Category Archives: Land Theft

“Manifest Destiny” and the Mexican-American War

Each year tens of thousands of Irish-Americans proudly celebrate their heritage on St Patrick Day, yet few are aware of the fate of the Irish in the St Patrick’s Battalion (el Batallón de San Patricio) who chose to fight under their green flag for Mexico against the aggression of the United States in the Mexican-American War of 1846-48 .

How many Americans are fully aware of their country’s land-grab and the illegal annexation of what was Mexican territory. Hollywood glorifies the Texas rebellion but fails to shine a light on the later American invasion of Mexico, a war opposed by many Northerners such as Abraham Lincoln even though some Northern merchants did believe it would open up the Pacific Coast ports as gateways to China. As with Texas, the plantation-owning Southern elite coveted the vast stretches of northern Mexico where they could expand their slave economy. The conquest of what is now south-west United States became their objective. It was sparsely settled and still remained mostly populated by Native Americans. The ideological justification for this expansionism was the doctrine of “Manifest Destiny”.

As early as 1825, President John Quincy Adams attempted to purchase the Texas province from Mexico. When Mexico refused, other means were employed. The southern plantation owners encouraged the settling of Texas by Anglo-Americans with the hope that they would outnumber the small Mexican population and create enough difficulties for Mexico so that it would relinquish control to the United States. The main issue of the presidential campaign of 1844 was the annexation of Texas, with the Democratic Party running James Polk in favor. The victory of the Democrats, who represented the southern planters, guaranteed annexation. The Anglo-American Texans, who were legally Mexican citizens, refused to submit to the authority of the Mexican government and maintained slavery. They set up the Independent Republic of Texas in 1836. This led to the Alamo and the subsequent defeat of Santa Anna by the army of Sam Houston. The slavocracy of the South looked forward to immediately annexing Texas to the United States but divisions within the U.S. ruling class delayed annexation until 1845, as the northern capitalists opposed adding Texas as another slave state, fearing the enhanced political weight of a strengthened South.

But plans and desires went far beyond Texas. President Polk was intent on provoking Mexico into a war which would end in the conquest of all of Mexico.  The immediate cause of the war was a dispute over the border between Texas and Mexico. The area involved about 150 square miles of territory. Before the dispute could be resolved through negotiations, the president ordered U.S. troops under Zachary Taylor to cross the River Nueces and hold the disputed area. When the Mexican army sought to eject the U.S. army from its territory, the United States used this as its pretext to declare war on Mexico.

The annexation nature of the war was obvious. Ulysses S. Grant, who fought as an officer in the war, would write:

We were sent to provoke a fight, but it was essential that Mexico should commence it…The occupation, separation, and annexation were, from the inception of the movement to its final consummation, a conspiracy to acquire territory out of which slave states might be formed for the American union. Even if annexation itself could be justified, the manner in which the subsequent war was forced on Mexico cannot.

The outcome of the war was almost a foregone conclusion. The Mexican army was badly led and poorly equipped. The U.S. military advanced into Mexican territory and began conducting a campaign of brutality and engaging in numerous acts of wanton violence and destruction against civilians. Commanding General Winfield Scott admitted his U.S. troops had “committed atrocities to make Heaven weep and every American of Christian morals blush for his country. Murder, robbery and rape of mothers and daughters in the presence of tied up males of the families have been common all along the Rio Grande.”

So barbaric were the actions of the American army that some 250 Irish deserted and went over to the side of the Mexicans.

American armies attacked the Mexicans in northern and southern California as well as throughout New Mexico and Arizona. The United States defeated Mexican armies and went on to occupy Mexico City. The United States captured almost 50% of Mexico’s territory.

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo

On February 2, 1848, Mexico agreed to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Mexico accepted the Rio Grande as the Texas border and ceded the Southwest (which incorporates the present day states of Arizona, California, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, and parts of Wyoming and Colorado), an area larger than France and Germany combined, to the U.S. for $15 million. The Democratic administration favored taking all of Mexico, but was opposed in Congress.

This treaty was also important because the Mexican negotiators were more deeply concerned to ensure the protection of the democratic rights of Mexicans remaining in the Southwest and it should not be forgotten that, with the exception of the Native Americans, Mexicans are the only minority whose rights were specifically legally safeguarded by a formal treaty. It contained provisions concerning the treatment of the Mexicans remaining in the Southwest. The U.S. agreed to safeguard the property rights of the Mexicans and guaranteed their civil and religious rights. Their culture as well as their land grants were to be respected. The Mexicans were to receive full U.S. citizenship within one year. Article VIII stated:

Mexicans now established in territories previously belonging to Mexico, and which remain for the future within the limits of the United States, as defined by the present treaty, shall be free to continue where they now reside, or to remove at any time to the Mexican Republic, retaining the property which they possess in the said territories…In the said territories, property of every kind, now belonging to Mexicans not established there, shall be inviolably respected. The present owners, the heirs of these, and all Mexicans who may hereafter acquire said property by contract, shall enjoy with respect to it guarantees equally ample as if the same belonged to citizens of the United States.

Article IX guaranteed to those who became citizens (automatic one year from the date of the treaty, unless an individual specifically chose to remain a Mexican citizen)

…enjoyment of all the rights of citizens of the United States, according to the principles of the Constitution… [and also] …the free enjoyment of their liberty and property, and secure in the free exercise of their religion without restriction.

The U.S., however, never lived up to its promises and almost systematically violated the guarantees given to the Mexican people in the Southwest.

Nor were any of the Mexican signers of the Guadalupe Hidalgo Treaty aware of the fact that nine days before its signing, gold had been discovered in California. Not only had half of the national territory of Mexico been outright stolen at the point of a cannon, but now lands unbelievably rich in gold and silver, had been ceded away.

Juan Crow

Following annexation, the United States set out to impose its rule over the newly conquered territory and begin to economically exploit it. The tremendous wealth derived from the mines and lands stolen from Mexico began to play an important part in the financing of capitalist industrial expansion.

Very soon the subjugation of the Mexican people began. It was not possible to accomplish this all at once throughout the entire Southwest region so the consolidation of the region happened in stages.   California quickly became a state in 1851, while New Mexico and Arizona remained colonies and were not admitted into the Union until 1912, a full 64 years after they were stolen from Mexico. The ensuing Civil War then hampered efforts to promote development in the Southwest.

The new Anglo rulers unleashed a campaign of terror and thousands of Mexican farmers and laborers were shot or lynched. Between 1850 and 1930, more Mexicans were lynched in this area than Blacks in the South during the same period. In Los Angeles, in the one year of 1854 alone, an estimated 360 Mexicans were murdered .

Big ranchers set up groups like the Texas and Arizona Rangers to “legally” terrorize and subdue the conquered population, expropriating the Tejano (Mexican-Texan) landowners. The Texas Rangers and other vigilante groups simply shot hundreds of Mexicans and took over their property. Not a single white American, however, was ever convicted of killing a Mexican in Texas in the 50 years immediately following annexation.

The ranchers and merchants hoped that this terrorism, which now is described as ethnic cleansing, would drive those of Mexican origin across the border to Mexico. Anglo-American migration into the Southwest quickly changed the character of the area and the overall population of Texas and California became predominantly white, (although the southern parts of both states along the border remained mainly Mexican inhabited.) The new settlers reneged on the treaty obligations and began deprived the Mexicans of political rights and power. By 1880 in California no Mexican served in public office where previously they held legislative, judicial and executive positions throughout the state. Originally designated to be a bilingual state (Spanish and English), by as early as 1855. the California state government required all schools to teach exclusively in English and then the 1878 State constitution completely eliminated Spanish as an official language. Special taxes and restrictions were levied on the Mexicans in California as well, such as the “Foreign Miners’ Tax,” to drive non-white miners out of the gold fields. The Mexicans from Sonora were expert miners who introduced such innovative mining techniques as panning and the dry-wash separation of gold. There were also laws prohibiting or restricting traditional fiestas. Similar curtailments spread throughout the Southwest. From 1850 to 1900, the Anglo settlers, expropriated almost the entire propertied class of Californios. Those who did not lose their lands were reduced to small holdings.

Mexican-Americans were transformed into foreign “aliens”. The persecution of the Mexican people went hand-in-hand with the theft of their lands. In many cases, the objective of the murder and violence against them was to take over their property, regardless of the promises of Guadalupe Hidalgo. This great land grab was second only to the massive theft of Native American land. All in all, it is estimated they lost 20 million acres of land in Texas alone. In California and New Mexico the original inhabitants lost much of their land through legal manoeuvres, squatting, claim-jumping and exorbitant taxes. In 1851 California passed a “Land Act” which required that Mexicans go through a complex process to prove title to their land. This was very difficult in many cases since the lands often were owned in common or accurate records were never kept. In New Mexico, 80% of them lost their property, most of these small farmers and herders. An infamous conspiracy of merchants, lawyers, bankers and politicians known as the Santa Fe Ring controlled the territory’s courts and government and awarded themselves millions of acres through swindles. The Surveyor of General Claims Office of the New Mexico Territory could take up to fifty years to process a claim, meanwhile, the lands were being squatted upon by the Anglo newcomers who often sold the land to land speculators for huge profits.

The federal government in 1891 eventually established a Court of Private Land Claims to settle land “disputes” in Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado.  In its 13 years of existence the court heard cases involving 35.5 million acres. The court upheld the original claims of less than two million acres. All the rest were denied and the claimants lost their land. The court, in actuality, legalized the land grab. And the federal authorities itself were not above getting involved in this property theft, especially in New Mexico. Between 1850 and 1900 the federal government accumulated 14.5 million acres of land, the majority of this from individual or communal Mexicans’ lands. The courts, being an instrument of class rule, were used to legitimize the theft of the Mexican people of their land. For sure, it was often the ownership of changing from Mexican feudal grandee to an American capitalist. The huge haciendas of landlord class of Mexico gave way to the vast ranches of Bonanza fame. The economy of the Southwest, geared to small-scale trade and production to satisfy local needs, where much of the land was held in common by communities represented an obstacle to the greedy commerce of the encroaching capitalists who sought to maximize the productive forces. Peasant plots and sheep pastures were converted into grazing land for the new capitalist cattle barons, with Mexicans forced to sell their labor power to their new patróns. The pauperizing the peoples of the Southwest enabled the new owners to freely exploit the land and labor of the region.

