Why Palestine’s Feminists Are Fighting on Two Fronts

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Fadi Abu Shammalah and Jen Marlowe / TomDispatch.

“I am here because I heard my town call me, and ask me to maintain my honor.” Fifty-seven-year-old Um Khalid Abu Mosa spoke in a strong, gravelly voice as she sat on the desert sand, a white tent protecting her from the blazing sun. “The land,” she says with determination, “is honor and dignity.”

She was near the southern Gaza Strip town of Khuza’a, the heavily fortified barrier with Israel in plain sight and well-armed Israeli soldiers just a few hundred meters away. Abu Mosa’s left arm was wrapped in a sling fashioned from a black-and-white-checkered kuffiyeh, or scarf, and a Palestinian flag. Israeli soldiers had shot her in the shoulder with live ammunition on March 30th as she approached the barrier to plant a Palestinian flag in a mound of earth. The bullet is still lodged in her collarbone. Three weeks later, however, she’s back at the Great Return March, a series of protests organized around five encampments stretching along a unilaterally imposed Israeli buffer zone on the 37-mile barrier between the Gaza Strip and Israel.

The Return March, which has just ended, was unique in recent history in Gaza for a number of reasons. Palestinians there are known for engaging in militant resistance against the Israeli occupation and also for the internal political split in their ranks between two dominant factions, Fatah and Hamas. Yet, in these weeks, the March has been characterized by a popular, predominantly nonviolent mobilization during which Gaza’s fractured political parties have demonstrated a surprising degree of unity. And perhaps most noteworthy of all, women activists have played a visibly crucial role in the protests on a scale not seen for decades, possibly indicating what the future may look like when it comes to activism in the Gaza Strip.

The Return March began on March 30th, or Land Day, commemorating the 1976 killings of six Palestinians inside Israel who had been protesting land confiscations. The March was slated to end on May 15th, the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, Arabic for “catastrophe.” The term is used to refer to the 1948 war that led to the creation of Israel and the displacement of approximately 750,000 Palestinians, as well as the depopulation of more than 450 Palestinian towns and villages. Seventy percent of Gaza’s blockaded population is made up of those who fled or were expelled from their lands and villages during the Nakba or their descendants. The vast majority of those participating in the Great Return March, including Abu Mosa, know those native villages only through family lore, yet their yearning to return is visceral.

During the March, 125 Palestinians were killed and a staggering 13,000 wounded. Abu Mosa saw many fellow protesters wounded or killed, especially on May 14th, the day the Trump administration opened its new embassy in Jerusalem when the protests escalated and some participants attempted to break through the barrier.

On that day alone, Israeli forces killed 62 Palestinians and injured 2,700 more. “Don’t ask me if someone close to me has been injured or killed,” Abu Mosa says. “All the protesters are my relatives and friends. We became one family.” After the carnage of May 14th, the grassroots committee organizing the March decided that the protests had to continue. The killings continued as well. On June 1st, a 21-year old woman volunteer paramedic was, for instance, shot in the chest and killed.

For Abu Mosa, a schoolteacher and mother of six, the March centers entirely on her dream of returning to her native town of Beer Sheva. And in its wake, she insists that she will go back, “and on my way, I will plant mint and flowers.”

Much like Abu Mosa, 20-year-old Siwar Alza’anen, an activist in an organization called the Palestinian Students Labor Front, is motivated by a deep desire to return to her native village. She is also marching “to send a message to the international community that we are suffering a lot, we are living under pressure, siege, pain, poverty.”

The Great Return March and the First Intifada

A small Palestinian flag flutters on the edge of Samira Abdelalim’s desk in Rafah, the southernmost town in the Gaza Strip. Forty-four-year-old Abdelalim serves as the director of the women’s department at the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions. Her steely eyes are framed with a simple navy-blue headscarf. Abdelalim hopes the Great March of Return will peacefully achieve the right of return to her people’s villages, self-determination, and the possibility of living “in peace and freedom” — but she’s realistic, too. “I know that the occupation will not end in one day,” she says, “but by cumulative work.”

Iktimal Hamad is on the Supreme National Commission of the Return March, the only woman among the March’s 15 lead organizers. Sitting in her Gaza City office, her light brown hair pulled into a tight bun, she speaks about her own double agenda — to end the Israeli occupation, but also to promote equality for women in Gaza. “Women can play a prominent role in the liberation of Palestine, because they are integral to the Palestinian community,” she tells us.

Abdelalim leads the March’s women’s committee in Rafah, one of five with 15 members for each of the encampments. With her fellow committee members, she organizes the women in the March, arranges logistics such as water and buses, and plans youth empowerment and cultural activities.

Her own activism began during the first Palestinian Intifada (Arabic for “shaking off”) or “uprising” and she insists that the goals and methods are the same in the present set of demonstrations. The First Intifada began in 1987 and was characterized by a highly coordinated, unarmed mass-mobilization against the Israeli occupation. Widespread acts of civil disobedience included strikes, boycotts, the creation of “underground” schools, grassroots projects to develop economic independence from Israel, and mass demonstrations. Women were that uprising’s backbone.

“The masters of the field are the protestors,” Abdelalim says of both then and now. “In the First Intifada, women and men used to stand shoulder to shoulder beside each other, struggling together.”

Abu Mosa, who is typical of many women in Gaza in not having been politically active in more than 25 years, tells us that the Return March brings back her memories of that earlier period. Even the smell of tear gas makes her nostalgic. “I feel this March is the First Intifada.”

Hamad was also a young activist during the First Intifada. Now 51, she remembers how women were “the vanguard” of that uprising. “There was a unified women’s council in 1989 and this council had the responsibility of the streets,” she recalls. Women led demonstrations and sit-ins, distributed leaflets, created neighborhood committees and participated in a unified women’s council. They even worked together in remarkable unity, whatever political faction they belonged to.

Women’s Activism After the First Intifada

The First Intifada ended with the signing of the Oslo Accords, a peace agreement negotiated in secret between the government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Made up only of Palestinians in exile, the PLO negotiation team was all male.

The Oslo Accords led to the creation of the Palestinian Authority and the return of the exiled PLO leaders to the West Bank and Gaza. Many of the grassroots activists who had led the uprising were promptly marginalized in the formation of new leadership structures — and women were excluded altogether.

According to Samira Abdelalim, the trajectory of the struggle, and particularly the role of women, then shifted radically. There was now an armed, institutional Authority governing a traditional, patriarchal society. “The male societies refused to include women in the decision-making units, and denied women’s [engagement] in policies and plans,” she explains. So, rather than confronting the Israeli occupation, Palestinian women began agitating for social, political, legal, and economic rights within Palestinian society. Abdelalim and other women activists organized around the task of creating laws to protect women from honor killings — that is, the murder of a female family member when she is perceived to have brought shame upon the family — and to prevent gender-based male violence.

The Oslo process was supposed to culminate in agreements on a set of thorny “permanent status” issues between Israel and the Palestinians. These issues included Jerusalem, water rights, border delineation, settlements, and refugees. However, trust in the process continued to erode over the years and the “final” status negotiations held in the summer of 2000 collapsed, setting the stage for the Second Intifada, which erupted on September 29th of that year.

Though that uprising initially began with large-scale demonstrations reminiscent of the previous one, it quickly turned toward armed resistance. According to political scientist Marie Principe’s research for the United States Institute for Peace, nonviolent movements create openings for a wide range of people, including women, children, and the old, to get involved in a way that violent campaigns don’t. Due to the armed nature of the Second Intifada, the space for the involvement of women, in particular, began to shrink radically. In this period, according to Abdelalim, women activists refocused their work in the international arena, attempting to expose the violence of the occupation to the world through documentation, media reports, and international conferences.

This sort of activism, however, was predominantly open only to women from a higher socio-economic class — those, in particular, who worked for NGOs, had access to university education, andhad some ability, however restricted, to reach the outside world, whether through travel or the Internet. Many of the women who had been out on the streets during the First Intifada were left without roles to play.

