news” on Facebook.  Only Facebook has the actual figures of who gets censored, but anecdotal evidence seems to indicate that a lot more anti-Zionists than Zionists are affected.  Similarly, Islamophobic postings and Tweets seem to be at least somewhat resistant to censorship compared to ones that are labeled anti-Semitic (which are often merely critical of Israel).

But it’s not just about making Israel look like the good guys. Demonizing and dehumanizing Muslims also helps to justify Israel’s genocide of the Palestinians, as well as its belligerent policies toward its mainly Muslim neighboring countries. A successful program of Islamophobia helps to support Israel’s pogroms of Palestinians in Gaza, its settlements in and economic strangulation of the West Bank, its invasions of Lebanon, its attacks against Syria, and its promotion of US wars against Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Libya and Syria.  Making the US military a proxy for Israel greatly multiplies Israel’s capability, which is why Israel and its US lobby are working hard to create a new international war against Iran.

In order to provide the Strategic Affairs Ministry with all possible means of making such operations possible and successful, it has been assigned some important intelligence functions, including black ops and psy-ops capabilities, which used to be the exclusive purview of the Mossad.  This gives the ministry greater capability to engage in digging up or inventing dirt about people it wants to harm or discredit, especially in the BDS movement and other pro-Palestinian groups.

The hand of the Strategic Affairs Ministry is not always obvious, and it takes care to shun the light.  But occasionally its actions become known, as with the Aljazeera exposé of Israeli operative Shai Masot, working from the Israeli embassy in London and coordinating the actions of British citizens working with Israel. He coached them on how to demonize and “take down” members of parliament, including the Foreign Office Minister, Alan Duncan, who was considered insufficiently supportive of the effort to suppress BDS.

Al Jazeera has produced a similar exposé on the workings of Israel and its US lobby, but the release has been indefinitely delayed, which may be an indication of Israel’s power and influence and the effectiveness of the operations coordinated by the Strategic Affairs Ministry.  Nevertheless, a glimpse of such operations can be seen in the 2004 espionage indictments against AIPAC lobbyists Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman.  The indictments were ultimately dropped, partly because sensitive information would have to be revealed in order to successfully prosecute the cases (or perhaps that was just the excuse used to cover the fact that Tel Aviv gets to decide who gets prosecuted, not Washington).

France can be considered an extreme case.  People have been arrested there for wearing a Free Palestine T-shirt.  PayPal and several large banks in France recently closed the accounts of all organizations that support BDS, which has been ruled anti-Semitic.  Anti-Semitism is broadly defined, as you can see, and it is illegal in France.  You can be fined or jailed for practicing it.

But not for Islamophobia.  Islamophobia is free speech but anti-Semitism is racism. In fact, the French equivalent of AIPAC, known as CRIF, has publically declared that “Islamophobia is not a form of racism.  We have long drawn attention to the danger of conflating Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.  To do so would impede all criticism of Islam, such that the fundamental rights of [other] religions could not be respected. The CRIF will therefore block all resolutions against Islamophobia”.

The writings of Jacob Cohen are instructive in this regard. He has published a remarkable and very comprehensive exposé on the promotion of Islamophobia in France, including the actions of Israeli operatives and French Zionist organizations.  But there’s a catch.  In order to publish it in France without being arrested or sued, he has to disguise it as very thinly veiled fiction, in this case O.P.A. Kabbalistique sur les Nouveaux Indigènes. It is available only in French, but even in that language you have to know the persons and groups to which he refers with pseudonyms, and few outsiders know the French scene well enough to recognize more than a handful of them.

So what can we conclude from all this information about the involvement of Israel and the Zionist movement in sponsoring Islamophobia?  The point is that some sources of Islamophobia are not attitudes or social structures. We have to face the fact that there is a very potent, resourceful, well organized and well funded international movement that sees Islamophobia as a strategic tool in pursuit of its national interest. For this reason, it is largely impervious to education or negotiation or legal considerations.

In fact, Israel is also pursuing an apparently contradictory effort to encourage interfaith cooperation between Jews, Muslims and Christians, but with the same goal in mind.  That goal is to blunt criticism of Israel, whether by getting people to hate Muslims and thereby endorse Israel’s belligerence and ethnic cleansing, or by pressuring Muslims not to criticize Israel out of concern for potentially offending their Jewish brothers and sisters.  Since the two strategies are aimed at different populations, I suppose that they might be able to work simultaneously.  This is often how PR campaigns work.

The point is that in all the efforts at fostering tolerance and understanding we are faced with an adversary that is working quite diligently in the opposite direction for reasons that have nothing to do with how they view Islam as a religion or Muslims.  This is therefore a different type of challenge in trying to overcome Islamophobia.

• This article is a revised version of a paper read at the 9th Annual Islamophobia Conference in Berkeley, California, April 29, 2018.

Defining Israel as a “Jewish State”

Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians are also being criticized by prominent Israeli politicians. The below comments are from the President of Israel, Reuven Rivlin, on systemic racism in Israeli society and published in The Times of Israel.1

Israel’s president fills a largely ceremonial role — meeting with foreign dignitaries, representing the government at state funerals and other official gatherings. But the office’s new occupant has embraced a challenge not inherent to the job: curbing what he sees as an epidemic of anti-Arab racism.

