The Israeli Supreme Court has decided that the Palestinian region of Masafer Yatta, located in the southern hills of Hebron, is to be entirely appropriated by the Israeli military and that a population of over 1,000 Palestinians is to be expelled.
The Israeli Court decision, on May 4, was hardly shocking. Israel’s military occupation does not only consist of soldiers with guns, but elaborate political, military, economic and legal structures, dedicated to the expansion of the illegal Jewish settlements and the slow – and sometimes not-so-slow – expulsion of the Palestinians.
When Palestinians state that the Nakba, or Catastrophe – which led to the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948 and the establishment of the state of Israel on its ruins – is a continuous, unfinished project, they mean exactly that. The ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from East Jerusalem and the endless torment of Palestinian Bedouins in the Naqab and, now in Masafer Yatta, are all testaments to this reality.
However, Masafer Yatta is particularly unique. In the case of occupied East Jerusalem, for example, Israel has made a fallacious, ahistorical claim that Jerusalem is the eternal and undivided capital of the Jewish people. It combined its unsubstantiated narrative with military action on the ground, followed by a systematic process that aimed at increasing the Jewish population and ejecting the original native inhabitants of the city. Such notions as ‘Greater Jerusalem’ and legal and political structures, like that of the Jerusalem Master Plan 2000, have all contribute towards turning the once absolute Palestinian majority in Jerusalem into a shrinking minority.
With the Naqab, Israel’s similar objectives were put into motion as early as 1948, and again in 1951. This process of ethnically cleansing the natives remains in effect to this day.
Though Masafer Yatta is part of the same colonial designs, its uniqueness stems from the fact that it is situated in Area C of the occupied West Bank.
In July 2020, Israel purportedly decided to postpone its plans to annex nearly 40% of the West Bank, perhaps fearing a Palestinian rebellion and unwanted international condemnation. However, the plan continued in practice.
Moreover, a wholesome annexation of West Bank regions would mean that Israel would become responsible for the welfare of entire Palestinian communities. As a settler-colonial state, Israel wants the land, but not the people. In Tel Aviv’s calculation, annexation without the expulsion of the population could lead to a demographic nightmare; thus, Israel’s need to reinvent its annexation plan.
Though Israel has supposedly delayed the de jure annexation, it continued with a de facto form of annexation, one that has generated little international media attention.
The Israeli Court’s decision regarding Masafer Yatta, which is already being carried out with the expulsion of the Najjar family on May 11, is an important step towards the annexation of Area C. If Israel can evict the residents of twelve villages, with a population of over 1,000 Palestinians, unhindered, more such expulsions are anticipated, not only south of Hebron, but throughout the occupied Palestinian territories.
The Palestinian villagers of Masafer Yatta and their legal representation know very well that no real ‘justice’ can be obtained from the Israeli court system. They continue to fight the legal war, anyway, in the hope that a combination of factors, including solidarity in Palestine and pressure from the outside, can ultimately succeed in compelling Israel to delay its planned destruction and Judaization of the whole region.
However, it seems that Palestinian efforts, which have been underway since 1997, are failing. The Israeli Supreme Court decision is predicated on the erroneous and utterly bizarre notion that the Palestinians of that area could not demonstrate that they belonged there prior to 1980, when the Israeli government decided to turn the area into ‘Firing Zone 918’.
Sadly, the Palestinian defense was partly based on documents from the Jordanian era and official United Nations records that reported on Israeli attacks on several Masafer Yatta villages in 1966. The Jordanian government, which administered the West Bank until 1967, compensated some of the residents for the loss of their ‘stone houses’ – not tents – animals and other properties that were destroyed by the Israeli military. Palestinians tried to use this evidence to show that they have existed, not as nomadic people but as rooted communities. This was unconvincing to the Israeli court, which favored the military’s argument over the rights of the native population.
Israeli firing zones occupy nearly 18 percent of the total size of the West Bank. It is one of several ploys used by the Israeli government to lay a legal claim on Palestinian land and to, eventually, years later, claim legal ownership as well. Many of these firing zones exist in Area C, and are being used as one of the Israeli methods aimed at officially appropriating Palestinian land with the support of the Israeli courts.
Now that the Israeli military has managed to acquire Masafer Yatta – a region spanning 32 to 56 sq km – based on completely flimsy excuses, it will become much easier in ensuring the ethnic cleansing of many similar communities in various parts of occupied Palestine.
While discussions and media coverage of Israel’s annexation scheme in the West Bank and the Jordan Valley have largely subsided, Israel is now preparing for a gradual annexation scheme. Instead of annexing 40% of the West Bank all at once, Israel is now annexing smaller tracts of land and regions, like Masafer Yatta, separately. Tel Aviv will eventually connect all these annexed areas through Jewish-only bypass roads to larger Jewish settlement infrastructures in the West Bank.
Not only does this alternative strategy allow Israel to avoid international criticism, it will also permit Israel to eventually annex Palestinian land while incrementally expelling Palestinians, helping Tel Aviv prevent demographic imbalances before they occur.
What is happening in Masafer Yatta is not only the largest ethnic cleansing scheme to be carried out by Israel since 1967, but the move should be considered a first step in a much larger scheme of illegal land appropriation, ethnic cleansing and official mass annexation.
Israel must not succeed in Masafer Yatta, because if it does, its original, mass annexation scheme will become a reality in no time.
Since I arrived with my family in the UK last summer, I have been repeatedly asked: “Why choose Bristol as your new home?”
Well, it certainly wasn’t for the weather. Now more than ever I miss Nazareth’s warmth and sunshine.
It wasn’t for the food either.
My family do have a minor connection to Bristol. My great-grandparents on my mother’s side (one from Cornwall, the other from South Wales) apparently met in Bristol – a coincidental stopping point on their separate journeys to London. They married and started a family whose line led to me.
But that distant link wasn’t the reason for coming to Bristol either.
In fact, it was only in Nazareth that Bristol began occupying a more prominent place in my family’s life.
When I was not doing journalism, I spent many years leading political tours of the Galilee, while my wife, Sally, hosted and fed many of the participants in her cultural café in Nazareth, called Liwan.
It was soon clear that a disproportionate number of our guests hailed from Bristol and the south-west. Some of you here tonight may have been among them.
But my world – like everyone else’s – started to shrink as the pandemic took hold in early 2020. As we lost visitors and the chance to directly engage with them about Palestine, Bristol began to reach out to me.
It did so just as Sally and I were beginning discussions about whether it was time to leave Nazareth – 20 years after I had arrived – and head to the UK.
Even from thousands of miles away, a momentous event – the sound of Edward Colston’s statue being toppled – reverberated loudly with me.
Ordinary people had decided they were no longer willing to be forced to venerate a slave trader, one of the most conspicious criminals of Britain’s colonial past. Even if briefly, the people of Bristol took back control of their city’s public space for themselves, and for humanity.
In doing so, they firmly thrust Britain’s sordid past – the unexamined background to most of our lives – into the light of day. It is because of their defiance that buildings and institutions that for centuries bore Colston’s name as a badge of honour are finally being forced to confront that past and make amends.
Bath, of course, was built no less on the profits of the slave trade. When visitors come to Bath simply to admire its grand Georgian architecture, its Royal Crescent, we assent – if only through ignorance – to the crimes that paid for all that splendour.
Weeks after the Colston statue was toppled, Bristol made headlines again. Crowds protested efforts to transfer yet more powers to the police to curb our already savagely diminished right to protest – the most fundamental of all democratic rights. Bristol made more noise against that bill than possibly anywhere else in the UK.
I ended up writing about both events from Nazareth.
My latest: Politicians and the police must not be left to define which protests are justified, which safe, which responsible. Because otherwise, they will define any protest against their corruption and incompetence as a threat to public health https://t.co/1fzpsOyGY8
Since my arrival, old and new friends alike have started to educate me about Bristol. Early on I attended a slavery tour in the city centre – one that connected those historic crimes with the current troubles faced by asylum seekers in Bristol, even as Bristol lays claim to the title of “city of sanctuary”.