Organised resistance on the part of the Mexican people developed to try to halt Anglo incursions. The most famous were seen as Robin Hood figures. Courageous banditos waged a guerilla struggle against the American whites; men such as Tiburcio Vasquez and Joaquin Murietta. In Texas, there was Juan Cortina, who became a folk-hero; and in New Mexico was the “Las Gorras Blancas” (“The White Caps”), direct-actionists who cut the fences and burned the barns of ranchers enclosing the Las Vegas Land Grant commons.  They destroyed railroad tracks and burned bridges seen as the foundation of commercial development. “Las Gorras Blancas” sought to develop a class-based consciousness among local people through the everyday tactics of resistance to the economic and social order confronting common property land grant communities.

In a manifesto, Las Gorras Blancas explained their actions as efforts “to protect the rights of the people in general; and especially those of the helpless classes…We want the Las Vegas Grant settled to the benefit of all concerned and this we hold is the entire community within the grant… will fight any scheme that tends to monopolize the supply of water courses to the detriment of residents Las Gorras Blancas received popular support from small grazers who had watched the common lands slowly disappear behind barbed-wire fences defending the dubious property claims of wealthy newcomers. Las Gorras Blancas became El Partido del Pueblo, the Peoples Party, and entered the State legislature but found reformism to be a dead-end.

As for the fate of the St Patrick Battalion volunteers, at their court-martial none of the men were legally represented nor were transcripts made of the proceedings. Contrary to the Articles of War, which stipulated that the penalty for desertion or defecting to the enemy in a time of war was death by firing squad, only members of the Saint Patrick’s Battalion were executed by hanging as common criminals.

The executions took place at three separate locations on three separate dates; 16 were executed on 10 September 1847 at San Ángel, four were executed the following day at the village of Mixcoac on 11 September, and 30 were hanged at Chapultepec on 13 September. One soldier was hanged even though he had had both legs amputated the previous day. When the army surgeon informed the colonel that the absent soldier had lost both his legs in battle, Colonel Harney retorted: “Bring the damned son of a bitch out! My order was to hang 30 and by God I’ll do it!” The prisoners spared the gallows were flogged and branded on their cheeks with the letter D to signify deserter.

The San Patricios continue to be honored as heroes in Mexico. Their role in the Mexican-American war has long been acknowledged. They have been remembered as a symbol of international solidarity by the Zapatistas. But as to be expected, in the USA, the memory of the battalion was very different and the American army long denied even the existence of the Saint Patrick’s Battalion until 1915 when it finally conceded it existed.

“Manifest Destiny” and the Spanish-American War

The Spanish-American war is often explained by the hysteria drummed by the popular press of William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, fanning the fire and inflaming the passion of public opinion until every lie was believed as the truth that the American government were acting from no selfish motives, other than altruism

While in the Mexican-American war, it was the Southern Democrats who spoke of the historic necessity of the United States to dominate whatever lands or peoples it so desired as an integral part of the country’s foreign policy.  At its convention of 1896, it was the Republican Party which announced itself to be the party of “Manifest Destiny” to bring civilization to the inferior peoples. The victory in the election was interpreted as carte blanche to go implement an aggressive foreign policy. American business interests had been casting its greedy gaze for many years at the islands in the Caribbean and the Pacific with a dream of a global American empire.

Like all the European powers Spanish rule was ruthless and cruel; based upon the exploitation of its resources and  people. Revolutionary stirrings in its colonies had long been in existence,

Cuba broke out into open revolt in 1895. The Spanish authorities responded brutally setting up de facto concentration camps, herding the families of the rebels and all those suspected of disloyalty into them.

American businesses owned a wide range of investments in Cuba. Those vested interests were in favor of taking control of Cuba’s chaotic conditions and ejecting Spain from Cuba was seen as the first step. The Republican Party platform of 1897 had already declared that Spain was unable “to protect the property and lives of resident American citizens.” The “Manifest Destiny” Republicans launched their interventionist campaign with the newspapers of Hearst and Pulitzer reporting lurid tales of atrocities, clamoring for war to fight on behalf of a defenseless people – the same “humanitarian” war lie we hear so often today. Astute industrialists recognized that war with Spain would increase the business and earnings of American commerce.  It would increase the output of every American factory, it would stimulate a stagnant economy.

In January, 1898, the battleship Maine went to Havana on a “good-will” visit. But on February 15, 1898, the battleship mysteriously exploded at anchor. An investigation could not determine the actual cause of the explosion which took the lives of 258 crew and it may have happened in a number of different ways. Today there is still no real definitive explanation of its cause.

Regardless, the navy concluded that the Maine had been blown up by a mine. The pro-war faction embarked upon a great war-mongering campaign led by Teddy Roosevelt as President McKinley and the Spanish Government tried to resolve the issues peacefully.

In their zeal to avoid a conflict with America the Spanish  accepted all the American proposals but America’s plutocrat and oligarchs were not to be cheated out of their war. On April 19, the United States declared war.

The ostensible purpose for entering the war was to free Cuba. Yet, when it came to the peace terms, America demanded it included the acquisition of Puerto Rico, the islands now known as the Marianas, Guam and the Philippines. The Peace of Paris, December 10, 1898, liquidated the colonial empire of Spain for $20,000,000 compensation. Cuba was not even represented at the conference table. And upon its evacuation by Spain it was to be occupied by the United States. The Cuban people thought the war was for Cuba’s independence but those who had fought and suffered to win their freedom were betrayed.

Many Americans today are well aware of the US military base at Guantánamo Bay and it was from this period of history America acquired the 28,000 acres with its buildings, airfields, docks and a notorious prison camp purposefully placed outside the reach of any legal system. The US pays Cuba $3,386 dollars and 25 cents annually for this occupied territory The presence of American troops in Guantánamo are against the wishes of the Cuban people and it remains Cuba’s occupied territory.

Under the influence of war-fever, the annexation of Hawaii was also quickly accomplished. McKinley declared that “We need Hawaii just as much and a good deal more than we did California. It is manifest destiny” and the compliant press raised exaggerated stories of the threat to the islands from the Japanese and the Germans.

Secretly, Theodore Roosevelt, then Assistant Secretary of the Navy, had already deployed Admiral Dewey’s Pacific fleet to the Far East to attack the Spanish in the Philippines, two months before the outbreak of the war. The Spanish navy was routed and American troops later arrived and occupied the Philippines with the aid of Filipino rebels.

The people of the Philippines sincerely believed that the Americans were there to deliver them from the tyrannical yoke of Spain so that they may be a free and independent nation. The Filipino politicians were already setting up a Republic. But the Americans falsely described the situation as being one of “disorder” and required the American military to take command. When the Filipinos finally realized what had happened to them, they turned their guns on the American occupying force who proceeded to teach them all about America’s style of establishing democracy. In the three year war against the Filipinos 60,000 US troops infected with racism committed numerous atrocities and strict censorship silenced the tales of massacres and torture. Estimates of the death-toll vary but it was in the hundreds of thousands. A puppet Philippine government was established in 1907 by a restricted election in which only property holders — about 100,000 — could vote. An American Governor-General ruled with veto power.

The US was not in business of freeing people.  Its objective was merely to exchange Spanish domination with Washington’s. America had commenced the Spanish war to emancipate “little” Cuba and concluded it with the bloody subjugation of the Philippines.

Conclusion

When one risks life and limb, a rational person needs a good reason for the possible sacrifice. To make somebody even more wealthier is not a very good motivation.

The Irish Catholics of the St Patrick Battalion understood first-hand foreign oppression and religious repression. They witnessed the deceit of the the United States in launching its invasion of Mexico. They believed they possessed a worthy cause greater than themselves as individuals to fight and die for.

But others require something much more to go to war and face death. Countries will try to instill a national identity, loyalty and patriotism. When that may not be enough, an appeal to God may be called for, with government declaring they hold a divine mission to conduct a “Holy Crusade” and this is what Americans meant by their doctrine of “manifest destiny”, or what is more commonly called American “exceptionalism” these days. It offers a cloak of respectability for what can only be described as inhuman, brutal behavior. It is imperialism by another name and the aim remains the same — economic, military and political domination of the world.

There are two Americas. One is the America of the capitalist clique who threaten the world’s security. This is the America the people of the world has learned to detest and fear.

Then there is the other America — the America of  working people with a revered record of sympathy for people of other lands in their struggles against kings and despots.

This is the America that has held out the hand of comradely friendship to the oppressed people in the world and at one time offered security and sanctuary to the persecuted. This is the America that must take the power from the exploiters and parasites. The American working class can open up the way to a new world. They have the power in America. All that is necessary is for them to understand it — and to use it. We believe they will do so. We believe the real America — the America of the working people — will help save the world by saving itself. This is America’s true “manifest destiny”.

Postscript

In Europe, the Fraternal Democrats, a radical wing of the Chartist movement, issued a condemnation of the American war against Mexico, endorsing the view that the war was unjust to Mexico, disgraceful to the United States and a war for the extension of slavery.”

Following their policy of supporting the development of nascent capitalism, Marx and Engels took the opposite opinion and condoned the American aggression of the Mexican invasion. Engels writes:

We have witnessed the conquest of Mexico and have rejoiced in it…[and]… that splendid California has been taken away from the lazy Mexican…[and]…for the first time really open the Pacific Ocean to civilization.

The post “Manifest Destiny” and the Mexican-American War first appeared on Dissident Voice.

How do Democrats and Republicans Differ on Palestine and Israel? 

