Tag Archives: gaza

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.


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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.

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.

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“Honest mistakes”: How the US and Israel justify the targeting and killing of civilians

An “honest mistake” is buying your partner the wrong perfume or copying someone into an email chain by accident. It is not firing a drone missile at a car, killing 10 civilians – and doing so when a small child was clearly visible moments earlier.

And yet, a supposedly “independent” Pentagon inquiry this month claimed just such a good-faith mistake after US commanders authorised a drone strike in late August that killed an Afghan family, including seven children. A US air force general concluded that there was no negligence or misconduct, and that no disciplinary action should be taken.

At the weekend, the Pentagon exonerated itself again. It called a 2019 air strike on Baghuz in Syria that killed dozens of women and children “justified”. It did so even after an investigation by the New York Times showed that the group of civilians who were bombed had already been identified as fleeing fighting between US-backed militias and the Islamic State group.

A US military lawyer, Dean Korsak, flagged the incident at the time as a potential war crime but the Pentagon never carried out an investigation. It came to public attention only because Korsak sent details to a Senate oversight committee.

In announcing the conclusions of its Afghanistan inquiry, the Pentagon made clear what its true priorities are in the wake of its hurried, Saigon-style exit from Afghanistan following two decades of failed occupation. It cares about image management, not accountability.

Contrast its refusal to take action against the drone operators and commanders who fired on a civilian vehicle with the Pentagon’s immediate crackdown on one of its soldiers who criticised the handling of the withdrawal. Veteran marine Stuart Scheller was court-martialled last month after he used social media to publicly berate his bosses.

Which of the two – Scheller’s comment or the impunity of those who killed an innocent family – is likely to do more to discredit the role of the US military, in Afghanistan or in other theatres around the globe in which it operates?

Colonial narrative

The Pentagon is far from alone in expecting to be exempted from scrutiny for its war crimes.

The “honest mistake” is a continuing colonial narrative western nations tell themselves, and the rest of us, when they kill civilians. When western troops invade and occupy other people’s lands – and maybe help themselves to some of the resources they find along the way – it is done in the name of bringing security or spreading democracy. We are always the Good Guys, they are the Evil Ones. We make mistakes, they commit crimes.

This self-righteousness is the source of western indignation at any suggestion that the International Criminal Court at The Hague should investigate, let alone prosecute, US, European and Israeli commanders or politicians for carrying out or overseeing war crimes.

It is only African leaders or enemies of Nato who need to be dragged before tribunals and made to pay a price. But nothing in the latest Pentagon inquiry confirms the narrative of an “honest mistake”, despite indulgent coverage in western media referring to the drone strike as “botched”.

Even the establishment of the inquiry was not honest. How is it “independent” for a Pentagon general to investigate an incident involving US troops?

The drone operators who killed the family of Zemerai Ahmadi, an employee of a US aid organisation, were authorised to do so because his white Toyota Corolla was mistaken for a similar vehicle reported as belonging to the local franchise of Islamic State. But that make is one of the most common vehicles in Afghanistan.

The head of the aid organisation where he worked told reporters pointedly: “I do not understand how the most powerful military in the world could follow [Mr Ahmadi], an aid worker, in a commonly used car for eight hours, and not figure out who he was, and why he was at a US aid organisation’s headquarters.”

The decision was, at best, recklessly indifferent as to whether Ahmadi was a genuine target and whether children would die as a result. But more likely, when it attacked Ahmadi’s vehicle, the entire US military system was in the grip of a blinding thirst for revenge. Three days earlier, 13 American soldiers and 169 Afghan civilians had been killed when a bomb exploded close to Kabul airport, as Afghans massed there in the hope of gaining a place on one of the last evacuation flights.

That airport explosion was the final military humiliation – this one inflicted by Islamic State – after the Taliban effectively chased American troops out of Afghanistan. Revenge – even when it is dressed up as restoring “deterrence” or “military honour” – is not an “honest mistake”.

Pattern of behaviour

But there is an even deeper reason to be sceptical of the Pentagon inquiry. There is no “honest mistake” defence when the same mistakes keep happening. “Honest mistakes” can’t be a pattern of behaviour.

And yet the long years of US occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, and meddling in Syria, have been pockmarked with air strikes that obliterated families or slammed into wedding parties. That information rarely makes headlines, eclipsed by the Pentagon’s earlier, faulty claims of the successful “neutralisation of terrorists”.

But just such “mistakes” were the reason why the US occupation of Afghanistan ultimately imploded. The Pentagon’s scatter-gun killing of Afghans created so many enemies among the local population that US-backed local rulers lost all legitimacy.

Something similar happened during the US and UK’s occupation of Iraq. Anyone who believes the Pentagon commits “honest mistakes” when it kills civilians needs to watch the video, Collateral Murder, issued by WikiLeaks in 2012.

It shows the aerial view of helicopter pilots in 2007 as they discuss with a mix of technical indifference and gruesome glee their missile strikes on a crowd of Iraqis, including two Reuters journalists, moving about on the streets of Baghdad below.

When a passing van tries to come to the aid of one of wounded, the pilots fire again, even though a child is visible in the front seat. In fact, two children were found inside the van. US soldiers arriving at the scene made the decision to deny both treatment from US physicians.

As the pilots were told of the casualties, one commented: “Well, it’s their fault for bringing their kids into a battle.” The other responded: “That’s right.”

