Category Archives: West Bank

Killing Palestinian Journalists and The Silence of Israeli Apartheid

Within the cacophony of the Middle East and war in Ukraine, Israel’s brutal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza had drifted into the shadows. But the assassination of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh served as a vicious reminder of Israel’s criminality

Abu Akleh was murdered on 11 May in Jenin on the West Bank, as she stood (wearing a Press vest) alongside colleagues, while covering Israeli army raids. Her funeral took place two days later in East Jerusalem and was attended by thousands of Palestinians. In chaotic unprovoked scenes, Israeli police, who said mourners were “disrupting public order”, attacked the funeral procession, indiscriminately kicking and hitting people with batons, causing pall bearers to drop the coffin.

In a crass attempt to shift the blame, the Israeli army claimed that Abu Akleh was killed by Palestinian fire, during clashes with Israeli soldiers. This is completely untrue; other journalists at the scene confirmed that there had been no shooting by Palestinian gunmen. Trade Unions around the world have united to demand an independent investigation into her death “and that the perpetrator be brought to justice.” CNN unsurprisingly adopted Israel’s false narrative, BBC coverage was ambiguous, neutral they would say – spineless.

The Israeli foreign minister, Yair Lapid said that Tel Aviv was offering a “joint pathological investigation”, and, failing to see the vile hypocrisy, added that, “journalists must be protected in conflict zones”. Human Rights Watch (HRW) is investigating and has decried Israeli investigations of such incidents “as whitewashed mechanisms ……the reality is there is no accountability for those sorts of abuses when it comes to actions by the Israeli authorities.”

Journalists and media workers have been targeted by Israel for years: murdered and intimidated by uniformed thugs in order to silence them, to stop them telling the truth and bear witness to the criminality and violence of the Israeli regime inside Palestine.

The killing of Abu Akleh is but the most recent. At least 46 journalists have been killed in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) since 2000, and no one has yet been held to account. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has recently submitted a case to the International Criminal Court (ICC) alleging that Israel’s systematic “targeting of journalists working in Palestine and its failure to properly investigate killings of media workers amount to war crimes.” Lawyers presenting the cases said they “are emblematic of the ongoing, systematic attacks and use of lethal force against journalists and media organizations in Palestine by the Israeli security services.”

It’s not just media workers/journalists who are targeted by Israel, it’s virtually all Palestinians living in the OPT, including children. Since 2000 “at least 10,349 Palestinians” have been killed by Israel, (1,304 Israeli’s killed), including 2,349 children, and (up to 2018) over 100,000 Palestinians have been injured, according to information gathered by the Israel-Palestine Timeline.

Apartheid writ large

The Israeli Machine of Brutality and Control is relentless and merciless. Palestinians within the Occupied Territories live under a shadow of suffocating violence, which manifests in a variety of forms: Targeted and indiscriminate killings and maiming;  destroying farms/olive groves and stealing land; the de-humanizing ordeal of passing through Israeli checkpoints, which makes moving around the country long-winded and stressful; limiting fishing off the Gaza coast; building illegal Israeli settlements  (which is a war crime) inside the West Bank; banning Palestinian civil society groups – by labelling them terrorist organizations – in October 2021 Israel shut down three Palestinian human rights groups, detained and prosecuted their employees under completely false counterterrorism claims. And evicting Palestinians and demolishing their homes – in the first eight months of 2021, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Israel demolished “666 Palestinian homes and other structures in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, displacing 958 people, a 38 percent increase compared to the same period in 2020.”

All of this and what Michael Lynk, the UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in the OPT describes as “a deeply discriminatory dual legal and political system, that privileges the 700,000 Israeli Jewish settlers living in the 300 illegal Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank,” is the collective daily lot of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, and amounts to Apartheid (segregation, political/social/economic discrimination).

Conditions in the Gaza Strip, where around 2.4 million Palestinians live, are even worse than those found in the West Bank. The population have inadequate access to power, water and health services, and the UN states, are threatened by a “collapsing economy and [have] no ability to freely travel to the rest of Palestine [West Bank] or the outside world.” Widely spoken of as the largest prison in the world, the sense of imprisonment was intensified during Covid when Israel used the pandemic to justify tightening what where already suffocating restrictions.

Across both territories – Gaza and the West Bank, Israel is imposing, what Amnesty International describe as, “a system of oppression and domination against Palestinians…….in order to benefit Jewish Israelis. This amounts to apartheid as prohibited in international law.” Propped up by the US, militarily and politically, the Israeli State machine ignores such facts and does as it pleases. Blind support from successive American administrations and their mealy-mouthed allies gives rise to Israeli Impunity and Bristling Arrogance.

Israel has been crushing Palestinians since it was established in 1948: Palestinians have always been seen as a threat to the Jewish State and consequently were expelled, segregated, controlled; thrown off their land and deprived of economic, social and human rights. The expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and the destruction of hundreds of Palestinian villages post-1948 constitutes ethnic cleansing, which has morphed into a highly organized form of Apartheid. As Michael Lynk has said, “Israel’s military rule in the occupied Palestinian territory has been deliberately built ……to demographically engineer a permanent, and illegal, Israeli sovereign claim over occupied territory, while confining Palestinians in smaller and more confined reserves of disconnected land.” As part of this containment, Palestinian refugees living outside Israel and the OPT are legally denied the right to return, another flagrant violation of international law.

The UN, HRW and Amnesty International describe the treatment of Palestinians by the Israeli State as Apartheid. In its 2021 report Human Rights Watch confirm what has been the case for decades, that, “repression against Palestinians living in the OPT (West Bank and Gaza Strip), amounts to the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.” In its report, ‘Israel’s Apartheid Against Palestinians’, Amnesty confirm that Israel operates a system of “suppression and oppression”, one “which operates with varying levels of intensity and repression based on Palestinians’ status in the separate enclaves where Palestinians live today, and violates their rights in different ways, ultimately seeks to establish and maintain Jewish hegemony wherever Israel exercises effective control.”

Amnesty describes the suppressive methodology of Israel as systemized and highly organized. Laws, policies and practices are designed and enforced to prevent Palestinians from claiming equal rights to Jewish Israelis within Israel and the OPT, and are thus “intended to oppress and dominate the Palestinian people.”

