Israel Detaining Jewish Activists for Supporting Palestinian Rights

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Ilana Novick.

Facing backlash against its controversial “nation-state bill” last month, Israel has detained Jewish writers and activists who oppose the law’s definition of Israel as an entirely Jewish state, with no mention of the value of democracy or equal rights for Palestinians.

On Sunday, writer, professor and political commentator Peter Beinart was on vacation, traveling from Greece to attend a family bat mitzvah in Israel when he was detained by the Shin Bet, Israel’s security agency, at Ben Gurion Airport in Jerusalem, he reported Monday in an article for The Forward.

Beinart’s was one of three such detentions at airports and border crossings in recent weeks.

Israel-born poet Moriel Rothman-Zecher arrived at Ben Gurion with his wife and infant daughter on July 29. Agents allowed his family through customs, but detained him for approximately three hours, claiming his involvement in nonviolent protests was a “slippery slope” to violence against the state, and asking him for the names of pro-Palestinian and peace organizations and of fellow activists and friends.

Rothman-Zechner called the experience “jarring and unpleasant,” but acknowledged how common and more abusive the situation is for countless Palestinians, and anyone else without his Israeli citizenship and white privilege.

He wondered how he would explain the incident to his daughter when she is older. “It’s painful to think about telling her one day, ‘Hey kid, on our first visit to Israel, your aba [father] was detained at the border because he thinks Palestinians are human beings deserving of equality,’ ” he said.

A week after Rothman-Zecher’s detention, Beinart’s former colleague, Simone Zimmerman, a founder of IfNotNow, an organization of young American Jews fighting Israel’s occupation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, was detained with a friend, Abigail Kirschenbaum, at the Taba Border Crossing between Israel and Egypt.

According to New York magazine, the two “were held for roughly three and a half hours, had their phones inspected, and were asked a litany of queries about their opinions of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, their involvement with human-rights groups, and their interactions with Palestinians, among other topics.”

The incident involving Beinart occurred a week after that of Zimmerman and Kirschenbaum. While long an advocate for a two-state solution and Palestinian rights, in the past Beinart has been more cautious about separating his advocacy for the Palestinian people from his Zionism and defense of a Jewish state. Those nuances, however, may be lost on Israeli security forces.

“I was detained and interrogated about my political activities,” Beinart writes, describing how agents first detained him with his family, asking innocuous questions about where they were from and why they were in Israel before escorting Beinart separately to another room, where the questions turned accusatory and aggressive:

<blockquote>Was I involved in any organization that could provoke violence in Israel? I said no. Was I involved in any organization that threatens Israel democracy? I said no—that I support Israeli organizations that employ non-violence to defend Israeli democracy.</blockquote>

The agent then confronted Beinart about his participation in a protest on his last trip to Israel, one that Beinart explained was due to “the fact that Palestinians in Hebron and across the West Bank lack basic rights.” He described his involvement in The Center for Jewish Nonviolence.

The conversation took a strange turn after that, with the interrogator comparing the center with North Korea. As Beinart recalls:

<blockquote>He asked if the Center had incited violence, and I replied that, as its name suggests, it practices non-violence. My interrogator then replied that names could be misleading. The government of North Korea, he observed, calls itself a democracy but is not. I told him I didn’t think the Center for Jewish Nonviolence and the North Korean government have much in common.</blockquote>

Beinart recognizes that he had immense privilege due to being white and Jewish and armed with the number of a lawyer he called, who helped set him free. He also was the only one of the three recent detainees to receive an apology from Shin Bet and a rare admission of wrongdoing from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“We are sorry for the distress caused to Mr. Beinart,” a Shin Bet spokesperson said in a statement, The Times of Israel reports. Netanyahu called the incident “an administrative mistake” and “immediately spoke with Israel’s security forces to inquire how this happened.”

For Beinart, Netanyahu’s statement didn’t go far enough. On Monday he tweeted, “Benjamin Netanyahu has half-apologized for my detention yesterday at Ben Gurion airport. I’ll accept when he apologizes to all the Palestinians and Palestinian-Americans who every day endure far worse.”

 

 

Read more

How Media Launders Gaza Massacres by Labeling Them as ‘Clashes’

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

As FAIR has noted before (e.g., Extra!1/17FAIR.org4/2/18), the term “clash” is almost always used to launder power asymmetry and give the reader the impression of two equal warring sides. It obscures power dynamics and the nature of the conflict itself, e.g., who instigated it and what weapons if any were used. “Clash” is a reporter’s best friend when they want to describe violence without offending anyone in power—in the words of George Orwell, “to name things without calling up mental pictures of them.”

It’s predictable, then, that in coverage of Israel’s recent mass shootings in Gaza—which have killed over 30 Palestinians and injured more than 1,100—the word “clashes” is used to euphemize snipers in fortified positions firing on unarmed protesters 100 meters away:

  • Journalist Among 9 Dead in Latest Gaza Clashes, Palestinian Health Officials Say (CNN4/7/18)
  • Burning Tires, Tear Gas and Live Fire: Gaza Clashes Turn Deadly (Washington Post4/6/18)
  • Demonstrators Wounded as Gaza Clashes Resume (Reuters, 4/7/18)
  • After Gaza Clash, Israel and Palestinians Fight With Videos and Words (New York Times, 4/1/18)

When one side is dying by the dozens and the other is sitting behind a heavily secured wall, firing at will on unarmed people from hundreds of feet away (some of whom are wearing vests marked “PRESS”), this is not a “clash.” It’s more accurately described as a “massacre,” or at the very least, “firing on protesters.” (No Israelis have been injured, which would be a surprising thing if two sides were actually “clashing.”)

