Category Archives: Apartheid

Israel: Racist, violent policing is at the heart of apartheid

Police made sweeping arrests of Israel’s large minority of Palestinian citizens after protests rocked the country in May during Israel’s 11-day attack on Gaza. Officers were documented beating demonstrators, and in some cases torturing them while in detention. Police also failed to protect the Palestinian minority from planned, vigilante-style attacks by far-right Jewish extremists.

This was the damning verdict of an Amnesty International report published last week. The findings indicate that Israeli police view the country’s Palestinian minority, a fifth of the population, as an enemy rather than as citizens with a right to protest.

The report echoes what Palestinian leaders in Israel and local human rights groups have long said: that the default policing of the Palestinian community in Israel is racist and violent. It reflects the same values of Jewish supremacism seen in the Israeli army’s brutal treatment of Palestinians under occupation.

The contrast between how police responded to protests by Palestinian citizens and supportive statements from their leaders, on the one hand, and to incitement from Israeli Jewish leaders and a violent backlash from the Jewish extreme right, on the other, is stark indeed.

More than 2,150 arrests were made following May’s inter-communal violence. But according to reports cited by Amnesty, more than 90 percent of those detained were Palestinian – either citizens of Israel or residents of occupied East Jerusalem.

Most face charges unrelated to attacks on people or property, despite how their demonstrations were widely portrayed by police and the Israeli media. Rather, Palestinian protesters were indicted on charges such as “insulting or assaulting a police officer” or “taking part in an illegal gathering” – matters related to the repressive policing faced by the Palestinian minority.

‘Torture room’

Amnesty cites repeated examples of unprovoked police assaults on peaceful protesters in cities such as Nazareth and Haifa. That contrasts with the continuing indulgence by police of provocations by the Jewish far-right, such as their march through Palestinian neighbourhoods of occupied East Jerusalem on 15 June, during which participants chanted: “Death to Arabs” and “May your village burn.”

Amnesty also documents testimony that Israeli police beat bound detainees in Nazareth’s police station – setting up what the local legal rights group Adalah has described as an improvised “torture room”.

In addition, a protester in Haifa appears to have been tied to a chair and deprived of sleep for nine days, using torture techniques familiar to Palestinians in the occupied territories.

In contrast, Israeli police were alerted in real time to messages from Jewish far-right groups about precise plans to smash up “Arab” shops and assault Palestinian citizens on the street. And yet, police either ignored those warnings or were slow to respond. An investigation by Haaretz has further suggested that police subsequently failed to use film footage to identify these Jewish vigilantes and, as a result, made few arrests.

This picture of police turning a blind eye to planned Jewish violence echoes scenes from the time of the protests. Footage showed police officers allowing armed Jewish thugs – many bused in from settlements – to wander freely around Palestinian neighbourhoods during a curfew on the city of Lod. There was even footage of police and Jewish far-right extremists conducting what looked like joint “operations”, with police throwing stun grenades as Jewish extremists threw stones.

Jewish politicians who incited against the Palestinian minority – from Israel’s former president, Reuven Rivlin, and Lod’s mayor, Yair Revivo, to far-right legislator Itamar Ben-Gvir – have faced no consequences.

Charged with ‘terror acts’

Instead, police arranged what amounted to a provocative, entirely unnecessary assault by special forces on the home of a Palestinian community leader, Kamal al-Khatib, to arrest him. The deputy head of the northern Islamic Movement was charged with supporting terrorism after he expressed pride at what he called the minority’s solidarity with the people of Gaza and occupied East Jerusalem.

And last week, apparently too late for inclusion in the Amnesty report, Israel’s racist policing moved in new directions.

Small numbers of Palestinian citizens suspected of attacking Jews were charged with “terror acts”, in some cases without any physical or DNA evidence tying them to the crime. In several cases, the defendants were indicted based on confessions made after prolonged interrogation by Israel’s secret police, the Shin Bet.

Israel’s legal system is treating inter-communal violence as an act of terror when Palestinian citizens are involved, and as an ordinary law-and-order issue – assuming it is dealt with at all – when Israeli Jews are involved.

Underlining this distinction is the decision to place Palestinian citizens of Israel under administrative detention, jailing them without charge and not allowing lawyers to see the supposed evidence against their clients. This draconian move – with one such order approved last week by Defence Minister Benny Gantz – is usually reserved for Palestinians under occupation, not Israeli citizens.

Settling scores

In its report, Amnesty pointed to public statements from Israeli police commanders indicating that the current harsh crackdown is really about “settling scores”. And in part, that is true.

Nearly two decades ago, a judicial-led public inquiry concluded that Israeli police treated Palestinian citizens as “the enemy”. Nothing has changed since. Police regard it as their primary job to protect the privileges of the Jewish majority by keeping the Palestinian minority crushed and obedient, as a subordinate community inside a self-declared Jewish state.

The eruption of protests in May, which caught police off-guard, was implicitly a sign that they had failed in that role. Police interpreted the demonstrations as a public humiliation for which “deterrence” needed to be urgently restored.

Israeli politicians, including the then-police minister, Amir Ohana, as well as the Jewish far-right, viewed the protests in much the same light. They argued at the time that police were being held back by legal niceties, and that it was the job of Jewish citizens to back police by taking the law into their own hands.

Yet, the “settling of scores” with the Palestinian minority relates to a separate matter. External observers, such as Amnesty, tend to notice Israel’s racist policing only when direct violence is used against Palestinian citizens. But the Palestinian minority’s experience of discrimination from police is much broader.

For years, the minority has been taking to the streets in large numbers to protest against not only the violent policing of dissent, but a complementary near-absence of policing towards Palestinian communities in Israel when it comes to tackling crime.

The harsh repression seen in recent weeks contrasts strongly with police inaction as a crime wave has swept Palestinian communities, with each year bringing a record number of violent deaths. Both Palestinian and Jewish criminal gangs have exploited the policing void in Palestinian towns and villages, knowing that they are free to act as long as the violence is “Arab-on-Arab”.

Even during the Covid-19 lockdowns, Palestinian community leaders kept up the pressure, leading go-slow convoys of dozens of cars along Israel’s busiest roads to draw attention to Israel’s racist policing priorities.

These presented a different kind of humiliation for police. Unusually, commanders were forced onto the back foot, swallowing unrelenting criticism and condemnation for failing to deal with crime in Palestinian communities. It even became one of the top issues for Palestinian parties in Israel’s string of recent elections.

Now, police are having their moment of revenge. “You want more active policing? We’ll give you more active policing. See how you like this!” seems to be the new message of the mass round-ups.

Jewish supremacism

The reality is that both kinds of policing towards Palestinian citizens – the violent policing of dissent, and the lack of policing of crime – are rooted in the same, ugly ideology of Jewish supremacism.

This is the same supremacism highlighted in a report early this year by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. It broke new ground in the human rights community by explicitly identifying Israel as an apartheid state, one that treats Palestinians as inferior, whether in the occupied territories or inside Israel, and Jews as superior, whether in Israel or in the illegal settlements.

The new Amnesty report is the latest snapshot of a society where everything follows that apartheid logic, including policing. That should surprise no one, because apartheid is, by definition, systematic.

Most Jewish Israelis, whether they identify with the left or right, have shown little interest in the lethal crime wave that for years has washed over Palestinian communities near their own, despite the regular protest campaigns by the Palestinian minority.

And now – through their silence – most ordinary Jewish Israelis and their politicians have demonstrated that they support, or are at least indifferent to, the current crackdown by police on the Palestinian minority. The deeper causes of May’s protests, and the violent backlash from the far right, appear to have provoked little self-reflection.

The Israeli Jewish public seems equally unconcerned by the fact that Jewish far-right thugs have chanted “death to Arabs” on their streets, that videos show police cooperating with those thugs, or that police have been making mass arrests of Palestinian citizens for weeks on end, while failing to search for the Jews who were filmed attacking Palestinians.

Belligerent occupation

The truth is that Israeli police get away with racist, violent policing because wider Israeli Jewish society approves. Police regard themselves as defenders of a Jewish supremacism that many ordinary Jewish citizens see as their birthright.

The Palestinian minority hoped that it had opened a tentative conversation with Israeli Jews both about the responsibilities of police in a state claiming to be a democracy, and about the right of Israel’s 1.8 million Palestinian citizens to personal security.

There was much fanfare at Mansour Abbas’s United Arab List becoming last month the first party representing Palestinian citizens to enter an Israeli government coalition, ousting former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from power. Like other Palestinian parties, Abbas put changes to the racist police culture in Israel at the top of his platform.

But any signs of progress have been all too readily snuffed out by a reassertion of Jewish supremacism by police and their Jewish far-right allies, and by the silent complicity of wider Israeli Jewish society.

Israel had a chance to address its racist policing policies, but that would have required the difficult work of examining the much wider apartheid structures that underpin them. Instead, most Israeli Jews are happy to reassert the status quo – oppressing all Palestinians under Jewish rule, whether they are subjects of a belligerent occupation or third-class citizens of a Jewish state.