Apartheid is not just systemized suppression and wholesale control, it’s a mental attitude of extreme prejudice that leads to and enables inhumane acts of violence, exploitation and humiliation.  It allows the killing of civilians, the assassination of a prominent journalist, destruction of family homes and the litany of horrors that Israel is carrying out against the Palestinian people; atrocities that are visible to all who care to look.

For decades Palestinians have been crying out, pointing to Israel’s apartheid rule, but western nations, submissive to the US, have ignored them, turning a blind eye to Israel’s violence and criminality. Amnesty found that, “almost all of Israel’s civilian administration and military authorities, as well as governmental and quasi- governmental institutions, are involved in the enforcement of the system of apartheid against Palestinians across Israel and the OPT and against Palestinian refugees and their descendants outside the territory.”

Israel has no intention of allowing the fabled two state solution to become a reality. What it wants is clear – total domination. As Michael Lynk puts it, Israel’s military rule confines “Palestinians in smaller and more confined reserves.” It is allowed to do this because of US support and the power of the Israeli lobby in America – a highly organised Zionist group, The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is comparable to the NRA in influence and destructive impact.

Over the last 40 years or so there have been hundreds of UN resolutions underlining that Israel’s annexation of the OPT, the construction of Jewish settlements and denial of Palestinian self-determination, is illegal. Such resolutions are routinely ignored, and so Apartheid continues, the killings, destruction and injustices continue. It’s time the West, with or without the US, woke up, found some backbone and collectively acted against Israel, and for the oppressed, victimized people of Palestine.

The post Killing Palestinian Journalists and The Silence of Israeli Apartheid first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Palestine’s New Resistance Model: How the Last Year Redefined the Struggle for Palestinian Freedom

What took place between May 2021 and May 2022 is nothing less than a paradigm shift in Palestinian resistance. Thanks to the popular and inclusive nature of Palestinian mobilization against the Israeli occupation, resistance in Palestine is no longer an ideological, political or regional preference.

In the period between the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993 and only a few years ago, Palestinian muqawama – or resistance –  was constantly put in the dock, often criticized and condemned, as if an oppressed nation had a moral responsibility in selecting the type of resistance to suit the needs and interests of its oppressors.

As such, Palestinian resistance became a political and ideological litmus test. The Palestinian Authority of Yasser Arafat and, later, Mahmoud Abbas, called for ‘popular resistance’, but it seems that it neither understood what the strategy actually meant, and certainly was not prepared to act upon such a call.

Palestinian armed resistance was removed entirely from its own historical context; in fact, the context of all liberation movements throughout history, and was turned into a straw man, set up by Israel and its western allies to condemn Palestinian ‘terrorism’ and to present Israel as a victim facing an existential threat.

With the lack of a centralized Palestinian definition of resistance, even pro-Palestine civil society groups and organizations demarcated their relationship to the Palestinian struggle based on embracing certain forms of Palestinian resistance and condemning others.

The argument that only oppressed nations should have the right to choose the type of resistance that could speed up their salvation and freedom fell on deaf ears.

The truth is that Palestinian resistance preceded the official establishment of Israel in 1948. Palestinians and Arabs who resisted British and Zionist colonialism used many methods of resistance that they perceived to be strategic and sustainable. There was no relationship whatsoever between the type of resistance and the religious, political or ideological identity of those who resisted.

This paradigm prevailed for many years, starting with the Fidayeen Movement following the Nakba, the popular resistance to the brief Israeli occupation of Gaza in 1956, and the decades-long occupation and siege starting in 1967. The same reality was expressed in Palestinian resistance in historic Palestine throughout the decades; armed resistance ebbed and flowed, but popular resistance remained intact. The two phenomena were always intrinsically linked, as the former was also sustained by the latter.

The Fatah Movement, which dominates today’s Palestinian Authority, was formed in 1959 to model liberation movements in Vietnam and Algeria. Regarding its connection to the Algerian struggle, the Fatah manifesto read: “The guerrilla war in Algeria, launched five years before the creation of Fatah, has a profound influence on us. […] They symbolize the success we dreamed of.”

This sentiment was championed by most modern Palestinian movements as it proved to be a successful strategy for most southern liberation movements. In the case of Vietnam, the resistance to US occupations was carried out even during political talks in Paris. The underground resistance in South Africa remained vigilant until it became clear that the country’s apartheid regime was in the process of being dismantled.

Palestinian disunity, however, which was a direct result of the Oslo Accords, made a unified Palestinian position on resistance untenable. The very idea of resistance itself became subject to the political whims and interests of factions. When, in July 2013, PA President Abbas condemned armed resistance, he was trying to score political points with his western supporters, and further sow the seeds of division among his people.

The truth is that Hamas neither invented, nor has ownership of, armed resistance. In June 2021, a poll, conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR), revealed that 60% of Palestinians support “a return to armed confrontations and Intifada”. By stating so, Palestinians were not necessarily declaring allegiance to Hamas. Armed resistance, though in a different style and capacity also exists in the West Bank, and is largely championed by Fatah’s own Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. The recent Israeli attacks on the town of Jenin, in the northern West Bank, were not aimed at eliminating Hamas, Islamic Jihad or socialist fighters, but Fatah’s own.

Skewed media coverage and misrepresentation of the resistance, often by Palestinian factions themselves, turned the very idea of resistance into a political and factional scuffle, forcing everyone involved to take a position on the issue. The discourse on the resistance, however,  began changing in the last year.

The May 2021 rebellion and the Israeli war on Gaza – known among Palestinians as the Unity Intifada – served as a paradigm shift. The language became unified; self-serving political references quickly dissipated; collective frames of reference began replacing provisional, regional and factional ones; occupied Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque emerged as the unifying symbols of resistance; a new generation began to emerge and quickly began to develop new platforms.

On May 29, the Israeli government insisted on allowing the so-called ‘Flag March’ – a mass rally by Israeli Jewish extremists that celebrate the capture of the Palestinian city of al-Quds – to once more pass through Palestinian neighborhoods of occupied East Jerusalem. This was the very occasion that instigated the violence of the previous year. Aware of the impending violence which often results from such provocations, Israel wanted to impose the timing and determine the nature of the violence. It failed. Gaza didn’t fire rockets. Instead, tens of thousands of Palestinians mobilized throughout occupied Palestine, thus allowing popular mobilization and coordination between numerous communities to grow. Palestinians proved able to coordinate their responsibility, despite the numerous obstacles, hardships and logistical difficulties.