New York Times3/25/11

The fig leaf of “clashes” is not needed in reporting on US enemies. In 2011, Western headlines routinely described Libya’s Moammar Gaddafi and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad as having “fired on protesters” (Guardian2/20/11New York Times3/25/11). Simple plain English works when reporting on those in bad standing with the US national security establishment, but for allies of the United States, the push for false parity requires increasingly absurd euphemisms to mask what’s really going on—in this case, the long-distance slaughter of unarmed human beings.

Israel has a state-of-the-art military: F35s, Sa’ar corvettes, Merkava tanks and Hellfire missiles, not to mention the most intrusive surveillance apparatus in the world; total control over the air, sea and land. In the Great March of Return protests, the Palestinians have employed rocks, tires and, according to the IDF, the occasional Molotov cocktail, though no independent evidence has emerged of the latter being used. The power asymmetry is one of the largest of any conflict in the world, yet Western media still cling on an institutional level to a “cycle of violence” frame, with “both sides” depicted as equal parties. The term “clashes” permits them to do this in perpetuity, no matter how one-sided the violence becomes.

Read more

How Media Launders Gaza Massacres by Labeling Them as ‘Clashes’

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

As FAIR has noted before (e.g., Extra!1/17FAIR.org4/2/18), the term “clash” is almost always used to launder power asymmetry and give the reader the impression of two equal warring sides. It obscures power dynamics and the nature of the conflict itself, e.g., who instigated it and what weapons if any were used. “Clash” is a reporter’s best friend when they want to describe violence without offending anyone in power—in the words of George Orwell, “to name things without calling up mental pictures of them.”

It’s predictable, then, that in coverage of Israel’s recent mass shootings in Gaza—which have killed over 30 Palestinians and injured more than 1,100—the word “clashes” is used to euphemize snipers in fortified positions firing on unarmed protesters 100 meters away:

  • Journalist Among 9 Dead in Latest Gaza Clashes, Palestinian Health Officials Say (CNN4/7/18)
  • Burning Tires, Tear Gas and Live Fire: Gaza Clashes Turn Deadly (Washington Post4/6/18)
  • Demonstrators Wounded as Gaza Clashes Resume (Reuters, 4/7/18)
  • After Gaza Clash, Israel and Palestinians Fight With Videos and Words (New York Times, 4/1/18)

When one side is dying by the dozens and the other is sitting behind a heavily secured wall, firing at will on unarmed people from hundreds of feet away (some of whom are wearing vests marked “PRESS”), this is not a “clash.” It’s more accurately described as a “massacre,” or at the very least, “firing on protesters.” (No Israelis have been injured, which would be a surprising thing if two sides were actually “clashing.”)

New York Times3/25/11

The fig leaf of “clashes” is not needed in reporting on US enemies. In 2011, Western headlines routinely described Libya’s Moammar Gaddafi and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad as having “fired on protesters” (Guardian2/20/11New York Times3/25/11). Simple plain English works when reporting on those in bad standing with the US national security establishment, but for allies of the United States, the push for false parity requires increasingly absurd euphemisms to mask what’s really going on—in this case, the long-distance slaughter of unarmed human beings.

Israel has a state-of-the-art military: F35s, Sa’ar corvettes, Merkava tanks and Hellfire missiles, not to mention the most intrusive surveillance apparatus in the world; total control over the air, sea and land. In the Great March of Return protests, the Palestinians have employed rocks, tires and, according to the IDF, the occasional Molotov cocktail, though no independent evidence has emerged of the latter being used. The power asymmetry is one of the largest of any conflict in the world, yet Western media still cling on an institutional level to a “cycle of violence” frame, with “both sides” depicted as equal parties. The term “clashes” permits them to do this in perpetuity, no matter how one-sided the violence becomes.

Read more

Israel Launches Scores of Airstrikes as Gaza Fire Persists

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

JERUSALEM — Israeli warplanes struck dozens of targets in the Gaza Strip and three people were reported killed there, while Palestinian militants from the territory fired scores of rockets into Israel in a fierce burst of violence overnight and into Thursday morning.

The flare-up comes as Egypt is trying to broker a long-term cease-fire between the two sides. At least three Palestinians died — a pregnant woman, her 1-year-old daughter and a Hamas militant, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

On the Israeli side, at least seven people were wounded.

Israeli and Hamas officials both threatened a further intensification of hostilities. The U.N.’s Mideast envoy appealed for calm.

It was not clear if the escalation, the latest in a series of intense exchanges of fire in recent months, would derail the indirect negotiations between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas militant rulers.

Air raid sirens signaling incoming rocket fire continued in southern Israel on Thursday morning, raising the likelihood of further Israeli reprisals.

Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since the Islamic militant group seized control of Gaza in 2007. Despite the animosity, the bitter enemies appear to be working through Egyptian mediators to avoid another war.

Hamas is demanding the lifting of an Israeli-Egyptian border blockade that has devastated Gaza’s economy, while Israel wants an end to rocket fire, as well as recent border protests and launches of incendiary balloons, and the return of the remains of two dead soldiers and two live Israelis believed to be held by Hamas.

But the continued outbursts of fire have jeopardized those cease-fire efforts. On Tuesday, the Israeli military struck a Hamas military post in Gaza after it said militants fired on Israeli troops on the border. Hamas said two of its fighters were killed after taking part in a gunfire parade inside a militant camp.

The incident occurred while a group of senior Hamas leaders from abroad were visiting Gaza to discuss the ceases-fire efforts with local leaders.

A top Hamas official told The Associated Press that the group waited for the delegation to leave Gaza before responding with rocket fire late Wednesday.

The Israeli military said over 150 rockets and mortars were fired at Israel, and Israel carried out over 140 airstrikes targeting Hamas militant positions.

Gaza’s Health Ministry identified those killed in the airstrikes from Wednesday to Thursday as Hamas fighter Ali Ghandour, 23-year-old Enas Khamash and her daughter Bayan. The ministry said the militant and the civilians were killed in separate incidents.

Kamal Khamash, brother-in-law of the killed woman, said the family was asleep when the projectile hit the house.