The polarized nature of American politics often makes it difficult to address fundamental differences between the country’s two main political rivals, Republicans and Democrats. As each side is intent on discrediting the other at every opportunity, unbiased information regarding the two parties’ actual stances on internal and external issues can be difficult to decipher.

Regarding Palestine and Israel, however, both parties’ establishments are quite clear on offering Israel unlimited and unconditional support. The discrepancies in their positions are, at times, quite negligible, even if Democrats, occasionally, attempt to present themselves as fairer and more even-handed.

Judging by statements made by Democrat presidential candidate, Joe Biden, his running mate, Kamala Harris, and people affiliated with their campaign, a future President Biden does not intend to reverse any of the pro-Israel political measures adopted by the Donald Trump Administration.

Moreover, a Democrat administration, as revealed, will not even consider the possibility of conditioning US financial and military support to Israel on the latter’s respect for Palestinian human rights, let alone international law altogether.

“Joe Biden has made it clear  … he will not tie US security assistance to Israel to political decisions Israel makes, and I couldn’t agree more,” Harris, who is promoted enthusiastically by some as a ‘progressive’ politician, was quoted as saying in a telephone call on August 26. The call was made to what Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, termed as “Jewish supporters.” The Jerusalem Post and the Times of Israel referred to this crucial constituency as “Jewish donors.”

Although the view of the party’s rank and file has significantly shifted against Israel in recent years, the Democrat’s upper echelon still caters to the Israel lobby and their rich backers, even if this means continuing to mold US foreign policy in the Middle East so that it serves Israeli interests.

Republicans, on the other hand, have cemented their support for Israel, but no longer around geo-strategic issues pertaining to Israel’s ‘security’ or US interests. The speeches made by Republican leaders at the Republican National Convention (RNC), held in  Charlotte, North Carolina last month, were all aimed at reassuring ‘Christian Zionists’, who represent the most powerful pro-Israel constituency in the US. The once relatively marginal impact of Christian Zionists in directly shaping US foreign policy has morphed, over the years, to define the core values of Republicans.

Regardless of the nature of the discourse through which Republican and Democrat leaders express their love and support for Israel, the two parties are decidedly ‘pro-Israel’. There are many recent examples that corroborate this assertion.

On November 18, 2019, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that Washington would no longer consider Jewish settlements illegal or a violation of international law. That position was later cemented in Trump’s so-called ‘Deal of the Century’, published on January 28.

Democrats, however, continue to perceive illegal Jewish settlements as, indeed, illegal. “This decision harms the cause of diplomacy, takes us further away from the hope of a two-state solution, and will only further inflame tensions in the region,” Joe Biden’s campaign said in a statement, in response to Pompeo’s declaration.

Although markedly different, it is hard to imagine a Democrat administration upholding the above position, while simultaneously refraining from reversing previous decisions made by the Trump administration. It can only be one or the other.

One’s cynicism is fully justified, as we recently learned, that the Democrat establishment has refused to even use the word ‘occupation’, with reference to Israel’s occupation of Palestine, in their party platform released on July 15. According to Foreign Policy, the decision “followed heavy last-minute lobbying by pro-Israel advocacy groups.”

On December 6, 2017, the Trump administration made one of the boldest pro-Israel decisions, when he formally recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. A few months later, on May 14, 2018, the US embassy was moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a brazen violation of international law.

The legal foundation of Trump’s decision was the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995. This Act was the outcome of bipartisan efforts, bringing together Republicans and Democrats in Congress. Interestingly, leading Democrats, such as Joe Biden and John Kerry, were the main cheerleaders of the embassy move, back then. Only one Democrat senator, the late Robert Byrd, voted against the Bill. In the House of Representatives, only 30 out of 204 Democrats voted ‘no’.

Even though many Democrats rejected the timing of Trump’s implementation of the Jerusalem Embassy Act, their criticism was largely political, primarily motivated by Democrats’ attempts to discredit Trump. The fact that the Biden campaign, later on, made it clear that the decision will not be reversed should he become president, is a further illustration highlighting the moral bankruptcy of the Democratic establishment, as well.

The truth is, US unconditional backing for Israel is a common cause among all American administrations, whether Democrat or Republican. What they may differ on, however, is their overall motive and primary target audience during election time.

Political polarization and misinformation aside, both Democrats and Republicans head to the November elections with strong pro-Israel sentiments, if not outright support, while completely ignoring the plight of occupied and oppressed Palestinians.

The post How do Democrats and Republicans Differ on Palestine and Israel?  first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Truth Behind Netanyahu’s Admission that Police Killing was a Cover-up

It is unprecedented. Three years after the Israeli government first began vilifying a Palestinian teacher to retrospectively justify his murder by Israel’s security forces, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a public apology to his family last week. Yacoub Abu al-Qiyan was not a “terrorist” after all, the Israeli prime minister conceded.

And there was more. Israeli police, said Netanyahu, had portrayed 50-year-old Abu al-Qiyan as “a terrorist to protect themselves” and stop their crimes being exposed.

They shot him even though he posed no threat to anyone. Abu al-Qiyan was unarmed and driving at less than 10 kilometres per hour at the time. After shooting him, police left him to bleed to death for half an hour, denying him medical assistance that could have saved his life.

To cover up their role, police falsely claimed that he had tried to ram them with his car. The Israeli state prosecution service was deeply implicated in this affair, too, having reportedly blocked a criminal investigation, even though they knew what really happened.

Netanyahu said his government had been deceived by the serial lies back in early 2017, implying that that was why he wrongly accused Abu al-Qiyan of committing a “terror attack”.

Hail of gunfire

Such soul-searching and contrition on matters relating to the abuse and killing of a Palestinian are startlingly rare from any Israeli politician. But from Netanyahu, such comments rightly raise an eyebrow. What is going on?

In fact, Netanyahu is telling only partial truths.

Abu al-Qiyan was certainly no terrorist, nor was he a member of the Islamic State (IS), as police repeatedly claimed. He was a school deputy principal and a member of Israel’s large Palestinian minority. That made him – unlike Palestinians in the occupied territories – an Israeli citizen, though one with few of the rights enjoyed by the country’s Jewish majority. Palestinian “citizens” comprise a fifth of Israel’s population.

Bedouin citizens such as Abu al-Qiyan face the most discrimination of all Palestinian communities inside Israel. Nonetheless, he had managed to gain a PhD in chemistry, the first Bedouin to do so in Israel.

And, as Netanyahu correctly observed, Abu al-Qiyan was indeed a victim of extreme police brutality – something all too familiar to Palestinians, whether in the occupied territories or inside Israel.

When his car came under a hail of gunfire, he was hit twice by live rounds. As a result, he lost control of his car, which sped downhill out of control, hitting and killing a police officer. Abu al-Qiyan was then left to bleed to death as police and Israeli medical teams refused to come to his aid.

“Had he received treatment … he would not have died,” concluded Dr Maya Forman, who helped conduct the autopsy. That’s why Ayman Odeh, a Palestinian legislator in the Israeli parliament and the head of the Joint List faction, called Abu al-Qiyan’s killing a police “murder” last week.

Netanyahu was also right that Israeli police lied, both about who Abu al-Qiyan was and the circumstances of his death. But then again, that is standard operating procedure for Israeli security forces when Palestinian civilians die at their hands. Lack of transparency, cover-ups and impunity are givens.

Character assassination

Where Netanyahu was wrong was in suggesting that he was ever deceived by the police claims. He surely knew almost from the start that Abu al-Qiyan was not a terrorist, even while publicly calling him one.

How can we be certain? Because I and many others knew about the police deceptions soon after Abu al-Qiyan was shot and left to die. In February 2017, for example, a month after his death, I wrote an article setting out the lies I had been told by police, which had been rapidly exposed by forensic and video evidence – lies Netanyahu claims only just to have learned about. If I knew the truth three years ago, so did he.

In fact, the Shin Bet, Israel’s intelligence service, which is directly answerable to the prime minister, concluded within two days that the incident was not a terror attack.

Netanyahu wasn’t tricked. He colluded in the character assassination of Abu al-Qiyan after the Bedouin man’s assassination by police.

Indeed, Netanyahu and his ministers amplified those slurs to include the rest of Israel’s Palestinian minority. His public security minister at the time, Gilad Erdan, demonised the minority’s representatives in parliament, accusing them of condoning terrorism and inciting against police by denying that Abu al-Qiyan’s killing was justified.

Killing exploited

Whatever he says now, Netanyahu’s claim last week that “yesterday we found out [Abu al-Qiyan] was not a terrorist” did not end the lies; it continued and expanded them.

The only reason the prime minister decided to break with Israel’s decades-old policy of dissembling to ensure its security services enjoy impunity over the deaths of Palestinians was to help himself out of a jam. It certainly was not because he cared about a glaring injustice, or about Abu al-Qiyan’s vilification and the family’s suffering – both of which he very much contributed to.

Netanyahu’s goal was not to clear Abu al-Qiyan’s name, but to tarnish the reputation of Israel’s police and prosecution service – and for all the wrong reasons. The police force and prosecutors involved in the killing of Abu al-Qiyan, and the cover-up of that crime, are the same police force and prosecution service that will be acting against Netanyahu in December, when his corruption trial begins in earnest.

Netanyahu faces a string of charges that he committed bribery, fraud and breach of trust. His political survival now depends on his ability to breathe life into a narrative that the Israeli police and legal system are themselves corrupt and waging an anti-democratic war to bring him down.

This is the story he is trying to craft: if police and prosecutors could deceive even Israel’s prime minister for three years over the killing of an Israeli citizen, are they not also capable of deceiving the public by accusing Netanyahu himself of being corrupt?

Should Netanyahu succeed, he will demand that all corruption charges against him are dropped. Another Palestinian legislator, Aida Touma-Suleiman, tweeted that Netanyahu’s apology was worthless, calling it the “cynical use of blood for ominous political purposes”.

