Category Archives: Occupation

The Legacy of Balfour: 100 Years of Betrayal and Suffering

It is hard to reconcile how a government that sold out the civilian population of Palestine can celebrate the shameful letter Lord Balfour sent to Lord Rothschild. Although termed in language that presented itself as only offering a homeland to the Jewish people, with no discrimination to be brought against the indigenous Palestinian population, it is evident the agreement was always intended as a precursor to the establishment of Jewish Statehood in Palestine. It is documented that Lord Balfour stated that he had no intention of consulting the Palestinians when he effectively gave their homeland away. This initial deception has only deepened over the years – hence Theresa May’s blinkered ability to further shame the British people by indulging in overt celebrations on the occasion of the centenary of the signing.

Is it really credible that Theresa May and her cabinet are unaware of the 100 year suffering this infamous agreement has caused? While some Palestinians were alert to the intent of this carefully worded script, it was not until the widespread massacres of Deir Yassin and other villages in 1947/8 that Palestinians woke up en-mass to the reality of threat to their homeland. Even then, although fleeing widespread massacres many locked their homes, taking their keys with them, in the belief that it would not be long before an Arab uprising would quell the attacks and they could return home.

It’s now 70 years since they left and took up residence in miserable, crowded refugee camps, but the dream of returning – enshrined in international law as ‘RIGHT of RETURN’, is what makes living in the camps bearable. During this past week of the 35 year commemoration of the Sabra Shatilla massacre I have been visiting camps in Lebanon: Shatilla, Bourj Barajneh, Nahr ElBarad, Rashidieh and Wavel. The genocidal massacre that took place in Sabra Shatilla in 1982 is believed to have resulted in around 3,000 plus deaths. The victims ranged from the elderly, the women, children and babies – (those not yet born are included since witness accounts describe several instances of babies ripped from their mother’s womb. In one report, a baby, close to its birth date was seen to utter its first cry before a knife slit its threat and its un-lived life was halted). Young girls, barely having reached puberty, were raped by Phalange thought to be high on cocaine and pumped up with rage. This civilian population were unprotected by their men folk because all PLO fighters had been assured that if they agreed to go into exile in foreign countries their families would be safe. Upon leaving Lebanon, Yasser Arafat said: “I am leaving here because I love Lebanon”. He believed that by agreeing for the PLO to  leave, not only would the Israelis retreat from their occupation of Lebanon, but that it was the safest way to protect all their families. 

The massacre of Sabra Shatilla is not the only massacre that has taken place here, or within Palestine. Jenin camp experienced a massacre in 2002. The Gazan civilian population, already suffering from near starvation, lack of clean water and other essential resources, experience frequent military attacks from Israel. Each of the camps I visited this past week in Lebanon, have their own history of poverty, hardship and death. Nahr ElBarad has partially been rebuilt after being attacked in 2007. It was only large protests in 2009 that led to the camp returning. Tel al-Zaatar and several others have never been rebuilt. Only the memories remain along with some old PLO film footage. Ain al-Hilweh, the largest of the camps, is currently in semi-lockdown because it’s feared ISIS allied groups may have infiltrated it. Is their fate going to be that of Yarmouk in Syria – insecurity and starvation?

I met a young woman with her three small children in Wavel Camp. She had fled to Lebanon from Yarmouk camp in Syria after it was infiltrated with Islamic State (paid mercenaries). Both she and her children have only known fear and suffering. I couldn’t assure her that her suffering, and her children’s suffering, will end. Maybe like her grandparents, her parents, and her husband, it will only end at the time of their death. Wavel is a small camp for the demands made upon it. There are many refugees living in tents across the fields of Beqaa. Some had slept in a nearby graveyard. Lebanon is facing a crisis of having to cope with an ever increasing number of refugees.

However, what was shocking to hear is that when Syrian/Palestinian refugees enter Lebanon they are required to pay a residency tax of $66 US per person per ramonth. At the point of registration the first three months are free. UNWRA provides some help to about 12% of the families ($100 per household) but it still leaves a massive shortfall in people’s needs. Refugees are left with stark choices; go back to Syria or from wherever they came, risk being picked up by the police, or go into hiding. By creating such a bleak survival scenario for the new coming refugees the global community, Lebanon, UNWRA, are creating a scenario where impoverished refugees could become vulnerable targets for recruitment by ISIS allied paid mercenaries. This is certainly of concern to the Palestinian Popular Committees who are always alert to any kind of radical infiltration into the camps.

As in the case of the Shatilla massacre where it was the Christian Phalange who carried out the physical attacks, Israeli generals often choose to direct operations from a strategic distance. It was by securing the camp boundaries with Israeli soldiers and tanks parked at the entrance that the massacre was able to continue for three days uninterrupted. During the massacre Israel fired flares at regular intervals which Palestinians describe as ‘turning night into day’. It certainly made it easier for the Phalange to carry out their mission. In manipulating others the Israelis are able to keep their hands clean and the deception (palatable to our government) of Israel ‘defending itself’, can continue.

In stark contrast to last year it was interesting to observe that at this year’s gathering in Martyrs’ Square, the attending media appeared not to be interested in interviewing any foreigners. A Palestinian friend pointed this out so I asked one of the camera people if that was the case. He confirmed these observations and when it was suggested that this might have something to do with the 100 year Balfour celebrations in Israel and UK, he acknowledged that this was very likely. Lebanon has good reason to be nervous about its Israeli neighbour, yet the influence of this Corporate Zionist alliance (US, UK, Israel, Saudi Arabia and others) is always present. The ‘allowed’ main stream narrative is dominated by a Zionist Israeli perspective while the Palestinian story continues to be endlessly suppressed. As witnessed this past week, the memory of the massacre of Sabra Shatilla will not be forgotten any more than will the other massacres carried out during this hundred years of injustice committed against the Palestinians.

Zionist Israel has a legacy of crimes against humanity that continue with impunity on an unprecedented level.  Israel has never defined its borders and as a Global corporatist entity it has been at the heart of conflict in the Middle East for the past seventy years. Jerusalem, a city that is considered sacred by the three major Abrahamic faiths, should be a place of peace. The conflict surrounding it and emanating across the Middle East represents a mortal wound in the human body, that if allowed to fester should be a wake up call to all humanity if we want to preserve the dignity of life. The British left Palestine in a chaotic, conflictual mess. It therefore falls upon the British Establishment to take some responsibility for this global tragedy. It is outrageous that Theresa May should celebrate the Balfour declaration, a declaration that has resulted in untold misery and wider conflict in the world. By liberating Palestine from Zionist oppression we would be liberating the world. There is no time limit on memory. All oppressive empires fall. This global corporate Zionist alliance is no exception. It is only a matter of time before the voices of the oppressed… of their narrative….. will be heard. The volume and weight of their truth and rightness will be so powerful that it will no longer be able to be silenced.

Abbas is no Arafat

I’ve been writing about the plight of the amiable Palestinian people under Israel’s jackboot for the same length of time that Mahmoud Abbas has been Palestinian president. And that’s far too long. Abbas has also been chairman of the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organisation, which describes itself as the sole representative of the Palestinian people) for even longer.

A recent poll by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research showed that the Palestinians have had enough. Two-thirds want Abbas out.

A majority are also dissatisfied with the decision at Fatah’s latest Convention to keep Abbas as head of Fatah for another 5 years. The poll found that most view the Palestinian Authority, which is also headed by Abbas, as a burden to the Palestinian people rather than an asset. An even larger majority feel they cannot criticise the PA without fear. Perception of corruption in the PA now stands at 76%.

What’s more, two-thirds of Palestinians believe a two-state solution is no longer possible due to Israel’s relentless expansion of illegal settlement and 53% support a return to an armed intifada.

And if presidential elections were held now, Hamas’s Ismail Haniyeh would probably win.

“As naked as the day that he was born”

Abbas has been a big noise in Palestinian affairs for decades. In 2003 Arafat appointed him prime minister of the Palestinian National Authority. Some say the West foisted Abbas on Arafat. A power struggle ensued, and after Arafat’s suspicious death in 2004 Abbas was seen as a natural successor. Hamas boycotted the presidential election of January 2005 and Israel arrested or restricted the movement of other candidates. So Abbas won easily in dubious circumstances.

Abbas’s term as President officially ended more than 8 years ago. It is long past clear-your-desk time. The Basic Law allowed him an extension of one year but he still clings to power. Increasingly he’s seen as the king with no clothes and, in the words of the Danny Kaye song, “altogether as naked as the day that he was born”.

The trouble with Abbas is that he’s always ‘behind the curve’. Illegal settlement building under the Allon Plan, effectively annexing Palestinian territory, began in 1967 and the Israelis’ dash to create as many irreversible ‘facts on the ground’ as possible in order to make their occupation permanent was clear from the start.