The mother and daughter died immediately and the father is in critical condition, Kamal said.

“This is a blatant crime and Israel is responsible for it,” he said.

Israeli army spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus insisted Israel only targeted Hamas military targets in Gaza.

In southern Israel, two Thai laborers were among the seven wounded by rocket fire, and rockets damaged buildings in the cities of Sderot and Ashkelon. The military said it intercepted some 25 rockets, while most of the others landed in open areas. Israel said it launched airstrikes targeting rocket launchers, weapons stockpiles, tunnels and other Hamas infrastructure.

Israeli Cabinet minister for construction and housing, Yoav Galant, said that “whatever is needed to be done to defend our civilians and soldiers, will be done, no matter what would be the price in Gaza.”

Conricus wouldn’t comment on Israeli media reports of troops preparing for a possible ground operation, but said Israel “had ground troops that are ready to deploy. We are reinforcing the southern command and Gaza division.”

Nickolay Mladenov, the U.N. special envoy who is involved in Egyptian efforts to broker a truce, said in a statement on Thursday that he’s “deeply alarmed” by “multiple rockets fired toward communities in southern Israel” the day before.

Mladenov warned that “if the current escalation however is not contained immediately, the situation can rapidly deteriorate with devastating consequences for all people.”

On Wednesday, the Israeli military shelled the Palestinian territory after civilians working on the Gaza border fence came under fire. Hamas militants responded with a cross-border fusillade that sent Israelis scrambling for air raid shelters.

The Hamas official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was discussing classified negotiations, said that cease-fire talks were in their final stage but that disagreements remained. He said Hamas is demanding the complete lifting of the Israeli-Egyptian blockade, while Israel has offered only to ease the restrictions.

Tension along the Israel-Gaza border has escalated since late March, when Hamas launched what would become regular mass protests along Israel’s perimeter fence with Gaza. The protests have been aimed in part at trying to break the blockade.

Over the past four months, 163 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire, including at least 120 protesters, according to the Gaza Health Ministry and a local rights group. An Israeli soldier was killed by a Gaza sniper during this period.

Israel says it has been defending its sovereign border against infiltration attempts by Hamas. But it has come under heavy international criticism for its frequent use of force against unarmed protesters.

___

Associated Press writers Mohammad Daraghmeh in Ramallah, West Bank, and Fares Akram contributed to this report.

Read more

Palestinian Teens Reach Finals of Silicon Valley App Pitch

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by MOHAMMED DARAGHMEH / The Associated Press.

NABLUS, West Bank (AP) — Four Palestinian high school friends are heading to California this week to pitch their mobile app about fire prevention to Silicon Valley’s tech leaders, after winning a slot in the finals of a worldwide competition among more than 19,000 teenage girls.

For the 11th graders from the Israeli-occupied West Bank, the ticket of admission to the World Pitch Summit signals a particularly dramatic leap.

They come from middle class families that value education, but opportunities have been limited because of the omnipresent Israeli-Palestinian conflict, prevailing norms of patriarchy in their traditional society and typically underequipped schools with outdated teaching methods.

“We are excited to travel in a plane for the first time in our lives, meet new people and see a new world,” said team member Wasan al-Sayed, 17. “We are excited to be in the most prestigious IT community in the world, Silicon Valley, where we can meet interesting people and see how the new world works.”

Twelve teams made it to the finals of the “Technovation Challenge” in San Jose, California, presenting apps that tackle problems in their communities. The Palestinian teens compete in the senior division against teams from Egypt, the United States, Mexico, India and Spain, for scholarships of up to $15,000.

The competition, now in its ninth year, is run by Iridescent, a global nonprofit offering opportunities to young people, especially girls, through technology. The group said 60 percent of the U.S. participants enroll in additional computer science courses after the competition, with 30 percent majoring in that field in college, well above the national rate among female U.S. college students. Two-thirds of international participants show an interest in technology-related courses, the group said.

Palestinian Education Minister Sabri Saidam counts on technology — along with a new emphasis on vocational training — to overhaul Palestinian schools, where many students still learn by rote in crowded classrooms.

Youth unemployment, particularly among university graduates, is a central problem across the Arab world, in part because of a demographic “youth bulge.” Last year, unemployment among Palestinian college graduates under the age of 30 reached 56 percent, including 41 percent in the West Bank and 73 percent in the Gaza Strip, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.

Unemployment is particularly high among female university graduates, in part because young women are expected to marry and raise children, while young men are considered the main breadwinners. However, employers also complain that graduates studying outdated or irrelevant courses often lack the needed skills for employment.

Saidam said Palestinian schools have received 15,000 computers in the last couple of years. His ministry has also established 54 bookless “smart schools” for grades one to six where students use laptops and learn by doing, including educational trips and involvement with their society.

Meanwhile, the Technovation Challenge has already been a life-changing experience for al-Sayed and her teammates, Zubaida al-Sadder, Masa Halawa and Tamara Awaisa.

They are now determined to pursue careers in technology.

“Before this program, we had a vague idea about the future,” said al-Sayed, speaking at a computer lab at An Najah University in her native Nablus, the West Bank’s second largest city. “Now we have a clear idea. It helped us pick our path in life.”

The teens first heard about the competition a few months ago from an IT teacher at their school in a middle-class neighborhood in Nablus, where IT classes are a modest affair, held twice a week, with two students to a computer.

The girls, friends since 10th grade, each had a laptop at home though, and worked with Yamama Shakaa, a local mentor provided by the competition organizers. The teens “did everything by themselves, with very few resources,” said Shakaa.

The team produced a virtual reality game, “Be a firefighter,” to teach fire prevention skills.

The subject is particularly relevant in some parts of the Palestinian territories, such as the Gaza Strip, where a border blockade by Israel and Egypt — imposed after the takeover of the Islamic militant group Hamas in 2007 — has led to hours-long daily power cuts and the widespread use of candles and other potential fire hazards.

