Category Archives: Israel/Palestine

The Real Face of Justin Trudeau: Are Palestinians Canada’s New Jews?

How does one explain Canada’s contradictory foreign policy regarding Palestine and Israel?

On December 4, Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Saeb Erekat, praised Canada’s commitment not to follow the footsteps of the US Donald Trump Administration by transferring its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

But there is little worth praising here. Respecting the internationally-recognized status of Jerusalem is a legally-binding commitment to international law. The fact that the US chose to violate the law, hardly makes the opposite act heroic in itself.

Only five days earlier, on November 30, Canada joined a tiny minority of states, including Israel, the US, Australia and the Marshall Islands to vote ‘no’ against a United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution titled, “Peaceful Settlement on the Question of Palestine.” The Canadian government that is keen to present itself as a model, neoliberal, progressive country, even the antithesis to the US’ hawkish policies, voted against a resolution that calls “for intensified efforts by the parties … to conclude a final peace settlement”.

If you find such behaviour confusing, then you are not paying attention. Canada has not changed at all. It is our understanding of Canadian foreign policy that has almost always been marred with a true lack of understanding.

And there is a good reason for that. The Canadian government has mastered the art of political branding. The only period in modern American history that is comparable to Canada’s successful political propaganda was the presidency of Barack Obama.

Obama deported 2.5 million immigrants, compared to the 2 million deported by his predecessor, George W. Bush; he dropped more bombs and did his utmost to bail out America’s most corrupt financial institutions; yet somehow many liberals thought of him as the ideological marriage of Che Guevara and Malcolm X, with the refined eloquence of James Baldwin.

Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau – seen as the ‘human face of neoliberalism’ – is an even more successful brand than Obama. Unlike the former US president, there is very little discussion about Trudeau’s undeserved credentials.

While positioned as the political opposite of former conservative Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, they are both committed to the ideology of neoliberalism.

Trudeau’s ‘human face of neoliberalism’ is nothing but a carefully-constructed mask meant to hide the hypocritical and militant policies that Canada continues to lead.

Nothing exemplifies Trudeau’s duplicitous policies than his horrific record on Palestine.

And before the Trudeau fan-club impulsively reacts to the above assertion, marvel at this fact: In the first 18 months of his mandate, Trudeau voted against 16 UNGA resolutions that were critical of Israel.

It has been argued that Canada’s foreign policy and its UN voting records are often inconsistent. This, however, seems to apply only to the Israeli crimes against Palestinians.

When Trudeau defeated Harper, many breathed a sigh of relief, particularly because of the latter’s blind support for Israel.

So is Trudeau really different, deserving of this much affection, to the point of adoration?

Let’s consult the facts.

The page on Trudeau government’s website entitled, “Canadian Policy on Key Issues in the Israeli-Palestine Conflict” is almost an exact replica of Harper’s, with one notable exception. On Trudeau’s page, his government recognizes “experience of Jewish refugees from the Middle East and North Africa, who were displaced after 1948.”

The above is a misconstrued version of history that has been injected by Zionists whenever the rights of Palestinian refugees – who were displaced by Jewish militants during the 1948 ethnic-cleansing of Palestine – is brought up.

The very first ‘key issue’ for Trudeau’s government is “Support for Israel and Its Security.”

Trudeau makes the claim that his government’s assessment of UN resolutions is guided by “its merits and consistency with (Canadian) principles.”

Harper seemingly defied these ‘principles’ on numerous occasions, notably when his government voted against UN Resolutions critical of Israel: 66/17 in 2012; 67/23 and 68/15, in 2013, 69/23 in 2014.

But Harper’s exit did not usher in a new moral age for Canada. On the contrary, Ottawa’s love affair with Israel intensified.

Aside from carrying on with the same anti-Palestinian attitude at the UN, on November 24, 2015, the Trudeau government even voted against UNGA Resolution 70/15, which reaffirmed the “illegality of the Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967 including East Jerusalem.”

Such a vote even goes against Canada’s own declared position on the illegal Jewish settlements.

