Tag Archives: gaza

Israel’s new government will deepen rifts, not heal them

The photo was unprecedented. It showed Mansour Abbas, leader of an Islamist party for Palestinians in Israel, signing an agreement on Wednesday night to sit in a “government of change” alongside settler leader Naftali Bennett.

Caretaker Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will fervently try to find a way to break up the coalition in the next few days, before a parliamentary vote takes place. But if he fails, it will be the first time in the country’s 73-year history that a party led by a Palestinian citizen has joined – or been allowed to join – an Israeli government.

Aside from the symbolism of the moment, there are no other grounds for celebration. In fact, the involvement of Abbas’s four-member United Arab List in shoring up a majority for a government led by Bennett and Yair Lapid is almost certain to lead to a further deterioration in majority-minority relations.

There will be a reckoning for this moment, and Israel’s 1.8 million Palestinian citizens, a fifth of the population, will once again pay the heaviest price.

The sole reason that this makeshift coalition exists – the only glue holding it together – is the hostility of the various parties towards Netanyahu. In most cases, that is not a hostility towards his political positions; simply towards him personally, and towards the corrupting stranglehold he has exerted on Israel’s political system for the past 12 years.

The “change” referred to by this proposed government coalition begins and ends with the removal of Netanyahu.

Doubly offended

It barely needs stating again that Bennett, who will serve first as prime minister in rotation with Lapid, is even more right wing than Netanyahu. In fact, three of the new coalition’s main parties are at least, if not more, rabidly nationalistic than the Israel’s longtime leader. In any other circumstances, they would be enthusiastically heading into government with his Likud Party.

As Bennett and Mansour huddled inside a hotel near Tel Aviv to sign the coalition agreement as the clock ticked down on Lapid’s mandate to form a government, far-right demonstrators noisily chanted outside that Bennett was joining a “government with terror supporters”.

Much of the ultra-nationalist right is so incensed by Bennett’s actions that he and other members of his Yamina party have been assigned a security detail for fear of an assassination attempt.

No one has forgotten that it was Bennett’s own settler camp that produced Yigal Amir, the man who in 1995 shot dead the then-prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, in a bid to foil the Oslo peace accords with the Palestinians. Amir killed Rabin in large part because the latter was seen to have betrayed the Jewish people by allowing “Arabs” – Palestinian parties in the parliament – to prop up his minority government from outside. They did so to pass legislation necessary to begin implementing the Oslo process.

The chain of events that followed the assassination are well-known. Israelis lurched further rightwards and elected Netanyahu. The Oslo track with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was derailed. A Palestinian intifada erupted. And – coming full circle – Netanyahu returned to power and is now Israel’s longest-serving prime minister.

Today’s potential Yigal Amirs are doubly offended by Bennett’s behaviour. They believe he has stabbed the right’s natural leader, Netanyahu, in the back, while at the same time allowing Abbas – seen by the right as Hamas’s man in the Knesset – to dictate policy to the Jewish owners of the land.

Digging in heels

It was notable that Bennett and Abbas were the last to sign the coalition agreement, after both made great play of digging in their heels at the final moment for more concessions. Each risks inflaming their own constituency by being seen to cooperate with the other.

Commentators will try to spin this agreement between a settler leader and the head of an Islamic party as a potential moment of healing after last month’s unprecedented inter-communal fighting inside Israel.

But such a reading is as misleading as the narrative of the recent “Jewish-Arab clashes”. In fact, protests by Palestinian youths against systematic discrimination escalated into confrontations only after Israeli police turned violent and let Jewish gangs take the law into their own hands. Just as the balance of power on the streets was weighted in favour of Jewish vigilantism, so the balance of forces in this new coalition will work solidly against Abbas.

When Bennett spoke publicly on Sunday, as the horse-trading began in earnest behind the scenes, he underscored his credentials as the former head of the Yesha Council of Jewish settlements. That will be the theme of this proposed “government of change”.

Pact with the ‘devil’

During the coalition-building negotiations, the more moderate Labor and Meretz parties conceded time and again to the demands of the far-right and settler parties on ministerial positions and policy. That is because the moderates have nowhere else to go.

They have built their whole electoral strategy on ousting Netanyahu at any cost, using the anti-Netanyahu street protests of the past two years as their rallying cry. They cannot afford to be seen as missing this opportunity.

By contrast, as the death threats highlight, Bennett has far more to lose. Some 60 percent of his party’s voters recently told pollsters they would not have backed him had they known he would join a coalition with Lapid. Equally at risk are Gideon Saar, whose New Hope party broke away from Likud to challenge Netanyahu, and Avigdor Lieberman, a settler politician whose right-wing base has found in him their local strongman.

These three must now do everything in their power during the term of this new government – if it happens – to prove to their constituencies that they are not betraying the far-right’s favourite causes, from settlements to annexation. Baiting them from the sidelines at every turn will be Netanyahu, stirring up passions on the right – at least until he is forced to step down, either by his party or by a verdict against him in his current corruption trial.

The Achilles heel Netanyahu will keep prodding as viciously as he can is the fact that his rivals on the right have made a Faustian pact with the Arab “devil”. Netanyahu has never been shy to incite against the Palestinian minority. To imagine he will restrain himself this time is fanciful.

Bennett understands the danger, which is why he tried to legitimise his dealings with Abbas on Thursday by calling him “a brave leader”. But Bennett was also keen to emphasise that Abbas would not be involved in any security matters and that he was not interested in “nationalism” – in this case, indicating that Abbas will neither offer support to Palestinians under occupation nor seek to advance national rights for Palestinian citizens of the kind Israeli Jews enjoy.

Early on Thursday, Netanyahu had decried the new coalition as “dangerous” and “left wing”. He will most likely be in the driving seat, even while in opposition. Far from healing the country, a “government of change” could rapidly provoke yet more street violence, especially if Netanyahu believes such a deterioration would weaken Bennett as prime minister.

Extracting benefits

Abbas, the United Arab List leader, reportedly held out until last before signing. His whole electoral strategy was built on a promise to end the permanent exclusion of Palestinian parties from Israel’s national politics. He will be keen to show how many benefits he can extract from his role inside government – even if most are privileges the Jewish majority has always enjoyed by right.

Abbas trumpeted that the agreement would “provide solutions for the burning issues in Arab society – planning, the housing crisis, and, of course, fighting violence and organised crime”. He has reportedly secured some $16bn in extra budgets for development and infrastructure, and three of the many Bedouin villages the state has long refused to recognise will be given legal status.

Abbas is also pushing for the repeal of a 2017 law that makes tens of thousands of homes in Palestinian communities inside Israel vulnerable to demolition.

One of his fellow legislators, Walid Taha, observed of the United Arab List’s new role: “For decades, Arab Israelis [Palestinian citizens] have been without any influence. Now, everyone knows that we’re the deciding votes as far as politics goes.”

Abbas has every incentive to use such claims as a whip to beat his rivals in the Joint List, a coalition of several other Palestinian parties that are staying in opposition. He needs to emphasise his role in bringing about change to make them look weak and irrelevant.

Hostility and disdain

But despite the promises that lured Abbas into the new government, he will face a rough ride getting any of them translated into tangible changes on the ground.