The teens now hope to expand their app to include wildfire prevention. They will also present a business and marketing plan at the California pitching session.

After the competition, they will give the app to the Palestinian Education Ministry for use in schools.

“This prize has changed our lives,” said al-Sayed.

Read more

Jared Kushner Tries to Strip Refugee Status, Aid from Millions of Displaced Palestinians

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

According to Jared Kushner and other hard line Zionists, the Palestinian people don’t exist. Ever since they ethnically cleansed the majority of Palestinians, the Israelis have been hoping that they will just go away. They look out on Galilee, the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, and Lebanon, and ask, “why are you still here?” as though the Palestinians were a houseboy in their mansion that they had fired last week.

According to Foreign Policy, Kushner has bought into a theory that Palestinian identity, and Palestinian desire to return home to what is now Israel, have been artificially kept alive because millions of Palestinians are recognized by the UN as refugees. And the UN Relief and Works Agency provides schooling, vocational training, and sometimes makeshift housing to these families that the Israelis forced into tents in the wilderness.

So if you wanted to wipe Palestine off the map, you’d want to decertify the Palestinians as refugees and destroy UNRWA.

Without that infrastructure, the spoiled rich bigot Kushner thinks, why the Palestinians will fade away and stop asking to go home.

The far, far right Likud Party that rules Israel has finally found a White House that despises the poor and oppressed as much as it does, and which is happy to try to dissolve the body of the displaced Palestinians in the acid bath of malign neglect, for all the world like “cleaners” in a mob movie.

This theory is incorrect, of course. Palestinian identity is passed on by families, cultural practices, songs, books, and memories, not by UNRWA. One anthropologist who worked in the camps in Lebanon to which the Israelis expelled the Palestinians found that the Palestinians had arranged themselves within the camp according to their original village. They made the camp a microcosm of Palestine. UNRWA workers did not tell them to do that.

However, it is true that UNRWA keeps the wolf from the door for many Palestinians, and that infant mortality will certainly go up if it is dismantled.

Yes, I am saying that Jared Kushner and Nikki Haley are trying to kill Palestinian babies.

They are even worse than Jeff Sessions, who just wants to steal the babies.

I once visited the Nahr al-Bared camp in northern Lebanon. An old man told me that in 1948 he and his mother were in their apartment in Haifa when a Zionist gang barged in and took it from them, expelling them over the border to Lebanon. He stayed there a year. Then the UN put him on a train up to northern Lebanon to a camp, far from home, where he had been ever since.

Lebanon is a balancing act between Christians and Muslims, and the Christians refused to offer the Palestinians, mostly Muslim, citizenship. They also did not let them own property or work in most professions. They could not travel because they have no citizenship and nobody trusts them enough to let them in.

“We are in jail,” he told me. He took me next door where two old women were lying on mattresses, taking oxygen, having fallen ill. The only medical care was arranged by UNRWA.

He took my forearm. “Is this any way to live?”

Most of the Palestinians in Nahr al-Bared were just living their lives and trying to get buy. But camps are lawless, and disturbances in 2008 had angered the Lebanese army, which destroyed the camp to get at a small criminal gang of 50, that were characterized as terrorists. The man’s apartment building was destroyed, along with most of the camp. Most of them had nothing to do with the gang.

 Nahr al-Bared, 2010. (Juan Cole)

UNRWA had given them prefab units to live in until Nahr al-Bared could be rebuilt.

 Nahr al-Bared, 2010. (Juan Cole)

Getting rid of UNRWA will increase the misery of Palestinians. But that man’s children know they are Palestinians, they know they will never be allowed to fit in in Lebanon, nor do they want to. They want to go home to Haifa.

When the British conquered Palestine away from the Ottoman Empire during WW I, it had about 680,000 Palestinians. The British established the Mandate of Palestine over their heads without asking their permission, denied them the sort of nationhood achieved by Iraq and other League of Nations-designated Class A Mandates, and then tried to flood the country with European Jews so as to create a local population favorable to long-term colonial occupation. By 1946, this Palestinian population had grown to 1.3 million.

In 1947-48 the British declared they were going home and that the Palestinians would just have to deal with the half-million European Jews that the British had brought into the colony over Palestinian objections. The Jewish community was highly organized and had wealthy backers, and they launched into action to ethnically cleanse hundreds of thousands of hapless Palestinian villagers. When they declared Israel in 1948, only 165,000 Palestinians remained within it. Most Israelis now think it was a mistake to let that many stay, since they have grown into about 20% of the current Israeli population.

Some 720,000 Palestinians were made into refugees. That is, they were forced out of their homes by concerted Zionist campaigns that in some cases involved massacres of innocents. They were penniless. The immigrants, whom they viewed as illegal, stole their houses, apartments and farms. Some 70% of Gaza’s population is refugee families from 1948.

BBC

 

Other hundreds of thousands were forced to the West Bank (grabbed by the Jordanian army), to Jordan proper, to Lebanon. A few ended up in Syria and Egypt.

Over time, the population increased. There are now nearly 5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, which Israel has occupied since 1967. Many still live in refugee camps. Of the 9.5 million Jordanians, probably some 6 million are of Palestinian heritage, having been chased from their homes in 1948 and 1967 by the Israelis. Although the UN says there are 450k Palestinians in Lebanon, probably it is half that, with many having slipped away to Europe. But over 200,000 people in refugee camps is still too many.

Al-Awda writes,

    “There are about 7.2 million Palestinian refugees worldwide. More than 4.3 million Palestinian refugees and their descendents displaced in 1948 are registered for humanitarian assistance with the United Nations. Another 1.7 million Palestinian refugees and their descendents, also displaced in 1948, are not registered with the UN. About 355,000 Palestinians and their descendents are internally displaced i.e. inside present-day “Israel”. When the West Bank and Gaza Strip were occupied in 1967, the UN reported that approximately 200,000 Palestinians fled their homes. These 1967 refugees and their descendants today number about 834,000 persons. As a result of house demolition, revocation of residency rights and construction of illegal settlements on confiscated Palestinian owned-land, at least 57,000 Palestinians have become internally displaced in the occupied West Bank. This number includes 15,000 people so far displaced by the construction of Israel’s Annexation Wall. Such dispossession of the Palestinian population continues today.”