Before the video was leaked, the military claimed that the civilians killed that day had been caught in the crossfire of a gun battle. “There is no question that coalition forces were clearly engaged in combat operations against a hostile force,” a statement read.

The video, however, shows that there was nothing honest or mistaken about the way those Iraqis died, even if there was no specific intention to kill civilians. They were killed because US commanders were uninterested in the safety of those it occupied, because they were indifferent to whether Iraqis, even Iraqi children, lived or died.

Killing innocents

The states that cry loudest that they kill innocents “by accident” or “unintentionally” or because “the terrorists shield behind them” are also the ones that keep killing innocents.

Israel’s version of this is the “tragic mistake” – the excuse it used in 2014 when its navy fired two precision missiles at a beach in Gaza at exactly the spot where four boys were playing football. They were killed instantly. In seven weeks of pummelling Gaza in 2014, Israel killed more than 500 Palestinian children and more than 850 adult civilians. And yet all were apparently “honest mistakes” because no soldiers, commanders or politicians were ever held to account for those deaths.

Palestinian civilians keep dying year after year, decade after decade, and yet they are always killed by an “honest mistake”. Israel’s excuses are entirely unconvincing for the same reason the Pentagon’s carry no weight.

Both have committed their crimes in another people’s territory to which they have not been invited. Both militaries rule over those people without good cause, treating the local population as “hostiles”. And both act in the knowledge that their soldiers enjoy absolute impunity.

In reaching its decision on the killing of the Afghan family this month, the Pentagon stated that it had not “broken the law“. That verdict too is not honest. What the US military means is that it did not break its own self-serving rules of engagement, rules that permit anything the US military decides it wants to do. It behaves as if no laws apply to it when it invades others’ lands, not even the laws of the territories it occupies.

That argument is dishonest too. There are the laws of war and the laws of occupation. There is international law. The US has broken those laws over and over again in Afghanistan and Iraq, as has Israel in ruling over the Palestinians for more than five decades and blockading parts of their territory.

The problem is that there is no appetite to enforce international law against the planet’s sole military superpower and its allies. Instead it is allowed to claim the role of benevolent global policeman.

No scrutiny

Both the US and Israel declined to ratify the Rome Statute, which established the International Criminal Court (ICC) that judges war crimes. That refusal was no “honest mistake” either. Each expected to avoid the court’s scrutiny.

US and Israeli leaders know their soldiers commit war crimes, and that they themselves commit war crimes by approving either the wars of aggression these soldiers are expected to wage or the messy, long-term belligerent occupations they are supposed to enforce.  But whatever they hope, the failure to ratify the statute does not serve as a stay-out-of-jail card. US and Israeli leaders still risk falling under the ICC’s jurisdiction if the countries they invade or occupy have ratified the statute, as is the case with Afghanistan and Palestine.

The catch is that the Hague court can be used only as a last resort – in other words, it has to be shown first that any country accused of war crimes failed to seriously investigate those crimes itself.

The chorus from the US and Israel of “honest mistake” every time they kill civilians is just such proof. It demonstrates that the US and Israeli legal systems are entirely incapable of upholding the laws of war, or holding their own political and military officials to account. That must be the job of the ICC instead.

But the court is fearful. The Trump administration launched a mafia-style campaign against it last year to stop its officials investigating US war crimes in Afghanistan. The assets of the court’s officials were blocked and they were denied the right to enter the US.

That is the reason why the court keeps failing to stand up for the victims of western war crimes like Zemerai Ahmadi and his children. The ICC had spent 15 years dragging its feet before it finally announced last year that it would investigate allegations of US war crimes in Afghanistan. That resolve quickly dissolved under the subsequent campaign of pressure.

In September, shortly after Ahmadi’s family was killed by US drone operators, the court’s chief prosecutor declared that investigations into US actions in Afghanistan, including widespread claims of torture of Afghans, would be “deprioritised.” The investigation would focus instead on the Taliban and Islamic State.

Once again, enemies of the US, but not the US itself, will be called to account. That too is no “honest mistake”.

• First published in Middle East Eye

The post “Honest mistakes”: How the US and Israel justify the targeting and killing of civilians first appeared on Dissident Voice.

From Pegasus to Blue Wolf: How Israel’s “Security” Experiment in Palestine Became Global

The revelation, a few years ago, that the US National Security Agency (NSA) has been conducting mass surveillance on millions of Americans has reignited the conversation on governments’ misconduct and their violation of human rights and privacy laws.

Until recently, however, Israel has been spared due criticism, not only for its unlawful spying methods on the Palestinians but also for being the originator of many of the technologies which are now being heavily criticized by human rights groups worldwide.

Even at the height of various controversies involving government surveillance in 2013, Israel remained on the margins, despite the fact that Tel Aviv, more than any other government in the world, uses racial profiling, mass surveillance and numerous spying techniques to sustain its military occupation of Palestine.

In Gaza, two million Palestinians are living under an Israeli blockade. They are surrounded by walls, electric fences, underground barriers, navy ships and multitudes of snipers. From above, the tannaana, the Arabic slang word Palestinians have for unmanned drone, watches and records everything. At times, these armed drones are used to blow up anything deemed suspicious from an Israeli ‘security’ perspective. Moreover, every Palestinian wishing to leave or return to Gaza—with only a few who are allowed such privilege—is subjected to the most stringent ‘security’ measures, involving various government intelligences and endless military checks. This applies as much to a Palestinian toddler as it does to a terminally-ill woman.