• First published in Middle East Eye

The post Israel: Racist, violent policing is at the heart of apartheid first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Family Separation Law: Israel’s Demographic War on Palestine Intensifies  

When the Israeli Knesset (parliament) failed to renew what is commonly referred to as the Family Reunification Law, news reports and analyses misrepresented the story altogether. The even split of 59 MKs voting in favor of the law and 59 against it gave the erroneous impression that Israeli lawmakers are equally divided over the right of Palestinians to obtain permanent residency status or citizenship in Israel through marriage. Nothing could be further away from the truth.

Originally passed in 2003, the Citizenship and Entry Law was effectively a ban on Palestinian marriage. Under the guise of ‘security’, the law prohibited Palestinians in the West Bank, who marry Israeli citizens, to permanently move to Israel, obtain work, permanent residency and, ultimately, citizenship.

The law was never made permanent as it was subjected to an annual vote, which successfully renewed it 17 times, consecutively. The 18th vote, on July 6, however, ran into an obstacle. Contrary to the perception given by media coverage, those who voted against the renewal of the ban did so for purely political reasons and not out of concern for the tens of thousands of Palestinian families that have splintered and broken up since the law came into effect.

Since the ousting of former Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, at the hands of his protégé, current Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, Israel’s former leader has been determined to topple Bennett’s already fragile coalition. Bennett’s government allies cobble up extreme right-wing parties, including Yamina, the party of the prime minister himself, centrist and even leftist parties, the likes of Meretz. It even hosts an Arab party, United Arab List, or Ra’am, of Mansour Abbas. A coalition of this nature is unlikely to survive long, considering Israel’s tumultuous politics, and Netanyahu – eager for an early election – will do everything in his power to facilitate what he sees as an imminent collapse.

Netanyahu’s Likud party and its allies in the opposition voted against renewing the discriminatory law to score a political point. Their justification, however, was more appalling than the law itself. The Likud wants the temporary law to become a permanent fixture, a Basic Law, to be added to dozens of other similar racially-motivated laws that target the very fabric of Palestinian society.

Welcome to Israel’s demographic war on the Palestinian people. This one-sided war is situated in the belief among Israel’s Jewish majority, that Israel’s greatest challenge is sustaining its demographic advantage which, thanks to a decided campaign of ethnic cleansing that began over seven decades ago, has been held by Jews over Palestinian Arabs.

Israel’s main fear is not simply a decisive Palestinian majority between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea. Israel’s Jewish ruling classes are also rattled by the real possibility of the growing political influence of Israel’s Palestinian Arab constituency, and are doing everything in their power to ensure Palestinian holders of Israeli citizenship are kept at a minimum. The Citizenship and Entry Law was designed specifically to keep this population in check.

The general elections of March 2020, in particular, provided a taste of what a doomsday scenario would look like.  Arab Israeli parties unified under the single ticket of the Joint List and emerged with 15 seats, making it the third-largest political bloc in the Israeli Knesset, after Likud and Blue and White. If Palestinian Arabs mastered this much influence, though they represent only 20% of the overall Israeli population, imagine what they could do if the demographic tide continues to shift in their favor.

For Israel, the future of Jewish majority – read: supremacy – is dependent on keeping the population equation in favor of Israeli Jews at the expense of Palestinian Arabs. Most of the laws that discriminate against Palestinians, regardless of where they reside – in fact, anywhere in the world – is motivated by this maxim.

According to the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel (Adalah), Israel’s Palestinian Arab population is targeted with 65 different government laws and regulations, which ensure Palestinian Arabs do not prosper as a community, remaining politically disempowered, socio-economically disadvantaged and constantly threatened with the loss of their residency, and even citizenship.

Palestinians elsewhere suffer an even worse fate. For example, Palestinians living in Jerusalem, who supposedly hold permanent residency status, are subjected to different types of legal harassment, so that Jerusalem can maintain its current Jewish majority. When Israel illegally occupied East Jerusalem in 1967, the city was almost entirely Palestinian Arab. Through numerous tactics, the city’s Arab population is now an ever-shrinking minority. Worse still, in 2018 Israel passed a law that granted the Ministry of Interior the right to revoke the residency of Jerusalemites based on the murky accusation of ‘breach of loyalty’.

The occupied West Bank and Gaza are confined, as only Israel determines who remains and who is permanently exiled. The Israeli military occupation of these regions has taken population control to a whole new level; it is almost an exact science.

This is also precisely why Israelis abhor the very discussion of the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees, for they consider it an implicit call for the ‘destruction of Israel as a Jewish state’. According to this logic, if millions of Palestinian refugees are allowed to return to their homes and lands in historic Palestine, Israel will no longer exist in its current form, as a Jewish state, but will become a democratic state for all of its citizens, instead.

What is likely to happen next is that Israel’s Interior Ministry will continue to find caveats in Israel’s ever-flexible laws to block the reunification of Palestinian families, until the Knesset officially renews the Citizenship and Entry Law or, worse, make it permanent. Either way, Israel’s demographic war on Palestinians is likely to intensify in the future. Considering that it is a war that cannot rationally be won, Israel is likely to delve deeper into the abyss of apartheid.

As Israel continues to experiment with controlling the Palestinian population, it would be shameful if the international community continued to remain silent. This moral outrage must end.

The post Family Separation Law: Israel’s Demographic War on Palestine Intensifies   first appeared on Dissident Voice.

“Putting Lipstick on a Pig”: Why Washington is Fawning over Israel’s New Government

When former US President Barack Obama used an old cliché to denigrate his political opponent, the late US Senator, John McCain, he triggered a political controversy lasting several days.

“You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig,” Obama said at a campaign event in 2008. The maxim indicates that superficial changes have no bearings on outcomes and that modifying our facade does not alter who we really are.

American politicians are an authority on the subject. They are experts on artificial, rhetorical and, ultimately, shallow change. Once again, Washington’s political make-up artists are busy at work.

Since the dramatic ousting of his former mentor, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s new Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, is now being presented as the alternative to Netanyahu’s right-wing, chauvinistic and rowdy political style. However, for this to happen, more makeup is required.

Much can be said about Bennett and his party of ultra-nationalists and right-wing extremists, Yamina.

Yamina is a decidedly racist political party. Their meager seven seats at the Israeli Knesset (parliament) were garnered through their constant appeal to the most violent and racist constituencies in Israel, whose oft-repeated chant “Death to the Arabs” is a daily reminder of their sinister political discourse.

Bennett is often cited for this famous statement from 2013: “I’ve killed lots of Arabs in my life and there’s no problem with that”. Yet, there is more to the man’s politics than such an abhorrent declaration. Since Israeli leaders do not perceive any form of Palestinian resistance to be legitimate and, in their eyes, Palestinians are either terrorists or potential terrorists, consider the following ‘solution’ offered by Bennett to deal with the problem of ‘Palestinian terrorism’.

As Israel’s Minister of Education in 2015, Bennett proposed the building of a ‘deterrence’ wall, one which “demands that incitement be ended and that terrorists are shot dead before they have a chance to hurt innocent people. It means that a terrorist who is shot will be dead and never walk again. It means that Israel remains in control of its homeland forever, unmoved by terrorism.”

So why does the Biden Administration want us to believe that Bennett is different?

Immediately following his inauguration, President Joe Biden was the first world leader to call and congratulate Bennett on the new post. This act carries a deeper symbolic meaning when compared to the fact that it took Biden a whole three long weeks to phone Netanyahu, following the former’s own inauguration to the White House in January.

A close aide to Israel’s new prime minister explained the nature of the amiable phone conversation between Biden and Bennett in an interview with the Axios website. “The White House wants to have close and regular consultation and engagement with Bennett and his team based on candid exchange of views, respect for differences, a desire to work toward stability and security,” the Israeli source was quoted as saying.

Aside from the emphasis on candor and ‘respect’ with reference to the US-Israel future relationship, there has also been an equal and constant emphasis on the need for privacy in dealing with differences between the two countries. “Unlike its predecessor,” the Times of Israel reported with reference to Netanyahu, the Bennet government “would voice its criticism (of Washington) in private.” For months, the US had pleaded with Netanyahu to tone down his attacks on Washington, to no avail.

Now that Bennett is in charge, he is clearly ready to play along. And why should he not? He is eager to present himself as the antithesis of Netanyahu. By making such a ‘concession’, he would surely be expecting Washington to reciprocate. For Bennett, it is a win-win.

Bennett understands that US politics towards Israel is not determined by the attitude of Israeli leaders. For example, in comments made last May, Biden laid to rest any suggestion that the US will hold Israel accountable during his term in power. There is “no shift in my commitment, commitment to the security of Israel. Period. No shift, not at all”. If this solid pledge was made when boisterous Netanyahu was still in power, no change whatsoever should be expected, now that the supposedly agreeable Bennett is Israel’s new prime minister.

