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…]


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…]


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…]


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…]


A new generation of Palestinian resistance

Yassmine Saleh writes: Over the past several days, Palestinian youth in the West Bank have been exerting their political power — destroying parts of the Separation Wall surrounding the city of Abu Dis with a large hammer, rallying against the attacks on Jerusalemite Palestinians in the Old City, and clashing with Israeli soldiers at checkpoints.

The current wave of youth protest is not an anomaly in the Palestinian struggle against the Israeli occupation and colonization. Palestinian society is a young society. Youths make up a third of the population, with fully 30 percent of people between the ages of fifteen and twenty-nine. In Jerusalem, 35.2 percent of the population is below the age of fifteen. And young people have been the driving force behind recent uprisings, such as the First Intifada in 1987–93 and the Second Intifada in 2000–05.

The First Intifada was a watershed in the history of resistance to Israeli occupation and featured mass forms of popular resistance. People of all ages and social groups united in that struggle against the occupation.

Neighborhood committees started to watch over the security of every neighborhood. When schools and universities were closed under military orders, teachers in every neighborhood gathered students to continue their classes. Agricultural relief committees, founded in the late 1970s and early 1980s, started writing how-to booklets on home-based agriculture to counter the months and weeklong curfews that the Israeli army sometimes imposed on parts of the West Bank.

“Intifada” would come to English as a synonym for “uprising” in its wake.

The uprising today is taking new forms. [Continue reading…]


Netanyahu considers move that might divide ‘united’ Jerusalem

The Times of Israel reports: ime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is considering revoking the permanent residency status of East Jerusalemite Arabs in a measure aimed at halting an ongoing spate of terror attacks, many of which have emanated from Arab neighborhoods of the city.

Netanyahu raised the idea in a security cabinet meeting two weeks ago, according to a Sunday report from Channel 2 news.

The proposal came as the security cabinet passed a slew of measures designed to prevent further Palestinian attacks in the current wave of unrest.

“We need to examine the possibility of canceling their residency. There needs to be a discussion about it,” Netanyahu reportedly said.

The proposal would affect some 80,000 people, according to the report.

The idea was met with surprise by some in the cabinet who saw the move as a step toward dividing Jerusalem through ceding control over Arab neighborhoods. [Continue reading…]


We are lifelong Zionists. Here’s why we’ve chosen to boycott Israel

Steven Levitsky and Glen Weyl write: The West Bank is increasingly treated as part of Israel, with the green line demarcating the occupied territories erased from many maps. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin declared recently that control over the West Bank is “not a matter of political debate. It is a basic fact of modern Zionism.”

This “basic fact” poses an ethical dilemma for American Jews: Can we continue to embrace a state that permanently denies basic rights to another people? Yet it also poses a problem from a Zionist perspective: Israel has embarked on a path that threatens its very existence.

As happened in the cases of Rhodesia and South Africa, Israel’s permanent subjugation of Palestinians will inevitably isolate it from Western democracies. Not only is European support for Israel waning, but also U.S. public opinion — once seemingly rock solid — has begun to shift as well, especially among millennials. International pariah status is hardly a recipe for Israel’s survival. [Continue reading…]


Can the Palestinian uprising get organized and win international support before it is crushed?

Norman G. Finkelstein, Mouin Rabbani, and Jamie Stern-Weiner write: The Palestinians are today more isolated and fragmented than at any point since their initial dispossession in 1948. Key Gulf states have sought out Israel as an ally in their proxy conflict with Iran; Egypt’s current rulers consider Palestine a nuisance and Hamas an enemy; Turkey is otherwise preoccupied; and what’s left of Iraq and Syria have neither the capacity nor inclination to exert themselves on the Palestinians’ behalf. There is “a perception that…Palestinians are on their own,” leading Palestinian pollster Khalil Shikaki explains, and “so they take matters into their own hands.” It is in this respect hardly coincidental that Palestinians have rallied around what is not only a national symbol but also one that continues to resonate in the Arab and broader Muslim worlds.