Lapid will be busy as foreign minister, selling this as a new era in Israeli politics. Meanwhile, Benny Gantz, the current defence minister who just oversaw the destruction yet again of Gaza, will offer continuity.

Back home, the key internal ministries will be held by the far-right. Lieberman will control the purse strings through the finance ministry, directing funds to settlements before Palestinian communities inside Israel. Bennett’s partner, Ayelet Shaked, will be interior minister, meaning the settlements in the occupied West Bank will be treated as more integral to Israel than the communities of Palestinian citizens. And Saar will be justice minister, helping to drive the legal system even further to the right.

Faced with this bloc, all of them keen to be seen as upholding the values of the right, Abbas will struggle to make any progress. And that is without considering the situation he will find himself in if Bennett pushes for annexation of the West Bank, or authorises another police invasion of al-Aqsa, or oversees the expulsion of Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah, or launches a fresh attack on Gaza.

Abbas put the coalition negotiations on pause during Israel’s assault on Gaza last month. He won’t be able to do the same from inside the government. He will be directly implicated.

As a result, Palestinian citizens are likely to end up growing even more disillusioned with a political system that has always treated them with a mix of hostility and disdain. They will finally have representatives inside government, but will continue to be very much outside of it. The triggers for the protests that erupted among young Palestinians in Israel last month are not going away.

The most likely scenario over the coming months is that Netanyahu and Bennett will engage in a furious competition for who deserves the title of champion of the right. Netanyahu will seek to break apart the coalition as quickly as possible by inciting against Abbas and the Palestinian minority, so he has another shot at power. In turn, Bennett will try to pressure Likud to abandon Netanyahu so that Bennett can collapse the “government of change” as quickly as possible and rejoin a large majority, far-right government with Likud.

Rifts will not be healed; coexistence will not be revived. But the preeminence of the ultra-nationalist right – with or without Netanyahu – will be restored.

• First published in Middle East Eye

The post Israel’s new government will deepen rifts, not heal them first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Fumbling King of Palestine: Palestinians are Defeating the Oslo Culture

The political discourse of Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, is similar to that of an ineffectual king who has been isolated in his palace for far too long. The king speaks of prosperity and peace, and tirelessly counts his innumerable achievements, while his people are dying of starvation outside and pointlessly begging for his attention.

But Abbas is no ordinary king. He is a ‘president’ by name only, a designated ‘leader’ simply because Israel and the US-led international political system insist on recognizing him as such. Not only had the man’s political mandate expired in 2009, it was quite limited even prior to that date.  At no point in his career did Abbas ever represent the entire Palestinian people. Now, at 85 years, chances are Abbas will never serve this role.

Long before Abbas was the US and Israel’s favorite Palestinian ‘candidate’ to rule over occupied and oppressed Palestinians in 2005, two separate political discourses were evolving in Palestine and, with them, two uniquely separate cultures. There was the ‘Oslo culture’, which was sustained by empty clichés, platitudes about peace and negotiations and, most importantly, billions of dollars, which poured in from donor countries. The funds were never truly aimed at achieving the coveted just peace or Palestinian independence, but to sustain a dismal status quo, where Israel’s military occupation is normalized through ‘security coordination’ between the Israeli army and Abbas’ Authority.

This culture, seen by most Palestinians as treacherous and corrupt, was celebrated in the West as ‘moderate’, especially if compared to the other Palestinian culture, dubbed ‘radical’, or worse, ‘terrorist’. The other culture, which has been shunned for nearly three decades is, thanks to the recent popular revolt in Palestine and the stiff resistance in Gaza, finally prevailing. The show of strength exhibited by the Palestinian Resistance in the besieged Gaza Strip, commencing May 10 – especially within the context of a popular uprising that has finally unified Palestinian youth across, not only in the occupied territories but all of historic Palestine as well – is inspiring a new language. This language is not only being utilized by a handful of ‘radical’ intellectuals, but by many political and academic figures who have long been affiliated with the PA.

In an interview with the British newspaper, The Independent, soon after the end of the Israeli war on Gaza, former PA Minister and veteran politician, Hanan Ashrawi, spoke of the changes underway at the socio-political level in Palestine. “Hamas has evolved, and it is gaining support among young people, even Christians,” Ashrawi said, adding that “Hamas has every right to be represented in a pluralistic system.” However, this is not about Hamas alone. It is about Palestinian resistance as a whole, whether represented in islamist, nationalist or socialist trends.

At one time, Abbas had referred to the Palestinian resistance in Gaza as ‘frivolous’. Today, not many Palestinians in the West Bank, or even in Ramallah, would agree with his assessment.

The above assertion was apparent on May 25, when US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, rushed to Israel and the Occupied Territories in a desperate attempt to revive an old language, one that Palestinians are now openly challenging. Inside Abbas’ luxurious office, Blinken spoke of money, negotiations and, inaptly, ‘freedom of expression’. Abbas thanked the American diplomat, oddly demanded a return to the ‘status quo’ in Jerusalem, renounced ‘violence and terrorism’, and called for ‘peaceful popular resistance’.

Yet, in the streets of Ramallah, a few hundred meters away from the Blinken-Abbas spectacle, thousands of Palestinians were battling with PA police while chanting “America is the head of the snake”, “Security coordination is shameful,” and “The Oslo Accords are gone.”

The protesters comprised Muslims and Christians, men and women, young and old and represented all Palestinian factions, including the PA’s dominant party, Abbas’ own, Fatah. The protesters were accurate in their chants, of course, but what is truly significant is that Palestinians in the West Bank are finally overcoming many obstacles and fears, the stifling factional division, the brutality of Abbas’ security goons and are openly challenging –  in fact, ready to dismantle –  the entire Oslo culture.

Blinken’s visit to Palestine was not compelled by concern over the plight of occupied and besieged Palestinians, and certainly not over the lack of freedom of expression. If that was, indeed, the case, the US could simply end or, at least, condition its $3.8 billion of military aid to Israel. But Blinken, as the top representative of the Joe Biden Administration’s foreign policy, had nothing new to offer by way of new ideas, strategies, plans, let alone language. All he had were promises of more money to Abbas, as if American aid is what Palestinians are fighting and dying for.

Like Biden’s foreign policy, Abbas is equally bankrupt. He fumbled as he spoke, repeatedly emphasizing his gratitude for renewed American funds, money that made him, his family and a very corrupt class of Palestinians undeservingly rich.

The latest Israeli bloodbath in Gaza – the killing of hundreds and the wounding of thousands, the wanton destruction and systematic violence in the West Bank and elsewhere – are watershed moments in the history of Palestine, not because of the tragedy that Israel has, once more, orchestrated, but because of the resilience of the Palestinian people in their collective response to this tragedy. The consequences of this realization are likely to change the political paradigm in Palestine for years to come.

Frequently, many have rightly argued that the Oslo Accords, as a political doctrine, was long dead. However, the Oslo culture, that of unique but misleading language, factional division, classism and utter political chaos, which persisted for many years, is likely on its way out, too. Neither Washington, Tel Aviv, nor Mahmoud Abbas’ PA can possibly resuscitate the past and the miserable culture that Oslo has imposed on the Palestinian people. Only Palestinians can lead this transition for a better future, that of national unity, political clarity and, ultimately, freedom.