In the West Bank, Israel’s security ‘experiment’ takes on many other manifestations. While the Israeli objective is to entrap people in Gaza, its aim is to control the everyday life of Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Aside from the  1,660 kilometer-long Apartheid Wall in the West Bank, there are many other walls, fences, trenches and various types of barriers that are aimed at fragmenting Palestinian communities in the West Bank. These isolated communities are only connected through an elaborate system of Israeli military checkpoints, many of which are permanent and many more are erected or dismantled depending on the ‘security’ objectives on any given day.

Much of the surveillance occurs daily at these Israeli checkpoints. While Israel uses the convenient term ‘security’ to justify its practices against Palestinians, actual security has very little to do with what takes place at these checkpoints. Many Palestinians have died, many mothers have given birth or lost their newborns while waiting for Israeli security clearance. It is a daily torment, and Palestinians are subjected to it because they are the unwitting participants of a very profitable Israeli experiment.

Luckily, the news of Israel’s undemocratic practices is becoming increasingly known. On November 8, The Washington Post revealed an Israeli mass surveillance operation, which uses ‘Blue Wolf’ technology to create a massive database of all Palestinians.

This additional measure gives soldiers the chance to, using their own cameras, take pictures of as many Palestinians as possible and match “them to a database of images so extensive that one former soldier described it as the army’s secret ‘Facebook for Palestinians.’”

We know very little about this new ‘Facebook for Palestinians’, aside from what has been revealed in the news. However, we know that Israeli soldiers compete to take as many photos of Palestinian faces as possible, as those with the highest number of photos could potentially receive certain rewards, the nature of which remains unclear.

While the ‘Blue Wolf’ story is receiving some attention in international media, it offers nothing new for Palestinians. To be a Palestinian living under occupation is to carry multiple permits and magnetic cards, to pass various clearances, to have your photo taken regularly, to have your movement monitored, to be ready to answer any question about your friends, your family, co-workers and acquaintances. When that is impractical, because, say, you live under siege in Gaza, then the work is entrusted to unmanned drones scanning sky, earth and sea.

The reason that ‘Blue Wolf’ is receiving some traction in the media is that Israel has been recently implicated in one of the world’s greatest espionage operations.

Pegasus is a type of malware that spies on iPhones and Android devices, to extract photos, messages, emails and record calls. Tens of thousands of people around the world, many of whom are prominent activists, journalists, officials, business leaders and alike, have fallen victim to this operation. Unsurprisingly, Pegasus is produced by the Israeli technology firm, the NSO Group, whose products are heavily involved in the monitoring of and spying on Palestinians, as confirmed by the Dublin-based Front Line Defenders, and as reported in the New York Times on November 8.

Sadly, the Israeli unlawful and undemocratic practices became a subject of international condemnation when the victims were high-ranking personalities, the likes of French President Emmanuel Macron and others. When Palestinians were on the other end of Israeli spying, surveillance and racial profiling, the story seemed unworthy of reporting.

Worse, for many years, Israel has promoted its sinister ‘security technology’ to the rest of the world as ‘field-proven’, meaning that they have been used against occupied Palestinians. Not only did such a declaration raise a few eyebrows, the tried and tested brand allowed Israel to become the world’s eighth-largest arms exporter. Israeli security exports are now utilized in many parts of the world. They can be found at North American and European airports, at the Mexico-US border, in the hands of various world’s intelligences, at European Union territorial waters—largely to intercept war refugees and asylum eekers.

Covering up Israel’s unlawful and inhuman practices against the Palestinians has proven a liability on the very people who justified Israeli actions in the name of security, including Washington. On November 3, the Joe Biden Administration decided to blacklist the Israeli NSO Group for acting “contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States.” This is a proper measure, of course, but it fails to address the ongoing Israeli violations against the Palestinian people.

The truth is, for as long as Israel maintains its military occupation of Palestine, and as long as the Israeli military continues to see Palestinians as subjects in a mass ‘security experiment’, the Middle East—in fact, the entire world—will continue to pay the price.

The post From Pegasus to Blue Wolf: How Israel’s “Security” Experiment in Palestine Became Global first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Bill Gates Should Know Better: How the Israeli Occupation Ravages the Environment in Palestine 

Those who are not familiar with how Israel, particularly the Israeli military occupation of Palestine, is actively and irreversibly damaging the environment might reach the erroneous conclusion that Tel Aviv is at the forefront of the global fight against climate change. The reality is the exact opposite.

In his speech at the UN Climate Change Conference COP26 in Glasgow, Israel’s right wing Prime Minister Naftali Bennett pushed the Israeli brand of “innovation and ingenuity” to “promote clean energy and reduce greenhouse gases”.

Israel uses this particular brand to sell everything, whether to promote itself as the savior of Africa, to help governments intercept fleeing refugees, to push deadly weapons in the global market or, as Bennett has done in Scotland, supposedly save the environment.

Just before we hastily dismiss Bennett’s rhetoric as empty words, we must remember that some are actually buying into this Israeli propaganda, one of whom is the American billionaire, Bill Gates.

The day following Bennett’s speech, Gates met with the Israeli Prime Minister on the sidelines of COP26 to discuss the establishment of a “working group” to study potential cooperation “between the State of Israel and the Gates Foundation in the area of climate change innovation,” the Times of Israel newspaper reported.

According to the newspaper, Gates, who had asserted in his meeting with Bennett that only innovation can solve the problem of climate change, said, “That’s really what Israel is known for”.