Abbas claims to be one of the architects of the Oslo Interim Agreement, which was supposed to ensure a start to negotiations on permanent status by 1996 and lead to the implementation of Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and the settling of all main issues. But ever since the beginning of the Oslo process back in 1993 the rights of the Palestinian people have been sacrificed on the altar of so-called political progress, the glittering prize being ‘peace and security’.

That was all smoke ‘n’ mirrors, of course. What we’ve seen is a continuous slide downhill for the Palestinians while the Israelis’ colonisation and expansion programme goes from strength to strength. Justice has never been allowed to play a part. Furthermore Abbas has repeatedly given the Israelis time to cement their ill-gotten gains, readily agreeing to more bogus negotiations arranged by the same dishonest brokers.

And he inexplicably dragged his feet over joining the International Criminal Court.

During his over-long tenure Abbas has failed to unite the Palestinians under a single purposeful voice with a clear mission. He has driven the factions further apart by letting rip the old Fatah-Hamas rivalry. His regime fails to keep the world informed or make proper use of media opportunities and behaves as if gagged.

He is not noted for tactical brilliance and his embassies in the West are lazy, uncommunicative and uncooperative towards journalists and writers, and probably under orders not to ‘make waves’. I myself have been branded an enemy of Palestine by Abbas’s London embassy, an insult I wear as a badge of honour.

The Palestinian Authority under Abbas is frequently accused of collaborating with Israel in its brutal oppression. Abbas seems to be the darling of the West and of Israel, and the Israelis are said to regard him as a strategic asset. They’d hate to lose him.

Hamas is usually blamed for any whiff of corruption but the PA is bursting with it. In 2015 a report by The Coalition for Accountability and Integrity (AMAN) titled Absolute Power, Total Corruption hit the headlines. AMAN was established by a number of Palestinian civil society organizations to combat corruption and enhance integrity, transparency and accountability in Palestinian society.

According to the Commissioner-General, Azmi Shuaibi, “the cancellation of elections and the absence of the Legislative Council led to the president’s monopolizing the three powers — legislative, judicial, executive — which has served as fertile soil for some cases of corruption.” Certain non-ministerial government institutions were still outside the scope of official accountability and had awarded salaries and privileges to officials that were inconsistent with financial reality.

But even this catalogue of misbehaviour didn’t hammer the final nail into Abbas’s political coffin. Today he’s increasingly busy cracking down on dissenters within his own Fatah party and outside organisations.

Peace process “a deceptive farce”

The confidential Palestinian Papers, leaked by Al-Jazeera in 2011, revealed the shambolic conduct of the so-called peace process and how the Palestinian team allowed the Israelis to walk all over them, with US help.

One of the leak’s sources, a French-Palestinian lawyer and former adviser to the PLO, Ziyad Clot, said in an article in The Guardian that the peace process was “an inequitable and destructive political process which had been based on the assumption that the Palestinians could in effect negotiate their rights and achieve self-determination while enduring the hardship of the Israeli occupation”. They were “a deceptive farce whereby biased terms were unilaterally imposed by Israel and systematically endorsed by the US and EU”. They “excluded for the most part the great majority of the Palestinian people: the seven million Palestinian refugees”. And, he said, “the PLO, given its structure, was not in a position to represent all Palestinian rights and interests”.

So why did the Palestinians’ chief negotiator since 1995, Saeb Erekat, still engage in it? Erekat was educated in political science in the US and conflict studies in England, so should have been savvy enough to see through it. Will no-one steer the Palestinians into a sane justice process and away from the ‘kangaroo’ peace negotiations that Erekat and Abbas seem addicted to?

Not long ago, in an interview, I asked law professor and former UN special rapporteur Richard Falk:

How acceptable is it for a weak, demoralized and captive people like the Palestinians to be forced into negotiating with their brutal occupier under the auspices of a US administration seen by many people as too dishonest to play the part of peace broker?

He replied:

Even if the United States was acting in good faith, for which there is no evidence, its dual role as Israel’s unconditional ally and as intermediary would subvert the credibility of a negotiating process. In fact, the US Government signals its partisanship by White House appointments of individuals overtly associated with the AIPAC lobbying group as Special Envoys to oversee the negotiations such as Dennis Ross and Martin Indyk… The unsatisfactory nature of the current framework of negotiations is further flawed by weighting the process in favor of Israel, which enjoys a position of hard power dominance.

That the UK Government will shortly be celebrating 100 years of the infamous Balfour Declaration, and continuing to endorse its cruel legacy while refusing to support Palestinian statehood, is an indictment of Abbas’s dismal performance.

Face it, the guy is no Arafat. On Abbas’s watch the high hopes of ordinary Palestinians have turned to dust. As Oliver Cromwell told the English Parliament in 1653: “You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately… Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!” Those same words are applicable also to Abbas, and indeed the entire PLO and Palestinian Authority.

What Palestinians need, but probably will never get, is leadership with style, wisdom and the will to make friends with the West. Their case is still not widely understood and any new leader must have the ability to outwit Israel’s absurdly successful propaganda. Yes, the Zionists may have a stranglehold on Western opinion, but the Palestinians possess a superior two-edged weapon which they have never used effectively: truth and a just cause.

Deportations and Harassment of Irish Group Traveling to West Bank

A trip to Palestine resulted in deportations and harassment by security as the Israel authorities step up attempts to intimidate or frighten future travelers to the area. During our trip we experienced CS gas, checkpoints, apartheid in action and military harassment of Palestinians.

Departure

I joined the group in Dublin airport on the morning of September 8th and we flew out to Istanbul where we waited in a transit area cafe for a couple of hours. As it turned out our flight departure lounge for Tel Aviv was next to the cafe where we were sitting and we noticed that an extra layer of security was being prepared by ground staff for the Tel Aviv flight. After boarding, and a smooth Turkish Airlines flight to Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, we disembarked and queued up for passport control. I was on my own and after 2 or 3 questions (what was the purpose of my trip, had I been to Israel before, etc). I was given a one month visa and waved through. Meanwhile, however, trouble was brewing as I could hear the two Irish girls at the kiosk next to me being asked to bring the group leader over. I went directly through to the arrivals hall as I had not checked in any bags. Then began a long wait as myself and the few who got through unhindered discovered that security had rounded up as many of the group as they could find including those who had decided to wait in the luggage hall rather than in the arrivals hall. In all 21 were detained and 6 questioned, and of those 4 were deported (Elaine Daly, Fidelma Bonass, Joan Nolan and Stephen McCloskey) a few hours later. The four who were detained were informed that they were being deported to prevent ‘illegal immigration’ even though they had valid passports and return tickets. Around 4am the others were released and we finally boarded the bus and made the journey to our hotel in Bethlehem.

​West Bank wall and turnstiles

Fact Finding Program

Our tour, though coordinated in Dublin, was organised by the Siraj Centre, a non-profit organization licensed by the Ministry of Tourism and based in Palestine. Our Fact Finding Program included meetings with prominent peace activists, political officials, human rights organizations, settlers and Jewish tour guides. This makes the deportation of our group leader, Elaine Daly, even stranger as she has been organising trips with the Siraj Centre every year from Ireland since 2006.

Saturday 9th September: Day 1 Bethlehem

On our first morning we attended a talk by Prof. Mazin Qumsiyeh, a local university professor and activist, at the Natural History institute who emphasised the strong link between biodiversity, political struggle for the land and its safeguarding for future generations. It was interesting to note that it had been his son who had first drawn the infamous ‘shrinking’ map of the Palestinian territories showing their loss of land from 1946, 1947, 1967 to the 2000s.

Entrance to Aida refugee camp

CS gas

Afterwards we headed over to the Lajee Center, a cultural centre beside the main Palestinian refugee camp in Bethlehem for a talk and a traditional dance display from the local children. Soon, however, they switched off the air-conditioning and when we asked why we were told that tear gas was coming through the system. Directly outside the window local youth were throwing stones at the Israeli army at the far end of the road. Soon more and more tear gas came into the building and the windows and doors were shut. For most on the tour it was their first experience of the burning effects of CS gas yet for the members of the Lajee Center it had become merely a nuisance. After about a half hour we were able to leave and go for a short tour of the area. We passed under the arch of Aida camp with a giant key symbolising the principle that Palestinian refugees, both first-generation refugees and their descendants, have a right to return. On our left were simple concrete buildings while on the right the street is cut off from Jerusalem by the Israeli West Bank wall and covered in murals and graffiti.