The post The Fumbling King of Palestine: Palestinians are Defeating the Oslo Culture first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Remember the Name:  Sheikh Jarrah

Places have left their mark in the historical narrative – Lidice, where the Nazis, in the late spring of 1942, executed 173 men from the Czech village in reprisal for the assassination of Deputy of Bohemia and Moravia, Reinhard Heydrich; Wounded Knee, where, on December 29, 1890, a dispute between soldiers from the Seventh U.S. Cavalry Regiment and an arrested band of Lakota warriors resulted in the massacre of more than 250 men, women, and children of the Lakota tribe; Montségur, a rebuilt castle high in the French Pyrenees, where, the last of the Cathars, a Gnostic type sect that were considered heretics  by the Catholic Church, were sieged and eventually executed in March 1244; Guernica, Spain, where Nazi Stuka dive bombers killed Basque loyalists in the Spanish civil war; and Baba Yar, Ukraine, a ravine on the outskirts of Kiev, where German forces killed at least 34,000 Jews during September 1941. Add the village of Sheikh Jarrah to those of historical remembrances.

The  intent to evict Palestinians from their established homes served to highlight the more than 70 years of oppressions and well prepared destruction of the Palestinian community, forced attention to simultaneous aggressions against the Palestinian people, provoked serious warfare in the area, and led to a worldwide outcry in defense of the helpless and criminally attacked Palestinians. Sheikh Jarrah is now an eternal symbol for Palestinian independence and escape from Israel’s brutality.

Before expounding further on Sheikh Jarrah’s path to immortality, let us more accurately delineate the confused and misreported events that escalated the crisis. Regardless of the truth of any of the claims and their refutations, there is no necessity for anyone to collect rent on these properties and evict tenants because they have not paid supposed rents.

If residents who received housing from the Jordanian government after the 1947-1948 hostilities agree to pay rent, they will concede the property ownership to others and still not be guaranteed that they will be able to remain in their established homes in the future. Those trying to force the issue are obfuscating their intentions; they certainly did not purchase the rights to the property as a real estate investment — paltry and risky investment — nor for habitation. Living in a predominantly Islamic neighborhood is not a desired place for an Orthodox Jew to raise a family. The proposition that these people are followers of Simeon the Just, a fourth century BCE Jewish High Priest, and want to live near his tomb is suspect. Simeon the Righteous would certainly disapprove of followers who contradicted his teachings and followed a path of deceit rather than righteousness. Living close to a deceased person from ancient history that nobody of today or yesterday knew personally does not convey any benefits. There are millions of minor humanitarians in tombs around the world ─ take your pick. We know Ulysses Grant is buried in Grant’s tomb, but are we certain that Simeon the Just is buried in Jarrah?

According to archaeologists who excavated the site, it is the 2nd-century CE burial site of a Roman matron named Julia Sabina. From Archaeological researches in Palestine during the years 1873-1874, by Clermont-Ganneau,   p. 269-270.

While carefully studying the interior of this sepulchre, apparently of such a commonplace character, I made in 1871 an unexpected and very interesting discovery, a Roman inscription whose existence had escaped the notice of the archaeologists who had preceded me, even as it has that of those who have followed me, for up to the present day no one, as far as I know, has noticed it or mentioned it.

I took an excellent squeeze of it. The first line alone can be read with certainty: Julia Sabinae. This name Julia Sabina reminds one of that of …ius Sabinus, first centurion of the Tenth Legion Fretensis, a dedicatory inscription to whom I once brought to light from the inside of Jerusalem itself. Can our Julia Sabina have been the wife or daughter of this Julius Sabinus? The form of the letters in the two texts shows considerable similarity, moreover, the face of the stone in the one case and of the rock in the other seem to have been smoothed with the same toothed tool, worked in the same fashion. This identity of treatment is strikingly apparent when one compares the two squeezes. If this ancient Jewish tomb was re-adapted during the period of the Roman occupation to receive the body of a woman connected by marriage or by birth with one of the officers of the legion, which bore so terrible a part in the war against the Jews, one can easily see how eager the latter must have been to obliterate as soon as they were able, the traces of this double profanation of one of the sepulchres of their ancestors, by hammering the epitaph thus insolently displayed.

Israeli police continued their habit of treating the Palestinians as if they are an encumbrance by ejecting Palestinian youths from the Damascus gate ─ their evening gathering place after a day of Ramadan fast ─ and storming the al-Aqsa mosque. Using tear gas, stun grenades, and rubber-tipped bullets, police entered the mosque compound, clashed with protesters, and, reportedly, injured hundreds. All this mayhem left Hamas in a quandary ─ what to do to preserve Palestinian dignity? Knowing that its bold statement that “any more Israeli provocations will lead to a severe Hamas reaction,” is an invitation that Israel relishes, ‘die if we do and die if we don’t’ Hamas released its rockets on Israel. For Israel, provoking Hamas so that its forces can smash Gaza is a national sport, irrespective of the usual dozen Israeli deaths that accompany the onslaughts. Israel could have halted its oppressive tactics but, as always, continued with the same script and replayed the same movie.

When rockets from Gaza strike Ashkelon (previously the Palestinian town named al-Majdal), whom do they hit, and who fired them? Those hit by the rockets are descendants of those who stole the land and benefactors willing to be party to the theft from the Palestinian families who lived in the area for generations. In the 1945 statistics, al-Majdal had a population of 9,910. Not only had United Nations (UN) Resolution 181 awarded Ashkelon to the anticipated Palestinian state in, but the mass of Palestinians living in the area played no part in the hostilities. An Egyptian army, not invited by al-Majdal inhabitants, entered the town to protect its status under UN Resolution 181 and failed in the endeavor. Israeli forces captured al-Majdal on November 4, 1948. In the later months, the Israeli administration denied return to the original inhabitants that fled the engagements and forcibly removed the remaining inhabitants, almost all to Gaza.

Those firing the rockets are those who had their land, livelihood, and the futures of all their descendants stolen from them by the Israelis. The innocent victims of land theft and ethnic cleansing suffered deprivation in the barren desert of Gaza. Later they endured decades of oppressive Israeli occupation. After an end to physical occupation, Israel has controlled and intruded into their lives with constant violence against them — destruction of their buildings, factories, agricultural lands, water supplies, power stations, cultural institutions, denial of the fishing rights, keeping them caged in a limited area and preventing them from leaving. Israel determines the fate of the people in Gaza and seizes every opportunity to make their lives miserable. Shooting rockets at those who have victimized them sounds, and is, irreverently revengeful, but serves as a catharsis for the frustrated and aggrieved Palestinians ─ let the oppressor know what it feels to live in fear and danger,

When the United Nations Human Rights Council investigates alleged war crimes committed during the latest conflict between Israel and Hamas, the council should consider that the constant deadly military exchanges between Israel and Hamas affect relatively few Israeli families, while the entire millions in Gaza and the West Bank feel the shattering force almost every minute of every day.

The attempt to evict well-established Palestinian families from their rightful homes escalated from what Israel termed “only a real-estate dispute,” into wide areas of Israel and Gaza being pounded by military weapons. The attempt to evict well-established Palestinian families from their rightful homes escalated into worldwide defense of Palestinian rights and demands for an end to their continuous oppression. Sheikh Jarrah has left a permanent imprint on history. The world will remember, for eternity, the Name – Sheikh Jarrah.