Gates’ obsession with ‘innovation’, however, might have blinded him from addressing other issues that Israel is also ‘known for’ – namely, being the world’s leading human rights violator, whose horrific track record of racial apartheid and violence is known to every member of the United Nations.

However, there is something else that Gates might also not be aware of – the systematic and purposeful destruction of the Palestinian environment, resulting from the Israeli occupation of Palestine and Tel Aviv’s insatiable appetite for military superiority, thus constant ‘innovation’.

Every act that is carried out to entrench the military occupation consolidates Israel’s colonial control and expanding illegal Jewish settlements directly impacts the Palestinian environment.

Not a single day passes without a Palestinian tree or an orchard being set ablaze or cut down. ‘Clearing’ the Palestinian environment is, and has always been, the prerequisite of constructing or expanding Jewish settlements. For these colonies to be built, countless trees have to be ‘removed’, along with the Palestinians who have planted them.

Over the years, millions of Palestinian olive and fruit-bearing trees were uprooted in Israel’s constant hunger for more land. The soil erosion in many parts of occupied Palestine speaks volumes of this horrendous ecocide.

But it does not end here, of course. For hundreds of illegal Jewish settlements – hosting a population of more than 600,000 settlers – to survive, a heavy price is being exacted from the Palestinian environment on a daily basis. According to the thorough research of Ahmed Abofou, an independent Legal Researcher with Al-Haq rights group, illegal Israeli settlements “generate around 145,000 tons of domestic waste daily.” Abofou reported that “in 2016 alone, around 83 million cubic meters of wastewater were pumped throughout the West Bank.”

Moreover, Israel has near-total control of Palestinian water resources. It relies on the occupied West Bank’s aquifers to supplant its need for water, while denying Palestinians access to their own water.

According to Amnesty International, the average Israeli receives 300 liters of water per day, while a Palestinian receives a much smaller share of 73 liters. The problem is accentuated when the water usage of illegal Jewish settlers is taken into account. The average settler consumes as much as 800 liters per day, while entire Palestinian communities could be denied a drop of water for days and weeks, often as a form of collective punishment.

The issue with the water is not just that of outright theft, denial of access or unequal distribution of water resources. It is also that of the lack of clean and safe drinkable water, an issue that has been highlighted by international human rights groups for many years.

The result of these unfair policies has forced many Palestinians “to purchase water brought in by trucks” at prices “ranging from 4 to 10 USD per cubic meter,” Amnesty International found, highlighting that, for the poorest Palestinian communities, “water expenses can, at times, make up half of a family’s monthly income.”

As bad as the situation may sound, the plight of besieged Gaza is much worse than that of the occupied West Bank. The tiny and overcrowded Strip is the perfect example of Israeli cruelty. Two million Palestinians live there, while being denied the most basic human rights, let alone freedom of movement.

Since the Israeli military blockade on Gaza in 2007, the environment of the coastal region has been in constant deterioration. With little electricity and with bombed-out sewage plants, Palestinians have been forced to dump their unprocessed sewage into the sea. Gaza’s underground water is now polluted to the extent that 97 percent of the available water is now undrinkable, according to United Nations reports.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. From the destruction of Palestinian wells to the poisoning of trees, to the demolishing of entire ecosystems to make space for Israel’s apartheid wall, to the use of depleted uranium in its various wars against Gaza, Israel has been on an unrelenting mission to ruin Palestine’s environment in all of its manifestations.

In truth, Mr. Gates, this is what Israel is ‘known for’ to anyone who cares to pay attention. Allowing Bennett to present his country as a potential savior of humanity, while validating Israel with massive investments in ‘innovation’, mischaracterizes – in fact, invalidates – the entire global campaign to truly understand the nature of the problem at hand.

Those who are hurting the planet have no right to claim the role of being its saviors. Israel, in its current violent state, is the enemy of the environment, and this is what it truly should be ‘known for’.

The post Bill Gates Should Know Better: How the Israeli Occupation Ravages the Environment in Palestine  first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Open Letter to Australian Labor MPs re IHRA & Labor “Progressive Except Palestine” (PEP)

At the outset I must declare that I am an anti-racist Jewish Australian scientist and humanitarian writer with a sole allegiance to Australia. Coming from a famous Jewish Hungarian family near-eradicated from Hungary by the WW2 Jewish Holocaust, I am inescapably bound by the key moral imperatives from that catastrophe, to whit “zero tolerance for racism”, “zero tolerance for lying”, “bear witness” and “never again to anyone” including the Palestinians, the sorely oppressed Indigenous people of Palestine.

Recently the 2021 British Labour Party Conference overwhelmingly passed a motion supporting the Palestinian people in their struggle for self-determination, supporting Palestinian human rights, describing the situation in Palestine as apartheid, and calling for strong sanctions against Israel (for the text see Sam Browse, “Labour Party Conference Labour Outlook,” 27 September 2021).

The awful truth is that 7.1 million Indigenous Palestinians are 50% of the Subjects of Apartheid Israel but 73% of them, the 5.2 million Occupied Palestinians, are excluded from all of the human rights set out in the 30 Articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), live in dire poverty (per capita GDP $3,500 versus $45,500 for Israelis), and are highly abusively confined under Israeli guns to the blockaded and bombed Gaza Concentration Camp (2 million) and to ghettoes in the ever-dwindling West Bank (3.2 million). The 1.9 million Palestinian Israelis exist in imposed poverty as Third Class citizens under 65 race-based laws. 8 million Exiled Palestinians represent about 10% of the world’s refugees, most live in dire poverty without civil rights, and are all violently excluded from their Homeland, Palestine, continuously inhabited by their forebears for millennia. About half the Indigenous Palestinians are children, and three quarters are women and children.