This should not come as a surprise, though. Hypocrisy and double-speak has become a prominent feature of Canada’s foreign policy. Take Ottawa’s stance on terrorism, for example.

In its ‘key issues’ on Israel and Palestine, the Canadian government “condemns all acts of terrorism”, but it later qualifies what that means in actuality.

“Canada has listed Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, and other groups as terrorist organizations,” it elaborated. Not only did it fail to link any Jewish group as terrorist, or, at least, emphasize the need to prosecute war criminals (in this case, Israeli leaders), it linked Palestinians and Arabs alone to acts of terrorism.

According to this logic, only Arabs seem capable of carrying out acts of terror.

But what if Palestinians decided to use popular, non-violent and democratic means to display resistance? They did, and were still condemned for it.

In 2016, with much personal enthusiasm by Trudeau himself, the Canadian Parliament overwhelmingly voted in favour of a motion that condemned the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS).

Since then, Trudeau has made his anti-BDS policy a fixture in his government’s attitude towards the Palestinians.

Last month, he sank to his lowest point yet when, in a speech he made to apologize for Canada’s immoral act of rejecting Jewish refugees escaping Nazi atrocities in 1939, he directly linked BDS with anti-Semitism.

“Anti-Semitism is far too present,” he said, as “Jewish students still feel unwelcomed and uncomfortable on some of our colleges and university campuses because of BDS-related intimidation.”

Linking BDS with his country’s disgraceful anti-Semitism against refugees decades ago might have been a masterful stroke by his pro-Israeli speech writers. However, swapping historic hate for Jews with modern hate for Palestinians shows that Canada has learned nothing from its sordid past.

Trudeau and his government will certainly be judged by future generations, as his predecessors were judged for their past sins, for choosing, despite the passage of time, to stand on the wrong side of history.

The Movement to Suppress and Impoverish Critics of Israel is Racist

Marc Lamont Hill, Tim Anderson, Steven Salaita, Rabab Abdulhadi, Hatem Bazian, Ahlam Muhtasib, Norman Finkelstein and other academics have all been targets of the movement to silence their criticisms of Israel and their defense of Palestinians. This includes threats and legal actions to try to deny them employment, in violation of their free speech rights, one of the most hallowed and ancient principles of academia. Salaita and Finkelstein were, in fact, denied employment, to the great detriment of their entire career. Hill and Anderson are currently defending themselves from this threat.

It is central to our understanding of these threats that the accusers are invariably Zionist or pro-Zionist individuals and institutions. Their backers include the Israeli government, which co-ordinates the movement through its Ministry of Strategic Affairs, the Israel lobbies in the US, UK, France, Australia and other countries, and the major Jewish Zionist billionaire funders, such as Sheldon Adelson, Haim Saban, Bernard Marcus and others. They emphatically do not include non-Zionist or anti-Zionist Jews, but almost always include non-Jewish Zionists.

This is already enough to conclude that there is a fundamental difference between Jews and Zionists and that many are one without being the other, including some ultra-orthodox Jews, like the Neturei Karta. The relevance of this is that the accusations against the critics of Israel are always that they are racist anti-Jews; i.e., “anti-Semitic”. The evidence consists of testimony from Jewish students and Jewish organizations that the criticisms make them feel “unsafe” or that they find them offensive.

But is any of the testimony from non-Zionist Jews? Or is it only from Zionists? Why don’t non-Zionist Jews feel offended? If none of them feel offended and only Zionists (both Jewish and non-Jewish), how can the charge of anti-Semitism be supported? This is highly relevant to the defense of such cases. If someone is offended at skin piercings or tattoos or dark skin or light skin or atheism or other types of appearance and speech, is that a reason to banish them from the campus (or elsewhere)? It is part of a free society and respect for rights that anyone so offended will simply have to live with such feelings or go elsewhere.

In a tolerant society, it is permitted to voice both Zionist and anti-Zionist views. In fact, it is permitted to voice racist views, although it is not required to provide funding or resources for such views unless they are de jure available to all members of a society, (e.g. a speaker’s platform in a public park or a meeting room in a public library).