The post Remember the Name:  Sheikh Jarrah first appeared on Dissident Voice.

“Mowing the Grass” No More: How Palestinian Resistance Altered the Equation  

The ceasefire on May 21 has, for now, brought the Israeli war on Gaza to an end. However, this ceasefire is not permanent and constant Israeli provocations anywhere in Palestine could reignite the bloody cycle all over again. Moreover, the Israeli siege on Gaza remains in place, as well as the Israeli military occupation and the rooted system of apartheid that exists all over Palestine.

This, however, does not preclude the fact that the 11-day Israeli war on the besieged Gaza Strip has fundamentally altered some elements about Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians, especially the Palestinian Resistance, in all of its manifestations.

Let us examine the main actors in the latest confrontation and briefly discuss the impact of the Israeli war and the determined Palestinian resistance on their respective positions.

“Mowing the Grass’ No More

‘Mowing the grass’ is an Israeli term used with reference to the habitual Israeli attacks and war on besieged Gaza, aimed at delineating the need for Israel to routinely eradicate or degrade the capabilities of the various Palestinian resistance groups on the street.

‘Mowing the grass’ also has political benefits, as it often neatly fit into Israel’s political agendas – for example, the need to distract from one political crisis or another in Israel or to solidify Israeli society around its leadership.

May 2021 will be remembered as the time that ‘mowing the grass’ can no longer be easily invoked as a military and political strategy by the Israeli government, as the Gaza resistance and the popular rebellion that was ignited throughout all of Palestine has raised the price by several-fold that Israel paid for its violent provocations.

While Israeli military and political strategists want to convince us, and themselves, that their relationship with Gaza and the Palestinian Resistance has not changed, it actually has and, arguably, irreversibly so.

The Altered Equation

The Palestinian fight for freedom has also been fundamentally altered, not only because of the unprecedented resilience of Palestinian resistance, but the unity of the Palestinian people, and the rise of a post-Oslo/peace process Palestinian nation that is united around a new popular discourse, one which does not differentiate between Palestinians in Jerusalem, Gaza, or anywhere else.

Palestinian unity around resistance, not peace process, is placing Israel in a new kind of quandary. For the first time in its history, Israel cannot win the war on the Palestinians. Neither can it lose the war, because conceding essentially means that Israel is ready to offer compromises – end its occupation, dismantle apartheid, and so on. This is why Israel opted for a one-sided ceasefire. Though humiliating, it preferred over-reaching a negotiated agreement, thus sending a message that the Palestinian Resistance works.

Still, the May war demonstrated that Israel is no longer the only party that sets the rules of the game. Palestinians are finally able to make an impact and force Israel to abandon its illusions that Palestinians are passive victims and that resistance is futile.

Equally important, we can no longer discuss popular resistance and armed resistance as if they are two separate notions or strategies. It would have been impossible for the armed resistance to be sustained, especially under the shocking amount of Israeli firepower, without the support of Palestinians at every level of society and regardless of their political and ideological differences.

Facing a single enemy that did not differentiate between civilians and fighters, between a Hamas or a Fatah supporter, the Palestinian people throughout Palestine moved past all of their political divisions and factional squabbles. Palestinian youth coined new terminologies, ones that were centered around resistance, liberation, solidarity and so on. This shift in the popular discourse will have important consequences that have the potential of cementing Palestinian unity for many years to come.

Israel’s Allies Not Ready to Change

The popular revolt in Palestine has taken many by surprise, including Israel’s allies. Historically, Israel’s Western supporters have proven to be morally bankrupt, but the latest war has proved them to be politically bankrupt as well.

Throughout the war, Washington and other Western capitals parroted the same old line about Israel’s right to defend itself, Israel’s security and the need to return to the negotiation table. This is an archaic and useless position because it did not add anything new to the old, empty discourse. If anything, it merely demonstrates their inability to evolve politically and to match the dramatic changes underway in occupied Palestine.

Needless to say, the new US Administration of Joe Biden, in particular, has missed a crucial opportunity to prove that it was different from that of the previous Donald Trump Administration. Despite, at times, guarded language and a few nuances, Biden behaved precisely as Trump would have if he was still  President.

 What ‘Palestinian leadership’?

The head of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, and his circle of supporters represent a bygone era. While they are happy to claim a large share of whatever international financial support that could pour in to rebuild Gaza, they do not represent any political trend in Palestine at the moment.

Abbas’s decision to cancel Palestine’s elections scheduled for May and July left him more isolated. Palestinians are ready to look past him; in fact, they already have. This so-called leadership will not be able to galvanize upon this historic moment built on Palestinian unity and resistance.

The Palestinian Authority is corrupt and dispensable. Worse, it is an obstacle in the way of Palestinian freedom. Palestine needs a leadership that represents all Palestinian people everywhere, one that is truly capable of leading the people as they attempt to chart a clear path to their coveted freedom.

 Expanding the Circle of Solidarity

The incredible amount of global solidarity which made headline news all over the world was a clear indication that the many years of preparedness at a grassroots level have paid off. Aside from the numerous expressions of solidarity, one particular aspect deserves further analysis: the geographic diversity of this solidarity which is no longer confined to a few cities in a few countries.

Pro-Palestine solidarity protests, vigils, conferences, webinars, art, music, poetry and many more such expressions were manifest from Kenya to South Africa, to Pakistan to the UK and dozens of countries around the world. The demographics, too, have changed, with minorities and people of color either leading or taking center stage of many of these protests, a phenomenon indicative of the rising intersectionality between Palestinians and numerous oppressed groups around the globe.

A critical fight ahead for Palestinians is the fight of delegitimizing and exposing Israeli colonialism, racism and apartheid. This fight can be won at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), the International Criminal Court (ICC), the International Court of Justice (ICJ), UNESCO and numerous international and regional organizations, in addition to the countless civil society groups and community centers the world over.

For this to happen, every voice matters, every vote counts, from India to Brazil, from Portugal to South Africa, from China to New Zealand, and so on. Israel understands this perfectly, thus the global charm offensive that right-wing Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has been leading for years. It is essential that we, too, understand this, and reach out to each UN member as part of a larger strategy to deservingly isolate Israel for ongoing war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The post “Mowing the Grass” No More: How Palestinian Resistance Altered the Equation   first appeared on Dissident Voice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The post Palestine’s Moment: Despite Massive Losses, Palestinians Have Altered the Course of History first appeared on Dissident Voice.

“The Savage Punishment Of Gaza”: Israel’s Latest Assault On Palestine’s Open Prison

Recent media coverage of Israel and Palestine, not least by BBC News, has been full of the usual deceptive propaganda tropes: Israel is ‘responding’ or ‘reacting’ to Palestinian ‘provocation’ and ‘escalation’; Palestinian rockets ‘killed’ Israelis, but Palestinians ‘have died’ from unnamed causes; Israel has ‘armed forces’ and ‘security forces’, but Hamas has ‘militants’. And, as ever, Palestinians were killed in far greater numbers than Israelis. At least 248 Palestinians were killed by Israeli bombardment in Gaza, including 66 children. Palestinian rocket fire killed 12 in Israel, including one child.