For once I was being guided rather than the guide, the pupil rather than the teacher – so long my role on those tours in and around Nazareth. And I could not but help notice, as we wandered through Bristol’s streets, echoes of my own tours.
Over the years I have taken many hundreds of groups around the ruins of Saffuriya, one of the largest of the Palestinian villages destroyed by Israel in its ethnic cleansing campaign of 1948, the Nakba or Catastrophe.
What disturbed me most in Saffuriya was how blind its new inhabitants were to the very recent history of the place they call home.
New Jewish immigrants were moved on to the lands of Saffuriya weeks after the Israeli army destroyed the village and chased out the native Palestinian population at gunpoint. A new community built in its place was given a similar Hebrew name, Tzipori. These events were repeated across historic Palestine. Hundreds of villages were razed, and 80 per cent of the Palestinian population were expelled from what became the new state of Israel.
Even today, evidence of the crimes committed in the name of these newcomers is visible everywhere. The hillsides are littered with the rubble of the hundreds of Palestinian homes that were levelled by the new Israeli army to stop their residents from returning. And there are neglected grave-stones all around – pointers to the community that was disappeared.
And yet almost no one in Jewish Tzipori asks questions about the remnants of Palestinian Saffuriya, about these clues to a troubling past. Brainwashed by reassuring state narratives, they have averted their gaze for fear of what might become visible if they looked any closer.
Tzipori’s residents never ask why there are only Jews like themselves allowed in their community, when half of the population in the surrounding area of the Galilee are Palestinian by heritage.
Instead, the people of Tzipori misleadingly refer to their Palestinian neighbours – forced to live apart from them as second and third-class citizens of a self-declared Jewish state – as “Israeli Arabs”. The purpose is to obscure, both to themselves and the outside world, the connection of these so-called Arabs to the Palestinian people.
To acknowledge the crimes Tzipori has inflicted on Saffuriya would also be to acknowledge a bigger story: of the crimes inflicted by Israel on the Palestinian people as a whole.
In young Israel, Jews still venerate the criminals of their recent past because they and their loved ones are so intimately and freshly implicated in the crimes.
In Britain, with its much longer colonial past, the same result is often achieved not, as in Israel, through open cheerleading and glorification – though there is some of that too – but chiefly through a complicit silence. Colston surveyed his city from up on his plinth. He stood above us, superior, paternal, authoritative. His crimes did not need denying because they had been effectively shrouded in silence.
Until Colston was toppled, slavery for most Britons was entirely absent from the narrative of Britain’s past – it was something to do with racist plantation owners in the United States’ Deep South more than a century ago. It was an issue we thought about only when Hollywood raised it.
After the Colston statue came down, he became an exhibit – flat on his back – in Bristol’s harbourside museum, the M Shed. His black robes had been smeared with red paint, and scuffed and grazed from being dragged through the streets. He became a relic of the past, and one denied his grandeur. We were able to observe him variously with curiousity, contempt or amusement.
Those are far better responses than reverence or silence. But they are not enough. Because Colston isn’t just a relic. He is a living, breathing reminder that we are still complicit in colonial crimes, even if now they are invariably better disguised.
Nowadays, we usually interfere in the name of fiscal responsibility or humanitarianism, rather than the white man’s burden.
We return to the countries we formerly colonised and asset-stripped, and drive them back into permanent debt slavery through western-controlled monetary agencies like the IMF.
Or in the case of those that refuse to submit, we more often than not invade or subvert them – countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Iran – tearing apart the colonial fabric we imposed on them, wrecking their societies in ways that invariably lead to mass death and the dispersion of the population.
We have supplied the bombs and planes to Saudi Arabia that are killing untold numbers of civilians in Yemen. We funded and trained the Islamic extremists who terrorise and behead civilians in Syria. The list is too long for me to recount here.
Right now, we see the consequences of the west’s neo-colonialism – and a predictable countervailing reaction, in the resurgence of a Russian nationalism that President Putin has harnessed to his own ends – in NATO’s relentless, decades-long expansion towards Russia’s borders.
And of course, we are still deeply invested in the settler colonial project of Israel, and the crimes it systematically inflicts on the Palestinian people.
Through the 1917 Balfour Declaration, Britain gave licence for the creation of a militarised ethnic, Jewish state in the Middle East. Later, we helped supply it with atomic material in the full knowledge that Israel would build nuclear bombs. We gave Israel diplomatic cover so that it could evade its obligations under the international treaty to stop nuclear proliferation and become the only nuclear power in the region. We have had Israel’s back through more than five decades of occupation and illegal settlement building.
And significantly, we have endlessly indulged Zionism as it has evolved from its sordid origins nearly two centuries ago, as an antisemitic movement among fundamentalist Christians. Those Christian Zonists – who at the time served as the power brokers in European governments like Britain’s – viewed Jews as mere instruments in a divine plan.
According to this plan, Jews were to be denied the chance to properly integrate into the countries to which they assumed they belonged.
Instead the Christian Zionists wanted to herd Jews into an imagined ancient, Biblical land of Israel, to speed up the arrival of the end times, when mankind would be judged and only good Christians would rise up to be with God.
My latest: Evangelical Christians, driven by apocalyptic readings of the Bible, are interfering ever more explicitly in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories – and in ways that directly aid the policies of Israel’s far-right government https://t.co/jvdHmeDA6p
Until Hitler took this western antisemitism to another level, few Jews subscribed to the idea that they were doomed forever to be a people apart, that their fate was inextricably tied to a small piece of territory in a far-off region they had never visited, and that their political allies should be millenarian racists.
But after the Holocaust, things changed. Christian Zionists looked like much kinder antisemites than the exterminationist Nazis. Christian Zionism won by default and was reborn as Jewish Zionism, claiming to be a national liberation movement rather than the dregs of a white European nationalism Hitler had intensified.
Today, we are presented with polls showing that most British Jews subscribe to the ugly ideas of Zionism – ideas their great-great-grandparents abhorred. Jews who dissent, who believe that we are all the same, that we all share a common fate as humans not as tribes, are ignored or dismissed as self-haters. In an inversion of reality these humanist Jews, rather than Jewish Zionists, are seen as the pawns of the antisemites.
Zionism as a political movement is so pampered, so embedded within European and American political establishments that those Jews who rally behind this ethnic nationalism no longer consider their beliefs to be abnormal or abhorrent – as their views would have been judged by most Jews only a few generations ago.
No, today Jewish Zionists think of their views as so self-evident, so vitally important to Jewish self-preservation that anyone who opposes them must be either a self-hating Jew or an antisemite.
And because non-Jews so little understand their own culpability in fomenting this perverse ideology of Jewish Zionism, we join in the ritual defaming of those brave Jews who point out how far we have stepped through the looking glass.
As a result, we unthinkingly give our backing to the Zionists as they weaponise antisemitism against those – Jews and non-Jews alike – who stand in solidarity with the native Palestinian people so long oppressed by western colonialism.
Thoughtlessly, too many of us have drifted once again into a sympathy for the oppressor – this time, Zonism’s barely veiled anti-Palestinian racism.
Nonetheless, our attitudes towards modern Israel, given British history, can be complex. On the one hand, there are good reasons to avert our gaze. Israel’s crimes today are an echo and reminder of our own crimes yesterday. Western governments subsidise Israel’s crimes through trade agreements, they provide the weapons for Israel to commit those crimes, and they profit from the new arms and cyber-weapons Israel has developed by testing them out on Palestinians. Like the now-defunct apartheid South Africa, Israel is a central ally in the west’s neo-colonialism.
Jeff Halper talks to me about his new book: Israel's role in the global arms industry is making us all Palestinians https://t.co/vAJLep5STc
So, yes, Israel is tied to us by an umbilical cord. We are its parent. But at the same time it is also not exactly like us either – more a bastard progeny. And that difference, that distance can help us gain a little perspective on ourselves. It can make Israel a teaching aid. An eye-opener. A place that can bring clarity, elucidate not only what Israel is doing but what countries like Britain have done and are still doing to this day.