Wall mural, Aida refugee camp

Sunday 10th September:  Day 2 Hebron

The next day on the way to Hebron we stopped off at a small park beside a main road containing the tomb of Baruch Goldstein, the religious extremist who carried out the 1994 Cave of the Patriarchs massacre in Hebron. Goldstein killed 29 Palestinian Muslim worshippers and wounded another 125. He was then overpowered and beaten to death by the survivors. Goldstein was not allowed to be buried in a Jewish cemetery but his current burial site still attracts Jewish extremists. We drove on to the Cave of Patriarchs or Ibrahimi Mosque where the Goldstein massacre took place. There are now two separate entrances, one for Muslims and one for Jews, both of which we were able to enter. This building, over 2,000 years old, is believed to be the oldest continuously used prayer structure in the world. However, it was outside the Mosque at the military checkpoints we witnessed Israeli apartheid for the first time. Palestinians are barred from using the street and our guide was apprehended by two soldiers. Our group complained to the soldiers but only our guide responded saying he would get a taxi and meet us elsewhere. In the end, the group spontaneously applauded our guide for his patience and perseverance as he was removed from the area. Our waiting bus had only been 50 metres around the corner…

Ibrahimi Mosque, Hebron

We walked through streets of Hebron going through different stages of clearance. In some places only a few Palestinians were left in the old stone buildings and Israeli street signs had been erected pointing to Jewish places of interest. In other streets nets had been used to stop settlers throwing objects on the shoppers below. Afterwards we were brought to meet with a settler where some asked questions about the settlements and their legality but this ended up with some storming out and others realising how it easy it was to become an Israeli citizen and participate in the land confiscations.

Monday 11th September: Day 3 Jerusalem

Our guides were Palestinian and Jewish and both were equally as good when it came to explanations and answering questions from our group. As we drove through East Jerusalem it was pointed out by our Jewish guide that Palestinians pay taxes yet their areas had bad roads and poor rubbish collection services.

Tuesday 12th September: Day 4 Nablus

In Nablus we visited Jacobs Well Church, and then to Balata Camp to meet with a representative from the Yafa cultural Center. The centre was set up in 1996 by the Committee for the Defence of Refugee Rights and offers a range of educational and creative programs to camp residents. We were brought around the closely-built neighbourhoods of the camp where some ‘streets’ were less than one metre wide. After lunch we had a tour in the old city of Nablus and visited the Samaritans Museum. The bustling old city gave us a feel for what many areas should have looked like and felt like without occupation.

​Yafa cultural Center, Nablus

Wednesday 13th September: Day 5 Ramalah

We began the day driving to Ramalah to meet with a speaker from Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS). BDS has become an extensive movement against Israeli apartheid and settler-colonialism. It is also a Palestinian-led movement made up of unions, academic associations, churches and grassroots movements across the world. We also met with a representative from Al Haq, an independent Palestinian non-governmental human rights organisation also based in Ramallah. According to their website: “Al-Haq documents violations of the individual and collective rights of Palestinians in the OPT, irrespective of the identity of the perpetrator, and seeks to end such breaches by way of advocacy before national and international mechanisms and by holding the violators accountable.” In the afternoon the group were brought on a sightseeing tour of Jerusalem which I did not participate in due to feeling unwell. Instead, I went with our Palestinian tour guide back to Bethlehem on the public bus. As the bus approached the wall we all had get off and pass through the many turnstiles and barricaded-off pathways to get to the other side of the wall. The queues moved quickly enough as the military generally do not carry out checks on Palestinians going home to the West Bank from Jerusalem in the evening. It is in the early morning that the long queues form as workers are stopped and permits scrutinised on the way to work in Jerusalem.

Old City, Nablus

Thursday 14th September: Day 5 Bethlehem

The next day I went back to Jerusalem from Bethlehem on public bus No. 231. At a major checkpoint a male and female soldier got on the bus while about a third of the bus got off to have their permits checked outside. They questioned a Palestinian woman with children for about ten minutes on the bus before suddenly leaving the bus again and letting the others back on. These checks, the roadworks and traffic jams into Jerusalem added up to about 30 minutes onto our journey, a journey which should have taken only around 20 minutes. In the centre I crossed the road and entered into the Old City through Herod’s Gate. I headed through the old city markets to the Al-Aqsa Mosque but at various Israeli military check points I was stopped and informed that the Mosque was only open in the mornings. There were 4 or 5 groups of about 20 Israeli soldiers each walking and singing down the narrow streets towards the Western Wall. The area was being prepared for a swearing-in ceremony for Paratrooper recruits taking place that evening. After walking the Via Dolorosa and around to the Damascus Gate I got the bus back to Bethlehem. Later, after dinner with the group in a Palestinian restaurant in Bethlehem, a few of us took a taxi to visit the Banksy’s Walled Off Hotel about ten minutes drive away. The ‘Walled Off’ sits beside the massive wall which is covered in graffiti executed in many styles by various artists. Boasting the ‘worst view in the world’ the lobby contains a collection of art and there is a museum upstairs. People sat outside on the veranda between the hotel and the wall having a quiet drink in this most incongruous of places.

​Mural near ‘Walled Off’ hotel

Friday 15th September: The Dead Sea

For our last day the group decided to visit the Dead Sea. After arriving at the resort, getting to the water’s edge meant walking down layer after layer of beaches as the Dead Sea evaporates. The recession of the water’s edge is believed to be about 1 m (3 ft) a year. The speed and breadth of the recession of the Dead Sea was a fitting symbol for the recession of the West Bank itself as more and more settlements and walls reduce further the size of the Palestinian territories.

Early the next morning we were back on the bus to Tel Aviv and Ben Gurion airport where there was some anxiety as the security checks were known to be more stringent in the departures area than in arrivals area. (Why? a form of damage limitation?) Once again our group was held up to the last minute for our flight to Istanbul. We had a much more pleasant time in Dublin airport where a welcoming committee was waiting for us with a Palestinian flag. Elaine and the other deportees had decided to hold off publicising the deportations so as not to create any unnecessary difficulties for the rest of the group’s departure from Tel Aviv. Of course, our problems were nothing compared to the daily experiences and hardships of the Palestinian people being forced through turnstiles, having to obtain multi-varied permits, losing land and dwellings, enduring constant military checks and an oppressive political/legal system (like the 17C Penal Laws in Ireland) all because of a particular nationality or religion. The trip left an indelible impression on us as individuals and as a group which would not be easily removed by the self-serving rhetoric of an all-powerful occupying force.

Since our return the issue of the deportations has been raised in various articles in the national newspapers. It has also been brought up during question time in the Dáil (the Irish parliament). Despite not being able to return to the West Bank again, Elaine is already planning to organise two trips to the West Bank from Dublin for 2018. All aboard!

• All photographs copyright Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin

Israel’s Chief Stooge at Westminster shames us again

As Prime Minister, I am proud to say that I support Israel. And it is absolutely right that we should mark the vital role that Britain played a century ago in helping to create a homeland for the Jewish people.

Thus spake Theresa May the other day as she welcomed members of the Jewish community to 10 Downing Street. But by focusing on creating a homeland for the Jewish people she’s also celebrating the hell that Balfour’s Declaration created for the gentle Palestinians and for the rest of the region. “Born of that letter, the pen of Balfour, and of the efforts of so many people, is a remarkable country,” said May, apparently blind to the reality.

Right now we’re on the run-up to the centenary of what is arguably the biggest foreign policy blunder in British history: the Balfour Declaration. In 1917 Arthur Balfour, foreign secretary, bowed to Zionist demands for a homeland for the Jews in Palestine and gave an undertaking that set the world on course for long-term turmoil and, for the native Palestinians, unspeakable misery, dispossession and displacement. It was a criminal conspiracy. And Balfour was an A-list idiot who bragged that he wasn’t even going to counsult the local Arab population about this theft of their homes and lands.

Yet he remains a hero of the Conservative Party which, led by Theresa May, plans to celebrate this hundred-year “running sore” — as Lord Sydenham called it — in great style, inviting Israel’s prime minister Netanyahu to the festivities. That’s if the warmonger isn’t under arrest by then on imminent charges of corruption back home.

“I will always do whatever it takes to keep our Jewish community safe,” May added. “Through our new definition of anti-Semitism we will call out anyone guilty of any language or behaviour that displays hatred towards Jews because they are Jews. We will actively encourage the use of this definition by the police, the legal profession, universities and other public bodies.”

She was referring to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism.

BDS “unsucessful”? Really?

One of May’s Cabinet minsiters, Sajid Javid, told the World Jewish Congress that the UK would celebrate the upcoming anniversary with pride. “Someone said we should apologise for the Declaration, to say it was an error of judgment. Of course that’s not going to happen.” To apologise, he said, would be to apologise for the existence of Israel and to question its right to exist.

