Category Archives: Zionism

For Israel, Annexation of the West Bank is a Long-established Goal

When Israeli prime ministers are in trouble, facing difficult elections or a corruption scandal, the temptation has typically been for them to unleash a military operation to bolster their standing. In recent years, Gaza has served as a favourite punching bag.

Benjamin Netanyahu is confronting both difficulties at once: a second round of elections in September that he may struggle to win; and an attorney general who is widely expected to indict him on corruption charges shortly afterwards.

Mr Netanyahu is in an unusually tight spot, even by the standards of an often chaotic and fractious Israeli political system. After a decade in power, his electoral magic may be deserting him. There are already rumblings of discontent among his allies on the far right.

Given his desperate straits, some observers fear that he may need to pull a new kind of rabbit out of the hat.

In the past two elections, Mr Netanyahu rode to success after issuing dramatic last-minute statements. In 2015, he agitated against the fifth of Israel’s citizens who are Palestinian asserting their democratic rights, warning that they were “coming out in droves to vote”.

Back in April, he declared his intention to annex large chunks of the occupied West Bank, in violation of international law, during the next parliament.

Amos Harel, a veteran military analyst with Haaretz newspaper, observed last week that Mr Netanyahu may decide words are no longer enough to win. Action is needed, possibly in the form of an announcement on the eve of September’s ballot that as much as two-thirds of the West Bank is to be annexed.

Washington does not look like it will stand in his way.

Shortly before April’s election, the Trump administration offered Mr Netanyahu a campaign fillip by recognising Israel’s illegal annexation of the Golan Heights, territory Israel seized from Syria in 1967.

This month David Friedman, US ambassador to Israel and one of the chief architects of Donald Trump’s long-delayed “deal of the century” peace plan, appeared to offer a similar, early election boost.

In interviews, he claimed Israel was “on the side of God” – unlike, or so it was implied, the Palestinians. He further argued that Israel had the “right to retain” much of the West Bank.

Both statements suggest that the Trump administration will not object to any Israeli moves towards annexation, especially if it ensures their favoured candidate returns to power.

Whatever Mr Friedman suggests, it is not God who has intervened on Israel’s behalf. The hands that have carefully cleared a path over many decades to the West Bank’s annexation are all too human.

Israeli officials have been preparing for this moment for more than half a century, since the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza were seized back in 1967.

That point is underscored by an innovative interactive map of the occupied territories. This valuable new resource is a joint project of the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem and Forensic Architecture, a London-based team that uses new technology to visualise and map political violence and environmental destruction.

Titled Conquer and Divide, it reveals in detail how Israel has “torn apart Palestinian space, divided the Palestinian population into dozens of disconnected enclaves and unravelled its social, cultural and economic fabric”.

The map proves beyond doubt that Israel’s colonisation of the West Bank was never accidental, defensive or reluctant. It was coldly calculated and intricately planned, with one goal in mind – and the moment to realise that goal is fast approaching.

Annexation is not a right-wing project that has hijacked the benign intentions of Israel’s founding generation. Annexation was on the cards from the occupation’s very beginnings in 1967, when the so-called centre-left – now presented as a peace-loving alternative to Mr Netanyahu – ran the government.

The map shows how Israeli military planners created a complex web of pretexts to seize Palestinian land: closed military zones today cover a third of the West Bank; firing ranges impact 38 Palestinian communities; nature reserves are located on 6 per cent of the territory; nearly a quarter has been declared Israeli “state” land; some 250 settlements have been established; dozens of permanent checkpoints severely limit movement; and hundreds of kilometres of walls and fences have been completed.

These interlocking land seizures seamlessly carved up the territory, establishing the walls of dozens of tightly contained prisons for Palestinians in their own homeland.

Two Nasa satellite images of the region separated by 30 years – from 1987 and 2017 – reveal how Israel’s settlements and transport infrastructure have gradually scarred the West Bank’s landscape, clearing away natural vegetation and replacing it with concrete.

The land grabs were not simply about acquisition of territory. They were a weapon, along with increasingly draconian movement restrictions, to force the native Palestinian population to submit, to recognise its defeat, to give up hope.

In the immediate wake of the West Bank’s occupation, defence minister Moshe Dayan, Israel’s hero of the hour and one of the architects of the settlement project, observed that Palestinians should be made “to live like dogs, and whoever wants to can leave – and we shall see where this process leads”.

Although Israel has concentrated Palestinians in 165 disconnected areas across the West Bank, its actions effectively won the international community’s seal of approval in 1995. The Oslo accords cemented Israel’s absolute control over 62 per cent of the West Bank, containing the Palestinians’ key agricultural land and water sources, which was classified as Area C.

Occupations are intended to be temporary – and the Oslo accords promised the same. Gradually, the Palestinians would be allowed to take back more of their territory to build a state. But Israel made sure both the occupation and the land thefts sanctioned by Oslo continued.

The new map reveals more than just the methods Israel used to commandeer the West Bank. Decades of land seizures highlight a trajectory, plotting a course that indicates the project is still not complete.

If Mr. Netanyahu partially annexes the West Bank – Area C – it will be simply another stage in Israel’s tireless efforts to immiserate the Palestinian population and bully them into leaving. This is a war of attrition – what Israelis have long understood as “creeping annexation”, carried out by stealth to avoid a backlash from the international community.

Ultimately, Israel wants the Palestinians gone entirely, squeezed out into neighbouring Arab states, such as Egypt and Jordan. That next chapter is likely to begin in earnest if Mr Trump ever gets the chance to unveil his “deal of the century”.

• First published in The National

Disinformation and False Accusations of Anti-Semitism

The smearing of George Galloway and widely reported disinformation that there was no evidence to support the claim that Viva Palestina delivered aid, raises serious concerns, not just in this case, but far beyond.

It is seriously disturbing how disinformation and lazy ‘cut and paste’ journalism has become common place within the monopoly media of the UK. One wonders where the professional and serious investigative reporting of old has gone.

With regard to the ‘possibly liable’ headlines of several national newspapers: Gaza charity ‘may have delivered no aid’ ‘no evidence of charitable activity’ and so forth…, as a participant of  the Viva Palestina Convoy 2009/10, I can confirm that not only was medical aid delivered to Gaza, there is significant evidence to support this. The medical supplies were, in fact, accurately documented as required and submitted to customs officials in the countries we passed through. So, why didn’t the charities commission, the government and the mainstream journalists find any evidence? Why didn’t they speak to any of the hundreds of witnesses who would likely be willing to testify in a court of law, were they called upon to do so.

My conclusion is that they didn’t look, which brings us to the more serious question: why didn’t they look?

It doesn’t take much imagination to consider why journalists and career politicians might have chosen not to look. It is frightening to consider how we have allowed ourselves to slide into this Orwellian condition of cognitive dissonance where investigative journalists and publishers are punished, criminalised and imprisoned for writing the truth, while the commonplace peddling of disinformation is rewarded.

To quote from George Orwell; “During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” Julian Assange understands this more than most.

I’m not an investigative journalist; however, as a concerned citizen, my first question would be: Who were the people within the Charities Commission that instigated ‘Viva Palestina’ (a campaigning group), to register as a charity.

I remember that none of the participants of the convoy considered what we were doing as charity. Palestinians are not looking for charity. They want a political solution that offers dignity, freedom and justice. It was this political solution we were attempting to achieve by driving the convoy of politically decorated ambulances overland to Gaza. The symbolism of taking medical supplies was the powerful message that drew people from their homes to wave their support as we drove by.

Further questions we should all ask: “What was the motive in forcing a campaigning group to register as though it were a charity? Were those behind this move politically motivated in any way?”

Given all the false charges of anti-Semitism directed against George Galloway and many other outspoken critics of Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians, it is credible to surmise that there ‘might’ have been political motives behind, not only forcing ‘Viva Palestina’ to fall under the power of the charities commission, but also the later investigation and false accusation – delivered ten years after the event: ‘of the probability that no aid was delivered’.

Seriously, such throw away meaningless phrases such as.., ‘may not have’ ‘high likely’ … whatever happened to evidence-based accusations?

The convoys of ambulances packed with medical supplies, (Viva Palestina 2009) grew out of an inspirational idea put forward by George Galloway. Both within the UK and indeed globally, individuals were/and continue to be shocked by the brutal attacks on a largely defenceless population living under siege in Gaza. The Israeli ‘Operation Cast Lead’ of 2008/9 left around 1,440 people dead and many more thousand injured. Ten years on, Gaza continues to face a slow genocide so the motivation to place blame on those who speak out about these outrageous war crimes and crimes against humanity, are well entrenched within the establishment and media.

The aims of Viva Palestina were threefold: besides delivering ambulances and medical supplies to Gaza by driving across Europe, Turkey, Syria, Jordan and Egypt in convoy, our aim was to raise awareness as to the desperate plight of the Gazan people. The medical supplies will have been used up long ago; however, our intended aim of  raising awareness and demonstrating love and solidarity toward the Palestinians is enduring.

Viva Palestina was not one person. It was an inspirational campaigning umbrella for more than a hundred and ten different groups that comprised around 500 people from an international collective of around 17 different nationalities. The largest contingent participating in the convoy came from UK, followed by Turkey, Malaysia, and Jordanian doctors.

I was one of four who represented the people of York. Besides contributing our own money we fundraised locally and were responsible for our own financial accounting. Although it’s credible to believe that £1M was around the total sum of aid delivered, other than the international groups none of the local UK groups would have individually met the threshold of the £25,000.00 that was the excuse to force charity status on us. Our first purchase was an ambulance for which we paid £6,000.00. Having acquired the ambulance money came in more readily and we were able to purchase medical supplies, a defibrillator, and a second hand dialysis machine. This we handed over personally to doctors from the Red Crescent in Gaza. However spurious claims that we might have handed over aid (aid that we supposedly didn’t have) to ‘the ruling government’ are misleading and disingenuous. Hamas is the democratically elected government of Palestine. Just like our government which has a financial responsibility toward the NHS, Hamas finances the main Al Shifa Hospital, along with a responsibility for the health services of the population of Gaza. Had we handed our ambulance and medical supplies over to them, as many did, this would have been absolutely legitimate.

In a report put out by the UK government based on the charity commissions findings, it is stated that trustees of Viva Palestina were found lacking in their assessment of the risks. I should add that all participants were aware that there were risks. It was discussed prior to departure of the convoy and during the journey on several occasions. Given the Egyptian military siege that took place in El Arish against all participants of the convoy, it would have been comforting to think our government thought well enough of us, to have made some diplomatic gesture toward protecting us. The only response I am aware of from them was: “You were advised not to go. You are on your own.” Maybe behind the scenes they said something, but we were certainly not aware of it.