Trade in bodies
The difference between Britain and Israel is to be found in the distinction between a colonial and a settler-colonial state.
Britain is a classic example of the former. It sent the entitled sons of its elite private schools, men like Colston, to parts of the globe rich in resources in order to steal those resources and bring the wealth back to the motherland to further enrich the establishment. That was the purpose of the tea and sugar plantations.
But it was not just a trade in inanimate objects. Britain also traded in bodies – mostly black bodies. Labour and muscle were a resource as vital to the British empire as silk and saffron.
The trafficking in goods and people lasted more than four centuries until liberation movements among the native populations began to throw off – at least partially – the yoke of British and European colonialism. The story since the Second World War has been one of Europe and the United States’ efforts to reinvent colonialism, conducting their rape and pillage at a distance, through the hands of others.
This is the dissembling, modern brand of colonialism: a “humanitarian” neocolonialism we should by now be familiar with. Global corporations, monetary
agencies like the IMF and the military alliance of NATO have each played a key role in the reinvention of colonialism – as has Israel.
Israel inherited Britain’s colonial tradition, and permanently adopted many of its emergency orders for use against the Palestinians. Like traditional colonialism, settler colonialism is determined to appropriate the resources of the natives. But it does so in an even more conspicuous, uncompromising way. It does not just exploit the natives. It seeks to replace or eliminate them. That way, they can never be in a position to liberate themselves and their homeland.
There is nothing new about this approach. It was adopted by European colonists across much of the globe: in North America, Africa, Australia and New Zealand, as well as belatedly in the Middle East.
There are advantages and disadvantages to the settler colonial strategy, as Israel illustrates only too clearly. In their struggle to replace the natives, Israel’s settlers had to craft a narrative – a rationalisation – that they were the victims rather than the victimisers. They were, of course, fleeing persecution in Europe, but only to become persecutors themselves outside Europe. They were supposedly in a battle for survival against those they came to replace, the Palestinians. The natives were cast as irredeemably, and irrationally, hostile. God was invoked, more or less explicitly.
In the Zionist story, the ethnic cleansing of the native Palestinians – the Nakba – becomes a War of Independence, celebrated to this day. The Zionist colonisers thereby transformed themselves into another national liberation movement, like the ones in Africa that were fighting after the Second World War for independence. Israel claimed to be fighting oppressive British rule, as Africans were, rather than inheriting the colonisers’ mantle.
But there is a disadvantage for settler colonial projects too, especially in an era of better communications. In a time of more democratic media, as we are currently enjoying – even if briefly – the colonisers’ elimination strategies are much harder to veil or airbrush. The ugliness is on show. The reality of the oppression is more visceral, more obviously offensive.
The settlers’ elimination strategies are limited in number, and difficult to conceal whichever is adopted. In the United States, elimination took the form of genocide – the simplest and neatest of settler-colonialism’s solutions.
In the post-war era of human rights, however, Israel was denied that route. It adopted settler colonialism’s fall-back position: mass expulsion, or ethnic cleansing. Some 750,000 Palestinians were driven from their homes and outside the new borders of Israel in 1948.
But genocide and ethnic cleansing are invariably projects that cannot be completed. Some 90 per cent of Native Americans died from the violence and diseases brought by European incomers, but a small proportion survived. In South Africa, the white immigrants lacked the numbers and capacity either to eradicate the native population or to exploit such a vast territory.
Israel managed to expel only 80 per cent of the Palestinians living inside its new borders before the international community called time. And then Israel sabotaged its initial success in 1948 by seizing yet more Palestinian territory – and more Palestinians – in 1967.
When settler populations cannot eradicate the native population completely, they must impose harsh, visible segregation policies against those that remain.
Resources and rights are differentiated on the basis of race or ethnicity. Such regimes institute apartheid – or as Israel calls its version “hafrada” – to maintain the privileges of their own, superior or chosen population.
Many decades on, human rights groups have finally named Israel’s apartheid. Amnesty International got round to it only this month – 74 years after the Nakba and 55 years after the occupation began.
It has taken so long because even our understanding of human rights continues to be shaped by a European colonial mentality. Human rights groups have documented Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians – the “what” of their oppression – but refused to understand the “why” of that oppression. These watchdogs did not truly listen to Palestinians. They listened to, they excused, Israel even as they were criticising it. They indulged its endless security rationales for its crimes against Palestinians.
My latest: Amnesty and the wider human rights community are holding back from clarifying the full implications of Israel’s apartheid character – because they still fear being accused of antisemitism https://t.co/XmMpeqfRp0
The reluctance to name Israeli apartheid derives in large part from a reluctance to face our part in its creation. To identify Israel’s apartheid is to recognise both our role in sustaining it, and Israel’s crucial place in the west’s reinvented neocolonialism.
The difficulty of facing up to what Israel is and what it represents is, of course, particularly stark for many Jews – not only in Israel but in countries like Britain. Through no choice of their own, Jews are more deeply implicated in Israel’s crimes because those crimes are carried out in the name of all Jews. As a result, for Zionist Jews, protecting the settler colonial project of Israel is identical to protecting their own sense of virtue.
In the zero-sum imaginings of the Zionist movement, the stakes are too high to doubt or to equivocate. As Zionists, their duty is to support, dissemble and propagandise on Israel’s behalf at all costs.
Nowadays Zionism has become such a normalised part of our western culture that those who call themselves Zionists are appalled at the idea anyone could dare to point out that their ideology is rooted in an ugly ethnic nationalism and in apartheid. Those who make them feel uncomfortable by highlighting the reality of Israel’s oppression of Palestinians – and their blindness to it – are accused of being “offensive”.
That supposed offensiveness is now conflated with antisemitism, as the treatment of Ken Loach, the respected film-maker of this parish, attests. Disgust at Israel’s racism towards Palestinians is malevolently confused with racism towards Jews. The truth is inverted.
My latest: The smearing of Ken Loach and Jeremy Corbyn as antisemites is the final purge by the west's political and media establishments of a left that favours class solidarity over a toxic and divisive identity politics https://t.co/jlafNhsF2O
This confusion has also become the basis for a new definition of antisemitism – one aggressively advanced by Israel and its apologists – designed to mislead casual onlookers. The more we, as anti-racists and opponents of colonialism, try to focus attention and opprobrium on Israel’s crimes, the more we are accused of covertly attacking Jews.
Into the fire
Arriving in the UK from Nazareth at this very moment is like stepping out of the frying pan and into the fire.
Here the battle over Zionism – defining it, understanding it, confronting it, refusing to be silenced by it – is in full flood. The Labour party, under Jeremy Corbyn, was politically eviscerated by a redefined antisemitism. Now the party’s ranks are being purged by his successor, Sir Keir Starmer, on the same phony grounds.
Professors are being threatened and losing their jobs, as happened to David Miller at Bristol university, with the goal of intensifying pressure on the academy to keep silent about Israel and its lobbyists. Exhibitions are taken down, speakers cancelled.
My latest: A British university dismissed David Miller after he exposed networks of influence promoting Islamophobia in the UK that included the very pro-Israel lobby groups that had worked so strenuously to get him fired https://t.co/h2v5QB1gHq
And all the while, the current western obsession with redefining antisemitism – the latest cover story for apartheid Israel – moves us ever further from sensitivity to real racism, whether it be genuine prejudice against Jews or rampant Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian racism.
The fight for justice for Palestinians resonates with so many of us precisely because it is not simply a struggle to help Palestinians. It is a fight to end colonialism in all its forms, to end our inhumanity towards those we live alongside, to remember that we are all equally human and all equally entitled to respect and dignity.
The story of Palestine is a loud echo from our past. Maybe the loudest. If we cannot hear it, then we cannot learn – and we cannot take the first steps on the path towards real change.