American politicians are fawning over Bennett and his main coalition partner and future Prime Minister, Yair Lapid. They are eager to turn a new page, and move forward past Netanyahu’s tumultuous years. Bennett is expected to visit the US in July, while Lapid has already been invited to visit Washington by US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken. Meanwhile, a large Israeli military delegation headed by Israeli Army Chief of Staff, Aviv Kohavi, should already be in the US to discuss various subjects, including Iran, Hezbollah and to ‘negotiate’ yet more US gifts to Israel in the form of military hardware.

The US is keen on rebranding its relationship with Israel, not because Israel has changed, but because Washington has suffered repeated humiliation at the hands of ousted Netanyahu. Under Netanyahu, the US found itself often accused of not doing enough for Israel. Even Obama’s $3.8 billion annual military aid package did not spare him the repeated Israeli verbal assaults. Biden is willing to do whatever it takes to avoid that sordid scenario.

Biden’s doctrine on Israel and Palestine is simple. He does not want to make an actual commitment to relaunching the peace process, for example, nor does he want to be placed in a position where he is forced to make demands from, let alone put ‘pressure’ on Israel. Since Biden has little or no expectations from Israel, Bennett seems willing to play the role of the accommodating and sensible politician. He would be foolish not to do so, for, per his own political ‘vision’, he merely wants to manage the conflict and prolong the occupation while, like his predecessor, continue to promote his own version of the deceptive notion of ‘economic peace’.

While the Americans and the Israelis are busy engaging in the ever-familiar ritual of ‘putting lipstick on a pig’, the Palestinians remain irrelevant in all of this, as their political aspirations continue to be discounted, and their freedom delayed.

The post “Putting Lipstick on a Pig”: Why Washington is Fawning over Israel’s New Government first appeared on Dissident Voice.

On “Conflict”, “Peace” and “Genocide”: Time for New Language on Palestine and Israel

On May 25, famous American actor, Mark Ruffalo, tweeted an apology for suggesting that Israel is committing ‘genocide’ in Gaza.

“I have reflected and wanted to apologize for posts during the recent Israel/Hamas fighting that suggested Israel is committing ‘genocide’,” Ruffalo wrote, adding, “It’s not accurate, it’s inflammatory, disrespectful and is being used to justify anti-Semitism, here and abroad. Now is the time to avoid hyperbole.”

But were Ruffalo’s earlier assessments, indeed, “not accurate, inflammatory and disrespectful”? And does equating Israel’s war on besieged, impoverished Gaza with genocide fit into the classification of ‘hyperbole’?

To avoid pointless social media spats, one only needs to reference the ‘United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide’. According to Article 2 of the 1948 Convention, the legal definition of genocide is:

“Any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, such as (a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part …”

In its depiction of Israel’s latest war on Gaza, the Geneva-based human rights group, Euro-Med Monitor, reported:

The Israeli forces directly targeted 31 extended families. In 21 cases, the homes of these families were bombed while their residents were inside. These raids resulted in the killing of 98 civilians, including 44 children and 28 women. Among the victims were a man and his wife and children, mothers and their children, or child siblings. There were seven mothers who were killed along with four or three of their children. The bombing of these homes and buildings came without any warning despite the Israeli forces’ knowledge that civilians were inside.

As of May 28, 254 Palestinians in Gaza were killed and 1,948 were wounded in the latest 11-day Israeli onslaught, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. Though tragic, this number is relatively small compared with the casualties of previous wars. For example, in the 51-day Israeli war on Gaza in the summer of 2014, over 2,200 Palestinians were killed and over 17,000 were wounded. Similarly, entire families, like the 21-member Abu Jame family in Khan Younis, also perished. Is this not genocide? The same logic can be applied to the killing of over 300 unarmed protesters at the fence separating besieged Gaza from Israel between March 2018 and December 2019. Moreover, the besiegement and utter isolation of over 2 million Palestinians in Gaza since 2006-07, which has resulted in numerous tragedies, is an act of collective punishment that also deserves the designation of genocide.

One does not need to be a legal expert to identify the many elements of genocide in Israel’s violent behavior, let alone language, against Palestinians. There is a clear, undeniable relationship between Israel’s violent political discourse and equally violent action on the ground. Potentially Israel’s next prime minister, Naftali Bennett, who has served the role of Defense Minister, had, in July 2013, stated: “I’ve killed lots of Arabs in my life – and there’s no problem with that.”

With this context in mind, and regardless of why Ruffalo found it necessary to back-track on his moral position, Israel is an unrepentent human rights violator that continues to carry out an active policy of genocide and ethnic cleansing against the native, indigenous inhabitants of Palestine.

Language matters, and in this particular ‘conflict’, it matters most, because Israel has, for long, managed to escape any accountability for its actions, due to its success in misrepresenting facts, and the overall truth about itself. Thanks to its many allies and supporters in mainstream media and academia, Tel Aviv has rebranded itself from being a military occupier and an apartheid regime to an ‘oasis of democracy’, in fact, ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’.

This article will not attempt to challenge the entirety of the misconstrued mainstream media’s depiction of Israel. Volumes are required for that, and Israeli Professor Ilan Pappé’s ‘Ten Myths about Israel’ is an important starting point. However, this article will attempt to present some basic definitions that must enter the Palestine-Israel lexicon, as a prerequisite to developing a fairer understanding of what is happening on the ground.

A Military Occupation – Not a ‘Conflict’

Quite often, mainstream Western media refers to the situation in Palestine and Israel as a  ‘conflict’, and to the various specific elements of this so-called conflict as a ‘dispute’. For example, the ‘Palestinian-Israeli conflict’ and the ‘disputed city of East Jerusalem’.

What should be an obvious truth is that besieged, occupied people do not engage in a ‘conflict’ with their occupiers. Moreover, a ‘dispute’ happens when two parties have equally compelling claims to any issue. When Palestinan families of East Jerusalem are being forced out of their homes which are, in turn, handed over to Jewish extremists, there is no ‘dispute’ involved. The extremists are thieves and the Palestinians are victims. This is not a matter of opinion. The international community itself says so.

‘Conflict’ is a generic term. Aside from absolving the aggressor – in this case, Israel – it leaves all matters open for interpretation. Since American audiences are indoctrinated to love Israel and hate Arabs and Muslims, siding with Israel in its ‘conflict’ with the latter becomes the only rational option.

Israel has sustained a military occupation of 22% of the total size of historic Palestine since June 1967. The remainder of the Palestinian homeland was already usurped, using extreme violence, state-sanctioned apartheid, and, as Pappé puts it, ‘incremental genocide’ decades earlier.

From the perspective of international law,  the term ‘military occupation’, ‘occupied East Jerusalem’, ‘illegal Jewish settlements’ and so forth, have never been ‘disputed’. They are simply facts, even if Washington has decided to ignore international law, and even if mainstream US media has chosen to manipulate the terminology as to present Israel as a victim, not the aggressor.

‘Process’ without ‘Peace’

The term ‘peace process’ was coined by American diplomats decades ago. It was put to use throughout the mid and late 1970s when, then-US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, labored to broker a deal between Egypt and Israel in the hope of fragmenting the Arab political front and, eventually, sidelining Cairo entirely from the ‘Arab-Israeli conflict’.

Kissinger’s logic proved vital for Israel as the ‘process’ did not aim at achieving justice according to fixed criteria that has been delineated by the United Nations for years. There was no frame of reference any more. If any existed, it was Washington’s political priorities which, historically, almost entirely overlapped with Israel’s priorities. Despite the obvious American bias, the US bestowed upon itself the undeserving title of ‘the honest peace broker’.

This approach was used successfully in the write-up to the Camp David Accords in 1978. One of the Accords’ greatest achievements is that the so-called ‘Arab-Israeli conflict’ was replaced with the so-called ‘Palestinian-Israeli conflict’.

Now, tried and true, the ‘peace process’ was used again in 1993, resulting in the Oslo Accords. For nearly three decades, the US continued to tout its self-proclaimed credentials as a peacemaker, despite the fact that it pumped – and continues to do so – $3-4 billion of annual, mostly military, aid to Israel.

On the other hand, the Palestinians have little to show for. No peace was achieved; no justice was obtained; not an inch of Palestinian land was returned and not a single Palestinian refugee was allowed to return home. However, American and European officials and a massive media apparatus continued to talk of a ‘peace process’ with little regard to the fact that the ‘peace process’ has brought nothing but war and destruction for Palestine, and allowed Israel to continue its illegal appropriation and colonization of Palestinian land.

Resistance, National Liberation – Not ‘Terrorism’ and ‘State-Building’

The ‘peace process’ introduced more than death, mayhem and normalization of land theft in Palestine. It also wrought its own language, which remains in effect to this day. According to the new lexicon, Palestinians are divided into ‘moderate’ and ‘extremists’. The ‘moderates’ believe in the American-led ‘peace process’, ‘peace negotiations’ and are ready to make ‘painful compromises’ in order to obtain the coveted ‘peace’. On the other hand, the ‘extremists’ are ‘Iran-backed’, politically ‘radical’ bunch that use ‘terrorism’ to satisfy their ‘dark’ political agendas.