In contrast it was evident that the Turkish Government, the Malaysian Government and others, did take diplomatic steps to offer assistance to their citizens and as a result the military confrontation and siege ended with few casualties. Sadly this was not the case at the Rafa borders where Palestinians gathered in protest of our coming under siege by the Egyptian military. One Egyptian soldier was killed and a Palestinian was shot in the legs. If a reminder were needed, this tragedy reflects the brutality of conflict in this area of the world and what Palestinians in Gaza face on a daily basis.

We have normalised wars waged against civilians as though this were a natural condition of being human. Gaza continues to face a slow genocide, so the motivation for Palestinians during this current ‘Great March of Return’ arrives out of a sense of despair as they witness their country being steadily stolen away. Trump’s declaration that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel simply added fuel to an already simmering anger. This desperate act of resistance arises in the belief that it is better to die in dignity than to die slowly on one’s knees.

The courage of the Palestinians comes from the belief that their individual death might trigger a global outrage that will finally bring justice and freedom for the children of their community. The realisation of this belief is slow in coming; however, it’s this faith in our common humanity that gives them the courage to transcend fear. It was this same faith that persuaded us to undertake the long journey across Europe and beyond in hopes of stirring a conscious awakening of decent people to this injustice.

In contrast to our good will, disinformation and labels function as a way of de-legitimising genuine resistance to injustice, resistance to the theft of one’s land, the theft of one’s freedom, and resistance to the theft of many lives… resistance to all that is inherently wrong.

Palestinians and their democratically elected government, Hamas, are frequently described as terrorists by Israel, UK and its politically ideological Zionist supporters; however, when Israel bombs Gaza and drops white phosphorous on its civilian population, it is stated that Israel is defending itself.

Labels and calculated disinformation function as a way of diverting attention  from legitimate outrage. People are afraid of the slurs and negative labels that might be attached to them; in the case of supporting Palestinians one is charged with being anti-Semitic. We just have to look at how these attacks on Jeremy Corbyn, George Galloway and the participants of Viva Palestina, to see how labels, false charges and calculated disinformation have become weaponised.

Labels don’t need truth to stick. Like lies they just have to be said often enough and with enough force to be intimidating and carry the power to turn a contrived falsehood into a popularly held truth. A false label is like the smelly stuff that clings to the bottom of your shoe if you are unfortunate enough to walk on the wrong part of the pavement. Evidently, George Galloway, like Jeremy Corbyn and all those of us on the Viva Palestina Convoy, have trodden in the wrong place by our physical endeavour to demonstrate an ongoing injustice and an unpalatable truth into the reaches of power.

Trump Enjoys Bipartisan Support for His Plan to Eradicate the Palestinian Cause

The White House’s prolonged financial bullying of the Palestinian Authority (PA), the Palestinians’ government-in-waiting, has reached the point where there are now credible warnings that it is close to collapse. The crisis has offered critics further proof of the administration’s seemingly chaotic, often self-sabotaging approach to foreign policy matters.

Meanwhile, US officials charged with resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have demonstrated ever more blatant bias, such as the recent claims by David Friedman, the ambassador to Israel, that Israel is “on the side of God” and should have the “right to retain” much of the West Bank.

Again, critics view the Trump administration’s approach as a dangerous departure from the traditional US role of “honest broker”.

Such analyses, however common, are deeply misguided. Far from lacking a strategy, the White House has a precise and clear one for imposing a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – President Donald Trump’s so-called “deal of the century”. Even without publication so far of a formal document, the plan’s contours are coming ever more sharply into relief, as its implementation becomes observable on the ground.

Repeated delays in announcing the plan are simply an indication that Trump’s team needs more time to engineer a suitable political environment for the plan to be brought out of the shadows.

Further, the Trump administration’s vision of the future for Israelis and Palestinians – however extreme and one-sided – has wide, bipartisan support in Washington. There’s nothing especially “Trumpian” about the administration’s emerging “peace process”.

Choking off aid

Paradoxically, that was evident last week, when leading members of the US Congress from both sides of the aisle introduced a bill to boost the ailing Palestinian economy by $50m. The hope is to create a “Partnership Fund for Peace” that will offer a financial fillip to Israelis and Palestinians seeking to resolve the conflict – or, at least, that is what is being claimed.

This sudden concern for the health of the Palestinian economy is a dramatic and confusing U-turn. Congress has been an active and enthusiastic partner with the White House in choking off aid to the PA for more than a year.

Mohammad Shtayyeh, the Palestinian prime minister, told the New York Times last week that the PA was on the brink of implosion. “We are in a collapsing situation,” he told the newspaper.

The PA’s crisis comes as no surprise. Congress helped initiate it by passing the Taylor Force Act in March 2018. It requires the US to halt funding to the PA until it stops paying stipends to some 35,000 families of Palestinians jailed, killed or maimed by Israel.

On the brink of collapse

Previous US administrations might well have signed a waiver to prevent such legislation from going into effect – just as presidents until Trump blocked a congressional law passed in 1995 demanding that the US move its embassy to Jerusalem.

But the Trump White House is not interested in diplomatic face-saving or reining in the pro-Israel zealotry of US legislators. It fervently and explicitly shares the biases that have long been inherent in the US political system.

In line with the Taylor Force Act, the White House has cut off vital funds for Palestinians, including to UNRWA, the United Nations’ refugee agency for Palestinians, and to hospitals in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem.

The decision by Congress to throttle the PA has had further repercussions, leaving Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu exposed domestically. Not daring to be seen as less anti-PA than US legislators, Netanyahu implemented his own version of the Taylor Force Act earlier this year.

Since February, he has withheld a portion of the taxes Israel collects on behalf of the PA, the vast bulk of its income, equal to the stipends transferred to the Palestinian families of prisoners and casualties of Israeli violence – or those who Israel and the US simple-mindedly refer to as “terrorists”.

That, in turn, has left Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, in an impossible position. He dare not be seen accepting an Israeli diktat that legitimises withholding Palestinian money, or one that defines as “terrorists” those who have sacrificed the most for the Palestinian cause. So he has refused the entire monthly tax transfer until the full amount is reinstated.

Now, just as these various blows against the PA finally threaten to topple it, the US Congress suddenly prepares to step in and bail out the Palestinian economy with $50m. What on earth is going on?

‘Money in return for quiet’

The small print is telling. The PA, the Palestinians’ fledgling government, is not eligible for any of the US Congress’s promised largesse.

If the legislation passes, the money will be handed to “Palestinian entrepreneurs and companies”, as well as non-governmental organisations, willing to work with the US and Israel on “people-to-people peace-building” programmes and “reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians”.

In other words, the legislation is actually designed as another strike against the Palestinians’ existing leadership. The PA is being bypassed yet again, as the US and Israel try to bolster an alternative economic, rather than political, leadership.

This move by US representatives is not occurring in a vacuum. Since the effective collapse of the Oslo accords nearly two decades ago, Washington has sought to downgrade a national conflict that needs a political solution into a humanitarian crisis that needs an economic one.

It is a variation on Netanyahu’s long-standing goal to smash the Palestinian national struggle and replace it with so-called “economic peace”.

Where once the goal of peacemaking was “land in exchange for peace” – that is, a Palestinian state in return for an end to hostilities – now the aim is “money in exchange for quiet”. The US is now formally supporting Israel’s efforts at economic pacification.

Outrage at new elections

The Trump administration has devised a two-stage process for neutralising Palestinians.

Firstly, Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has been tasked with winning over Arab states, particularly those in the oil-rich Gulf, to stump up money for pacifying Palestinians and their neighbours.

This is the aim of an investment conference due to be held in Bahrain later this month – the lynchpin of the “deal of the century”, not simply a prelude to it.

That was why Trump himself was so visibly outraged at the delay caused by Netanyahu’s decision to dissolve the Israeli parliament last month, a reflection of his political weakness as he faces imminent corruption trials. The new elections in Israel, Trump grumbled, were “ridiculous” and “messed up”.

The intention of the Bahrain conference is to use tens of billions of dollars raised by Washington to buy off opposition to the Trump deal, chiefly from Egypt and Jordan, which are critical to the pacification programme’s success.

Any refusal by the Palestinians to surrender, either in Gaza or the West Bank, could have major repercussions for these neighbouring states.

Search for alternative leaders

Secondly, Friedman is at the centre of efforts to identify recipients for the Gulf-funded handouts. He has been seeking to forge a new alliance between the settlers, with whom he is closely aligned, and Palestinians who may be willing to help in the pacification project. Late last year, he attended a meeting of Palestinian and Israeli business leaders in the West Bank city of Ariel.

Afterwards he tweeted that the business community was “ready, willing and able to advance joint opportunity & peaceful coexistence. People want peace and we are ready to help! Is the Palestinian leadership listening?”

Friedman has made no bones about where his – and supposedly God’s – priorities lie, throwing his weight behind the growing clamour in Israel to annex much of the territory that was once seen as integral to creating a Palestinian state. With that as the administration’s lode star, the task is now to find a Palestinian leadership prepared to stand by as the finishing touches are put on a Greater Israel ordained by God.

Concerns in Washington about the PA’s unwillingness to comply were voiced last week by Kushner, though he dressed them up as doubts about the Palestinians’ ability to govern themselves. He said of the PA: “The hope is that they, over time, will become capable of governing.” He added that the real test of the administration’s plan would be whether Palestinian areas became “investable”.

“When I speak to Palestinian people, what they want is they want the opportunity to live a better life. They want the opportunity to pay their mortgage,” he said.

Washington is therefore looking to influential families in the West Bank that could potentially be recruited with bribes to serve as an alternative, compliant leadership. In February it was reported that around 200 businesspeople, Israeli mayors and heads of Palestinian communities met in Jerusalem “to advance business partnerships between Israeli and Palestinian entrepreneurs”.

Corrupt tribal fiefdoms

It has been natural for the Trump administration to look to a business elite – one that, it hopes, will be prepared to forgo a national solution if the economic environment is liberalised enough to allow for new regional and global investment opportunities.

These individuals belong to extended families that dominate the West Bank’s major cities. Such powerful families may be prepared to assist in the elimination of the PA, in return for a corrupt patronage system allowing them to take control of their respective cities.

Palestinian analysts, like Samir Awad, a politics professor at Bir Zeit University near Ramallah, have told me that the Israeli and US vision of Palestinian “autonomy” may amount to little more than a system of tribal fiefdoms, reminiscent of Afghanistan.

There are already a few Palestinian partners emerging, such as Hebron businessman Ashraf Jabari, who is reportedly planning to attend the Bahrain conference.

He and other business leaders have been quietly developing ties with counterparts in the settler movement, such as Avi Zimmerman. Together, they have set up a joint chamber of commerce covering the West Bank.

It is precisely such initiatives that are being promoted by Friedman and would be eligible for grants from the $50m fund the US Congress is currently legislating.