Is Zionism or anti-Zionism racist? Anti-Zionism is not, because it’s plainly not anti-Semitism. But Zionism advocates a Jewish state and supports the ethnic cleansing of another people, the Palestinians, in order to realize and maintain such a state. It enforces draconian laws and practices against Palestinian citizens of Israel, and even stronger measures, including the deliberate shooting of unarmed civilians, against Palestinians in territories that it controls. From the beginning, it has sought to expel or eliminate as many Palestinians as possible.

On the other hand, the Palestinian movements – even Hamas – have always argued that a person’s religion or race is irrelevant to their rights in the lands that they wish to liberate from Zionism. All of the academics that the Zionist movement has targeted for persecution, silencing and dismissal support this ideal. We must therefore ask ourselves, who are the racists?

Canadian Jewish News: Promoter of Terror Tourism?

What should we make of a media outlet that praises those who join or give money to a foreign army, which occupies territory belonging to another people, terrorizes the local population by destroying houses, restricting their movement, subjecting them to military courts and shooting unarmed protestors?

What should we call the Canadian Jewish News, an unfailing flatterer of Canadians who join or finance a military subjugating Palestinians? Would “promoter of terror tourism” be an appropriate description?

Over the past month the CJN has published at least four pieces celebrating Canadian support for the Israeli military. On November 22 it reported, “Bayli Dukes, who recently won the Israel Defence Forces’ Award of Excellence for the Southern Command of the IDF, was a biology student at York University in Toronto less than two years ago. Tired of sitting on the couch and posting on Facebook about the situation in Israel, she decided there was more she could be doing.”

A day earlier it posted an article titled “Hand-knitted  tuques – a very Canadian gift for IDF soldiers” described 80-year olds in Toronto knitting “for charitable causes, such as IDF soldiers in Israel.” Through the Hats for Israeli Soldiers initiative “more than 50,000 hats have been made for combat soldiers on Israel’s front lines”, the CJN reported. The paper quoted IDF soldier Dovid Berger’s thank you letter. “I’m currently a chayal in the 51st brigade of Golani. We are now on our way to a week-long drill in the cold and wet [occupied Syrian] Golan Heights, and last night we received our beautiful black hats you sent us. Thank you so much, some of us have been borrowing each other’s hats and now there’s enough for everyone to have at least one. It really makes a big difference to us to see how people from Canada and the U.S.A. (and everywhere in the world) are really caring about us.”

A photo in its November 14 print edition was titled “Honouring IDF veterans”. The caption read: “former Israeli defense minister Moshe Yaalon … makes presentation to Montrealers who served in the Israel Defence Forces…. during the Canadian Institute for Jewish research’s 30th anniversary Gala.”

An October 30 piece in the community paper reported, “former NHL player Keith Primeau was among more than 100 Canadians who cycled through Israel over five days this month, to raise funds for disabled veterans in that country. This was the 11th Courage in Motion Bike Ride, which is organized by Beit Halochem Canada.”

The CJN regularly promotes that organization. A search of its database for “Beit Halochem” found dozens of stories about fundraisers and other initiatives supporting Aid to Disabled Veterans of Israel. A 2009 story titled “Israeli veterans enjoy 24th visit to Montreal” reported, “the annual visit was sponsored by the 25-year-old Beit Halochem Canada (Aid to Disabled Veterans of Israel), which raises funds for Israel’s Beit Halochem, a network of centres that provide therapy and support to more than 51,000 disabled vets and victims of terror.”

Another military initiative CJN promotes is Israel Defence Forces Widows & Orphans, which is partly funded by the Israeli government. “I served three years in the Nahal Brigade. I was in Lebanon, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip”, Shlomi Nahumson, director of youth programs at Widows and Orphans, told the paper in advance of a Toronto fundraiser for the group.

Another military initiative popular with CJN is Sar-El, which was founded by Israeli general Aharon Davidi in 1982. “Toronto brothers volunteer for Sar-El at height of war”, “91-year-old volunteers on Israeli army base” and “Toronto artist’s mural unites Israeli army base” are a sampling of the headlines about a program in which about 150 Canadians serve each year as volunteers on Israeli army supply bases.