But is this the case? Since the signing of the Oslo Accords, many sectors of Palestinian society, including Muslims and Christians, Islamists and secularists and, notably, socialists, resisted the unwarranted political ‘compromises’ undertaken by their leadership, which they perceived to be a betrayal of Palestinians’ basic rights. Meanwhile, the ‘moderates’ have largely ruled over Palestinians with no democratic mandate. This small but powerful group introduced a culture of political and financial corruption, unprecedented in Palestine. They applied torture against Palestinian political dissidents whenever it suited them. Not only did Washington say little to criticize the ‘moderate’ Palestinian Authority’s dismal human rights record, but it also applauded it for its crackdown on those who ‘incite violence’ and their ‘terrorist infrastructure’.

A term such as ‘resistance’ – muqawama – was slowly but carefully extricated from the Palestinian national discourse. The term ‘liberation’ too was perceived to be confrontational and hostile. Instead, such concepts as ‘state-building’ – championed by former Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, and others – began taking hold. The fact that Palestine was still an occupied country and that ‘state-building’ can only be achieved once ‘liberation’ was first secured, did not seem to matter to the ‘donor countries’. The priorities of these countries – mainly US allies who adhered to the American political agenda in the Middle East – was to maintain the illusion of the ‘peace process’ and to ensure  ‘security coordination’ between PA police and the Israeli army carried on, unabated.

The so-called ‘security coordination’, of course, refers to the US-funded joint Israeli-PA efforts at cracking down on Palestinian resistance, apprehending Palestinian political dissidents and ensuring the safety of the illegal Jewish settlements, or colonies, in the occupied West Bank.

War and, Yes, Genocide in Gaza – Not ‘Israel-Hamas Conflict’

The word ‘democracy’ was constantly featured in the new Oslo language. Of course, it was not intended to serve its actual meaning. Instead, it was the icing on the cake of making the illusion of the ‘peace process’ perfect. This was obvious, at least to most Palestinians. It also became obvious to the whole world in January 2006, when the Palestinian faction Fatah, which has monopolized the PA since its inception in 1994, lost the popular vote to the Islamic faction, Hamas.

Hamas, and other Palestinian factions have rejected – and continue to reject – the Oslo Accords. Their participation in the legislative elections in 2006 took many by surprise, as the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) was itself a product of Oslo. Their victory in the elections, which was classified as democratic and transparent by international monitoring groups, threw a wrench in the US-Israeli-PA political calculations.

Lo and behold, the group that has long been perceived by Israel and its allies as ‘extremist’ and ‘terrorist’, became the potential leaders of Palestine! The Oslo spin doctors had to go into overdrive in order for them to thwart Palestinian democracy and ensure a successful return to the status quo, even if this meant that Palestine is represented by unelected, undemocratic leaders. Sadly, this has been the case for nearly 15 years.

Meanwhile, Hamas’ stronghold, the Gaza Strip, had to be taught a lesson, thus the siege imposed on the impoverished region for nearly 15 years. The siege on Gaza has little to do with Hamas’ rockets or Israel’s ‘security’ needs, the right to ‘defend itself’, and its supposedly ‘justifiable’ desire to destroy Gaza’s ‘terrorist infrastructure’. While, indeed, Hamas’ popularity in Gaza is unmatched anywhere else in Palestine, Fatah, too, has a powerful constituency there. Moreover, the Palestinian resistance in the Strip is not championed by Hamas alone, but also by other ideological and political groups, for example, the Islamic Jihad, the socialist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and other socialist and secular groups.

Misrepresenting the ‘conflict’ as a ‘war’ between Israel and Hamas is crucial to Israeli propaganda, which has succeeded in equating Hamas with militant groups throughout the Middle East and even Afghanistan. But Hamas is not ISIS, Al-Qaeda or Taliban. In fact, none of these groups are similar, anyway. Hamas is a Palestinian Islamic nationalist movement that operates within a largely Palestinian political context. An excellent book on Hamas is the recently published volume by Daud Abdullah, Engaging the World. Abdullah’s book rightly presents Hamas as a rational political actor, rooted in its ideological convictions, yet flexible and pragmatic in its ability to adapt to national, regional and international geopolitical changes.

But what does Israel have to gain from mischaracterizing the Palestinian resistance in Gaza? Aside from satisfying its propaganda campaign of erroneously linking Hamas to other anti-American groups, it also dehumanizes the Palestinian people entirely and presents Israel as a partner in the American global so-called ‘war on terror’. Israeli neofascist and ultranationalist politicians then become the saviors of humanity, their violent racist language is forgiven and their active ‘genocide’ is seen as an act of ‘self-defense’ or, at best, a mere state of ‘conflict’.

The Oppressor as the Victim

According to the strange logic of mainstream media, Palestinians are rarely ‘killed’ by Israeli soldiers, but rather ‘die’ in ‘clashes’ resulting from various ‘disputes. Israel does not ‘colonize’ Palestinian land; it merely ‘annexes’, ‘appropriates’, and ‘captures’, and so on. What has been taking place in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem, for example, is not outright property theft, leading to ethnic cleansing, but rather a ‘property dispute’.

The list goes on and on.

In truth, language has always been a part of Zionist colonialism, long before the state of Israel was itself constructed from the ruins of Palestinian homes and villages in 1948. Palestine, according to the Zionists, was ‘a land with no people’ for ‘a people with no land’. These colonists were never ‘illegal settlers’ but ‘Jewish returnees’ to their ‘ancestral homeland’, who, through hard work and perseverance, managed to ‘make the desert bloom’, and, in order to defend themselves against the ‘hordes of Arabs’, they needed to build an ‘invincible army’.

It will not be easy to deconstruct the seemingly endless edifice of lies, half-truths and intentional misrepresentations of Zionist Israeli colonialism in Palestine. Yet, there can be no alternative to this feat because, without proper, accurate and courageous understanding and depiction of Israeli settler colonialism and Palestinian resistance to it, Israel will continue to oppress Palestinians while presenting itself as the victim.

The post On “Conflict”, “Peace” and “Genocide”: Time for New Language on Palestine and Israel first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Thomas Friedman’s last gasp

Thomas Friedman’s recent column in the New York Times reflecting on Israel’s 11-day destruction of Gaza is a showcase for the delusions of liberal Zionism: a constellation of thought that has never looked so threadbare. It seems that every liberal newspaper needs a Thomas Friedman – the UK’s Guardian has Jonathan Freedland – whose role is to keep readers from considering realistic strategies for Israel-Palestine, however often and catastrophically the established ones have failed. In this case, Friedman’s plea for Joe Biden to preserve the ‘potential of a two-state solution’ barely conceals his real goal: resuscitating the discourse of an illusory ‘peace process’ from which everyone except liberal Zionists has moved on. His fear is that the debate is quietly shifting outside this framework – towards the recognition that Israel is a belligerent apartheid regime, and the conclusion that one democratic state for Palestinians and Jews is now the only viable solution.

For more than five decades, the two-state solution – of a large, ultra-militarized state for Israel, and a much smaller, demilitarized one for Palestinians – has been the sole paradigm of the Western political and media class. During these years, a Palestinian state failed to materialize despite (or more likely because of) various US-backed ‘peace processes’. While Americans and Europeans have consoled themselves with such fantasies, Israel has only paid them lip-service, enforcing a de facto one-state solution premised on Jewish supremacy over Palestinians, and consolidating its control over the entire territory.

But in recent years, Israel’s naked settler-colonial actions have imperiled that Western paradigm. It has become increasingly evident that Israel is incapable of making peace with the Palestinians because its state ideology – Zionism – is based on their removal or eradication. What history has taught us is that the only just and lasting way to end a ‘conflict’ between a native population and a settler-colonial movement is decolonization, plus the establishment of a single, shared, democratic state. Otherwise, the settlers continue to pursue their replacement strategies – which invariably include ethnic cleansing, communal segregation and genocide. These were precisely the tactics adopted by European colonists in the Americas, Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Friedman’s function in the Western media – conscious or not – is to obfuscate these historical lessons, tapping into a long legacy of unthinking colonial racism.

One of the central pillars of that legacy is an abiding fear of the native and his supposedly natural savagery. This has always been the unspoken assumption behind the interminable two-state ‘peace process’. A civilized and civilizing West tries to broker a ‘peace deal’ to protect Israel from the Palestinian hordes next door. But the Palestinians continuously ‘reject’ these peace overtures because of their savage nature – which is in turn presented as the reason why Israel must ethnically cleanse them and herd them into reservations, or Bantustans, away from Jewish settlers. Occasionally, Israel is forced to ‘retaliate’ – or defend itself from this savagery – in what becomes an endless ‘cycle of violence’. The West supports Israel with military aid and preferential trade, while watching with exasperation as the Palestinian leadership fails to discipline its people.