In 2006, Hamas (an Arabic acronym for Islamic Resistance Movement) won the Palestinian legislative elections over the previously dominant Palestinian National Liberation Movement, or Fatah. Some Gaza-based leaders of Fatah then sought to oust Hamas (with U.S. backing), leading to a bloody internecine civil war on the Strip in which Hamas violently gained control in 2007.

The Hamas-Fatah divide became a new focal point for women activists in Gaza. In those years, women generally called for Palestinian unity, remembers Abdelalim, insisting that their enemy should be the Israeli occupation, not a competing Palestinian faction. The official reconciliation negotiation team (which signed multiple unity agreements starting in 2011 that were never implemented) did not include women. Abdelalim and other women activists nonetheless held weekly demonstrations to protest the internal split in Gaza, even drafting a joint statement by women on both sides of the political divide calling for national unity.

Under the Hamas regime, however, the situation of women only continued to deteriorate. “Hamas took us back decades,” says Iktimal Hamad, noting the regime’s desire to impose Islamic Sharia law in place of the Palestinian law in force on the West Bank. “Hamas doesn’t believe in equality between women and men,” she says bluntly.

Palestinian society has indeed grown ever more religiously conservative over the past decades, especially in Gaza. Siwar Alza’anen remains among a small minority of women in that imprisoned strip of land who do not cover their hair. She admits, though, that most women in Gaza have little choice but to adhere to restrictive societal norms in dress and culture. They generally can’t even leave home without the permission of a male relative. Abu Mosa remembers protesting during the First Intifada alongside women with uncovered hair who were wearing short skirts. “Now they ask girls to wear head scarves at the age of 12,” she adds with obvious disapproval, though she herself does cover.

Yet throughout those repressive years, Hamad points out, women continued to play a central role in the Palestinian struggle through family education. Women were the mothers of the martyrs, the wounded, and the prisoners. A woman, as she puts it, remains “half of the community and the community is not complete without her contribution.”

Women Begin to Reclaim Their Activist Roles

Abdelalim and Hamad are hopeful that the current protests indicate a new phase for women’s activism in Gaza and may provide a path to greater gender equality. “What happened in this Great Return March is that women reclaimed their large role in the Palestinian struggle,” Abdelalim says. As Hamad observes, the number of women involved increased each Friday. In fact, according to Abdelalim’s estimate, women made up about 40% of the protesters, a remarkable figure given the history of these last years.

Because the protests are unarmed and popular in nature, men have even supported women’s involvement. Hamad is organizing for the first time not just with men from the national secular movements but from the Islamic movements as well, and she feels respected and appreciated by them.

Still, Abdelalim insists that women have never simply sat around waiting for men’s permission to act. “We’ve always claimed our role in the struggle,” she says.

Abdelalim, Hamad, Alza’anen, and Abu Mosa all spoke with pride about the unity exhibited during the Great Return March. As Hamad put it, “In spite of the internal political split, we succeeded in embodying the unified struggle.”

“No one raises the flag of their political faction,” adds Alza’anen. Instead, the chants for Palestine send a message of unity both to Palestinians and to the world.

Women’s participation in the March boosts their self-confidence, says Abdelalim. “The march broke the wall of silence between the women and [the rest of our] community,” she insists. And she’s convinced that this new sense of power will lead women to struggle to take part in decision-making on a larger scale, while becoming more courageous in demanding their rights. After marching at the border side by side with her father, her husband, her brothers, no young woman will be content to “stay at home waiting for men to give her small benefits.”

All four women hold expansive visions of what they want their national struggle to yield. Abdelalim says that she is “fighting to guarantee the best future” for her children. She wants her people to be free in their homeland. She imagines children playing with joy instead of fear and a future world lacking refugees, hunger, or war-related disabilities. “The future means young men and women singing, dancing, building their homeland,” she muses.

For Abu Mosa, “the future is hope and love for the homeland.” In her dream of the future, she describes an old man, right of return fulfilled, wiping away his tears so many years later. Her vision also has space for non-Palestinians. “I have no problem with Jews. If they visit me, I will host them in my house, and they can live in my country.” But, she adds, she will not tolerate the presence of the Zionists who displaced her family.

Alza’anen hopes the losses sustained during the March will not be in vain. The killings “motivate us to keep walking in the same direction, that our determination and intention will not collapse.”

Hamad is convinced that the liberation of Palestinian women is dependent on the national liberation that the Great Return March embodied. “Women,” she says, “will always be in the front lines of our national struggle.”

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NYT Carries IDF Attack on Murdered Gaza Medic–Reveals It’s a Smear in 20th Paragraph

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Adam Johnson / FAIR.

NYT: Israeli Video Portrays Medic Killed in Gaza as Tool of Hamas

Journalism how-not-to: New York Times (6/7/18) puts the attack in the headline, reveals it’s a smear in paragraph 20.

A reporter at the most influential paper in English-language media appears to not know the difference between a government “tightly editing” and selectively editing video. New York Times reporter Herbert Buchsbaum (6/7/18) wrote up a propaganda video posted by the Israeli Defense Force, showing Rouzan al-Najjar–a 21-year-old medic the Israeli Defense Force shot and killed earlier this month—apparently throwing a tear-gas canister, along with a brief clip of her purportedly saying, “I am here on the front line and I act as a human shield.”

The video seems to suggest that throwing a device spewing caustic gas away from people into an empty field is a sort of violence. (“This medic was incited by Hamas,” the video reads as she grabs the canister.) But the primary problem with the IDF video is that it deceptively edits her comments to distort what she said—a fact not noted by the Buchsbaum until paragraph 20, when he threw in this crucial piece of information:

In the longer video, the comment that the military translated as “I act as a human shield” was part of a sentence in which Ms. Najjar said, “I’m acting as a human rescue shield to protect the injured inside the armistice line.”

“Acting as a human shield to protect the injured inside the armistice line” has a radically different meaning than the commonly understood canard about Palestinians using “human shields” to protect “terrorists.” This hugely consequential fact should have led the story; instead, it’s casually tossed out in the third-to-last paragraph. The story here is that the IDF—as it has been doing for decades—casually lies and distorts facts to suit its narrative. Like all militaries, the Israeli military is not presenting a “dueling narrative” in good faith, as a New York Times tweet suggested; it’s manipulating video, hoping credulous journalists help them muddy the waters, as Buchsbaum did.

Indeed, the bizarre IDF press release write-up serves no other purpose than to reframe the gunning down of the unarmed medic from a clear crime committed by Israel to a Fog of War “dueling narratives between Israel and Hamas” tale of “both sidesism.” Buchsbaum vaguely alludes to—but strangely omits—the deceptive editing in the opening with his risible turn of phrase in paragraph two:

The tightly edited video shows a woman identified as the medic, Rouzan al-Najjar, throwing what appears to be a tear-gas canister.

“Tightly edited”? What does this mean, exactly? “Tight” editing is generally considered a compliment in the film and TV world, and says nothing about deliberate omissions for the purposes of misleading the viewer. When videographer Tate B. James confronted Buchsbaum about this fact, Buchsbaum appeared to think he had covered his bases:

 

Either Buchsbaum doesn’t know he’s being misleading, and is thus severely unqualified to be writing for a major paper, or he knows he’s spinning in Israel’s favor, but was hoping no one would really notice. Either way, the New York Times is once again (FAIR.org, 7/14/175/17/185/15/18) using its pages to confuse readers to the benefit of the Israeli military.

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Rights Group: Israeli Lethal Force in Gaza May Be War Crime

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by ILAN BEN ZION / The Associated Press.

JERUSALEM — Human Rights Watch said Wednesday that Israel’s use of lethal force against Palestinian demonstrators in the Gaza Strip in recent weeks may constitute war crimes.

The statement was issued Wednesday ahead of an emergency U.N. General Assembly meeting to vote on a resolution condemning Israel’s “excessive use of force.” A similar Security Council resolution was vetoed earlier this month by the United States for being “fundamentally imbalanced” and “grossly one-sided,” U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said.