Instead, he emphasised the UK government’s intolerance towards any kind of boycott of Israel. “I’ll be 100 per cent clear. I do not support calls for a boycott, my party does not support calls for a boycott. For all its bluster, the BDS campaign is most notable I think, for its lack of success….  As long as I’m in government, as long as I’m in politics, I will do everything in my power to fight back against those who seek to undermine Israel.” The UK, he said, has maintained close diplomatic, trade and security ties with Israel since its inception, and is counted upon by Israel to vote in its favour at the UN and other international institutions.

As Noam Chomsky has aptly observed: “People who call themselves supporters of Israel are actually supporters of its moral degeneration and ultimate destruction.”

Israel lobby stooges like May and Javid continue trying to ram their pro-Zionist nonsense down out throats despite the fact that last time they attacked the successful BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement, warning that her government would “have no truck with those who subscribe to it”, they came spectacularly unstuck. 200 legal scholars and practising lawyers from all over Europe put May in her place by pointing out that BDS is a lawful exercise of freedom of expression and outlawing it undermines a basic human right protected by international convention. Her efforts to repress it amounted to support for Israel’s violations of international law and failure to honour the solemn pledge by States to ‘strictly respect the aims and principles of the Charter of the United Nations’.

May needs a crash course in human rights

Top legal experts were recently asked for their views by Free Speech on Israel, Independent Jewish Voices, Jews for Justice for Palestinians and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Their verdict was that those in public life cannot behave in a manner inconsistent with the European Convention on Human Rights, which provides for freedom of expression and applies not only to information or ideas that are favourably received or regarded as inoffensive, but also to those that “offend, shock or disturb the State or any sector of the population”.

What’s more, there is an obligation to allow all concerned in public debate “to express their opinions and ideas without fear, even if these opinions and ideas are contrary to those defended by the official authorities or by a large part of public opinion, or even if those opinions and ideas are irritating or offensive to the public”. Article 10 says that everyone has the right to freedom of expression including “freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.” Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says the same sort of thing, subject of course to the usual limitations required by law and respect for the rights of others.

Eminent human rights lawyer Hugh Tomlinson QC has sharply criticised the anti-Semitism definition touted by May. Firstly, it isn’t a legally binding definition so doesn’t have the force of a statutory one. And it cannot be considered a legal definition as it lacks clarity. Therefore any conduct contrary to the IHRA definition couldn’t necessarily be ruled illegal.

He says it was “most unsatisfactory for the Government to adopt a definition which lacks clarity and comprehensiveness” and suggests the Government’s decision to adopt the IHRA definition was simply a freestanding statement of policy — a mere suggestion as to a definition of anti-Semitism that public bodies might wish to use. But no public body was under an obligation to adopt or use it, or should be criticised for refusing to. He warned that if a public authority did decide to adopt the definition then it must interpret it in a way that’s consistent with the European Convention on Human Rights mentioned above.

A further obligation put on public authorities is “to create a favourable environment for participation in public debates for all concerned, allowing them to express their opinions and ideas without fear, even if these opinions and ideas are contrary to those defended by the official authorities or by a large part of public opinion, or even if those opinions and ideas are irritating or offensive to the public”.

According to Tomlinson, then, the IHRA definition doesn’t mean that calling Israel an apartheid state that practices settler colonialism, or urging BDS against Israel, can properly be characterized as anti-Semitic. Furthermore, a public authority seeking to apply the IHRA definition in order to prohibit or punish such activities “would be acting unlawfully.”

Retired Lord Justice of Appeal, Sir Stephen Sedley, has weighed in by criticising the IHRA definition for lack of legal force. “It is not neutral: it may well influence policy both domestically and internationally.” He added that the right of free expression, now part of our domestic law by virtue of the Human Rights Act, “places both negative and positive obligations on the state which may be put at risk if the IHRA definition is unthinkingly followed”. Moreover the 1986 Education Act established an individual right of free expression in all higher education institutions “which cannot be cut back by governmental policies”.

Sedley felt the IHRA definition was open to manipulation. “What is needed now is a principled retreat on the part of government from a stance which it has naively adopted.”

As for Javid’s crack about not having to apologise for Israel’s existence, he must have forgotten that in the wake of the 1947 UN Partition Plan, which granted the Jews territory within defined borders, they declared statehood in 1948 without borders, grabbing as much extra land as they could by armed terror and ethnic cleansing.  The new state of Israel’s admission to the UN in 1949 was conditional upon honouring the UN Charter and implementing UN General Assembly Resolutions 181 and 194. It has failed to do so and to this day repeatedly violates provisions and principles of the Charter.

When the UK Conservative Government makes pronouncements on foreign affairs it pays to consider that 80 percent of its MPS are claimed to be signed-up members of Friends of Israel and this is a stepping-stone to higher office. Conservative Friends of Israel, according to their website, are active at every level of the party.

It is sad that so many of our politicians are so spineless and so insecure that they feel the need to herd together under the flag of what the UN has called a racist state.

How Israel robs Palestinians of Citizenship

Israel has quietly revoked the citizenship of thousands of members of its large Palestinian minority in recent years, highlighting that decades of demographic war against Palestinians are far from over.

The policy, which only recently came to light, is being implemented by Israel’s population registry, a department of the interior ministry. The registry has been regularly criticized for secrecy about its rules for determining residency and citizenship.

According to government data, some 2,600 Palestinian Bedouins are likely to have had their Israeli citizenship voided. Officials, however, have conceded that the figure may be much higher.

The future offspring of those stripped of citizenship are likely to suffer problems gaining citizenship too.

Human rights groups have severely criticized Israel for violating its own laws, as well as international conventions to which it is a party, in carrying out such revocations.

Sawsan Zaher, a lawyer with Adalah, a legal center for Israel’s Palestinian minority, told The Jerusalem Post newspaper: “This policy is illegal and in contravention to international law because you cannot leave someone stateless.”

Harsh treatment

Palestinian citizens, one in five of Israel’s population, are descended from Palestinians who survived a mass ethnic cleansing campaign waged during Israel’s creation in 1948.

Today, some 200,000 Bedouins live in Israel, most of them in a semi-desert area known as the Naqab (Negev).

One of the two fastest-growing groups in Israel’s population, the Bedouins have faced especially harsh treatment. Israel continued expelling them to Jordan, Egypt and Gaza through the 1950s and to this day tightly limits the areas in the Naqab where the Bedouins can live.

Revelations of the revocations emerged as Ayelet Shaked, the far-right justice minister, warned Israel’s judges to prioritize demographic concerns and maintenance of the state’s Jewishness over human rights. She called growing numbers of non-Jews in the state “national challenges” that risked turning a Jewish state into “an empty symbol.”

According to Adalah, Bedouins typically learn that they have been stripped of citizenship when they approach the interior ministry for routine services such as renewing an identity card or passport, obtaining a birth certificate, or declaring a change of address.

Some have discovered their loss of status when seeking a passport to go on pilgrimage to Mecca, one of the obligations for Muslims.

Tip of the iceberg?

Aida Touma-Sliman, a Palestinian member of the Israeli parliament, said the policy of revocations had intensified over the past 18 months.

“I’m afraid that what has been exposed is only the tip of the iceberg and what hasn’t been revealed yet is even more serious,” she told the Haaretz newspaper.

The legislator fears that many other Bedouins have been stripped of citizenship, but have yet to learn of the fact.

She said she believed that the government was in part targeting Bedouins with revocation of citizenship to weaken long-standing land claims against the state.

Tens of thousands of Bedouins have been mired in legal action for decades trying to claim back the title deeds to ancestral lands seized from them by military officials in the first years after Israel’s creation.

Israel has declared the surviving communities as “unrecognized,” effectively criminalizing their inhabitants and denying them basic services such as water and electricity. Officials have also been trying to revive the Prawer Plan, which seeks to evict some 40,000 Bedouins – Adalah puts the figure at 80,000-90,000 – and force them into poor “townships”. The original plan was ostensibly frozen in late 2013 after mass protests across the Naqab.

Touma-Sliman said that without citizenship, Bedouins would be largely defenseless against steps to evict them.

Endless foot-dragging

Mahmoud al-Gharibi, an unemployed carpenter from the al-Azazme tribe, was one of several Bedouins who spoke to Haaretz in August during a protest rally in the Naqab village of Bir Hadaj.

He was told his citizenship had been revoked when he applied for a new identity card in 2000. “Since then I’ve applied 10 times [for renewed citizenship], getting 10 rejections, each time on a different pretext,” he said. “I have two children who are over 18 and they too have no citizenship.”

Another Bedouin who spoke anonymously to Haaretz said: “No one explains anything and all of a sudden your status changes. You go in as a citizen and come out deprived of citizenship, and then an endless process of foot-dragging begins.”