The events of the last year are a testament that Palestinians are finally freeing their resistance from factional interests. The most recent confrontations show that Palestinians are even harnessing resistance as a strategic objective. Muqawama in Palestine is no longer ‘symbolic’ or supposedly ‘random’ violence that reflects ‘desperation’ and lack of political horizon. It is becoming more defined, mature and well-coordinated.

This phenomenon must be extremely worrying to Israel, as the coming months and years could prove critical in changing the nature of the confrontation between Palestinians and their occupiers. Considering that the new resistance is centered around homegrown, grassroots, community-oriented movements, it has far greater chances of success than previous attempts. It is much easier for Israel to assassinate a fighter than to uproot the values of resistance from the heart of a community.

The post Palestine’s New Resistance Model: How the Last Year Redefined the Struggle for Palestinian Freedom first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Ethnic Cleansing of Masafer Yatta: Israel’s New Annexation Strategy in Palestine

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.

The post The Ethnic Cleansing of Masafer Yatta: Israel’s New Annexation Strategy in Palestine first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Bennett Must Tread Carefully: The ‘Sword of Jerusalem’ Could Be Unleashed Again

Starting on April 15, the Israeli occupation army and police raided Al-Aqsa Mosque in Occupied East Jerusalem on a daily basis. Under the pretence of providing protection to provocative ‘visits’ by thousands of illegal Israeli Jewish settlers and right-wing fanatics, the Israeli army has wounded hundreds of Palestinians, including journalists, and arrested hundreds more.

Palestinians understand that the current attacks on Al-Aqsa carry deeper political and strategic meanings for Israel than previous raids.

Al-Aqsa has experienced routine raids by Israeli forces under various guises in the past. However, the significance of the Mosque has acquired additional meanings in recent years, especially following the popular Palestinian rebellion, mass protests, clashes and a war on Gaza last May, which Palestinians tellingly refer to as Saif Al Quds – Operation Sword of Jerusalem.

Historically, Haram Al-Sharif – or the Noble Sanctuary – has been at the heart of popular struggle in Palestine, as well as at the center of Israeli policies. Located in the Old City of Occupied East Jerusalem, the Sanctuary is considered one of the holiest sites for all Muslims. It has a special place in Islam, as it has been mentioned in the Holy Quran and frequently in the Hadith – the Sayings of Prophet Mohammed. The compound contains several historic mosques and 17 gates, along with other important Islamic sites. Al-Aqsa is one of these mosques.

But for Palestinians, the significance of Al-Aqsa has gained additional meaning due to the Israeli occupation which, throughout the years, has targeted Palestinian mosques, churches and other holy sites. For example, during the 2014 Israeli war on the besieged Gaza Strip, the Palestinian Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs said that 203 mosques were damaged by Israeli bombs, with 73 being completely destroyed.

Therefore, Palestinian Muslims, but also Christians, consider Al-Aqsa, the Sanctuary and other Muslim and Christian sites in Jerusalem, a red line that must not be crossed by Israel. Generation after generation, they have mobilized to protect the sites though, at times, they could not, including in 1969 when Australian Jewish extremist, Denis Michael Rohan carried out an arson attack in Al-Aqsa.

Even the recent raids on the Mosque were not confined to the bodily harm and mass arrest of worshippers. On April 15, the second Friday of Ramadan, much destruction took place at Al-Aqsa, where the Mosque’s famous stained-glass windows were shattered and furniture inside was left broken.

The raids on the Haram Al-Sharif continue, at the time of writing of this article. The Jewish extremists are feeling increasingly empowered by the protection they are receiving from the Israeli military, and the blank check provided to them by influential Israeli politicians. Many of the raids are often led by far-right Israeli Knesset member Itamar Ben-Gvir, Likud politician Yehuda Glick and former government minister Uri Ariel.

Israeli Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, is undoubtedly using the raids on Al-Aqsa as a way to keep his often rebellious far right and religious constituency in line. The sudden resignation on April 6 of Idit Silman, a member of the Yamina right-wing party, left Bennett even more desperate in his attempt to breathe life in his fractious coalition. Once a leader of the Yesha Council, an umbrella organization of West Bank illegal settlements, Bennett rose to power on the back of religious zealots, whether in Israel or in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Losing support of the settlers could simply cost him his post.

Bennett’s behavior is consistent with those of previous Israeli leaders, who have escalated violence in Al-Aqsa as a way to distract from their own political woes, or to appeal to Israel’s powerful constituency of right-wing and religious extremists. In September 2000, then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon raided the Mosque with thousands of Israeli soldiers, police and like-minded extremists. He did so to provoke a Palestinian response, and to topple the government of his archenemy Ehud Barak. Sharon succeeded, but at a high price, as his ‘visit’ unleashed the five-year long Second Palestinian Intifada, also known as Al-Aqsa Intifada.

In 2017, thousands of Palestinians protested an Israeli attempt at installing ‘security cameras’ at the entrances of the holy shrine. The measure was also an attempt by former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to appease his right-wing supporters. But the mass protests in Jerusalem and the subsequent Palestinian unity at the time forced Israel to cancel its plans.

This time around, however, Palestinians fear that Israel aims at more than just mere provocations. Israel plans to “impose a temporal and spatial division of Al-Aqsa Mosque”, according to Adnan Ghaith, the Palestinian Authority’s top representative in East Jerusalem. This particular phrase, ‘temporal and spatial division’, is also used by many Palestinians, as they fear a repeat of the Ibrahimi Mosque scenario.

Following the killing of 29 worshippers in 1994 at the hands of an Israeli Jewish extremist, Baruch Goldstein, and the subsequent killing of many more Palestinians by the Israeli army at the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron (Al-Khalil), Israel partitioned the mosque. It allocated a larger space to the Jewish settlers while restricting access to Palestinians, who are allowed to pray at certain times and barred at others. This is precisely what Palestinians mean by temporal and spatial division, which has been at the heart of Israeli strategy for many years.

Bennett, however, must tread carefully. Palestinians today are more united in their resistance and awareness of the Israeli designs than at any other time in the past. An important component of this unity is the Palestinian Arab population in historic Palestine, who are now championing a similar political discourse as that of Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In fact, many of the defenders of Al-Aqsa come from these very communities. If Israel continues with its provocations in Al-Aqsa, it risks another Palestinian revolt as that of May, which tellingly started in East Jerusalem.