Friedman is an expert at exploiting this colonial mentality. He often avoids taking direct responsibility for his racist assumptions, attributing them to ‘centrist Democrats’ or other right-minded observers. Coded language is his stock in trade, serving to heighten the unease felt by western audiences as the natives try to regain a measure of control over their future. In some cases the prejudicial framing is overt, as with his concern about the threat of an ascendant Hamas to women’s and LGBTQ rights, couched in an identity politics he knows will resonate with NYT readers. But more often his framing is insidious, with terms like ‘decimate’ and ‘blow up’ deployed to cast Palestinians’ desire for self-determination as violent and menacing.

Friedman’s promotion of the two-state model offers a three-layered deception. First, he writes that the two-state solution would bring ‘peace’, without acknowledging that the condition for that peace is the Palestinians’ permanent ghettoization and subjugation. Second, he blames the Palestinians for rejecting just such ‘peace plans’, even though they have never been seriously offered by Israel. And finally, he has the chutzpah to imply that it was the Palestinians’ failure to negotiate a two-state solution that ‘decimated’ the Israeli ‘peace camp’.

Such arguments are not only based on Friedman’s dehumanizing view of Arabs. They are also tied to his domestic political concerns. He fears that if Joe Biden were to acknowledge the reality that Israel has sabotaged the two-state solution, then the President might disengage once and for all from the ‘peace process’. Of course, most Palestinians would welcome such an end to US interference: the billions of dollars funnelled annually to the Israeli military, the US diplomatic cover for Israel, and the arm-twisting of other states to silently accept its atrocities. But, Friedman argues, this withdrawal would carry a heavy price at home, setting off a civil war within Biden’s own party and within Jewish organizations across the US. God forbid, it might ‘even lead to bans on arms sales’ to Israel.

Friedman reminds us of Israeli businessman Gidi Grinstein’s warning that in the absence of a ‘potential’ two-state solution, US support for Israel could morph ‘from a bipartisan issue to a wedge issue’. The columnist writes that preserving the two-state ‘peace process’, however endless and hopeless, is ‘about our national security interests in the Middle East’. How does Friedman define these interests? They are reducible, he says, to ‘the political future of the centrist faction of the Democratic Party.’ A ‘peace process’ once designed to salve the consciences of Americans while enabling the dispossession of Palestinians has now been redefined as a vital US national security issue – because, for Friedman, its survival is necessary to preserve the dominance of foreign policy hawks in the Democratic machine. The argument echoes Biden’s extraordinarily frank admission made back in 1986 that ‘were there not an Israel the United States of America would have to invent an Israel to protect her interests in the region’.

Friedman then concludes his article with a set of proposals that unwittingly expose the true consequences of a two-state settlement. He insists that Biden build on his predecessor’s much ridiculed ‘peace plan’, which gave US blessing to Israel’s illegal settlements on vast swaths of the occupied West Bank, penning Palestinians into their Bantustans indefinitely. Trump’s plan also sought to entrench Israel’s control over occupied East Jerusalem, remake Gaza as a permanent battlefield on which rivalries between Fatah and Hamas would intensify, and turn the wealth of the theocratic Gulf states into a weapon, fully integrating Israel into the region’s economy while making the Palestinians even more dependent on foreign aid. Polite NYT opinionators now want Biden to sell these measures as a re-engagement with the ‘peace process’.

The US, writes Friedman, should follow Trump in stripping the Palestinians of a capital in East Jerusalem – the economic, religious and historic heart of Palestine. Arab states should reinforce this dispossession by moving their embassies from Tel Aviv to West Jerusalem. Neighbouring countries are encouraged to pressure the Palestinian Authority, via aid payments, to accede even more cravenly to Israel’s demands. (Of course, Friedman does not think it worth mentioning that Palestine is aid-dependent because Israel has either stolen or seized control of all its major resources.)

Once this subordinate position is guaranteed, divisions within the Palestinian national movement can be inflamed by making Hamas – plus the two million Palestinians in Gaza – dependent on the PA’s patronage. Friedman wants the Fatah-led PA to decide whether to send aid to the Gaza Strip or join Israel in besieging the enclave to weaken Hamas. For good measure, he also urges the Gulf states to cut off support to the United Nations aid agencies, like UNRWA, which have kept millions of Palestinian refugees fed and cared for since 1948. The international community’s already feeble commitment to the rights of Palestinian refugees will thus be broken, and the diaspora will be forcibly absorbed into their host countries.

Such proposals are the last gasp of a discredited liberal Zionism. Friedman visibly flounders as he tries to put the emperor’s clothes back on a two-state solution which stands before us in all its ugliness. The Western model of ‘peace-making’ was always about preserving Jewish supremacy. Now, at least, the illusions are gone.

• First published in New Left Review

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Power at Any Cost: How Opportunistic Mansour Abbas Joined Hands with Avowed “Arab Killers” 

We are led to believe that history is being made in Israel following the formation of an ideologically diverse government coalition which, for the first time, includes an Arab party, Ra’am, or the United Arab List.

If we are to accept this logic, the leader of Ra’am, Mansour Abbas, is a mover and shaker of history, the same way that Naftali Bennett of the far-right Yamina Party, and Yair Lapid, the supposed ‘centrist’ of Yesh Atid, are also history makers. How bizarre!

Sensational media headlines and hyperboles aside, Israel’s new government was a desperate attempt by Israeli politicians to dislodge Benjamin Netanyahu, the country’s longest-serving Prime Minister, from power. While Lapid is fairly new to Israel’s contentious politics, Bennett and Abbas are opportunists, par excellence.

Lapid is a former TV anchorman. Despite his claims to centrist ideologies, his political views are as ‘right’ as they get. The problem is that such characters as Bennett, Ayelet Shaked, also of Yamina, and Netanyahu, of course, among others, have relocated the center of Israel’s political spectrum further to the right, to the point that the right became the center and the ultra-right became the right. This is how Israel’s neofascist and extremist politicians managed to become kingmakers in Israel’s politics. Bennett, for example, who in 2013 bragged about “killing lots of Arabs” in his life, is set to be the Prime Minister of Israel.

It is in this strange context that we must understand Mansour Abbas’ position. His meager four seats at the Israeli Knesset made his party critical in forming the coalition that has been purposely created to oust Netanyahu. Ra’am does not represent Israel’s Palestinian Arab communities and, by joining the government, Abbas is certainly not making history in terms of finding common ground between Arabs and Jews in a country that is rightly recognized by Israeli and international human rights groups as an apartheid state.

On the contrary, Abbas is moving against the current of history. At a time that Palestinians throughout historic Palestine – the occupied Palestinian territories and today’s Israel – are finally unifying around a common national narrative, Abbas is insisting on redefining the Palestinian agenda merely to secure a position for himself in Israeli politics – thus, supposedly ‘making history.’

Even before Abbas shook hands with Bennett and other Israeli extremists who advocate the killing of Palestinians as a matter of course, he made it clear that he was willing to join a Netanyahu-led government. This is one of the reasons behind the splintering of the once unified Arab political coalition, known as the Joint List.

Following his meeting with Netanyahu in February, Abbas justified his shocking turnabout with unconvincing political platitudes as one “needs to be able to look to the future, and to build a better future for everyone”,  and so on.

The fact that Netanyahu was largely responsible for the despairing outlook of Israel’s Palestinian communities seemed entirely irrelevant to Abbas, who was inexplicably keen on joining any future political alliance, even if it included Israel’s most chauvinistic political actors. Sadly, though not surprisingly, this has proved to be the case.

Abbas’ position became impossible to sustain in May during the well-coordinated Israeli war in Gaza and the racist attacks on Palestinian communities in Jerusalem, the occupied West Bank and throughout Israel. Even then, when Palestinians were finally able to articulate a common narrative linking the occupation, siege, racism and apartheid in Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza and Israel together, Abbas insisted on developing a unique position that would allow him to sustain his chances of achieving power at any cost.

Although it was the Palestinian Arab communities that were under systematic attacks carried out by Israeli Jewish mobs and police, Abbas called on his community to “be responsible and behave wisely,” and to “maintain public order and keep the law.” He even parroted similar lines used by right-wing Israeli Jewish politicians, as he claimed that “peaceful popular protests” by Palestinian communities inside Israel have turned “confrontational,” thus creating a moral equilibrium where the victims of racism somehow became responsible for their own plight.

Abbas’ position has not changed since the signing of the coalition deal on June 2. His political narrative is almost apolitical as he insists on reducing the national struggle of the Palestinian people to the mere need for economic development – not fundamentally different from Netanyahu’s own ‘economic peace’ proposal in the past. Worse, Abbas intentionally delinks the state of poverty and under-development in Palestinian communities from state-championed racial discrimination, which constantly underfunds Arab communities while spending exuberant amounts of funds on illegal Jewish settlements that are built on ethnically cleansed Palestinian lands.

“We have reached a critical mass of agreements in various fields that serve the interest of Arab society and that provide solutions for the burning issues in Arab society — planning, the housing crisis and, of course, fighting violence and organized crime,” Abbas said triumphantly on June 2, as if the rooted inequality, including communal violence and organized crime, are not direct results of racism, socio-economic inequality and political alienation and marginalization.