Zaher pointed out that many of those recently stripped of citizenship had been voting in parliamentary elections for years, even though it is a right available solely to citizens.

Adalah has warned that revoking citizenship is not only illegal according to Israel’s own laws, but violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, and the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, which Israel signed in 1961.

The group has appealed to Israel’s interior ministry and attorney general, demanding that they cancel the policy. Israeli officials have justified the revocations on the grounds that bureaucratic errors made in the state’s early years meant that the affected Bedouin’s parents or grandparents were not properly registered.

Israel did not pass its Citizenship Law – governing citizenship for non-Jews – until 1952. The legislation’s primary purpose was to strip some 750,000 Palestinians who had been made refugees by the 1948 war, and their millions of descendants, of a right to live in Israel.

A separate law, the 1950 Law of Return, entitles all Jews around the world to instant Israeli citizenship.

Martial law

The failure to register many Bedouins in Israel is related to a draconian period of martial law imposed on the Palestinian minority during Israel’s first 18 years.

Bedouins, like other Palestinian citizens, were not allowed to leave their communities without a special permit. But the remoteness of their communities and Israel’s continuing efforts to expel them through the 1950s mean that officials may have preferred to avoid registration in many cases.

According to reports by the United Nations and others, thousands of Bedouins were secretly expelled into neighboring Egypt and Jordan during the early years of the military government.

Even those who were not expelled outside Israel were often evicted from their ancestral lands and forced into overcrowded “townships.”

This intentionally murky period in Israel’s history has made it hard for the Bedouins to prove many decades later what happened to their parents or grandparents.

Adalah’s Zaher told The Jerusalem Post: “Basically, we’re talking about the grandparents of the people who are now affected and don’t know what happened under military rule. And then suddenly in 2010 they were told that because their grandparents were granted citizenship by mistake, now they will be stripped of their citizenship.”

The interior ministry has downgraded those Bedouins stripped of citizenship to “permanent residents” – the same status accorded to Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem.

However, in practice, Israel does not treat “permanent residency” as permanent. Figures show that Israel has voided the residency status of nearly 15,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem since the city’s occupation began in 1967.

Treated as foreigners

Bedouins have been told they are eligible to apply for citizenship again through a naturalization process, treating them effectively as foreigners.

However, according to Adalah, many have found that when they apply they continue to be denied citizenship, often on grounds that documents cannot be located or they lack sufficient proficiency in Hebrew.

There is no Hebrew language test for foreigners seeking citizenship, either Jews immigrating under the Law of Return, or non-Jewish spouses of Israeli citizens naturalizing under the Citizenship Law.

According to Haaretz, other Bedouins have found the interior ministry so unresponsive they have given up in despair.

The only provision allowing citizenship to be canceled is for recent arrivals who provided false information in their applications. Even then, the interior ministry is required to act within three years – otherwise it has to make an application for revocation through the courts.

Adalah has complained that those affected were not given a hearing before their citizenship was rescinded or the chance to appeal. Zaher said the policy was also blatantly discriminatory as no Jews had been denied citizenship because of errors in their parents’ or grandparents’ registration under the Law of Return.

Equal rights for equal burden?

The treatment of Bedouins gives the lie to one of Israel’s most familiar claims: that Palestinian citizens will receive the same rights as Jewish citizens if they share an equal burden. Avigdor Lieberman, the defense minister, has repeatedly campaigned on a platform of “no loyalty, no citizenship.” He argues that Palestinian citizens who do not serve in the Israeli army or perform an equivalent form of national service should lose their citizenship.

However, a proportion of those stripped of citizenship are from Bedouin families that have served in the Israeli army as desert trackers.

Several unrecognized villages, home to some 100,000 Bedouins, have a tradition of military service, but have still been denied services. Their homes are all under threat of demolition.

Some of the residents of Umm al-Hiran, which is currently being demolished to make way for the exclusively new Jewish community of Hiran, served as trackers for the Israeli army.

Atalla Saghaira, a resident of the unrecognized village of Rahma, told Haaretz he had been stripped of his citizenship in 2002 when he applied for a passport, even though his father was a tracker for the Israeli army. After 13 years of struggle, he eventually managed to regain citizenship, but three of his brothers were still stateless.

‘No harm intended’

The Israeli parliament’s interior committee held a meeting last year at which officials for the first time gave details of the revocation policy.

The head of the interior ministry’s citizenship department, Ronen Yerushalmi, submitted a report stating that as many as 2,600 Bedouins were affected. He admitted, however, that the data was not precise and the figure could be even higher.

At another meeting, the committee’s legal adviser, Gilad Keren, warned that the ministry was most likely breaking Israeli law. He said he could not “understand how, when a person has been a citizen for 20 years and the state makes a mistake, that person’s status is changed.”

In a statement to The Jerusalem Post, the interior ministry denied the evidence heard by the committee, claiming that only about 150 people had been affected. “No one means to harm them,” a spokesperson said. “Now the ministry is asking them to legally re-register so they will remain citizens.”

Revelations of the mass revocations came as an Israeli court last month approved for the first time stripping of citizenship a Palestinian convicted of carrying out an attack.

The interior ministry gave Alaa Zayoud, from the town of Umm al-Fahm in present-day northern Israel, the status of temporary resident after he was sentenced to 25 years for carrying out a car-ramming attack last October on Israeli soldiers. Four people were injured in that incident.

The revocation was made on the basis of a 2008 amendment to the Citizenship Law that allows citizenship to be rescinded for “breach of loyalty” to the state.

Double standard

Adalah, which opposed the government’s decision, pointed out a double standard in not applying the amendment to Israeli Jews. It cited recent cases such as that of a Jewish man and two Jewish juveniles who burned alive a 16-year-old Palestinian, Muhammad Abu Khudair, in Jerusalem in 2014, and that of Jewish settlers behind an arson attack a year later that killed three members of the Dawabsha family in the occupied West Bank village of Duma. None had citizenship revoked.

In 1996, Israel’s high court also refused a request to rescind the citizenship of an Israeli Jew, Yigal Amir, who a year earlier had assassinated Yitzhak Rabin, then prime minister. The judges ruled that such offenses should be dealt with in the criminal courts, not by revoking citizenship.

Previous revocations, though rare, have solely targeted Palestinian citizens. In 2002, Eli Yishai, then interior minister, stripped Nahad Abu Kishaq and Kais Obeid of citizenship.

Zayoud’s case was different because the interior ministry needed to seek court approval, therefore setting what Adalah and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel have called a “dangerous precedent.”

The fear is that Israel will use the case to justify many more such revocations or conditions of citizenship for the Palestinian minority on loyalty.

Ethnic cleansing

The question of whether Palestinians should have been awarded citizenship in the state’s early years is one that has exercised the Israeli leadership for decades. Many have feared that a growing Palestinian population in Israel poses a “demographic threat” to the state’s Jewishness.

Writing in 2002, Israeli historian Benny Morris suggested that Israel’s founding father, David Ben Gurion, should have “gone the whole hog” in 1948 – ethnically cleansing all Palestinians from the newly founded state of Israel.

Research has shown that Ben Gurion gave citizenship only reluctantly to the 150,000 Palestinians who survived the mass expulsions. They were initially assigned residency, chiefly as a way to aid in identifying and expelling Palestinian refugees trying to cross back into the new state of Israel to reach their villages.

Only in 1952, under international pressure, did Israel award the Palestinian minority citizenship through the Citizenship Law, legislation separate from that for Jews.

However, scholars have noted that for more than a decade Israeli leaders repeatedly attempted to find ways to expel Palestinian citizens or establish incentive schemes to encourage them to leave.

Israeli scholar Uri Davis has noted that 30,000 Palestinians living in Israel remained stateless until 1980, when Israel passed an amendment to the Citizenship Law belatedly awarding them citizenship.

Ben Gurion himself hoped to fix the percentage of Palestinians in Israel at no higher than 15 percent of the population. But with the proportion of Palestinian citizens now at one in five, Israeli politicians have been seeking ever more desperate ways to rid Israel of sections of the minority.

In July, the office of Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, was reported to have urged the Trump administration in the US to agree to a land swap that would move an area that is home to some 250,000 Palestinian citizens of Israel to Palestinian control.

The proposal echoed Avigdor Lieberman’s long-standing plan to redraw Israel’s internationally recognized borders as a way to deny hundreds of thousands of Palestinians their citizenship.

In early 2014, the Maariv newspaper reported that Netanyahu had first posited a land and population exchange as a quick fix to reduce Palestinian citizens to no more than 12 percent of the population.

The Growing Affinity Between Netanyahu’s Israel and the West’s Far-right is Hardly Surprising

The eldest son of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has found himself an unlikely poster boy for David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan leader, and neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer.