Appealing to right-wing voters by attacking, humiliating and provoking Palestinians is no longer an easy task, as was often the case. As the ‘Sword of Jerusalem’ has taught us, Palestinians are now capable of responding in a unified fashion and, despite their limited means, even put pressure on Israel to reverse its policies. Bennett must remember this before carrying out any more violent provocations.

 

The post Bennett Must Tread Carefully: The ‘Sword of Jerusalem’ Could Be Unleashed Again first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Palestine Needs Immediate Attention to Stave off Major Food Crisis

A friend, a young journalist in Gaza, Mohammed Rafik Mhawesh, told me that food prices in the besieged Strip have skyrocketed in recent weeks and that many already impoverished families are struggling to put food on the table.

“Food prices are dramatically surging,” he said, “particularly since the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine war.” Essential food prices, like wheat and meat, have nearly doubled. The price of a chicken, for example, which was only accessible to a small segment of Gaza’s population, has increased from 20 shekels (approx. $6) to 45 (approx. $14).

These price hikes may seem manageable in some parts of the world but in an already impoverished place, which has been under a hermetic Israeli military siege for 15 years, a humanitarian crisis of great proportions is certainly forthcoming.

In fact, this was also the warning of the international charity group Oxfam, which on April 11 reported that food prices throughout Palestine jumped by 25% but, more alarmingly, wheat flour reserves in the Occupied Territories could be “exhausted within three weeks”.

The impact of the Russia-Ukraine war has been felt in every part of the world, some places more than others. African and Middle Eastern countries, which have been battling pre-existing problems of poverty, hunger and unemployment, are most affected. However, Palestine is a whole different story. It is an occupied country that is almost entirely reliant on the action of an occupying power, Israel, which refuses to adhere to international and humanitarian laws.

For Palestinians the issue is complex, yet almost every aspect of it is somehow linked to Israel.

Gaza has been under an Israeli economic blockade for many years, and food that Israel allows to the Strip is rationed and manipulated by Israel as an act of collective punishment. In its report on Israeli apartheid published last February, Amnesty International detailed Israeli restrictions on Palestinian food and gas supplies. According to the rights group, Israel uses “mathematical formulas to determine how much food to allow into Gaza”, limiting supplies to what Tel Aviv deems “essential for the survival of the civilian population”.

Aside from many infrastructure issues resulting from the siege – lack of clean water, electricity, farming equipment, etc. – Gaza has also lost much of its arable land to the Israeli military zone established across border areas throughout the Strip.

The West Bank is not much better off. Most Palestinians in the Occupied Territories are feeling the growing burden – the Israeli occupation, compounded with the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and structural weaknesses within the Palestinian Authority, rife with corruption and mismanagement.

The PA imports 95% of its wheat, Oxfam says, and owns no storage facilities whatsoever. All of such imports are transported via Israel, which controls all of Palestine’s access to the outside world. Since Israel itself imports nearly half of its grains and cereals from Ukraine, Palestinians are, therefore, hostage to this very mechanism.

Israel, however, has been amassing food and is largely energy independent, while Palestinians are struggling at all levels. While the PA should shoulder part of the blame for investing in its ‘security’ apparatus at the expense of food security, Israel holds most of the keys to Palestinian survival.

With hundreds of Israeli military checkpoints dotting the occupied West Bank, cutting off communities from one another and farmers from agricultural land, sustainable agriculture in Palestine is nearly impossible.

Two major issues complicate an already difficult picture: one, the hundreds of kilometers long so-called ‘Separation Wall’, which actually does not ‘separate’ between Israelis and Palestinians but, instead, unlawfully deprives Palestinians from large tracts of their land, mostly farming areas; and two, the outright robbery of Palestinian water from the West Bank’s acquifers.  While many Palestinian communities struggle to find drinking water in the summer, Israel never experiences any water shortage throughout the year.

So-called Area C, which constitutes nearly 60% of the total size of the West Bank, is under complete Israeli military control. Though sparsely populated in comparison, it contains most of the region’s agricultural land, especially areas located in the very fertile Jordan Valley. Though Israel has postponed, under international pressure, its official annexation of Area C, the area is practically annexed, and Palestinians are slowly being driven out and replaced by a growing population of illegal Israeli Jewish settlers.

The rapidly rising food prices are hurting the very farmers and herders who are responsible for filling the massive gaps caused by the global food insecurity as a result of war. According to Oxfam, the cost of animal feed is up by 60% in the West Bank, which adds to the “existing burden” faced by herders, including “worsening violent attacks by Israeli settlers” and “forced displacement”, as in ethnic cleansing resulting from Israeli annexation policies.

Though it may bring partial relief, even a halt to the Russia-Ukraine war will not end Palestine’s food insecurity, as this issue is instigated and prolonged by specific Israeli policies. In the case of Gaza, the crisis is, in fact, fully manufactured by Israel with specific political designs in mind. The infamous comments by former Israeli government advisor, Dov Weisglass in 2006, explaining Israel’s motives behind the siege on Gaza, remain the guiding principle of Israel’s attitude towards the Strip. “The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger,” he said.

Palestine needs immediate attention to stave off a major food crisis. Gaza’s pre-existing extreme poverty and high unemployment leaves it with no margins whatsoever to accommodate any more calamities. However, anything done now can only be a short-term fix. A serious conversation involving Palestinians, Arab countries, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and other parties must take place to discuss and resolve Palestine’s food insecurity. For Palestinians, this is the real existential threat.

The post Palestine Needs Immediate Attention to Stave off Major Food Crisis first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Next Step in Palestine’s Anti-Apartheid Struggle is the Most Difficult

When Nelson Mandela was freed from his Robben Island prison on February 11, 1991, my family, friends and neighbors followed the event with keen interest as they gathered in the living room of my old home in the Nuseirat Refugee Camp in the Gaza Strip.

This emotional event took place years before Mandela uttered his famous quote “our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians”.  For us Palestinians Mandela did not need to reaffirm the South African people’s solidarity with Palestine by using these words or any other combination of words. We already knew. Emotions ran high on that day; tears were shed; supplications were made to Allah that Palestine, too, would be free soon. “Inshallah,” God willing, everyone in the room murmured with unprecedented optimism.

Though three decades have passed without that coveted freedom, something is finally changing as far as the Palestine liberation movement is concerned. A whole generation of Palestinian activists, who either grew up or were even born after Mandela’s release, was influenced by that significant moment: Mandela’s release and the start of the official dismantling of the racist, apartheid regime of South Africa.