Ultimately, these Palestinian business “partners” could form an elite to serve as an ostensible national address for the international community in its dealings with the Palestinian people.

Sword over PA’s head

The PA doesn’t have to be discarded for the Trump plan to progress. But alternative national and local leaderships need to be cultivated by Washington to serve both as a sword hanging over the PA’s head, to encourage it to capitulate, and as an alternative ruling class, should the PA fail to submit to the “deal of the century”.

In short, Washington is playing a game of chicken with Abbas and the PA. It is determined that the Palestinians will blink first.

Deeply implicated in Washington’s vision, even if largely out of sight, are the Arab states, whose role is to strong-arm whatever Palestinian leadership is required for the Greater Israel “deal of the century” to be implemented.

The burden of managing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will shift once again. When Israel occupied the Palestinian territories in 1967, it became directly responsible for the welfare of Palestinians living there.

Since the mid-1990s, when the Palestinian leadership was allowed to return under the Oslo accords, the PA has had to shoulder the task of keeping the territories quiet on Israel’s behalf. Now, after the PA has refused to sign off on Israel’s ambitions to take for itself East Jerusalem and much of the West Bank, the PA is increasingly seen as having outlived its usefulness.

Instead, Palestinian expectations may have to be managed via another route – through the key Arab states of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Jordan. Or, as Palestinian analyst Hani al-Masri recently noted, the Bahrain conference “foreshadows the beginning of abandoning the [Palestine Liberation Organization] as the Palestinians’ representative, thereby opening the door … for a new era of Arab patronage over the Palestinians to take hold.”

Years of imperial overreach

Under Trump, what has changed most significantly in the US approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the urgency of Washington’s efforts to set aside the Palestinian national struggle once and for all.

Since the Six-Day War of 1967, US administrations – with the possible exception of Jimmy Carter’s – had only a marginal interest in forcing a settlement on Israelis and Palestinians. Aside from lip service to peace, they were mostly content to leave the two sides to engage in an asymmetrical struggle that always favoured Israel. This was sold as “conflict management”.

But after 15 years of US imperial overreach in the Middle East – and faced with major foreign policy setbacks in Iraq and Syria, and Israel’s related failures in Lebanon – Washington desperately needs to consolidate its position against rivals and potential rivals in this oil-rich region.

Russia, China, Turkey, Iran, and even Europe, are jostling in different ways for a more assertive role in the Middle East. As it tries to counter these influences, the US wishes to bring together its main allies in the region: Israel and the key Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia.

Although secret ties between the two sides have been growing for some time, unresolved tensions remain over Israel’s demand that it be allowed to maintain regional superiority in military and intelligence matters. That has been obvious in current power battles playing out in Washington.

The Trump administration last month declared extraordinary measures to bypass Congress so that it could sell more than $8bn in weapons to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Jordan. In retaliation, Congressional leaders close to Israel vowed they would block the arms sales.

Splinter in region’s windpipe

In the White House’s view, little further progress can be made until the Palestinian splinter stuck deep in the Middle East’s windpipe is removed.

Most Arab leaders care nothing for the Palestinian cause, and have come to bitterly resent the way the Palestinians’ enduring struggle for statehood has complicated their own dealings in the region, especially with Iran and Israel.

They would enthusiastically embrace a full partnership with the US and Israel in the region, if only they could afford to be seen doing so.

But the Palestinians’ struggle against Israel – and its powerful symbolism in a region that has experienced so much malign Western interference – continues to serve as a brake on Washington’s efforts to forge tighter and more explicit alliances with the Arab states.

Serious case of hubris

As such, the Trump administration has concluded that “conflict management” is no longer in US interests. It needs to isolate and dispose of the Palestinian splinter. Once that encumbrance is out of the way, the White House believes it can get on with forging a coalition with Israel and most of the Arab states to reassert its dominance over the Middle East.

All of this will likely prove far harder to achieve than the Trump administration imagines, as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo intimated last week in private.

But it would be wrong nonetheless to assume that the strategy behind Trump’s “deal of the century”, however unrealistic, is not clear-sighted in both its aims and methods.

It would be similarly misguided to believe that the administration’s policy is a maverick one. It is operating within the ideological constraints of the Washington foreign policy elite, even if Trump’s “peace plan” lies at the outer margins of the establishment consensus.

The Trump administration enjoys bipartisan backing from Congress both for its Jerusalem embassy move and for economic measures that threaten to crush the PA, a government-in-waiting that has already made enormous compromises in agreeing to statehood on a tiny fraction of its people’s historic homeland.

No doubt the Trump White House is suffering from a serious case of hubris in trying to eliminate the Palestinian cause for good. But that hubris, however dangerous, we should remember, is shared by much of the US political establishment.

• First published at Middle East Eye.

Achikha in Hebrew, “your brother,” but where is he now?

Oh, yeah, it was all planned — I’d write about the 52nd anniversary of the attack on the USS Liberty by Israel, the subsequent cover-up, and alas, half a century of Israel and the Jewish state of Mind holding sway over much of the Western world, certainly here in the USA and Canada. Big impetus to analyze other false flags, yet, life gets in the way. Teaching youth in special education — kids with interventions, behavior plans, learning and retention plans. If only the elites and not so elite knew what is going on in America, in the classrooms, with overtaxed teachers, parents that are checked out and famished for their own self-agency and self-worth.

Image result for photo of USS Liberty

Kids in high school, needing mentors, and then, bam, first graders with all sorts of learning blocks. More and more kids with physical ailments. And, well, the beat doesn’t go on, if you know what I mean. High school kids who don’t know the history of Israel, Nakba, and certainly nothing about the Vietnam War, Korea, WWI & II, and, the USS Liberty?

Emancipation from stupidity, though, is not the purview of the poor and misbegotten and hick and small-town worker. It goes to the top, elite (sic) folk in media, education, board rooms. You won’t hear anything about the murders of those sailors by Israel. No eye for an eye by Yankees or rebels.

Fifty two years, on June 8, 1967, Israel attacked the American naval vessel USS Liberty in international waters, and tried to sink it.

After checking the Liberty out for 8 hours – and making 9 overflights with Israeli jets, within 200 feet … close enough for the pilots and the sunbathing Liberty sailors on deck to waive at each other.

Yet the Israelis attacked it with Mirage fighter jets, torpedoes and napalm. The USS Liberty suffered 70% casualties, with 34 killed and 174 wounded.

The Israeli attack spanned two hours … as long as the attack on Pearl Harbor. The air attack alone lasted approximately 25 minutes: consisting of more than 30 sorties by approximately 12 separate planes using napalm, cannon, and rockets which left 821 holes in the ship. The Israelis fired 30mm cannons and rockets into the boat.

Oh, and the media, oh the media, covering up so much about the attack. And a commission, launched in 2003, yet there is nary a word in the Mainstream Media, and we wonder why?

Liberty

Capitol Hill, October 2003. It is a historic occasion. An independent, blue-ribbon commission is to release its findings from an investigation into an internationally significant 36-year-old attack on a US Navy ship that left more than 200 American sailors killed or wounded.

The commission consists of:

  • A former ambassador to one of the US’s most important allies
  • A US Navy rear admiral and former head of the Navy’s legal division
  • A Marine general, America’s highest ranking recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor and the former Assistant Commandant of Marines
  • A US Navy four-star admiral, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (the highest military position in the country), former Chief of Naval Operations, a World War II hero, and the only Naval admiral to have commanded both the Pacific and the Atlantic fleets

The excellent group, If Americans Knew, largely spearheaded by Alison Weir, covers this abomination:

This extraordinarily high-ranking commission was reporting on the 1967 Israeli attack on the USS Liberty. Many analysts believe that the Liberty attack could be Israel’s undoing – at least as far as US support is concerned – if Americans knew the facts about it.

But they don’t. Here’s why:

A search of hundreds of the largest news media in this country indexed by Lexis-Nexis does not turn up a single US newspaper that mentioned this commission, a single US television station, a single US radio station, a single US magazine. While it was mentioned in an Associated Press report focusing on one of the commission’s most dramatic revelations, Lexis reveals only a sprinkling of news media printed information from this AP report, and those few that that did failed to mention this commission itself, its extremely star-studded composition, and the entirety of its findings.

Apart from a few members of the alternative press and the excellent Washington Report on Middle East Affairs (not indexed by Lexis), this commission might as well not have existed as far as most of the US media is concerned – and therefore, the American public.

For two documentaries on the Israeli illegal attack and murders of US sailors,  go here, and here!

Then, I was going to riff with some “new” FBI documents released, on the Dancing Israelis, and I am not talking about “I wish I was a rich man” Zero Mostel.

Newly Released FBI Docs Shed Light on Apparent Mossad Foreknowledge of 9/11 Attacks, by Whitney Webb

New information released by the FBI has brought fresh scrutiny to the possibility that the “Dancing Israelis,” at least two of whom were known Mossad operatives, had prior knowledge of the attacks on the World Trade Center.

FBI Docs Shed Light on Apparent Mossad Foreknowledge of 9/11 Attacks

The USS Liberty all over again, but this time, more than 3,000 killed in the so called September 11, 2001 “attacks,” and then countless millions killed, maimed, imprisoned, starved, renditioned, and sickened through the coalition of the killing, err, willing. Here, read on for this unrecognized commemoration of the death of all those sailors!

Yet, in either scenario, Sivan Kurzberg had simulated the burning of the World Trade Center the day before the attacks took place. That the FBI concluded that Kurzberg was party to a Mossad surveillance operation at the time of his arrest would then suggest that Israeli intelligence also had foreknowledge of the attacks.

Notably, the relevant section of the FBI report that asks “1. Did the Israeli nationals have foreknowledge of the events at WTC and were they filming the events prior to and in anticipation of the explosion?” is redacted in its entirety, suggesting that the FBI did not determine the answer to that question to be an emphatic “no.”

And, Benjamin Netanyahu, knew what would happen ahead of the September 11, 2001 attacks. What an ally, what a great Israel First Nation this place has become the past 70 plus years!

One of the detained “Dancing Israelis,” Omer Marmari, told police the following about why he viewed the September 11 attacks in a positive light: ” Israel now has hope that the world will now understand us. Americans are naïve and America is easy to get inside. There are not a lot of checks in America. And now America will be tougher about who gets into their country.”

Then, I got derailed watching the dramatization of what happened during, around, and in the case of the Central Park Jogger and the railroading of 5 innocent youth of color who were tried, prosecuted and found guilty (slammed into prison) through the New York media, through the pigs in the police force, with the assistance of the bigger pigs in the DA’s office, all aided and abetted by the New York Post, dozens of other newspapers, and the biggest pig of them all, Donald Delirium Tremens Trump.

