The Telegraph reports: The horrific scars disfigure Mona Abu Mraleel’s otherwise strikingly beautiful face. Swathes of bandages cover the injuries the 17-year-old sustained to her arms and legs in a blaze from which she narrowly escaped with her life.
Still racked by pain from burns to 40 per cent of her body, she goes to hospital on a daily basis to have her dressings changed. Specialist doctors are preparing to carry out a delicate skin graft operation in the coming days.
Yet the hospital on which her recovery depends is woefully ill-fitted to the task – riddled by equipment failures, power cuts and shortages in a mounting crisis that doctors fear is leading to a “health catastrophe”.
Mona lives in Gaza, the impoverished Palestinian coastal enclave where chronic fuel shortages have led to electricity cuts of up to 18 hours a day and reduced ordinary life and public services to a standstill.
She is just one of many Gazans suffering in a rapidly worsening economic climate that this week prompted the British Foreign Office minister, Hugh Robertson, to demand urgent action to restore an adequate fuel supply to the territory. [Continue reading...]
The Guardian reports: Palestinian civilians are being embroiled in Israeli military training, including mock arrests, raids on private homes and incursions into villages, without being told they are involved in army exercises.
The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) defended the training exercises following complaints from an Israeli human rights group, Yesh Din, about two separate drills held earlier this year. In the first, a large number of troops in full combat gear spread out in a small Palestinian village for several hours, causing alarm and fear among its population. In the second, about 15 armed soldiers raided the house of a family while they were finishing their evening meal during Ramadan. In neither case were residents told that it was a training exercise.
The Palestinians caught up in training drills are not informed in advance that an arrest or raid is an exercise. According to the testimonies of former Israeli soldiers, civilians with no connection with militant activity are usually selected for such exercises. “We used houses, streets, people like cardboard practice targets,” said one. [Continue reading...]
The Washington Post reports: As Secretary of State John F. Kerry resumes talks here Wednesday in the quest to create “two states for two people,” a vocal faction in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is, more openly than ever, opposing the very idea of a Palestinian state — and putting forward its own plans to take, rather than give away, territory.
Ministers in Netanyahu’s ruling coalition and leaders of his party, the Likud, are in revolt against the international community’s long-held consensus that there should be two states between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. In the process, they are seeking to overturn the commitments of every U.S. president since Bill Clinton and at least four Israeli prime ministers, including the current one.
While once content to simply voice their opposition to giving up what they see as Jewish land or rights in the West Bank, these two-state opponents have gone beyond shouting “no” and are preparing details of their own vision for how Israel should proceed unilaterally after the current round of peace talks fails — which they say is inevitable.
“The day after peace talks fail, we need to have Plan B,” said Knesset member Tzipi Hotovely, a rising star in the Likud party and deputy minister of transportation in Netanyahu’s government.
Instead of a sovereign Palestinian nation arising in the West Bank and Gaza, with East Jerusalem as its capital — which has been the focus of on-again, off-again peace negotiations since the Oslo Accords in 1993 — the two-state opponents envision Israel annexing large swaths of the West Bank. [Continue reading...]
AFP reports: The head of the Roman Catholic church in the Holy Land protested Tuesday against Israel’s demolition of a church-owned property in annexed east Jerusalem, saying it eroded chances for peace.
“This act is against the law, against justice and against humanity, against any ideology upon which peace can be built and increases segregation and hate,” Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fuad Tawwal told journalists at the site of the demolition.
Israeli security forces and bulldozers arrived at the house at 5:00 am (0300 GMT) on Monday with a previously unseen demolition order, claiming it had been built without a permit, according to its residents — a family of 14.
But Tawwal said the property, on Jerusalem’s southeastern edge close to the West Bank city of Bethlehem, had been standing since before 1967, when Israel seized Arab east Jerusalem in the Six-Day War.
“We didn’t receive any orders for the demolition” beforehand, Tawwal added.
“This is holy land and always will be, and the interior ministry, the (Jerusalem) municipality and Israeli organisations knew it belonged to the patriarchate.”
Tawwal said the church would appeal to Israeli and international courts over the demolition and had already complained to the interior ministry and the municipality.
He said it was the first time the Jewish state had demolished property belonging to the church.