At least a dozen CJN stories have promoted the Association for the Soldiers of Israel in Canada. “IDF represents all Jews, female general says” and “Community shows support for Israeli soldiers”, noted headlines about a group established in 1971 to provide financial and moral support to active duty soldiers. The later story quoted a speaker claiming, “the IDF saves lives, and not just in Israel — all over the world.”

CJN has published a series of stories sympathetic to Tzofim Garin Tzabar, which recruits non-Israeli Jews into the IDF. A 2004 article about a program supported by the IDF, Israel Scouts, Jewish Agency and Ministry of Absorption was titled “Canadian youths serve in IDF: Motivated by zionist ideals, love of Israel.” It reported, “[Canadian Yakov] Frydman-Kohl is attending tank school at an Israeli army base somewhere near the West Bank town of Jericho. He recently completed a course in advanced training before his first deployment somewhere in the Gaza Strip.”

CJN lauded Heather Reisman and Gerry Schwartz’ Heseg Foundation for Lone Soldiers. “Philanthropists aid Israeli ‘lone soldiers’”, was the title of one story about the billionaire Toronto couple providing millions of dollars annually for these non-Israeli soldiers.

More generally, the paper has published numerous stories about Canadian ‘lone soldiers’. “Going in alone: the motivations and hardships of Israel lone soldiers”, “Parents of ‘lone soldiers’ discuss support group” and “Lone soldiers: young idealists and worried parents”, detailed Canadians fighting in the Israeli military. They’ve also publicized numerous books about Canadian and other non-Israelis joining the IDF. In one CJN quoted Abe Levine, an Ontarian who helped drive Palestinians from their homes in 1948, saying, “what I don’t understand is why Israelis don’t send 10 rockets back for every one fired from Gaza.”  The story continued, “during his time in the Machal [overseas military volunteers], Levine saw most Arabs as ‘the enemy.’ Though he said he had lines he would not cross – ‘I wouldn’t kill an Arab if I just saw him standing outside his house.’”

CJN promoted Nefesh B’Nefesh’s (Jewish Souls United) recruitment of Canadians to the IDF. “Nefesh B’Nefesh brings aspiring soldiers to Israel”, noted a headline about a group that facilitates “Aliyah” for those unsatisfied with their and their ancestors’ dispossession of First Nations and want to help colonize another indigenous people.

While CJN provides positive publicity to groups promoting the Israeli military, these groups (often registered Canadian charities) finance the paper. The previously mentioned story about Nefesh B’Nefesh ended with “the reporter’s trip was partly subsidized by Nefesh B’Nefesh.” More significantly, these organizations regularly advertise in the paper. “Express your Zionism by serving as a civilian volunteer on an Israeli army supply base”, read a Sar-El ad while another noted “the Association for the soldiers of Israel invites you to show your support for the brave youth of the IDF at our gala dinner.”

Yet, while it promotes joining and financing a military actively killing Arabs, CJN accuses Palestinian Canadians of supporting terrorism. An August headline noted, “Canadian Arabic-language newspaper criticized for pro-terrorist op-ed” while a 2017 one stated, “B’nai Brith wants a Mississauga teacher fired for backing terrorists”.

The hypocrisy is glaring. While CJN accuses others, it may be this country’s biggest promoter of “terror tourism”.

Israel wages a New War of Attrition in Jerusalem

Czech president Milos Zeman offered Benjamin Netanyahu’s ultra-nationalist government a fillip during his visit to Israel last week. He inaugurated a cultural and trade centre, Czech House, just outside Jerusalem’s Old City walls.

At the opening, he expressed hope it would serve as a precursor to his country relocating its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. If so, the Czech Republic would become the first European state to follow US President Donald Trump’s lead in moving the US embassy in May.

It is this kind of endorsement that, of late, has emboldened Mr Netanyahu’s government, the Israeli courts, Jerusalem officials and settler organisations to step up their combined assault on Palestinians in the Old City and its surrounding neighbourhoods.

Israel has never hidden its ambition to seize control of East Jerusalem, Palestinian territory it occupied in 1967 and then annexed, as a way of preventing a viable Palestinian state from emerging.