Imagine if the BBC reported:

Palestinian security forces responded after Israeli militants enforcing the apartheid occupation attacked and injured Palestinian worshippers.

BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen referred night after night on BBC News at Ten to ‘a war between Israel and Hamas’, a version of events pushed hard by Israel. As John Pilger said in a recent interview, ‘Bowen knows that’s wrong’. This is no war. In fact, the world has witnessed a massive attack by one of the world’s most powerful, lethal militaries, armed and supported to the hilt by the US (which sends $3.8 billion in military aid to Israel each year) and western allies, imposing a brutal occupation and deliberately subjecting the Palestinian civilian population to death, violence, terror and appalling hardship.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) warned early on that heavy Israeli bombing was pushing Gaza to the edge of catastrophe:

‘The Israeli bombing is incredibly heavy and stronger than previous bombing campaigns. Relentless bombing has destroyed many homes and buildings all around us. It’s not safe to go outside, and no one is safe inside, people are trapped. Emergency health workers are taking incredible but necessary risks to move around.’

On 19 May, the 10th day of intense Israeli bombardment of Gaza, the BBC News website carried headlines:

‘Israel targets Hamas chiefs’

And:

‘Israel targets Gaza militants’

So, why was Israel killing so many noncombatants, including children? Why were residences being flattened? The United Nations estimated that Israel had demolished 94 buildings in Gaza, comprising 461 housing and commercial units. Why were hospitals and clinics suffering so much damage? And buildings where media organisations were based?

Why were there Israeli airstrikes in the area of the MSF clinic in Gaza City, killing at least 42 people including 10 children? An orphanage was also destroyed.

The massacre was ‘one of the most horrific crimes’ Israel has committed during its ongoing war against the people of Gaza, according to Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor who added that:

‘the attack was not an isolated incident, but another example of Israel’s systematic policy that we have witnessed over the past six days.’

As Tamara Nasser observed in a piece on the Electronic Intifada website, Israel was unable to substantiate its claim that ‘Hamas military intelligence were using the building’ when pressed to do so by US public radio network NPR.

Nasser added:

‘Even if that Israeli claim were true, under the laws of war, Israel’s destruction of entire buildings would be wholly disproportionate.

‘Rather, Israel’s mass destruction of buildings and infrastructure appears to fit the pattern of the Dahiya Doctrine – named after its 2006 destruction of the southern suburb of Beirut.

‘The goal is to deliberately inflict such pain and suffering on the civilian population and society at large as to deter anyone from resisting against Israel’s occupation. This can be prosecuted as a war crime.’

It also serves as a useful definition of terrorism.

Christophe Deloire, Secretary General of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), said via Twitter:

‘What the Israeli army asserts, namely that the alleged presence of Hamas in the buildings would make them legitimate military objectives is absolutely false from a legal point of view, since they also house civilians, such as the media.’

He added:

‘Even assuming that the Israeli fire was necessary (which is absolutely not proven), the total destruction of the buildings demonstrates that the principles of distinction and proportionality have been flagrantly violated.’

Indeed, RSF sent a letter to Fatou Bensouda, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, urging an investigation of Israel’s targeting of the offices of 23 media organizations in Gaza during Israel’s bombardment.

‘False Equivalence Between Occupier And Occupied’

Gregory Shupak wrote in a piece for Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting, the US-based media watchdog, that corporate media coverage presented a ‘false equivalence between occupier and occupied’. He continued:

‘The fatal flaw in the “both sides” narrative is that only the Israeli side has ethnically cleansed and turned millions on the Palestinians’ side into refugees by preventing them from exercising their right to return to their homes. Israel is the only side subjecting anyone to apartheid and military occupation. It is only the Palestinian side—including those living inside of what is presently called Israel—that has been made to live as second-class citizens in their own land. That’s to say nothing of the lopsided scale of the death, injury and damage to infrastructure that Palestinians have experienced as compared to Israelis, both during the present offensive and in the longer term.’

When last week’s truce ‘between Israel and Hamas’ was imminent, Jeremy Bowen told BBC viewers:

‘Now, the essentials of that conflict are not going to change. Until they do, there will be more trouble in the future.’

But Israeli settler-colonialism, ethnic cleansing, lethal sanctions maintained by a brutal military occupation, apartheid, the killing and imprisonment of Palestinian children, Israel’s constant trampling of international law, and the daily humiliation of Palestinians constitute ‘trouble’ right now regardless of what happens ‘in the future’. These essential truths are regularly unmentioned or glossed over by Bowen, the BBC and the rest of a ‘mainstream’ media trying to ‘normalise the unthinkable’, by presenting violent occupation as a ‘clash’ between two sides competing for legitimacy.

As Abby Martin noted in a video powerfully rebutting the Israeli claim that Hamas uses ‘human shields’ in Gaza:

‘Israel has intentionally made Gaza unliveable. The only way Gaza is able to exert pressure on Israel is by firing rockets. If they peacefully protest their conditions, they’re massacred just the same. If they do nothing, Israel continues to blockade them, erode their living conditions while ethnically cleansing the rest of their land.’

This perspective – the Palestinian perspective – is almost entirely absent from news coverage. Moreover, WikiLeaks has revealed that when Israel’s forces invaded Gaza in 2009’s ‘Operation Cast Lead’, they  – Israel – did actually use Gazans as human shields. A classified US cable reported that Israeli soldiers:

‘testified to instances where Gazans were used as human shields, incendiary phosphorous shells were fired over civilian population areas, and other examples of excessive firepower that caused unnecessary fatalities and destruction of property.’

During the latest phase of Israeli aggression, Israel’s Minister of Defence Benny Gantz warned:

‘No person, neighbourhood or area in Gaza is immune [from airstrikes]’

This is a grotesque justification for war crimes. Where was the headlined outrage in response from ‘mainstream’ media that regularly cite defence of human rights as justification for war on countries like Iraq, Syria and Libya?

Hamas: A ‘Convenient Monster’

Hamas is regularly presented by corporate media as some kind of monster, a terrorist organisation with a declared intention of destroying Israel. This is a ‘convenient’ misrepresentation, as explained cogently in a recent interview with Frank Barat by Imad Alsoos, a research fellow at the Max Planck Institute, who is an expert on Hamas.

Likewise, in an interview with Afshin Rattansi on RT’s ‘Going Underground’, John Pilger commented:

‘There’s been a whole attempt to make Hamas the centre of the reporting. And that’s nonsense. As if Hamas is a peculiar demon. In fact, Hamas and its military wing are part of a resistance; a resistance that was provoked by the Israelis. The real demon in this is Israel. But it’s not simply Israel. I mean, this is as much a British and American war against Palestine, as it is an Israeli one.’

Pilger added that this is a war:

‘against the people of Palestine who are doing one thing – and that is exercising their moral and legal right to resist a brutal occupation.’