“Israeli society is sick, and it is our duty to treat this disease,” Reuven Rivlin, 75, told a group of Israeli academics this week.2

Here is another comment from the award winning Israeli journalist Gideon Levy.

Now Israel is discovering that it’s no longer the center of attention as it always was before, and that the fate of its kidnapping victims no longer stops the world in its tracks, not even in the United States. The world is sick of Israel and its insanities. Unfortunately, the world has also lost interest in what happens here. When Israel was a more just country, the world identified with its victims. It continued to do so even when Israel became less just. But now, when Israeli rejectionism is hitting new heights and its oppression of the Palestinians is returning to what it was during the very worst periods, the world has started getting tired of it all…3

President Rivlin is not the only senior Israeli politician that has spoken out about racism against Arabs in Israel. In 2008 Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is quoted in the largest circulation newspaper in Israel, at the time, as follows:

The prime minister said that over the years the State maintained a policy of discrimination, thereby creating a vicious cycle. On the one hand, the Arab community was unable to create management mechanisms, while on the other hand, Israeli governments deprived Arabs of rights that could help them improve their quality of life, he said.
 
“I feel great discomfort over the fact that the State conducted itself improperly for many years, and should have made a fundamental change,” he said. “We have not yet overcome the obstacle of discrimination. This is deliberate discrimination, and the gap is intolerable. There is no arguing that some government ministries did not hire Arabs for years.”4

There is lots of other evidence about racism and discriminatory views towards Muslims and Palestinians in Israel.5

The Palestinian Arabs also complain about laws in the “Jewish State” that discriminate against non-Jews. There is a Palestinian human rights organization called Adalah which documents Israel laws which are discriminatory. The following quote is taken from their website.

Adalah’s Discriminatory Laws Database (DLD) is an online resource comprising a list of over 65 Israeli laws that discriminate directly or indirectly against Palestinian citizens in Israel and/or Palestinian residents of the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) on the basis of their national belonging. The discrimination in these laws is either explicit – “discrimination on its face” – or, more often, the laws are worded in a seemingly neutral manner, but have or will likely have a disparate impact on Palestinians in their implementation.

These laws limit the rights of Palestinians in all areas of life, from citizenship rights to the right to political participation, land and housing rights, education rights, cultural and language rights, religious rights, and due process rights during detention. Some of the laws also discriminate against other groups such as gays, non-religious Jews, and Palestinian refuge

Here is one article written by a prominent Israeli academic on the rise of fascism in Israel.

Like every ideology, the Nazi race theory developed over the years. At first it only deprived Jews of their civil and human rights. It’s possible that without World War II the “Jewish problem” would have ended only with the “voluntary” expulsion of Jews from Reich lands. After all, most of Austria and Germany’s Jews made it out in time. It’s possible that this is the future facing Palestinians.

Indeed, Smotrich and Zohar [two members of the Israeli Knessetviii] don’t wish to physically harm Palestinians, on condition that they don’t rise against their Jewish masters. They only wish to deprive them of their basic human rights, such as self-rule in their own state and freedom from oppression, or equal rights in case the territories are officially annexed to Israel. For these two representatives of the Knesset majority, the Palestinians are doomed to remain under occupation forever. It’s likely that the Likud’s Central Committee also thinks this way. The reasoning is simple: The Arabs aren’t Jews, so they cannot demand ownership over any part of the land that was promised to the Jewish people.

According to the concepts of Smotrich, Zohar and Shaked, a Jew from Brooklyn who has never set foot in this country is the legitimate owner of this land, while a Palestinian whose family has lived here for generations is a stranger, living here only by the grace of the Jews. “A Palestinian,” Zohar tells Hecht, “has no right to national self-determination since he doesn’t own the land in this country. Out of decency I want him here as a resident, since he was born here and lives here – I won’t tell him to leave. I’m sorry to say this but they have one major disadvantage – they weren’t born as Jews.”

From this one may assume that even if they all converted, grew side-curls and studied Torah, it would not help. This is the situation with regard to Sudanese and Eritrean asylum seekers and their children, who are Israeli for all intents and purposes. This is how it was with the Nazis. Later comes apartheid, which could apply under certain circumstances to Arabs who are citizens of Israel. Most Israelis don’t seem worried.6

Henry Siegman published a long article in the National Interest on the subject of Zionism and on US President Trump’s decision to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem.7 It is important because he is a prominent Jewish leader and a Holocaust survivor now in his late 80s. He was a Zionist leader and former head of the World Jewish Congress and is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Siegman endorsed the struggle for equal rights for the Palestinians and the end of Zionism. He says it is the right choice, for their struggle for a state of their own is one Palestinians cannot win, while a struggle to maintain an apartheid regime is one Israel cannot win. He sheds no tears for Zionism and issues a warning to American Jews to abandon Zionism. Siegman wrote:

If after what undoubtedly would be a long and bitter anti-apartheid struggle Palestinians prevail, they will be in the clear majority. Having established the principle that the majority can impose on the minority the religious and cultural identity of the State, Israel will not be in a strong position to deny Palestinians that same right. That will lead in time to a significant exodus of Israel’s Jews.