Trigger-happy fingers

Netanyahu has been helped, of course, by the fact that, though his claims of a supposed establishment campaign against him are preposterous, he is not wrong about the profound corruption and anti-democratic nature of Israel’s law enforcement and prosecution system.

They are indeed corrupt – just not not against him.

But when it comes to the treatment of Palestinians, whether those in the occupied territories or inside Israel, Israeli security services have trigger-happy fingers and contempt for Palestinian lives. Investigations rarely take place, and when they do, their findings are preordained. Prosecutors willingly turn a blind eye to police misdeeds, hastily closing such files, as they did with Abu al-Qiyan.

On Monday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) demanded the return of the body of Ahmed Erekat, a 26-year-old Palestinian shot by Israeli soldiers 10 weeks ago in violation of both Israeli and international law.

His death parallels Abu al-Qiyan’s own treatment. Erekat was shot dead by soldiers after what appeared to be a traffic accident at a checkpoint in the West Bank in which a soldier was lightly injured. Video shows Erekat emerging from his car, posing no visible threat, only to be gunned down by the soldiers. Medical crews were again blocked from approaching.

Efforts by Human Rights Watch to find out whether Erekat was armed, or whether Israel has conducted an investigation and, if so, what its findings were, have all gone unanswered.

Similarly, in late May Israeli police killed an autistic Palestinian man, Iyad al-Hallaq, shooting him reportedly at close range, after chasing him through the streets of Jerusalem’s Old City. There were at least 10 cameras in that area, according to local media, but Israeli authorities have claimed none were working at the time of the incident.

These and many similar incidents show that Palestinian life isn’t just cheap. It’s worthless in the eyes of the Israeli police and army – and in Netanyahu’s eyes, too. Abu al-Qiyan’s life has meaning to the Israeli prime minister now only because it can be exploited to keep him in power.

Dehumanising Palestinians

Abu al-Qiyan’s story isn’t an aberration. It sheds light on the way Israel’s entire state apparatus systematically dehumanises Palestinians, both in life and in death.

The context for Abu al-Qiyan’s killing in January 2017 were Israeli police efforts to implement an abhorrent decision by the Netanyahu government to demolish his village, Umm al-Hiran, in Israel’s south, in the semi-desert Negev region. The entire village, home to 1,000 Palestinian citizens of Israel, was due to be razed so it could be replaced by a new, exclusively Jewish community under nearly the same name, Hiran.

In fact, it was the second time these Bedouin villagers were being ethnically cleansed by their own state. Sixty years earlier – long before 24-hour rolling news coverage or social media – they had been expelled by the Israeli army from their ancestral lands to make way for another exclusively Jewish community.

Remember, the village of Umm al-Hiran is located in Israel, and its inhabitants are all formally Israeli citizens. Nonetheless, the politicians and courts had no interest in protecting the rights of these Palestinian citizens. The state’s official policy of “Judaising” the Negev – forcing out Palestinian citizens to make way for Jewish citizens – took precedence.

Years of struggle by the villagers, aided by international and local human rights groups, had come to naught. The country’s highest court had ruled: “The residents of Umm al-Hiran have no right to the place.”

Trying to avoid bad publicity, Netanyahu’s government sent in hundreds of members of a paramilitary unit, the Border Police, under cover of night to forcibly evict the villagers. They arrived with live ammunition, rubber-coated metal bullets, tear gas and stun grenades.

Car veered erratically

Abu al-Qiyan had decided to leave before the demolitions began to avoid any confrontation with police. Other villagers staged a protest in the village, alongside Palestinian members of the Israeli parliament and left-wing activists, watched by a handful of journalists.

Abu al-Qiyan packed his car with the last belongings from his home, and then headed along a dusty track to reach the main road. As is the case with dozens of similar Bedouin communities in the Negev, there were no paved roads in Umm al-Hiran, because – as part of its Judaisation policy – Israel has denied these villages all basic services.

As Abu al-Qiyan carefully navigated the track down a small hill in the dark, Israeli police opened fire, aiming in the direction of his car’s headlights. Dozens of shots were fired. He was hit twice, an autopsy report revealed: once in the torso and once in the knee, rendering him incapable of controlling the car.

A police aerial video of the incident shows that, after the shots, the car suddenly sped up and veered erratically down the slope. At the bottom, the car crashed into a group of police, killing Erez Levy.

Bleeding to death

There had been no reason to shoot Abu al-Qiyan, apart from the racist preconceptions of the Israeli police officers there that night. Their force has long cultivated an institutional view of Palestinians, including those who are Israeli citizens, as not fully human and as an “enemy”. That last observation was made not by me, but by an official, judicial-led commission of inquiry into a spate of other killings by Israeli police of Palestinian citizens.

Because the police officers arriving in Umm al-Hiran regarded its inhabitants as criminals – a view that has been expressed towards Bedouins by all Israeli governments, including Netanyahu’s – they could not interpret Abu al-Qiyan’s car speeding towards them in any way other than as a car-ramming.

Cause and effect were easily reversed in their minds. They shot Abu al-Qiyan without reason. They created the circumstances that led to the death of a fellow officer. But in the racist worldview of Israeli police, the bullets fired at Abu al-Qiyan were retrospectively justified by an imagined “terror attack” the same bullets had caused.

Complicity in Abu al-Qiyan’s racist murder was not confined to the police officers. Two doctors and a team of paramedics at the scene joined them in allowing Abu al-Qiyan to bleed to death. They were only 10 metres from him as his life slowly ebbed away.

One of the paramedics explained that they did not help Abu al-Qiyan because they were not ordered to do so by police, as though they needed an invitation. Justifying the inaction, a paramedic told an investigator: “Sad, it’s easy to talk now but in the field the signs were that it was an attack.” In those circumstances, leaving Abu al-Qiyan to bleed to death was acceptable, it seems.

Politician shot

The police lies came thick and fast, but were quickly exposed by video and forensic evidence. Abu al-Qiyan had not raced towards police in a terror attack. He had not had his headlights turned off, supposedly fuelling their suspicions. They had not fired into the air, or only at his car’s tyres.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz recently reported on transcripts of an interview with the officer who shot first, known only as S. He admitted that his life had not been in danger and that he fired not at the vehicle’s tyres – the official story – but at the centre of the car.

Police claims that they had proof that Abu al-Qiyan was an IS supporter never materialised. Later, the Shin Bet intelligence service quietly closed its investigation, unable to find any signs it was a “terror attack”.

Police were caught out in another blatant deception over that night’s events. Ayman Odeh, the head of a parliamentary delegation for the Palestinian minority monitoring events in Umm al-Hiran, was left with a bleeding head wound.

Police claimed he had been hit by a stone thrown by villagers. In fact, as Odeh claimed and photographic evidence proved, police had fired rubber-coated metal bullets at him, as they had at the villagers. Had one of those bullets hit Odeh’s head a fraction lower, he could have been blinded.

Photos of the scene show a group of armed police relaxing and chatting next to Odeh, as he crawls in the dirt, stunned, with his head profusely bleeding. Despite his parliamentary privilege, Odeh was shot as he tried to assist Abu al-Qiyan. Eyal Weizman, the head of Forensic Architecture, which used video and other evidence to piece together that night’s events, has noted that had Odeh been allowed to reach Abu al-Qiyan, the teacher’s life could have been saved.

‘Blood on your hands’

In the following days, the demonisation of Abu al-Qiyan – and of Palestinian leaders, such as Odeh for disputing the police narrative – was led by the Netanyahu government.

Erdan, now Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, called the villagers of Umm al-Hiran “violent thieves”. He accused Odeh and other Palestinian legislators of being equally responsible for the death of police officer Levy as the “terrorist” Abu al-Qiyan. “This blood is on your hands too,” he wrote on social media.

In a 2017 post praising Erez, Netanyahu said those “supporting and inciting for terrorism” – code for the Palestinian leadership in Israel – would face “all necessary force”, including even denial of citizenship.

The Netanyahu government’s demonisation campaign provided the excuse for further indignities suffered by Abu al-Qiyan’s family and his village. The family was denied compensation, and are today reported to be still living in mobile homes after their home was demolished following the 2017 incident.

In line with its policy towards “terrorists”, Israeli authorities delayed releasing Abu al-Qiyan’s body and refused a public burial. As his nephew, Raed, told me angrily five days after the killing, as he attended a funeral at which the body never arrived: “Not only did the police kill him in cold blood, but now they are holding his body hostage to try to make more convincing their ridiculous story that he is a terrorist.”

It has apparently taken three and a half years for Netanyahu to learn what Raed Abu al-Qiyan knew from the start.

Circle of complicity

Nothing that happened to Abu al-Qiyan that night – or in the weeks and months that followed – was exceptional. The police lies and the state cover-up were not an aberration, nor was the subsequent incitement directed at Israel’s Palestinian minority. Those are all the norm.

What is exceptional are the circumstances that allowed the truth to finally gain traction – differing from cases like those mentioned earlier of Ahmed Erekat and Iyad al-Hallaq.

Because Abu al-Qiyan was killed inside Israel rather than in the occupied territories, the actions of police were initially investigated, in part to try to prove he was a terrorist, even if the findings were never supposed to see the light. Because witnesses were present, including journalists and politicians, it was easier to piece together the real events and discredit the police account.

And now, because Netanyahu is in trouble and facing trial, he is ready to spill the beans to save his neck. He is using the truth about al-Qiyan to bury the truth about himself.

This moment of dishonest truth-telling should be grasped nonetheless, because it briefly exposes Israel’s treatment of Palestinians – even those who are nominally its citizens – in all its hideous, racist depravity.

It shows how wide, in a self-declared Jewish state, the circle of complicity is in a murder such as Abu al-Qiyan’s and the subsequent cover-up. That circle embraced police, prosecutors, doctors, politicians – and, of course, the prime minister himself.

• First published in Middle East Eye

The post The Truth Behind Netanyahu’s Admission that Police Killing was a Cover-up first appeared on Dissident Voice.

