Israeli killings and raids make for a dark Christmas at Bethlehem refugee camp

The National reports: This Christmas season in Bethlehem, death, depression and anger are in the air at Aida refugee camp, three kilometres from Nativity Church.

Aida, wedged between Israel’s West Bank separation barrier and an army checkpoint, has been a major flashpoint of clashes during the two-and-a-half-month-old wave of violence known in the Palestinian media as the haba shaabiya or popular rising.

At least 126 Palestinians and 19 Israelis have been killed since the beginning of October, according to the Palestinian Maan news agency.

Five of the Palestinian dead were from the Bethlehem area and two from Aida camp, including Abdul Rahman Shadi Obeidallah, 13, who camp residents say was killed by a sniper on October 5 as he stood in the street with friends. [Continue reading…]

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Israel’s identity crisis is at the heart of its conflicts

Joseph Dana writes: In remarks delivered at the Saban Forum in Washington last week, US secretary of state John Kerry warned that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is heading towards a one-state reality. For close observers of the conflict, Israel and Palestine have long been mired in a one-state situation. It is one in which Israel administers rights and privileges based solely on ethnicity and religion.

The pressing question now is not how the international community can avoid such a situation – it won’t – but how the conflict reached this stage and what can be done to reverse the current regime of inequality.

To address these issues requires an honest evaluation of Israel’s identity politics and the various manifestations of exclusionary policy that define Israeli governance. Since its founding in 1948, the country has been struggling to create a coherent identity for itself. How can a state remain democratic when it favours the rights of one ethnic or religious group over others? [Continue reading…]

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Tony Blair’s blunder on Middle East peace

Ahmad Melhem writes: Tony Blair has kicked off his personal campaign of seeking peace between Israel and the Palestinians, but Palestinian Authority members and others have bluntly expressed their distrust of the former British prime minister and former envoy of the Middle East Quartet.

Palestinian leaders are clear about their resentment of Blair. During a Nov. 9 meeting with a group of Egyptian journalists in Cairo, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attacked Blair and called him a “spy” for Israel because of his attempts to conclude an appeasement agreement between Hamas and Israel, while ignoring the PA.

“Abbas has been refusing to meet with Blair for two years because of his pro-Israeli negative role,” political sources in the PA told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. [Continue reading…]

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Many Jews refuse to see what is patently obvious: Israel isn’t Jewish or democratic

Rogel Alpher writes: As of November 2015, Israel is not a Jewish state. I don’t understand how there can be any argument over this statement. In the areas under Israel’s control, which include of course East Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria [the West Bank], Israel is a binational state, because two nations inhabit it. This is a simple fact. True, official Israeli sovereignty does not extend over Judea and Samaria, but Judea and Samaria are under Israeli occupation.

If the term occupation irritates you, for purposes of discussion we can replace it with “control” – freedom of action by the Israel Defense Forces throughout Judea and Samaria is the proof of Israeli control over these areas.

Not only is Israel for all intents and purposes a binational state, it is also for all intents and purposes an apartheid state, because it deprives the Palestinians living in Judea and Samaria of their basic rights. Jewish Israeli citizens live in complete blindness. They repress the simple fact that Israel is a binational state imposing an apartheid regime over the Palestinian people living in areas under its control. They continue to think of it as a Jewish and democratic state.

They are not the only ones to repress facts. Many Jews throughout the world do the same. They continue to treat Israel as the Jewish state, that is, their state. Most Jewish citizens of Israel, like most Jews in the Diaspora, deny the fact that Israeli control in the territories has extinguished Zionism. The goal of Zionism was to ensure the existence of a Jewish state in the Land of Israel. However, Israel does not exist as a Jewish state, but rather as a binational state. And it is not democratic, because, as noted, an apartheid regime exists in it.

I apologize that this article is written in language that seems intended for people with comprehension difficulties. But we are dealing here with an attempt to explain simple facts to people who are blind to them.

This attempt is what social media posts call “provocation.” It isn’t. There is nothing provocative about it. The truth is that it is banal. Stating simple, obvious facts that everyone can see is a banal act. The only way to preserve Israeli control over Judea and Samaria and simultaneously maintain Israel’s standing as a Jewish and democratic country is to make the Palestinians disappear, to cause them to evaporate. If there are no Palestinians in Judea and Samaria, Israel will indeed be Jewish and democratic. But there are Palestinians in Judea and Samaria. They are not going to evaporate. That is also a simple fact.