To this should be added the increasingly barbaric Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the Gaza Strip, which along with the schism between the Fatah and Hamas movements will soon enter its second decade; unprecedented levels of official demonization of Palestinian citizens of Israel; lengthy hunger strikes by Palestinians detained without charge or trial; and regular killings by the Israeli military and settler militias in the West Bank—the last culminating in the late July arson-murder of 18-month-old Ali Dawabsheh and his parents outside Nablus. It speaks volumes that in the current context the latter factors are mere background noise.

Have the Palestinians finally embarked upon their long-heralded third intifada? That depends upon how one defines the term, and can therefore easily lead to semantic rather than substantive debate. The more pertinent questions concern how sustainable and effective the current revolt is likely to be. [Continue reading…]


The end of the Abbas era

Nathan Thrall writes: The stabbings, shootings, protests and clashes now spreading across Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza and Israel present one of the greatest challenges yet posed to the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and his strategy of bilateral negotiations, diplomacy and security co-operation with Israel. The unrest – its proximate cause was increased restrictions on Palestinian access to al-Aqsa Mosque – reflects a sense among Palestinians that their leadership has failed, that national rights must be defended in defiance of their leaders if necessary, and that the Abbas era is coming to an end.

Abbas came to power with a limited window to achieve political results. More a drab functionary than a charismatic revolutionary leader like Yasser Arafat, he was seen as a bridge to recovery from the ruinous years of the Second Intifada. At the time of his election, in January 2005, Palestinians were battered, exhausted and in need of an internationally accepted, violence-abhorring figure who could secure the political and financial support necessary to rebuild a shattered society. The Fatah movement was divided and discredited by the failure of Oslo, corruption scandals and the abandonment of its liberation strategy before independence had been achieved. Abbas, who had led outreach to the Israelis since the 1970s, seemed a sufficiently unthreatening transitional figure. He had few serious challengers: Hamas abstained from the presidential election; Fatah’s founding leaders had been assassinated many years earlier; Marwan Barghouti, in Israeli prison since 2002, withdrew from the race. And the Bush administration, newly re-elected, favoured Abbas.

No one expected these conditions to last. Palestinian fatigue from fighting Israel would wear off. The West Bank and Gaza would be rebuilt. Hamas wouldn’t stay out of politics forever. Continuing occupation would foment resistance. Leaders who suppressed that resistance would be discredited. And a new generation of Palestinians would grow up with no memory of the costs of intifada and no understanding of why their parents had agreed not only to refrain from fighting the Israeli army but to co-operate with it, under agreements that Abbas had negotiated. [Continue reading…]


Video: Voices of the Palestinian youth rebellion


The convenient lie that helps many Israelis and their friends avoid facing the truth

There’s a common deceit that individuals and groups of people have employed throughout history as a way of avoiding accepting responsibility for their own actions. Here’s how it works and it’s amazingly simple:

If you do things that offend others, you can ignore their complaints by insisting that their grievance is based, not on what you have done, but on who you are.

By claiming that you are a victim of animosity based on your identity, you instantly become blameless.

Following Benjamin Netanyahu’s absurd claim that a Palestinian inspired the Holocaust, Jay Michaelson writes: comments like Netanyahu’s are made all the time on the Israeli Right. They’re meant for domestic consumption, to inspire the nationalist base. The Arabs hate us, anti-Zionism is just anti-Semitism, and most importantly, the Intifada is about Jew-hatred, not resistance to the occupation.

Such claims may seem controversial to outsiders. But they are all catnip to the American and Israeli Right, and to most of Netanyahu’s audience at the World Zionist Congress. (The congress was established by the founder of modern Zionism, Theodor Herzl, in 1897. Nowadays it is mostly ceremonial, but millions of philanthropic dollars are at stake.)

These claims are central to the ultra-nationalist narrative. Palestinian violence isn’t resistance—it’s bigotry. Thus, peace is not the answer, because it won’t eradicate the Jew-hatred. Only Jewish strength is the answer. (Of course, blaming Palestinian violence on anti-Semitism also stokes deep Jewish fears, and collective trauma about the Holocaust.)