 

Read more

Top 5 Things Palestinian Activist Ahed Tamimi Learned in Colonial Israeli Prison

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

Ahed Tamimi and her mother were given petty and mean-spirited sentences of 8 months by an colonial Israeli military judge presiding over stateless, occupied people who are intensively patrolled by the Israeli jackboot while their land, water, and well-being are gradually stolen from them by the judge’s cousins. Tamimi as a 17-year-old girl slapped a couple of Israel Occupation personnel attempting to barge into her home. She and others had participated in a demonstration against Israelis squatting nearby on Palestinian land and encroaching on her home town, during which there was some stone throwing at the Israeli troops who came to stop people from protesting. Those troops shot her cousin in the head with a rubber bullet. That was when Ahen went out and slapped them.

Amazingly, Tamimi used the experience of being jailed, as many colonial subjects in imperial detention cells have–including Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi–to her advantage. Kuwait’s KUNA news service reported:

1. Tamimi finished high school in jail! She organized a study group of other young women, and she succeeded in completing the high school examination while imprisoned. She turned her dreary sentence, intended to deprive her of nearly a year of her youth, into an educational opportunity. Lesson One: Any time you have free time on your hands, use it for self-improvement rather than stewing over your predicament.

2. That achievement, of completing high school in jail, did not come without struggle (nothing in her short life has). She said, “I was afraid I would miss the school year, so I managed with a group of prisoners to study. We challenged the occupation, which tried to ban us from study.” She is indicating that colonial, illegitimate Israeli prison officials actively tried to stop her from studying, and that she organized some sort of effective protest such that someone overruled the anti-intellectuals. (I say “colonial” and “Illegitimate” because they are not from the Palestinian West Bank, which they illegally occupy, since they have held it for 50 years and have altered its people’s lifeways dramatically). Lesson Two: If someone treats you unreasonably and unjustly, organize and protest.

3. Tamimi said she intends to go to law school and that she hopes to specialize in human rights law so that she can defend Palestinian activists and prisoners on the international stage. Lesson Three: When you encounter injustice, acquire the social and legal tools to combat it!

4. She said that prison taught her to love life, since she was nostalgic for her own room, her friends and her books. Lesson Four: Stop and take a moment to appreciate the good things in life, since they could go away at any moment. We’re often so stuck in our grievances about the past or so anxious about the future that we don’t bother to Be Here Now.

5. On her arrival in her home town of Nabi Saleh, she said, “I am a witness that the Resistance will continue until the end of the Occupation.” Lesson 5: Never give up hope in the victory of a just cause. The British occupied Bengal for 200 years, but in the end were forced to leave by the Indian Freedom Movement. The French took Saigon in 1859 but were forced to leave in 1954. The Palestinians will not be stateless and helpless forever.

It is not easy to send money to Palestinian causes, since the big American financial corporations are partisans for keeping the Palestinians down, buying into Israeli discourse about these people the Israelis have warred on, displaced, and occupied being irrational and dangerous. One of the purposes for which the Israelis keep Palestinian stateless is precisely that stateless people don’t have the right to have rights– and certainly not the right to securely hold property or receive money transfers.

But if there were a way to set up a donation account to establish a fund to send Ahed to law school, I’d give, and it would be a great good thing.

—-

Read more

Palestinian Protest Icon Tamimi Released From Israeli Prison

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by MOHAMMED DARAGHMEH / The Associated Press.

NABI SALEH, West Bank — Palestinian protest icon Ahed Tamimi returned home to a hero’s welcome in her West Bank village on Sunday after Israel released the 17-year-old from prison at the end of her eight-month sentence for slapping and kicking Israeli soldiers.

Ahed and her mother, Nariman Tamimi, were greeted with banners, cheers and Palestinian flags as they entered their home village of Nabi Saleh.

Ahed was arrested in December after she slapped two Israeli soldiers outside her family home. Her mother filmed the incident and posted it on Facebook, where it went viral and, for many, instantly turned Ahed into a symbol of resistance to Israel’s half-century-old military rule over the Palestinians.

With her unruly mop of curly light-colored hair, the Palestinian teen quickly became a local hero and an internationally recognizable figure.

Her supporters see a brave girl who struck two armed soldiers in frustration after having just learned that Israeli troops seriously wounded a 15-year-old cousin, shooting him in the head from close range with a rubber bullet during nearby stone-throwing clashes.

In Israel, however, she is seen by many either as a provocateur, an irritation or a threat to the military’s deterrence policy — even as a “terrorist.” Israel has treated her actions as a criminal offense, indicting her on charges of assault and incitement. Her eight-month sentence was the result of a plea deal.

In Nabi Saleh, supporters welcomed Tamimi home Sunday with Palestinian flags planted on the roof of her home. Hundreds of chairs were set up for well-wishers in the courtyard.

“The resistance continues until the occupation is removed,” Ahed said upon her return. “All the female prisoners are steadfast. I salute everyone who supported me and my case.”

From her home, Ahed headed to a visit to the grave of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. She laid a wreath and recited a prayer from the Quran, the Muslim holy book, and was then taken with her family to a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at his headquarters in Ramallah.

“I will continue this path and I hope everyone will,” she said. “The prisoners are fine and we hope the struggle for their release continues.”

Her father, Bassem Tamimi, said he expects her to take a lead in the struggle against Israeli occupation but she is also weighing college options. He said she completed her high school exams in prison with the help of other prisoners who taught the required material. He said she initially hoped to attend a West Bank university but has also received scholarship offers from abroad.