If Palestinians do not prevail, then the undeniable apartheid character of the state and the cost of the ongoing struggle will lead to the same result—an exodus of Israel’s Jews over time, creating an even greater demographic imbalance between the country’s Jewish and Arab populations. Palestinians will not leave because they will have nowhere to go.

The outcome is therefore likely to be the end of Israel as a Jewish state. If so, it will be an outcome brought about not by BDS movements but by Israelis themselves, not only because of their rejection of the two-state solution, but because of their insistence on defining Israel’s national identity and territorial claims in religious terms. A state that fast-tracks citizenship through government-sponsored religious conversion to Judaism, as Israel’s government now does, cannot for long hide that it privileges its Jewish citizens—just as the United States could not have claimed to be a democracy if conversion to Christianity were a path to U.S. citizenship.8

On the issue of differential treatment for non-Jews in the “Jewish State” the Israeli Minister of Justice Aydet Shaked made the following statement in a speech to the Congress on Judaism and Democracy, The following is quoted from an article published in the Israeli daily Haaretz.

Shaked said, “I think that ‘Judaizing the Galilee’ is not an offensive term. We used to talk like that. In recent years we’ve stopped talking like that. I think it’s legitimate without violating the full rights of the Arab residents of Israel.”

The justice minister made the remarks in a wide-ranging speech on the controversy over the Jewish nation-state bill.

She further said, “There is place to maintain a Jewish majority even at the price of violation of rights.” She added, however, that maintaining a Jewish majority in Israel and acting democratically “must be parallel and one must not outweigh the other.”

Regarding the nation-state bill, Shaked said, “I was disturbed at both the position of the state and the reasoning of the justices. The state did not defend the law for national demographic reasons, it claimed only security reasons.” Shaked told the conference that “the state should say that there is place to maintain the Jewish majority even if it violates rights.”

Shaked said she believed Judaism and democracy are values that can coexist. “From a constitutional point of view there is an advantage to democracy and it must be balanced and the Supreme Court should be given another constitutional tool that will also give power to Judaism.”

The purpose of the nation-state bill, she said, was to prevent rulings interpreting the Entry to Israel Law, or a ruling like the one in the Ka’adan case in 2000 that banned discrimination against an Arab family who wanted to move to a small Jewish community that sought to bar them.8

Gideon Levy writing in Haaretz made the following comment about Israeli Justice Minister Shaked’s position on the Jewish Nation State Bill.

Thank you, Ayelet Shaked, for telling the truth. Thank you for speaking honestly. The justice minister has proved once again that Israel’s extreme right is better than the deceivers of the center-left: It speaks honestly.

If in 1975, Chaim Herzog dramatically tore up a copy of UN General Assembly Resolution 3379, equating Zionism with racism, the justice minister has now admitted the truthfulness of the resolution (which was later revoked). Shaked said, loud and clear: Zionism contradicts human rights, and thus is indeed an ultranationalist, colonialist and perhaps even racist movement, as proponents of justice worldwide maintain.9

At the core of this issue is the contradiction between a “Jewish State” and a democratic state that treats all of its citizens as equals. Here is how one Israeli Political Sociologist Lev Grinberg explains the problem.

Just like the story about the late Israeli politician Moshe Sneh, who raised the tone of his voice because his arguments were not persuasive, Professor Shlomo Avineri raises the tone in his reply to Salman Masalha, both of whose opinion pieces appeared on these pages earlier this month, and paints him as a racist. But Masalha did not claim that there is no Jewish people or that Jews do not have the right to self-determination. His argument is simple: If the state is defined by religion, it cannot treat all its citizens equally, as required of a democratic system of government.

Its true that from its inception, Zionism intended to turn the Jewish people from a religious community into a modern nation, but Avineri ignores the regrettable fact that the project of secularizing the Jewish people has failed. Israel has no legal definition for Judaism other than the religious definition, it does not recognize an Israeli national identity defined on the basis of citizenship, and it does not recognize a Hebrew nationality that is culturally defined.

The comparison to other countries where religion and nationality are linked is irrelevant, because those countries have a secular definition of the state and citizenship. You can be a Polish Jew or an Egyptian Jew, but you can’t be a Jewish Muslim or a Jewish Christian.

In the attempt to make the Jewish people a nation like all others, Zionism strove to unite it through one language and concentrate it in one territory. There were arguments and struggles over this, and they were decided in favor of preserving the centrality of religion in the definition of the national collective. Instead of picking one of the languages that Jews spoke day in and day out, Hebrew, the holy tongue, was chosen.

Regarding territory as well, absolute secularists did indeed think that Jews could be settled in Uganda or Argentina, but the gravitational pull of the Land of Israel was decisive. The Bible was transformed from a religious text into Zionism’s title deed, the justification for the demand for ownership of the territory. In other words, instead of bringing about the secularization of Judaism, Zionism turned religion into the central element of the definition of national identity, and turned the State of Israel into a tool of the religious redemption project, especially after the capture and settlement of biblical areas since 1967.

Defining the State of Israel solely as democratic and revoking the special privileges of Jews does not contradict Zionism, and certainly not Judaism. The connection to Judaism will remain in the calendar and the Hebrew language, in the name of the state and in the Jewish majority (if we manage to free ourselves from our rule over the Palestinians in the territories).