Chris Hedges writes: Israel has been poisoned by the psychosis of permanent war. It has been morally bankrupted by the sanctification of victimhood, which it uses to justify an occupation that rivals the brutality and racism of apartheid South Africa. Its democracy—which was always exclusively for Jews—has been hijacked by extremists who are pushing the country toward fascism. Many of Israel’s most enlightened and educated citizens—1 million of them—have left the country. Its most courageous human rights campaigners, intellectuals and journalists—Israeli and Palestinian—are subject to constant state surveillance, arbitrary arrests and government-run smear campaigns. Its educational system, starting in primary school, has become an indoctrination machine for the military. And the greed and corruption of its venal political and economic elite have created vast income disparities, a mirror of the decay within America’s democracy.
And yet, the hard truths about Israel remain largely unspoken. Liberal supporters of Israel decry its excesses. They wring their hands over the tragic necessity of airstrikes on Gaza or Lebanon or the demolition of Palestinian homes. They assure us that they respect human rights and want peace. But they react in inchoate fury when the reality of Israel is held up before them. This reality implodes the myth of the Jewish state. It exposes the cynicism of a state whose real goal is, and always has been, the transfer, forced immigration or utter subjugation and impoverishment of Palestinians inside Israel and the occupied territories. Reality shatters the fiction of a peace process. Reality lays bare the fact that Israel routinely has used deadly force against unarmed civilians, including children, to steal half the land on the West Bank and crowd forcibly displaced Palestinians into squalid, militarized ghettos while turning their land and homes over to Jewish settlers. Reality exposes the new racial laws adopted by Israel as those once advocated by the fanatic racist Meir Kahane. Reality unveils the Saharonim detention camp in the Negev Desert, the largest detention center in the world. Reality mocks the lie of open, democratic debate, including in the country’s parliament, the Knesset, where racist diatribes and physical threats, often enshrined into law, are used to silence and criminalize the few who attempt to promote a civil society. Liberal Jewish critics inside and outside Israel, however, desperately need the myth, not only to fetishize Israel but also to fetishize themselves. Strike at the myth and you unleash a savage vitriol, which in its fury exposes the self-adulation and latent racism that lie at the core of modern Zionism.
There are very few intellectuals or writers who have the tenacity and courage to confront this reality. This is what makes Max Blumenthal’s “Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel” one of the most fearless and honest books ever written about Israel. Blumenthal burrows deep into the dark heart of Israel. The American journalist binds himself to the beleaguered and shunned activists, radical journalists and human rights campaigners who are the conscience of the nation, as well as Palestinian families in the West Bank struggling in vain to hold back Israel’s ceaseless theft of their land. Blumenthal, in chapter after chapter, methodically rips down the facade. And what he exposes, in the end, is a corpse. [Continue reading...]
Al Jazeera reports: Israeli government has decided to build a security fence on the the border with Jordan, a report said, angering Palestinians ahead of talks with US Secretary of State.
The report published on Sunday by Israeli newspaper Maariv said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will have the construction started “immediately upon the completion of the fence on the Egyptian border”.
A spokesman for Netanyahu refused to provide details on the plan to “strengthen barriers” or comment on the Maariv report, which was picked up by the official Palestinian Wafa news agency.
The spokesman of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas denounced the reported plans.
“The Israeli premier’s statements on building a wall in the Jordan Valley is only a proactive step to foil (US State) Secretary (John) Kerry’s visit,” Nabil Abu Rudeina told Wafa.
Israel also issued tenders on Sunday to build 1,859 more settlers’ homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, settlement watchdog Peace Now told AFP news agency.
The organisation said that 1,031 plots were offered by Israel’s housing and construction ministry in the occupied West Bank and 828 in annexed East Jerusalem.
Haaretz reports: The European Union has published a guideline for all 28 member states forbidding any funding, cooperation, awarding of scholarships, research funds or prizes to anyone residing in the Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The regulation, which goes into effect on Friday, requires that any agreement or contract signed by an EU country with Israel include a clause stating that the settlements are not part of the State of Israel and therefore are not part of the agreement.
A senior Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, described the new ruling, which was published on June 30, as an “earthquake.”
“This is the first time such an official, explicit guideline has been published by the European Union bodies,” the senior official said. “Until today there were understandings and quiet agreements that the Union does not work beyond the Green Line [the pre-1967-war border]; now this has become a formal, binding policy.”
The official noted that the significance of the regulation is both practical and political: From now on, if the Israeli government wants to sign agreements with the European Union or one of its member states, it will have to recognize in writing that the West Bank settlements are not part of Israel.