It’s just disgusting,” sighs Ava DuVernay.

The Oscar-nominated filmmaker and TV showrunner is discussing the role of President Donald Trump in the Central Park Five case, wherein five teenage boys of color—Korey Wise, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, Kevin Richardson, and Raymond Santana—were falsely convicted of the 1989 rape and vicious assault of Trisha Meili, a white investment banker, and subsequently spent up to 14 years in prison.

At the time Trump, then a PR-hungry NYC real estate baron who occasionally served as his own publicist, sensed an opportunity for some headlines and inserted himself into the case, inflaming racial tensions with frequent comments to news programs along with newspaper ads, purchased for $85,000, calling the boys “crazed misfits” and urging the state of New York to “bring back to the death penalty,” essentially calling for their pre-trial execution. He concluded: “Maybe hate is what we need if we’re gonna get something done.”

More shenanigans with elite New York white Jewish culture, the prosecutor in that lying case, Fairstein, who went on to make money with trashy crime novels. To this day, like fourth grade mentally challenged Trump, she too believes the lies, her own:

And it’s another felon who plays this Fairstein —

Felicity Huffman and Linda Fairstein, former head of the sex crimes unit of the Manhattan DA's office.

And then, the other elite Jewish white woman who also prosecuted the case, Elizabeth Lederer.

As The Times noted, Lederer has a lengthy legal history of unchallenged cases, despite the fact that she’s largely known for her involvement in the Central Park Five’s case. Lederer is no longer discussing the case in public; she did not comment on the petition in 2013.

Though Lederer has made virtually no public comments on her role in the case since the trial ended, archived articles show the trial was an emotionally charged affair, for obvious reasons. The Los Angeles Times notes that Korey Wise, one of the Five, said to Lederer after he was given his sentence, “You’re going to pay for this. Jesus is going to get you. You made this . . . up.”

Elizabeth lederer

I guess I am on a roll, here, since someone sent me this about another Jewish white elite female, this time with the US Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She first sent me a month ago the Netflix info tag on Ginsburg’s life vis-a-vis a CNN documentary, RBG and then the film, On the Basis of Sex:

But no amount of swag or hagiography can obscure the fact that, while Ginsburg is responsible for a great number of landmark legal decisions, her legacy may be sorely tarnished by one truly terrible one: refusing to retire when President Barack Obama could have named her replacement. That decision came into stark relief this month when Ginsburg fell and broke three ribs—and half of the nation took a collective gasp. Women took to Twitter to offer the justice a rib.

The broken ribs must have mushed her here, for sure, as this old lady just put a few million feet in her mouth:

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg praised Justice Brett Kavanaugh in her prepared remarks at Friday’s Second Circuit Judicial Conference. She noted that after Kavanaugh was confirmed the number of female Supreme Court clerks reached an all-time high, given his staffing choices.

Quote: “Justice Kavanaugh made history by bringing on board an all-female law clerk crew. Thanks to his selections, the Court has this Term, for the first time ever, more women than men serving as law clerks. Women did not fare nearly as well as advocate. Only about 21-percent of the attorneys presenting oral argument this Term were female; of the 34 attorneys who appeared more than once, only six were women.”

Amazing, the death star of American elites, east coast Ivy League Lepers —

GettyImages-1041759596-1538177880

Ginsburg, what a work of nothing! And the sad sack demon-crats march her out as some hero!

MANY OF US who watched Thursday’s Senate hearing spent much of the time cataloguing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s lies. After hours of testimony, during which Christine Blasey Ford answered questions about her alleged sexual assault, the financing behind her lie detector test, and whether she was really afraid of flying, viewers were treated to more hours of testimony from Kavanaugh, a federal judge who struggled to give a single straight answer.

Kavanaugh strained credulity when he argued before the Senate Judiciary Committee that the “Devil’s Triangle” — a phrase that appeared on his high school yearbook page — referred to a drinking game, a definition which, before Thursday, you’d have a hard time finding anywhere. (It actually refers to a sex act involving two men and a woman). He also unabashedly claimed that the term “boof” is a reference to “flatulence,” rather than other butt stuff, and that “ralph,” which means to vomit —implicitly from the overconsumption of alcohol — was a reference to Kavanaugh’s weak stomach.

I guess all of this speaks to a bit of sensitivity around white patriarchy/matriarchy and white dominance, eating away at the soul of us, the 80 percent. I guess I have to square how it is that an elite super minority and so many in that tribe are superior to anyone else on the planet, in their own minds at that, has held sway over much of my own life in education, social services, journalism, and publishing.

This is observation, but in today’s Stephen Miller-Alan Dershowitz  world, with all the backing of the ADL, anyone who dares point out the elitism and the tribalism and the power clique that defines American Judaism, well, the old canard, anti-Semite, comes popping out of clicking tongues.

Something raw, now that I am working to help a veteran who ended up renting an apartment in Wilsonville, Oregon, at age 70, with an amputation from the knee down, and using a wheelchair. He has major eye problems, which have led to vision and pain in his eyes. He is in an apartment that has two steps that prevent him from using a flat surface to go in and out of the abode. He’s fallen twice on sod, trying to maneuver the wheelchair to the parking lot. He lives alone, doesn’t drive and knows no one at the apartment complex. I got him services while working as his social worker in that nefarious place, the Starvation Army.

He is virtually at the whim of people to come and help him get out of his apartment landing onto cement. He has medical appointments several times a week, a long trip from Wilsonville to the VA in Portland.

The apartment complex is being run by the largest multi-family property management company in the USA (self advertised) called Pinnacle Property Management. I have sent letters and emails to upper management, but to no avail. So has he. The discussion about accommodations — putting down a flat walkway from his sliding back door, about 20 feet — has turned into a case of this multi-billion dollar outfit telling him they will do it but at a charge of $5,300. We are being talked down to by the Portland office, some lower ranking person who has zero empathy for the situation, but is clear to cite in reverse logic the state of Oregon’s fair housing laws, which she uses to protect her asinine attitudes.

He’s on a fixed income and was homeless. The idea that the apartment complex is now managed by this outfit, so the owner(s) can hide behind their skirts, is typical of the American Penury Society. They’ve cited fair housing laws in an Orwellian way — “If we put in the walkway at our expense for your client, that would be unfair to other tenants . . . . Then everyone asking for us to pay for an accommodation we’d have to oblige.”

I’ve advocated for the veteran since this veteran is non-confrontational and is traumatized at having to be apartment-bound for more than two months with no end in sight. I have told these nefarious folk that, (a) a new concrete pathway for the only ground floor apartment with a two-step situation would be an enhancement to THEIR property in perpetuity. Then, (b) I explained the obvious: Anyone renting the apartment in the future, when my veteran leaves, would have the advantage of having some handicapped accommodation in the case of a wheelchair bound tenant, or an injured tenant or someone in need of a walker or crutch or cane, or even a family with a newborn in a carriage.

Since I was already stewing around the Dancing Israelis and the Jewish State of Israel’s attack on our own people, sailors; and since the Central Park Five were prosecuted by two Jewish women, well, I was traumatized a bit. I looked up the management of Pinnacle, and alas, the higher ups — many of them — are self-proclaimed practicing Jews:

Eric Schwabe, Executive Vice President – Western Division

Woody Stone, Executive Vice President – Eastern Division

Jason Straub, Systems Training Manager

Deb Kopolow, Regional Vice President

Avery Solomon, Vice President – Client Services

Seth Kaplan, Regional Marketing Director

You know, none of the above people have replied to my respectful and clear emails or letters asking them to be both ethical and community orientated when thinking about my former client and now my friend.

I have looked at their internal documents, Propaganda videos and marketing web pages, and hands down, these people parade out a litany of BS about how humane and resident focused they are!

Pinnacle is a privately held organization that manages multifamily properties nationwide. Established in 1980, we are one of the largest multifamily management companies in the United States with a portfolio of over 172,000 units and 4,300 team members. Our clients include pension funds, private partnerships, international investors, insurance companies, lenders, special servicers, syndicators, government agencies and high net worth individuals.

I have come to my wits end, in this emotionally and economically cursing society, with the One Percent and the Point Zero One Percent having for too many centuries controlled the destinies of the masses. Having studied some of the Jewish tradition with radical Jewish friends 45 years ago, I am always T-boned by the unfeeling and usury-based prevailing attitudes of the rich, both gentile (goyim) and Jew or Arab Prince!

Here, some contradictions to the idea that money is the lifeblood of so many, especially the millionaires and billionaires — Mammon was an ancient god who used to be worshiped by pagans for riches, money and wealthy. Counterpoint to that:

The overarching Jewish attitude toward the poor is best summed up by a single word of the biblical text: achikha (your brother). With this word, the Torah  insists on the dignity of the poor, and it commands us to resist any temptation to view the poor as somehow different from ourselves.

The concept of human dignity is well-ingrained in Judaism. The book of Genesis describes human beings as created “b’tzelem elokim” in the image of God (1:26). At least one early Rabbi considers one of the verses expressing this idea to be the most important verse in the Torah (Sifra K’dosbim 2:4). The insistence that human beings are creations in the divine image implies that any insult to an individual, by extension, is an affront to God. In reminding us that the poor person is our sibling, the Torah emphasizes that, like us, this person is a manifestation of the divine image and should be treated as such.

A rabbinic story tells about a group of people traveling in a boat. One passenger takes out a drill and begins drilling a hole under his seat. The other passengers, quite understandably, complain that this action may cause the boat to sink. “Why should this bother you?” this man responds, I am only drilling under my own seat.” The others retort, “But the water will rise up and flood the ship for all of us!” (Vayikra Rabbah 4:6). The moral of this story is clear: one person’s destructive action may literally drown the entire community. But we might add that the inverse is also true: a single positive change may transform an entire community. Thus, the alleviation of poverty, even in the smallest detail, may help the community as a whole to flourish.

Yet Pinnacle or the Dancing Israelis or the New York prosecutors or any number of thousands of elites and money-grubbing individuals and corporations have zero understanding of the foundation of the golden rule or Gandhi’s sins

In 590 AD, Pope Gregory I unveiled a list of the Seven Deadly Sins – lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride – as a way to keep the flock from straying into the thorny fields of ungodliness. These days though, for all but the most devout, Pope Gregory’s list seems less like a means to moral behavior than a description of cable TV programming.

So instead, let’s look to one of the saints of the 20th Century — Mahatma Gandhi. On October 22, 1925, Gandhi published a list he called the Seven Social Sins in his weekly newspaper Young India.

Politics without principles.
Wealth without work.
Pleasure without conscience.
Knowledge without character.
Commerce without morality.
Science without humanity.
Worship without sacrifice.

The list sprung from a correspondence that Gandhi had with someone only identified as a “fair friend.” He published the list without commentary save for the following line: “Naturally, the friend does not want the readers to know these things merely through the intellect but to know them through the heart so as to avoid them.”