In the last 20 years Gaza rockets have killed about 40 Israelis, and about 1,000 Israelis have been killed in conflict, but Israelis have murdered about 2,600 fellow Israelis. In the same period 9,500 Occupied Palestinians have been violently killed by Israelis, scores of thousands have been wounded, and 90,000 have avoidably died from imposed deprivation. About 90% of Palestine has now been ethnically cleansed of Indigenous Palestinians, and the ABC has reported that the present Israeli government would permit only 5% of Palestine for any Palestinian entity. The ongoing Palestinian Genocide has been associated with 2.2 million Palestinian deaths from violence, 0.1 million, and imposed deprivation, 2.1 million, since the British invasion of the Middle East with Australian assistance in 1914. Deaths from violence, deprivation, and disease also total about 2 million for Indigenous Australians similarly dispossessed, and ethnically cleansed in the 233-year and ongoing Australian Aboriginal Genocide (they suffer the same circa 10 year life expectancy gap from their conquerors as Indigenous Palestinians).

About a century ago Australia led the world for free trade unions, women’s suffrage, free and secular education, the 8 hour working day, the living wage, and one-person-one-vote (albeit only for White Australians). The Australian Labor Party has always led the way in support of progressive reforms, but that proud record has been tarnished by fervent Labor support for a nuclear terrorist, racist Zionist-run, genocidally racist, grossly International law-violating, serial war criminal, human rights-violating, child-abusing and democracy-by-genocide Apartheid Israel.

Labor is “Progressive Except Palestine” (PEP) and thoroughly alienates anti-racist Jewish and non-Jewish Australians and decent anti-racists world-wide by:

(a) supporting enhanced trade including deadly military trade with Apartheid Israel (the Israelis boast that their “sophisticated” weapons are pre-tested on Palestinians and Arabs);

(b) supporting Australia being second only to the US as a supporter of Apartheid Israel;

(c) tolerating US delivery of bulk intelligence on Australians to Apartheid Israel;

(d) likely being a supporter of the Australian Intelligence-proposed declaration of Hamas “in its entirety” as a “terrorist organization” (thereby threatening Australian Palestinians and Australian democracy, noting that Hamas overwhelmingly won the 2006 Occupied Palestinian elections held under Israeli guns);

(e) tolerating massive Zionist subversion, perversion and violation of Australians and Australian institutions;

(f) tolerating covert US, Australian and Apartheid Israeli involvement in the 1987 and 2000 Fiji coups (noting that Australia was also covertly and intimately involved in the US-backed 1970 Cambodian coup that removed Prince Sihanouk, the US-backed 1973 military coup that removed the democratically-elected Allende Government, and US backing of Islamist rebels in Indonesia in the 1960s and the deadly and genocidal military coup in 1965);

(g) opposing a 1 state solution (ethnic cleansing has made the 2-state solution impossible), and peaceful Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Apartheid Israel and all its supporters (of the kind that freed South Africa from Apartheid);

(h) supporting massive lying by commission and lying by omission in Australia and the West over Zionist and US crimes (e.g. horrendous deaths in the ongoing Palestinian Genocide and the ongoing US-imposed post-9/11 Muslim Holocaust and Muslim Genocide) and lies (e.g. that Apartheid Israel is a “Jewish state”, and “the only democracy in the Middle East”); and

(i) supporting the anti-Arab anti-Semitic, anti-Jewish anti-Semitic and holocaust-ignoring IHRA.

Re pro-Zionist Labor Leader Anthony Albanese, the Australian Jewish News (AJN) reported (July 2021): “He [Albanese] added that he is ‘very, very supportive’ of specifically identifying antisemitism, like other forms of racism, and that antisemitism ‘should be talked about and should be taught [about]’ and said a Labor government would endorse the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.” (Carly Douglas, “Anthony Albanese blasts Israel boycotters,” AJN, 15 July 2021)

The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIPAC) stated (August 2021): “Should the Government agree, a bipartisan endorsement is unlikely to be problematic, given Labor leader Anthony Albanese has already announced his support for the definition and his intention to endorse it, should Labor win government.” (AIPAC, “It is time for Australia to adopt the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism,” 20 August 2021)

However the IHRA claims that Australia is already one out of 34 members of the IHRA (IHRA Member Countries).

Of these 34 IHRA countries:

(1) all 34 are European;

(2) the 5 outside of Europe (Argentina, Australia, Canada, Apartheid Israel, and the USA) are societies based on horrendous genocide of the Indigenous inhabitants;

(3) 4 are nuclear terrorist states (Apartheid Israel, France, the UK, and the US);

(4) of the 29 members in Europe, all but 6 (Austria, Finland , Ireland, Serbia, Sweden and Switzerland), i.e. 23, belong to nuclear-armed NATO (together with Canada and the US), and thus support nuclear mass murder of women, children and men as a military strategy;

(5) of the 29 members in Europe, 7 were notably complicit in the WW2 Jewish Holocaust and the WW2 European Holocaust (Croatia, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, and Romania) .