Democracy is based on universalist Jewish values, such as “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” and “Ye shall have one statute, both for the stranger, and for him that is born in the land.” That requires separation of religion and state, something that will be good for both. Because in the current situation, not only does religion corrupt the state, but the state corrupts religion and pushes it toward nationalistic extremism.”10

The definition of what is a “Jewish State” and “what is a Jew” is a fundamental part of this debate. The “Jewish State” is like no other. It uses a concept of Jewish nationality which is like no other definition of nationality. It is the Jewish character of the State that is given preference to all other considerations and gives superior rights to Jews over the non-Jewish population in Israel.

The data on population in Israel for 2017 is that 74.7% is Jewish and 25.3% is non-Jewish.11 When you count the territories occupied or controlled by Israel there is already, or soon will be, a Palestinian majority.12 This fact helps explain the Jewish State’s obsession over demographics.13

Here is how journalist Jonathan Cook, who resides in Nazareth, Israel, describes the issue and the implications of living in a Jewish State. He is reporting on a decision of the Israeli Supreme Court which refused to recognize an Israeli nationality as it would undermine the “Jewish” character of the State.

Israel officially defines itself as a Jewish state, and authorities classify Israelis by their ethnic group

Nazareth, Israel – A court decision this month that rejected Israelis’ right to a shared nationality has highlighted serious problems caused by Israel’s self-definition as a Jewish state, say lawyers and human rights activists.

A group of 21 Israelis had appealed to the Supreme Court to demand the state recognise their wish to be classified as “Israeli nationals”.

Since Israel’s founding in 1948, authorities have refused to recognize such a nationality, instead classifying Israelis according to the ethnic group to which each belongs. The overwhelming majority are registered as either “Jewish” or “Arab” nationals, though there are more than 130 such categories in total.
Critics say the system, while seemingly a technical matter, has far-reaching effects. The citizenship laws, they say, undergird a system of systematic discrimination against the one-fifth of Israel’s population who are non-Jews – most of them belonging to Israel’s Palestinian minority.14

Cook also quotes Uzi Ornan, a retired linguist from northern Israel, the leader of “I am an Israeli” movement, The group includes both Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel, and they argued that they should be allowed to change their nationality to “Israeli”. “This ruling is very dangerous,” said Ornan. “It allows Israel to continue being a very peculiar country indeed, one that refuses to recognise the nationality of its own people. I don’t know of another country that does such a thing. It is entirely anti-democratic.”14

Ornan also is quoted as follows:

The “I am an Israeli” movement objects to Israel’s system of laws that separate citizenship from nationality. While Israelis enjoy a common citizenship, they have separate nationalities based on their ethnic identity. Only the Jewish majority has been awarded national rights, meaning that Palestinian citizens face institutionalised discrimination, said Ornan.

Ornan added: “It tells the country’s Arab citizens that they have no real recognition in their own country — that they will always be treated as foreigners and they will always face discrimination.”14

Cook writes as follows on this issue:

Leading Israeli politicians — including a recent prime minister, Ehud Olmert — have admitted that discrimination against Palestinians exists. However, they have suggested that it is informal and similar to the iscrimination faced by minorities in many democratic western countries.

Civil rights groups, on the other hand, claim that the discrimination is structural to Israel’s definition as a Jewish state. One member of parliament, Ahmed Tibi, has pointedly commented: “This country is Jewish and democratic: Democratic towards Jews, and Jewish toward Arabs.”14

There certainly has been a vigorous debate within the Jewish community over the question of political Zionism, which is a political ideology, and the creation of a “Jewish State.” The dark underbelly of Zionism is what to do with the Christian and Muslim Palestinian inhabitants of the land chosen to be the territory for the “Jewish State.” There are many questions about what rights Palestinians are to have in the “Jewish State” and the occupied territories that the “Jewish State” declares for itself and gives at best token lip service to the civil and national rights of the Palestinians.

Ben Ehrenreich, is a prominent Jewish American author of The Way to the Spring, the chronicle of heroic resistance to occupation in a Palestinian village. He spoke at Columbia’s Center for Palestine Studies and described Israel’s treatment of Palestinians as an “incremental genocide.” As reported by Philip Weiss a questioner asked about the Movement for Black Lives statement saying Palestinians are experiencing “genocide,” and asked Ehrenreich, would you agree? Ehrenrich said he agreed.

The question about genocide – yes, it’s an incremental genocide. And I think that’s a word that gives a lot of people pause and it certainly should. We don’t see the absolutely mass slaughters, although in Gaza I think we’ve seen something very much like it that we usually associate with genocide. But– the attempts to erase a people, to just erase them, to erase their history, I think follow a logic that can only be called genocidal. I mean, every time someone says– and people say it all the time, I get it on twitter all the time– “There’s no such thing as a Palestinian,” or “There was nobody there when the Zionists arrived”– these are genocidal statements, these are attempts to erase a culture, erase a history, decimate a people and I think they should be recognized as that.15

As a result of these questions that go to the heart of the Zionist project there are many criticisms over the treatment of the Palestinians in the “Jewish State” from Jews and many others who express concern over human rights violations. Palestinians, the victims of Zionism also have many criticism on how they are treated and the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, the massacres, the destruction of 531 villages and the theft of their land and property for which they hold the legal title to.16

One major study done in Israel reviewed all of the articles and books written on the Israeli War of Independence and examined the issue of the expulsion of the Palestinians:

… study showed that significant critical research on the Palestinian exodus was undertaken by Jewish scholars outside Israel in the 1950s, three decades before the emergence of the New Historians. In effect, this early use of the critical narrative led to the declassification of archival materials, the sources that were then used in books by Segev, Morris and others.