Since 2009, residents of Nabi Salah have staged regular anti-occupation protests that often ended with stone-throwing clashes. Ahed has participated in such marches from a young age, and has had several highly publicized run-ins with soldiers. One photo shows the then 12-year-old raising a clenched fist toward a soldier towering over her.

In a sign of her popularity, a pair of Italian artists painted a large mural of her on Israel’s West Bank separation barrier ahead of her release. Israeli police say they were caught in the act along with another Palestinian and arrested for vandalism.

Abbas, after meeting Ahed on Sunday, called her “a symbol for the Palestinian struggle for freedom and independence.”

“The popular and peaceful style of struggle that Ahed Tamimi and her village and nearby villages have been practicing, proves to the world that our people will remain steadfast in this land, defending it no matter how much needs to be sacrificed,” he said.

Tamimi’s scuffle with the two soldiers took place Dec. 15 in Nabi Saleh, which is home to about 600 members of her extended clan.

At the time, protests had erupted in several parts of the West Bank over President Donald Trump’s recognition 10 days earlier of the contested city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. She was arrested at her home four days later, in the middle of the night.

Ahed was 16 when she was arrested and turned 17 while in custody. Her case has trained a spotlight on the detention of Palestinian minors by Israel, a practice that has been criticized by international rights groups. Some 300 minors are currently being held, according to Palestinian figures.

Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war. Palestinians are increasingly disillusioned about efforts to establish a state in those territories, after more than two decades of failed negotiations with Israel.

Israeli Cabinet minister Uri Ariel said the Tamimi case highlighted what could happen if Israel lets its guard down.

“I think Israel acts too mercifully with these types of terrorists. Israel should treat harshly those who hit its soldiers,” he told The Associated Press. “We can’t have a situation where there is no deterrence. Lack of deterrence leads to the reality we see now … we must change that.”

Read more

With Nationality Law, Israel Openly Declares Apartheid and Racial Supremacy

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

Israel has for decades been running the occupied territories of Palestine–Gaza and the West Bank– with Apartheid tactics. As with black South Africans under Apartheid, most Palestinians have been deprived of citizenship in a real, recognized state. Their villages have been isolated by a network of what often amount to Jewish-only highways. They have trouble getting to hospital through checkpoints. Their territory in the West Bank is patrolled by the Israeli army, and the Israeli state is actively depriving them of their property and giving it to white squatters.

One reply had been that while the Occupation regime may have Apartheid characteristics, it is temporary. It has become abundantly clear, however, that the Occupation is forever and the Palestinians will be kept stateless in perpetuity (they are the largest group of human beings in the world entirely lacking citizenship and nationality– a condition much worse than having a nationality you don’t want, as with many Kurds).

Another reply had been that in Israel proper, 20% of the population is Arab (i.e. Palestinian-Israeli), and they are equal citizens of the Israeli state with full democratic rights. That assertion was all along de facto untrue, since Palestinian-Israelis suffered various forms of discrimination. Some of their villages were unrecognized, and were hence forbidden to conduct repairs or building expansions. Only 1% of Bedouin Israelis have a college degree.

But now the Israeli parliament or Knesset has passed a law openly declaring Palestinians to be second-class citizens. Building squatter settlements on Palestinian land is made the official policy of the state (well, it has been for decades de facto, but now it is de jure). Arabic is demoted from being an official language.

It would be as though the US passed a law designating America as a state for white Christians, excluding African-Americans and Latinos, and making English the only official language.

It is difficult to see how Zionist Jews can complain about being second class citizens in Christian societies if their movement treats non-Jews this way in Israel.

Sovereignty is vested solely in the 80% majority of Jewish Israelis. Israel is no more a democracy now than Turkey is. Both have regular elections and in both the Right routinely wins, and probably fairly so.

The Palestinian Liberation Organization correctly declared this system to be unadorned Apartheid.

The implications are enormous. Some critics of the crushing of the Palestinians had made a distinction between boycotting the squatter enterprises on the West Bank and boycotting Israel itself. There simply is now no longer a difference. The law will certainly invigorate the movement to Boycott, Divest, and Sanction Israel.

Apartheid is defined in the 2002 Statute of Rome as a war crime, and Israeli politicians could be indicted on these grounds.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has taken Israel in the direction of illiberal ‘democracy,’ attacking the freedom of the press, the judiciary, and Non-governmental Organizations.

 

Read more

Making Sense of U.S. Moves in the Middle East

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Rebecca Gordon / TomDispatch.

My father and I always had a tacit agreement: “We will never speak of That Part of the World.” He’d grown up in an Orthodox Jewish family in Norfolk, Virginia. His own father, a refugee from early-twentieth-century pogroms in what is now Ukraine, had been the president of his local Zionist organization. A liberal in most things (including his ardent opposition to both of the U.S. wars against Iraq), my father remained a Zionist to his dying day. We both knew that if we were ever to have a real conversation about Israel/Palestine, unforgivable things would be said.

As a child in the 1950s, I absorbed the ambient belief that the state of Israel had been created after World War II as an apology gift from the rest of the world to European Jews who had survived the Holocaust. I was raised to think that if the worst were to happen and Jews were once again to become targets of genocidal rage, my family could always emigrate to Israel, where we would be safe. As a young woman, I developed a different (and, in retrospect, silly) line on That Part of the World: there’s entirely too much sun there, and it’s made them all crazy.

It wasn’t until I’d reached my thirties that I began to pay serious attention to the region that is variously known as the Middle East, the Arab world, or the Greater Middle East and North Africa. And when I did, I discovered how deep my ignorance (like that of so many fellow Americans) really was and how much history, geography, and politics there is to try to understand. What follows is my attempt to get a handle on how the Trump presidency has affected U.S. policy and actions in That Part of the World.