Even the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993 between Israel and some in the Palestinian leadership of the PLO – which served as a major disruption of the grassroots, people-oriented liberation movement in Palestine – did not completely end what eventually became a decided anti-Israeli apartheid struggle in Palestine. Oslo, the so-called ‘peace process’ – and the disastrous ‘security coordination’ between the Palestinian leadership, exemplified in the Palestinian Authority (PA), and Israel – resulted in derailed Palestinian energies, wasted time, deepened existing factional divides, and confused Palestinian supporters everywhere. However, it did not – though it tried – occupy every political space available for Palestinian expression and mobilization.

With time and, in fact, soon after its formation in 1994, Palestinians began realizing that the PA was not a platform for liberation, but a hindrance to it. A new generation of Palestinians is now attempting to articulate, or refashion, a new discourse for liberation that is based on inclusiveness, grassroots, community-based activism that is backed by a growing global solidarity movement.

The May events of last year – the mass protests throughout occupied Palestine and the subsequent Israeli war on Gaza – highlighted the role of Palestine’s youth who, through elaborate coordination, incessant campaigning and utilizing of social media platforms, managed to present the Palestinian struggle in a new light – bereft of the archaic language of the PA and its aging leaders. It also surpassed, in its collective thinking, the stifling and self-defeating emphasis on factions and self-serving ideologies.

And the world responded in kind. Despite a powerful Israeli propaganda machine, expensive hasbara campaigns and near-total support for Israel by the western government and mainstream media alike, sympathy for Palestinians has reached an all-time high. For example, a major public opinion poll published by Gallup on May 28, 2021, revealed that “… the percentages of Americans viewing (Palestine) favorably and saying they sympathize more with the Palestinians than the Israelis in the conflict inched up to all-time highs this year.”

Moreover, major international human rights organizations, including Israelis, began to finally recognize what their Palestinian colleagues have argued for decades:

“The Israeli regime implements laws, practices and state violence designed to cement the supremacy of one group – Jews – over another – Palestinians,” said B’tselem in January 2021.

“Laws, policies and statements by leading Israeli officials make plain that the objective of maintaining Jewish Israeli control over demographics, political power and land has long guided government policy,” said Human Rights Watch in April 2021.

“This system of apartheid has been built and maintained over decades by successive Israeli governments across all territories they have controlled, regardless of the political party in power at the time,” said Amnesty International on February 1, 2022.

Now that the human rights and legal foundation of recognizing Israeli apartheid is finally falling into place, it is a matter of time before a critical mass of popular support for Palestine’s own anti-apartheid movement follows, pushing politicians everywhere, but especially in the West, to pressure Israel into ending its system of racial discrimination.

However, this is where the South Africa and Palestine models begin to differ. Though western colonialism has plagued South Africa as early as the 17th century, apartheid in that country only became official in 1948, the very year that Israel was established on the ruins of historic Palestine.

While South African resistance to colonialism and apartheid has gone through numerous and overwhelming challenges, there was an element of unity that made it nearly impossible for the apartheid regime to conquer all political forces in that country, even after the banning, in 1960, of the African National Congress (ANC) and the subsequent mprisonment of Mandela in 1962. While South Africans continued to rally behind the ANC, another front of popular resistance, the United Democratic Front, emerged, in the early 1980s to fulfill several important roles, amongst them the building of international solidarity around the country’s anti-apartheid struggle.

The blood of 176 protesters at the Soweto township and thousands more was the fuel that made freedom, the dismantling of apartheid and the freedom of Mandela and his comrades possible.

For Palestinians, however, the reality is quite different. While Palestinians are embarking on a new stage of their anti-apartheid struggle, it must be said that the PA, which has openly collaborated with Israel, cannot possibly be a vehicle for liberation. Palestinians, especially the youth, who have not been corrupted by the decades-long system of nepotism and favoritism enshrined by the PA, must know this well.

Rationally, Palestinians cannot stage a sustained anti-apartheid campaign when the PA is allowed to serve the role of being Palestine’s representative, while still benefiting from the perks and financial rewards associated with the Israeli occupation.

Meanwhile, it is also not possible for Palestinians to mount a popular movement in complete independence from the PA, Palestine’s largest employer, whose US-trained security forces keep watch on every street corner that falls within the PA-administered areas in the West Bank.

As they move forward, Palestinians must truly study the South African experience, not merely in terms of historical parallels and symbolism, but to deeply probe its successes, shortcomings and fault lines. Most importantly, Palestinians must also reflect on the unavoidable truth – that those who have normalized and profited from the Israeli occupation and apartheid cannot possibly be the ones who will bring freedom and justice to Palestine.

The post The Next Step in Palestine’s Anti-Apartheid Struggle is the Most Difficult first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Instead of Freeing Palestinian Prisoners, New Scheme Aims at Punishing Their Families

A scheme is underway to withhold or to reduce payments made by the Palestinian Authority to the families of Palestinian prisoners. According to Israeli media, the Biden Administration has requested that the PA entirely overhauls its support system of Palestinian prisoners. The Palestinian leadership had already expressed willingness to engage the US in a ‘discussion’.

According to Israel’s Channel 12, the Biden Administration has called on PA President Mahmoud Abbas to stop paying stipends to Palestinian prisoners’ families and, instead, to consider an alternative ‘welfare’ system. For example, over 60-year-old prisoners would receive payments as if ‘retired PA employees’. Those under 60, according to the report, would be paid as ‘PA employees’.

The above is meant as some kind of a compromise. Unlike previous American and Israeli attempts aimed at cutting off any kind of support to the families of Palestinian prisoners, this time around the PA seems willing to consider alternatives to the existing systems.

PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh had already expressed his willingness to consider the American concerns. Last November, Shtayyeh had stated that “if anyone has reservations about this or that section of the law, we can discuss it.”

By ‘law’, Shtayyeh was referring to the Palestinian law that allows the PA to support Palestinian prisoners and their families as a pact of solidarity. After all, these Palestinian prisoners are facing horrific circumstances due to their acts of resistance to the Israeli occupation.

Of course, Israel doesn’t see it this way. For Tel Aviv, any act of Palestinian resistance is unlawful, and every Palestinian resister is a ‘terrorist’. This should hardly be surprising, as Israel does not see itself as an occupier or the Palestinians as a people deserving of justice and freedom.