Last week, these cheerleaders for Jew hatred described 27-year-old Yair Netanyahu as “awesome” and “a total bro” for posting a grossly anti-Semitic image on social media.

It depicts an Illuminati-like figure and a reptilian creature controlling the world through money and dark arts. Alongside them are a cabal of conspirators, their faces altered to show Mr Netanyahu’s main opponents. They include George Soros, a Holocaust survivor who has invested billions in pro-democracy movements, and Ehud Barak, a former Israeli prime minister-turned-government critic.

This is not Yair’s first troubling outburst. Last month, he decried demonstrators who opposed a rally by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left a woman dead.

These might be dismissed as the immature rantings of a wayward son had Yair not been groomed by his father as Israel’s “crown prince”. Netanyahu Jr was supposedly behind an online media strategy that steered Mr Netanyahu to electoral victory in 2015. He can be seen at his father’s side at meetings with world leaders.

The Israeli media were shocked not only by the post but also by Mr Netanyahu’s refusal to criticise his son. An editorial in Haaretz concluded that the prime minister’s silence signalled his “consent to the ongoing demonisation of anyone who doesn’t get in line with the Israeli right”.

Yair’s choice of targets was revealing, particularly Mr Soros.

In July, Mr Netanyahu met his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban, an ultra-nationalist who has led a xenophobic campaign against immigrants. In a bid to crush opposition, the Orban government has vilified Mr Soros, an American-Hungarian who promotes progressive causes. A billboard campaign against the billionaire unleashed a wave of anti-Semitism across the country.

Mr Netanyahu ought to have rushed to Mr Soros’s defence. Instead, he echoed Mr Orban’s incitement. Mr Soros, he said, had “undermined” and “defamed” Israel too – by funding human rights groups opposed to the occupation.

Sympathy with the European and US far-right is not restricted to the Netanyahu camp. It is moving into the Israeli mainstream. Last week, the Herzliya Conference – an annual jamboree for Israel’s security establishment – invited Sebastian Gorka as a keynote speaker.

Mr Gorka, another American-Hungarian and Mr Trump’s former terrorism adviser, is a figurehead of the alt-right, a term for US white supremacist groups. Mr Gorka told the conference that Israel and the US were “founding members of the Judeo-Christian civilisation” and would defeat their “common enemies”.

Meanwhile, another US alt-right leader, Richard Spencer, appeared on Israeli TV last month to call himself a “white Zionist”.

The affinity between Netanyahu’s Israel and the West’s far-right is understandable. Both detest a human rights discourse they have yet to crush. Both mobilise their supporters with dog-whistle Islamophobia. Both prefer militarised, fear-based societies and both share an obsession with Jew hatred.

Israel is so esteemed by white supremacists because it offers a double whammy of anti-Semitism. For decades, Israel has sought to persuade the West that it faces an endless war against Arab and Muslim “terror”, while simultaneously declaring itself the only true home for Jews. For an alt-right bristling with hatred for all Semites, this is manna from heaven. It, too, wants an apocalyptic battle against Islam, and it, too, is happy to see the West cleared of Jews by herding them into the Middle East.

At first sight, that has created an ideological inconsistency on the Israeli right that Yair Netanyahu’s meme highlights.

The Israeli prime minister has repeatedly called on all Jews to come to Israel, claiming it as the only safe haven from an immutable global anti-semitism. And yet, Mr Netanyahu is also introducing a political test before he opens the door.

Jews supporting a boycott of Israel are already barred. Now, liberal Jews and critics of the occupation like Mr Soros are increasingly not welcome either. Israel is rapidly redefining the extent of the sanctuary it offers – for Jewish supremacists only.

The paradox may turn out to be more apparent than real, however. For Mr Netanyahu may believe he has much to gain by abandoning liberal Jews to their fate, as the alt-right asserts its power in western capitals.

The “white Zionists” are committed to making life ever harder for minorities in the West in a bid to be rid of them. Sooner or later, on Mr Netanyahu’s logic, liberal Jews will face a reckoning. They will have to accept that Israel’s ultra-nationalists were right all along, and that Israel is their only sanctuary.

Guided by this cynical convergence of interests, Jewish and white supremacists are counting on a revival of anti-Semitism that will benefit them both.

Not My Wonder Woman: The Zionist Agenda in US Mainstream Feminism

Most women will agree that female representation in the media is incredibly important for a plethora of reasons, not only in media but as well as politics, and other platforms lacking opportunity for female participants. Providing women of all ages a strong and positive role model could break a toxic habit and pattern of accepting and expecting degrading societal roles and standards that have been appointed to us. A struggle that many women face, especially women of color, members of minority faiths, or members of the LGBTQ community, is the women presented in the media for the sake of progressiveness have never stood with or supported either groups of people. For me, and many other women, “female representation” seems useless for these reasons.

When it comes to the new film Wonder Woman, many questions arose for me personally:  Would I ever take my hypothetical Palestinian daughter to see a film lead by a woman who works and supports the genocide and ethnic cleansing of her people? Would my hypothetical daughter forget all the immense damage Gadot has done in Palestine, Ethiopia, Lebanon, Syria, etc, due to the fact that she is female? The omnipresent term “White Feminism” comes to mind in cases such as these. The powerful, white, upper class, has not faced the oppression and devastation that Gal Gadot and her comrades in the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) have caused, in fact, they have and continue to profit from it, whether that be in political backing from the Zionist lobby, brutal arms deals, etc.

It is quite easy to feel hopeless in situations as this. What power does a university student in Seattle have? One factor many forget that carries power and impact is our financial and monetary support of companies, corporations, films, etc. Along with the list that the BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanctions) movement has provided, I made the choice to avoid this film completely. Gal Gadot does not support women. DC’s decision to cast Gadot was not motivated by feminism, but by their support of the prevailing Zionist and White Supremacist agenda in the media and the United States as a whole. If they wanted to make a feminist political statement, they wouldn’t let the member of an anti-Arab (and anti-African for that matter) army, that practices the ethnic cleansing and genocide of indigenous peoples; play the role of an Amazonian woman – an Indigenous woman.

It comes down to what women truly need out of the feminist movement, not only in the United States, but globally. In the eyes of many Americans, women of color don’t enter their minds in relation to the feminism conversation; resulting in them feeling no sense of betrayal when they hear that Gal Gadot is the perfect “white” woman lead to the new Wonder Woman film.

If Americans are truly committed to seeing their country evolve into a place that values equity for women and other oppressed peoples, it is vital that the growing exclusivity applied to this standard is banished. This can be applied to many mainstream and growing movements in the United States today. If you marched with the Pride parade in 2017, for example, the intersectionality within your solidarity is not an option. You must march for justice against brutal police who have slain and abused a record number of Black Trans women. You must march against the Pink Washing Israel has propagated while abusing LGBTQ Palestinians. You must march against all forms of LGBTQ abuses. It is not a game of picking and choosing, but one of mobilizing collectively for the same value of justice, regardless of the various labels and the backlash affiliated with each of the causes.

I personally have come to the conclusion that this film was nothing but just another trick played on America’s juvenile approach to the empowerment of women. They put a woman on TV and the historic oppression of women is over, regardless that that woman herself fights for the propagation of oppression of other women all over the Middle East, Africa, and even the United States.

We saw similar events take place during Barak Obama’s presidency. They put the first Black man in the White House, and White America deemed themselves post-racial, despite the fact that the Obama administration continued the heavy militarization of the police in the United States, with the help of the IDF’s armed forces training, which directly targets and oppresses the Black community in this country. While his administration was busy bombing Somalia, Libya, and countless other African and Arab countries, he was still revered as a savior for America’s suffering Black community.

Likewise, Hillary Clinton dreamed of blazing the trail as the first female president, while betraying women everywhere as she schemed to overthrow the sovereign governments of Honduras and Libya. She too has failed to lift up women throughout the world.

For many people, the sentiment of Wonder Woman was far more than “just a film”. It was far from being a sign of evolution in the American feminist movement. Casting a woman who is a veteran from one of the most heavily militarized countries on the planet is not a sign of progress. But it does give Americans an illusion of progress. White American feminists can rest a little easier with the flawed assurance that they have done their job. We, whether we are Palestinians, people of color, LGBTQ, or religious minorities, we don’t stand to gain anything from their illusion.

Three Years after the War: Gaza Youth Speak Out

“At bedtime, I am afraid to turn the lights off. I am not a coward, it is just that I worry that this bulb hanging from the ceiling is the last light that remains (shining) in my life.”

Soon after he penned these words, Moath Alhaj, a young artist from a Gaza refugee camp, passed away in his sleep. After disappearing for two days, Moath’s friends broke down the door of his house, and found him huddled with his blanket in a place in which he lived alone for 11 years.