(6) of the 34 members, 14 were notably involved in the brutal conquest and genocide of Indigenous non-European people (Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Apartheid Israel, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, the UK and the USA);

(7) of the 34 members, 25 are among the 30 members of nuclear-armed NATO, namely (non-IHRA NATO members in bold): (Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States);

(8) of the 34 members, only 2 (Austria and Ireland) have had the moral decency to sign and ratify the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) that was the great accomplishment of the Melbourne-founded and 2017 Nobel Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

Over 40 anti-racist Jewish organizations have condemned the IHRA Definition of anti-Semitism (2018): “The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, which is increasingly being adopted or considered by western governments, is worded in such a way as to be easily adopted or considered by western governments to intentionally equate legitimate criticisms of Israel and advocacy for Palestinian rights with antisemitism, as a means to suppress the former. This conflation undermines both the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality and the global struggle against antisemitism. It also serves to shield Israel from being held accountable to universal standards of human rights and international law. We urge our governments, municipalities, universities and other institutions to reject the IHRA definition and instead take effective measures to defeat white supremacist nationalist hate and violence and to end complicity in Israel’s human rights violations. Israel does not represent us and cannot speak for us when committing crimes against Palestinians and denying their UN-stipulated rights. The Nobel Peace Prize-nominated, Palestinian civil society-led BDS movement for Palestinian rights has demonstrated an ongoing proven commitment to fighting antisemitism and all forms of racism and bigotry, consistent with its dedication to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Some of the undersigned organizations support BDS in full, others in part, and others have no formal position on BDS. We all affirm the current call for BDS as a set of tools and tactics that should not be defined as antisemitic” (Jewish Voices for Peace, “First ever: 40+ Jewish groups worldwide oppose equating antisemitism with criticism of Israel,” 17 July 2018).

In horrible reality, as Zionist-subverted and US-beholden, both the Coalition and Labor fervently support nuclear terrorist and genocidally racist Apartheid Israel, and Australia (with 33 other countries, all European and mostly supporters of nuclear terrorism and of UK, US and French nuclear terrorism in particular) is a member of the anti-Arab anti-Semitic, anti-Jewish anti-Semitic and holocaust-denying International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). The IHRA is anti-Arab anti-Semitic (by falsely defaming Palestinian, Arab and Muslim critics of Apartheid Israeli crimes), anti-Jewish anti-Semitic (by falsely defaming anti-racist Jewish critics of Apartheid Israeli crimes), and holocaust-denying (ignoring all WW2 holocausts other than the WW2 Jewish Holocaust (5-6 million killed by violence and deprivation), namely (deaths from violence and imposed deprivation in brackets) the WW2 European Holocaust (30 million Slavs, Jews and Gypsies killed), the WW2 Bengali Holocaust (6-7 million Indians deliberately starved to death for strategic reasons by the British with Australian complicity in 1942-1945), the WW2 Chinese Holocaust (35-40 million killed under the Japanese, 1937-1945), and indeed ignoring and hence denying about 60 other horrendous genocides and holocausts) (Gideon Polya, “Nuclear Terrorist Australia, UK & US AUKUS Alliance Threatens Humanity,” Countercurrents, 4 October 2021; Gideon Polya, “Australia must stop Zionist subversion and join the World in comprehensive Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Apartheid Israel and all its supporters,” Subversion of Australia, 15 April 2021; Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), “Feasibility study on strengthening trade and investment with Israel – submissions,” 2021; Gideon Polya, US-Imposed Post-9/11 Muslim Holocaust & Muslim Genocide, 400 pages, Korsgaard Publishing, Germany, 2020, Review).

Decency, respect for International Law, and support for human rights aside, Labor should also follow the spirit of Section 44 of the Australian Constitution that states in part: “Any person who – (i.) Is under any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power, or is a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or citizen of a foreign power: or… shall be incapable of being chosen or of sitting as a senator or a member of the House of Representative.” Indeed all those supporting Apartheid Israel and hence Apartheid are violating International Law and are unfit for public life in a one-person-one-vote democracy like Australia.

Eminent Australian human rights lawyer Professor Gillian Triggs observed that “[The Coalition] is ideologically opposed to human rights”. Unfortunately Labor has strayed into the same moral morass by its fervent support of grossly human rights- and International Law-violating Apartheid Israel. Labor, as exemplified by the all too short, US-removed Whitlam Labor Government (I door-knocked for Gough Whitlam and Labor in 1975), should be the natural home of progressive, anti-racist, and humanitarian Australian voters. However such decent people can simply no longer in conscience vote 1 Labor in Australia’s compulsory and preferential voting system, and will vote 1 Green and put the Coalition last. Indeed Labor support for the IHRA means Labor support for repugnant anti-Semitism through defamation of anti-racist Jews, Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims.

I would urge Labor to immediately find courage, change tack, reject Zionist threats, oppose Zionist subversion of Australia, support Palestinian human rights, support immediate Palestinian self-determination, cease support for Apartheid Israel, and reject the anti-Arab anti-Semitic, anti-Jewish anti-Semitic and holocaust ignoring IHRA that is condemned by over 40 anti-racist Jewish organizations. Peace is the only way but silence kills and silence is complicity. Please disseminate this Labor-saving message to everyone you can.

Yours sincerely, Dr Gideon Polya, Melbourne, Australia

The post Open Letter to Australian Labor MPs re IHRA & Labor “Progressive Except Palestine” (PEP) first appeared on Dissident Voice.