It is rarely mentioned in the ‘mainstream’ media that Hamas is, as Pilger pointed out, the legitimately elected government of Gaza. Moreover, Hamas has repeatedly declared its readiness to negotiate a long-term ceasefire with the Jewish state within its pre-1967 borders. But Israel has always rejected the offer, just as it rejected the Arab League peace plan of 2002; and just as it has always rejected the international consensus for a peaceful solution in the Middle East. Why? Because the threat of such ‘peace offensives’ would involve unacceptable concessions and compromises. Israeli writer Amos Elon has written of the ‘panic and unease among our political leadership’ caused by Arab peace proposals.1

The Palestinians are seen as an obstacle by Israel’s leaders; an irritant to be subjugated. Noam Chomsky commented:

‘Traditionally over the years, Israel has sought to crush any resistance to its programs of takeover of the parts of Palestine it regards as valuable, while eliminating any hope for the indigenous population to have a decent existence enjoying national rights.’

And, as Chomsky noted:

‘The key feature of the occupation has always been humiliation: they [the Palestinians] must not be allowed to raise their heads. The basic principle, often openly expressed, is that the “Araboushim” – a term that belongs with “nigger” or “kike” – must understand who rules this land and who walks in it with head lowered and eyes averted.”2

In 2018, when Palestinians were being shot dead by Israeli soldiers in peaceful weekly ‘Great March of Return’ protests near Gaza’s border, Israeli journalist Gideon Levy observed that:

‘the killing of Palestinians is accepted in Israel more lightly than the killing of mosquitoes’.

Given all of the above context, it is criminal that, day after day, BBC News presented a false balance between a powerful Israeli state-occupier and a brutalised, ethnically cleansed, apartheid-suffering Palestinian people. This systematic misrepresentation of reality amounts to complicity in Israel’s vast PR campaign to ‘justify’ its war crimes, brutality and repression of Palestinian people.

As well as Bowen’s wilfully distorted reporting for BBC News, and the biased coverage by corporate media generally, Pilger pointed to the lack of dissent in the UK Parliament in the face of atrocities being committed once again by Israel. He focused particular attention on:

‘Starmer’s Labour party which allowed pro-Israel groups to direct the policies of the Labour party, that, in effect, support this attack. When you have the Shadow Foreign Secretary saying that to criticise Israeli atrocities is antisemitic, then we’re in Lewis Carroll world, really.’

Concluding Remarks

Chomsky once wrote of an elderly Palestinian man demonstrating in Gaza with a placard that read:

‘You take my water, burn my olive trees, destroy my house, take my job, steal my land, imprison my father, kill my mother, bombard my country, starve us all, humiliate us all but I am to blame: I shot a rocket back.’

This simple but devastating message, said Chomsky, is ‘the proper context’ for ‘the savage punishment of Gaza.’

It is a context that is almost entirely missing from corporate media coverage of Israel and Palestine, not least by BBC News.

  1. Noam Chomsky, Fateful Triangle, Pluto Press, London, 1999, p. 75.
  2. Chomsky, op. cit., p. 489.
The post “The Savage Punishment Of Gaza”: Israel’s Latest Assault On Palestine’s Open Prison first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Jewish groups that aid Israel’s war crimes can’t deny all responsibility for those crimes

Here is something that can be said with great confidence. It is racist – antisemitic, if you prefer – to hold Jews, individually or collectively, accountable for Israel’s crimes. Jews are not responsible for Israel’s war crimes, even if the Israeli state presumes to implicate Jews in its crimes by falsely declaring it represents all Jews in the world.

Very obviously, it is not the fault of Jews that Israel commits war crimes, or that Israel uses Jews collectively as a political shield, exploiting sensitivities about the historical suffering of Jews at the hands of non-Jews to immunise itself from international opprobrium.

But here is something that can be said with equal certainty. Israel’s apologists – whether Jews or non-Jews – cannot deny all responsibility for Israel’s war crimes when they actively aid and abet Israel in committing those crimes, or when they seek to demonise and silence Israel’s critics so that those war crimes can be pursued in a more favourable political climate.

Such apologists – which sadly seems to include many of the community organisations in Britain claiming to represent Jews – want to have their cake and eat it.

They cannot defend Israel uncritically as it commits war crimes or seek legislative changes to assist Israel in committing those war crimes – whether it be Israel’s latest pummelling of civilians in Gaza, or its executions of unarmed Palestinians protesting 15 years of Israel’s blockade of the coastal enclave – and accuse anyone who criticises them for doing so of being an antisemite.

But this is exactly what has been going on. And it is only getting worse.

Upsurge in antisemitism?

As a ceasefire was implemented yesterday, bringing a temporary let-up in the bombing of Gaza by Israel, pro-Israel Jewish groups in the UK were once again warning of an upsurge of antisemitism they related to a rapid growth in the number of protests against Israel.

These groups have the usual powerful allies echoing their claims. British prime minister Boris Johnson met community leaders in Downing Street on Thursday pledging, as Jewish News reported, “to continue to support the community in the face of rising antisemitism attacks”.

Those Jewish leaders included Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, a supporter of Johnson who played a part in helping him win the 2019 election by renewing the evidence-free antisemitism smears against the Labour party days before voting. It also included the Campaign Against Antisemitism, which was founded specifically to whitewash Israel’s crimes during its 2014 bombardment of Gaza and has ever since been vilifying all Palestinian solidarity activism as antisemitism.

In attendance too was the Jewish Leadership Council, an umbrella organisation for Britain’s main Jewish community groups. In an article in Israel’s Haaretz newspaper on this supposed rise in antisemitism in the UK, the JLC’s vice-president, Daniel Korski, set out the ridiculous, self-serving narrative these community groups are trying to peddle, with seemingly ever greater success among the political and media elite.

Popular outrage over Gaza

Korski expressed grave concern about the proliferation of demonstrations in the UK designed to halt Israel’s bombardment of Gaza. During 11 days of attacks, more than 230 Palestinians were killed, including 65 children. Israel’s precision air strikes targeted more than a dozen hospitals, including the only Covid clinic in Gaza, dozens of schools, several media centres, and left tens of thousands of Palestinians homeless.

The sense of popular outrage at the Israeli onslaught was only heightened by the fact that Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, had clearly engineered a confrontation with Hamas at the outset to serve his immediate personal interests: preventing Israeli opposition parties from uniting to oust him from power.

In his naked personal calculations, Palestinian civilians were sacrificed to help Netanyahu hold on to power and improve his chances of evading jail as he stands trial on corruption charges.

But for Korski and the other community leaders attending the meeting with Johnson, the passionate demonstrations in solidarity with Palestinians are their main evidence for a rise in antisemitism.

‘Free Palestine’ chants

These community organisations cite a few incidents that undoubtedly qualify as antisemitism – some serious, some less so. They include shouting “Free Palestine” at individuals because they are identifiable as Jews, something presumably happening mostly to the religious ultra-Orthodox.

But these Jewish leaders’ chief concern, they make clear, is the growing public support for Palestinians in the face of intensifying Israeli aggression.

Quoting David Rich, of the Community Security Trust, another Jewish organisation hosted by Johnson, the Haaretz newspaper reports that “what has really shaken the Jewish community … ‘is that demos are being held all over the country every day about this issue’ [Israel’s bombardment of Gaza].”

Revealingly, it seems that when Jewish community leaders watch TV screens showing demonstrators chant “Free Palestine”, they feel it as a personal attack – as though they themselves are being accosted in the street.