Moath lived in the Nuseirat Refugee Camp, one of Gaza’s most crowded camps, a name which is associated with historic hardship, war and legendary resistance. Raised in the United Arab Emirates, Moath returned to Gaza to join the Islamic University, but remained there, experiencing three wars and a decade-long blockade.

Somehow, the young man maintained a semblance of hope as expressed in his many drawings and emotive commentary.

Moath learned to live in his own world ever since he was young. The outside world to him seemed unpredictable and, at times, cruel.

When his mother passed away, Moath was only 1-year-old. He father died of cancer in the UAE and, due to circumstances beyond his control, Moath lived alone. Keeping him company were his friends in the neighborhood, but mostly it was his self-effacing, yet profound artistic expressions.

“Smile, may the war feel shame,” was one of his cartoons. In it, a little girl with a flowery dress turns her back at the reader, looking the other way.

Moath’s art characters always had their eyes closed, as if they refuse to see the world around them, and insist on imagining a better world inside their own thoughts.

After his body was thoroughly examined, doctors concluded that Moath died as a result of a stroke. His heart, heavy with untold personal and collective miseries, had just given in. And just like that, one of Gaza’s finest young men was buried in an ever-crowded graveyard. Social media buzzed with statements of condolences, made mostly by young Palestinians from Gaza, devastated to hear that Moath has died, that his last light had been extinguished, and that the young man’s life had ended while the siege and state of war remain.

In that same week, Palestinians commemorated the three-year anniversary of the end of Israel’s devastating war against the Strip. The war had killed over 2,200 Palestinians, the vast majority amongst them civilians, and 71 Israelis, the majority of them soldiers.

The war left Gaza in ruins, as over 17,000 homes were completely destroyed, and thousands of other structures, including hospitals, schools and factories destroyed or severely damaged.

The war fully shattered whatever semblance of economy the Strip had had. Today, 80 percent of all Palestinians in Gaza live below the poverty line, the majority of whom are dependent on humanitarian aid.

There is a whole generation of Palestinians in Gaza that grew up knowing nothing but war and siege, and have never seen the world beyond Gaza’s deadly borders.

These are the voices of some of these young Gazans, who kindly shared their tragic personal stories, hoping that the world would heed their calls for freedom and for justice.

Isra Migdad is an Islamic Finance student:

“After our house had been partially damaged during the 2014 Israeli war, it took my family about a year and a half to rebuild it, due to the delay in construction material being allowed into the Gaza Strip and because of the prohibitive prices of such material, when it is available. I lost my Master’s degree scholarship back in 2014 due to the closure and due to my family’s difficult financial situation after the war.

“I have spent the last three years applying for scholarships, only to learn that many universities in Europe know nothing, or very little, about the Israeli siege on Gaza and the continuous closure of the borders. I attained another scholarship, only to lose it again, since I hadn’t enough time to complete my travel procedures and negotiate an exit from Gaza.

“Yes, I want a better life, but I also love Gaza. Yet, the situation is becoming more difficult with each passing day. It is hard to find a stable job and, even if one gets an opportunity elsewhere, it is nearly impossible to get out.”

Ghada, 23, studied English literature, and currently works as a translator:

“Day by day, the situation in Gaza becomes more complicated and even worse than before. Since the last war to this day, nothing seems to get better. Nothing at all.

“During my work at the Palestinian Trade Center (Pal-Trade) which focuses on the Palestinian economy, every day I see people struggling in all economic sectors. The electricity crisis is destroying businesses everywhere. The agriculture sector is in ruins as farmers cannot export their products, and cannot even access the Palestinian market in the West Bank.

“Despite substantial donor pledges to support reconstruction following the 2014 conflict, the situation for Palestinians living in Gaza has never been worse. Moreover, people in Gaza are facing a dire shortage of drinkable water and adequate and equitable sanitation system. Even the sea has become polluted because of the sewage that is dumped daily. There is little hope on the horizon for better conditions.”

Banias Harb is a teacher:

“The unprecedented closure and blockade imposed upon Gaza has created a feeling of helplessness. The most frustrating problem that youth have been suffering from is the closure of Rafah crossing border. Gaza youth constitute about a third of the Palestinian population, yet less than 10 percent of all youth have been able to see what’s beyond Gaza. We feel abandoned. Alone.”

Kholod Zughbor has a degree in English Literature from Alazhar University in Gaza:

“The siege on Gaza has been in place since 2006. The situation has been terrible here, even before the wars started. Unemployment among Gaza’s youth is estimated at 60 percent.

“I have witnessed three wars. I saw life gradually worsen, especially after the last war. Three years after the 2014 war, the situation is getting harder and more miserable. The Gaza Strip is still far from full recovery, and what has been built is only a drop in the ocean of destruction.”

Sondos has a bachelor’s degree in English Literature. She is a social worker:

“As a social worker, I have visited over three hundred and fifty families who are impacted by the war and its aftermath. They are burdened by deep psychological scars and are constantly overshadowed by the feeling of an impending catastrophe. In every house that I have visited, there is a heartbreaking story of poverty, unemployment, fear of the future, fear of another Israeli war.

“Without outside pressure on Israel, Gazans will continue to relive this nightmare in their open-air prison. They can neither reconstruct their demolished homes, import their basic needs nor have access to electricity and clean water on a regular basis.

“But Gaza will continue to hang on to life and will not fall into despair. Our youth will continue to pursue higher education and will labor to achieve their goals, no matter the odds. They will continue to use their imagination to overcome all hurdles, as we have done for many years. Courage and determination are our most prized qualities.”

Yousef Aljamal, a writer and PhD student from Gaza, contributed to this article.

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The Terror Next Time: The Daesh Story Is Not Ending

Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, has been reduced to rubble. It has been finally conquered, snatched back from the notorious group, Daesh, after months of merciless bombardment by the US-led war coalition, and a massive ground war.

But ‘victory’ can hardly be the term assigned to this moment.  Mosul, once Iraq’s cultural jewel and model of co-existence, is now a ‘city of corpses’, as described by a foreign journalist who walked through the ruins, while shielding his nose from a foul smell.

“You’ve probably heard of thousands killed, the civilian suffering,” Murad Gazdiev said. “What you likely haven’t heard of is the smell. It’s nauseating, repulsive, and it’s everywhere – the smell of rotting bodies.”

Actually, the “smell of rotting bodies” can be found everywhere that Daesh has been defeated. The group that once declared a Caliphate – an Islamic state – in Iraq and Syria in 2014, and was left to freely expand in all directions, is now being hurriedly vanquished.

Such a fact leaves one wondering how a small group, itself a spawn of other equally notorious groups, could have declared, expanded and sustained a ‘state’ for years, in a region rife with foreign armies, militias and the world’s most powerful intelligences?

But should not such a question be rendered irrelevant now, considering that Daesh is finally being routed, in most violent and decisive methods?

Well, this is what almost everyone seems to agree on; even political and military rivals are openly united over this very objective.

Aside from the city of Mosul in Iraq, Daesh has also been defeated in its stronghold in the city of Raqqa, in the east of Syria.

Those who astonishingly survived the battles of Mosul and Raqqa are now holed in Deir ez-Zor, which promises to be their last major battle.

In fact, the war on Daesh is already moving to areas outside large population centers where the militant group had sought safe haven. Yet, Daesh militants are being flushed out of these regions as well, for example, in the western Qalamoun region on the Syria-Lebanon border.

Even the open desert is no longer safe. The Badiya Desert, extending from central Syria to the borders of Iraq and Jordan, is now witnessing heavy fighting, centered in the town of Sukhnah.

Brett McGurk, US special envoy for the ‘Global Coalition to Counter ISIS’, recently returned to the US after spending a few days the region. He talked to CBS television network with palpable confidence.

Daesh forces are “fighting for their life, block-by-block,” he said, reporting that the militant group had lost roughly 78 percent of areas it formerly controlled in Iraq since its peak in 2014, and about 58 percent of its territories in Syria.

Expectedly, US officials and media are mostly emphasizing military gains they attribute to US-led forces and ignore all others, while Russian-led allies are doing just the opposite.

Aside from the numerous humanitarian tragedies associated with these victories, none of the parties involved have taken any responsibility for the rise of Daesh, in the first place.

They have to, and not only as a matter of moral accountability. Without understanding and confronting the reasons behind the rise of Daesh, one is certain that the fall of Daesh will spawn yet another group with an equally nefarious, despairing and violent vision.

Those in mainstream media, who have attempted to deconstruct the roots of Daesh, unwisely confront its ideological influences without paying the slightest heed to the political reality from which the group was incepted.

Whether Daesh, Al-Qaeda or any other, such groups are typically born and reborn in places suffering from the same, chronic ailment: a weak central government, foreign invasion, military occupation and state terror.