This was the ideology of Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the founder of revisionist Zionism (and the fan of Jewish fascism) as well as Netanyahu’s own father. Force is all the Arabs understand, because they hate Jews and will keep hating Jews no matter what. [Continue reading…]


‘Netanyahu joins a long line of people that we would call Holocaust deniers’

The New York Times reports: Israeli historians and opposition politicians on Wednesday joined Palestinians in denouncing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel for saying it was a Palestinian, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, who gave Hitler the idea of annihilating European Jews during World War II.

Mr. Netanyahu said in a speech to the Zionist Congress on Tuesday night that “Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jews.” The prime minister said that the mufti, Haj Amin al-Husseini, had protested to Hitler that “they’ll all come here,” referring to Palestine.

“ ‘So what should I do with them?’ ” Mr. Netanyahu quoted Hitler as asking Mr. Husseini. “He said, ‘Burn them.’ ”

Prof. Meir Litvak, a historian at Tel Aviv University, called the speech “a lie” and “a disgrace.” Prof. Moshe Zimmermann, a specialist of German history at Hebrew University, said, “With this, Netanyahu joins a long line of people that we would call Holocaust deniers.”

Isaac Herzog, leader of the opposition in the Israeli Parliament, said the accusation was “a dangerous historical distortion,” and he demanded that Mr. Netanyahu “correct it immediately.” [Continue reading…]


Netanyahu provokes uproar in Israel by linking Palestinians to Holocaust

The Associated Press reports: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sparked an uproar in Israel on Wednesday for suggesting that a World War II-era Palestinian leader convinced the Nazis to adopt their Final Solution to exterminate 6 million Jews.

Holocaust experts and survivors slammed Netanyahu’s comments as historically inaccurate and serving the interests of Holocaust deniers by lessening the responsibility of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. Critics also said the statement amounts to incitement against modern-day Palestinians in the midst of a wave of violent unrest and high tensions.

Speaking to a group of Jewish leaders Tuesday, Netanyahu tried to use a historical anecdote to illustrate his claim that Palestinian incitement surrounding Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site goes back decades. He has repeatedly claimed that a wave of Palestinian attacks in recent weeks is the result of decades of hatred, and not connected to Israel’s 48-year occupation of lands claimed by the Palestinians, as the Palestinians have claimed.

Netanyahu said the World War II-era grand mufti of Jerusalem, Nazi sympathizer Haj Amin al-Husseini, also instigated Palestinian attacks on Jews over lies that they planned to destroy the Temple Mount, known to Muslims at the Noble Sanctuary.

Netanyahu said al-Husseini played a “central role in fomenting the final solution” by trying to convince Hitler to destroy the Jews during a November 1941 meeting in Berlin.

“Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jews,” Netanyahu told the group. “And Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Hitler and said, ‘If you expel them, they’ll all come here.’ ‘So what should I do with them?’ he asked. He said, ‘Burn them.’”

Details of the meeting between al-Husseini and Hitler are sketchy. The Nazis released a grainy propaganda video showing the mufti making a Nazi salute before a warm handshake. The official record from the meeting says Hitler pledged “the annihilation of Jewry living in Arab space.”

While the Nazis’ official endorsement of the Final Solution came months after the meeting, historians note that the Nazis’ mass killing of Jews was already well underway.

Several concentration camps were up and running, and Hitler had previously repeatedly declared his lethal intentions for the Jews. If anything, they said it was the Nazis who were trying to use al-Husseini for their own propaganda interests and that Hitler didn’t need any outside inspiration. When Hitler did consider deporting Jews, it was in the context of sending them to countries like Ukraine and Lithuania where they would face persecution or death. [Continue reading…]


Video: Jamil Dakwar and Nathan Thrall talk about violence in Israel and the occupied West Bank


Young Palestinians sound off on current unrest, Israeli occupation

Al Jazeera reports: While media headlines focus on the dramatic stabbing attacks by Palestinians and Israelis on one another in recent weeks, thousands of young Palestinians have at the same time taken to the streets of Israel, East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip to demand an end to Israel’s decades-long occupation, protest violence by Israeli forces and settlers, and call for recognition of their human rights.