Old Alliances…

The United States has a long-standing and deep alliance with Israel. During the Cold War, Washington viewed that country as its bulwark in the oil-rich region against both a rising pan-Arab nationalism and real or imagined Soviet encroachments. In fact, according to the Library of Congress’s Congressional Research Service, “Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II. To date, the United States has provided Israel $134.7 billion current, or non-inflation-adjusted, dollars in bilateral assistance and missile defense funding.”

The vast majority of this largesse has been in military aid, which has allowed Israel, a country of a little more than eight million people, to become the 14th or 15th strongest military power on the planet. It is also the only nuclear power in the region with an arsenal of at least 80 weapons (even if its government has never officially acknowledged this reality). By comparison, Iran, its present archenemy, ranks 21st, despite having a population 10 times greater.

The history of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights — territories it captured in the 1967 war — is too long and complex for even a brief recap here. Suffice it to say that the United States has often been Israel’s sole ally as, in direct contravention of international law, that country has used its own settlements to carve Palestinian territory into a jigsaw puzzle of disparate pieces, making a contiguous Palestinian state a near impossibility.

Then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon explained Israel’s plan for the Palestinian people in 1973 when he said, “We’ll make a pastrami sandwich of them.” Promising to insert “a strip of Jewish settlements in between the Palestinians and then another strip of Jewish settlements right across the West Bank,” he insisted that “in 25 years’ time, neither the United Nations nor the United States, nobody, will be able to tear it apart.”

Forty-five years later, his strategy has been fully implemented, as Barack Obama reportedly learned to his shock when, in 2015, he saw a State Department map of the shredded remains of the land on which Palestinians are allowed to exist on the West Bank.

The “pastrami sandwich” strategy has effectively killed any hope for a two-state solution. Now, as the number of non-Jews begins to surpass that of Jews in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, that country once again confronts the inherent contradiction of a state that aims to be both democratic and, in some sense, Jewish. If everyone living in Israel/Palestine today had equal political and economic rights, majority rule would no longer be Jewish rule. In effect, as some Israelis argue, Israel can be Jewish or democratic, but not both.

A solution to this demographic dilemma — one supported by present Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — is to legislate permanent inequality through what’s called “the basic law on Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people,” which is now being debated in the country’s parliament, the Knesset. Among other provisions, that “basic” law (which, if passed, would have the equivalent of constitutional status) will allow citizens “to establish ‘pure’ communities on the basis of religion or ethnicity.” In other words, it will put in place an official framework of legalized segregation.

In the Trump era, Washington’s alliance with Israel has only grown tighter. After recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital — despite almost universal international objections — Trump sealed the deal in May, traveling to Jerusalem with a coterie of Zionist evangelical Christians and, on Israeli Independence Day, opening a new U.S. embassy there. That day, May 14th, was the eve of the 70th anniversary of what Palestinians call the nakba (the catastrophe of Israel’s seizure of Palestinian homes and lands in 1948).

Donald Trump could not have sent a clearer signal to the world about exactly where the United States stands on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That same day, as Time reported, “cameras captured the chaos as Israeli soldiers methodically cut down some 2,700 Palestinians, 60 fatally, as they marched toward the fence that separates Israel from the Gaza Strip.” Gazans, in case you’ve forgotten, have been subject for years to a vicious blockade, both literal and economic, that has turned their homes into what has been calledthe world’s largest open-air prison. And keep in mind that Israel also launched major military operations against that tiny territory in 2008-2009, 2012, and 2014, and appears to be ramping up for a new one.

It’s unlikely, to say the least, that the new “peace deal” that the world awaits from President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner will offer Palestinians much more than another bite of that pastrami sandwich.

…And New Ones

Geopolitics (and a common enemy) can make strange bedfellows. In a recent New Yorker article, Adam Entous suggests that a new ménage-à-quatre was formed in the region in the run-up to Donald Trump’s election, bringing Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and the United States ever closer. As it happened, there was even an unexpected fifth player lurking in the shadows: Russia. Entous reports that Mohammed bin Zayed, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and one of UAE’s most powerful men, suggested to an American friend that Russian President Vladimir Putin “might be interested in resolving the conflict in Syria in exchange for the lifting of sanctions imposed in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine.”

The goal of this new alliance was not so much an end to the brutal Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad as an end to the Iranian military presence in Syria. The unofficial alliance of the Saudis, the UAE, and the Israelis was, above all, meant to push back or even bring an end to the present government of Iran. This seems to have been the genesis of a 2016 meeting in the Seychelles Islands between Erik Prince, the founder of the notorious hire-a-mercenary company, Blackwater, and a confidant of then-Trump adviser Steve Bannon as well as the brother of present Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, and a figure who might serve as a Russian-UAE go-between. Endous indicates that the deal then proved “unworkable,” because Russia had neither the desire nor the capacity to evict Iran from Syria.

Nevertheless, this July 10th, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu flew to Moscow to meet with Putin for a discussion of the Syrian situation in which the Russians are now, of course, deeply enmeshed. At the same time, a top foreign policy adviser to Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was also on his way to Russia to speak with Putin. Netanyahu returned from Moscow with less than he’d hoped for, but at least with “a commitment to keep Iranian forces tens of kilometers from Israel,” according to the New York Times.The fact that these meetings were happening the week before presidents Trump and Putin were to sit down together in Helsinki and discuss Syria, among other topics, is, however, suggestive. Bloomberg News reportedthat Putin has “stepped up efforts to broker a deal on the pullback of pro-Iranian militias from Syria’s border with Israel” as he prepared for his summit with Trump.

The American president has already backed away from his predecessor’s insistence that the departure of Syrian leader Assad be a precondition for a peace settlement in that country. For his part, Netanyahu has made it clear that Israel can accept Assad in power as long as the Iranian military units in that country are withdrawn. Before leaving for Moscow, he told reporters, “We haven’t had a problem with the Assad regime; for 40 years not a single bullet was fired on the Golan Heights.” Presumably, Trump and his feckless son-in-law feel the same way.