And the Jews of Israel and the world are in denial of that fact, too. The attempt to have them face this fact is also called “provocation.” And thus, to the Jews of Israel and the world, reality itself is a kind of provocation. When life is an illusion, reality is a provocation. [Continue reading…]

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U.S. State Dept: EU product labeling is not a boycott of Israel

The Jerusalem Post reports: The European Union’s guidelines on consumer labels for Israeli products produced over the pre-1967 lines is not tantamount to a boycott of Israel, Edgar Vasquez, a State Department spokesman, told The Jerusalem Post.

“We do not believe that labeling the origin of products is equivalent to a boycott. And as you know, we do not consider settlements to be part of Israel. We do not view labeling the origin of products being from the settlements as a boycott of Israel,” Vasquez said.

The EU has also insisted that the measure is not a boycott of Israel and that their concern is the consumer’s right to know as well as compliance with EU legislation. [Continue reading…]

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Israel: Link between EU labelling and Europe’s ‘dark past’ is tactical and confected

By Yoav Galai, University of St Andrews

The EU’s announcement of new guidelines regarding the labelling of settlement products, has been greeted by Israeli officials as well as members of the opposition with a campaign which presents a uniform position against the document that takes the line: it is a boycott, and it is anti-semitic.

The new EU guidelines require that goods from, say, the Golan Heights should be labelled: “product from the Golan Heights (Israeli settlement)”. For products from Palestine territories that are not from settlements, an indication of origin could be “product from Palestine” or “product from West Bank (Palestinian product)”.

The EU is Israel’s largest trading partner, with trade worth about US$30 billion – but exports from settlements represent less than about 1% of overall trade.

The decision to label settlement products is in line with existing EU law since 2004 which requires the places of origin of fruits, vegetables and honey to be labelled, but the document has a strong symbolic meaning: it singles out products from settlements. It is this symbolic gesture that has caused alarm in Israel.

[Read more…]

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Israeli army unit storms hospital and kills Palestinian

Al Jazeera reports: An elite Israeli military force that operates undercover stormed the al-Ahli Hospital in Hebron and shot dead a 27-year-old Palestinian, the Palestinian Ministry of Health said.

Abdullah al-Shalaldeh was killed by five rounds fired early Thursday after 21 members of the elite unit – known as Mustaarabin – barged into the hospital room of his cousin, Azzam al-Shalaldeh, a ministry statement said.

The commandos wanted to question Azzam – who required surgery after earlier being shot by Israeli security forces – and his cousin tried to prevent them from doing so when the Israelis opened fire. [Continue reading…]

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The extremists who now speak for Israel

The Daily Beast reports: A West Bank settler who insults American and Israeli leaders might not seem a likely candidate for a job promoting Israel’s image to the world, but Ron Baratz is, indeed, tapped to be Israel’s next communications director.

The controversy over his appointment marks a new era of Israeli politics that has seen what used to be considered the fringe right take center stage while Israel’s international isolation intensifies.

“Allow me to be blunt,” wrote Baratz on his Facebook wall last Tuesday. “Obama’s reference to Netanyahu’s speech—this is what modern anti-Semitism looks like in liberal Western countries. It comes, of course, with much tolerance and understanding for Islamic anti-Semitism; so much tolerance and understanding that they’d be willing to give them a nuke.”

Baratz seemed to go out of his way to make this point. It refers to a remark by Obama way back in March when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the U.S. Congress in a bid to kill the Iran nuclear deal.

Obama called the speech “theater” which “didn’t offer any viable alternatives” for preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Last year, Baratz targeted Secretary of State John Kerry, comparing his mental age to that of a 12-year-old child and joking on Facebook that Kerry could have a “lucrative career as a stand-up comedian.”

As communications director, Baratz would lead public relations efforts to disseminate positive information about Israel and its actions. [Continue reading…]

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Lynch mob: Majority of Jewish Israelis want terror suspects killed on the spot even if they no longer pose a threat

972mag.org reports: Over half of Jewish Israelis (53 percent) believe that a Palestinian suspected of carrying out a terrorist attack “should be killed on the spot, even if he has been apprehended and no longer poses a threat,” a new survey shows.

The poll, conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute at the end of October, quizzed Jewish Israelis and Palestinian citizens of Israel on their attitudes toward the current wave of violence sweeping the country.

Respondents were questioned on a range of topics, including their attitudes to punishing perpetrators of terrorist attacks; their level of anxiety over the current situation; and possible underlying causes for the present escalation. [Continue reading…]

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Obama administration concedes that Mideast peace is beyond reach on his watch

The Washington Post reports: President Obama has concluded that a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians is beyond reach during his presidency and will press Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to take steps to preserve the mere possibility of a two-state solution, senior administration officials said Thursday.