Unlike the Catholic Church’s list, Gandhi’s list is expressly focused on the conduct of the individual in society. Gandhi preached non-violence and interdependence and every single one of these sins are examples of selfishness winning out over the common good.

It’s also a list that, if fully absorbed, will make the folks over at the US Chamber of Commerce and Ayn Rand Institute itch. After all, “Wealth without work,” is a pretty accurate description of America’s 1%. (Investments ain’t work. Ask Thomas Piketty.) “Commerce without morality” sounds a lot like every single oil company out there and “knowledge without character” describes half the hacks on cable news. “Politics without principles” describes the other half.

gandhi-social-sins

 

Kushner as a Colonial Administrator

In a TV interview on June 2, on the news docuseries “Axios” on the HBO channel, Jared Kushner opened up regarding many issues, in which his ‘Deal of the Century’ was a prime focus.

The major revelation made by Kushner, President Donald Trump’s adviser and son-in-law, was least surprising. Kushner believes that Palestinians are not capable of governing themselves.

Not surprising, because Kushner thinks he is capable of arranging the future of the Palestinian people without the inclusion of the Palestinian leadership. He has been pushing his so-called ‘Deal of the Century’ relentlessly, while including in his various meets and conferences countries such as Poland, Brazil and Croatia, but not Palestine.

Indeed, this is what transpired at the Warsaw conference on ‘peace and security’ in the Middle East. The same charade, also led by Kushner, is expected to be rebooted in Bahrain on June 25.

Much has been said about the subtle racism in Kushner’s words, reeking with the stench of old colonial discourses where the natives were seen as lesser, incapable of rational thinking beings who needed the civilized ‘whites’ of the western hemisphere to help them cope with their backwardness and inherent incompetence.

Kushner, whose credentials are merely based on his familial connections to Trump and family friendship with Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is now poised to be the colonial administrator of old, making and enforcing the law while the hapless natives have no other option but to either accommodate or receive their due punishment.

This is not an exaggeration. In fact, according to leaked information concerning Kushner’s ‘Deal of the Century,’ and published in the Israeli daily newspaper, Israel Hayom, if Palestinian groups refuse to accept the US-Israeli diktats, “the US will cancel all financial support to the Palestinians and ensure that no country transfers funds to them.”

In the HBO interview, Kushner offered the Palestinians a lifeline. They could be considered capable of governing themselves should they manage to achieve the following: “a fair judicial system … freedom of the press, freedom of expression, tolerance for all religions.”

The fact that Palestine is an occupied country, subject in every possible way to Israel’s military law, and that Israel has never been held accountable for its 52-year occupation seems to be of no relevance whatsoever, as far as Kushner is concerned.

On the contrary, the subtext in all of what Kushner has said in the interview is that Israel is the antithesis to the unquestionable Palestinian failure. Unlike Palestine, Israel needs to do little to demonstrate its ability to be a worthy peace partner.

While the term ‘US bias towards Israel’ is as old as the state of Israel itself, what is hardly discussed are the specifics of that bias, the decidedly condescending, patronizing and, often, racist view that US political classes have of Palestinians – and all Arabs and Muslims, for that matter; and the utter infatuation with Israel, which is often cited as a model for democracy, judicial transparency and successful ‘anti-terror’ tactics.

According to Kushner a ‘fair judicial system’ is a conditio sine qua non to determine a country’s ability to govern itself. But is the Israeli judicial system “fair” and “democratic”?

Israel does not have a single judicial system, but two. This duality has, in fact, defined Israeli courts from the very inception of Israel in 1948. This de facto apartheid system openly differentiates between Jews and Arabs, a fact that is true in both civil and criminal law.

“Criminal law is applied separately and unequally in the West Bank, based on nationality alone (Israeli versus Palestinian), inventively weaving its way around the contours of international law in order to preserve and develop its ‘(illegal Jewish) settlement enterprise’,” Israeli scholar, Emily Omer-Man, explained in her essay ‘Separate and Unequal’.

In practice, Palestinians and Israelis who commit the exact same crime will be judged according to two different systems, with two different procedures: “The settler will be processed according to the Israeli Penal Code (while) the Palestinian will be processed according to military order.”

This unfairness is constituent of a massively unjust judicial apparatus that has defined the Israeli legal system from the onset. Take the measure of administrative detention as an example. Palestinians can be held without trial and without any stated legal justification. Tens of thousands of Palestinians have been subjected to this undemocratic ‘law’ and hundreds of them are currently held in Israeli jails.

It is ironic that Kushner raised the issue of freedom of the press, in particular, as Israel is being derided for its dismal record in that regard. Israel has reportedly committed 811 violations against Palestinian journalists since the start of the ‘March of Return’ in Gaza in March 2018. Two journalists – Yaser Murtaja and Ahmed Abu Hussein – were killed and 155 were wounded by Israeli snipers.

Like the imbalanced Israeli judicial system, targeting the press is also a part of a protracted pattern. According to a press release issued by the Palestinian Journalists Union last May, Israel has killed 102 Palestinian journalists since 1972.

The fact that Palestinian intellectuals, poets and activists have been imprisoned for Facebook and other social media posts should tell us volumes about the limits of Israel’s freedom of press and expression.

It is also worth mentioning that in June 2018, the Israeli Knesset voted for a bill that prohibits the filming of Israeli soldiers as a way to mask their crimes and shelter them from any future legal accountability.

As for freedom of religion, despite its many shortcomings, the Palestinian Authority hardly discriminates against religious minorities. The same cannot be said about Israel.

Although discrimination against non-Jews in Israel has been the raison d’être of the very idea of Israel, the Nation-State Law of July 2018 further cemented the superiority of the Jews and inferior status of everyone else.

According to the new Basic Law, Israel is “the national home of the Jewish people” only and “the right to exercise national self-determination is unique to the Jewish people.”

Palestinians do not need to be lectured on how to meet Israeli and American expectations, nor should they ever aspire to imitate the undemocratic Israeli model. What they urgently need, instead, is international solidarity to help them win the fight against Israeli occupation, racism and apartheid.

Quebec Movement for Peace disrupts a Speech by Irwin Cotler on “Canada as a Human Rights Leader”

Last week members of Quebec Movement for Peace disrupted a speech by Irwin Cotler on “Canada as a Human Rights leader” (at the last-minute ‘deputy’ foreign minister, Rob Oliphant, canceled his participation). With “Free Palestine” signs in hand, filmmaker Malcolm Guy and I took the stage to denounce Cotler’s anti-Palestinian positions and support for intervention in Venezuela and Iran. After we were ushered off the stage lawyer Dimitri Lascaris rose to interrogate the supposed human rights activist for refusing to criticize injustices inflicted upon Palestinians. Part of the way through Lascaris’ grilling a handful of us at the back of the room began chanting “Cotler, Cotler, you will see Palestine will be free”, as one can hear in this video viewed over 10,000 times.

The Electronic Intifada, Media Coop, Algemeiner and Canadian Jewish News (twice) reported on the intervention (CPAC was purportedly live streaming the event). Prominent anti-Palestinian activists such as Gerald Steinberg, Hillel Neuer, Avi Benlolo and Bernie Farber decried our challenge of their hero. Head of the Canada Israel Interparliamentary Group (CIIG), Michael Levitt created the Twitter hashtag StandWithCotler and called on other MPs to support it, which was duly followed by his CIIG colleagues, including disgraceful NDP MP Randall Garrison. In the House of Commons CIIG Vice-Chair David Sweet asked the government to condemn our disruption of Cotler. The Conservative MP noted, “on Monday he was disrupted and berated during a speech at Concordia University in an attempt by protesters to shut him down.” (After 10 minutes we voluntarily left the room and Cotler spoke extensively.) Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs Oliphant, who was scheduled to speak alongside Cotler, expressed the government’s solidarity with the former Liberal party justice minister.

Cotler is a vicious anti-Palestinian who aggressively criticizes “enemy” states while largely ignoring rights violations committed by Canada and the US. In “Canadian apologist for Israeli war crimes nominated for Peace Prize” I detail Cotler’s long-standing devotion to Israeli violence and recent promotion of war on Iran and regime change in Venezuela. But, since that story was published in March more details have emerged about Cotler’s ethno-centrism and promotion of violence. In recent days Cotler has been widely quoted criticizing the use of the term “genocide” in the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

According to an Israel National News story, Cotler supports relocating Canada’s embassy to Jerusalem. During “Keep Jerusalem” leader Chaim Silberstein’s visit to Canada last month, Cotler reportedly “expressed enthusiasm” for moving the Canadian embassy and “promised to help promote” the idea within the Liberal party.

In response to our action activist Ron Saba shared a photo of Cotler at last year’s Jewish National Fund fundraiser in Toronto. The explicitly racist JNF excludes the 20-25% of non-Jewish Israelis from its vast landholdings mostly stolen from Palestinians in 1948. In 2017 the Canada Revenue Agency initiated an (ongoing) audit of the JNF for supporting the Israeli military in contravention of Canadian charitable law.

For his part, Masud Sheikh responded to our action by uploading a video — apparently scrubbed from the Internet after previously reaching a Canadian audience — of the Nobel Peace Prize nominee advising Israel on planning a war. Just after Israel killed 1,200 Lebanese in the summer of 2006 Cotler spoke to a conference of top Israeli military officials on the importance of managing the message in modern war.

He did something similar after an earlier Israeli invasion of its northern neighbour. In an April article retired Guelph professor Michael Keefer wrote: “In the wake of Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon, in the course of which some 15,000 civilians were killed and several thousand Palestinians massacred in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila, Cotler participated in a 1984 Jerusalem conference on Hasbara: Israel’s Public Image. Alluding to two of the lesser PR disasters of the war—the IDF’s violation of the Canadian ambassador to Lebanon’s diplomatic immunity, and a Canadian Red Cross doctor’s allegations of Israeli atrocities—Cotler recommended, not that Israel change its behaviour, but rather that it ‘make Hasbara a priority’ and enhance its capacity to offer ‘an authoritative rebuttal’ to such stories.”

In that article Keefer points out that Antony Lerman, founding editor of Antisemitism World Report, called Cotler “one of the key figures” promoting the idea of a “new antisemitism”. Since the 1970s he’s been arguing that criticism of Israel is the “new antisemitism”.

In a remarkable 2002 essay titled “Human Rights and the New Anti-Jewishness” Cotler lays out his thinking, suggesting a confrontation between the “secular religion” of human rights and Jewish “civil religion” of Zionism. He argues that criticizing Israeli human rights violations is “the contemporary analogue to the medieval indictment of the Jew as the ‘poisoner of the wells.’ In other words, in a world in which human rights has emerged as the new secular religion of our time, the portrayal of Israel as the metaphor for a human rights violator is an indictment of Israel as the ‘new anti-Christ’ — as the ‘poisoner of the international wells’ encompassing all the ‘teaching of contempt’ for the ‘Jew among the Nations,’ this new antisemitism implies.”