Palestinians have held near-weekly protests since March 30, calling for a “right of return” to ancestral homes now in Israel. At least 120 Palestinians have been killed and more than 3,800 wounded by Israeli fire in protests along the border. The overwhelming majority of the dead and wounded have been unarmed, according to Gaza health officials.

The Israeli military has said its soldiers adhere to the rules of engagement to defend Israeli civilians and security infrastructure from attacks cloaked by the protests.

Human Rights Watch contended in its statement that the mostly unarmed protesters didn’t pose an imminent threat to Israeli troops or civilians, and therefore the use of live fire suggests a violation of international law. The organization said eyewitnesses recounted Palestinians were shot from a great distance from the fence, and others who “had not thrown stones or otherwise tried to harm Israeli soldiers” were shot from a closer range.

Israel has been accused of committing war crimes in its three wars in the Gaza Strip in the last decade. Last month the Palestinians urged the International Criminal Court in The Hague to launch an investigation into Israeli policies and actions in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip, accusing Israel of systemic crimes.

Israel has called the Palestinian move “legally invalid.” Israel is not a member of the ICC and argues the court does not have jurisdiction.

The ICC has conducted a preliminary investigation since 2015 into alleged crimes in the Palestinian territories, including West Bank settlement construction and war crimes by Israel and Hamas in the 2014 war in Gaza.

Human Rights Watch’s Mideast director called on the international community to “impose real costs for such blatant disregard for Palestinian lives.”

“The U.N. Human Rights Council inquiry should identify and call for sanctions against officials implicated in ongoing serious human rights violations,” Sarah Leah Whitson said.

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Poll Shows Deep Divisions Between Israelis and American Jews

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JERUSALEM — An opinion poll published Sunday shows deep divisions between Israelis and American Jews, particularly in relation to President Donald Trump, highlighting the growing rift between the world’s two largest Jewish communities.

The survey of the American Jewish Committee showed 77 percent of Israelis approved of the president’s handling of U.S.-Israel relations, while only 34 percent of American Jews did. Fifty-seven percent of U.S. Jews disapproved, while only 10 percent of Israelis did.

The polarizing Trump recently recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocated the American Embassy there, upending decades of U.S. foreign policy and an international consensus that the city’s fate should be decided through peace negotiations. The Palestinians, who claim east Jerusalem as their future capital, were outraged by the move and cut all contacts with the U.S. in response.

Eighty-five percent of Israelis supported the embassy move, while only 46 percent of American Jews did.

The AJC surveyed 1,000 Israelis and Americans and had a margin of error of 3.1 and 3.9 percent, respectively.

The survey was released ahead of the opening of the AJC Global Forum in Jerusalem, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address later Sunday.

Netanyahu has forged a close bond with Trump, and their hard-line policies toward the Palestinians have strong support in Israel and among its Republican backers in the U.S. But most American Jews are Democrats who are highly critical of Trump and Netanyahu. Experts have been warning for years that the two communities are drifting in opposite directions politically, undermining the kinship between the two groups, which make up the vast majority of Jews in the world.

The poll showed 59 percent of Americans favoring the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel but only 44 percent of Israelis supporting the idea.

The communities share similar views on the importance of good ties between the “extended family.” But they differ greatly on matters of religion and state, particularly on the ultra-Orthodox monopoly over religious affairs in Israel. The vast majority of American Jews identify as either Reform or Conservative, the more liberal streams of Judaism that have a very small foothold in Israel.

On one of the most contentious issues, regarding a mixed-gender prayer area next to Jerusalem’s Western Wall, 73 percent of American Jews express support, compared to just 42 percent of Israelis.

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After Latest Gaza Slaughter: Open an Investigation, End the Occupation

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan.

As the United States and Israel celebrated the official opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem on Monday, May 14, about an hour away the Israeli military was firing on thousands of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians were part of a massive, nonviolent protest movement called the Great March of Return. On that day alone, Israeli forces killed over 60 Palestinians and injured 2,700. Among the injured was a Canadian emergency room doctor, Tarek Loubani, who had gone to Gaza to help injured Palestinians. Since March 30, the Israeli forces have killed over 119 Palestinians and injured over 12,000.

The Israel Defense Forces had sniper posts up and down the Israeli-built fence that keeps close to 2 million Palestinians in a state of virtual imprisonment in Gaza. “We were away from the protest area, 25 meters south of the protesters. It was calm,” Tarek Loubani said on the “Democracy Now!” news hour. “We could see the sniper posts. For sure, they could see us. I was just sort of talking to the medical team. … That’s when, unfortunately, I heard a loud bang, found myself on the ground and realized I had been shot.”

Dr. Loubani described his rescue: “The first rescuer who came to me was a man named Musa, a paramedic, who was excellent and who I’ve trained with and helped train. He sort of came over, was like, ‘Look, Doctor, what have you done to yourself here?’ looked at my leg, cut my pants and started work.” A bullet had passed through both of his legs. Musa asked if the doctor wanted a tourniquet. “I knew that I needed one, but I thought, ‘We only have eight.’ One of them was in my back pocket. I took it out. I threw it to them, and I said, ‘No, use it for somebody else.’ I knew there were many more gunshots to come.”

Dr. Loubani continued: “Musa Abuhassanin was a great guy. I’m talking about him in the past tense because about an hour after he rescued me, he ended up going back to the field on a call, and, unfortunately, he was shot in the chest. There was so much fire around him and so much live ammunition that his colleagues couldn’t get to him and couldn’t treat him.”

Dr. Loubani tweeted a photo captioned: “A haunting photo, Friday, May 11. Left: Mohammed Migdad, shot in the right ankle. Hassan Abusaada. Tarek Loubani, shot in left leg and right knee. Moumin Silmi. Youssef Almamlouk. Musa Abuhassanin, shot in the thorax and killed. Volunteer unknown. Photographer: shot and wounded.”

Loubani said he or any other trauma responder could have saved Musa, but the Israeli sniper fire prevented the well-marked medical personnel from reaching him. Reporting from the same protest, Sharif Abdel Kouddous, “Democracy Now!” correspondent and Puffin Fellow at The Nation Institute, told us: “The sniper bullets don’t come in quick succession. It’s not a barrage of fire. It’s methodical. It’s patient. It’s precise. You hear a shot, and someone falls down. Then his bloodied body is carried away. You wait a few minutes, you hear another shot, and another body falls.”

As far back as 2010, then British Prime Minister David Cameron called Gaza “a sort of open-air prison.” The United Nations has declared Gaza “unlivable.”

People around the globe have expressed outrage at the slaughter, including from inside Israel. Nine prominent Israelis, including Avraham Burg, former speaker of the Knesset, wrote that they were “appalled and horrified by the massive killing of unarmed Palestinian demonstrators in Gaza. None of the demonstrators posed any direct danger to the state of Israel or to its citizens. The killing of over 50 demonstrators and the thousands more wounded are reminiscent of the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960 in South Africa.”

In the midst of the six-week protest, Jerusalem-born, Israeli-American Oscar-winning actor Natalie Portman declined to go to Israel for her $2 million Genesis Prize, saying in a statement: “[T]he mistreatment of those suffering from today’s atrocities is simply not in line with my Jewish values. Because I care about Israel, I must stand up against violence, corruption, inequality, and abuse of power.”

At the United Nations, the U.S. blocked a Security Council motion to launch an investigation. President Donald Trump was represented at the U.S. Embassy ceremony by his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, who in his speech blamed the violence on the Palestinians.

Lies take lives. An investigation is not enough. The occupation must end, and those responsible for the slaughter must be held accountable.

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Israel’s Days of Shame

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Uri Averny / Tikkun.

On bloody Monday this past week, when the number of Palestinian killed and wounded was rising by the hour, I asked myself: what would I have done if I had been a youngster of 15 in the Gaza Strip?

My answer was, without hesitation: I would have stood near the border fence and demonstrated, risking my life and limbs every minute.

How am I so sure?

Simple: I did the same when I was 15.

I was a member of the National Military Organization (the “Irgun”), an armed underground group labeled “terrorist”.