The study refutes the widespread claim that until the 1980s the Jewish-Israeli media were entirely beholden to the Zionist narrative. The paper shows that the vast majority of studies recognized that Israel had expelled Palestinians in 1948.17

Defenders of the Jewish State’s policies and treatment of the Palestinians do not want to discuss these questions and in an aggressive manner accuse Israel’s critics and critics of Zionism as being anti-Semites and try to silence any debate on these issues. The charge of anti-Semitism against critics is the preferred weapon, and perhaps the only weapon, as the evidence does not support the Zionist argument. Many prominent Israelis18 and many others have raised the specter of Apartheid to describe Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.19

Here is how Richard Falk describes the issue of Apartheid in relation to the Jewish State’s treatment of the Palestinians. Falk is professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University, where he taught for forty years. He is also the author of 20 books on International law and human rights. From 2008 to 2014 Falk served as United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The following is taken from an article based on a talk given by Professor Falk.

… it is only correct to look at the Palestinians as a coherent people, wherever they live, and not provide tacit consent to the fragmentation both geographical and political to which Israel has subjected them. Viewed in those terms, ending the Occupation alone, without addressing the larger issue afflicting the Palestinian nation, is “a misunderstood pragmatism.”

That larger issue… is the structure of oppression itself, including physical displacement and all the policies and practices Israel promotes toward the Palestinian people. “The conflict is not purely territorial,” Falk says. The UN report that he co-authored with Virginia Tilley, professor of political science at Southern Illinois University, names that structure “apartheid,” meaning “separation” in Afrikaans.

The 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid does not speak only of South Africa. There the term is defined as “inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them.”20

In his capacity of special rapporteur for the Palestinian occupied territories Falk co-authored a report on the question of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians with Professor Virginia Tilley. The following is an excerpt from the article.

The Falk-Tilley report, “Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid,” was released March 15, 2017, under the aegis of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA). Its release caused an immediate firestorm, raising accusations of anti-Semitism against the authors (Falk is Jewish incidentally), and providing space for more UN-bashing especially on the part of Israel and the United States. Although the ESCWA countries unanimously endorsed the report, and although the report was issued as representing the view of the authors alone and not the UN per se, it was removed from the UN website under threat of U.S. withdrawal of UN funding; however, it is otherwise available.

Defenders of Israel are particularly sensitive about the word “apartheid,” citing factors that existed in South Africa but which do not exist in Israel, such as separate park benches and Arab representation in the Knesset. But as anyone who follows Israeli politics knows, leading figures in Israeli life, including prime ministers, writers and journalists from both the left and the right, have consistently used this word in Hebrew, addressing fellow Israelis, warning of the consequences of a failure to make peace leading to permanent apartheid. It’s when the word gets uttered in public forums in English that Israelis and their supporters hear the whole Zionist project being attacked. Jimmy Carter and John Kerry are only two American statesmen who have felt the brunt of Israel’s condemnation. In many other ways Israel has flouted the international community, for example, by referring to the occupied West Bank territories as “Judea and Samaria,” ancient Biblical terms which international law does not recognize as legitimate; and insisting on calling the Palestinians “Arabs,” as if to say they belong in other homelands, not in the Jewish state.20

Falk went on to say and is quoted in the article:

The problem of Israel,… is that the nationalism born in Europe in the 19th century made its way to the rest of the world by the mid-20th century and helped to create many newly independent countries in the wake of colonialism. But Israel, founded in 1948, came along at the end of the nationalist wave, and the global community had become skeptical of colonial projects in the underdeveloped world.

“The Palestinian people have been made to pay the price for the crimes of the Nazis,” ….

There is an inherent tension… between Israel’s self-definition as a Jewish state and its claim to be a democratic society. Especially as more and more Palestinians fall under direct or indirect Israeli control in the variously segmented entities between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, the contradiction between these two professed ideals becomes ever sharper.

In almost every case… where an oppressed people, with inferior arms and weak social institutions, sets out to oppose their colonial or neocolonial masters, they eventually win. The Palestinians will continue to resist, “and they are right to resist,”… From the Israeli point of view, the resistance is a challenge to the established order and must be put down. The United States, more substantively than anyone else in the world, gives Israel this unconditional mandate.

“Until that mandate is lifted there will be no peace. It’s our struggle here to end this destructive policy.”21

Most supporters of the Jewish State get incensed when the term “Apartheid” is used to describe the situation the Palestinians under the control of the “Jewish State.” They point to the absence of petty Apartheid structures like separate washrooms and benches for Jews and Palestinians and the fact that Arabs can vote in Israel and have members in the Knesset. They conveniently ignore the fact that Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza they cannot vote in the Israeli elections that control their lives and while Jewish Settlers living in the West Bank can vote in Israeli elections. Here is how one commentator describes the situation.