Cotler further argues that antisemitism has retained its consistent essence as “an assault upon whatever is the core of Jewish self-definition at any moment in time—be it the Jewish religion at the time of classical antisemitism, or the State of Israel as the ‘civil religion’ of the Jewish people under this new anti-Jewishness.” So, because most Jews identify with Israel criticizing that country’s violence or dispossession of Palestinians is anti-Semitic.

Challenging Cotler is important. All high-profile anti-Palestinians should be asked tough questions and hopefully our intervention inspires others to take similar actions. But, it’s also about de-mystifying an individual who retains a progressive gloss. Last month NDP MP Hélène Laverdière and Green Party leader Elizabeth May attended a press conference organized by Cotler calling on Canada to impose sanctions on Iranian officials and list the country’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization. New NDP foreign critic Guy Caron participated in a subsequent event on Iran and NDP MP Murray Rankin and May regularly attend events led by Cotler. May and Rankin are also part of the Cotler-led Raoul Wallenberg All-Party Parliamentary Caucus for Human Rights.

The Cotler ‘brand’ should be toxic on the Left. Politicians need to know that many Canadians — as Lascaris put it in his concluding statement to Cotler — consider him “a fraud when it comes to human rights.”

Facing the Facts: Israel Cannot Escape ICC Jurisdiction

The Chief Military Advocate General of the Israeli army, Sharon Afek, and the US Department of Defense General Counsel, Paul Ney, shared a platform at the ‘International Conference on the Law of Armed Conflict’, which took place in Herzliya, Israel between May 28-30.

Their panel witnessed some of the most misconstrued interpretations of international law ever recorded. It was as if Afek and Ney were literally making up their own law on warfare and armed conflict, with no regard to what international law actually stipulates.

Unsurprisingly, both Afek and Ney agreed on many things, including that Israel and the US are blameless in all of their military conflicts, and that they will always be united against any attempt to hold them accountable for war crimes by the International Court of Justice (ICC).

Their tirade against the ICC mirrors that of their own leaders. While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s anti-ICC position is familiar, last April, US President Donald Trump virulently expressed his contempt for the global organization and everything it represents.

“Any attempt to target American, Israeli, or allied personnel for prosecution will be met with a swift and vigorous response,” Trump said in a writing on April 12.

While Trump’s (and Netanyahu’s) divisive language is nothing new, Afek and Ney were entrusted with the difficult task of using legal language to explain their countries’ aversion for international law.

Prior to the Herzliya Conference, Afek addressed the Israel Bar Association convention in Eilat on May 26. Here, too, he made some ludicrous claims as he absolved, in advance, Israeli soldiers who kill Palestinians.

“A soldier who is in a life-threatening situation and acts to defend himself (or) others (he) is responsible for, is receiving and will continue receiving full back-up from the Israeli army,” he said.

The above assertion appears far more sinister once we remember Afek’s views on what constitutes a “life-threatening situation”, as he had articulated in Herzliya a few days later.

“Thousands of Gaza’s residents (try) to breach the border fence,” he said, with reference to the non-violent March of Return at the fence separating besieged Gaza from Israel.

The Gaza protesters “are led by a terrorist organization that deliberately uses civilians to carry out attacks,” Afek said.

Afek sees unarmed protests in Gaza as a form of terrorism, thus concurring with an earlier statement made by then-Israeli Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, on April 8, 2018, when he declared that “there are no innocents in Gaza.”

Israel’s shoot-to-kill policy, however, is not confined to the Gaza Strip but is also implemented with the same degree of violent enthusiasm in the West Bank.

‘No attacker, male or female, should make it out of any attack alive,’ Lieberman said in 2015. His orders were followed implicitly, as hundreds of Palestinians were killed in the West Bank and Jerusalem for allegedly trying to attack Israeli occupation soldiers or armed illegal Jewish settlers.

Unlike democratic political systems everywhere, in Israel the occupation soldier becomes the interpreter and enforcer of the law.

Putting this policy into practice in Gaza is even more horrendous as unarmed protesters are often being killed by Israeli snipers from long distances. Even journalists and medics have not been spared the same tragic fate as the hundreds of civilians who were killed since the start of the protests in March 2018.

Last February, the United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry on Gaza’s protests concluded that “it has reasonable grounds to believe that during the Great March of Return, Israeli soldiers committed violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. Some of those violations may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity, and must be immediately investigated by Israel.”

In his attack on the ICC at the Herzliya Conference, Afek contended that “Israel is a law-abiding country, with an independent and strong judicial system, and there is no reason for its actions to be scrutinized by the ICC.”

The Israeli General goes on to reprimand the ICC by urging it to focus on “dealing with the main issues for which it was founded.”

Has Afek even read the Rome Statute? The first Article states that the ICC has the “power to exercise its jurisdiction over persons for the most serious crimes of international concern, as referred to in this Statute.”

Article 5 elaborates the nature of these serious crimes, which include: “(a) The crime of genocide; (b) Crimes against humanity; (c) War crimes; (d) The crime of aggression.”

Israel has been accused of at least two of these crimes – war crimes and crimes against humanity – repeatedly, including in the February report by the United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry.

Afek may argue that none of this is relevant to Israel, for the latter is not “a party to the Rome Statute,” therefore, does not fall within ICC’s legal jurisdiction.

Wrong again.

Article 12 of the Rome Statute allows for ICC’s jurisdiction in two cases; first, if the State in which the alleged crime has occurred is itself a party of the Statute and, second, if the State where the crime has occurred agrees to submit itself to the jurisdiction of the court.

While it is true that Israel is not a signatory of the Rome Statute, Palestine has, since 2015, agreed to submit itself to the ICC’s jurisdiction.

Moreover, in April 2015, the State of Palestine formally became a member of the ICC, thus giving the court jurisdiction to investigate crimes committed in the Occupied Territories since June 13, 2014. These crimes include human rights violations carried out during the Israeli war on Gaza in July-August of the same year.

Afek’s skewed understanding of international law went unchallenged at the Herzliya Conference, as he was flanked by equally misguided interpreters of international law.

However, nothing proclaimed by Israel’s top military prosecutor or his government will alter the facts. Israeli war crimes must not go unpunished; Israel’s judicial system is untrustworthy and the ICC has the legal right and moral duty to carry out the will of the international community and hold to account those responsible for war crimes anywhere, including Israel.

Facing the Facts: Israel Cannot Escape ICC Jurisdiction

The Chief Military Advocate General of the Israeli army, Sharon Afek, and the US Department of Defense General Counsel, Paul Ney, shared a platform at the ‘International Conference on the Law of Armed Conflict’, which took place in Herzliya, Israel between May 28-30.

Their panel witnessed some of the most misconstrued interpretations of international law ever recorded. It was as if Afek and Ney were literally making up their own law on warfare and armed conflict, with no regard to what international law actually stipulates.

Unsurprisingly, both Afek and Ney agreed on many things, including that Israel and the US are blameless in all of their military conflicts, and that they will always be united against any attempt to hold them accountable for war crimes by the International Court of Justice (ICC).

Their tirade against the ICC mirrors that of their own leaders. While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s anti-ICC position is familiar, last April, US President Donald Trump virulently expressed his contempt for the global organization and everything it represents.

“Any attempt to target American, Israeli, or allied personnel for prosecution will be met with a swift and vigorous response,” Trump said in a writing on April 12.

While Trump’s (and Netanyahu’s) divisive language is nothing new, Afek and Ney were entrusted with the difficult task of using legal language to explain their countries’ aversion for international law.

Prior to the Herzliya Conference, Afek addressed the Israel Bar Association convention in Eilat on May 26. Here, too, he made some ludicrous claims as he absolved, in advance, Israeli soldiers who kill Palestinians.

“A soldier who is in a life-threatening situation and acts to defend himself (or) others (he) is responsible for, is receiving and will continue receiving full back-up from the Israeli army,” he said.

The above assertion appears far more sinister once we remember Afek’s views on what constitutes a “life-threatening situation”, as he had articulated in Herzliya a few days later.

“Thousands of Gaza’s residents (try) to breach the border fence,” he said, with reference to the non-violent March of Return at the fence separating besieged Gaza from Israel.

The Gaza protesters “are led by a terrorist organization that deliberately uses civilians to carry out attacks,” Afek said.

Afek sees unarmed protests in Gaza as a form of terrorism, thus concurring with an earlier statement made by then-Israeli Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, on April 8, 2018, when he declared that “there are no innocents in Gaza.”

Israel’s shoot-to-kill policy, however, is not confined to the Gaza Strip but is also implemented with the same degree of violent enthusiasm in the West Bank.

‘No attacker, male or female, should make it out of any attack alive,’ Lieberman said in 2015. His orders were followed implicitly, as hundreds of Palestinians were killed in the West Bank and Jerusalem for allegedly trying to attack Israeli occupation soldiers or armed illegal Jewish settlers.

Unlike democratic political systems everywhere, in Israel the occupation soldier becomes the interpreter and enforcer of the law.

Putting this policy into practice in Gaza is even more horrendous as unarmed protesters are often being killed by Israeli snipers from long distances. Even journalists and medics have not been spared the same tragic fate as the hundreds of civilians who were killed since the start of the protests in March 2018.

Last February, the United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry on Gaza’s protests concluded that “it has reasonable grounds to believe that during the Great March of Return, Israeli soldiers committed violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. Some of those violations may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity, and must be immediately investigated by Israel.”

In his attack on the ICC at the Herzliya Conference, Afek contended that “Israel is a law-abiding country, with an independent and strong judicial system, and there is no reason for its actions to be scrutinized by the ICC.”

The Israeli General goes on to reprimand the ICC by urging it to focus on “dealing with the main issues for which it was founded.”

Has Afek even read the Rome Statute? The first Article states that the ICC has the “power to exercise its jurisdiction over persons for the most serious crimes of international concern, as referred to in this Statute.”

Article 5 elaborates the nature of these serious crimes, which include: “(a) The crime of genocide; (b) Crimes against humanity; (c) War crimes; (d) The crime of aggression.”

Israel has been accused of at least two of these crimes – war crimes and crimes against humanity – repeatedly, including in the February report by the United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry.

Afek may argue that none of this is relevant to Israel, for the latter is not “a party to the Rome Statute,” therefore, does not fall within ICC’s legal jurisdiction.

Wrong again.

Article 12 of the Rome Statute allows for ICC’s jurisdiction in two cases; first, if the State in which the alleged crime has occurred is itself a party of the Statute and, second, if the State where the crime has occurred agrees to submit itself to the jurisdiction of the court.