From the “Iron Wall” to the “Villa in the Jungle”: Palestinians Demolish Israel’s Security Myths

Twenty-five years before Israel was established on the ruins of historic Palestine, a Russian Jewish Zionist leader, Ze’ev Jabotinsky, argued that a Jewish state in Palestine could only survive if it exists “behind an iron wall” of defense.

Jabotinsky was speaking figuratively. However, future Zionist leaders, who embraced Jabotinsky’s teachings, eventually turned the principle of the iron wall into a tangible reality. Consequently, Israel and Palestine are now disfigured with endless barricades of walls, made of concrete and iron, which zigzag in and around a land that was meant to represent inclusion, spiritual harmony and co-existence.

Gradually, new ideas regarding Israel’s ‘security’ emerged, such as ‘fortress Israel’ and ‘villa in the jungle’ – an obviously racist metaphor used repeatedly by former Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, which falsely depicts Israel as an oasis of harmony and democracy amid Middle Eastern chaos and violence. For the Israeli ‘villa’ to remain prosperous and peaceful, according to Barak, Israel needed to do more than merely maintain its military edge; it had to ensure the ‘chaos’ does not breach the perimeters of Israel’s perfect existence.

‘Security’ for Israel is not simply defined through military, political and strategic definitions. If so, the shooting of an Israeli sniper, Barel Hadaria Shmuel, by a Palestinian at the fence separating besieged Israel from Gaza on August 21, should have been understood as the predictable and rational cost of perpetual war and military occupation.

Moreover, one dead sniper for over 300 dead unarmed Palestinians should, from a crude military calculation, appear to be a minimal loss. But the language used by Israeli officials and media following the death of Shmuel – whose job included the killing of Gazan youngsters – indicates that Israel’s sense of dejection is not linked to the supposed tragedy of a life lost, but by the unrealistic expectations that military occupation and ‘security’ can co-exist.

Israelis want to be able to kill, without being killed in return; subdue and militarily occupy Palestinians without the least degree of resistance, armed or otherwise; they want to imprison thousands of Palestinians without the slightest protest or even the mere questioning of Israel’s military judicial system.

These fantasies, which satisfied and guided the thinking of successive Zionist and Israeli leaders since the times of Jabotinsky, work only in theory.

Time after time, resisting Palestinians have made a mockery of Israel’s security myths. The resistance in Gaza has exponentially grown in its capabilities, whether in preventing the Israeli army from entering and holding positions in the Gaza Strip or its ability to strike back at Israeli towns and cities. Israel’s effectiveness in winning wars and keeping its gains has been greatly hampered in Gaza, as Israel’s efforts have also been repeatedly thwarted in Lebanon in the last two decades.

Even the iron dome – an ‘iron wall’ of a different kind – proved to be a failure in terms of its ability to intercept crudely-made Palestinian rockets, with Professor Theodore Postol of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) arguing that the success rate of the dome was “drastically lower” than what the Israeli government and army have reported.

Even the Israeli ‘villa’ was compromised from the inside, as the popular Palestinian uprising of May 2021 has demonstrated that Israel’s native Palestinian Arab population remains an organic part of the Palestinian whole. The violence, at the hands of the police and right-wing militants, that many Arab communities inside Israel have endured for taking a moral stance in support of their brethren in occupied Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, indicated that the supposed ‘harmony’ within Barak’s ‘villa’ was a construct that shattered within a few days.

Still, Israel refuses to accept what otherwise should have been obvious and inevitable – that a country’s existence which is sustained through walls and military force, will never be able to find true peace and will continue to suffer the consequences of the violence it inflicts on others.

A public letter issued by the Israeli army’s chief of staff, Aviv Kohavi, on September 4, in response to the widespread criticism over the killing of the Israeli sniper, further highlighted one of Israel’s major national fault lines. “The readiness to sustain loss of life is crucial to national resilience, and that resilience is vital to the continuation of our very existence,” Kohavi wrote, an assertion that sounded alarm bells throughout the country, leading to a political controversy.

This controversy was compounded with the news of six Palestinian prisoners escaping Israel’s most secured Gilboa prison on September 6. While Palestinians celebrated the daring escape, Israel plunged into yet another major ‘security’ crisis. This single act by Palestinian freedom fighters seeking an escape from the Israeli gulag that lacks the minimal requirements of justice or the rule of law, was treated in Israeli media as if the very collapse of the security state. Even the recapture of some of the prisoners hardly altered this reality.

Israel’s iron walls are falling apart at the seams and the fortress is crumbling, not only because Palestinians never ceased resisting, but also because the militaristic mindset through which Israel was conceived, constructed and sustained was a failure from the very start.

Israel’s problem is that its military fortress was built with major design flaws that were never corrected or even addressed. No nation on earth can enjoy long-term security, peace and prosperity at the expense of another nation, as long as the latter never ceases its fight for freedom. Possibly, early Zionists did not factor in that Palestinian resistance could last for so long, and that the baton of freedom fighting can pass on from one generation to the next. It behooves Israel to accept this unavoidable reality.

Until Israel abandons its foolish ‘security’ fantasies, there can never be true peace in Palestine, neither for the occupied and oppressed Palestinians, nor for the Israeli occupiers.

The post From the “Iron Wall” to the “Villa in the Jungle”: Palestinians Demolish Israel’s Security Myths first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Hashtag “Untie_Our_Hands”: How Many More Palestinians Must Die for Israel’s “Security”?