The irony is that the idea of evoking the term “apartheid” to describe Israel’s treatment of Palestinians was not invented by Israel’s enemies, let alone Arabs and Palestinians, but by Israel itself. For decades, Israeli officials have employed the Hebrew term Hafrada (“Separation” or “Segregation”) to describe Israel’s governing policy in the West Bank and Gaza, and its attempts to separate the Palestinian population from both the Israeli population and the Jewish settlers population in the occupied Palestinian territories. The so-called Israeli West Bank Barrier, known in Hebrew as “Gader Ha-Hafrada” (“Separation Fence”), was built on this Hafrada vision….

The current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shares his predecessors’ infatuation with the principle of Hafrada. In 2011, he told members of his cabinet: “The debate over how many Jews and how many Palestinians will be between the Jordan and the sea is irrelevant. It does not matter to me whether there are half a million more Palestinians or less because I have no wish to annex them into Israel. I want to separate from them so that they will not be Israeli citizens.”

While some Israelis tend to distinguish between “hard separation” (Rabin and Barak) and “soft separation” (Perez and Olmert) the result has been one and the same: A rigid form of physical separation where one ethnic group enjoys more freedom than the other.

This is not to suggest that Israel’s Hafrada is identical to South Africa’s apartheid, but that apartheid, or separateness, as a system of enforced segregation based on ethnicity and imposed by a sovereign and dominant group over an impoverished one, can take myriad forms.

The term “Hafrada” has rapidly dropped from official use, apparently to avoid association with the notorious term “apartheid.” In Israel’s public discourse, though, the term has lost none of its force. Today, “Hafrada” is used as a broad term to describe Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, be they in the West Bank, Gaza, exile, or even in Israel. Indeed, as the U.N. report put it, Hafrada is no longer limited to describing Israel’s policy towards Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, but also applies to its treatment of its own Palestinian citizens.

This form of internal Hafrada has its origins in the military regime period (1948-1966), when Israel imposed a formal military administration on the majority of its Arab citizenry, putting in place a repressive apparatus of ethnic and economic segregation, land appropriation, and restrictions on movement and political activity. While less visible, internal Hafrada persists today in various forms. In 2005, an art exhibition organized by an association of Israeli architects in the city of Jaffa, aptly titled “Hafrada” (“Separation”), featured images of a dozen separation sites inside Israel, not only between Jewish and Arab towns, but between Jewish and Arab neighborhoods within Israel’s so-called mixed cities, including Haifa, Jerusalem and Lod.

Hafrada, Israel’s equivalent for ethnic segregation, is a purely Israeli invention whose basic etymology was coined for want of a practical and descriptive term that would better account for Israel’s policy towards Palestinians on both sides of the border. In Israel, the term is evoked by supporters and opponents of segregation alike. While in official discourse the term has been cloaked in softer and gentler expressions–– such as “convergence” and “disengagement”––to the average Israeli, the term simply meant, and continues to mean, one thing: “Separation” and “segregation.” In other words, “apartheid.”22