Palestine was at the time under British occupation (called “mandate”). In May 1939, the British enacted a law limiting the right of Jews to acquire land. I received an order to be at a certain time at a certain spot near the sea shore of Tel Aviv in order to take part in a demonstration. I was to wait for a trumpet signal.

The trumpet sounded and we started the march down Allenby Road, then the city’s main street. Near the main synagogue, somebody climbed the stairs and delivered an inflammatory speech. Then we marched on, to the end of the street, where the offices of the British administration were located. There we sang the national anthem, “Hatikvah”, while some adult members set fire to the offices.

Suddenly several lorries carrying British soldiers screeched to a halt, and a salvo of shots rang out. The British fired over our heads, and we ran away.

Remembering this event 79 years later, it crossed my mind that the boys of Gaza are greater heroes then we were then. They did not run away. They stood their ground for hours, while the death toll rose to 61 and the number of those wounded by live ammunition to some 1500, in addition to 1000 affected by gas.

On that day, most TV stations in Israel and abroad split their screen. On the right, the events in Gaza. On the left, the inauguration of the US Embassy in Jerusalem.

In the 136th year of the Zionist-Palestinian war, that split screen is the picture of reality: the celebration in Jerusalem and the bloodbath in Gaza. Not on two different planets, not in two different continents, but hardly an hour’s drive apart.

The celebration in Jerusalem started as a silly event. A bunch of suited males, inflated with self-importance, celebrating – what, exactly? The symbolic movement of an office from one town to another.

Jerusalem is a major bone of contention. Everybody knows that there will be no peace, not now, not ever, without a compromise there. For every Palestinian, every Arab, every Muslim throughout the world, it is unthinkable to give up Jerusalem. It is from there, according to Muslim tradition, that the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven, after tying his horse to the rock that is now the center of the holy places. After Mecca and Medina, Jerusalem is the third holiest place of Islam.

For the Jews, of course, Jerusalem means the place where, some 2000 years ago, there stood the temple built by King Herod, a cruel half-Jew. A remnant of an outer wall still stands there and is revered as the “Western Wall”. It used to be called the “Wailing Wall”, and is the holiest place of the Jews.

Statesmen have tried to square the circle and find a solution. The 1947 United Nations committee that decreed the partition of Palestine into an Arab and a Jewish state – a solution enthusiastically endorsed by the Jewish leadership – suggested separating Jerusalem from both states and constituting it as a separate unit within what was supposed to be in fact a kind of confederation.

The war of 1948 resulted in a divided city, the Eastern part was occupied by the Arab side (the Kingdom of Jordan) and the Western part became the capital of Israel. (My modest part was to fight in the battle for the road.)

No one liked the division of the city. So my friends and I devised a third solution, which by now has become a world consensus: keep the city united on the municipal level and divide it politically: the West as capital of the State of Israel, the East as capital of the State of Palestine. The leader of the local Palestinians, Faisal al-Husseini, the scion of a most distinguished local Palestinian family and the son of a national hero who was killed not far from my position in the same battle, endorsed this formula publicly. Yasser Arafat gave me his tacit consent.

If President Donald Trump had declared West Jerusalem the capital of Israel and moved his embassy there, almost nobody would have got excited. By omitting the word “West”, Trump ignited a fire. Perhaps without realizing what he was doing, and probably not giving a damn.

For me, the moving of the US embassy means nothing. It is a symbolic act that does not change reality. If and when peace does come, no one will care about some stupid act of a half-forgotten US president. Inshallah.

So there they were, this bunch of self-important nobodies, Israelis, Americans and those in-between, having their little festival, while rivers of blood were flowing in Gaza. Human beings were killed by the dozen and wounded by the thousand.

The ceremony started as a cynical meeting, which quickly became grotesque, and ended in being sinister. Nero fiddling while Rome was burning.

When the last hug was exchanged and the last compliment paid (especially to the graceful Ivanka), Gaza remained what it was – a huge concentration camp with severely overcrowded hospitals, lacking medicines and food, drinkable water and electricity.

A ridiculous world-wide propaganda campaign was let loose to counter the world-wide condemnation. For example: the story that the terrorist Hamas had compelled the Gazans to go and demonstrate – as if anyone could be compelled to risk their life in a demonstration.

Or: the story that Hamas paid every demonstrator 50 dollars. Would you risk your life for 50 dollars? Would anybody?

Or: The soldiers had no choice but to kill them, because they were storming the border fence. Actually, no one did so – the huge concentration of Israeli army brigades would have easily prevented it without shooting.

Almost forgotten was a small news item from the days before: Hamas had discreetly offered a Hudna for ten years. A Hudna is a sacred armistice, never to be broken. The Crusaders, our remote predecessors, had many Hudnas with their Arab enemies during their 200-year stay here.

Israeli leaders immediately rejected the offer.

So why were the soldiers ordered to kill? It is the same logic that has animated countless occupation regimes throughout history: make the “natives” so afraid that they will give up. Alas, the results have almost always been the very opposite: the oppressed have become more hardened, more resolute. This is happening now.

Bloody Monday may well be seen in future as the day when the Palestinians regained their national pride, their will to stand up and fight for their independence.

Strangely, the next day – the main day of the planned protest, Naqba Day – only two demonstrators were killed. Israeli diplomats abroad, facing world-wide indignation, had probably sent home SOS messages. Clearly the Israeli army had changed its orders. Non-lethal means were used and sufficed.

My consience does not allow me to conclude this without some self-criticism.

I would have expected that all of Israel’s renowned writers would publish a thundering joint condemnation while the shooting was still going on. It did not happen.

The political “opposition” was contemptible. No word from the Labor party. No word from Ya’ir Lapid. The new leader of the Meretz party, Esther Sandberg, did at least boycott the Jerusalem celebration. Labor and Lapid did not even do that.

I would have expected that the dozens of our brave peace organizations would unite in a dramatic act of condemnation, an act that would arouse the world. It did not happen. Perhaps they were in a state of shock.

The next day, the excellent boys and girls of the peace groups demonstrated opposite the Likud office in Tel Aviv. Some 500 took part. Far, far from the hundreds of thousands who demonstrated some years ago against the price of cottage cheese.

In short: we did not do our duty. I accuse myself as much as I accuse everybody else.

We must prepare at once for the next atrocity. We must organize for mass action now!

But what topped everything was the huge machine of brain-washing that was set in motion. For many years I have not experienced anything like it.

Almost all the so-called “military correspondents” acted like army propaganda agents. Day by day they helped the army to spread lies and falsifications. The public had no alternative but to believe every word. Nobody told them otherwise.

The same is true for almost all other means of communication, program presenters, announcers and correspondents. They willingly became government liars. Probably many of them were ordered to do so by their bosses. Not a glorious chapter.

After the day of blood, when the army was faced with world condemnation and had to stop shooting (“only” killing two unarmed demonstrators) all Israeli media were united in declaring this a great Israeli victory.

Israel had to open the crossings and send food and medicines to Gaza. Egypt had to open its Gaza crossing and accept many hundreds of wounded for operations and other treatment.

The Day of Shame has passed. Until the next time.

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High Alert for Palestinian Slaughter and Conflict With Iran

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers / Popular Resistance.

There will be a confluence of trigger events this week that could lead to an escalation of conflict. At the same time that the US has reneged on the nuclear agreement and Israeli missiles are attacking Iranians in Syria, the US embassy will be moved to Jerusalem and Palestinians will protest the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, capping six weeks of actions.

United States moves embassy to controversial site

On Monday, May 14, the United States will move its embassy to Jerusalem, even though the new US embassy is not yet built. Jerusalem is considered by both Israelis and Palestinians as their capital. This action is part of a 100-year history of Zionist colonization of Jerusalem.

When the announcement of the move was made, there was widespread anger. In Gaza, protesters took to the streets bearing Palestinian flags and denouncing the decision. Students held demonstrations in the West BankBernard Smith of Al-Jazeera reported from Gaza, “People here compared the protests to a small ball of fire that would roll and turn into a much larger ball later on.” The decision unified Palestinians, putting aside their divisions to focus on Trump and Israel.