“People of the Cave”: Palestinians Take Their Fight for Justice to the Mountains 

Palestinians are not going anywhere. This is the gist of seven decades of Palestinian struggle against Zionist colonialism. The proof? The story of Ahmed Amarneh.

Amarneh, a 30-year-old civil engineer from the northern West Bank village of Farasin, lives with his family in a cave. For many years, the Amarneh family has attempted to build a proper home, but their request has been denied by the Israeli military every time.

In many ways, the struggle of the Amarnehs is a microcosm of the collective struggle of Farasin; in fact, of most Palestinians.

Those who are unfortunate enough to be living in areas of the West Bank, designated by the Oslo II Accord of 1995 as Area C, were left in a perpetual limbo.

Area C constitutes nearly 60% of the overall size of the West Bank. It is rich with resources – mostly arable land, water and ample minerals – yet, relatively sparsely populated. It should not be surprising why right-wing Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, wants to annex this region. More land, with fewer Palestinians, has been the guiding principle for Zionist colonialism from the outset.

True, Netanyahu’s annexation plan, at least the de jure element of it, has been postponed. In practice, however, de facto annexation has been taking place for many years, and, lately, it has accelerated. Last June, for example, Israel demolished 30 Palestinian homes in the West Bank, mostly in Area C, rendering over 100 Palestinians homeless.

Additionally, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Israeli army bulldozers destroyed 33 non-residential structures as well. This is “the same number (of homes) demolished throughout the entire first five months of 2020,” OCHA reported.

Unfortunately, Farasin, like numerous other Palestinian villages and communities across Area C, has been singled out for complete destruction. A small population of approximately 200 people has been subjected to Israeli army harassment for years. While Israel is keen on implanting Jewish communities in the heart of the occupied West Bank, it is equally keen on disrupting the natural growth of Palestinian communities, the indigenous people of the land, in Area C.

On July 29, Israeli forces invaded Farasin, terrorizing the residents, and handed over 36 demolition orders, according to the head of the Farasin village council. Namely, this is the onset of ethnic cleansing of the entire population of the village by Israel.

Ahmed Amarneh and his family also received a demolition order, although they do not live in a concrete house, but, rather, in a mountain cave.  “I didn’t make the cave. It has existed since antiquity,” he told reporters. “I don’t understand how they can prevent me from living in a cave. Animals live in caves and are not thrown out. So let them treat me like an animal and let me live in the cave.”

Amarneh’s emotional outburst is not misleading. In a recent report, the Israeli rights group B’tselem, has listed some of Israel’s deceptive methods used to forcefully remove Palestinians from their homes in Area C or to block any development whatsoever within these Palestinian communities.

“Israel has blocked Palestinian development by designating large swathes of land as state land, survey land, firing zones, nature reserves and national parks,” according to B’tselem. Judging by the systematic destruction of the Palestinian environment in the West Bank, Israel is hardly interested in the preservation of animals, either. The ultimate goal is the allocation of “land to settlements and their regional councils,” B’tselem argues.

Therefore, it should not come as a surprise that, for example, as of November 2017, only 16 of the 180 Palestinian communities in Area C have been approved for development. The rest are strictly prohibited.

Between 2016 and 2018, of the 1,485 Palestinian applications for construction and development in these areas, only 21 permits have been approved.

These unrealistic and draconian measures leave Palestinian families with no option but to build without a permit, eventually making them targets for Israeli military bulldozers.

Hundreds of families, like that of Ahmed Amarneh, have opted for alternative solutions. Failing to obtain a permit and wary of the imminent demolition if they build without one, they simply move to mountain caves.

This phenomenon is particularly manifest in the Hebron and Nablus regions.

In the mountainous wasteland located on the outskirts of Nablus, the wreckage of abandoned homes – some demolished, some unfinished – is a testimony of an ongoing war between the Israeli military, on the one hand, and the Palestinian people, on the other. Once they lose the battle and are left with no other option, many Palestinian families take their belongings and head to the caves in search of a home.

Quite often, the fight does not end there, as Palestinian communities, especially in the Hebron hills region, find themselves target to more eviction orders. The war for Palestinian survival rages on.

The case of Ahmed Amarneh, however, is particularly unique, for rarely, if ever, Israel issues a military order to demolish a cave. When the cave is demolished, where else can the Amarneh family go?

This dilemma, symptomatic of the larger Palestinian quandary, reminds one of Mahmoud Darwish’s seminal poem, “The Earth is Closing on Us”:

Where should we go after the last frontiers?
Where should the birds fly after the last sky?
Where should the plants sleep after the last breath of air?

However depressing the reality may be, the metaphor is undeniably powerful, that of savage colonialism that knows no bounds and Palestinian steadfastness (sumoud) that is perennial.

Often buried within the technical details of oppression – Area C, home demolition, ethnic cleansing and so on – is the tenacity of the human spirit, that of the Amarneh family and hundreds of other Palestinian families, who have turned caves into loving homes. It is this unmatched perseverance that makes the quest for justice in Palestine, despite the innumerable odds, possible.

How Israel wages War on Palestinian History

When the Palestinian actor Mohammed Bakri made a documentary about Jenin in 2002 – filming immediately after the Israeli army had completed rampaging through the West Bank city, leaving death and destruction in its wake – he chose an unusual narrator for the opening scene: a mute Palestinian youth.

Jenin had been sealed off from the world for nearly three weeks as the Israeli army razed the neighbouring refugee camp and terrorised its population.

Bakri’s film Jenin, Jenin shows the young man hurrying silently between wrecked buildings, using his nervous body to illustrate where Israeli soldiers shot Palestinians and where bulldozers collapsed homes, sometimes on their inhabitants.

It was not hard to infer Bakri’s larger meaning: when it comes to their own story, Palestinians are denied a voice. They are silent witnesses to their own and their people’s suffering and abuse.

The irony is that Bakri has faced just such a fate himself since Jenin, Jenin was released 18 years ago. Today, little is remembered of his film, or the shocking crimes it recorded, except for the endless legal battles to keep it off screens.

Bakri has been tied up in Israel’s courts ever since, accused of defaming the soldiers who carried out the attack. He has paid a high personal price. Deaths threats, loss of work and endless legal bills that have near-bankrupted him. A verdict in the latest suit against him – this time backed by the Israeli attorney general – is expected in the next few weeks.

Bakri is a particularly prominent victim of Israel’s long-running war on Palestinian history. But there are innumerable other examples.

For decades many hundreds of Palestinian residents in the southern West Bank have been fighting their expulsion as Israeli officials characterise them as “squatters”. According to Israel, the Palestinians are nomads who recklessly built homes on land they seized inside an army firing zone.

The villagers’ counter-claims were ignored until the truth was unearthed recently in Israel’s archives.

These Palestinian communities are, in fact, marked on maps predating Israel. Official Israeli documents presented in court last month show that Ariel Sharon, a general-turned-politician, devised a policy of establishing firing zones in the occupied territories to justify mass evictions of Palestinians like these communities in the Hebron Hills.

The residents are fortunate that their claims have been officially verified, even if they still depend on uncertain justice from an Israeli occupiers’ court.

Israel’s archives are being hurriedly sealed up precisely to prevent any danger that records might confirm long-sidelined and discounted Palestinian history.

Last month Israel’s state comptroller, a watchdog body, revealed that more than one million archived documents were still inaccessible, even though they had passed their declassification date. Nonetheless, some have slipped through the net.

The archives have, for example, confirmed some of the large-scale massacres of Palestinian civilians carried out in 1948 – the year Israel was established by dispossessing Palestinians of their homeland.

In one such massacre at Dawaymeh, near where Palestinians are today fighting against their expulsion from the firing zone, hundreds were executed, even as they offered no resistance, to encourage the wider population to flee.

Other files have corroborated Palestinian claims that Israel destroyed more than 500 Palestinian villages during a wave of mass expulsions that same year to dissuade the refugees from trying to return.

Official documents have disproved, too, Israel’s claim that it pleaded with the 750,000 Palestinian refugees to return home. In fact, as the archives reveal, Israel obscured its role in the ethnic cleansing of 1948 by inventing a cover story that it was Arab leaders who commanded Palestinians to leave.

The battle to eradicate Palestinian history does not just take place in the courts and archives. It begins in Israeli schools.

A new study by Avner Ben-Amos, a history professor at Tel Aviv University, shows that Israeli pupils learn almost nothing truthful about the occupation, even though many will soon enforce it as soldiers in a supposedly “moral” army that rules over Palestinians.

Maps in geography textbooks strip out the so-called “Green Line” – the borders demarcating the occupied territories – to present a Greater Israel long desired by the settlers. History and civics classes evade all discussion of the occupation, human rights violations, the role of international law, or apartheid-like local laws that treat Palestinians differently from Jewish settlers living illegally next door.

Instead, the West Bank is known by the Biblical names of “Judea and Samaria”, and its occupation in 1967 is referred to as a “liberation”.

Sadly, Israel’s erasure of Palestinians and their history is echoed outside by digital behemoths such as Google and Apple.

Palestinian solidarity activists have spent years battling to get both platforms to include hundreds of Palestinian communities in the West Bank missed off their maps, under the hashtag #HeresMyVillage. Illegal Jewish settlements, meanwhile, are prioritised on these digital maps.

Another campaign, #ShowTheWall, has lobbied the tech giants to mark on their maps the path of Israel’s 700-kilometre-long steel and concrete barrier, effectively used by Israel to annex occupied Palestinian territory in violation of international law.

And last month Palestinian groups launched yet another campaign, #GoogleMapsPalestine, demanding that the occupied territories be labelled “Palestine”, not just the West Bank and Gaza. The UN recognised the state of Palestine back in 2012, but Google and Apple refused to follow suit.

Palestinians rightly argue that these firms are replicating the kind of disappearance of Palestinians familiar from Israeli textbooks, and that they uphold “mapping segregation” that mirrors Israel’s apartheid laws in the occupied territories.

Today’s crimes of occupation – house demolitions, arrests of activists and children, violence from soldiers, and settlement expansion – are being documented by Israel, just as its earlier crimes were.