A succession of events in recent weeks all point to the inescapable fact that nearly 75 years of Israel’s painstaking efforts aimed at hiding the truth about its origins and its current racially-driven apartheid regime are failing miserably. The world is finally waking up, and Israel is losing ground quicker than its ability to gain new supporters, or to whitewash its past or ongoing crimes.
First, there was Tantura, a peaceful Palestinian village whose inhabitants were mostly exterminated by Israel’s Alexandroni Brigade on May 23, 1948. Like many other massacres committed against unarmed Palestinians throughout the years, the massacre of Tantura was mostly remembered by the village’s survivors, by ordinary Palestinians and by Palestinian historians. The mere attempt in 1998 by an Israeli graduate student, Theodore Katz, to shed light on that bloody event ignited a legal, media and academic war, forcing him to retract his findings.
In a recent social media post, Israeli Professor Ilan Pappé revealed why, in 2007, he had to resign his position at Haifa University. “One of my ‘crimes’,” Pappé wrote, “was insisting that there was a massacre in the village of Tantura in 1948 as was exposed by MA student, Teddy Katz.”
Now, some Alexandroni Brigade veterans have finally decided to confess to the crimes in Tantura.
“They silenced it. It mustn’t be told, it could cause a whole scandal. I don’t want to talk about it, but it happened.” These were the words of Moshe Diamant, a former member of the Alexandroni Brigade who, with other veterans, revealed in the documentary ‘Tantura’ by Alon Schwarz the gory details and the horrific crimes that transpired in the Palestinian village.
An officer “killed one Arab after another” with his pistol, Micha Vitkon, a former soldier, said.
“They put them into a barrel and shot them in the barrel. I remember the blood in the barrel,” another explained.
“I was a murderer. I didn’t take prisoners,” Amitzur Cohen admitted.
Hundreds of Palestinians were killed in Tantura in cold blood. They were buried in mass graves, the largest of which is believed to be under a parking lot at the Dor beach, flocked by Israeli families daily.
The Tantura massacre and its aftermath is arguably the most glaring representation of Israeli criminality. However, this is not the story of Tantura alone. The latter is a representation of something much bigger, of mass-scale ethnic cleansing, forceful evictions and mass killing. Thankfully, much truth is being unearthed.
In 1951, the Israeli army launched a full-scale military operation that ethnically cleansed Palestinian Bedouins from the Naqab. The tragic scenes of entire communities being uprooted from their ancestral homes were justified by Israel with the usual cliché that the terrible deed was carried out for “security reasons”.
In 1953, Israel passed the so-called Land Acquisition Law, which allowed the Israeli state to seize the land of the Palestinians who were forced out of their homes. By then, Israel had unlawfully expropriated 247,000 dunums in the Naqab, with 66,000 remaining ‘unutilized’. The remaining land is currently the epicenter of an ongoing saga involving Palestinian Bedouin communities in Israel and the Isreali government, which falsely claims that the land is “essential” for Israel’s “development needs”.
Recently revealed documents, uncovered by extensive research conducted by Professor Gadi Algazi, point towards Israel’s version of the truth in Naqab being a complete fabrication. According to numerous uncovered documents, Moshe Dayan, then the head of the Israeli army Southern Command, was central to an Israeli government and military ploy to evict the Bedouin population and to “revoke their rights as landowners”, per the conveniently created Israeli law, which allowed the government to ‘lease’ the land as if its own.
“There was an organized transfer of Bedouin citizens from the north-western Negev eastward to barren areas, with the goal of taking over their lands. They carried out this operation using a mix of threats, violence, bribery and fraud,” Algazi told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
The entire scheme was organized in such a way as to facilitate the claim that the Palestinians had moved ‘voluntarily’, despite their legendary resistance and “the stubbornness with which they tried to hold onto their land, even at the cost of hunger and thirst, not to mention the army’s threats and violence”.
Furthermore, a newly-released volume by French historian, Vincent Lemire, has entirely dismissed Israel’s official version of how the Moroccan Quarters of Jerusalem were demolished in June 1967. Though Palestinian and Arab historians have long argued that the destruction of the neighborhood – 135 homes, two mosques and more – was done per the order of the Israeli government through the then-Jewish mayor of Jerusalem, Teddy Kollek, Israel has long denied that version. According to the official Israeli account, the demolition of the neighborhood was carried out by “15 private Jewish contractors (who) destroyed the neighborhood to make space for the Western Wall plaza”.
In an interview with Agence France-Presse (AFP), Lemire stated that his book offers “definitive, written proof on the pre-meditation, planning and coordination of this operation,” and that includes official meetings between Kollek, the commander of the Israeli army, and other top government officials.
The story continues; more heartbreaking revelations and a well-integrated version of the truth are exposing long-hidden or denied facts. The days of Israel getting away with these crimes seem to be behind us. An example is Amnesty International’s recent report, “Israel’s Apartheid against Palestinians: A Look into Decades of Oppression and Domination”.
Amnesty’s 280 pages of damning evidence of Israel’s racism and apartheid did not shy away from connecting Israel’s violent present with its equally bloody past. It did not borrow from Israel’s deceptive language and self-serving division of Palestinians into disconnected communities, each with a different claim and a different status. For Amnesty, as was the case with Human Rights Watch’s report in April 2021, Israeli injustices against the Palestinians must be recognized and duly condemned in their entirety.
“Since its establishment in 1948, Israel has pursued an explicit policy of establishing and maintaining a Jewish demographic hegemony .. while minimizing the number of Palestinians and restricting their rights,” the report stated. This could only happen through mass killing, ethnic cleansing and genocide, from Tantura to the Naqab, to the Moroccan Quarters, to Gaza and Sheikh Jarrah.
Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, is leading his country’s anti-Palestinian propaganda, this time engaging in pre-emptive hasbara in anticipation of a Palestinian response to the ongoing evictions in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.
“Would you consider it a terror attack if a rock like this was thrown at your car while driving with your children?” Erdan asked the United Nations Security Council members, while holding the rock in his hands. “Would you, at the very least, condemn these brutal terror attacks carried out against Israeli civilians by Palestinians?”
This Israeli logic is quite typical, where oppressed Palestinians are depicted to be the aggressor, and oppressive Israel – a racist apartheid state by any standard – presents itself as a victim merely engaging in defending its own citizens.
But Erdan’s selective logic is, this time around, compelled by something else. His UN charade is merely aimed at creating a distraction from the ongoing horrific events transpiring in Sheikh Jarrah and throughout occupied East Jerusalem. On Wednesday, January 19, the Palestinain Salhiya family’s home was demolished by Israel, rendering 15 people, mostly children, homeless.
A few days earlier, a heart-wrenching event took place on top of that very site, when members of the Salhiya family threatened to set themselves ablaze as they agonized over the imminent loss of their family home.
“We have nothing left for us in Jerusalem. This is ethnic cleansing. Today me, tomorrow my neighbors. We’d rather die on our land with dignity than surrender to them,” Mahmoud Salhiya, the owner of the house said, before he was dissuaded by neighbors not to set himself on fire.
These tragic events are being watched closely, first by Palestinians and also by people around the world. If the momentum of Israeli destruction continues, chances are we could witness another popular uprising. Erdan’s spectacle at the UN is a desperate act of propaganda to sway members of the international community from criticizing Israel.
But Israel is failing at making a case for itself, similar to its failure to defend its horrific violence against Palestinians throughout occupied Palestine in May 2021. Even Israel’s traditional allies are speaking out against the latest round of ethnic cleansing in Sheikh Jarrah.
The US envoy to the United Nations expressed ‘concern’ over the forced expulsion in the Palestinian neighborhood. “To make progress, both Israel and the Palestinian Authority must refrain from unilateral steps that exacerbate tensions and undercut efforts to advance a negotiated two-state solution,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield said, using the usually guarded language. However, Thomas-Greenfield went on to warn against the “annexations of territory, settlement activity, demolitions and evictions – like what we saw in Sheikh Jarrah.”