Arab governments issued statements of condemnation and emergency meetings of both the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation were held while the UN voted 128-9 to reject the Trump administration’s decision and approve a resolution urging countries to not move their embassies to Jerusalem. Reuters reported that Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, Imam of Egypt’s al-Azhar mosque, one of Islam’s most important institutions, said the decision incites “anger among all Muslims and threatens world peace.” Sheikh added, “The gates of hell will be opened in the West before the East.” Hamas leader Ismail Haniya described it as a “flagrant aggression…that will know no limit to the Palestinian, Arab and Muslim reaction.”

Thousands of people rallied in Turkey and Jordan on Friday to protest against the decision to move the US embassy. Tens of thousands of Muslims gathered in Jakarta, Indonesia on Friday to protest the United States. Israelis in Jerusalem are also protesting the move.

The Jerusalem Post reported that Palestinians have called for a day of rage and that mass protests are being mobilized for the opening of the US embassy. Choosing to move on the day before the Nakba is a provocation by Israel and the United States.

Israel is illegitimate

The Great March of Return held its seventh Friday of protests last week. At least 49 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli snipers since the protest began on March 30, and 8,500 have been wounded (see e.g. 9 killed 780 wounded and violence continues 16 killed 1,500 wounded). The protests will culminate May 15 on the Nakba, or Catastrophe when Palestinians memorialize being forced from their homes, their villages being destroyed, hundreds of thousands becoming refugees and scores being killed during the founding of Israel 70 years ago. Land theft and ethnic cleansing have continued, often legalized by property law. Palestinian protesters are demanding the right to return to their homes and marching after decades of Israeli violence and injustice. They proclaim they will not wait another 70 years.

The reality is clear, as Miko Peled, whose grandfather signed the Declaration of Independence of Israel 70 years ago and whose father was an Israeli general, says — that Israel has no legitimacy. Peled emphasizes that people in the US have a responsibility to take action to end the occupation of Palestine and outlines ways to do so, including an aggressive BDS campaign. Peled says “Israel” is an illegitimate state and “the area should be called Palestine.”

Peled is correct to focus on the responsibility of the people of the United States. No other country has been more supportive of Israel. The US gave “more than 250 billion dollars in direct government aid to Israel, [and] the USA has used its veto more than 70 times in the Security Council to prevent passage of resolutions condemning Israeli policies.” Alexander Haig, the former Secretary of State who served as chief of staff to Presidents Nixon and Ford and was a four-star general who served as the supreme commander of NATO, told the truth, saying, “Israel is the largest American aircraft carrier in the world that cannot be sunk, does not carry even one American soldier, and is located in a critical region for American national security.”

Protests against Israel and AIPAC, the DC-based Israeli lobby, consistently occur in the US, even though the media hides the truth about the Israeli lobby. Even YouTube censors information about Israel but people still see the reality of Israeli violence. Israel works to inject pro-Israel propaganda in the media while US universities censor speech about Palestinian justice. The massacre of nonviolent Palestinians is leading to calls for an arms embargo against Israel, a BDS that includes a military embargo.

The combination of current events reveal the true costs of the creation of Israel. Israel is a fortress-like apartheid state that practices ethnic cleansing and whose government applauds snipers using Palestinians as targets. Some of its citizens watch the slaughter and cheer the death of Palestinians. Israel has created a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza with a decade-long embargo with intermittent mass destructive bombings. Even people of Jewish faith who criticize the barbarism of Israel are characterized as traitors and threatened by the government.

Press TV reports the Israeli military will be doubling the number of forces around the Gaza Strip and in occupied West Bank territories ahead of the controversial opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are expected to hold massive protests along the Gaza fence.

Widespread attacks on Palestinians are expected. In preparation for the massacre, people are urged to donate to help the wounded in Palestine.

Israel is provoking Iran in Syria

On May 4, military and intelligence analyst, the Saker, described how Israel was attacking Iranian bases in Syria in an attempt to get Iran to respond and pull the United States into a war with Iran.

On May 10, Voice of America reported that Israel launched an assault on more than 50 Iranian targets in Syria. Israel hit weapons depots, logistics sites and intelligence centers used by Iranian forces, many near Damascus.

In between these reports, Israel claimed that Iran fired rockets into the Golan Heights (Israeli occupied territory, part of Syria). Iran described the Israeli claims as “fabricated” and “baseless.” Holly Dagres, an Iran analyst for the Iranist questions why Iran would conduct such an attack “right after Trump’s decision and while Tehran is looking for European support to stay in the [nuclear deal]?” Other analysts also doubt the Israeli claim, and Iran says Syria fired into the Golan Heights, quoting a Syrian official. Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah describes Syria responding to multiple Israeli attacks in Syria to set new rules of engagement and plans to retake the Golan Heights from Israeli occupation.

Dr Roham Alvandi, a professor at the London School of Economics suggests this is the United States and Israel  “working hand in glove to escalate the military confrontation.” He adds, they seek to “provoke the Iranian leadership into taking action that will isolate and ultimately weaken the Islamic Republic.”

Israel is concerned about Iranian soldiers amassing in Syria close to its border. As Peled reports, the Israeli media and political leadership are banging the drums for Israel’s own war with Syria and Iran.

The Independent describes the situation as “bringing two of the region’s major powers closer to the brink of direct confrontation than ever before.” While Russia and European countries urged de-escalation, the United States repeated their refrain, “Israel’s right to act in self-defense.”

US withdraws without cause from the Iran Agreement

All of this comes when Trump has decided to renege on The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the nuclear agreement between France, Britain, Germany, Russia, China, the United States and Iran. In a belligerent speech filled with lies, Trump provided no evidence that Iran had violated the agreement and leaders of France, Britain, Germany, Russia, and China tried to convince the US to live up to the agreement.

Israel urged Trump to leave the agreement, presenting an intelligence dossier that claimed Iran had violated it. However, the dossier contained information weapons inspectors had already found to be false. Netanyahu made a big public relations presentation to urge Trump to get out of the agreement. Telesur summarizes the reaction, writing, “After Netanyahu’s speech the International Atomic Energy Agency said it has ‘no credible’ evidence Iran was developing nuclear arms since 2009.”

US activists published an open letter apologizing to Iran. The letter described Trump’s decision as “reckless, baseless, and dangerous” and expressed that we are “ashamed that our government has broken a deal that was working.” The signers promised, “We will do everything in our power to stop Donald Trump from strangling your economy and taking us to war with you.” People in Iran took to the streets to protest the US’ decision.

The decision is part of the long history of the US trying to dominate Iran going back to the 1953 coup, continuing in recent years, during which the US has spent tens of millions of dollars annually to build opposition inside Iran, and to the US’ involvement in recent protests. Activities today are consistent with a 2009 Brookings Institution report, Which Path To Persia? Options For A New American Strategy For Iran,” which put forward various paths to regime change, including Israel taking the lead and the US and Israel falsely claiming that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons.

Richard Johnson, a top US nuclear expert, handed in his resignation after Trump’s unilateral withdrawal. And the chief inspector of the UN nuclear agency stepped down unexpectedly, a few days after the US withdrew from the nuclear agreement.

The decision may hurt the United States in many ways. The sanctions Trump will reintroduce do not just limit U.S. dealings with Iran, but will also penalize other countries, causing a riff with US allies. John Bolton threatened to enforce the sanctions against European corporations and countries, while Europe punched back supporting the Iran agreement and planning legislation to protect European companies. Iran is entering agreements with Russia and China, who are its protectors. Iran will seek to build its relationship with European and Latin American countries as well. The US may be left out, its credibility damaged. Given the failure of US military power in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria, traditional allies recognize the limitations of the US as a super power.

There are many reasons a war with Iran would be a disaster for the US and Israel. Moon of Alabama describes that the Bush administration considered it but war games ended badly for the US. This remains true. So, if the US is rational, war can be averted.