No history has been made by Abbas. He is but an example of the self-serving politician and a direct expression of the endemic disunity in the Palestinian Arab body politic inside Israel.

Sadly, the unprecedented success of the Arab Joint List following the March 2020 elections has now culminated in a tragic end, where the likes of Abbas become the unwelcomed ‘representative’ of a politically conscious and awakened community.

In truth, Mansour Abbas, a Palestinian Arab politician who is willing to find common ground with extremists and proud ‘Arab killers’, only represents himself. The future will attest to this claim.

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Palestine’s Moment: Despite Massive Losses, Palestinians Have Altered the Course of History

The ‘Palestinian Revolt of 2021’ will go down in history as one of the most influential events that irreversibly shaped collective thinking in and around Palestine. Only two other events can be compared with what has just transpired in Palestine: the revolt of 1936 and the First Intifada of 1987.

The general strike and rebellion of 1936-39 were momentous because they represented the first unmistakable expression of collective Palestinian political agency. Despite their isolation and humble tools of resistance, the Palestinian people rose across Palestine to challenge British and Zionist colonialism, combined.

The Intifada of 1987 was also historic. It was the unprecedented sustainable collective action that unified the occupied West Bank and Gaza after the Israeli occupation of what remained of historic Palestine in 1967. That legendary popular revolt, though costly in blood and sacrifices, allowed Palestinians to regain the political initiative and to, once more, speak as one people.

That Intifada was eventually thwarted after the signing of the Oslo accords in 1993. For Israel, Oslo was a gift from the Palestinian leadership that allowed it to suppress the Intifada and use the then newly invented Palestinian Authority (PA) to serve as a buffer between the Israeli military and occupied, oppressed Palestinians.

Since those years, the history of Palestine has taken on a dismal trajectory, one of disunity, factionalism, political rivalry and, for the privileged few, massive wealth. Nearly four decades have been wasted on a self-defeating political discourse centered on American-Israeli priorities, mostly concerned with ‘Israeli security’ and ‘Palestinian terrorism’.

Old but befitting terminologies such as ‘liberation’, ‘resistance’ and ‘popular struggle’, were replaced with more ‘pragmatic’ language of ‘peace process’, ‘negotiation table’ and ‘shuttle diplomacy’. The Israeli occupation of Palestine, according to this misleading discourse, was depicted as a ‘conflict’ and ‘dispute’, as if basic human rights were the subject of political interpretation.

Predictably, the already powerful Israel became more emboldened, tripling the number of its illegal colonies in the West Bank along with the population of its illegal settlers. Palestine was segmented into tiny, isolated South-African-styled Bantustans, each carrying a code – Areas, A, B, C – and the movement of Palestinians within their own homeland became conditioned on obtaining various colored permits from the Israeli military. Women giving birth at military checkpoints in the West Bank, cancer patients dying in Gaza while waiting for permission to cross to hospitals, and more, became the everyday reality of Palestine and the Palestinians.

With time, the Israeli occupation of Palestine became a marginal issue on the agenda of international diplomacy. Meanwhile, Israel cemented its relationship with numerous countries around the world, including countries in the Southern hemisphere which have historically stood beside Palestine.

Even the international solidarity movement for Palestinian rights became confused and fragmented, itself a direct expression of Palestinian confusion and fragmentation. In the absence of a unified Palestinian voice amid Palestine’s prolonged political feud, many took the liberty of lecturing Palestinians on how to resist, what ‘solutions’ to fight for and how to conduct themselves politically.

It seemed that Israel had finally gained the upper hand and, this time, for good.

Desperate to see Palestinians rise again, many called for a third Intifada. Indeed, for many years, intellectuals and political leaders called for a third Palestinian Intifada, as if the flow of history, in Palestine – or elsewhere – adheres to fixed academic notions or is compelled by the urging of some individual or organization.

The rational answer was, and remains, that only the Palestinian people will determine the nature, scope and direction of their collective action. Popular revolts are not the outcome of wishful thinking but of circumstances, the tipping point of which can only be decided by the people themselves.

May 2021 was that very tipping point. Palestinians rose in unison from Jerusalem to Gaza, to every inch of occupied Palestine, including Palestinian refugee communities throughout the Middle East and, by doing so, they also resolved an impossible political equation. The Palestinian ‘problem’ was no longer that of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem alone, but also of Israeli racism and apartheid which have targeted the Palestinian communities inside Israel. Further, it was also the crisis of leadership and the deep-seated factionalism and political corruption.

When Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, decided on May 8 to unleash the hordes of police and Jewish extremists on Palestinian worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque, who were protesting the ethnic cleansing of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem, he was merely attempting to score a few political points among Israel’s most chauvinist right-wing constituencies. He also wanted to remain in power or, at least, to avoid prison as a result of his corruption trial.

He did not anticipate, however, that he was unleashing one of the most historic events in Palestine, one that would ultimately resolve a seemingly impossible Palestinian quandary. True, Netanyahu’s war on Gaza killed hundreds and wounded thousands. The violence he perpetrated in the West Bank and in Arab neighborhoods in Israel killed scores. But, on May 20, it was the Palestinians who claimed victory, as hundreds of thousands of people rushed to the streets to declare their triumph as one unified, proud nation.

Winning and losing wars of national liberation cannot be measured by gruesome comparisons between the number of dead or the degree of destruction inflicted on each side. If this was the case, no colonized nation would have ever won its freedom.

Palestinians won because, once more, they emerged from the rubble of Israeli bombs as a whole, a nation so determined to win its freedom at any cost. This realization was symbolized in the many scenes of Palestinian crowds celebrating while waving the banners of all Palestinian factions, without prejudice and without exception.

Finally, it can unequivocally be asserted that the Palestinian resistance scored a major victory, arguably unprecedented in its proud history. This is the first time that Israel is forced to accept that the rules of the game have changed, likely forever. It is no longer the only party that determines political outcomes in occupied Palestine, because the Palestinian people are finally a force to be reckoned with.

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The Sad Saga Continues: Occupation and Oppression of Palestinians

Here we go again with yet another deadly and devastating Israeli military attack on Gaza that has captured the world’s attention. However, this current crisis is notably different in scope from the numerous previous major Israeli war crimes against Gaza. This time there was already ongoing Palestinian resistance to Israeli provocations and violence in occupied East Jerusalem including the egregious Israeli attack in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in all of Islam. There was also more Palestinian resistance to the Israeli provocations and violence in other parts of the occupied West Bank and in Israel itself with its apartheid regime. Thus this time, when Hamas fired rockets into Israel, it was responding to attacks on Palestinians and demonstrating the unity of the Palestinian cause of resisting Israeli occupation and oppression.

In addition, people worldwide now recognize that the Israeli conquest and theft of Palestinian lands is just another brutal and illegal colonial racist venture. The ongoing Israeli treatment of Palestinians is similar to the barbaric treatment of indigenous and minorities by other colonial powers. There is now much more connection between Palestinians and other oppressed people around the world, including in the US.

The US and Western European nations wring their hands and plead for an end to the violence while the US simultaneously prevents any sanctions against Israel. Of course, these nations lamely insist that Israel, an occupying military power attacking an occupied people, has a ‘right to defend itself’. Wait, what did they say?! Don’t they mean to say that the Palestinians, those without an army and living under apartheid and those living under a brutal military occupation, have a right to defend themselves?

Rather than go into the details of this current crisis, in the following I am going to look at a larger picture. I don’t mean to downplay the horrific suffering, loss of life and devastation of this ongoing crisis that impacts Palestinians to a far greater extent than Israelis. However, it’s important to understand that this shameful situation was predicted and could have been prevented.

At the end of WWI, the US established the King-Crane Commission to examine the question of Palestine. The Commission, initially predisposed in favor of Zionism, changed its mind when it learned that the Zionists looked forward to a practically complete dispossession of the non-Jewish inhabitants. The British officers consulted by the Commission did not think that this program could be carried out except by force of arms.

In a 1929 letter to Chaim Weizmann, the future first Israeli president, Rabbi Judah L. Magnes, first president of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, wrote:

A Jewish Home in Palestine built up on bayonets and oppression [is] not worth having, even though it succeed, whereas the very attempt to build it up peacefully, cooperatively, with understanding, education, and good will, [is] worth a great deal even though the attempt should fail.

In a September 13, 1929, letter to the American Jewish leader Felix Warburg, Magnes wrote:

I have, I regret to say, no confidence whatever that Dr. Weizmann and his associates understand the situation today any better than they have before. They may pass resolutions and agree to White Papers and lots of other things out of political necessity, but not out of inner conviction. Unless the whole aim of Zionism is changed, there will never be peace.

In 1938 Mahatma Gandhi was asked about the Palestine Conflict. He responded:

It is wrong and inhuman to impose the Jews on the Arabs. What is going on in Palestine today cannot be justified by any moral code of conduct. … They can settle in Palestine only by the goodwill of the Arabs. They should seek to convert the Arab heart.