Also on January 19, US lawmaker, Rep. Mark Pocan strongly criticized the Israeli decision to forcefully evict the Salhiya family in Sheikh Jarrah.
“Last night, in the cover of darkness & freezing cold, the homes of the Salhiyeh family in Sheikh Jarrah, Jerusalem, were destroyed by Israeli forces leaving 15 people homeless. This is unacceptable and must end,” Pocan tweeted, adding the popular hashtag #Savesheikhjarrah.
For his part, the UN Middle East special envoy, Tor Wennsland, strongly condemned the expulsion of the Palestinian family by Israeli occupation authorities.
“I call on Israeli authorities to end the displacement and eviction of Palestinians, in line with its obligations under international law, and to approve additional plans that would enable Palestinian communities to build legally and address their development needs,” the UN website reported Wennesland as saying.
Back to Erdan’s display, where he showcased Palestinian ‘terrorism’ by presenting the supposedly damning evidence of a rock.
It must be said that criticizing or defending Palestinian resistance, however symbolic, allows Israel to engage in a misleading and frivolous conversation that creates a moral equivalence between the occupier and the occupied, the colonialist and the colonized.
Whether Palestinians use a stone, a gun or a clenched fist to resist and defend themselves, their resistance is morally and legally justifiable. Israel, on the other hand, like all other military occupiers and colonialists, has neither a moral nor a legal argument to justify its oppression of Palestinians, the destruction of their homes – like that of the Salhiya family – and the killing of their children.
Judging by the growing solidarity with Palestinians everywhere, it is clear that Erdan’s pathetic display is just another exercise in political futility.
Nothing that Israel can say or do will alter the glaring reality, that a new generation of Palestinians is, once again, unifying the Palestinian discourse, namely around Palestinian resistance to the Israeli occupation. Whether Israeli oppression is happening in Sheikh Jarrah, in Gaza, or the Naqab desert, Palestinians now collectively respond as one unified political body. Thanks to the May 2021 rebellion, gone are the days in which Palestinians are expelled from their homes in the middle of the night as if a routine event, with no consequence.
Moreover, the political language that is being used to describe events in Palestine in the international arena is itself changing. Israel’s ‘right to defend itself’ is no longer the knee-jerk reaction that is often used to describe Israeli violence and Palestinian resistance.
And finally, it seems that Israel is no longer the party shaping events in Palestine and controlling the discourse around these events. Palestinians, and a growing international movement of supporters, are proactively shaping global perceptions of the realities on the ground. Neither Erdan nor his bosses in Tel Aviv can reverse this Palestinian-led momentum. His UN display merely reflects the degree of desperation and intellectual bankruptcy of Israel and its representatives.
Here we go, what will most likely be published in the Newport News Times, two-times a week dwindling newspaper. I will then follow up, for sure, at the end of this fit-for-small-town-news column.
November is National Native American Indian Heritage Month
By Paul K. Haeder
Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.
– Chief Seattle
It’s sad to gauge the ignorance Central Coast residents possess regarding Native American history and present day activities: education, culture, arts, language and political engagement.
The month of November is mostly the only time K12 students learn about Native Americans, and even then, it is most always in the past tense and lessons about Indians as helpless “wards of the state.”
Most of my students over four decades have had trouble with the concept that hundreds of books — especially textbooks — can lie. That first week of class, we research students’ family lines – those not native come from myriad of places. We then make up a passport of those countries they or their ancestors came from.
Accordingly, I steal them for a few weeks. Eventually, we see this theft as a process of stealing their own pasts, their histories, and their very identities.
I run into people DAILY in Lincoln County, who most vociferously display ignorance and outright racism when discussing Native Americans.
However, I’ve clashed with this ignorance in other parts of the USA: Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Washington, and Oregon.
I’ve confronted college students’ parents who wanted to give my department heads a piece of their mind about the materials students in my research writing, composition and literature classes were asked to read, view and discuss.
I am embarrassed at the ignorance of who and what Columbus was and represents to many millions of people who are not Anglo Americans. Many college students do not know when the Civil War was fought (or why) or what James Madison or Frederick Douglass did.
Most do not know which Native lands their schools or neighborhoods are built upon. For sure, though, they enter the classroom with this myth of a brave fellow named Christopher Columbus “who discovered America” (sic).
Again, school textbooks have, by omission or otherwise, lied to them.
Today more than five hundred federally-recognized Indigenous nations comprise nearly three million people. Today’s doctors, lawyers, educators, nurses, construction workers and, yes, homeless, sick and substance abusers, are the descendants of the fifteen million Native people who once inhabited this land.
I’ve utilized interviews of, and essays by, historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz to enlighten students (and de facto, their parents/ the public) on a history of the United States told from the perspective of Indigenous peoples.
The original peoples did resist expansionism and genocide. In An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, Dunbar-Ortiz takes readers into a deep dive debunking the official founding myth of the United States.
Part of the book and teachings give students a sense of how policy against Indigenous peoples was colonialist and designed to seize their territories, displacing or eliminating them.
This gives students who might be watching (or attending) COP26 (climate change summit in Glasgow) a sense of a worldwide effort by Indigenous activists to stop the pollution, water theft, elimination of ancestral lands through outright criminality.
Teaching about Native American history, I can challenge students to reflect upon their future, whereupon the youth understand they must act locally, learn deeply their own regions but also think and respond globally.
Global Witness’s, Last Line of Defense, looks into land defenders around the globe who have been murdered for fighting for their right to water, land and liberty. Teaching about Native American present day issues, we will broach these larger issues.
We don’t have to go far back to see how the fight in the US for Native American sovereignty is a constant reckoning with racist roots:
In August 2011, environmental and indigenous groups launched a massive campaign designed to press President Obama not to approve Phase IV of the Keystone XL Pipeline project that would run through and near tribal lands, water resources, and place of spiritual significance.
In 2013, the Havasupai Tribe Files a Lawsuit to Stop the Operation of a Uranium Mine.
On April 1st, 2016, citizens of the Standing Rock Lakota Nation and ally Lakota, Nakota, and Dakota citizens, under the group name “Chante tin’sa kinanzi Po” founded a Spirit Camp along the proposed route of the bakken oil pipeline, Dakota Access. They are dedicated to stopping the Dakota Access pipeline, illuminating the dangers associated with pipeline spills and the necessity to protect the water resources of the Missouri river.
The educators I have met in the Lincoln County School District who work with the youth of Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indians on the history, culture and current struggles of the Central Coast original people are amazing and should be regarded as cultural heroes.
What Local Residents Really Can’t Take
The amount of racism I experienced teaching/subbing just a year in this Coastal County is not so unusual, but still disheartening. This concept of “we beat them, so they have to eat our crow” is how the lowly, the poor speak, and the more educated, well, they have seven syllable words and books 22 people read that say the same things, but in a thousand pages.
Hick, small-town, and backwards? Nah, the great liberal city of Portland now is going after BIPOC.
Yeah, this is a story, November 3, 2021, the blue state, the build back better retrograde land:
An analysis by a Portland city watchdog found that complaints about property maintenance have been highly concentrated in the city’s most diverse and rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods.
The report from the city ombudsman’s office made public Wednesday showed that neighborhoods with some of the fastest-rising home prices, and those with the most racially diverse residents, tend to also face the most financial consequences for property violations like overgrown grass, trash in a yard or a deteriorating building.
But back to the Native American Indian Heritage Month. I have countless fights with co-workers, members of the public, students, and more. Countless. As if I am the first asshole in their lives to put up a resistance to their racism. It is a deep racism. All the way to the core, and while I don’t pull my revolutionary anti-USA, anti-Military, anti-Anything-to-do-with-capitalism rank on them immediately, I do not stand for insipid ignorance that pushes racism as a way to delineate the victors and the losers. Again poor white trash, or rich white trash, complaining about China, about billionaires, about misrepresentative government for, by, because of the rich, the lobbyists, on both sides of the red-blue manure pile. Yet, they do not see themselves now as the losers in this billionaire’s game. Nope. Every social safety net, every infrastructure net, every security net, frayed, cut, burned, and they still believe that the Indians, or the Africans, or whomever, if they are under the thumb of this or that white great savior, so be it. But, again, these whites losing everything, including their Oxi lives, their coronary arterial clogged lives, but they do not see that as “well, we are the losers in this rich man’s/oligarchy system, so shut up and take the comeuppance delivered . . . just like we think the conquered tribes should too.”