Israel immediately began building an arc of Jewish settlements on Jerusalem’s eastern flank to seal off its Palestinian residents from their political hinterland, the West Bank.

More than a decade ago, it consolidated its domination with a mammoth concrete wall that cut through East Jerusalem. The aim was to seal off densely populated Palestinian neighbourhoods on the far side, ensuring the most prized and vulnerable areas – the Old City and its environs – could be more easily colonised, or “Judaised”, as Israel terms it.

This area, the heart of Jerusalem, is where magnificent holy places such as the Al Aqsa mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre are to be found.

Under cover of the 1967 war, Israel ethnically cleansed many hundreds of Palestinians living near the Western Wall, a retaining wall of the elevated Al Aqsa compound that is venerated in Judaism. Since then, Israeli leaders have grown ever hungrier for control of the compound itself, which they believe is built over two long-lost Jewish temples.

Israel has forced the compound’s Muslim authorities to allow Jews to visit in record numbers, even though most wish to see the mosque replaced with a third Jewish temple. Meanwhile, Israel has severely limited the numbers of Palestinians who can reach the holy site.

Until now, Israel had mostly moved with stealth, making changes gradually so they rarely risked inflaming the Arab world or provoking western reaction. But after Mr Trump’s embassy move, a new Israeli confidence is tangible.

On four fronts, Israel has demonstrated its assertive new mood. First, with the help of ever-more compliant Israeli courts, it has intensified efforts to evict Palestinians from their homes in the Old City and just outside its historic walls.

Last month, the supreme court handed down a ruling that sanctions the eviction of 700 Palestinians from Silwan, a dense neighbourhood on a hillside below Al Aqsa. Ateret Cohanim, a settler organisation backed by government-subsidised armed guards, is now poised to take over the centre of Silwan.

It will mean more Israeli security and police protecting the settler population and more city officials enforcing prejudicial planning rules against Palestinians. The inevitable protests will justify more arrests of Palestinians, including children. This is how bureacratic ethnic cleansing works.

The supreme court also rejected an appeal against a Palestinian family’s eviction from Sheikh Jarrah, another key neighbourhood near the Old City. The decision opens the way to expelling dozens more families.

B’Tselem, an Israeli rights group, characterised these rulings as “sanctioning the broadest move to dispossess Palestinians since 1967”.

At the same time, Israel’s parliament approved a law to accelerate the settler takeover.

Over many years, Israel created a series of national parks around the Old City on the pretext of preserving “green areas”. Some hem in Palestinian neighbourhoods to stop their expansion while others were declared on the land of existing Palestinian homes to justify expelling the occupants.

Now the parliament has reversed course. The new law, drafted by another settler group, Elad, will allow house-building in national parks, but only for Jews.

Elad’s immediate aim is to bolster the settler presence in Silwan, where it has overseen a national park next to Al Aqsa. Archaeology has been co-opted to supposedly prove the area was once ruled by King David while thousands of years of subsequent history, most especially the current Palestinian presence, are erased.

Elad’s activities include excavating under Palestinian homes, weakening their foundations.

A massive new Jewish history-themed visitor centre will dominate Silwan’s entrance. Completing the project is a $55 million cable car, designed to carry thousands of tourists an hour over Silwan and other neighbourhoods, rendering the Palestinian inhabitants invisible as visitors are delivered effortlessly to the Western Wall without ever having to encounter them.

The settlers have their own underhand methods. With the authorities’ connivance, they have forged documents to seize Palestinian homes closest to Al Aqsa. In other cases, the settlers have recruited Arab collaborators to dupe other Palestinians into selling their homes.

Once they gain a foothold, the settlers typically turn the appropriated home into an armed compound. Noise blares out into the early hours, Palestinian neighbours are subjected to regular police raids and excrement is left in their doorways.

After the recent sale to settlers of a home strategically located in the Old City’s Muslim quarter, the Palestinian Authority set up a commission of inquiry to investigate. But the PA is near-powerless to stop this looting after Israel passed a law in 1995 denying it any role in Jerusalem.