No war on Iran

While escalation makes no sense, the leaders of Israel and the US may see a political benefit.  Prime Minister Netanyahu is facing charges of corruptionProsecutors recently questioned him and his wife for five hours at the same time but at different locations, both as suspects. Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, had his home and office searched and documents and tapes were seized by prosecutors. Trump’s legal team is a mess. Rudy Guiliani recently resigned from his law firm after making counterproductive comments in the media. Israeli and US leaders may seek to change the subject and play to their conservative political base; a military conflict could aid both.

The 2018 election, which currently looks like a potential Democratic sweep, is also a factor. Sheldon Adelson, a top donor to Trump and Republicans in 2016 who gave $83 million to the campaigns and $5 million to Trump’s inauguration, pushed for moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, even offering to finance the move, and for quitting the Iran nuclear pact. Adelson also urges a US nuclear attack on Iran.

The day after Trump left the pact, Adelson had lunch with him in the White House. Not long after, Paul Ryan went with former senator, Norm Coleman, who chairs the Republican Jewish Committee, and others from a Republican PAC, to meet Adelson and his wife at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas. They urged support for keeping Republican control of the House. Ryan left the room (since he is not legally allowed to ask for seven-figure donations) and Coleman made the ask, with the Adelsons donating $30 million to the Congressional Leadership Fund, doubling their cash on hand. Adelson’s company recorded a $670 million income tax windfall from the GOP tax law in the first quarter.

The forces are aligning right now in a disastrous way. We must not allow the administration to lie us into another prolonged and costly war. We must oppose the slaughter of more Palestinians. We must be clear that we do not support war and that we do support the rights of Palestinians. Protests are being planned across the US. Join them or organize your own. And spread the truth to your neighbors and your community. You can also support the 2018 Freedom Flotilla, which has left Norway, to bring supplies to Gaza.

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Arms Embargo on Israel Needed as Military Unlawfully Kills and Maims Gaza Protesters

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Amnesty International.

Israel is carrying out a murderous assault against protesting Palestinians, with its armed forces killing and maiming demonstrators who pose no imminent threat to them, Amnesty International revealed Friday, based on its latest research, as the “Great March of Return” protests continued in the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli military has killed 35 Palestinians and injured more than 5,500 others – some with what appear to be deliberately inflicted life-changing injuries – during the weekly Friday protests that began on 30 March.

Amnesty International has renewed its call on governments worldwide to impose a comprehensive arms embargo on Israel following the country’s disproportionate response to mass demonstrations along the fence that separates the Gaza Strip from Israel.

“For four weeks the world has watched in horror as Israeli snipers and other soldiers, in full-protective gear and behind the fence, have attacked Palestinian protesters with live ammunition and tear gas. Despite wide international condemnation, the Israeli army has not reversed its illegal orders to shoot unarmed protesters,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

“The time for symbolic statements of condemnation is now over. The international community must act concretely and stop the delivery of arms and military equipment to Israel. A failure to do so will continue to fuel serious human rights abuses against thousands of men, women and children suffering the consequences of life under Israel’s cruel blockade of Gaza. These people are merely protesting their unbearable conditions and demanding the right to return to their homes and towns in what is now Israel.”

The USA is by far Israel’s main supplier of military equipment and technology, with a commitment to provide $38 billion in military aid over the next 10 years. But other countries, including EU member states such as France, Germany, the UK and Italy, have licensed large volumes of military equipment for Israel.

Protesters shot from behind

In most of the fatal cases analysed by Amnesty International victims were shot in the upper body, including the head and the chest, some from behind. Eyewitness testimonies, video and photographic evidence suggest that many were deliberately killed or injured while posing no immediate threat to the Israeli soldiers.

Among the victims are 23-year-old football player Mohammad Khalil Obeid, who was shot in both knees as he filmed himself with his back towards the border fence at a protest east of al-Breij Camp on 30 March.

The video, published on social media, shows the moment he was shot. In the footage, he appears to be standing in an isolated area, far from the fence, and not seeming to pose any threat to the lives of Israeli soldiers. He is currently in need of a knee replacement operation to be able to walk again.

“As a Palestinian player my life has been destroyed… I was dreaming of playing football abroad, and to raise the Palestinian flag abroad [to show] that we are not terrorists,” he told Amnesty International.

“We wanted to convey our message to all organizations, countries and heads of states so that they see what is happening to us, because no one would accept this anywhere in the world.”

Injuries not seen since the war

Doctors at the European and Shifa hospitals in Gaza City told Amnesty International that many of the serious injuries they have witnessed are to the lower limbs, including the knees, which are typical of war wounds that they have not observed since the 2014 Gaza conflict.

Many have suffered extreme bone and tissue damage, as well as large exit wounds measuring between 10 and 15mm, and will likely face further complications, infections and some form of physical disability, such as paralysis or amputation. Reports of the high number of injuries to the knees, which increase the probability of bullet fragmentation, are particularly disturbing. If true, they would suggest that the Israeli army is intentionally intending to inflict life-changing injuries.

Doctors also said that they have observed another type of devastating injury characterized by large internal cavities, plastic left inside the body but no exit wounds.

According to military experts as well as a forensic pathologist who reviewed photographs of injuries obtained by Amnesty International, many of the wounds observed by doctors in Gaza are consistent with those caused by high-velocity Israeli-manufactured Tavor rifles using 5.56mm military ammunition. Other wounds bear the hallmarks of US-manufactured M24 Remington sniper rifles shooting 7.62mm hunting ammunition, which expand and mushroom inside the body.

According to a recent statement by Médecins Sans Frontières, half of the over 500 patients admitted to its clinics were treated for injuries “where the bullet has literally destroyed tissue after having pulverized the bone”. This information has been confirmed by humanitarian NGOs as well as testimonies collected from doctors by Palestinian human rights groups in Gaza.

“The nature of these injuries shows that Israeli soldiers are using high-velocity military weapons designed to cause maximum harm to Palestinian protesters that do not pose imminent threat to them. These apparently deliberate attempts to kill and main are deeply disturbing, not to mention completely illegal. Some of these cases appear to amount to wilful killing, a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions and a war crime,” said Magdalena Mughrabi.

“Unless Israel ensures effective and independent investigations resulting in criminal prosecutions of those responsible, the International Criminal Court must open a formal investigation into these killings and serious injuries as possible war crimes and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice.”

According to the Ministry of Health in Gaza, as of 26 April, the total number of injured is estimated at 5,511 – 592 children, 192 women and 4,727 men – with 1,738 injuries from live ammunition. Approximately half of those admitted to hospitals suffered injuries to the legs and the knees, while 225 sustained injuries to the neck and head, 142 others were shot in the abdomen and pelvis, and 115 were injured in the chest and the back. So far, the injuries have resulted in 18 amputations.

Four children aged between 14 and 17 are among those killed due to injuries sustained during protests. Two journalists have also been shot dead, despite both wearing protective vests that clearly identified them as members of the press, while several others have been injured.

Gaza’s hospitals have struggled to cope with the large number of casualties due to shortages in medical supplies, electricity and fuel caused by the Israeli blockade and exacerbated by the intra-Palestinian divide. Meanwhile, Israel has been delaying or refusing the transfer of some patients in need of urgent specialized medical treatment available in other parts of the Occupied Palestinian Territories due to their participation in protests.

In one case documented by Amnesty International, 20-year-old journalist Yousef al-Kronz had his left leg amputated after the Israeli authorities denied him permission to travel to Ramallah in the occupied West Bank for urgent medical treatment. He was eventually allowed to leave for an operation to save his other leg following legal intervention by human rights groups.

Paramedics in Gaza have told Amnesty International of difficulties evacuating injured protesters due to the Israeli army firing tear gas canisters at them as well as near field hospitals.

Unlawful killings and life-changing injuries

The organizers of the “Great March of Return” have repeatedly stated that the protests are intended to be peaceful, and they have largely involved sit-ins, concerts, sports games, speeches and other peaceful activities.

Despite this, the Israeli army reinforced its forces – deploying tanks, military vehicles, soldiers and snipers along the Gaza fence – and gave orders to shoot anyone within several hundred metres of the fence.