Old Teddy — Swing a Big Racist Stick, Roosevelt, oh, that family!
When Theodore Roosevelt took office in 1901, he already had a long legacy of animosity toward American Indians.
Seventeen years earlier, Roosevelt, then a young widower, left New York in favor of the Dakotas, where he built a ranch, rode horses and wrote about life on the frontier. When he returned to the east, he famously asserted that “the most vicious cowboy has more moral principle than the average Indian.”
“I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indians are the dead Indians, but I believe nine out of every 10 are,” Roosevelt said during a January 1886 speech in New York. “And I shouldn’t like to inquire too closely into the case of the tenth.” (source)
And, so, what does this racist’s offspring have to say? You got it, once a racist from their loins, always a millionaire racist with loins to breed more and more racists:
“He was a man of his times,” said Tweed Roosevelt, a great-grandson to Roosevelt and interim director of the Theodore Roosevelt Association. “In his presidency, he wanted the Native Americans to experience the American dream, but to do that by assimilating. The Indian population had been shrinking for a long time, and he believed that if they assimilated, that meant prosperity for everyone.” (source)
And Build Back Better Biden, oh, man, 2021, and his level of enlightenment, whew:
There’s no federal environmental impact statement on this project, which is why we want Joe Biden to stop it. I mean, they stole 5 billion gallons of water, fracked 28 rivers out, and then they have this broken aquifer losing 100,000 gallons a day of water. They have no idea how to fix this stuff, since January. You know, it’s really horrible up here. So, you know, Enbridge has been trying to rush to get this online before the court will rule against them, because, generally, courts have not ruled in favor of pipelines. That’s the status that we have seen, you know, in the federal court ruling on the DAPL, where the federal court ordered them to close down. This is the same company. Enbridge was 28% of DAPL. And when the federal court ordered them to close down the pipe, they said no. When the state of Michigan ordered them to close down a pipe this last May, they said no. So they’re just trying to continue their egregious behavior.
It’s so tragic that, you know, on one hand, the Biden administration is like, “We are going to have Indigenous Peoples’ Day, but we’re still going to smash you in northern Minnesota and smash the rest of the country.” Same thing, you know, Klobuchar and Smith, the two Minnesota senators, shameful their lack of courage, not only for Indigenous people but for the planet, you know?
When I left there to go to the second gathering of another couple thousand people closing down the line at the headwaters of the Mississippi, shortly after that is when they came in with the helicopter and kicked up this sandstorm so everybody could get all beat up by sand. And I just want to put out: That’s a federal agency; that’s not a state agency that came in. Most of the cops have been just financed by Enbridge, but that helicopter was financed by Biden. So, we have some really — we’re really concerned that Department of Homeland Security would come in and basically assault Indigenous people in our own homeland.
— Winona LaDuke
And this is what a strong advocate for Native American truth gets in the USA: You will have to read between the crap lines of Mother Jones, if you want the entire story — Churchill is 73 now, “I Never Claimed I Was F***ing Sitting Bull“:
Standing before the crowd, the 69-year-old Churchill cut the image of the bomb-throwing radical—“a traitor,” as O’Reilly put it—that he’d been cultivating his entire life: 6-foot-5 in cowboy boots, with a long gray-black ponytail cinched with a black band and his waist lassoed with a beaded belt. He grit his teeth while talking, like he was chewing tobacco, and spat out his words with disgust. “American jockstrap sniffers,” he called his critics, in particular the academics who’d picked apart his scholarship and helped get him fired. He compared them to SS officers, to apparatchiks helping the trains of a supposedly corrupt University of Colorado system run on time. “That’s what Eichmann did,” he said. The crowd gasped with delight.
Churchill’s penchant for this comparison, ad-Nazium, runs deep. Each of his 18 books is a brick in a monumental project dedicated to proving that Native Americans were subjected to a genocide comparable to the Holocaust. The day after September 11, he published an essay describing the stockbrokers and technocrats who died in the Twin Towers as “little Eichmanns.” Right-wing media was incensed:The O’ReillyFactor aired 41 segments on him. The Weekly Standard tagged him “the worst professor in America.”
Back on the highway, Churchill stomped on the pedal and gunned it to 80 mph. He lit his last Pall Mall. “I’m only human,” he said, as the city he no longer recognized gave way to farmland and snowy peaks. He went even faster—85, 90.
It was as though he were trying to outrun Boulder, but without a clear destination in mind. The seatbelt warning screamed. “It hurts,” he said. “I’ve been hurt. No one said the fucking process of decolonization was going to be painless.”
[Ward Churchill in 2006, before he was fired from the University of Colorado. Thomas Boyd/Zuma]
So, any National Indigenous People’s month should be National Indigenous People’s Year, full of reparations, full of the white man’s own burdens cast away on some Gates or Soros or Trump Island.
And of course, it is Heineken, brothers and sisters. Of course, AMLO, el presidente de Mejico, is not socialist. Wine, soda pop, booze, beer.
In front of the cameras of a national newspaper, he showed the arid land where there used to be fruit trees:
“All of this disappeared due to lack of water; because we don’t have enough water. We do not have a permit to extract water with a well, and we would like Blanca Jimenez, the head of CONAGUA, to consider us before the large water consuming companies. Heineken has more than 12 wells, and the aquifer is overexploited.”
The Kumiai people don’t have water to plant. Óscar recently participated in an assembly and in organizational meetings for the self-determination of the Kumiai people; to defend the water against the constant assault of the corporations. He was always on the lookout to prevent wineries, foreigners or avaricious locals, (he called them “vivillos”), from taking land away from the community. (source)
This has been going on throughout Mexico’s history with those drug-dealing and neoliberal and thieving last six presidents — 36 years since they serve 6 year terms. Since 2017, Mexicali resistance groups have been defending the capital of Baja California’s water supply against foreign investment brewery Constellation Brands. Booze all with these double dealings and contracts with the state government of Baja California and its governor Francisco “Kiko” Vega.
Of course, Constellation Brands is a Fortune 500 company, an international producer and marketer of beer, wine and spirits with recognizable imported brands such as Corona Extra, Corona Light, Modelo Especial, Modelo Negra, Pacifico and Ballast Point.
Ahh, not just booze — Coca-Cola, FedEx, Walmart, Samsung and Hyundai are among the more than 400 companies stealing water and polluting rivers and water systems.
Man, is this coming close to home — since 1981 when I was a reporter in El Paso, the entire black lagoons and multiple strange diseases from pollutants coming from the transnational twin plants (maquiladoras) got many of us militarized against these pigs of profits. Babies born with part of their brains outside their skulls. Flesh eating parasites. More and more cancers. This is the gift that keeps on giving in capitalism, and that was 40 years ago.
And it is, of course, worse: “That corruption contributed to chronic under-funding of the state water agency, known as the Comisión Estatal de Servicios Públicos de Tijuana or CESPT, Bonilla said. To cover up the water theft, the auditor says, some companies also installed their own clandestine drainage systems to illegally discharge contaminated water into Tijuana’s already strained storm drains and canal.”
Here’s a student at Cal State Fullerton:
In a 2016 letter to Coahuila state Governor Rubén Moreira, former Mayor Leoncio Martínez Sánchez of the municipality of Zaragoza wrote, “We have no water for human consumption.”
The ache I feel from that single sentence grows in addition to anticipating the worst to come once the brewery completes its Mexicali plant. There is not one community in that city I don’t worry about. Constellation Brands damaged Zaragoza, so who’s to say it won’t hurt my home as well?