One doesn’t need to be a Freudian analyst to wonder whether this reveals something troubling about their inner emotional life: they identify so completely with Israel that even when someone calls for Palestinians to have equal rights with Israelis they perceive as a collective attack on Jews, as antisemitism.

Exception for Israel

Then Korski gets to the crux of the argument: “As Jews we are proud of our heritage and at the same time in no way responsible for the actions of a government thousands of miles away, no matter our feelings or connection to it.”

But the logic of that position is simply untenable. You cannot tie your identity intimately to a state that systematically commits war crimes, you cannot classify demonstrations against those war crimes as antisemitism, you cannot use your position as a “Jewish community leader” to make such allegations more credible, and you cannot exploit your influence with world leaders to try to silence protests against Israel and then say you are “in no way responsible” for the actions of that government.

If you use your position to prevent Israel from being subjected to scrutiny over allegations of war crimes, if you seek to manipulate the public discourse with claims of antisemitism to create a more favourable environment in which those war crimes can be committed, then some of the blame for those war crimes rubs off on you.

That is how responsibility works in every other sphere of life. What Israel’s apologists are demanding is an exception for Israel and for themselves.

Lobby with the UK’s ear

In another revealing observation seeking to justify claims of an upsurge in antisemitism, Korski adds: “We don’t see the same kind of outpouring of emotion when it comes to the Rohingya or the Uighurs or Syria, and it makes a lot of Jews feel this is about them [as Jews].”

But there are many reasons why there aren’t equally large demonstrations in the UK against the suffering of the Rohingya and the Uighurs – reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with antisemitism.

The oppressors of the Rohingya and the Uighurs, unlike Israel, are not being generously armed by the British government or given diplomatic cover by Britain or being given preferential trade agreements by Britain.

But equally importantly, the states oppressing the Rohingya and Uighurs – unlike Israel – don’t have active, well-funded lobbies in the UK, with the ear of the prime minister. China and Myanmar – unlike Israel – don’t have UK lobbies successfully labelling criticism of them as racism. Unlike Israel, they don’t have lobbies that openly seek to influence elections to protect them from criticism. Unlike Israel, they don’t have lobbies that work with Britain to introduce measures to assist them in carrying out their oppression.

The president of the Board of Deputies, Marie van der Zyl, for example, pressed Johnson at the meeting this week to classify all branches of Hamas, not just its military wing, as a terrorist organisation. That is Israel’s wet dream. Such a decision would make it even less likely that Britain would be in a position to officially distance itself from Israel’s war crimes in Gaza, where Hamas runs the government, and even more likely it would join Israel in declaring Gaza’s schools, hospitals and government departments all legitimate targets for Israeli air strikes.

Pure projection

If you are lobbying to get special favours for Israel, particularly favours to help it commit war crimes, you don’t also get to wash your hands of those war crimes. You are directly implicated in them.

David Hirsch, an academic at the University of London who has been closely connected to efforts to weaponise antisemitism against critics of Israel, especially in the Labour party under its previous leader Jeremy Corbyn, also tries to play this trick.

He tells Haaretz that antisemitism is supposedly “getting worse” because Palestinian solidarity activists have been giving up on a two-state solution. “There used to be a struggle in Palestine solidarity between a politics of peace – two states living side by side – and a politics of denouncing one side as essentially evil and hoping for its total defeat.”

But what Hirsch is doing is pure projection: he is suggesting Palestinian solidarity activists are “antisemites” – his idea of evil – because they have been forced by Israel to abandon their long-favoured cause of a two-state solution. That is only because successive Israeli governments have refused to negotiate any kind of peace deal with the most moderate Palestinian leadership imaginable under Mahmoud Abbas – one that has eagerly telegraphed its desire to collaborate with Israel, even calling “security coordination” with the Israeli army “sacred”.

A two-state solution is dead because Israel made it dead not because Palestinian solidarity activists are more extreme or more antisemitic.

In calling to “Free Palestine”, activists are not demanding Israel’s “total defeat” – unless Hirsch and Jewish community organisations themselves believe that Palestinians can never be free from Israeli oppression and occupation until Israel suffers such a “total defeat”. Hirsch’s claim tells us nothing about Palestinian solidarity activists, but it does tell us a lot about what is really motivating these Jewish community organisations.

It is these pro-Israel lobbyists, it seems, more than Palestinian solidarity activists, who cannot imagine Palestinians living in dignity under Israeli rule. Is that because they understand only too well what Israel and its political ideology of Zionism truly represent, and that what is required of Palestinians for “peace” is absolute and permanent submission?

Better informed

Similarly, Rich, of the Community Security Trust, says of Palestinian solidarity activists: “Even the moderates have become extremists.” What does this extremism – again presented by Jewish groups as antisemitism – consist of? “Now the movement [in solidarity with Palestinians] is dominated by the view that Israel is an apartheid, genocidal, settler-colonialist state.”

Or in other words, these pro-Israel Jewish groups claim there has been a surge in antisemitism because Palestinian solidarity activists are being influenced and educated by human rights organisations, like Human Rights Watch and Israel’s B’Tselem. Both recently wrote reports classifying Israel as an apartheid state, in the occupied territories and inside Israel’s recognised borders. Activists are not becoming more extreme, they are becoming better informed.

And in making the case for a supposed surge in antisemitism, Rich offers another inadvertently revealing insight. He says Jewish children are suffering from online “abuse” – antisemitism – because they find it increasingly hard to participate on social media.

“Teenagers are much quicker to join social movements; we’ve just had Black Lives Matter, Extinction Rebellion, #MeToo – now Jewish kids find all their friends are joining this [Palestinian solidarity] movement where they don’t feel welcome or they are singled out because they’re Jewish.”

Fancifully, Rich is arguing that Jewish children raised in Zionist families and communities that have taught them either explicitly or implicitly that Jews in Israel have superior rights to Palestinians are being discriminated against because their unexamined ideas of Jewish supremacy do not fit with a pro-Palestinian movement predicated on equality.

This is as preposterous as it would have been, during the Jim Crow era, for white supremacist Americans to have complained of racism because their children were being made to feel out of place in civil rights forums.

Such assertions would be laughable were they not so dangerous.

Demonised as antisemites

Zionist supporters of Israel are trying to turn logic and the world upside down. They are inverting reality. They are projecting their own racist, zero-sum assumptions about Israel on to Palestinian solidarity activists, those who support equal rights for Jews and Palestinians in the Middle East.

As they did with the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition, these Jewish groups are twisting the meaning of antisemitism, skewing it from a fear or hatred of Jews to any criticism of Israel that makes pro-Israel Jews feel uncomfortable.

As we watch these arguments being amplified uncritically by leading politicians and journalists, remember too that it was the only major politician to demurred from this nonsensical narrative, Jeremy Corbyn, who became the main target – and victim – of these antisemitism smears.

Now these pro-Israel Jewish groups want to treat us all like Corbyn, demonising us as antisemites unless we fall silent even as Israel once again brutalises Palestinians.