While it is true that Israel is not a signatory of the Rome Statute, Palestine has, since 2015, agreed to submit itself to the ICC’s jurisdiction.

Moreover, in April 2015, the State of Palestine formally became a member of the ICC, thus giving the court jurisdiction to investigate crimes committed in the Occupied Territories since June 13, 2014. These crimes include human rights violations carried out during the Israeli war on Gaza in July-August of the same year.

Afek’s skewed understanding of international law went unchallenged at the Herzliya Conference, as he was flanked by equally misguided interpreters of international law.

However, nothing proclaimed by Israel’s top military prosecutor or his government will alter the facts. Israeli war crimes must not go unpunished; Israel’s judicial system is untrustworthy and the ICC has the legal right and moral duty to carry out the will of the international community and hold to account those responsible for war crimes anywhere, including Israel.

Resurrecting the PLO is Palestine’s Best Response to the “Deal of the Century”

Palestinian groups, Fatah, Hamas and others should not confine themselves to simply rejecting the Trump Administration’s so-called ‘Deal of the Century’. Instead, they should use their resistance to the new American-Israeli plot as an opportunity to unify their ranks.

Leaked details of the ‘Deal of the Century’ confirm Palestinians’ worst fears: the ‘Deal’ is but a complete American acquiescence to the right-wing mentality that has ruled Israel for over a decade.

According to the Israeli daily newspaper, Israel Hayom, a demilitarized state, ‘New Palestine’ will be established on territorial fragments of the West Bank, as all illegal Jewish settlements would permanently become part of Israel. If Palestinians refuse to accept Washington’s diktats, according to the report, they will be punished through financial and political isolation.

This is certainly not an American peace overture, but an egregious act of bullying. However, it is hardly a deviation from previous rounds of ‘peace-making,’ where Washington always took Israel’s side, blamed Palestinians and failed to hold Israel to account. Washington has never refrained from supporting Israeli wars against Palestinians or even conditioned its ever-generous aid packages on the dismantling of the illegal Jewish settlements.

The only difference between the US ‘peace process’ of the past and today’s ‘Deal of the Century’ is in the style and tactics as opposed to the substance and details.

Undoubtedly, the ‘Deal’, championed by Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s adviser and son-in-law, will fail. Not only will it not deliver peace – this is not the intention – but it is most likely to be rejected by Israel. The formation of Israel’s new government under Benjamin Netanyahu’s leadership is centered round far-right and religious parties. It is no longer politically correct in the new Israeli lexicon to even discuss the possibility of a Palestinian state, let alone agree to one.

Netanyahu, however, is likely to wait for Palestinians to reject the deal, as they certainly should. Then, with the help of pro-Israel mainstream western media, a new discourse will evolve, blaming Palestinians for missing yet another opportunity for peace, while absolving Israel from any wrongdoing. This pattern is familiar, highlighted most starkly in Bill Clinton’s Camp David II in 2000 and George W. Bush’s Road Map for Peace in 2003.

In 2000, the late Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, rejected then Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak’s ‘generous offer’, an entirely manufactured political hoax that, to this day, defines official and academic understanding of what had transpired in the secret talks then.

All Palestinians must reject the ‘Deal of the Century’, or any deal that is born out of a political discourse which is not centered on Palestinian rights as enshrined in international law, a political frame of reference that is agreed upon by every country in the world, save the US and Israel. Decades of fraudulent American ‘peace making’ prove that Washington will never fulfil its self-designated title as an ‘honest peacemaker.’

However, rejection per se, while going back to business as usual, is inadequate. While the Palestinian people are united behind the need to resist the Israeli Occupation, challenge Israeli apartheid and employ international pressure until Israel finally relents, Palestinian factions are driven by other selfish priorities. Each faction seems to rotate within the political sphere of foreign influence, whether Arab or international.

For example, Fatah, which is credited for ‘igniting the spark of the Palestinian revolution’ in 1965, has been largely consumed with the trappings of false power while dominating the Palestinian Authority, which itself operates within the space allocated to it by the Israeli military occupation in the West Bank.

Hamas, which began as an organic movement in Palestine, is forced to play regional politics in its desperation for any political validation in order to escape the suffocating siege of Gaza.

Whenever both parties verge on forming a united leadership in the hope of resurrecting the largely defunct Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), their benefactors manipulate the money and politics, thus resuming disunity and discord.

The ‘Deal of the Century’, however, offers both groups an opportunity, as they are united in rejecting the deal and equally perceive any Palestinian engagement with it as an act of treason.

More importantly, the steps taken by Washington to isolate the PA through denying Palestinians urgently needed funds, revoking the PLO’s diplomatic status in Washington and shunning the PA as a political ally  provide the opportunity to open the necessary political dialogue that could finally accomplish a serious Fatah-Hamas reconciliation.

Israel, too, by withholding tax money collected on behalf of the PA, has lost its last pressure card against Mahmoud Abbas and his government in Ramallah.

At this point, there is little else that the US and Israel could do to exert more pressure on the Palestinians.

But this political space available for Palestinians to create a new political reality will be brief. The moment the ‘Deal of the Century’ is discarded as another failed American scheme to force a Palestinian surrender, the political cards, regionally and internationally, will be mixed again, beyond the ability of Palestinian factions to control their outcome.

Therefore, it is critical that Palestinian groups at home and in the diaspora push for Palestinian dialogue, not simply for the sake of forming a unity government in Ramallah, but to revitalize the PLO as a truly representative and democratic body that includes all Palestinian political currents and communities.

It is only through the resurrection of the PLO that Palestinians could finally return to their original mission of devising a national liberation strategy that is not manipulated by money and not subjected to regional politicking.

If history is any indication, the ‘Deal of the Century’ is another sinister American attempt to manage the situation in Palestine in order to assert political dominance in the region. This ‘Deal’ is essential for American reputation, especially among its disgruntled regional allies who feel abandoned by the progressive American military and political retreat from the region.

This latest charade does not have to be at the expense of Palestinians, and Palestinian groups should recognize and grasp this unique opportunity. The ‘Deal of the Century’ will fail, but efforts to achieve Palestinian unity could finally succeed.

View the Frontline Documentary on Gaza that PBS Pulled

PBS stations around the U.S. were scheduled to show a riveting new Frontline documentary, “One Day in Gaza,” but at the last minute PBS pulled it.

The film is missing important context about the issue, but it includes footage that Americans, as Israel’s top funders, should see – including a young, unarmed teen being shot in her head.

BBC, the coproducer of the film, broadcast it to British viewers. We are posting it below so that Americans can also view it.

Recently, hundreds of PBS stations around the United States were scheduled to broadcast a powerful new Frontline documentary: “One Day in Gaza.” But viewers tuning in found that it had been replaced by a slightly updated Frontline report on Robert Mueller that had been broadcast two months before and had been streaming online ever since.

PBS no longer has the Gaza film listed on its schedule.

The documentary was to be aired on the one-year anniversary of events that took place on May 14, 2018, when tens of thousands of men, women, and children in Gaza gathered with the intention of deploying the tactics Gandhi had used in freeing India from British control.

The demonstration that day was the 8th march in what Gazans named the Great March of Return.

Palestinians months earlier had announced their plan for a mass, peaceful demonstration in which Gazans would march for an end to Israel’s crippling 12-year blockade and, especially, for  their right to return to homes stolen by Israel in order to create a Jewish state. Palestinians’ right to return to their homes and ancestral land is well established in international law. This fundamental right, affirmed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is at the center of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel had responded by immediately deploying a hundred snipers.

In the first seven weekly marches, Israeli forces killed about 50 of the marchers and injured over 7,000.

During the 8th march on May 14, the day depicted in the film, Israeli forces killed 60 more and shot 1,000 – an average of one person every 30 seconds.

While this was going on, a glittering Israeli celebration was taking place as a new, transplanted U.S. Embassy opened in Jerusalem, a city that Israel illegally annexed following the Six-Day War that Israel launched in 1967.

Who were the protesters?

Over 70 percent of Gazans are from families that Israel forced out in its founding war to establish “the Jewish state.” Israel confiscated their homes and land and has prevented them from returning ever since. This violates international law.

For 12 years Israel has perpetrated a strangling blockade of Gaza, causing 52 percent unemployment, hunger, the kind of malnutrition that causes growth stunting in children, and increasing hopelessness.

And this blockade is just the most recent one.

On April 15, 2002 the UN Food and Agriculture Organization reported, “The total blockade has paralysed the Palestinian economy… it is now in a deep recession, with millions of people severely impoverished and extremely food insecure.”

For many years it has been tremendously difficult, sometimes impossible, for Gazans to leave Gaza, and for others to enter it. As a result, many people describe Gaza as the largest open-air prison on earth.

While U.S. news coverage in general, and the Frontline documentary in particular, emphasize the rockets fired by Gaza’s diverse resistance groups, the fact is that Israeli violence preceded the rockets and has greatly exceeded their impact.

In the past year alone, Israeli forces have killed at least 293 Gazans, while Gazans have killed 6 Israelis. Palestinian rockets from Gaza, which are largely homemade, have killed a total of about 40 Israelis in the whole time they’ve been being shot, while during the same time period Israeli forces have killed over 6,000 Gazans. (See this Timeline of deaths and this Israeli source for more info.)

The film says that Israel “fought three major conflicts with Hamas,” but doesn’t mention that during these, Israeli forces killed about 3,600 Gazans (many of them women and children), while Gazan fighters killed approximately 80 Israelis, the large majority of them soldiers.

Powerful but flawed

The Frontline documentary One Day in Gaza is an extremely powerful, if flawed, record of the events of May 14, 2018.

It provides Israeli views, Palestinian views, and riveting, often tragic footage of the day’s events. However, perhaps because of its striving to be “balanced,” or due to constraints imposed by Israel’s powerful lobbies in England and the U.S., the film often leans toward the Israeli narrative and obscures some important points.

The Israeli interviewees in the film are calm, articulate, and seem well-trained in presenting their talking points. Perhaps this is not surprising given that one is an army spokesman, a second is a high-ranking officer, and two are Americans who immigrated to Israel (although this fact is not revealed in the film).

Not interviewed in the film are any of the members of the Israeli group, Breaking the Silence, composed of former Israeli soldiers who describe widespread military practices of gratuitous violence and cruelty.

Below is some background on two of the Israelis featured in the film:

Col. Kobi Heller

Perhaps because of time constraints, Col. Heller’s, background and political persuasion are left out of the film.

While Heller comes across as reasonable, professional, and reluctant to commit the murders we see from his troops, his resumé suggests that there is more to his story.