Also unsurprising is the American position. Washington, too, agrees with the Israeli depiction of Palestinian resistance as ‘terrorists’ and has, for years, attempted to block any aid from reaching families of Palestinian prisoners.

In 2018, former US President Donald Trump withheld funding from the Palestinian Authority and also from the UN refugee agency for Palestinians, UNRWA, citing the PA financial support of Palestinian prisoners and their families.

The following year, Israel followed suit, as it unlawfully withheld tax payments collected on behalf of the PA – a most unfair system instituted by the so-called Paris Protocol. The money withheld by Israel constitutes nearly half of the entire PA budget. This outright theft by Israel is carried out as a form of pressure, under various guises and with no international monitoring.

Eventually, in November 2020, Israel once more began transferring the payment to PA coffers, but while still keeping a portion of the money, which, according to Israeli estimations, was equivalent to payments made to prisoners’ families.

To cope with the crisis, the PA instituted various budget cuts that mostly affected PA employees and prisoners – many of whom belonged to PA rival groups, whether in the West Bank or the besieged Gaza Strip. The disproportionately massive spending on the PA security apparatus, especially branches that are involved in the so-called security coordination between the PA and Israel, was left untouched.

Since the start of Biden’s presidential term, the PA has promoted the unfunded notion that Biden is better for Palestinians, simply because the new administration gave partial political validation to Mahmoud Abbas – who was completely shunned by Trump – and restored US aid. Aside from that, there has been no evidence of the supposed pro-Palestinian agenda of Joe Biden and his administration.

Indeed, the Biden Administration has pledged not to reverse any of the illegal steps taken by Trump, which, among other concessions, legitimized the Israeli occupation of Palestinian East Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan Heights. Moreover, the US is yet to reopen its consulate in East Jerusalem, which served as a de facto American diplomatic representation in the occupied territories. Even the restoration of the PLO office in Washington D.C. is yet to be carried out, due to strong opposition by Israel and its allies on Capitol Hill.

Over a year has passed since the start of Biden’s presidency, yet, there is still no political horizon, no meaningful American engagement, and not even a coherent American outlook. To the contrary, all that we have seen is Israel’s insistence on entrenching its occupation, widening the circle of violence and expanding its illegal settlements, either with an American nod or disinterest.

Ordinary Palestinians, of course, have very little expectations of Washington as there is no historical evidence to demonstrate that the US has ever favored the Palestinian agenda – that of freedom and justice – over the Israeli one, of endless occupation and apartheid. While the US Congress is very quick to pass anti-Palestinian measures, pro-Palestinian inititatives, though commendable, have very little chance of ever making it into law. For example, H.R. 2407 – “Promoting Human Rights For Palestinian Children Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act”, has, for years, attempted to remind the US government of its legal responsibility under the Foreign Assistance Act so that it may cease funding military detention of children anywhere in the world, including in Palestine.

Not only is Israel not held accountable at all for the continued detention of thousands of Palestinian men, women and children, it is actually dictating American foreign policy, compelling Washington to accept and accommodate Israeli definitions, priorities and agendas.

The issue of Palestinian prisoners is a very sensitive topic in Palestine. Palestinians consider their prisoners heroes of the resistance and their families as a collective responsibility of Palestinian communities everywhere. In fact, support for Palestinian prisoners’ families is the last hold on legitimacy in the hands of the PA. If it loses that, the consequences are sure to be dire.

Perhaps, American diplomats can consider an alternative path to fairly address the issue of financial support received by Palestinian prisoners and their families, namely freeing all Palestinian prisoners from Israeli dungeons. Maybe the discussion should also be expanded to include the freedom of all Palestinians who are experiencing their own forms of imprisonment by Israel. Such demands may seem outrageous in view of the current political balances of power but they are certainly morally and legally the proper discussion to be had.

The post Instead of Freeing Palestinian Prisoners, New Scheme Aims at Punishing Their Families first appeared on Dissident Voice.

As Israel Plots Endgame in Occupied Golan, Bennett Must Remember Lessons of the Past

With Syria still embroiled in its own war, Israel has been actively rewriting the rule book regarding its conduct in this Arab country. Gone are the days of a potential return of the illegally occupied Golan Heights to Syrian sovereignty in exchange for peace, per the language of yesteryears. Now, Israel is set to double its illegal Jewish settler population in the Golan, while Israeli bombs continue to drop with a much higher frequency on various Syrian targets.

Indeed, a one-sided war is underway, casually reported as if a routine, everyday event. In the last decade, many ‘mysterious’ attacks on Syria were attributed to Israel. The latter neither confirmed nor denied. With the blanket support given to Israel by the Donald Trump administration, which recognized Israel’s illegal annexation of the Syrian Golan Heights of 1981, Israeli reluctance to take credit for the frequent and increasingly destructive and bloody air raids has dissipated.

Briefly, some in the Israeli government were concerned by the possible repercussions of the advent of Joe Biden to the White House in January 2021. They worried that the new president might reverse some of the pro-Israel decisions enacted by his predecessor, including the recognition of the “Sovereignty over the Golan Heights,” due to the “strategic and security importance to the State of Israel”. Biden, a long-time supporter of Israel himself, did no such thing.

The initial concern about a shift in US policy turned into euphoria and, eventually, an opportunity, especially as Israel’s new Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, is eager to break the Right’s historic dominance over the Jewish settlement movement in occupied Palestinian and Arab lands.

“This is our moment. This is the moment of the Golan Heights,” Bennett declared triumphantly at an Israeli government cabinet meeting held specially to officiate plans regarding the further colonization of the Golan on December 26.

The following statement by Bennett speaks volumes about the context of the Israeli decision, and its future intentions: “After long and static years in terms of the scope of settlement, our goal today is to double settlement in the Golan Heights.” The reference to ‘static years’ is an outright rejection of the occasional freezing of settlement construction that mostly took place during the so-called ‘peace process.’ Bennett – who, in June 2021, was embraced by Washington and its western allies as the political antithesis to the obstinate Benjamin Netanyahu – has effectively ended any possibility of a peaceful resolution to Israel’s illegal occupation of the Golan.