While some protesters have attempted to approach the fence, threw stones in the direction of Israeli soldiers or burnt tyres, social media videos, as well as eyewitness testimonies gathered by Amnesty International, Palestinian and Israeli human rights groups, show that Israeli soldiers shot unarmed protesters, bystanders, journalists and medical staff approximately 150-400m from the fence, where they did not pose any threat.

In a petition requesting that the Israeli Supreme Court order the Israeli army to stop using live ammunition to disperse protests, human rights groups Adalah and Al Mezan provided evidence of 12 videos published on social media showing unarmed protesters, including women and children, being shot by the Israeli army. In some cases, people were shot while waving the Palestinian flag or running away from the fence.

Video footage widely circulated on social media shows Abd Al-Fattah Abd Al-Nabi, aged 19, being shot on 30 March as he was running away from the fence while holding a tyre, with his back turned to Israeli soldiers. He was shot in the back of the head and died. On Friday 20  April, 14-year-old Mohammad Ayyoub was also killed by a gunshot wound to the back of the head.

Background

Over the last 11 years, civilians in the Gaza Strip have suffered the devastating consequences of Israel’s illegal blockade in addition to three wars. As a result, Gaza’s economy has sharply declined, leaving its population almost entirely dependent on international aid. Gaza now has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world at 44%. Four years since the 2014 conflict, some 22,000 people remain displaced.

In January 2015, the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court opened a preliminary examination of situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, specifically looking into allegations of crimes committed since 13 June 2014.

Amnesty International has also been calling on all states to impose a comprehensive arms embargo on Israel, as well as on Palestinian armed groups, with the aim of preventing violations of international humanitarian and human rights law by all sides.

Since 30 March, in addition to the protesters, seven other Palestinians have been killed by Israeli air strikes, artillery fire or live ammunition, including a farmer who was harvesting his land near the fence, and six members of Palestinian armed groups.

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Drawing Attention to Ugly Realities

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Paul Von Blum.

And Then The World Blew Up”

A book by Mr. Fish (Dwayne Booth)

Barack, Race and the Media: The Obama Legacy”

A book by David G. Brown

White and Black: Political Cartoons From Palestine”

A book by Mohammad Sabaaneh

In 1831, the great French political artist and cartoonist Honoré Daumier sought to publish a devastating attack on a public figure with his famous lithograph, “Gargantua.”His work pictured a grotesquely obese French monarch, Louis-Philippe, seated on a throne/commode, gobbling up the meager funds of the poor, and then excreting them out to his sycophants and wealthy supporters. Daumier wanted to run this savagely effective cartoon in the newspaper La Caricature. But the government’s censors stopped the publication. Both the publisher and the artist were tried and sentenced to six months in jail—an early example of the suppression of politically critical art and a reminder of the dangers of visual opposition to dominant power arrangements.

Persecution, imprisonment and even death have been the fates of many political artists, including cartoonists, over the centuries. In the United States, politically critical cartoonists have often encountered hostility from government censors and sometimes from their own publishers. A century ago, for example, the U.S. government suppressed the radical magazine The Masses by indicting the magazine’s editors for opposing American participation in the war as imperialistic, denouncing conscription, and supporting conscientious objection. Among its contributors were several prominent successors to Daumier, including John Sloan, George Bellows, Art Young and Boardman Robinson, whose trenchant cartoons could no longer reach their intended audiences.  

Contemporary American political cartoonists have fared better on the legal front, relying (if tenuously) on First Amendment protections. Economically, the situation is much more precarious. At the start of the 20th century, newspapers employed approximately 2,000 editorial cartoonists; today, there are fewer than 40.  

The daily newspaper political cartoon used to be a staple of the editorial pages. Iconic figures like Bill Mauldin, Herb Block (Herblock), Pat Oliphant, Paul Conrad, Ron Cobb and many others used their caustic pens in mainstream and alternative newspapers to expose the flaws of American social, political and economic life, and often the immorality, depravity and criminality of its major political and corporate leaders. Following in the steps of Daumier and earlier American editorial cartoonists like Thomas Nast and Joseph Keppler from the 19th century and The Masses’ luminaries from the early 20th, they established a standard of excellence that has rarely been rivaled.

Today’s political cartoonists are usually pushed online. There they have multiple avenues for self-expression, but these avenues, at best, provide marginal incomes and make the role and status of the critical political cartoonists precarious. More generally, the decline of the American newspaper, despite the robust nature of online alternative journalism, has insidious long-term implications for democracy.      

Still, the tradition of robust political cartooning continues and even thrives, in the U.S. and elsewhere. One of the finest and most trenchant contemporary political cartoonists is Mr. Fish, the name used by Dwayne Booth for his savage visual attacks on the plutocrats, the political miscreants and gangsters, the hypocrisy, and the moral imbecility of our era. Mr. Fish’s cartoons appear regularly in Truthdig, Harper’s, The Village Voice, The Atlantic, and even the Los Angeles Times. His acerbic images and his provocative use of colorful imagery and language would be unacceptable in “family” newspapers and other publications, but they are welcome additions to online journals of progressive opinion and reportage like Truthdig.

His new book, “And Then the World Blew Up,” is an engaging collection of visual works and largely autobiographical verbal commentaries. They are simultaneously visually delightful and horrifying when considering the deeper seriousness of his topics. The verbal parts of the book reveal many of Booth’s childhood and adult experiences, fantasies, observations and ruminations. All of these have collectively informed his powerful visual work, explaining in part his devilish and macabre wit that imaginatively fuses genitalia and scatological imagery, as well as word additions like “fuck,” “bullshit,” “asshole,” and racial, gender and ethnic slurs like “nigger,” “spic,” “wetback,” “raghead,” and “bitch.” He uses these latter words ironically, not pejoratively—something that many progressives lacking in humor (especially sardonic humor) find difficult to handle, which reflects a depressing and long-standing defect in leftist consciousness generally.

Click here to read long excerpts from “And Then the World Blew Up” at Google Books.

Many of Fish’s works, for good and obvious reason, are directed against the brutal and swinish regime of Donald Trump. The cover of the book depicts Trump with a dynamite belt that he is poised to detonate, signifying both the chaos of his administration and, more ominously, its danger to the entire world. The image also shows a tight-lipped, grim-faced Trump looking almost like Benito Mussolini, the Italian fascist dictator he sometimes resembles and whose movements he often appears to emulate.

Other politicians also come under his withering assault. Barack Obama does not escape. The former president is correctly (and perhaps unnervingly to some viewers) depicted as not the legitimate successor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the panoply of African-American civil rights icons.

Mr. Fish uses his acidic pen to target other worthy subjects in the “fucking world” of the early 21st century. His cartoons address the persecution of Muslims in America and racial profiling, police brutality, plutocracy, corporate greed and misconduct, global warming and environmental degradation, and other problems that place our world in grave danger.  

“And Then the World Blew Up”
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Probably Mr. Fish’s most controversial cartoons in “And Then the World Blew Up” are his critical depictions of Israel’s treatments of its Palestinian neighbors and adversaries. Using witty wordplay to introduce that section of the book, “When Jewish Upon a Star,” he offers some works that condemn Israeli aggression and censorship as well as efforts that underscore the perfectly obvious truth that criticism of Israel is not synonymous with anti-Semitism.  

Dwayne Booth has created an exemplary body of work that has elevated him to the top rank of American political cartoonists, even though he is relatively young. Although his anarchic and mordant wit probably lacks a universal appeal, it is an absolute delight to those of us who see the absurdity of the world even while trying assiduously to change it. Decades of engaging visual satire from him lie ahead if, indeed, the human species actually manages to survive.

Another outstanding current political cartoonist is David Brown, whose new book, “Barack, Race and the Media: The Obama Legacy” chronicles some of his recent cartoons as well as examples from some of his accomplished contemporaries. Brown emerges from the long but largely hidden tradition of African-American political cartooning, a vital contribution to this genre in both journalism and socially conscious art. Brown continues the work of such distinguished predecessors as E. Simms Campbell, Jackie Ormes, Oliver Harrington and George Lee. Together, their political cartoons and other graphics have allowed audiences to see political and social events from an African-American perspective, a useful corrective to the mainstream white vision that has dominated every medium of American expression since the establishment of the nation.