Heller is a member of Israel’s Religious Zionist movement, a group that has become known for its zealotry and sometimes extremist views of Jewish supremacy. He is called a “kippa shruga,” a term for the type of Jewish fundamentalist known for believing that Arabs should be expelled from Israel and for opposition to any Palestinian state, no matter how small.

It turns out that he has a previous connection to Gaza. Heller is a settler who studied at a religious Zionist yeshiva in a Gaza settlement that combined religious studies with military training. In 2005 the yeshiva was moved to Israel when the Israeli government forcibly expelled the settlers. This caused fierce objections in the settler movement. Many in the army were outraged at this action.

Heller is from Israel’s notorious Golani brigade, increasingly a bastion of the Israeli far right. An Israeli professor states:  “The officer corps of the elite Golani Brigade is now heavily populated by religious right-wing graduates of the preparatory academies.” The New York Times reports that many Israelis are concerned at this development, particularly since a booklet was handed out to soldiers during Israel’s 2009 assault on Gaza that contained a rabbinical edict against showing the enemy mercy.

The Times reports: “The rabbinate brought in a lot of booklets and articles and their message was very clear: We are the Jewish people, we came to this land by a miracle, God brought us back to this land and now we need to fight to expel the non-Jews who are interfering with our conquest of this holy land.”

Adele Raemer

An Israeli woman featured in the film is Adele Raemer. She is described as an “Israeli grandmother” who lives two kilometers from the Gaza fence.

In the film she describes her fear of Gazans who wish to return to their homes in Israel. The film does not mention that Raemer is originally an American from the Bronx.

In 1975 she immigrated to Israel and took up residency in the Nirim kibbutz on the border with Gaza. Since the area had originally possessed no history of Jewish habitation, the Zionist movement had established it in 1946 to create a Jewish presence in the Negev in order to claim it as part of a future Jewish state.

Raemer has written that her life in the kibbutz is “95 percent heaven.” Despite being located in a desert, it has green grass and a swimming pool. A little over a mile away, Gazans are enduring a water crisis that has caused Gazan children to suffer from diarrhea, kidney disease, and impaired IQ.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders

The film shows the the flaws and sometimes fatal logistical failures of Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders during the Great March and says that Hamas has “refused to recognize Israel.”

However, the film doesn’t include the fact that Hamas has offered Israel a decade-long truce, that it is Israel that breaks the truces, and that Hamas has said it was willing to accept a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.

In reporting these leaders’ flaws and mistakes, the film fails to mention the extreme difficulties Gaza’s leaders face, including the fact that by assuming this role they face very possible assassination by Israel. Many resistance members have been blown to pieces by Israeli drones.

Those who survive are trying to run a resistance movement, deploy efficient logistical support, and make wise decisions during chaotic conditions in one of the world’s most isolated and longest-besieged enclaves.

Most important, the Palestinian journalist and peace activist who originated the march and is interviewed in the film, Ahmed Abu Artema, says that the film attributed far too much significance to Hamas, and neglected the “primary role played by civil society activists in Gaza.”

In a detailed critique of the film, he writes: “The documentary did not show the reality of the prison that Gaza has become. One shot of the cattle market that exists at the Erez crossing would have been enough to convey the reality of this cage, where there is no freedom of movement, no economic growth, no future prospects – no hope.”

The U.S. connection

The film also fails to inform American viewers of our connection to Israeli actions – that the U.S. gives Israel over $10 million per day. (The U.S. has given Israel on average 7,000 times more per capita than it has given other people around the world.)

And in its framing, the film neglects the fact that a prime driver of Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy is billionaire campaign donor Sheldon Adelson, who attended the celebration with his Israeli wife Miriam. (Adelson once said that he regretted serving in the U.S. army rather than the Israeli one – video here.)

Despite its flaws, Americans should see it

But the film cannot do everything, and it does some things extremely well. Overall, it’s not difficult to see why Israel partisans would not wish it broadcast to Americans.

It shows footage that the American public almost never sees. It was this kind of footage that eventually led to Americans ending the Vietnam war.

One of the main take-aways from the film is the extreme ruthlessness of Israeli forces.

Fully armed Israeli soldiers from one of the most powerful armies on earth are seen targeting multitudes of thin, unarmed men, women, and children. The film shows Israeli snipers shooting people in the head, in the back, in the legs.

It shows a youth whose leg was amputated and reports that many of the demonstrators lost limbs that day. (The UN recently reported that 1,700 Gazans shot by Israeli snipers are currently at risk of amputations.)

While U.S. news reports often downplay these actions, the film shows them in all their tragic and horrific reality.

The film shows people who are just standing there suddenly being picked off by snipers. It shows a 14-year-old girl chatting with a friend, then suddenly being shot in the head. And it shows her little brother, who had been with her, later describing how his sister had been killed. This is not footage that Israeli hawks wish American audiences to view.

Another takeaway from the film is the poverty of Gaza’s imprisoned population, particularly compared to the gathering in Israel to celebrate the U.S. Embassy move to Jerusalem.

Amid the expensive suits and fashionable dresses, American-born Israeli official Michael Oren bemoans the fact that the situation in Gaza has blemished his enjoyment of the festive occasion.

This contrast with Gaza is stark.

With no powerful lobby to represent them and little clout in U.S. media, Palestinians are at the mercy of Israel. The film shows that many in Gaza feel they have little to lose after years of escalating oppression. Some voice impossible dreams that had motivated them, that they could recover their lost homes. Some simply hoped to see them. A few voice the fury that results from dispossession, imprisonment, and brutalization.

While this goes unremarked in the film, there are indications that the “tear gas” Israeli drones poured on people may have been particularly virulent. In the film we see some people convulsing, and one man is delirious. This seems reminiscent of a mysterious gas used in Gaza in early 2001 that caused similar symptoms (reported in the James Longley documentary Gaza Strip).

Courage

While Israeli soldiers shelter behind diverse barriers, armed with advanced weaponry and guided by female soldiers watching it all on TV screens in a remote bunker, it is the Palestinians who demonstrate incredible, sometimes tragic courage.

We see them without weapons, without body armor, without helmets, without uniforms. Old and young, men and women, strong and disabled, they wield slingshots, wave flags.

They’re out in an open field, Israeli forces in front of them, drones overhead. When yet another demonstrator is shot, the blood pouring out, they run to rescue him or her, and then sometimes they, too, are shot. Yet they continue.

The contrast between the Israeli and Palestinian women taking part in the day’s hostilities is acute. Israeli female soldiers are far away, watching the action on computer monitors, telling soldiers when and where to shoot. Their faces are blurred to keep their identities secret. One seems to question what she’s doing, but there’s no indication that she stops.

Gazan women join the mass gathering. They’re out are in the open field, marching, carrying flags, helping the injured… and getting shot.

Theft of a nation

For over 70 years, Israel has gotten away with its astoundingly massive theft of the land and homes of the non-Jews it dispossessed to create an ethnically defined nation, and its decades of violence to maintain this ethnic cleansing. A Palestinian historian has validly termed this the Palestinian Holocaust.

One Day in Gaza shows some of Israel’s millions of victims, their attempt to be free, and what’s being done to them. Americans are not supposed to see that.

While Artema’s biting critique of the film is valid and necessary, it is useful to be aware that for many Americans much of the film will be revelatory.

PBS’s action

PBS’s cancellation, however, has prevented Frontline‘s more than 4.6 million viewers from seeing it.

While PBS calls itself “a trusted window to the world,” someone at PBS shuttered the window on One Day in Gaza.

PBS spokespeople state that Gaza will be broadcast at some point in the coming months, but say they don’t know when. Since the film’s scheduled broadcast date was specifically focused on the one-year anniversary of the day it depicts, it seems odd for PBS to be so unconcerned about broadcasting it in a timely manner. BBC, on the other hand, aired the film on May 13.

According to a Frontline statement, One Day In Gaza was pulled because Frontline “decided to air a timely update to our documentary on the Mueller investigation.” The Mueller investigation report had been broadcast on March 16 and 17 and has been available online ever since. It can be viewed here.

The updated version that bumped One Day in Gaza can be seen here. The update consists of a few minutes added at the end of the report. This new information had already been reported widely in U.S. media, including PBS’s own primetime news program News Hour.

PBS vs local stations

PBS wields considerable power. A national study rated PBS “the most-trusted institution in America.”

Its Frontline program claims to be “American television’s top long-form news and current affairs series.”

According to its website, PBS is a “near-universal media service, available in 9-of-10 U.S. television households. For many Americans, public television is their connection to the world.”

PBS emphasizes the alleged independence of its nearly 350 television and radio stations, stating they are among “the last locally owned media organizations in the country.”

However, in reality it appears that local stations have less control than this implies. When someone at PBS prevented the broadcast of Gaza, that decision prevented all the local stations around the country from airing it.

The fact is that local PBS stations do not have independent access to the film – even though it received funding from the stations.

While most Americans may think that PBS is a public institution, given its name – Public Broadcasting Service” – it is not. It is, in its own words, “a private, nonprofit media enterprise.” One that is, however, largely funded by American taxpayers.

Its ownership is a bit convoluted and multi-layered. While it says it is “owned by its 350 member stations,” its funding comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. CPB is another private nonprofit, but 95 percent of CPB’s funding comes from the federal government. Most of this money is then given to the member stations.

Phone calls to a PBS station, KQED in San Francisco, revealed that KQED had received many calls complaining about the cancellation and asking when Gaza would be shown. KQED’s customer service representative explained that none of this is in KQED’s hands.

“We Answer to You”

Frontline has refused to divulge who was involved in the decision to pull Gaza. It seems likely that its Senior Editorial Team – consisting of Raney Aronson-Rath, Executive Producer; David Fanning, Founder and Executive Producer at Large; and Andrew Metz, Managing Editor – would have been involved. Fanning has previously been accused of censoring content regarding Israel/Palestine, a charge he denies.

Frontline‘s website announces: “We answer to no one but you.”

It’s unclear who the “you” is. It does not appear to be the member stations who fund it, or the many people whose federal dollars financed the film and wish to see it.

While PBS holds on to the film and fails to release it, people in Gaza continue their David against Goliath struggle.

On May 15th, Gazan men, women, and children again protested, and Israel again unleashed its heavily armed military, injuring 144, including 49 children. The same day, Israeli soldiers also fired at fishermen who were fishing off the coast of Gaza, injuring one of them – a frequent occurrence that Americans rarely, if ever, see on the News Hour.

And so it goes.

Perhaps at some point PBS/Frontline management will decide that the massacre of 60 people and the shooting of a thousand others in a single day is important enough to merit scheduling the film – particularly when the perpetrator has received more U.S. tax money than any other nation in the world.

This post will be updated if PBS schedules a new broadcast date.

It will be updated again if PBS actually shows it.

WATCH: One Day in Gaza    Download: Torrent | Magnet Link