Albert Einstein said:

I should much rather see reasonable agreement with the Arabs on the basis of living together in peace than the creation of a Jewish State. Apart from practical considerations, my awareness of the essential nature of Judaism resists the idea of a Jewish State … I am afraid of the inner damage Judaism will sustain…

In 1942 the American Council for Judaism was formed. As a solution for the conflict between Jews and Arabs, the ACJ recommended a democratic state in Palestine wherein Arabs and Jews would share in the government and have equal rights and responsibilities. It rejected the creation of an exclusively Jewish state as undemocratic and as a retreat from the universal vision of Judaism.

In 1947, Loy Henderson, director of the US State Department’s Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs, warned Secretary of State George C. Marshall of the dangers of UN partition plan for Palestine. Here is an excerpt.

The UNSCOP [U.N. Special Committee on Palestine] Majority Plan is not only unworkable; if adopted, it would guarantee that the Palestine problem would be permanent and still more complicated in the future.

The proposals contained in the UNSCOP plan are not only not based on any principles of an international character, the maintenance of which would be in the interests of the United States, but they are in definite contravention to various principles laid down in the [U.N.] Charter as well as to principles on which American concepts of Government are based.

These proposals, for instance, ignore such principles as self-determination and majority rule. They recognize the principle of a theocratic racial state and even go so far in several instances as to discriminate on grounds of religion and race against persons outside of Palestine.

Clearly, the potential for future tension and conflict was well recognized.

Shortly before his death in 1970, Bertrand Russell, one of the leading philosophers of Western thought during the 20th century, summarized the issue very well, saying:

The tragedy of the people of Palestine is that their country was ‘given’ by a foreign power to another people for the creation of a new state. The result was that many hundreds of thousands of innocent people were made permanently homeless. With every new conflict their numbers increased. How much longer is the world willing to endure this spectacle of wanton cruelty?

If it is not too late, given that Israel has killed a two-state solution, could the 1942 ACJ recommendation work? If we continue on the current path, the future looks increasingly bleak.

The post The Sad Saga Continues: Occupation and Oppression of Palestinians first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Unity at Last: The Palestinian People Have Risen  

From the outset, some clarification is needed regarding the language used to depict the ongoing violence in occupied Palestine, and also throughout Israel. This is not a ‘conflict’. Neither is it a ‘dispute’ nor ‘sectarian violence’ nor even a war in the traditional sense.

It is not a conflict, because Israel is an occupying power and the Palestinian people are an occupied nation. It is not a dispute, because freedom, justice and human rights cannot be treated as a mere political disagreement. The Palestinian people’s inalienable rights are enshrined in international and humanitarian law and the illegality of Israeli violations of human rights in Palestine is recognized by the United Nations itself.

If it is a war, then it is a unilateral Israeli war, which is met with humble, but real and determined Palestinian resistance.

Actually, it is a Palestinian uprising, an Intifada unprecedented in the history of the Palestinian struggle, both in its nature and outreach.

For the first time in many years, we see the Palestinian people united, from Jerusalem Al Quds, to Gaza, to the West Bank and, even more critically, to the Palestinian communities, towns and villages inside historic Palestine – today’s Israel.

This unity matters the most, is far more consequential than some agreement between Palestinian factions. It eclipses Fatah and Hamas and all the rest, because without a united people there can be no meaningful resistance, no vision for liberation, no struggle for justice to be won.

Right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could never have anticipated that a routine act of ethnic cleansing in East Jerusalem’s neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah could lead to a Palestinian uprising, uniting all sectors of Palestinian society in an unprecedented show of unity.

The Palestinian people have decided to move past all the political divisions and the factional squabbles. Instead, they are coining new terminologies, centered on resistance, liberation and international solidarity. Consequently, they are challenging factionalism, along with any attempt at making Israeli occupation and apartheid normal. Equally important, a strong Palestinian voice is now piercing through the international silence, compelling the world to hear a single chant for freedom.

The leaders of this new movement are Palestinian youth who have been denied participation in any form of democratic representation, who are constantly marginalized and oppressed by their own leadership and by the relentless Israeli military occupation. They were born into a world of exile, destitution and apartheid, led to believe that they are inferior, of a lesser race. Their right to self-determination and every other right were postponed indefinitely. They grew up helplessly watching their homes being demolished, their land being robbed and their parents being humiliated.

Finally, they are rising.

Without prior coordination and with no political manifesto, this new Palestinian generation is now making its voice heard, sending an unmistakable, resounding message to Israel and its right-wing chauvinistic society, that the Palestinian people are not passive victims; that the ethnic cleansing of Sheikh Jarrah and the rest of occupied East Jerusalem, the protracted siege on Gaza, the ongoing military occupation, the construction of illegal Jewish settlements, the racism and the apartheid will no longer go unnoticed; though tired, poor, dispossessed, besieged and abandoned, Palestinians will continue to safeguard their own rights, their sacred places and the very sanctity of their own people.

Yes, the ongoing violence was instigated by Israeli provocations in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem. However, the story was never about the ethnic cleansing of Sheikh Jarrah alone. The beleaguered neighborhood is but a microcosm of the larger Palestinian struggle.

Netanyahu may have hoped to use Sheikh Jarrah as a way of mobilizing his right-wing constituency around him, intending to form an emergency government or increasing his chances of winning yet a fifth election. His rash behavior, initially compelled by entirely selfish reasons, has ignited a popular rebellion among Palestinians, exposing Israel for the violent, racist and apartheid state that it is and always has been.

Palestinian unity and popular resistance have proven successful in other ways, too. Never before have we seen this groundswell of support for Palestinian freedom, not only from millions of ordinary individuals across the globe, but also from celebrities – movie stars, footballers, mainstream intellectuals and political activists, even models and social media influencers. The hashtags #SaveSheikhJarrah and #FreePalestine, among numerous others, are now interlinked and have been trending on all social media platforms for weeks. Israel’s constant attempts at presenting itself as a perpetual victim of some imaginary horde of Arabs and Muslims are no longer paying dividends. The world can finally see, read and hear of Palestine’s tragic reality and the need to bring this tragedy to an immediate end.

None of this would be possible were it not for the fact that all Palestinians have legitimate reasons and are speaking in unison. In their spontaneous reaction and genuine communal solidarity, all Palestinians are united from Sheikh Jarrah to all of Jerusalem, to Gaza, Nablus, Ramallah, Al-Bireh and even Palestinian towns inside Israel – Al-Lud, Umm Al-Fahm, Kufr Qana and elsewhere. In Palestine’s new popular revolution, factions, geography and any political division are irrelevant. Religion is not a source of divisiveness but of spiritual and national unity.

The ongoing Israeli atrocities in Gaza are continuing, with a mounting death toll. This devastation will continue for as long as the world treats the devastating siege of the impoverished, tiny Strip as if irrelevant. People in Gaza were dying long before the Israeli airstrikes began blowing up their homes and neighborhoods. They were dying from the lack of medicine, polluted water, the lack of electricity and the dilapidated infrastructure.

We must save Sheikh Jarrah, but we must also save Gaza; we must demand an end to the Israeli military occupation of Palestine and, with it, the system of racial discrimination and apartheid. International human rights groups are now precise and decisive in their depiction of this racist regime, with Human Rights Watch – and Israel’s own rights group, B’tselem – joining the call for the dismantlement of apartheid in all of Palestine.

Speak up. Speak out. The Palestinians have risen. It is time to rally behind them.

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Palestinians in Israel now face far-right mob violence backed by the state

With Jerusalem ablaze and Gaza on the brink of another major Israeli onslaught, it has been easy to overlook the rapidly escalating ethnic violence inside Israel, where one in five of the population is Palestinian.

These 1.8 million Palestinians – Israeli citizens in little more than name – have spent the past week venting their frustration and anger at decades of Israeli oppression directed at their own communities inside Israel, as well as at Palestinians under more visible occupation.

Already the protests, which have been sweeping Palestinian communities inside Israel, have been greeted with a savage backlash – a combination of official violence from Israeli police and vigilante-style violence from far-right Jewish gangs.

Israeli politicians have been warning noisily of “Arab pogroms” against the Jewish population. But with the rising influence of the openly fascist far-right in Israel – many of them armed settlers, some with ties to military units – there is a much greater danger of pogroms against the Palestinian minority.

Israel’s Palestinian citizens have been at the heart of the wave of protests in occupied East Jerusalem that began a month ago, at the start of Ramadan. With the aid of their Israeli ID cards and relative freedom of movement, many travelled to East Jerusalem in organised bus convoys. They bolstered numbers in the demonstrations at Sheikh Jarrah, where many Palestinian families are facing expulsion from their homes by Jewish settlers, backed by the Israeli state. They also participated in the defence of al-Aqsa Mosque.