The stabbings are a new element, of course, while protests are an old story — except that today they involve a new generation of Palestinians, those who’ve grown up in the era of the Oslo Peace process and its attendant frustrations and failures. Like the protests of the First Intifada uprising of 1987, some of today’s demonstrations are peaceful, but others have transformed into clashes with Israeli forces.

As Palestinian veterans and analysts grapple with the question of whether current events bear the hallmarks of a new intifada, Al Jazeera reached out to a number of Palestinians under the age of 30 throughout the region. We asked them two questions:

(1) Where do you see the current unrest headed?

(2) If these protests and clashes continue, how do you expect Israeli forces, settlers and the Palestinian Authority to respond? [Continue reading…]


Too soon to claim ‘third intifada,’ Palestinian thinkers say

Al Jazeera reports: Protests in the last few weeks are a clear sign that a new generation of Palestinians is rising up against Israel’s occupation, Palestinian activists, politicians and scholars said this week — but they added that it’s too early to tell if the movement can be sustained.

“This phase of popular resistance broke out spontaneously, in reaction to months of fascist-leaning policies of the most racist, settler-dominated and far-right government in Israel’s history,” Omar Barghouti, a founder of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, told Al Jazeera in an email.

Whether this new uprising will be sustained or fizzle out depends on whether the various groups involved can develop a unifying vision and political leadership, said Khaled Elgindy, a fellow at the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, a think tank based in Washington, D.C. [Continue reading…]


Education under occupation: everyday disruption at a Palestinian university

By Brendan Browne, Queen’s University Belfast

As the clock moves towards 12.45pm I begin to anxiously await the flurry of emails that I’ve come to expect in advance of my 2pm class. The class is on law and human rights. Students email to say that a deterioration in the security situation means they must stay within the relative safety of their own area, their parents naturally apprehensive that travel across the West Bank could potentially be dangerous.

This has become the everyday reality this semester for students attending Al Quds University, and Al Quds (Bard) University – a partnership with the American liberal arts institution.

The university soon gives the call for all staff and students to evacuate. In an entirely depressing but ultimately predictable scenario, Palestinian students will not be able to take their classes in literature, law, biology or media. Those on site make their way to the agreed “safe” area with alcohol-drenched cotton balls handed out by the ever vigilant staff of the Palestinian Red Crescent to ward off the effects of the inevitable deluge of tear gas.

The university has tried to continue life as normal. On October 13, Al Quds university welcomed the president of India, Pranab Mukherjee on campus with great pomp and splendour to receive an honorary degree. Indian flags adorned the beautiful campus grounds and academics dressed in ceremonial gowns to applaud the visit of the world leader.

Welcoming the Indian president on campus.
Brendan Browne., Author provided

But there were also protests from students angry at recent violence against them in Jerusalem, using this platform to draw attention to their ongoing suffering. Within 45 minutes of the Indian contingent leaving, Israeli forces stormed the campus and violently arrested eight students while simultaneously causing significant damage to property, according to the student group Mojama’a Alanshita which posted a video of some of the arrests on Facebook.

[Read more…]


Palestinians ‘more isolated than at any point since 1948’

Mouin Rabbani writes: the organisational infrastructure required to mobilise and sustain a widespread rebellion has been systematically dismantled over the past decade, primarily by the Palestinian Authority. It remains committed to security collaboration with Israel, which its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, has described as “sacred”.

The chances that Israeli actions will push Abbas over the precipice are nil. Indeed, when he again cried wolf at the UN last month the sheep died of laughter. Because Abbas has systematically foreclosed upon all other options, he will remain more exercised by threats to Israeli security than the security of his own people for the remainder of his tenure. For its part, the Islamist movement Hamas remains committed to the survival of its rule in the Gaza Strip above all else.

The current crisis may yet prove a catalyst for the hard work of reviving a unified, coherent and dynamic Palestinian national movement capable of conducting the struggle for Palestinian self-determination. The hard reality is that, until Palestinians overcome the domestic obstacles to their ability to rebel, they will remain incapable of successfully challenging Israel or effectively taking on those who support its policies. [Continue reading…]