In the Prime Minister’s Office and Foreign Ministry there is great tension and anxiety over the new regulation and its implications for Israeli-EU relations. The efforts of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin to stop the move have all failed. Senior EU officials say they would like to hold talks with Israel concerning the new guideline, but since it will go into effect by the end of this week, the chance of its being amended is extremely slim.
“We will have to decide what to do from this day forward,” a senior Israeli official said. “We are not ready to sign on this clause in our agreements with the European Union. We can say this to the Europeans, but the result could be a halt to all cooperation in economics, science, culture, sports and academia. This would cause severe damage to Israel.” [Continue reading...]
Update: It turns out that these guidelines are not binding on EU member states, they will not be applied to all entities in the occupied territories and they do not go into effect until 2014. More details when I have them.
Brandon Davis writes: In the last eight years, the Israeli government has sought to rebrand Israel as a “liberal haven” for gay rights in an otherwise-homophobic Middle East as a means of increasing tourism and international goodwill. Critics refer to the campaign as “pinkwashing,” an attempt to whitewash the Israeli occupation by focusing on gay and lesbian issues. Many of these critics are queer people themselves, and their movement against Israeli policies is building within the LGBT community. But recent pro-Israel initiatives hope to change that; rather than simply promoting Israeli gay images in the international sphere, these Israel advocates are actually attempting to sanitize LGBTQ spaces of pro-Palestinian activism entirely.
The most recent battleground is Toronto, where Councilman James Pasternak has proposed offering extra money to the Pride parade if the organizers prevent pro-Palestinian group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) from marching this June. Pasternak had previously attempted to withdraw funding from Pride altogether, claiming QuAIA’s use of the phrase “Israeli Apartheid” constituted hate speech; when that failed, he proposed granting what he calls a “diversity bonus” if Pride keeps QuAIA off the roster. Pasternak’s idea is simple: we straight people will only support you if you exclude any dissenting voices.
Unfortunately, this thinking isn’t limited to straight people, and many in the gay community — especially gay Jews — are also attempting to keep LGBT spaces clear of any pro-Palestinian sentiment. Two years ago, a small group of gay Jews successfully campaigned the New York Gay and Lesbian Center from allowing Siege Busters, another pro-Palestinian group, to hold an event, claiming the group’s politics made them feel “unsafe.” As they see it, Israel is a natural “ally” to the gay community — so what does that make pro-Palestinian gays? [Continue reading...]
Geoffrey Aronson writes: The only time the word “peace” is mentioned in the coalition government of the newly installed Israeli government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in the section promising a member of Yesh Atid a place in on the negotiations committee to be headed by Tzippi Livni. Livni, of course, will not be making policy. Netanyahu’s alter ego, Yitzhak Molcho, promises to be in the room at all times. And the rejectionist tone of the government will be set by a diplomatic mini-cabinet including Netanyahu, Minister of Defense Moshe Ya’alon and Minister of Economy and Trade Naftali Bennet, a former director of the Council of settlements in Judea and Samaria (Yesha).
This aspect of the new government’s priorities is not surprising. It promises to be the most unambiguously partisan in favor of Jewish settlement in the occupied territories of any of its predecessors. Acting so will be no mean achievement, given the record of success established by previous Israeli governments during the last four-plus decades, particularly those led by Labor Party leaders — from Golda Meir to Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak.
It is not for nothing that it has long been said that “the Likud will announce 10 settlements and build one while the Labor Party will announce one and build 10.” Leaders from the heart of the Labor Zionist movement — the same one that transformed 78% of Mandatory Palestine into a Jewish state — were the principal architects of Israel’s post-1967 settlement policies in the occupied territories and employed all the instruments of Israel’s national power and authority to place the territorial future of the “liberated territories” beyond Palestinian reach. [Continue reading...]
Sandy Tolan writes: Imagine being confined to a small sliver of land, in plain view of a wider homeland that you cannot touch. Your house is in a refugee camp, surrounded by fine red-roofed homes built by and for strangers who seized your territory without warning or permission.
The strangers, perched on hills that make it possible for them to spy into your home, are protected by one of the world’s most powerful armies, with its tanks, rockets and helicopter gunships supplied by the top military power on earth. The soldiers tightly restrict your movements through your own territory.
They subject your family to random searches at military posts along the road, where you are forced to submit your documents and sometimes to strip down to your underwear. At night, without warning, the army may enter your home and take your teen-aged children. In fact, they often do.