The same measure is now being vigorously enforced against the few residents trying to stop the settler banditry.

Adnan Ghaith, Jerusalem’s governor and a Silwan resident, was arrested last week for a second time and banned from entering the West Bank and meeting PA officials. Adnan Husseini, the Palestinian minister for Jerusalem, is under a six-month travel ban by Israel.

Last week dozens of Palestinians were arrested in Jerusalem, accused of working for the PA to stop house sales to the settlers.

It is a quiet campaign of attrition, designed to wear down Jerusalem’s Palestinian residents. The hope is that they will eventually despair and relocate to the city’s distant suburbs outside the wall or into the West Bank.

What Palestinians in Jerusalem urgently need is a reason for hope – and a clear signal that other countries will not join the US in abandoning them.

• First published in the National

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But the pressure on the home-front is relentless.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Tide is Turning: Israel Is Losing on Two War Fronts

The November 12 botched Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip is delineating Tel Aviv’s failure to utilize its army as a tool to achieve Palestinian political concessions.

Now that the Palestinian popular resistance has gone global through the exponential rise and growing success of the Boycott Movement, the Israeli government is fighting two desperate wars.

Following the Gaza attack, Palestinians responded by showering the Israeli southern border with rockets and carried out a precise operation targeting an Israeli army bus.

As Palestinians marched in celebration of pushing the Israeli army out of their besieged region, the fragile political order in Israel, long-managed by right-wing Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was quickly unraveling.

Two days after the Israeli attack on Gaza, Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, quit in protest of Netanyahu’s ‘surrender’ to the Palestinian Resistance.

Israeli leaders are in a precarious situation. Untamed violence comes at a price of international condemnation and a Palestinian response that is bolder and more strategic each time.

However, failing to teach Gaza its proverbial ‘lesson’ is viewed as an act of surrender by opportunistic Israeli politicians.

While Israel is experiencing such limitations on the traditional battlefield, which it once completely dominated, its war against the global Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) is surely a lost battle.

Israel has a poor track record in confronting civil society-based mobilization. Despite the vulnerability of Palestinians living under Israeli Occupation, it took the Israeli government and military seven long years to pacify the popular Intifada, the uprising of 1987. Even then, the jury is still out on what truly ended the popular revolt.

It should be accepted that a global Intifada is much more difficult to suppress, or even contain.

Yet, when Israel began sensing the growing danger of BDS – which was officially launched by Palestinian civil society in 2005 – it responded with the same superfluous and predictable pattern: arrests, violence and a torrent of laws that criminalize dissent at home, while unleashing an international campaign of intimidation and smearing of boycott activists and organizations.

That achieved little, aside from garnering BDS more attention and international solidarity.

The war on the Movement took a serious turn last year when Netanyahu’s government dedicated a largesse of about $72 million to defeat the civil society-led campaign.

Utilizing the ever-willing US government to boost its anti-BDS tactics, Tel Aviv feels assured that its counter-BDS efforts in the US is off to a promising start. However, it is only recently that Israel has begun to formulate the wider European component of its global strategy.

In a two-day conference in Brussels earlier this month, Israeli officials and their European supporters unleashed their broader European anti-BDS campaign.

Organized by the European Jewish Association (EJA) and the Europe Israel Public Affairs group (EIPA), the November 6-7 conference was fully supported by the Israeli government, featuring right-wing Israeli Minister of Jerusalem Affairs, Ze’ev Elkin.

Under the usual pretext of addressing the danger of anti-Semitism in Europe, attendees deliberately conflated racism and any criticism of Israel, of its military Occupation and colonization of Palestinian land.

The EJA Annual Conference has raised Israel’s manipulation of the term ‘anti-Semitism’ to a whole new level, as it drafted a text that will purportedly be presented to prospective members of the European Parliament (MEPs), demanding their signature before running in next May’s elections.

Those who decline to sign – or worse, repudiate the Israeli initiative – are likely to find themselves fending off accusations of racism and anti-Semitism.

This was certainly not the first conference of its kind.