  1. Ben Sales, “New president seeks to cure ‘epidemic’ of racism” ‘Israeli society is sick, and it is our duty to treat this disease’ and ease tensions between Arabs and Jews, Rivlin tells academics,” Times of Israel, 24 October 2014.
  2. Ben Sales, “New president seeks to cure ‘epidemic’ of racism”: ‘Israeli society is sick, and it is our duty to treat this disease’ and ease tensions between Arabs and Jews, Rivlin tells academics,” Times of Israel, 24 October 2014.
  3. The World Is Sick of Israel and Its Insanities,” by Gideon Levy, Haaretz, June 26, 2014.
  4. Sharon Roffe-Ofir|, “Olmert: Discrimination against Arabs deliberate, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says longtime discrimination against Israeli Arabs seeking public service posts deliberate; PM says that complete absence of Arab employees at Bank of Israel ‘terrible’,” YNet News, November 12, 2008. See also “Olmert Decries ‘Deliberate and Insufferable’ Discrimination Against Arabs: PM says state acting improperly by denying Arabs civil service jobs, despite equal opportunity laws,” by Yoav Stern and Haaretz Correspondent, Haaretz, November 12, 2008.
  5. For example see, “Israelis shocked by racist football chants bringing shame to a once proud team,” by Harriet Sherwood, Guardian, 10 February, 2013; see also “Israel’s discrimination against its Arab citizens,” Middle East Monitor, May 11, 2014; Also see “No Time to Wait: Economic Discrimination Against Arab Towns Must be Fixed,” by Ron Gerlitz and Rawnak Natour, Jerusalem Post, November 23, 2016. “In Israel’s official portrait, only Jewish lives matter,” by Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man, +972 Magazine, April 30, 2017.
  6. See, “The Face of Israel’s Far Right Wants to ‘Abort’ Palestinian Hope and he thinks Netanyahu is a coward. Meet Knesset Member Bezalel Smotrich, who envisions a Greater Israel where the Palestinian Authority doesn’t exist and who believes Reform Jews and LGBT people are living a lie,” by Ravit Hecht, Haaretz, December 3, 2016.
  7. Zeev Sternhell, “In Israel, Growing Fascism and a Racism Akin to Early Nazism: They don’t wish to physically harm Palestinians. They only wish to deprive them of their basic human rights, such as self-rule in their own state and freedom from oppression,” Haaretz, January 19, 2018.
  8. Henry Siegman, “The Implications of President Trump’s Jerusalem Ploy,” National Interest, January 23, 2018. Quotes taken from “Struggle for equal rights for Palestinians is ‘right choice,’ and will lead to ‘significant exodus of Jews’ — Henry Siegman,” by Philip Weiss, Mondoweiss, January 27, 2018
  9. Revital Hovel, “Justice Minister: Israel Must Keep Jewish Majority Even at the Expense of Human Rights: Minister Ayelet Shaked addressed the proposed nation-state law, contending that Israel as a Jewish state must administer equal civil but not national rights,” Haaretz, February 13, 2018. See also “Gideon Levy calls out Israel’s fundamental, racist religion: Zionism, Israel/Palestine,” by Jonathan Ofir, Mondoweiss, September 2, 2017. There is an excellent discussion of this issue “Israel’s Justice Minister endorses apartheid — the Jewish state ‘at the expense of equality’” by Jonathan Ofir, Mondoweiss, February 13, 2018.
  10. “You Can’t Be a Jewish Muslim: Instead of bringing about the secularization of Judaism, Zionism turned religion into the central element of the definition of national identity, and turned the State of Israel into a tool of the religious redemption project,” by Lev Grinberg, Haaretz, August 23, 2010.
  11. See population figures for Israel at “Demographics of Israel: Jewish and Non-Jewish Population of Israel-Palestine 1517 to the Present.”
  12. “Palestinian Population To Pass Jews by 2017 in Israel and Territories,” Haaretz, January 2, 2016 reprinted in Forward.
  13. Israel’s Demographic Time-Bomb: An Arab-Majority State?” by Palash Ghosh. International Business Times, 1 February 2012.
  14. Court nixes push for ‘Israeli nationality,’ by Jonathan Cook, Al Jazeera, 18 October 2013.
  15. Israel’s efforts to erase Palestinian history reflect ‘incremental genocide,’ Ehrenreich says,” by Philip Weiss, Mondoweiss, February 9, 2017. For another example of his views see, “Zionism is the problem,” by Ben Ehrenreich, Los Angeles Times, March 15, 2009.
  16. The ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, as well as the massacres, rapes and illegal confiscation of Palestinian property, is well documented by Israeli historians. Books published on the expulsion of the Palestinians by Israelis include Tom Segev, 1949. The First Israelis, (New York: Free Press MacMillan, 1986); Simcha Flapan, The Birth of Israel: Myths and Realities (New York: Pantheon Books, 1987); Benny Morris, The birth of the Palestinian refugee problem 1947-1949, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987); Avi Schlaim, Collusion across the Jordan: King Abdullah, the Zionist Movement and the Partition of Palestine, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988); Nur Masalha, Expulsion of the Palestinians, (Washington D.C.: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1992); Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, Original Sins, (New York: Olive Branch Press, 1993); and Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, (Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 2006) — see review. There are many more Israeli authorities that confirm the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians in 1947-1949 and again in 1967. See for example Ran Greenstein, “Dispossession in Palestine during the British Mandate Period,” Genealogies of Conflict: Class, Identity and State in Palestine/Israel and South Africa (Wesleyan University Press, 1995); Dominique Vidal, “Ten Years of Research into the 1947-49 War: The Expulsion of the Palestinians Re-examined,” Le Monde diplomatique, December 1997; see also Avi Shlaim, “The Debate About 1948” in Ilan Pappé (editor), The Israel/Palestine Question: Rewriting Histories (Routledge, 1999); Eitan Bronstein, “The Nakba — an Event that Did Not Occur (Although It Had to Occur),” 2004 posted by Nakba, In Hebrew, on December 14, 2005”; and also, Shlomo Ben-Ami, “A War to Start All Wars: Will Israel Ever Seal the Victory of 1948?” Foreign Affairs, September/October 2008. Shlomo Ben-Ami was Israel’s foreign minister in 2000-2001. He is vice president of the Toledo International Center for Peace, in Spain, and the author of Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli–Arab Tragedy; “When Israel Expelled Palestinians,” Randall Kuhn, Washington Times, January 14, 2009; and Carol Cook “The Nakba,” Haaretz, July 5, 2009.
  17. A softer touch on the Nakba,” by Akiva Eldar, Haaretz, January 24, 2012.
  18. Olmert Blasts Netanyahu’s Foreign Policy Warns of Risk of Apartheid in Israel,” Haaretz, October 02, 2015. See also “Barak: make peace with Palestinians or face apartheid,” by Rory McCarthy, Guardian, 3 February, 2010.
  19. See “Israel and Apartheid: Is It a Fair Comparison?,” by Edward C. Corrigan, Dissident Voice, March 1, 2010.
  20. Richard Falk speaks on Israel and the question of apartheid,” by Eric A. Gordon, Peoples World, February 9, 2018.
  21. Falk, Ibid. The Report, “Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid,” was released March 15, 2017, under the aegis of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia.
  22. Seraj Assi, “Is Israel an Apartheid State?Foreign Policy Journal, 7 April 2017.