Once you finally find out where they are, they may or may not face any charges. If they are not charged, the military courts can hold them there indefinitely. If they are, the chances they will be found innocent are 1 in 400.
Imagine that you lived in such place, in a land you had long dreamt would be your own sovereign country, but which is now cut up into tiny enclaves that keep you thus confined. What would you do?
If you chose to resist, how would you do so?
Oday Khatib fought back by singing. Unlike many of the boys and young men in Al-Fawwar, the Palestinian refugee camp near Hebron, who fought occupation by throwing stones at Israeli soldiers, Oday, the internationally-recognised singer of the acclaimed Ramallah-based Al Kamandjati music school, has long found his resistance in Palestinian protest songs.
“He is not interested in throwing stones or getting involved in this,” Oday’s father, Jihad, said in an interview with my colleague Anan Abu-Shanab. Oday’s brothers have long hurled stones, but “since he was nine years old he was interested only in music”.
Nevertheless, Oday was arrested on March 19 under questionable circumstances at Al-Fawwar refugee camp.
His family says Oday was standing on hill, waiting to meet a friend. Nearby, his father said, children were throwing stones, “and when the soldiers chased the kids, it did not come to his mind that the soldiers would go for him. Otherwise he would have run away”.
The Israeli military spokesman asserts that Oday was arrested “after security forces identified him engaged in rock throwing during the course of a violent riot”. (“Violent riot” is a curious description for a clash between well-armed soldiers wearing chest protectors, helmets and face shields, who fire live ammunition at stone-throwers.)
Oday is charged under Section 212 of Military Order 1651, which states that anyone convicted of throwing stones “[a]t a person or property, with the intent to harm the person or property shall be sentenced to ten years imprisonment”. In other words, the law is so sweeping that if you throw a rock at a road sign, you could go to prison for a decade. Oday’s trial is scheduled for Monday, April 8. [Continue reading...]
Amira Hass writes: Throwing stones is the birthright and duty of anyone subject to foreign rule. Throwing stones is an action as well as a metaphor of resistance. Persecution of stone-throwers, including 8-year-old children, is an inseparable part − though it’s not always spelled out − of the job requirements of the foreign ruler, no less than shooting, torture, land theft, restrictions on movement, and the unequal distribution of water sources.
The violence of 19-year-old soldiers, their 45-year-old commanders, and the bureaucrats, jurists and lawyers is dictated by reality. Their job is to protect the fruits of violence instilled in foreign occupation − resources, profits, power and privileges.
Steadfastness (Sumud) and resistance against the physical, and even more so the systemic, institutionalized violence, is the core sentence in the inner syntax of Palestinians in this land. This is reflected every day, every hour, every moment, without pause. Unfortunately, this is true not only in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza, but also within Israel’s recognized borders, although the violence and the resistance to it are expressed differently. But on both sides of the Green Line, the levels of distress, suffocation, bitterness, anxiety and wrath are continually on the rise, as is the astonishment at Israelis’ blindness in believing that their violence can remain in control forever.
Often hurling stones is borne of boredom, excessive hormones, mimicry, boastfulness and competition. But in the inner syntax of the relationship between the occupier and the occupied, stone-throwing is the adjective attached to the subject of “We’ve had enough of you, occupiers.”
After all, teenagers could find other ways to give vent to their hormones without risking arrests, fines, injuries and death.
Even if it is a right and duty, various forms of steadfastness and resisting the foreign regime, as well as its rules and limitations, should be taught and developed. Limitations could include the distinction between civilians and those who carry arms, between children and those in uniform, as well as the failures and narrowness of using weapons.
It would make sense for Palestinian schools to introduce basic classes in resistance: how to build multiple “tower and stockade” villages in Area C; how to behave when army troops enter your homes; comparing different struggles against colonialism in different countries; how to use a video camera to document the violence of the regime’s representatives; methods to exhaust the military system and its representatives; a weekly day of work in the lands beyond the separation barrier; how to remember identifying details of soldiers who flung you handcuffed to the floor of the jeep, in order to submit a complaint; the rights of detainees and how to insist on them in real time; how to overcome fear of interrogators; and mass efforts to realize the right of movement. Come to think of it, Palestinian adults could also make use of these lessons, perhaps in place of their drills, training in dispersing protests, and practice in spying on Facebook posts.