I have yet to see people move away from beers like Modelo, mainly my peers at Cal State Fullerton. — “Column: Modelo’s time is up after shady business” by Rebecca Mena
So yes, this is National Indigenous People’s Year, Decade, Century. As always, it’s about the beer, the coffee, the sugar, the needless shit of tourism and the rich and the disposable income fucks:
In October 2019, the Mexican Association of Beer Makers (ACERMEX), an organization similar to the United States’ Brewers Association, estimated the country would surpass 1,000 craft beer companies by the start of 2020, many of whom are based in the state of Baja California. But this persistent rise of beer businesses has been fraught with roadblocks, forcing scrappy entrepreneurs to fight tooth and nail to operate openly.
These obstacles range from a near-complete stranglehold of the market by Anheuser-Busch InBev–owned Grupo Modelo and Heineken-owned Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma to prohibitively expensive import taxes on ingredients. When asked what’s stifling Baja breweries’ growth, Collin Corrigan, a San Diego native and founder of Ensenada’s Cervecería Transpeninsular, just laughs. “Do you have a couple days to listen? I could go on for hours.”
So that Dutch company is still the colonizer, and those indigenous heroes are murdered so the 12 wells that this amazing man was protesting can continue to pump while thousands of people can’t grow bean, squash, tomatoes, and more. Ownership of Heineken Holding N.V is listed on the NYSE Euronext Amsterdam. Its single investment is Heineken International. It is majority owned by L’Arche Green N.V an investment vehicle of the Heineken family and the Hoyer family. All in the family, in MEXICO, Baja!
Native Americas Month, no? Turtle Island. All of the Americas.
[Óscar Eyraud Adams: A Warrior Who Defended the Water of the Kumiai People]
And then, the white guy (Louis Wilson, Global Witness senior adviser) with the British accent tells us today on Amy “Soros” Goodman this —
Absolutely. So, the stories that we hear — and they’re each, in each instance, a tragedy, but as you look at the global picture, you see a common thread: The threats against environmental activists are caused by the same forces that are driving the climate crisis. So, the same force that is pulling minerals out of the ground, that is felling trees, that is polluting our air, is also causing violence and threats against activists.
So, the case you’ve just referenced in Mexico was just a month prior to Fikile’s death. An activist called Óscar Eyraud in Tecate, in northern Mexico, had been protesting for years water access. His community, an Indigenous community there, had been denied access to traditional water resources, at the same time as a big corporation, Heineken, was granted additional access by the local government. Óscar was murdered on September 22nd. And nobody, I think, would suggest that Heineken directly organized that killing, but it’s clear that they created the conditions that made that murder possible. And it’s very difficult to see that murder, or indeed many of the other 227 murders, taking place without that resource extraction by big companies.
And this is the stuff of Americans, of the consumers, the consummate consumers and thieves of cultures, both indigenous and those in conquered lands of their own doing. “Baja Beer Is Crushing It — The craft beer scene in Baja is emerging from San Diego’s shadow and coming into its own” by Beth Demmon February 10, 2020 — San Diego Magazine
This is the heartlessness of the American and Canadian and European and Australian and elites in all the other capitalist strongholds scene. Cancel Culture, for sure — no more people of the land, no more farmers of the land, no more cultures of the land, no more unique tribes and communities of the land, no more languages and arts of those people. It is all Edward Bernays, Madison Avenue and the other bourgeois sickness that is the “scene.”
And this, of course: “Every Monday night in the small community of Shiprock, New Mexico, a group of young Navajo leaders meet to decide how they will help their community. For more than seven years, the Northern Diné Youth Committee has worked to give youth opportunities to directly make changes within their community. But while the NDYC works to make changes, many members also consider their own futures, commitments to family and the world outside of the Shiprock. While they love their community, they all must consider their options both on and off the reservation.”
So there you have it — Heineken, oh, the innocence of this Dutch Company and the Family, man, the Family.
And relevant for COP26, the green porn, man, killing native communities, one activist after another. The horror, man, the horror of it all.
“Heineken Mexico has been present in Baja California for 76 years, and represents employment for 2,200 citizens, which are added to 100 employees, who operate in a brewery, in nine distribution centers and in continuous improvement,” said Escobedo.
On the other hand, Oscar Galvez, General Director of Corporate Affairs of Heineken Mexico, stated that the company’s commitment is based on the sustainable development of the country and Baja California. Proof of this is that since 2015 the company began the transition from a linear economy to a circular economy and implemented ecological chillers in which 98% of its components are recycled or reused and achieved a significant reduction in CO2 emissions.
It is worth noting that Baja California ranks fourth in beer production in Mexico and third in job generation.
There is an ongoing, but hidden, Israeli war on the Palestinians which is rarely highlighted or even known. It is a water war, which has been in the making for decades.
On July 26 and 27, two separate but intrinsically linked events took place in the Ein al-Hilweh area in the occupied Jordan Valley, and near the town of Beita, south of Nablus.
In the first incident, Jewish settlers from the illegal settlement of Maskiyot began construction in the Ein al-Hilweh Spring, which has been a source of fresh water for villages and hundreds of Palestinian families in that area. The seizure of the spring has been developing for months, all under the watchful eye of the Israeli occupation army.
Now, the Ein al-Hilweh Spring, like most of the Jordan Valley’s land and water resources, is annexed by Israel.
Less than 24 hours later, Shadi Omar Salim, a Palestinian municipal employee, was killed by Israeli soldiers in the town of Beita. The Israeli army quickly issued a statement which, expectedly, blamed the Palestinian for his own death.
The Palestinian victim approached the soldiers in a “menacing manner”, while holding “what appeared to be an iron bar,” before he was gunned down, the Israeli army claimed.
If the “iron bar” claim was true, it might be related to the fact that Salim was a water technician. Indeed, the Palestinian worker was on his way to open the pipes that supply water to Beita and other adjacent areas.
Beita, which has witnessed much violence in recent weeks, is facing an existential threat. An illegal Jewish settlement, called Givat Eviatar, is being built atop the Palestinian Sabih Mountain, in Arabic, Jabal Sabih. As usual, whenever a Jewish settlement is constructed, Palestinian life and livelihood are threatened. Thus, the ongoing Palestinian protests in the area.
The struggle of Beita is a representation of the wider Palestinian struggle: unarmed civilians fighting against a settler-colonial state that ultimately wishes to replace a Palestinian village or town with a Jewish settlement.
There is another facet to what may seem a typical story, where the Israeli army and Jewish settlers work together to ethnically cleanse Palestinians: Mekorot. The latter is a state-owned Israeli water company that literally steals Palestinian water and sells it back to the Palestinians at an exorbitant price.
Unsurprisingly, Mekorot operates near Beita as well. The Palestinian worker, Salim, was killed because his job of supplying water to the people of Beita was a direct threat to Israeli colonial designs in this region.
Let us put this in a larger context. Israel does not just occupy Palestinian land, it also systematically usurps all of its resources, including water, in flagrant violation of international law which guarantees the fundamental rights of an occupied nation.
The occupied West Bank obtains most of its water from the Mountain Aquifer, which is divided into three smaller aquifers: the Western Aquifer, the Eastern Aquifer and the North-Eastern Aquifer. In theory, Palestinians have plenty of water, at least enough to meet the minimally-required water allotment of 102-120 liters per day, as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). In practice, however, this is hardly the case. Sadly, most of the water in these aquifers is appropriated directly by Israel. Some call it “water capture”; Palestinians call it, more accurately, “theft”.
While in Israel the daily per capita water consumption is estimated at 300 liters, illegal Jewish settlers in the West Bank consume over 800 liters per day. The latter number becomes even more outrageous if compared to the meager amount enjoyed by a Palestinian, that of 70 liters per day.
This problem is accentuated in the so-called ‘Area C’ in the West Bank, for a reason. ‘Area C’ consists of nearly 60 percent of the total size of the West Bank and, unlike ‘Areas A’ and ‘B’, it is the least populated. It is mostly fertile land and it includes the Jordan Valley, known as the ‘breadbasket of Palestine’.