The issue has taken on greater importance with the recent wave of stabbings carried out by Palestinians against Israelis, senior administration members said during a conference call with reporters about Netanyahu’s visit next week.

They said that the administration has become “realistic” that there might not even be negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian officials before Obama leaves office. In September, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said his government would no longer consider itself bound by the Oslo peace agreements in effect for two decades, charging that Israel had failed to live up to its obligations. [Continue reading…]

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Israel’s descent into jingoistic ‘orgies of feeling’

Neve Gordon writes:  I first understood that something had changed when I received a message to one of my WhatsApp groups saying “Gordon’s girlfriend.” This was followed by the snuff video of police officers shooting Asraa Zidan Tawfik Abed, a 30-year-old Palestinian mother from Nazareth. In the video, Asraa is surrounded by Israeli soldiers who are all aiming automatic rifles at her while she sobs and cries out. She clearly poses no threat whatsoever to those around her, and yet suddenly a police officer nonchalantly walks toward her, aims, and shoots, three times. Asraa falls to the ground, while someone in the crowd shouts, “Daughter of a whore!”

The video went viral, and, like so many Jewish Israeli viewers, the person who sent it to my WhatsApp group obviously found the violence amusing. I watched the disturbing footage several times before answering, “This is what woman hunting looks like.”

Two weeks later, an Israeli state prosecutor admitted that Asraa had had no intention of stabbing anyone, but he also added that the policeman who had gunned her down would not be charged. The message to the security forces was unequivocal: Shoot, no questions asked.

The snuff video of Fadi Alon from Jerusalem was even more horrific, and not only because Fadi was murdered by a police officer as he was trying to flee an angry mob, while Asraa was only wounded, but because the mob surrounding Fadi was caught on film taunting the police officers. They are heard demanding an extrajudicial execution while accusing the security forces of being spineless. Watching the police succumb to the mob, I understood for the first time what it must have meant to be in the Roman Colosseum in the midst of the madding crowd.

And, yet, the current situation in Israel is very different. Unlike ancient Rome, in Israel events are framed by a melodramatic political script that thrives on what Elisabeth Anker, following Nietzsche, calls orgies of feeling. [Continue reading…]

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Israeli border officer threatens Palestinians: ‘We will gas you all until you die’

Muftah reports: An Israeli border officer threatened to “gas you all until you die,” while speaking to the residents of Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem. While the mentality behind the officer’s threat is nothing new to Palestinians, the candor with which he spoke is.

In a one minute video recorded by a camp resident on Thursday, October 29, the officer used the loud speaker on an Israeli jeep crawling down a street in the camp and announced in Arabic: “People of Aida refugee camp, we are the occupation forces. You throw stones, and we will hit you with gas until you all die. The children, the youth, the old people – you will all die. We won’t leave any of you alive.”

“We have arrested one of you,” the officer continued, referring to a twenty-five-year old Palestinian man who was arrested earlier that day. “He is with us now. We took him from his home, and we will slaughter and kill him while you watch if you keep throwing stones. Go home or we will gas you all until you die. Your families, your children, everyone – we will kill you.” [Continue reading…]

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Jerusalem: Why should things not get worse?

David Shulman writes: These days Jerusalem is a sad and scary place. The city center has largely emptied out. Whether you are Jewish Israeli or Palestinian, there is a sense of lurking danger, random, episodic, entirely unpredictable. Although the number of stabbing incidents has decreased over the last few days, in the street you still sometimes look over your shoulder. People, even in extreme situations, manage to create a veneer of normalcy, easily torn away by the next explosion. But the police report a 2,000 percent increase in the public’s demand for handguns, and the government is easing the process of obtaining one. Once people have guns, they tend to use them.

Fear, also hate, makes for a light finger on the trigger, especially in an atmosphere of rabid nationalism that is deliberately fanned by government spokesmen and the prime minister himself. Army intelligence predicts the current violence will get worse; already, Hamas is said to have directed its forces on the West Bank to carry out suicide bombings. And why should things not get worse? As many of us have been saying for years, this situation is the natural and inevitable result of the Netanyahu world.