The anti-BDS euphoria that has swept Israel in recent years, yielded several crowded and passionate conferences in luxurious hotels, where Israeli officials openly threatened BDS activists, such as Omar Barghouti. Barghouti was warned by a top Israeli official in a 2016 conference in Jerusalem of “civil assassination” for his role in the organization of the Movement.

In March 2017, the Israeli Knesset passed the Anti-BDS Travel Ban, which requires the Interior Minister to deny entry to the country to any foreign national who “knowingly issued a public call to boycott the state of Israel.”

Since the ban went into effect, many BDS supporters have been detained, deported and barred from entering the country.

While Israel has demonstrated its ability to galvanize self-serving US and other European politicians to support its cause, there is no evidence that the BDS Movement is being quelled or is, in any way, weakening.

On the contrary, the Israeli strategy has raised the ire of many activists, civil society and civil rights groups, angered by Israel’s attempt at subverting freedom of speech in western countries.

Only recently, Leeds University in the UK has joined many other campuses around the world in divesting from Israel.

The tide is, indeed, turning.

Decades of Zionist indoctrination also failed, not only in reversing the vastly changing public opinion on the Palestinian struggle for freedom and rights, but even in preserving the once solid pro-Israel sentiment among young Jews, most notably in the US.

For BDS supporters, however, every Israeli strategy presents an opportunity to raise awareness of Palestinian rights and to mobilize civil society around the world against Israeli occupation and racism.

BDS’ success is attributed to the very reason why Israel is failing to counter its efforts: it is a disciplined model of a popular, civil resistance that is based on engagement, open debate and democratic choices, while grounded in international and humanitarian law.

Israel’s ‘war-chest‘ will run dry in the end, for no amount of money could have saved the racist, Apartheid regime in South Africa when it came tumbling down decades ago.

Needless to say, $72 million will not turn the tide in favor of Apartheid Israel, nor will it change the course of history that can only belong to the people who are unrelenting on achieving their long-coveted freedom.

Netanyahu’s Ceasefire is Meant to Keep Gaza Imprisoned

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Moral Fiber of Justin Trudeau

For any appeal to ethics and morality to have any legitimacy, the principles so enounced must be applied rigorously, without favor or prejudice, to all human beings whatever grouping they may be slotted into. In other words, favoritism and morality are an antithetical mixture.

The principle that holds morals apply equally to all humans seemingly eludes Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau.

On 7 November, Trudeau stood in the House of Commons and railed against anti-Semitism and rightly so. Anti-Semitism, as with any form of racism or hatred expressed against any grouping, is anathema.

Yet Trudeau’s taking up the cause of anti-Semitism by attacking the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement is transparently, logically, and morally flawed.

Trudeau correctly apologized for Canada’s turning away Jewish refugees in 1939. Trudeau followed up the apology bemusedly:

Anti-Semitism is far too present. Jewish students still feel unwelcomed and uncomfortable on some of our colleges and university campuses because of BDS-related intimidation.

And out of our entire community of nations, it is Israel whose right to exist is most widely and wrongly questioned.

Any form of racism in any iota is an iota too much. This applies to all groupings of humans. No one should be despised, looked down upon, or discriminated against merely by virtue of being attached to a group through birth or circumstances beyond one’s control.1

Yes, anti-Semitism exists. Probably every form of racism exists. It is deplorable to despise someone for the mere fact of being Jewish. However, Zionism is a different animal. Political Zionism is racist to its core and highly discriminatory. Hence, if one is opposed to racism, then one must also speak out against racism by Jews against others. Some try to conflate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism; however, this is palpably fallacious. Imagine if someone tried to argue that if a person is opposed to the KKK that that person must therefore be against all white people (which would include most Jews). It is patently ludicrous, and it speaks ill to the intellectual rigor of any individual who would make such a claim.

Trudeau made blanket assertions. He did not back up what he said. What did he mean by they “feel unwelcomed”? What is “BDS-related intimidation”? BDS is widely understood to be a non-violent means of attempting to end Israeli oppression of Palestinians.