Despite the fact that the Israeli government had, in 2019, decided to postpone its formal annexation of that area, a de facto annexation has been in effect for years. The illegal appropriation of the Ein al-Hilweh Spring by illegal Jewish settlers is part of a larger stratagem that aims at appropriating the Jordan Valley, one dunum, one spring, and one mountain at a time.
Of the more than 150,000 Palestinians living in ‘Area C’, nearly 40 percent – over 200 communities – suffer from “severe shortage of clean water”. That shortage can be remedied if Palestinians are allowed to drill new wells, expand current ones or to use modern technologies to allocate other sources of freshwater. Not only does the Israeli army prohibit them from doing so, even rainwater is off-limits to Palestinians.
“Israel even controls the collection of rainwater throughout most of the West Bank and rainwater harvesting cisterns owned by Palestinian communities are often destroyed by the Israeli army,” an Amnesty International report, published in 2017, concluded.
Since then, the situation became even worse, especially since the idea of officially annexing a third of the West Bank obtained widespread support in the Israeli Knesset and society. Now, every move made by the Israeli army and Jewish settlers in the West Bank is directed towards that end, controlling the land and its resources, denying Palestinians access to their means of survival and, ultimately, ethnically cleansing them altogether.
The Beita protests continue, despite the heavy price being paid. Last June, a 15-year-old boy, Ahmad Bani-Shamsa, was killed when an Israeli army bullet struck him in the head. At the time, Defense for Children International-Palestine issued a statement asserting that Bani-Shamsa did not pose any threat to the Israeli army.
The truth is, it is Beita that is under constant Israeli threat, as well as the Jordan Valley, ‘Area C’, the West Bank and the whole of Palestine. The protest in Beita is a protest for land rights, water rights and basic human rights. Bani-Shamsa and, later, Salim, were killed in cold blood simply because their protests were mere irritants to the grand design of colonial Israel.
The irony of it all is that Israel seems to love everything about Palestine: the land, the resources, the food and even the fascinating history, but not the indigenous Palestinians themselves.
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.
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.
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.
How did Benjamin Netanyahu manage to serve as Israel’s longest-serving Prime Minister? With a total of 15 years in office, Netanyahu surpassed the 12-year mandate of Israel’s founding father, David Ben Gurion. The answer to this question will become particularly critical for future Israeli leaders who hope to emulate Netanyahu’s legacy, now that his historic leadership is likely to end.
Netanyahu’s ‘achievements’ for Israel cannot be judged according to the same criteria as that of Ben Gurion. Both were staunch Zionist ideologues and savvy politicians. Unlike Ben Gurion, though, Netanyahu did not lead a so-called ‘war of independence’, merging militias into an army and carefully constructing a ‘national narrative’ that helped Israel justify its numerous crimes against the indigenous Palestinians, at least in the eyes of Israel and its supporters.
The cliched explanation of Netanyahu’s success in politics is that he is a ‘survivor’, a hustler, a fox or, at best, a political genius. However, there is more to Netanyahu than mere soundbites. Unlike other right-wing politicians around the world, Netanyahu did not simply exploit or ride the wave of an existing populist movement. Instead, he was the main architect of the current version of Israel’s right-wing politics. If Ben Gurion was the founding father of Israel in 1948, Netanyahu is the founding father of the new Israel in 1996. While Ben Gurion and his disciples used ethnic cleansing, colonization and illegal settlement construction for strategic and military reasons, Netanyahu, while carrying on with the same practices, changed the narrative altogether.
For Netanyahu, the biblical version of Israel was far more convincing than secular Zionist ideology of yesteryears. By changing the narrative, Netanyahu managed to redefine the support for Israel around the world, bringing together right-wing religious zealots, chauvinistic, Islamophobic, far-right and ultra-nationalist parties in the US and elsewhere.
Netanyahu’s success in rebranding the centrality of the idea of Israel in the minds of its traditional supporters was not a mere political strategy. He also shifted the balance of power in Israel by making Jewish extremists and illegal settlers in the occupied Palestinian territories his core constituency. Subsequently, he reinvented Israeli conservative politics altogether.
He also trained an entire generation of Israeli right-wing, far-right and ultra-nationalist politicians, giving rise to such unruly characters such as former Defense Minister and the leader of Yisrael Beiteinu, Avigdor Lieberman, former Justice Minister, Ayelet Shaked, and former Defense Minister, and Netanyahu’s likely replacement, Naftali Bennett.
Indeed, a whole new generation of Israelis grew up watching Netanyahu take the right-wing camp from one success to another. For them, he is the savior. His hate-filled rallies and anti-peace rhetoric in the mid-1990s galvanized Jewish extremists, one of whom killed Yitzhak Rabin, Israel’s former Prime Minister who engaged the Palestinian leadership through the ‘peace process’ and, ultimately, signed the Oslo Accords.
On Rabin’s death in November 1995, Israel’s political ‘left’ was devastated by right-wing populism championed by its new charismatic leader, Netanyahu, who, merely a few months later, became Israel’s youngest Prime Minister.
Despite the fact that, historically, Israeli politics is defined by its ever-changing dynamics, Netanyahu has helped the right prolong its dominance, completely eclipsing the once-hegemonic Labor Party. This is why the right loves Netanyahu. Under his reign, illegal Jewish colonies expanded unprecedentedly, and any possibility, however meager, of a two-state solution has been forever buried.
Additionally, Netanyahu changed the relationship between the US and Israel, where the latter was no longer a ‘client regime’ – not that it ever was in the strict definition of the term – but one that holds much sway over the US Congress and the White House.
Every attempt by Israel’s political elites to dislodge Netanyahu from power has failed. No coalition was powerful enough; no election outcome was decisive enough and no one was successful enough in convincing Israeli society that he could do more for them than Netanyahu has. Even when Gideon Sa’ar from Netanyahu’s own Likud party tried to stage his own coup against Netanyahu, he lost the vote and the support of the Likudists, later to be ostracized altogether.
Sa’ar later founded his own party, New Hope, continuing with the desperate attempt to oust the seemingly unconquerable Netanyahu. Four general elections within only two years still failed to push Netanyahu out. Every possible mathematical equation to unify various coalitions, all united by the single aim of defeating Netanyahu, has also failed. Each time, Netanyahu came back, with greater resolve to hang on to his seat, challenging contenders within his own party as well as his enemies from without. Even Israel’s court system, which is currently trying Netanyahu for corruption, was not powerful enough to compel disgraced Netanyahu to resign.
Until May of this year, Palestinians seemed to be marginal, if at all relevant to this conversation. Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation looked as if they were mollified, thanks to Israeli violence and Palestinian Authority acquiescence. Palestinians in Gaza, despite occasional displays of defiance, were battling a 15-year-long Israeli siege. Palestinian communities inside Israel seemed alien to any political conversation pertaining to the struggle and aspirations of the Palestinian people.
All of these illusions were dispelled when Gaza rose in solidarity with a small Palestinian community in Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem. Their resistance ignited a torrent of events that, within days, unified all Palestinians, everywhere. Consequently, the popular Palestinian revolt has shifted the discourse in favor of Palestinians and against the Israeli occupation.
Perfectly depicting the significance of that moment, the Financial Times newspaper wrote, “The ferocity of the Palestinian anger caught Israel by surprise.” Netanyahu, whose extremist goons were unleashed against Palestinians everywhere, similar to his army being unleashed against besieged Gaza, found himself at an unprecedented disadvantage. It took only 11 days of war to shatter Israel’s sense of ‘security’, expose its sham democracy and spoil its image around the world.
The once untouchable Netanyahu became the mockery of Israeli politics. His conduct in Gaza was described by leading Israeli politicians as “embarrassing”, a defeat and a “surrender”.
Netanyahu struggled to redeem his image. It was too late. As strange as this may sound, it was not Bennett or Lieberman who finally dethroned the “King of Israel’, but the Palestinians themselves.