In contrast to Mr. Fish, Brown has a more positive view of Obama. This is understandable among African-Americans who, a generation ago, could scarcely have imagined a black U.S. president. Brown’s contrast of Obama to the retrograde policies of his predecessor George W. Bush surely makes sense. And doubtless, Obama’s opening of relations with Cuba, his increased funding for health care, his stance on global warming, and his support for LBGT rights, as shown in Brown’s appealing cartoons, deserve praise.

“Barack, Race and the Media: The Obama Legacy”
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Brown’s best political cartoons in this volume reflect his effective critique of some egregious features of American racism. Foremost among these is the continuing police killings of unarmed black people, including such prominent recent cases as Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Ezell Ford, Oscar Grant, Philando Castile and too many others. His cartoons about police misconduct and mass incarceration of people of color in America underscore the continuing defects and glaring inequities of the American “criminal justice system.” They should resonate with people of all backgrounds who strive for social justice.

Many of the cartoons that Brown produces for the weekly Los Angeles Sentinel on other social and political issues augment his reputation as a premier political cartoonist. His supportive works on gay rights, for example, are especially significant in a black community where this topic is still touchy even in 2018. Brown’s cartoons on world famine, bank fraud, the dangers of fracking, and other contemporary social and political problems place him solidly in the mainstream of progressive visual journalism and mark him as one of the leading African-American political cartoonists in the early 21st century.

This volume also contains a small sample of political cartoons by Angelo Lopez, David Horsey, Lalo Alcaraz, Steve Greenberg and Tim Jackson. The collection of these multiracial and white artists is a valuable acknowledgment of some of the diversity of contemporary cartooning. While women are not represented here, they too have become increasingly visible in the field and make significant contributions to the satirical visual tradition throughout the nation and the world.

Audiences in the United States rarely take notice of cartoonists from other regions of the world. Even with wide internet access, Americans are usually insular in their viewing and reading habits. Largely unknown here, one of the most powerful voices currently working in political cartooning is a young artist and activist who works for the Palestinian Authority’s daily newspaper, Al-Hayat al-Jadida. Mohammad Sabaaneh produces his cartoons in one of the world’s most contentious regions, where the Israeli/Palestinian conflict seems intractable and where the human suffering is nothing short of unbearable, especially for Palestinians living under a seemingly perpetual occupation.

American viewers now have a unique opportunity to see 180 of Sabaaneh’s cartoons in a dazzling book entitled “White and Black: Political Cartoons from Palestine.” This collection features many achingly powerful works that capture the pain of the daily life of ordinary Palestinians, who endure walls, checkpoints, curfews, abuse by Israeli tanks and bombers, soldiers, and police, relatives in Israeli prison cells, and more.

“White and Black: Political Cartoons from Palestine”
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All political artists and their works are shaped by their personal experiences. Sabaaneh’s cartoons result directly from his five months’ detention in an Israeli occupation prison, some of which he spent in solitary confinement. His incarceration gave him a brutally realistic understanding of what it meant to be separated from family and friends. Like all prisoners, he was deprived of life’s simple pleasures that free people take for granted: conversing with loved ones, sipping tea and coffee, basking in the sun.

His experience was similar to that of thousands of other Palestinian detainees who struggle against Israeli occupation and the daily indignities that it has brought to many thousands of women, men and children. But he had a profound advantage as an artist and editorial cartoonist. He could convey these human realities in effective visual form to large and appreciative audiences in Palestine. Now with this book, he can reach out to others who can understand, perhaps even for the first time, the gravity and seriousness of the human tragedy that has been unfolding for too many years in the occupied territories.

All the cartoons in “White and Black” are eloquent documents of artistic resistance. Perhaps his signature work is his graphic adaptation of the famous painting “Guernica,” which Pablo Picasso used to protest the Nazi bombing of the Basque town in 1937 under the orders of General Francisco Franco during his fascist rebellion against democratic Spain. Sabaaneh’s version employs Picasso’s iconic figures while adapting them to contemporary Palestinian realities of rage, frustration, anguish and sorrow. A mother cradles her infant while an Israeli tank stands guard over the Apartheid Wall. A figure leans in, not with a light to illuminate the horrific scene of human destruction, but with a slingshot to signify the youthful weapon of rebellion. The work is a masterpiece of artistic appropriation and sets a high standard for contemporary critical political cartooning.

The most poignant works in this volume are those that depict Palestinians experiencing horrific personal pain. The section on political prisoners is especially powerful and unnerving to view. One example shows an anguished mother and child visiting the husband in prison, as he symbolically seeks to punch through the barrier separating them. Another depicts a woman prisoner behind barbed wired as her pigtail morphs into a chain representing her confinement.

The cartoons showing Palestinians “existing” as hostages in their own land are the saddest of all. But they are also calls to action, urging the end to an unconscionable occupation and relentless mistreatment of human beings that utterly negates the historic Jewish commitment to social justice. Sabaaneh follows in the long tradition of social and political artists who shine the hard light of truth on the ugly realities of injustice, terror and oppression. Like Daumier before him, as well as many others of lesser visibility but perhaps comparable artistic stature, he has paid dearly for his commitment to the truth.

What is to be done? That is the perennial question when confronting the efforts of politically conscious artists. The tentative answer must be to use these incisive works as a catalyst for concerted and collective political action. That is the only way the evils of the Trump regime can be abated, the only way that the scourge of racism can be mitigated, and the only way that the nightmare of Israeli occupation can be ended. Mr. Fish had it right when he discerningly inscribed my copy of his book at a recent Santa Monica book-signing event: “Go save the fucking world!”

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Calls for Stripping Natalie Portman of Israel Citizenship for Criticizing Shooting Palestinian Protesters

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Juan Cole / Informed Comment.

“Annihilation” star Natalie Portman replied to the controversy stirred by her declining to attend the Genesis Foundation awards ceremony in Jerusalem in June because of her distress at “recent events” (the shooting down of unarmed protesters in Gaza by Israeli snipers at the order of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu).

She wrote at Instagram:

“Let me speak for myself. I chose not to attend because I did not want to appear as endorsing Benjamin Netanyahu, who was to be giving a speech at the ceremony. Like many Israelis and Jews around the world, I can be critical of the leadership in Israel without wanting to boycott the entire nation. I treasure my Israeli friends and family, Israeli food, books, art, cinema, and dance.’”

She added “But the mistreatment of those suffering from today’s atrocities is simply not in line with my Jewish values.”

She appears to be characterizing the Likud Party’s punitive treatment of the Palestinian civilian population of Gaza, which the Israelis have blockaded since 2007, as an ongoing atrocity and to be characterizing the assassination by Israeli marksmen of the protesters as mistreatment.

Natalie Portman Says to Skip Israeli Ceremony Due to Netanyahu Speech

Prominent Likud Party member of the Israeli parliament Oren Hazan, a former casino manager in Bulgaria, said,

“[She is] a Jewish Israeli, who on the one hand cynically uses her birthplace to advance her career and on the other is proud of the fact that she managed to avoid enlisting in the IDF [euphemism for the Israeli Army]. She’s an actress, but she is unworthy of any honor in the State of Israel . . . Sweetness can come from strength: I call on Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (Shas) to rescind Portman’s Israeli citizenship. She left Israel at age four, and has no real connection to the State.”

Hazan denies that there are any Palestinians, and is notorious for harassing families of Palestinians going to see imprisoned relatives (some Palestinians have been imprisoned for writing poetry or for Facebook posts, while several hundred children are being held for acts of protest against the Israeli military). He told one bus full of relatives, that the garbage they called loved ones would never see the light of day:

TRT World: “Israeli politician harasses Palestinians

Political scientist Ian Lustick has estimated that there are as many as one million Israeli Jews living outside Israel, out of the alleged 6 million Israeli Jews (and 2 million Palestinian-Israelis). It is possible that they or significant numbers of them are being counted in the Israeli official statistics so as to make the Jewish population look larger than it is on the ground. Perhaps MK Hazan should strip them all of citizenship?

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