But last weekend, as social media was flooded with clips of police storming al-Aqsa and of Jewish extremists excitedly cheering a fire near the mosque, protests erupted inside Israel too. There have been nightly demonstrations in larger Palestinian towns, including Nazareth, Kafr Kanna, Kafr Manda, Umm al-Fahm, Shefa-Amr and Beersheva. Police have responded in familiar fashion, firing stun grenades into the crowds and smothering them with tear gas. There have been large numbers of arrests.

Boiling point

Some of the most violent clashes, however, have been taking place elsewhere, in communities misleadingly described by Israel as “mixed cities”. Israel has traditionally presented these cities – Lod (Lydd), Ramle, Jaffa, Haifa and Acre (Akka) – as examples of “Jewish-Arab coexistence”. The reality is very different.

In each, Palestinian citizens live on the margins of a former Palestinian city that was ethnically cleansed upon Israel’s founding in 1948 and has been aggressively “Judaised” ever since.

Palestinian residents of these cities have to deal daily with the racism of many of their Jewish neighbours, and they face glaring institutional discrimination in planning rules designed to push them out and help Jews – often members of the settler movement or extremist religious students – take their place. All of this occurs as they are tightly policed to protect Jewish residents’ rights at their expense.

Resentment and anger have been building steadily for years, and now seem to have reached a boiling point. And because the “mixed cities” are among the few places in Israel where Jewish and Palestinian citizens live in relatively close proximity – most other communities have been strictly segregated by Israel – the potential for inter-communal violence is especially high.

The roots of what some still view as a potential new intifada, or Palestinian uprising, risk being smothered in areas of Israel. The more the Palestinian minority protests against the structural discrimination it faces, the more it risks inflaming the passions of the Jewish far-right.

These Jewish fascists are riding high after their parties won six parliamentary seats in Israel’s March election. They are seen as integral to any coalition government that caretaker Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may put together.

Driving Palestinians out

For years, the settler right has been trying to drive remaining Palestinian families out of the “mixed cities”, especially those in the centre of the country, next to Tel Aviv. They have received state help to set up extremist religious seminaries in the midst of Palestinian neighbourhoods.

Now under cover of protests, the far-right has the chance to up the stakes. Its newest legislator, Itamar Ben Gvir, has claimed, fancifully, that police are being prevented from dealing with the protests firmly enough. The barely coded message is that the far right needs to take the law into its own hands.

More surprisingly, Ben Gvir was echoed by the government’s police minister, Amir Ohana, who called on “citizens carrying weapons” to work on the authorities’ behalf by “immediately neutralising threats and danger”. Social media has also been awash with calls from activists to arm themselves and attack Palestinian communities in Israel.

On Wednesday, the results of the incitement were all too evident. Jewish gangs, many of them masked, smashed and looted Arab-owned shops and food stalls south of Tel Aviv. Hundreds of onlookers were filmed by an Israeli TV crew watching as a driver was dragged from his car and severely beaten. Though the rampage had been going on for much of the evening, police were nowhere in sight.

Palestinian residents of mixed cities have been hurriedly organising defence patrols in their neighbourhoods. But with many members of the Jewish far right licensed to carry firearms, the reality is that Palestinian communities have few ways to protect themselves effectively.

Some of the worst scenes have emerged from Lod, where local Palestinians live in a few ghettoised neighbourhoods stranded in the midst of what is now effectively a Jewish city next to Tel Aviv.

‘Iron fist’

Confrontations on Monday led to an armed Jewish resident fatally shooting a Palestinian father-of-three, Musa Hasuna. The next day, his funeral escalated into a riot after police tried to block the mourners’ route, with the torching of cars and visible symbols of the Jewish takeover of central Lod, including a synagogue.

On a visit to the city, Netanyahu denounced the events as “anarchy” and warned that Israel would use an “iron fist if necessary”.

On Wednesday night, a curfew was imposed on the city, and under a state of emergency, control passed from the local council to police. Netanyahu said he had been working to overcome legal obstacles to give police even greater powers.

Echoing Netanyahu and the Jewish fascist parties, Israeli Police Commissioner Yaakov Shabtai argued that the explosion of Palestinian unrest had been caused by police being “too soft”.

Over the past few days, there have been tit-for-tat violent attacks on both Jewish and Palestinian citizens, with beatings, stabbings and shootings that have left many dozens injured. But claims of an imminent “civil war” in places such as Lod, as its Jewish mayor characterised the situation this week, fundamentally misrepresent the dynamics at play and the balance of power.

Even if they wanted to, Palestinian communities have no hope of taking on heavily armed security forces and Jewish militias.

Eruption of anger

What the state is doing in Lod and other communities – through the police and proxy settler allies – is teaching a new generation of Palestinian citizens a lesson in Jewish-state civics: you will pay a deeply painful price for demanding the rights we pretend to the world you already have.

Certainly, Netanyahu seems to have no real commitment to calming the situation, especially as violence between Jewish and Palestinian citizens takes his corruption trial off the front pages. It also feeds a right-wing narrative that is likely to serve him well if, as expected, Israel heads back to yet another general election in a few months’ time.

But other Israeli officials are stoking the flames, too – including President Reuven Rivlin, who unlike Netanyahu, is supposed to be a unifying figure. He denounced Palestinian citizens as a “bloodthirsty Arab mob” and, in an inversion of the rapidly emerging reality, accused them of conducting what he called a “pogrom” in Lod.

For decades, Israel has tried to cultivate the improbable notion for western audiences that its Palestinian citizens – restyled as “Israeli Arabs” – live happily as equals with Jews in “the only democracy in the Middle East”.

Israel has carefully obscured the minority’s history as Palestinians – clinging on to their lands during Israel’s mass ethnic cleansing operations in 1948 – as it has the systematic discrimination they face in a self-declared Jewish state.

As a consequence, the eruption of anger in Palestinian communities inside Israel is always difficult for Israel to manage narratively.

Treated as an ‘enemy’

Since the grip of a military government was loosened in the late 1960s, the Palestinian minority has staged constant protests. But massive, nationwide street demonstrations have erupted only once every generation – and they are always brutally crushed by Israeli forces.

Badly bloodied, Palestinian citizens have been forced to retreat into unhappy, and temporary, quiescence.

That was what happened in the 1970s during Land Day, when Palestinian communities launched their first one-day general strike to protest the state’s mass theft of their historic farming lands so that Jewish-only communities could be established on them. Israeli officials, including then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, were so incensed by the strike that they sent in tanks. Six Palestinian citizens were killed as a result.

The protests returned in October 2000, at the start of the Second Intifada, when the Palestinian minority took to the streets in solidarity with Palestinians under occupation who were being killed in large numbers in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.

Within days, 13 demonstrators had been gunned down, and hundreds more were seriously wounded as Israeli police used live ammunition and rubber-coated metal bullets as their first-line of crowd control.

A subsequent judicial inquiry, the Or Commission, concluded that police viewed the minority as an “enemy”.

Double discrimination

The new generation protesting this week knows of the October 2000 protests chiefly as stories told by their parents. They are finding out first-hand how much has changed in Israel’s racist policing in the intervening two decades.

In fact, questions about the role of Israeli police and their relationship to Palestinian communities inside Israel have been at the forefront of political debates raging among Palestinian citizens over the past two years.

The Palestinian minority has long suffered a doubly discriminatory approach from Israeli security forces. On one hand, police have shirked a normal civilian policing role in Palestinian communities in Israel. That has allowed criminal elements to flourish in the vacuum created by this neglect. Murders and shootings are at an all-time high.

On the other hand, police are quick to crack down when Palestinian citizens engage in political dissent. The current arrests and police violence are part of a familiar pattern.

Many of the factors that brought Palestinians out into the streets in 2000 have not gone away. Violent, politically repressive policing has continued. House demolitions and racist planning policies still mean that Palestinian communities are chronically overcrowded and suffocated. Incitement from Jewish politicians is still the norm. And Palestinian leaders in Israel continue to be excluded from the government and Israel’s main institutions.

Permanent underclass

But in recent years, matters have deteriorated even further. The passage of the 2018 nation-state law means the minority’s legal position is formally worse. The law has explicitly relegated Palestinian citizens to a permanent underclass – not really citizens at all, but unwelcome guest workers in a Jewish state.

Further, the ascendant Jewish far-right has a mounting grievance against the Palestinian minority for standing in the way of its securing a solid electoral majority in a run of elections over the past two years. The success of Palestinian parties is seen as effectively blocking Netanyahu from heading a stable coalition of the ultra-nationalist right.

And, with a two-state solution firmly off the table for all of Israel’s Jewish parties, Palestinian citizens are staring at a political and diplomatic cul-de-sac. They have no hope of emerging from under the shadow of an Israeli security paradigm that readily views them as a fifth column, or a Palestinian Trojan horse inside a Jewish state.

It is that very paradigm that is currently being used against them – and justifying police and settler violence in places such as Lod, Jaffa and Acre.

• First published in Middle East Eye

The post Palestinians in Israel now face far-right mob violence backed by the state first appeared on Dissident Voice.