In the end, the target of all these machinations remains Iran. The dangers represented by a conflict between the Trump administration and Iran (with the Israelis, the Saudis, and the UAE all potentially involved) threaten to make the invasion of Iraq and ensuing events there look mild by comparison. And it’s hardly out of the question. As University of Michigan history professor and Middle East expert Juan Cole notes, overshadowed by other absurdities in Trump’s bombastic post-NATO-summit news conference was this warning: “I would say there might be an escalation between us and the Iranians.”

Meanwhile, in Syria…

Meanwhile, if it weren’t for Yemen (see below), it might be hard to imagine a more miserable place in 2018 than Syria. Since 2011, when a nonviolent movement to unseat Assad devolved into a vicious civil war, more than half the country’s pre-war population of 22 million has become internally displaced or refugees, according to numbers from the U.N. High Commission on Refugees. Actual casualty figures are impossible to pin down with any exactitude. In April 2018, however, the New York Times reported that the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the number of directly caused deaths at 511,000, including fighters and civilians.

Death and destruction have come from all sides: al-Qaeda-linked terror groups and the Islamic State killing civilians; the Syrian military, which is presently driving opposition forces out of the southern city of Dara’a, where the original uprising began (creating a quarter-million refugees with literally no place to go); and U.S. bombs and other munitions — 20,000 of them — reducing the city of Raqqa to rubble in a campaign to liberate it from ISIS militants. Add it all up and the war, still ongoing, has destroyed millions of homes and businesses, along with crucial infrastructure throughout an increasingly impoverished country.

So many military forces — foreign and domestic — are contending in Syria that it’s difficult to keep track. Wikipedia’s list of those fighting fills screen after screen. On the side of Assad’s government are the Syrian military, elements of the militia of the Iranian-supported Lebanese party Hezbollah (part of the government in that country), some Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces, and of course the Russian military. On the other side are various militant terror groups, including what’s left of the Islamic State, and a wide variety of U.S.-supported anti-Assad groups, including those hailing from the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria, a semi-autonomous, multi-ethnic area in the country’s northeast. Throw in Kurdish fighters, including Syrian natives and Kurds from Turkey, and the Turkish military itself (in its bid to tamp down any errant Kurdish nationalism), at least 2,000 U.S. military personnel, and the Israeli air force, striking at Iranian targets in the country, and even with an eventual peace settlement, Syria, the birthplace of the alphabet, will be a desperate nation for decades to come.

Whose fault was all of this? There’s plenty of blame to go around and plenty of actors to shoulder that blame. But when you begin to make that list, make sure to include Washington’s so-called neoconservatives who, as far back as 1996, offered Benjamin Netanyahu (Israel’s prime minister then, too) their “Clean Break” strategy to rebuild the Middle East. That plan started with unseating Iraqi autocrat Saddam Hussein and went on to destabilize Syria. A number of these neocons, including Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz, then became top officials in George W. Bush’s administration, invading Iraq themselves to make sure their dream for the Israelis came true. And what a nightmare it proved to be. Nor should we forget that one of that plan’s loudest advocates during the Bush administration — John Bolton — is now Trump’s national security advisor. In other words, there’s plenty of blame to go around and plenty to worry about.

Does Anyone Remember Yemen?

If there is a place in the greater Middle East even more desperate than Syria, it has to be Yemen. With U.S.logistical and financial support, Saudi Arabia has waged a cruel air war against the Houthis, a home-grown movement that in 2015 overthrew the government of president Ali Abdullah Saleh. What is the Saudi interest in Yemen? As in their support for a potential UAE-Israel-Russia-U.S. alliance in Syria, they’re intent on fighting a proxy war — and someday perhaps via the U.S. and Israel, a real war — with Iran.

In this case, however, it seems that the other side in that war hasn’t shown up. Although, like the Iranian government and most Iranians, the Houthi are Shi’a Muslims, there is little evidence of Iranian involvement in Yemen. That hasn’t stopped the Saudis (with American support) from turning that country into “the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.” Their destruction of infrastructure in rebel-held areas has collapsed a once-functioning public health system, touching off a cholera epidemic, with the World Health Organization reporting a total of 1,105,371 suspected cases between April 2017 and June 2018. The infection rate now stands at 934 per 10,000 people.

Even worse than the largely unchecked spread of cholera, however, is Yemen’s man-made famine. Photographs from the country display the familiar iconography of widespread hunger: children with stick-like limbs and blank, sunken eyes. As it happens, though, this famine was not caused by drought or any other natural disaster. It’s a direct result of a brutal Saudi air campaign and a naval blockade aimed directly at the country’s economic life.

Before the war, Yemen imported 80% of its food and even today, despite a disastrous ongoing Saudi/UAEcampaign to blockade and take the port of Hodeidah, Yemen’s main economic center, there is actually plenty of food in the country. It now simply costs more than most Yemenis can pay. Because the war has destroyed almost all economic activity in Houthi-controlled areas, people there have no money with which to buy food. In other words, the Saudi offensive against Hodeidah is starving people in two ways: directly by preventing the delivery of international food aid and indirectly by making the food in Yemen unaffordable for ordinary people.

We Have to Talk about It

With President Trump and his secretary of state now talking openly about a possible “escalation between us and the Iranians,” there is a real risk that some combination of the United States, Israel, and Saudi Arabia could initiate a war with Iran. If there’s one lesson to be learned from U.S. wars since 9/11, it’s “don’t start another one.”

For more than 70 years, Americans have largely ignored the effects of U.S. foreign policy in the rest of the world. Rubble in Syria? Famine in Yemen? It’s terribly sad, yes, but what, we still wonder, does it have to do with us?

That Part of the World doesn’t wonder about how U.S. actions and policies affect them. That Part of the World knows — and what it knows is devastating. It’s time that real debate about future U.S. policy there becomes part of our world, too.

Read more