Terrorism is the by-product of brutality and humiliation, regardless of the source, but is most pronounced when that source is a foreign one.

If these factors are not genuinely addressed, there can be no ending to terrorism.

Thus, it should come as no surprise that Daesh was molded, and thrived, in countries like Iraq, Syria, Libya and regions like the Sinai Desert. Moreover, many of those who answered Daesh’s call also emerged from communities that suffered the cruelty of merciless Arab regimes, or neglect, hate and alienation in western societies.

The reason that many refuse to acknowledge such a fact – and would fight tooth and nail to discredit such an argument – is that an admission of guilt would make many responsible for the very creation of the terrorism they claim to fight.

Those who are content in blaming Islam, a religion that was one of the main contributing factors to the European cultural renaissance, are not simply ignorant; many of them are guided by sinister agendas. But their mindless notion of blaming religion is as stupid as George W. Bush’s ill-defined ‘war on terror.’

Wholesale, uninformed judgments can only prolong conflict.

Moreover, generalized notions prevent us from a narrowed-down attempt at confronting specific, and clearly obvious links, for example, between Al-Qaeda’s advent in Iraq and the US invasion of that country; between the rise of the sectarian-brand of al-Qaeda under Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and the sectarian division of that country under US administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, and his allies in the Shia-led government in Baghdad.

It should have been clear from the start that Daesh, as notoriously violent as it is, was one of the symptoms, not the cause. After all, Daesh is only 3-years-old. Foreign occupation and war in the region predates its inception by many years.

Although we were told – by Daesh itself, but also media pundits – that Daesh is here to stay, it turned out that the group is but a passing phase in a long, ugly montage, rife with violence and bereft of both morality and the intellectual courage to examine the true roots of violence.

It is likely that the victory over Daesh is short-lived. The group will surely develop a new warfare strategy or will further mutate. History has taught us that much.

It is also likely that those who are proudly taking credit for systematically and efficiently annihilating the group – along with whole cities – will not pause for a moment to think of what they must do differently to prevent a new Daesh from taking form.

Strangely, the ‘US-led Global Coalition to Counter ISIS’ seems to have access to the firepower needed to turn cities into rubble, but not the wisdom to understand that unchecked violence inspires nothing but violence; and that state terror, foreign interventions and collective humiliation of entire nations are all the necessary ingredients to restart the bloodbath all over again.

Al-Araqeeb Village: Palestinian Bedouins Refuse to Surrender 116 Times

On August 1, the Palestinian Bedouin village of Al-Araqeeb was destroyed for the 116th time. As soon as Israeli bulldozers finished their ugly deed and soldiers began evacuating the premises, the village resident immediately began rebuilding their homes.

Twenty-two families, or about 101 residents, are estimated to live here. By now, they are all familiar with the painful routine, considering the first round of destruction took place in July 2010.

It means that the village has been destroyed nearly 17 times per year, since then. And every single time, it was rebuilt, only to be destroyed again.

If the repeated destruction of the village is an indication of Israel’s stubborn insistence to uproot Palestine’s Bedouins, the rebuilding is indicative of the tenacity of the Bedouin community in Palestine.

But Al-Araqeeb is only symbolic of that historic fight.

It would be no exaggeration to state that there is a war waged by Israel against Palestinian Bedouins. The aim is to destroy their culture and to force them into townships similar to those of Apartheid South Africa.

The geographic space of that war extends from the Negev desert to the Southern Hebron Hills to Jerusalem.

The epicenter of the ongoing fight is the village of Al-Araqeeb. Not only has Israel destroyed Al-Araqeeb numerous times in violation of international law, it actually delivers a bill to the homeless residents expecting them to cover the cost of the very ruins wrought by the Israeli state.

According to latest estimates, the families that live in makeshift huts and rely on rudimentary means to survive, are expected to pay up a bill of 2 million shekels, around $600,000.

Israel dubs Al-Araqeeb, along with 35 villages in the Negev, as ‘unrecognized’ by the Israeli government’s master plan, thus they must be erased, and their population driven into townships made for the Bedouins.

However, these villages are older than Israel itself, and any such ‘master plan’ could have easily considered this existing reality. However, what Israeli truly labors to achieve is to replace the Bedouins with its own Jewish population, as it has tirelessly done for seven decades.

Palestinian Bedouins are known for their tenacity. They fully fathom the history and plight of their ancestors, where generation after generation were ethnically cleansed and exiled to refugee camps outside Palestine, or forcibly removed to other areas. Today’s Bedouin communities refuse to be subjected to that same fate again.

The Israeli plan to ethnically cleanse the Bedouins of the Negev is no different from the plan to colonize the West Bank, Judaize the Galilee and Palestinian East Jerusalem. All such efforts always culminate in the same routine – of removing the Arabs and replacing them with Israeli Jews.

In 1965, Israel passed the Planning and Building Law which recognized some Palestinian Arab villages in the Galilee and southern Negev, but excluded others. Nearly 100,000 Bedouin were forcibly removed to ‘Planned Townships’ to endure economic neglect and poverty. Many refused to be moved and, since then, have fought a protracted war to survive and maintain a semblance of their culture and way of life.

Currently, according to the Institute of Palestine Studies (IPS), roughly 130,000 individuals live in the so-called unrecognized villages “under the constant threat of wholesale demolition.”

The anomaly is that these Bedouin communities prove the fallacy of the Israeli claim that it was Jewish settlers – not Palestinians – that ‘made the desert bloom.’

A simple look at statistics demolishes that deceptive claim entirely.

As of 1935 – that is 13 years prior to the existence of Israel – Bedouins “cultivated 2,109,234 dunums of land where they grew most of Palestine’s barley and much of the country’s wheat,” stated IPS.

Moreover, Jewish settlers did not arrive in the Negev till 1940 and, by 1946, the total Jewish population there did not amount to more than 475.

“The amount of land cultivated by the Bedouins in the Negev prior to 1948 came to three times that cultivated by the entire Jewish community in all of Palestine even after sixty years of ‘pioneering’ Zionist settlement,” IPS concluded.

To reverse this indisputable historical reality, Israel has led a decided campaign aimed at vanquishing the Bedouins by severing their relationship to their land. Although this has been done with a great degree of success, the struggle is not yet over.

The same struggle is duplicated elsewhere, especially in so-called ‘Area C’ encompassing 60 percent of the West Bank. Palestinian Bedouin villages there are also enduring a terrible fight, as many of their villages have been singled out for destruction.

Most of West Bank Bedouins live in the central West Bank region, in an area known as the South Hebron Hills. Last month, it was reported that the Israeli Supreme Court is now “deciding the fate” of the Bedouin village of Dkeika. Other villages in the area have either been demolished, received demolition orders or are waiting for their fate to be determined by the Israel court.

It is hardly a question of a single village or two. The UN reported that 46 villages in central West Bank are “at risk of forcible transfer” by the Israeli government.

To preclude any legal wrangling, the Israeli government has been actively pursuing wholesale, irreversible actions to seal the fate of Bedouins once and for all.

In 2013, Israel announced the “Prawer Plan”, the goal of which was the destruction of all unrecognized villages in the Negev. However, massive mobilization involving the Bedouins and Palestinians throughout the Occupied Territories defeated the plan, which was officially rescinded in December of the same year.

But, now, it is being revived under the name ‘Prawer II.’ A draft of the plan, which was leaked to local media, was introduced by Israel’s Agricultural Minister, Uri Ariel. It, too, aims to “deny Bedouin citizens land ownership rights and violate their constitutional protections,” reported Patrick Strickland.

The war on the Bedouin is, of course, part of the larger war on all Palestinians, whether in Israel or under military occupation. While the latter are denied the most basic freedoms, the former are governed by at least 50 discriminatory laws, according to the Haifa-based Adalah Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights.

Many of these laws are aimed at depriving Palestinians of the right to own land or to claim even the very land upon which their homes and villages existed for tens and hundreds of years.

It should come as no shock, then, to learn that, while Palestinian citizens of Israel are estimated at 20 percent of the population, they live on merely 3 percent of the land, and many of them face the constant danger of being evicted and relocated elsewhere.

The story of Al-Araqeeb is witness to the never-ending Israeli desire for colonial expansion at the expense of the indigenous population of Palestine, but also of the courage and refusal to give in to fear and despair as demonstrated by the 22 families of this brave village.

In some way, Al-Araqeeb represents the story of all of Palestine and its people.

The struggle of Al-Araqeeb should evoke outrage at Israel’s constant violation of human rights and its refusal to recognize the national aspirations of the Palestinian people, but it should also induce hope that 70 years of colonial expansion cannot defeat or even weaken the will of a village, of a nation.