Future historians may one day unearth those papers from the Israeli archives and learn the truth. That Israeli policies were not driven, as Israel claims now, by security concerns, but by a colonial desire to destroy Palestinian society and pressure Palestinians to leave their homeland, to be replaced by Jews.

The lessons for future researchers will be no different from the lessons learnt by their predecessors, who discovered the 1948 documents.

But in truth, we do not need to wait all those years hence. We can understand what is happening to Palestinians right now – simply by refusing to conspire in their silencing. It is time to listen.

• First published in The National

Apartheid or One State: Has Jordan Broken a Political Taboo?   

What will it take for the idea of a two-state solution, which was hardly practical to begin with, to be completely abandoned?

Every realistic assessment of the situation on the ground indicates, with palpable clarity, that there can never be a viable Palestinian state in parts of the West Bank and Gaza.

Politically, the idea is also untenable. Those who are still marketing the ‘two-state solution’, less enthusiastically now as compared with the euphoria of twenty years ago, are paralyzed in the face of the Israeli-American onslaught on any attempt at making ‘Palestine’ a tangible reality.

The Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas is still busy compiling more symbolic recognitions of a state that, at best, exists in the dusty files of the United Nations. Arabs and Europeans, too, still speak of a two-state, rhetoric that is never followed with practical steps that may enforce international law and hold Israel accountable to it.

The fate of Palestine seems to be entirely dependent on the aggressive and violent actions of Israel alone — not only through the policies of Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, but all previous Israeli governments.

This trajectory of aggression and violence is likely to continue for as long as Israel is held hostage to the ideology of Zionism which remains committed to territorial, colonial expansion and the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous population.

These two factors — colonialism and ethnic cleansing — can never coexist with the principles of justice and peace. For Zionism to remain relevant, Israel and Palestine must remain in the throes of a protracted, interminable war.

Therefore, it was encouraging to read comments made by Jordanian Prime Minister, Omar Razzaz, in an interview with the British Guardian newspaper on July 21.

“You close the door to the two-state solution, I could very well look at this positively, if we’re clearly opening the door to a one-state democratic solution,” Razzaz said.

Razzaz was referring specifically in the context of Netanyahu’s decision to annex nearly a third of the West Bank and the Jordan Valley. The senior Jordanian official referred to Israel’s annexation policies as the “ushering in (of) a new apartheid state.”

An apartheid state was, practically, ushered in a long time ago. Israel’s so-called Nation-State Law of 2018 merely confirmed an existing reality.

The Law left no doubt regarding Israel’s exclusionist ‘Jewish identity’, formulated at the expense of the Palestinian people, their historic rights in Palestine and the internationally-enshrined Right of Return for Palestinian refugees.

On July 29, the Israeli Knesset (parliament) callously rejected a draft amendment to make the unmistakably racist Nation-State Law slightly less racist. The amendment had called for the inclusion of a clause that guarantees equality for all of Israel’s citizens, regardless of race, religion or ethnicity.

In its current form, Israel represents the very essence of apartheid.

Razzaz knows this, as do many politicians and leaders throughout the Middle East, in Europe and across the world. Unlike his counterparts elsewhere, however, the Jordanian Prime Minister had the courage to imagine a future in Palestine and Israel that is not inundated by empty clichés of ‘solutions’ that were never fair, to begin with.

Razzaz’s positive and upbeat tone of words is notable.

“I challenge anybody from Israel to say yes, let’s end the two-state solution, it’s not viable,” he said. “But let’s work together on a one-state democratic solution. That, I think, we will look at very favorably. But closing one and wishful thinking about the other is just self-deception.”

Other Arab officials, prior to Razzaz, alluded to the one-state possibility, but largely in a negative context. Palestinian Authority officials, in particular, have waved this card before, often threatening Israel that, if illegal settlement expansion was not frozen, for example, Palestinians would have no alternative but to demand a one state.

What Razzaz is saying is quite different, if not radical, as Jordan, which signed a peace agreement with Israel in 1994, has remained the most visible Arab advocate for the two-state solution for many years. Razzaz’s words bring that ‘self-deception’ to an end.

Of course, political necessity will compel Jordan, and others, to continue to pay lip service to a political ‘solution’ that will, unlikely, ever materialize. Israelis and Palestinians are now conjoined in such a way that physical separation between Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews is impossible. Additionally, speaking of a two-state solution while Israel is cementing a one apartheid state reality is a waste of precious time that should be used to foster equality, accountability and a just peace.

Ordinary Palestinians, too are beginning to realize the futility of the two-state paradigm. According to a February poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, 61% of all Palestinians no longer believe that ‘a two-state solution’ is viable. The same poll suggests that 37% support the idea of a single state solution. Judging by previous poll numbers, it seems that, before long, the majority of Palestinians will embrace the latter as the most rational and achievable objective.

It will take time because the establishment of an independent Palestinian state has been the only rallying cry by the Palestinian leadership for nearly three decades.

However, even prior to the 1960s, the Palestinian national movement adopted a political strategy that was predicated on the establishment of a one democratic state for Christians, Muslims and Jews. Alas, political expediency impelled late Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to shift tactics, settling for a Palestinian state that would, in theory, be incrementally established in disconnected parts of the occupied territories – Gaza, Jericho, Area A, B, and so on.

Even the latter idea, which was most unfair to Palestinians, was still rejected by Israel, and Netanyahu’s latest annexation scheme is proving to be the final nail of the two-state coffin.

Since the two-state solution is no longer workable, Palestine and Israel are now left with one of two options: a protracted, racist and violent apartheid or coexistence in a modern, democratic, and secular state, for all of its people.

The democratic and sustainable choice should be obvious, even to politicians.

List of Israeli Targets Leaked: Tel Aviv Fears the Worst in ICC Investigation of War Crimes

When International Court of Justice (ICC) Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, confirmed last December that the Court has ample evidence to pursue a war crimes investigation in occupied Palestine, the Israeli government responded with the usual rhetoric, accusing the international community of bias and insisting on Israel’s ‘right to defend itself.’

Beneath the platitudes and typical Israeli discourse, the Israeli government knew too well that an ICC investigation into war crimes in Palestine could be quite costly. An investigation, in itself, represents an indictment of sorts. If Israeli individuals were to be indicted for war crimes, that is a different story, as it becomes a legal obligation of ICC members to apprehend the criminals and hand them over to the Court.

Israel remained publicly composed, even after Bensouda, last April, elaborated on her December decision with a 60-page legal report, titled: “Situation in the State of Palestine: Prosecution Response to the Observations of Amici Curiae, Legal Representatives of Victims, and States.”

In the report, the ICC addressed many of the questions, doubts and reports submitted or raised in the four months that followed her earlier decision. Countries such as Germany and Austria, among others, had used their position as amici curiae — ‘friends of the court’ — to question the ICC jurisdiction and the status of Palestine as a country.

Bensouda insisted that “the Prosecutor is satisfied that there is a reasonable basis to initiate an investigation into the situation in Palestine under article 53(1) of the Rome Statute, and that the scope of the Court’s territorial jurisdiction comprises the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza (“Occupied Palestinian Territory”).”

However, Bensouda did not provide definitive timelines to the investigation; instead, she requested that the ICC’S Pre-Trial Chamber “confirm the scope of the Court’s territorial jurisdiction in Palestine,” an additional step that is hardly required since the State of Palestine, a signatory of the Rome Statute, is the one that actually referred the case directly to the Prosecutor’s office.

The April report, in particular, was the wake-up call for Tel Aviv. Between the initial decision in December till the release of the latter report, Israel lobbied on many fronts, enlisting the help of ICC members and recruiting its greatest benefactor, Washington – which is not an ICC member – to bully the Court so it may reverse its decision.

On May 15, US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, warned the ICC against pursuing the investigation, targeting Bensouda, in particular, for her decision to hold war criminals in Palestine accountable.

The US slapped unprecedented sanctions against the ICC on June 11, with President Donald Trump issuing an ‘executive order’ that authorizes the freezing of assets and a travel ban against ICC officials and their families. The order also allows for the punishing of other individuals or entities that assist the ICC in its investigation.

Washington’s decision to carry out punitive measures against the very Court that was established for the sole purpose of holding war criminals accountable is both outrageous and abhorrent. It also exposes Washington’s hypocrisy — the country that claims to defend human rights is attempting to prevent legal accountability by those who have violated human rights.

Upon its failure to halt the ICC legal procedures regarding its investigation of war crimes, Israel began to prepare for the worst. On July 15, Israeli daily newspaper, Haaretz, reported about a ‘secret list’ that was drawn up by the Israeli government. The list includes “between 200 and 300 officials”, ranging from politicians to military and intelligence officials, who are subject to arrest abroad, should the ICC officially open the war crimes investigation.

Names begin at the top of the Israeli political pyramid, among them Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his current coalition partner, Benny Gantz.

The sheer number of Israeli officials on the list is indicative of the scope of the ICC’s investigation, and somehow is a self-indictment, as the names include former Israeli Defense Ministers — Moshe Ya’alon, Avigdor Lieberman and Naftali Bennett; current and former army chiefs of staffs — Aviv Kochavi, Benny Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot and current and former heads of internal intelligence, the Shin Bet — Nadav Argaman and Yoram Cohen.

Respected international human rights organizations have already, repeatedly, accused all these individuals of serious human rights abuses during Israel’s lethal wars on the besieged Gaza Strip, starting with the so-called ‘Operation Cast Lead’ in 2008-9.

But the list is far more extensive, as it covers “people in much more junior positions, including lower-ranking military officers and, perhaps, even officials involved in issuing various types of permits to settlements and settlement outposts.”

Israel, thus, fully appreciates the fact that the international community still insists that the construction of illegal colonies in occupied Palestine, the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and the transfer of Israeli citizens to occupied land are all inadmissible under international law and tantamount to war crimes. Netanyahu must be disappointed to learn that all of Washington’s concessions to Israel under Trump’s presidency have failed to alter the position of the international community and the applicability of international law in any way.