Aside from predictable and clichéd responses by Syria and the Arab League, Israel’s massive push to double its settlement activities in the Golan is going largely unnoticed. Not only Israel’s right-wing media, but the likes of Haaretz are also welcoming the government’s investment – estimated at nearly $320 million. The title of David Rosenberg’s article in Haaretz tells the whole story: “Picturesque but Poor, Israel’s Golan Needs a Government Boost to Thrive.” The article decries government ‘neglect’ of the Golan, speaks of employment opportunities and merely challenges Bennett’s government on whether it will “stay the course”. The fact that the occupation of the Golan, like that of Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, is illegal under international law is absent from Israeli media coverage.

Namely, Israel’s main focus currently is to normalize its occupation of Arab land entirely. But if that mission has failed over the course of 54 years, can it succeed now?

For Israel, the illegal settlement enterprise, whether in the Syrian Golan or in occupied Palestine, is synonymous. It is inspired by deep-rooted ideological and religious beliefs, compelled by economic opportunities and political interests and assuaged by the lack of any meaningful international response.

In the case of the Golan, Israel’s intention was, from the onset, to expand on its agricultural space, as the capture of the fertile Syrian territory almost immediately attracted settlers, who set the stage for massive agricultural settlements. Although the home of merely 25,000 Jewish settlers, the Golan became a major source of Israeli apples, pears and wine grape production. Local tourism in the scenic Golan, dotted with numerous wineries, thrived, especially following the Israeli annexation of the territory in 1981.

The plight of the steadfast Golan Arab Druze population of nearly 23,000 is as irrelevant in the eyes of Israel as that of the millions of occupied Palestinians, whether under siege in Gaza or living under a perpetual occupation or apartheid in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The Golan population is equally isolated and oppressed but, like the Palestinians, continues to resist despite the heavy price of their resistance. Their hardship, however, is likely to increase with the expected doubling of the Jewish settler population.

Israel is, of course, aware that popular uprisings will eventually be mounted in response to its latest colonial endeavors, but various factors must be giving Bennett the confidence to continue with his plans. A major source of reassurance is that it could take Syria years to achieve any degree of political stabilization before mounting any source of challenge to the Israeli occupation. Another is that the Palestinian leadership is in no mood for confrontation, especially that it is, once again, on good terms with Washington, which has resumed its funding of the PA soon after Biden’s inauguration.

Moreover, in Israel, the anti-settlement movement has long subsided, crystallized mostly into smaller political parties that are hardly critical in the formation or toppling of government coalitions.

More importantly, Washington has no interest to initiate any kind of diplomatic efforts to lay the ground for future talks involving Israel, the Palestinians and certainly not Syria. Any such attempt now, or even in coming years, would represent a political gamble for Biden’s embattled administration.

Israel understands this absolutely and plans to take advantage of this opportunity, arguably unprecedented since the Madrid talks over thirty years ago. Yet, while Bennett is urging Israelis in their quest for settlement expansion with such battle cries as “this is our moment’, he must not underestimate that the occupied Palestinians and Syrians are also aware that their ‘moment’, too, is drawing near. In fact, all popular Palestinian uprisings of the past were initiated at times when Israel assumed that it had the upper hand, and that people’s resistance has been forever pacified.

The post As Israel Plots Endgame in Occupied Golan, Bennett Must Remember Lessons of the Past first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Why is Israel Amending Its Open-Fire Policy: Three Possible Answers

At the outset, the Israeli military decision to revise its open-fire policies in the occupied West Bank seems puzzling. What would be the logic of giving Israeli soldiers the space to shoot more Palestinians when existing army manuals had already granted them near-total immunity and little legal accountability?

The military’s new rules now allow Isreali soldiers to shoot, even kill, fleeing Palestinian youngsters with live ammunition for allegedly throwing rocks at Israeli ‘civilian’ cars. This also applies to situations where the alleged Palestinian ‘attackers’ are not holding rocks at the time of the shooting.

The reference to ‘civilians’ in the revised army manual applies to armed Israeli Jewish settlers who have colonized the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem in defiance of international law and Palestinian sovereignty. These settlers, who often operate as paramilitary forces in direct coordination with the Israeli army, endanger the lives of their own families by residing on occupied Palestinian land. Per Israel’s twisted standards, these violent Israelis, who have killed and wounded numerous Palestinians throughout the years, are ‘civilians’ in need of protection from rock-throwing Palestinian ‘assailants’.

In Israel, throwing rocks is a “serious crime” and Palestinians who throw rocks are “criminals”, according to Liron Libman, Israel’s former chief military prosecutor, commenting on the new rules. For Israelis, there is little disagreement on these assertions, even by those who are questioning the legality of the new rules. The point of contention, according to Libman and others, is that “a person who is fleeing does not present a threat,” though, according to Libman himself, “the new policy could potentially be justified,” The Times of Israel reported.

The ‘debate’ on the new open-fire policy in Israeli media, gives one the false impression that something fundamental has changed in the Israeli army’s relationship with occupied Palestinians. This is not the case at all. There are numerous, daily examples in which Palestinians, including children, are shot and killed with impunity, whether throwing rocks or not, going to school or merely protesting the illegal confiscation of their land by the Israeli military or armed settlers.

In the Palestinian village of Beita, in the northern occupied West Bank, eight unarmed Palestinians have been killed since May. This small village has been the scene of regular demonstrations against Jewish settlement expansion and against the illegal settlement outpost of Eviatar, in the Palestinian rural area of Mount Sabih. The victims include Muhammad Ali Khabisa, the 28-year-old father of an eight-month-old child, who was shot dead last September.

Though the new rules have placed much emphasis on the status of the supposed Israeli victims, labeling them ‘civilians’, in practice, the Israeli military has used the exact same standard to shoot, maim and kill Palestinian alleged rock-throwers, even when armed settlers are not present.

A famous case, in 2015, involved the killing of a 17-year-old Palestinian teenager, Mohammad Kosba, at the hands of an Israeli army colonel, Yisrael Shomer. The latter alleged that Kosba had thrown a rock at his car. Subsequently, Shomer chased down the Palestinian teenager and shot him in the back, killing him.

The Israeli officer was “censored” for his conduct, not for killing the boy, but for not stopping “in order to aim properly,” according to The Times of Israel. The Israeli military chief prosecutor at the time concluded that “Shomer’s use of deadly force under the framework of the arrest protocol was justified from the circumstances of the incident.”

Israel’s disregard of international law in its targeting of Palestinians is not a secret. Israeli and international human rights groups have repeatedly condemned the Israeli army’s inhumane and barbaric behavior in the occupied territories.