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The Sad Saga Continues: Occupation and Oppression of Palestinians

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Albert Einstein said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How the United States Helps To Kill Palestinians

Photo credit: Stop the War Coalition

The U.S. corporate media usually report on Israeli military assaults in occupied Palestine as if the United States is an innocent neutral party to the conflict. In fact, large majorities of Americans have told pollsters for decades that they want the United States to be neutral in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

But U.S. media and politicians betray their own lack of neutrality by blaming Palestinians for nearly all the violence and framing flagrantly disproportionate, indiscriminate and therefore illegal Israeli attacks as a justifiable response to Palestinian actions. The classic formulation from U.S. officials and commentators is that “Israel has the right to defend itself,” never “Palestinians have the right to defend themselves,” even as the Israelis massacre hundreds of Palestinian civilians, destroy thousands of Palestinian homes and seize ever more Palestinian land.

The disparity in casualties in Israeli assaults on Gaza speaks for itself.

  • At the time of writing, the current Israeli assault on Gaza has killed at least 200 people, including 59 children and 35 women, while rockets fired from Gaza have killed 10 people in Israel, including 2 children.
  • In the 2008-9 assault on Gaza, Israel killed 1,417 Palestinians, while their meagre efforts to defend themselves killed 9 Israelis.
  • In 2014, 2,251 Palestinians and 72 Israelis (mostly soldiers invading Gaza) were killed, as U.S.-built F-16s dropped at least 5,000 bombs and missiles on Gaza and Israeli tanks and artillery fired 49,500 shells, mostly massive 6-inch shells from U.S.-built M-109 howitzers.
  • In response to largely peaceful “March of Return” protests at the Israel-Gaza border in 2018, Israeli snipers killed 183 Palestinians and wounded over 6,100, including 122 that required amputations, 21 paralyzed by spinal cord injuries and 9 permanently blinded.

As with the Saudi-led war on Yemen and other serious foreign policy problems, biased and distorted news coverage by U.S. corporate media leaves many Americans not knowing what to think. Many simply give up trying to sort out the rights and wrongs of what is happening and instead blame both sides, and then focus their attention closer to home, where the problems of society impact them more directly and are easier to understand and do something about.

So how should Americans respond to horrific images of bleeding, dying children and homes reduced to rubble in Gaza? The tragic relevance of this crisis for Americans is that, behind the fog of war, propaganda and commercialized, biased media coverage, the United States bears an overwhelming share of responsibility for the carnage taking place in Palestine.

U.S. policy has perpetuated the crisis and atrocities of the Israeli occupation by unconditionally supporting Israel in three distinct ways: militarily, diplomatically and politically.

On the military front, since the creation of the Israeli state, the United States has provided $146 billion in foreign aid, nearly all of it military-related. It currently provides $3.8 billion per year in military aid to Israel.

In addition, the United States is the largest seller of weapons to Israel, whose military arsenal now includes 362 U.S.-built F-16 warplanes and 100 other U.S. military aircraft, including a growing fleet of the new F-35s; at least 45 Apache attack helicopters; 600 M-109 howitzers and 64 M270 rocket-launchers. At this very moment, Israel is using many of these U.S.-supplied weapons in its devastating bombardment of Gaza.

The U.S. military alliance with Israel also involves joint military exercises and joint production of Arrow missiles and other weapons systems. The U.S. and Israeli militaries have collaborated on drone technologies tested by the Israelis in Gaza. In 2004, the United States called on Israeli forces with experience in the Occupied Territories to give tactical training to U.S. Special Operations Forces as they confronted popular resistance to the United States’ hostile military occupation of Iraq.

The U.S. military also maintains a $1.8 billion stockpile of weapons at six locations in Israel, pre-positioned for use in future U.S. wars in the Middle East. During the Israeli assault on Gaza in 2014, even as the U.S. Congress suspended some weapons deliveries to Israel, it approved handing over stocks of 120mm mortar shells and 40mm grenade launcher ammunition from the U.S. stockpile for Israel to use against Palestinians in Gaza.

Diplomatically, the United States has exercised its veto in the UN Security Council 82 times, and 44 of those vetoes have been to shield Israel from accountability for war crimes or human rights violations. In every single case, the United States has been the lone vote against the resolution, although a few other countries have occasionally abstained.

It is only the United States’ privileged position as a veto-wielding Permanent Member of the Security Council, and its willingness to abuse that privilege to shield its ally Israel, that gives it this unique power to stymie international efforts to hold the Israeli government accountable for its actions under international law.

The result of this unconditional U.S. diplomatic shielding of Israel has been to encourage increasingly barbaric Israeli treatment of the Palestinians. With the United States blocking any accountability in the Security Council, Israel has seized ever more Palestinian land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, uprooted more and more Palestinians from their homes and responded to the resistance of largely unarmed people with ever-increasing violence, detentions and restrictions on day-to-day life.

Thirdly, on the political front, despite most Americans supporting neutrality in the conflict, AIPAC and other pro-Israel lobbying groups have exercised an extraordinary role in bribing and intimidating U.S. politicians to provide unconditional support for Israel.

The roles of campaign contributors and lobbyists in the corrupt U.S. political system make the United States uniquely vulnerable to this kind of influence peddling and intimidation, whether it is by monopolistic corporations and industry groups like the Military-Industrial Complex and Big Pharma, or well-funded interest groups like the NRA, AIPAC and, in recent years, lobbyists for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

On April 22, just weeks before this latest assault on Gaza, the overwhelming majority of congresspeople, 330 out of 435, signed a letter to the chair and ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee opposing any reduction or conditioning of US monies to Israel. The letter represented a show of force from AIPAC and a repudiation of calls from some progressives in the Democratic Party to condition or otherwise restrict aid to Israel.

President Joe Biden, who has a long history of supporting Israeli crimes, responded to the latest massacre by insisting on Israel’s “right to defend itself” and inanely hoping that “this will be closing down sooner than later.” His UN ambassador also shamefully blocked a call for a ceasefire at the UN Security Council.

The silence and worse from President Biden and most of our representatives in Congress at the massacre of civilians and mass destruction of Gaza is unconscionable. The independent voices speaking out forcefully for Palestinians, including Senator Sanders and Representatives Tlaib, Omar and Ocasio-Cortez, show us what real democracy looks like, as do the massive protests that have filled U.S. streets all over the country.

US policy must be reversed to reflect international law and the shifting US opinion in favor of Palestinian rights. Every Member of Congress must be pushed to sign the bill introduced by Rep. Betty McCollum insisting that US funds to Israel are not used “to support the military detention of Palestinian children, the unlawful seizure, appropriation, and destruction of Palestinian property and forcible transfer of civilians in the West Bank, or further annexation of Palestinian land in violation of international law.”

Congress must also be pressured to quickly enforce the Arms Export Control Act and the Leahy Laws to stop supplying any more U.S. weapons to Israel until it stops using them to attack and kill civilians.

The United States has played a vital and instrumental role in the decades-long catastrophe that has engulfed the people of Palestine. U.S. leaders and politicians must now confront their country’s and, in many cases, their own personal complicity in this catastrophe, and act urgently and decisively to reverse U.S. policy to support full human rights for all Palestinians.

The post How the United States Helps To Kill Palestinians first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Unity at Last: The Palestinian People Have Risen  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally, they are rising.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The post Unity at Last: The Palestinian People Have Risen   first appeared on Dissident Voice.