Furthermore, it would not be an exaggeration to argue that Tel Aviv’s postponement of its plan to illegally annex nearly a third of the West Bank is directly linked to the ICC’s investigation, for the annexation would have completely thwarted Israel’s friends’ efforts aimed at preventing the investigation from ever taking place.

While the whole world, especially Palestinians, Arabs and their allies, still anxiously await the final decision by the Pre-Trial Chamber, Israel will continue its overt and covert campaign to intimidate the ICC and any other entity that aims to expose Israeli war crimes and to try Israeli war criminals.

Washington, too, will continue to strive to ensure Netanyahu, Gantz, and the “200 to 300” other Israeli officials never see their day in court.

However, the fact that a “secret list” exists is an indication that Tel Aviv understands that this era is different and that international law, which has failed Palestinians for over 70 years, may for once deliver, however small, a measure of justice.

“Feeding a Bedouin”: Roy Oz and Israel’s Outrageous Racism 

On July 11, a video footage which showed a popular Israeli TV celebrity demeaning Palestinian children from the Bedouin community in the Naqab area, went viral on social media.

“Let’s feed a Bedouin. Don’t you want to feed a Bedouin?” Israeli Children TV host, Roy Oz, repeatedly asks his children, who were seated in the back seat of his car. Outside the vehicle, two Palestinian children were filmed as they stood waiting eagerly for the cookies promised to them by the Israeli driver.

Palestinian Bedouins are treated like “monkeys”, said Atia al-Asem, head of the Regional Council of Palestinian Villages in the Naqab, after viewing the disturbing footage.

Arab Member of the Israeli Parliament (Knesset), Ahmad Tibi, described Oz’s behavior as the “lowest of human behavior, racist and despicable brutishness.”

In truth, Oz’s actions were merely consistent with the very racist reality that governs Israeli society — its laws, political institutions, media apparatus, its economic sector and popular perceptions.

In particular, the thousands of Palestinians who are still living in the Naqab desert have been subjected to a relentless Israeli campaign of dehumanization, racism, and ethnic cleansing.

Racism and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian Bedouin communities go hand in hand.  Oz’s video cannot be viewed separately from the Israeli government’s plans to corral Palestinians in the Naqab into isolated and impoverished communities in order to make space for Jewish-only housing developments.

For this sinister scenario to succeed, the Palestinian Bedouins need to be dehumanized by the Israeli political and media establishments. Oz’s racist video is a mere expression of this outrageous reality.

However, the issue exceeds that of the devastation and racism underway in the Naqab, into all aspects of Israeli lives.

In July 2018, Israel approved a “basic law”, dubbed the “Jewish nation-state law” that gave ascendency to everything Jewish and denigrated all else. It was a desperate, and ultimately failed, attempt at reconciling between the “Jewishness” of the state with universal democratic ideals.

“The Land of Israel is the historical homeland of the Jewish people, in which the State of Israel was established,” the new law said, celebrating the country as “the nation state of the Jewish People, in which it realizes its natural, cultural, religious and historical right to self-determination.”

In accordance with the above assertions, the new definition grants the “Jewish people”, everywhere, the right to “exercise  … the right to national self-determination in the State of Israel.”

The millions of Palestinian Arabs — Muslims, Christians and Druze — who share that same piece of land, though not as equals, have no place in Israel’s undemocratic definition of itself. Needless to say, the nearly 7 million Palestinian refugees were also excluded from claiming any rights in “the State of Israel”, including their internationally-enshrined Right of Return.

The Israeli Nation-State Law, however, must not be seen as the event that ushered in institutionalized racism in this country. Israel was founded on the racist principle that it belonged to the “Jewish people” only, and no one else, not even the Palestinian Arab natives of the land.

However, the law is significant in the sense that it represents the final blow to the hope that Israel will eventually come to terms with its past, and embrace the humanistic principles of equality, justice and democracy.

That hope — really an illusion — was dashed, and irrevocably so, as there is little resistance within Israel itself by any significant political force that is capable of confronting and defeating the racist, chauvinistic and ultra-nationalist trends that have always dominated the country.

According to an election survey published in January 2019, those who identified as “leftists” have dwindled  significantly, as they now represent only 12 percent of all Israelis – a number that includes Arab communities, where the left has historically had a strong presence.

This realization might be one of the reasons that made some optimists imagine that the supposed next best thing — Israel’s centrist Blue and White Party coalition under Benny Gantz — was still able to, at least, slow down the advancement of right-wing and religious parties.

These hopes persisted over the course of a tumultuous political year that witnessed three major elections in a row, despite the fact that many of Gantz’s stances were equally — if not even more — hawkish than those of right-wing Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Unsurprisingly, on April 20, Gantz joined Netanyahu to form a coalition government that is arguably the most militaristic in the country’s modern history, as both camps are keen on a new military confrontation with Gaza and a massive annexation scheme of nearly 30 percent of the occupied West Bank.

Armed with constitutional racism, Israeli leaders can now justify, at least to themselves and their constituencies, any action that may be deemed abhorrent, illegal or racist by the rest of the world.

This is the very reality that allows racist ‘celebrities’, such as Roy Oz, to go on safari-like adventures with his well-fed children in their air-conditioned top model vehicles to hand cookies to malnourished and poor Palestinian Bedouin children in the Naqab.

For Israel, Oz is the epitome of the ultimate victory of the “Jewish people” — as defined by Israel’s racist Nation-State Law — over the alienated, corralled and victimized Palestinians.

But racism in Israel is not only the work of political institutions as a direct outcome of the disparities created by Israel’s military superiority and expansive colonial enterprises. It has long passed all of that into many other aspects of Israeli society, and can be felt in other sectors of law, economy, the health care system and education; especially education.

Aside from the “racist ideology” taught in Israeli public schools, which denies the historical roots of Palestinians in their own land, and often demeans the Palestinian natives in ways that violate the minimal standards of modern education — let alone human rights — the very set-up of the educational system is a testimony to Israel’s deeply entrenched racism.

Schools dedicated to Palestinian Arab children in Israel are “a world apart in quality from the public schools serving Israel’s majority Jewish population,” according to one Human Rights Watch report.

“Often overcrowded and understaffed, poorly built, badly maintained, or simply unavailable, schools for Palestinian Arab children offer fewer facilities and educational opportunities than are offered other Israeli children.”

Racism accompanies the average Jewish citizen of Israel from the hospital where he is born, to the iniquitous school system, to the discriminatory business sector, to the utterly racist fans at the soccer field, to the unruly, murderous army and beyond. And every step of the way, Palestinians are belittled, dehumanized, exploited, subjugated, confined, imprisoned and, in many instances, killed.

With that being the everyday reality in Israel and Palestine, should we really be surprised that a morally bankrupt fool like Roy Oz mistreated Bedouin children, offering them candy as if zoo animals?

The truth is, Oz is the actual face of Israel — privileged, entitled, racist and delusional. And the same way Israeli media — which gives the likes of Oz his celebrity status — should be shunned and boycotted, Israel should also be sanctioned and boycotted. Because, without international pressure, Israel will never, on its own, confront its demons of military occupation, apartheid and deep-rooted racism.

An Israeli Charity Group is uprooting Palestinians not planting Trees

The Jewish National Fund, established more than 100 years ago, is perhaps the most venerable of the international Zionist organisations. Its recent honorary patrons have included prime ministers, and it advises UN forums on forestry and conservation issues.

It is also recognised as a charity in dozens of western states. Generations of Jewish families, and others, have contributed to its fundraising programmes, learning as children to drop saved pennies into its trademark blue boxes to help plant a tree.

And yet its work over many decades has been driven by one main goal: to evict Palestinians from their homeland.

The JNF is a thriving relic of Europe’s colonial past, even if today it wears the garb of an environmental charity. As recent events show, ethnic cleansing is still what it excels at.

The organisation’s mission began before the state of Israel was even born. Under British protection, the JNF bought up tracts of fertile land in what was then historic Palestine. It typically used force to dispossess Palestinian sharecroppers whose families had worked the land for centuries.

But the JNF’s expulsion activities did not end in 1948, when Israel was established through a bloody war on the ruins of the Palestinians’ homeland – an event Palestinians call the Nakba, or catastrophe.

Israel hurriedly demolished more than 500 cleansed Palestinian villages, and the JNF was entrusted with the job of preventing some 750,000 refugees from returning. It did so by planting forests over both the ruined homes, making it impossible to rebuild them, and village lands to stop them being farmed.

These plantations were how the JNF earned its international reputation. Its forestry operations were lauded for stopping soil erosion, reclaiming land and now tackling the climate crisis.

But even this expertise was undeserved. Environmentalists say the dark canopies of trees it has planted in arid regions such as the Negev, in Israel’s south, absorb heat unlike the unforested, light-coloured soil. Short of water, the slow-growing trees capture little carbon. Native species of brush and animals, meanwhile, have been harmed.

These pine forests – the JNF has planted some 250 million trees – have also turned into a major fire hazard. Most years hundreds of fires break out after summer droughts exacerbated by climate change.

Early on, the vulnerability of the JNF’s saplings was used as a pretext to outlaw the herding of native black goats. Recently the goats, which clear undergrowth, had to be reintroduced to prevent the fires. But the goats’ slaughter had already served its purpose, forcing Bedouin Palestinians to abandon their pastoral way of life.

Despite surviving the Nakba, thousands of Bedouin in the Negev were covertly expelled to Egypt or the West Bank in Israel’s early years.

It would be wrong, however, to imagine that the JNF’s troubling role in these evictions was of only historical interest. The charity, Israel’s largest private land owner, is actively expelling Palestinians to this day.

In recent weeks, solidarity activists have been desperately trying to prevent the eviction of a Palestinian family, the Sumarins, from their home in occupied East Jerusalem to make way for Jewish settlers.