In an extensive report as early as 2014, Amnesty International condemned Israel’s “callous disregard for human life by killing dozens of Palestinian civilians, including children, in the occupied West Bank” over the years. AI said that such killings had taken place “with near total impunity.”

“The frequency and persistence of arbitrary and abusive force against peaceful protesters in the West Bank by Israeli soldiers and police officers – and the impunity enjoyed by perpetrators – suggests that it is carried out as a matter of policy,” the Amnesty report read.

Even Israel’s own rights group, B’tselem, concurs. The organization decried the Israeli army’s “shoot-to-kill policy”, which is also applied to “people who have already been ‘neutralized’”. Indeed, in the case of Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, a Palestinian man who was shot point-blank in Al-Khalil (Hebron), by an Israeli military medic, Elor Azaria, in 2016, was not only ‘neutralized’ but also unconscious.

According to B’tselem, Israeli “soldiers and police officers have become judge, jury and executioner”. With this tragic and sinister trajectory in mind, one is left to wonder why the Israeli army would amend its open-fire policy at this particular moment. There are three possible answers:

One, the Israeli government and army are anticipating a surge in Palestinian popular resistance in the coming months, possibly as a result of the massive expansion of illegal settlements and forced evictions in occupied East Jerusalem.

Two, by perfectly aligning the existing open-fire policy with the aggressive shoot-to-kill military practice already in place, Israeli courts would no longer have to contend with any legal repercussions for killing Palestinians, including children, regardless of the circumstances of their murders.

Finally, the revised rules would allow Israel to make a case for itself in response to the open investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC), concerning human rights violations and war crimes in occupied Palestine. Israel’s Attorney General will now argue that no war crimes are taking place in Palestine since the killing of Palestinians is consistent with Israel’s own military conduct and judicial system. Since the ICC is investigating alleged war criminals, not the government itself, Israel hopes that it can spare its own murderers from having to contend with the legal expectations of the Court.

Though the timing of the Israeli military decision to amend its open-fire policy may appear sudden and without much context, the decision is still ominous, nonetheless. When a country’s military decides that shooting a child in the back without any proof that the alleged ‘criminal’ posed any danger whatsoever is a legal act, the international community must take notice.

It is true that Israel operates outside the minimum standards of international and humanitarian laws, but it is the responsibility of the international community to protect Palestinians, whose lives remain precious even if Israel disagrees.

The post Why is Israel Amending Its Open-Fire Policy: Three Possible Answers first appeared on Dissident Voice.

South Africa puts Canada to shame regarding Palestine

Like Canada, South Africa is a former British colony and settler state. But the divide between these two countries regarding the world’s most aggressive ongoing European colonialism is stark. While Pretoria assists Palestinians by advocating the boycott of a cultural event, Canadians subsidize huge private donations to a wealthy apartheid state.

On November 13 the Azrieli Foundation and Weizmann Canada published a full-page ad in the Globe and Mail about a US $50 (C$64 million) million Azrieli donation to the Israel based Weizmann Institute of Science. The ad boasted that the Azrieli Foundation had previously donated US$80 million to the Weizmann Institute.

The Weizmann Institute is located in Rehovot, which was established partly on the remnants of Zarnuqa, a Palestinian village de-populated by Zionist forces in 1948. The Weizmann Institute has also worked with the Israeli military.

At the same time as Globe and Mail readers were learning about the largest charitable foundation in Canada donating to Israel, the South African government withdrew its support for the Miss South Africa pageant due to its planned participation in the upcoming Miss Universe contest to be held in Israel. Reigning Miss South Africa, Lalela Mswane, is under significant pressure to boycott a country that imposes a system of apartheid worse than Blacks faced in South Africa. Decrying Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, Miss Greece recently pulled out, as have Miss Malaysia, Barbados, Morocco, Laos and Indonesia (it’s unclear if their decisions were driven by the pandemic).

But one doesn’t have to support Palestinian civil society’s call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions to question the Azrieli Foundation donation and advertisement. About half of the Azrieli foundation’s costs are likely covered by taxpayers. Why are taxpayers subsidizing donations by a billionaire family to a country with a per capita GDP equal to Canada’s? Does the Israeli state subsidize donations to Canadian institutes?

Taxpayers would also be on the hook for a share of the cost of the Saturday Globe and Mail ad, which probably cost upwards of $50,000. What is “charitable” about promoting a wealthy foundation’s donation to an institute in a colonial outpost in the Middle East?

Israel-focused registered charities spend significant sums on advertising. On September 4, Canadian Shaare Zedek Hospital Foundation published a full-page ad in the National Post while the Jewish National Fund has advertised in the Ottawa Citizen. A significant amount of advertising in the Canadian Jewish News came from registered charities.

Since 1989 the Azrieli Foundation, which has $2 billion in assets, has given hundreds of millions of dollars to Israeli initiatives. In October Canada’s largest foundation donated $15.6 million to the National Autism Research Centre of Israel and in 2015 it gave Bar-Ilan University $50 million. The Azrieli Foundation has financed projects that benefit the Israeli military, such as Beit Halochem Canada (Aid to Disabled Veterans of Israel), and the racist Jewish National Fund, which set up an Azrieli Park in Sderot. In 2011 the Azrielis made a controversial donation to Im Tirtzu, a hardline Israeli-nationalist organization that an Israeli court said had “fascist” features.

Canadian charities send a quarter billion dollars a year to Israel. They’ve channeled over $5 billion to Israel since the federal government introduced deductions for charities in 1967. Taxpayers would likely have covered over $1.5 billion of that sum. As Israel becomes wealthier Canadian government subsidized donations continue unabated. Will the Canada Revenue Agency re-evaluate the charitable status of two hundred organizations focused on funnelling money to Israel if that country’s GDP per capita surpasses Canada’s?

In April Human Rights Watch concluded that Israeli authorities were “committing the crimes against humanity of apartheid”. In January B’Tselem published “A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is apartheid”. 2021 is the 54th year of what Canada, and most every government, officially consider Israel’s illegal occupation of the West Bank.

Registered charities represent Canada’s most significant contribution to Palestinian dispossession. While the Canada Revenue Agency subsidizes large sums of donations to Israel, the South African government is calling for its beauty pageant to boycott Israel. One country seems to have learned that all forms of colonialism should be opposed.

Which is on the right side of history?

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