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.

With More Palestinians Than Jews, Israel is Waging a Numerical War of Attrition

The Israeli army’s trigger-finger against Palestinian protesters close to the fence surrounding Gaza at the weekend, killing at least 18 and injuring hundreds more, has an explanation rooted in more than normal conceptions of security.

Even before Israel’s creation, its leaders were obssessed with demography and winning a zero-sum numerical war of attrition with the Palestinians. The consequences are still playing out to this day.

Last week, ahead of the Gaza protests, the Israeli army made an unexpected admission. It told parliamentarians that for the first time Jews are outnumbered by Palestinians living under Israeli rule, both inside Israel as citizens and in the territories under occupation.

It was a moment whose significance was not lost on Israeli legislators. Many were appalled, refusing to accept the army’s assessment that there are now half a million more Palestinians than Jews between the Mediterranean Sea and the river Jordan.

Avi Dichter, a right wing legislator and a former head of Israel’s secret police agency the Shin Bet, called the data “disconcerting”.

In 1948, when the Zionist movement saw a chance to seize control of as much of Palestine as possible, it understood that this goal could be achieved only through the ethnic cleansing of most of the native population. It was Zionism’s moment to create the “empty land” mythologised in its early slogans.

Today, the demographic successes of 1948 have been largely reversed. The Six-Day War of 1967 was over too quickly for Israel to expel more than a small proportion of the Palestinians living in the rest of the historic Palestine it had just conquered.

Higher Palestinian birth rates have been eroding the Jewish majority ever since while various schemes to force or pay Palestinians to leave have mostly failed.

Israeli officials’ ultimate fear in this demographic war is that the world will judge a minority of Israelis ruling over a majority of Palestinians as a new form of apartheid.

Seven decades on from its creation, Israel has won every battle, bar this one. The Palestinians are crushed. Washington now does little more than cheerleading for the settlers. Parts of the Middle East are in disarray. The Europeans have lost interest.

But in terms of the most pressing of all Israel’s struggles – for numerical dominance over Palestinians – Israel appears to be losing its seven-decade fight.

In a sign of growing levels of desperation, the Diaspora Affairs Ministry, headed by settler leader Naftali Bennett, announced a plan last week to track down those around the globe with an “affinity” to Israel or Judaism. In the ministry’s view, 90 million people may qualify.

According to an editorial in the Israeli daily Haaretz, officials regard this group as “demographic treasure … potential candidates to join the Jewish people and immigrate to Israel”.

But Israel is not only trying to bolster its Jewish population. It has been devising tangible ways to reduce the Palestinian population too.

Since 2003, Israel has effectively banned family reunifications for Palestinians in Israel who marry Palestinians in the occupied territories. Such families are under pressure to move abroad so they can live together.

More significantly, two years later Israel pulled its few thousand settlers out of Gaza, in part so it could claim it was no longer occupying the coastal enclave, even as it blockaded it from land, air and sea. It has argued unconvincingly – as the weekend’s events prove – that about two million Palestinians there, who constitute the fastest-growing Palestinian population, have been removed from the demographic equation.

Withdrawing from the rest of the territories has proven even harder. There is almost no support among Israeli Jews for giving up East Jerusalem and its holy sites, even though it is home to 300,000 Palestinians.

And a rapidly shrinking Israeli centre-left has lost the campaign to withdraw from the parts of the West Bank where large numbers of Palestinians live.

The right is committed to seizing all of the West Bank. The question now is how to annex it without the Palestinians becoming the majority population. Palestinian legislator Ahmed Tibi warned his Jewish colleagues last week that they were bringing closer their nightmare scenario of a Greater Israel ruled by an “Arab prime minister”. But no one, including Mr Tibi, believes that will be allowed to happen.

Instead two varieties of annexationists have emerged.

The first are those who want to intensify the campaign to force Palestinians out of most of the West Bank, gradually herding them into a handful of cities, in preparation for a series of ever-expanding annexations.

The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem issued a warning last week that dozens of Palestinian farming communities were facing imminent expulsion from Area C, which forms two-thirds of the West Bank.

Israel has stepped up home demolitions, torn up roads, denied Palestinians electricity and water, encouraged settler violence and conducted military and live fire training on Palestinian land. The aim, said B’Tselem, is to avoid international censure as Israel makes “life unbearable to force them to leave, as if by free choice”.

These are the “moderates” in the government. The other camp, exemplified by deputy defence minister Eli Ben Dahan, believes all the West Bank can be annexed, with the Palestinians viewed more like trees than human beings.

Last week he told Arutz Sheva, a settler news agency, that the army’s warning of a Palestinian majority should not “scare us”. Palestinians would simply be denied voting rights for the foreseeable future.

“They are far from [a] meaningful democracy as we know it,” he said, adding that Palestinians might eventually earn citizenship in a Greater Israel if they submitted absolutely. “There are many examples of citizenship that are given gradually,” he added.

Seventy years on, as the massacre in Gaza has underscored, Israeli leaders are faced with the same dilemma as its founders: should they again use violence to drive Palestinians from their homeland or establish an unapologetic and brutal apartheid state ruling over them?

• First published in the National Abu Dhabi