Last month the Sumarins lost a 30-year legal battle waged by the JNF, which secretly sold their home in the late 1980s by the Israeli state.

The family’s property was seized under a draconian 1950 law declaring Palestinian refugees of the Nakba “absent” so that they could not reclaim their land inside the new state of Israel.

The courts have decreed that the law can be applied in occupied Jerusalem too, in violation of international law. In the Sumarins’ case, it appears not to matter that the family was never actually “absent”. The JNF is permitted to evict the 18 family members next month. To add insult to injury, they will have to pay damages to the JNF.

A former US board member, Seth Morrison, resigned in protest in 2011 at the JNF’s role in such evictions, accusing it of working with extreme settler groups. Last year the JNF ousted a family in similar circumstances near Bethlehem. Days later settlers moved on to the land.

Ir Amim, an Israeli human rights group focusing on Jerusalem, warned that these cases create a dangerous legal precedent if Israel carries out its promise to annex West Bank territory. It could rapidly expand the number of Palestinians classified as “absentees”.

But the JNF never lost its love of the humble tree as the most effective – and veiled – tool of ethnic cleansing. And it is once again using forests as a weapon against the fifth of Israel’s population who are Palestinian, survivors of the Nakba.

Earlier this year it unveiled its “Relocation Israel 2040” project. The plan is intended to “bring about an in-depth demographic change of an entire country” – what was once sinisterly called “Judaisation”. The aim is to attract 1.5 million Jews to Israel, especially to the Negev, over the next 20 years.

As in Israel’s first years, forests will be vital to success. The JNF is preparing to plant trees on an area of 40 sq km belonging to Bedouin communities that survived earlier expulsions. Under the cover of environmentalism, many thousands of Bedouin could be deemed “trespassers”.

The Bedouin have been in legal dispute with the Israeli state for decades over ownership of their lands. This month in an interview with the Jerusalem Post newspaper, Daniel Atar, the JNF’s global head, urged Jews once again to drop money into its boxes. He warned that Jews could be dissuaded from coming to the Negev by its reputation for “agricultural crimes” – coded reference to Bedouin who have tried to hold on to their pastoral way of life.

Trees promise both to turn the semi-arid region greener and to clear “unsightly” Bedouin off their ancestral lands. Using the JNF’s original colonial language of “making the desert bloom”, Mr Atar said his organisation would make “the wilderness flourish”.

The Bedouin understand the fate likely to befall them. In a protest last month they carried banners: “No expulsions, no displacement.”

After all, Palestinians have suffered forced displacement at the JNF’s hands for more than a century, while watching it win plaudits from around the world for its work in improving the “environment”.

• First published in The National

“Optimism of the Will”: Palestinian Freedom is Possible Now

In a recent TV discussion, a respected pro-Palestine journalist declared that if any positive change or transformation ever occurs in the tragic Palestinian saga, it would not happen now, but that it would take a whole new generation to bring about such a paradigm shift.

As innocuous as the declaration may have seemed, it troubled me greatly.

I have heard this line over and over again, often reiterated by well-intentioned intellectuals, whose experiences in researching and writing on the so-called ‘Palestinian-Israeli conflict’ may have driven some of them to pessimism, if not despair.

The ‘hopelessness discourse’ is, perhaps, understandable if one is to examine the off-putting, tangible reality on the ground: the ever-entrenched Israeli occupation, the planned annexation of occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank, the shameful Arab normalization with Israel, the deafening silence of the international community and the futility of the quisling Palestinian leadership.

Subscribing to this logic is not only self-defeating, but ahistorical as well. Throughout history, every great achievement that brought about freedom and a measure of justice to any nation was realized despite seemingly insurmountable odds.

Indeed, who would have thought that the Algerian people were capable of defeating French colonialism when their tools of liberation were so rudimentary as compared with the awesome powers of the French military and its allies?

The same notion applies to many other modern historic experiences, from Vietnam to South Africa and from India to Cuba.

Palestine is not the exception.

However, the ‘hopelessness discourse’ is not as innocent as it may seem. It is propelled by the persisting failure to appreciate the centrality of the Palestinian people – or any other people, for that matter – in their own history. Additionally, it assumes that the Palestinian people are, frankly, ineffectual.

Interestingly, when many nations were still grappling with the concept of national identity, the Palestinian people had already developed a refined sense of modern collective identity and national consciousness. General mass strikes and civil disobedience challenging British imperialism and Zionist settlements in Palestine began nearly a century ago, culminating in the six-month-long general strike of 1936.

Since then, popular resistance, which is linked to a defined sense of national identity, has been a staple in Palestinian history. It was a prominent feature of the First Intifada, the popular uprising of 1987.

The fact that the Palestinian homeland was lost, despite the heightened consciousness of the Palestinian masses at the time, is hardly indicative of the Palestinian people’s ability to affect political outcomes.

Time and again, Palestinians have rebelled and, with each rebellion, they forced all parties, including Israel and the United States, to reconsider and overhaul their strategies altogether.

A case in point was the First Intifada.

When, on December 8, 1987, thousands took to the streets of the Jabaliya Refugee Camp, the Gaza Strip’s most crowded and poorest camp, the timing and the location of their uprising was most fitting, rational and necessary. Earlier that day, an Israeli truck had run over a convoy of cars carrying Palestinian laborers, killing four young men. For Jabaliya, as with the rest of Palestine, it was the last straw.

Responding to the chants and pleas of the Jabaliya mourners, Gaza was, within days, the breeding ground for a real revolution that was self-propelled and unwavering. The chants of Palestinians in the Strip were answered in the West Bank, and echoed just as loudly in Palestinian towns, including those located in Israel.

The contagious energy was emblematic of children and young adults wanting to reclaim the identities of their ancestors, which had been horribly disfigured and divided among regions, countries and refugee camps.

The Intifada — literally meaning the “shake off” — sent a powerful message to Israel that the Palestinian people are alive, and are still capable of upsetting all of Israel’s colonial endeavors. The Intifada also confronted the failure of the Palestinian and Arab leaderships, as they persisted in their factional and self-seeking politics.

In fact, the Madrid Talks in 1991 between Palestinians and Israelis were meant as an Israeli – American political compromise, aimed at ending the Intifada in exchange for acknowledging the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as a representative of the Palestinian people.

The Oslo Accords, signed by Yasser Arafat and Israel in 1993, squandered the gains of the Intifada and, ultimately, replaced the more democratically representative PLO with the corrupt Palestinian Authority.

But even then, the Palestinian people kept coming back, reclaiming, in their own way, their importance and centrality in the struggle. Gaza’s Great March of Return is but one of many such people-driven initiatives.

Palestine’s biggest challenge in the movement is not the failure of the people to register as a factor in the liberation of their own land, but their quisling leadership’s inability to appreciate the immense potential of harnessing the energies of Palestinians everywhere to stage a focused and strategic, anti-colonial, liberation campaign.

This lack of vision dates back to the late 1970s, when the Palestinian leadership labored to engage politically with Washington and other Western capitals, culminating in the pervading sense that, without US political validation, Palestinians would always remain marginal and irrelevant.

The Palestinian leadership’s calculations at the time proved disastrous. After decades of catering to Washington’s expectations and diktats, the Palestinian leadership, ultimately, returned empty-handed, as the current Donald Trump administration’s ‘Deal of the Century’ has finally proven.

I have recently spoken with two young Palestinian female activists: one is based in besieged Gaza and the other in the city of Seattle. Their forward-thinking discourse is, itself, a testament that the pessimism of some intellectuals does not define the thinking of this young Palestinian generation, and there would be no need to dismiss the collective efforts of this budding generation in anticipation of the rise of a ‘better’ one.

Malak Shalabi, a Seattle-based law student, does not convey a message of despair, but that of action. “It’s really important for every Palestinian and every human rights activist to champion the Palestinian cause regardless of where they are, and it is important especially now, ” she told me.

“There are currently waves of social movements here in the United States, around civil rights for Black people and other issues that are (becoming) pressing topics — equality and justice — in the mainstream. As Palestinians, it’s important that we (take the Palestinian cause) to the mainstream as well,” she added.

“There is a lot of work happening among Palestinian activists here in the United States, on the ground, at a social, economic, and political level, to make sure that the link between Black Lives Matter and Palestine happens,” she added.

On her part, Wafaa Aludaini in Gaza spoke about her organization’s – 16th October Group – relentless efforts to engage communities all over the world, to play their part in exposing Israeli war crimes in Gaza and ending the protracted siege on the impoverished Strip.

“Palestinians and pro-Palestinian activists outside are important because they make our voices heard outside Palestine, as mainstream media does not report (the truth of) what is taking place here,” she told me.

For these efforts to succeed, “we all need to be united,” she asserted, referring to the Palestinian people at home and in the diaspora, and the entire pro-Palestinian solidarity movement everywhere, as well.

The words of Malak and Wafaa are validated by the growing solidarity with Palestine in the BLM movement, as well as with numerous other justice movements the world over.

On June 28, the UK chapter of the BLM tweeted that it “proudly” stands in solidarity with Palestinians and rejects Israel’s plans to annex large areas of the West Bank.

BLM went further, criticizing British politics for being “gagged of the right to critique Zionism and Israel’s settler-colonial pursuits”.

Repeating the claim that a whole new generation needs to replace the current one for any change to occur in Palestine is an insult – although, at times, unintended – to generations of Palestinians, whose struggle and sacrifices are present in every aspect of Palestinian lives.

Simply because the odds stacked against Palestinian freedom seem too great at the moment, does not justify the discounting of an entire nation, which has lived through many wars, protracted sieges and untold hardship. Moreover, the next generation is but a mere evolution of the consciousness of the current one. They cannot be delinked or analyzed separately.

In his “Prison Notebooks”, anti-fascist intellectual, Antonio Gramsci, coined the term “pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.”

While logical analysis of a situation may lead the intellect to despair, the potential for social and political revolutions and transformations must keep us all motivated to keep the struggle going, no matter the odds.