When high school students were drafted two years ago for the campaign of boycotting settlement products, it seemed like a move in the right direction. But it stopped there, without going further, without broadening the context. Such lessons would have been perfectly in tune with the tactics of appealing to the United Nations − civil disobedience on the ground and defiance of power in diplomacy.
So why are such classes absent from the Palestinian curriculum? Part of the explanation lies with the opposition of the donor states and Israel’s punitive measures. But it is also due to inertia, laziness, flawed reasoning, misunderstanding and the personal gains of some parts of society. In fact the rationale for the existence of the Palestinian Authority engendered one basic rule in the last two decades − adaptation to the existing situation. Thus, a contradiction and a clash have been created between the inner syntax of the Palestinian Authority and that of the Palestinian people.
Amira Hass writes: “I didn’t know you were such an empiricist,” a friend told me impatiently, a veteran peace activist with a doctorate, when I insisted at some meeting on specifying the prohibitions on the movement of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
That was in 1995, and he thought I didn’t see the big picture, the positive direction, the vision, the beat of the wings of history, and instead was merely insisting on going into detail, into temporary malfunctions. He wasn’t alone in thinking that. One of my editors at the time told me I lacked perspective because I lived in Gaza, and so my reports looked the way they did. In short, wearisome.
The signs were there right from the start − signs that the so much talked-about Peace Process was a process of subjugation; signs that Israel intended to impose on the other side an agreement whose terms were far from the Palestinian minimum, and far from what many countries in the world envisioned as a two-state solution.
But it was hard for these signs to infiltrate public awareness (as well as the Israeli and international media) through the powerful interest in seeing the outward manifestations of something that you believe exists: in Gazans bathing in the sea; in the head of the Israeli Shin Bet security service meeting with the head of the Palestinian security service; in Shimon Peres visiting Gaza; in joint security patrols; and in our soldiers no longer patrolling in the heart of the Palestinian towns.
From the supposedly narrow perspective of the Strip, though, the reality of incarceration was, looked and felt like the complete opposite of a peace process.
The chronology is important here − I’ve repeated it countless times and will repeat it countless more times − because local readers like to think that the blanket prohibitions on Palestinian mobility were a response to the suicide attacks from 1994 on. That is not the case.
It began in January 1991, on the eve of the Gulf War. The Israel Defense Forces GOC Central and Southern Commands then revoked an earlier order, from the 1970s, of a “general exit permit to Israel” − in other words, one that allowed the Palestinian residents of the occupied territory to enter Israel, and move freely within its borders and between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
Initially, the revocation was interpreted as something temporary, a preventive measure during the unclear period of wartime. But after a lengthy curfew, the residents of the Strip woke up to a new reality. If up until 1991 Israel had respected (for reasons of its own) the right to freedom of movement for all Palestinians, but withheld it from a few people, after 1991 the situation was reversed: Israel denied all Palestinians (those in the West Bank as well) the right to freedom of movement, aside from a few groups and numbers that it determined. [Continue reading...]
Raja Shehadeh writes: In 1991 I went for a hike in the hills north of Ramallah with the journalist Anthony Lewis, who passed away on Monday. He was in his early 60s at the time and was not in the best of shape, but he was game, as always.
We scrambled down unmarked stony paths toward Wadi Matar, a valley that meanders between undulating hills. Tony looked around with wonder at the surrounding slopes, the drapes of grapevines and the dots of olive trees. When we got to the wadi we heard a pack of wild dogs barking. They were coming toward us. I pulled out a “dog stop,” one of those small tubes that, when pressed, emits a sound humans cannot hear but that is designed to scatter dogs. Or so I was told by that shopkeeper in London who had sold it to me. I hadn’t tried the gadget before, and when I heard the dogs coming our way, I pressed down on the tube as hard as I could. It let out an unearthly screech, and Tony fell to the ground. The dogs were never seen.
Two years later he was back in Ramallah, and ever the good sport, he agreed to walk through that valley with me again. The Oslo Accords had been signed in the meantime, and I showed him the illegal road that some Jewish settlers had built through the valley to connect two of their settlements, Dolev and Beit El. His face assumed a pained expression. He wrote about that valley and its transformation in his 2002 introduction to my memoir “Strangers in the House”: “It has been destroyed by Jewish settlements and the bypass roads that connect them to Israel. The story is the same in much of the West Bank. The occupiers’ bulldozers have carved up the hills that gave the West Bank what visitors thought of as its Biblical appearance.” Tony could wield a pen to poignant effect, especially in the service of justice and the rule of law. [Continue reading...]