Furthermore, even if there were intimidation, it would pale in comparison to the slow-motion genocide experienced by Palestinians, the open-air concentration camp maintained by Israel against Palestinians (in blatant contravention of the Geneva Conventions — thus being a war crime), and the myriad racist laws designed to humiliate Palestinians. BDS is a means for Palestinians to keep their heads up and resist with dignity. Trudeau attempts to take this dignity away from Palestinians.

One might even think after listening to Trudeau that Jews were being oppressed by Palestinians instead of vice versa. Renowned academic Noam Chomsky put the racism into a comparative framework:

Anti-Arab racism is, however, so widespread as to be unnoticeable; it is perhaps the only remaining form of racism to be regarded as legitimate.2

… Contempt for the Arab population is deeply rooted in Zionist thought.3

And what should one make of Trudeau’s proclamation that “it is Israel whose right to exist is most widely and wrongly questioned”? What about the state of Palestine? When has the government of Canada, and when has Trudeau, ever spoken sincerely of the right for a Palestinian state to exist?

Could Trudeau be unaware of how the Canadian state came to be? It is established on the territory of the First Nations, also through the dastardly crime of genocide.4 What about the right of First Nations to a nation state or nation states?

Trudeau might do well to learn from anti-racism activist Tim Wise who explained the antipathy that Jewish Zionism arouses.5

Of course, Israel itself is a suicide culture, though they left this part out of my Hebrew School classes. What else could one call a nation erected amidst folks who don’t want you there, whose land you had to steal, if not a land rooted in a death wish? We may not blow ourselves up, but we sure as hell have come up with a creative way to put our individual and collective lives in danger — become usurpers of other people’s stuff: always a sure way to make people hate you.6

Human rights and opposition to racism are not pick-and-choose principles. To be regarded seriously and exude moral integrity, one must resolutely support the equal and fair application of human rights for all humans, and one must resolutely oppose racism against any group of people.

  1. For example, some mitigating circumstances might exist such as having been raised in a white-supremacist household.
  2. Noam Chomsky, Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians (Haymarket Books): 550.
  3. Noam Chomsky, Fateful Triangle: 551.
  4. See, for example, Bruce Clark, Ongoing Genocide caused by Judicial Suppression of the “Existing” Aboriginal Rights (2018). Review. Tamara Starblanket, Suffer the Little Children: Genocide, Indigenous Nations and the Canadian State (Clarity Press, 2018). Review. Kerry Coast, The Colonial Present: The Rule of Ignorance and the Role of Law in British Columbia (Clarity Press and International Human Rights Association of American Minorities, 2013). Review. Tom Swanky, The Great Darkening: The True Story of Canada’s “War” of Extermination on the Pacific plus The Tsilhqot’in and other First Nations Resistance (Burnaby, BC: Dragon Heart Enterprises, 2012). Review.
  5. Yes, there are Christian Zionists as well. They are basically motivated by Scriptural interpretation rather than the racially based in-group supremacism of Jews. Also, it should be axiomatically understood that when one speaks of a group that the members of a group do not form a monolithic consciousness.
  6. In Adam Engel, A Conversation with Tim Wise, Counterpunch, 6 December 2003.

Part 4 of 4: The Israel Lobby in the U.S.

Censored Al Jazeera documentary exposing the Israel lobby in the U.S. (part 1 of 4). The documentary was never broadcast by Al Jazeera due to pressure from some Jewish groups and individuals. It was eventually leaked to a few groups, which posted some short clips. On 2 November the first two parts finally became available to the public. For more information see here. For information on pro-Israel influence on U.S. Congressional candidates. For a full list of the Israel lobby in the U.S. More information and additional documentaries on the Israel lobby can be here.

See Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Part 4 of 4: The Israel Lobby in the U.S.

Censored Al Jazeera documentary exposing the Israel lobby in the U.S. (part 1 of 4). The documentary was never broadcast by Al Jazeera due to pressure from some Jewish groups and individuals. It was eventually leaked to a few groups, which posted some short clips. On 2 November the first two parts finally became available to the public. For more information see here. For information on pro-Israel influence on U.S. Congressional candidates. For a full list of the Israel lobby in the U.S. More information and additional documentaries on the Israel lobby can be here.

See Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.