When it began some four weeks ago, much of the violence was initially focused on Jerusalem and clearly related to events on the Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary, containing the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque), which the Jews call the Temple Mount—the most sensitive spot in the Middle East and always a flashpoint for potential conflict. For the last several months, before the current wave of violence, there has been a small-scale Intifada in Palestinian neighborhoods in the eastern part of the city; young Palestinians have been battling police and soldiers there night after night. These confrontations escalated out of control in September and October largely because of the perceived threat to the Haram, especially the possibility that groups of religious Jews will be allowed to pray there or even to build some synagogue-like structure. There was also the matter of police raids on the Al-Aqsa mosque, allegedly to search for weapons and explosives.

Palestinian fears that the Zionists intend to harm, perhaps destroy, the Haram go back to the very earliest years of the struggle in Palestine, long before the creation of the state. This anxiety is not entirely baseless. Official Israel, under pressure from abroad, has reaffirmed (via mediation by Jordan) its commitment to the existing arrangements on the Haram, still largely run by the Waqf, the Muslim Endowment Board, with only collective Muslim prayer allowed there. But we have a Jewish extremist fringe, led by crazed and vicious men such as Moshe Feiglin—a convicted criminal, a settler, and also, to our shame, a current member of the Knesset—who are continuously trying to establish some form of permanent Jewish presence on the Temple Mount, including a building and ready access to the Haram by these hyper-nationalist fanatics. [Continue reading…]

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Palestinians ‘have become unreasonably reasonable’

Sam Bahour writes: “Give me liberty, or give me death!” Patrick Henry declared in a speech he made to the Virginia Convention in 1775, at St John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia. Fast forward 240 years, and if Israel and the US were able to pin those words to a Palestinian and decry incitement, they would do so in a heartbeat.

Like “terrorism,” “incitement” is a word that works great in conflict zones because it means everything and nothing at the same time. However, its misuse as a justification to perpetrate blatant human rights violations and maintain an illegal state of affairs that contributes to conflict being fanned, not diffused.

Both Israel and the US are guilty of misusing the claim of incitement in an attempt to justify their punishment of Palestinians.

For Israel to point to Palestinian incitement, which does exist, as the source of the present violence across Israel and Palestine is pathetic, at best. After dispossessing Palestinians numerous times and leaving more than half the population locked out of their homeland and scattered across the region to live a life of misery as refugees; after installing a system of institutionalized and structural discrimination inside Israel against the Palestinian Muslim and Christian citizens of Israel who remained in the country after Israel’s establishment; after placing (and pressing) a boot of military occupation on the necks of Palestinians in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip for the past 48 years; after expanding an illegal settlement enterprise from 100,000 settlers to 580,000 settlers, all the while pretending to be engaged in bilateral negotiations to resolve the conflict; and while Israeli prime ministers and ministers continually claim that no Palestinian state will ever be allowed to emerge, while also claiming Palestinians are everything from snakes to subhuman, Israel has no right whatsoever to even hint at incitement as being a factor in this outbreak of violence.

For the US, be it Congress or the Administration, to ignore history and the facts on the ground and point to Palestinian incitement in a knee-jerk reaction to the current violence is criminal. [Continue reading…]

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The violent status quo that Benjamin Netanyahu sustains

Roger Cohen writes: Iran has long been a useful distraction from Israel’s core problem, Palestine. Iran is far away from Jerusalem and Iranians seldom think about Israel. Ramallah is very close to Jerusalem and Palestinians think about Israel all the time. Sometimes they rise in fury against their overlord and wield knives.

Oppressed people will do such things. The oppression does not make random Palestinian stabbings of Israelis defensible. They are vicious crimes against innocent people. But it makes them understandable. Violence is the other face of the so-called status quo that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu believes to be in Israel’s interest. Violence is inextricable from the Israeli occupation of the West Bank that is almost a half-century old. Stateless non-citizens, living behind a high-tech wall among colonial settler garrisons, will not all acquiesce to their fate.

Palestinian violence and provocations can no more be an excuse for Israel’s status-quo policy than Iranian outbursts. Serious negotiation, serious diplomacy, can change dangerous situations — slowly and painfully.

No sentient human being can contemplate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict today and not feel disgust at its cynicism. It defies words. Every word has been exhausted on its blood-soaked sterility. President Mahmoud Abbas and Netanyahu have played games while their people die — and while President Obama and Rouhani negotiated a transformative deal that is an admonishment to them both.

The liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz quoted Netanyahu recently saying that “we will forever live by the sword” and that he does not want a binational state but “we need to control all of the territory for the foreseeable future.” All the territory is binational. Therefore to control it in the way Netanyahu envisages, democracy must be sacrificed. The Jewish and democratic state of Israel withers. [Continue reading…]

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