A large Israeli army campaign is taking social media by storm. The unstated aim of what is known as the “#Untie_Our_Hands” initiative is the desire to kill, with no accountability, more Palestinian protesters at the Gaza fence. The campaign was motivated by the killing of an Israeli sniper, Barel Hadaria Shmueli, who was reportedly shot from the Palestinian side of the fence on August 21.

An immediate question comes to mind: what do Israeli soldiers want, considering that they have already killed over 300 unarmed Palestinian protesters and wounded and maimed thousands more at the Gaza fence during what Palestinians referred to as the ‘Great March of Return’ between 2018 and 2020?

This ‘march’ is now being renewed, though it often takes place at night, where frustrated Palestinian youth gather in their thousands, chanting anti-Israeli occupation slogans and, at times, throwing rocks at Israeli snipers who are stationed nearly a mile away.

Months after the Israeli onslaught on Gaza – a relatively brief but deadly war between May 10-21 – the stifling status quo in the besieged Strip has not changed: the hermetic Israeli siege, the snipers, the occasional nightly bombardment, the devastating unemployment, the closures, and the lack of everything, from clean water to cement to even cancer medication.

Therefore, it should not be surprising that Palestinians in Gaza, especially the youth, are in desperate need of a platform to express their justifiable rage at this ongoing misery; thus, the renewed mass protests at the fence.

Israeli politicians and media intentionally exaggerate the ‘threat’ posed by the Gaza protesters to Israel’s security. They speak of ‘incendiary balloons’ as if they are 500-pound bombs dropped by fighter jets. They are terrified by the prospect of Gaza kids ‘breaching the border’, with reference to fences that Israel has arbitrarily established around Gaza without respecting any ceasefire demarcations as recognized by the United Nations.

This fear-mongering is now back with a vengeance, as the killing of the Israeli sniper is offering an opportunity for Israeli politicians to present themselves as the defenders of the army and the champions of Israeli ‘security’. A political witch hunt quickly followed, regarding those who are supposedly ‘cuffing the hands of our troops.’

This same assertion was made by Naftali Bennett in 2019, before he became the country’s prime minister. “The High Court is cuffing the hands of IDF troops,” Bennett has said, vowing to “free the IDF from the High Court”.

A year earlier, Bennett offered more details on how he intends to end Palestinian protests at the Gaza fence.  Responding to a question during an Israeli Army Radio interview on what he would do if he were the country’s defense minister, he replied: “I would not allow terrorists to cross the border from Gaza every day … and if they do, we should shoot to kill. Terrorists from Gaza should not enter Israel … Just as in Lebanon, Syria or anywhere else we should shoot to kill.”

The emphasis on ‘killing’ in response to any form of Palestinian protests seemed to be the common denominator between Israeli officials, military brass and even ordinary soldiers. The latter, who are purportedly behind the social media campaign, seem to be enjoying their time at the Gaza fence. Israeli snipers – per their own testimonies – keep track of the number of Palestinians they shoot, try to break each other’s’ records and cheer on video when they document a ‘clean shot’ of a Palestinian protester, which should demonstrate the horrific violence meted out against those Palestinian youth.

Israeli snipers at the Gaza fence work in pairs. A third person, known as the ‘locator’, helps the snipers locate their next target. Eden is an Israeli sniper, who, among others, gave testimonies to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, in March 2020. Eden is particularly proud of a grizzly milestone that he and his team have achieved.

“On that day, our pair had the largest number of hits, 42 in all,” he said. “My locator wasn’t supposed to shoot, but I gave him a break, because we were getting close to the end of our stint, and he didn’t have knees. In the end you want to leave with the feeling that you did something, that you weren’t a sniper during exercises only. So, after I had a few hits, I suggested to him that we switch. He got around 28 knees there, I’d say.”

Such testimonies are further validated by occasional video footage of Israeli snipers cheering after shooting Palestinian kids at the fence. In April 2018, a particular video of cheering soldiers, along with the kind of dialogue that indicates that Israelis have no regard for Palestinian lives whatsoever, was leaked to international media. Even CNN reported on it.

This violent phenomenon is not confined to Gaza. The debate on Israel’s ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy in the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories has been raging on for years. In 2017, Human Rights Watch linked the increased number of Palestinian casualties, who are killed at the hands of trigger-happy soldiers, to the violent discourse emanating from the Israeli government itself.

HRW “has documented numerous statements since October 2015, by senior Israeli politicians, including the police minister and defense minister, calling on police and soldiers to shoot to kill suspected attackers, irrespective of whether lethal force is actually strictly necessary to protect life,” the report read.

The above issue was highlighted in the execution of the incapacitated Palestinian, Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, in the occupied city of Al-Khalil, Hebron, in March 2016 and in the killing of Ahmad Erekat, at a military checkpoint in the West Bank in July 2020. Not only did Erekat pose no immediate threat to the lives of the occupation soldiers, but according to a statement by 83 Palestinian and international NGOs, Erekat “was then left to bleed to death for an hour and a half, while the Israeli occupying forces denied him access to medical care”.

Considering the disproportionate number of Palestinian casualties which, at times, push Palestinian morgues in Gaza to full capacity, it is inconceivable what Israeli soldiers, army generals, and politicians want exactly when they speak of ‘untying their hands’. Far more bewildering is the international community’s apathy while Israelis debate about how many more Palestinians ought to be killed.

The post Hashtag “Untie_Our_Hands”: How Many More Palestinians Must Die for Israel’s “Security”? first appeared on Dissident Voice.