Juan Cole – Informed Comment https://www.juancole.com Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion Wed, 16 Jun 2021 04:05:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.18 In Challenge to New Gov’t, Far Right Israeli Extremists Chant “Death to Arabs” in Provocative March through Palestinian East Jerusalem https://www.juancole.com/2021/06/extremists-provocative-palestinian.html https://www.juancole.com/2021/06/extremists-provocative-palestinian.html#respond Wed, 16 Jun 2021 04:05:13 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=198390 Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Dia Hajj Yahya writes at the Israeli newspaper Arab 48 that because of extreme right Israeli squatters’ deliberately provocative march through Palestinian neighborhoods, 33 Palestinians were injured during confrontations with the Israeli Occupation authorities in the area of the Old City in occupied Jerusalem on Tuesday, one of them by live fire, and at least 17 were jailed.

The old government led by Binyamin Netanyahu authorized the march, against the best judgment of then Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who had wanted to cancel it this year. Netanyahu, in contrast, insisted that it be held. The new government of Naftali Bennett could have faced a challenge if the march produced big Palestinian protests, but it appears that it passed without any big escalation. The government did prevent the militant squatters from marching through the heavily Palestinian Old City.

The occasion for the crackdown on the Palestinians was what the squatters call “Flag Day,” when they proceed with Israeli flags through Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem to commemorate the opportunistic 1967 Israel grab of the Palestinian West Bank. Since then, Palestinians have been a stateless, militarily occupied population and squatters have stolen much of their land and water, cut them off from other villages by checkpoints and settler-only highways, and chopped down a million of their olive trees, a keys source of Palestinian income. The squatters, who have stolen from the Palestinians and intend to steal more, displacing them from East Jerusalem, in this way rub the occupied population’s noses in their life of defeat and ongoing humiliation.

This year, a new generation of Palestinian youth began demonstrations in April and May against the planned expulsion of dozens of Palestinian families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan, which caused the provocation to be postponed until the world’s eyes were averted from Israeli policies in Jerusalem, where hundreds of Palestinians are facing forcible expulsion from their homes in the short term, and thousands in the longer term.

The Flag march arrived at the Wailing Wall on Tuesday evening, after its participants moved from Damascus Gate, where they had assembled, and where they chanted “Death to Arabs,” “May your village burn,” and “There will be a second ethnic cleansing (Nakba),” under the protection of the Israeli police. The Nakba was the 1948 expulsion by Israeli forces of some 720,000 Palestinians from their homes in Palestine, which then became Israel.

Prime Minister Bennett’s coalition partner, centrist Yair Lapid, condemned the chants as “not Judaism and not Israeli.” Bennett himself, however, is on the religious far right and has said horrible things about Palestinians.

Itimar Ben-Gvir, a prominent Israeli far right extremist in Parliament from the Religious Zionism Party who celebrates the murder of Palestinians, was among the marchers and was one of the sponsors of the procession, according to Al Jazeera. BBC Monitoring Hebrew reports that he tweeted that he would be there “waving the Israeli flag,” adding, “We don’t need permission from Hamas or Islamic Jihad to march in the capital of Israel. The march will take place in spite of them.”

The same source notes that four Palestinian Israeli members of parliament, Ahmad Tibi, Ayman Odeh, Osama Saadi and Sami Abu Shehada, came to the Damascus Gate and voiced criticism of the cabinet for permitting the march.

Some Palestinian youth dared unfurl a Palestinian flag in response at the Damascus Gate square, and they were immediately arrested by Israeli security. Palestinian flags are prohibited in East Jerusalem by Israeli authorities.

Al Jazeera reports, “A second video shows another woman, identified as Hala Abu Ghureiba, raising the Palestinian flag in the face of the Israeli nationalists during the so-called Flag Parade, before she was knocked to the ground by Israeli forces.”

Some 16 others were arrested on charges of throwing stones, assaulting police, or generally disturbing the peace. The Palestinians were shouting “It, it, it is Arab Jerusalem.”

Six Palestinian protesters had to go to hospital for their injuries, one of them hit with live ammunition by Israeli security. The occupation forces refused to allow Red Crescent staff to transport the wounded, and at one point fired on their vehicle, preventing its teams from moving freely.

About a thousand Israeli squatters participated in the ritual humiliation of the Palestinians via the Flag Day procession, with two thousand Israeli police providing them security according to Yediot Aharanot. The march was much small than expected; estimates of likely participation had ranged up to 5,000, but only a fifth that number actually came.

Those marching performed a “flag dance” at Damascus Gate, a Palestinian area, to humiliate the local residents, shouting “Death to Arabs.”

Palestinian youth responded by raising a Palestinian flag at Damascus Gate, in the wake of which Israeli police attacked them. East Jerusalem was blocked off by metal barriers. The neighborhoods of the predominantly Palestinian Old City were heavily policed, and Palestinian youth trying to get to Damascus Gate were arrested. The Israeli forces locked the entrance to the Misrara neighborhood opposite Damascus Gate, as was that of the Old City, to keep the Palestinians away from the squatter march. The al-Aqsa Mosque complex was also closed off to Palestinians, while the Israeli squatters were allowed to make incursions into the courtyard.

Some Palestinians in the Occupied West Bank and in Israel popular attempted to go to Jerusalem to mount a counter-demonstration, but apparently without much success.

In contrast, they did hold protests around the West Bank and in Israel against “Flag Day,”
according to Al Jazeera. At some of the rallies attendees burned pictures of former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and current Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.


Bonus Video:

France 24 English: “Jerusalem march of the flags: Far-right Israelis march in east Jerusalem”

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Israel’s New Secular Government: Lieberman Crows that he Sidelined Fundamentalist Ultra-Orthodox and, read his lips: “No new taxes” https://www.juancole.com/2021/06/government-sidelined-fundamentalist.html https://www.juancole.com/2021/06/government-sidelined-fundamentalist.html#respond Tue, 15 Jun 2021 04:51:28 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=198370 Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – A lot of attention is focused on Naftali Bennett, the new prime minister of Israel. But it should be remembered that he had been a bit player, and his 7 coalition allies are often headed by much more prominent and powerful figures who are in the coalition precisely in order to carry out their own agendas. One of these is Avigdor Lieberman, who heads the right wing Yisrael Beitenu (Israel Our Home) party. Lieberman has been an advocate of ethnically cleansing Israelis of Palestinian heritage, so it is ironic that he sits in a government with a Palestinian-Israeli partner. On Monday Lieberman, having become Finance Minister, spoke publicly about what exactly he thought he had achieved by joining Bennett’s government.

Making Israel safe for secularism was high on the list. The Neoliberal, conservative goal of keeping taxes from rising was another. So, right wing secularism.

Yisrael Beitenu has for its constituency many of the million or so immigrants to Israel from Russia and Eastern Europe who came in during the 1990s and early zeroes. Lieberman himself was born in the Russia in the Soviet Union, though his birthplace is now in Moldova; he emigrated to Israel in 1978. He grew up speaking Yiddish–his city in then Russia was one fourth Jewish. One of the planks of Yisrael Beitenu’s platform is militant secularism. Having grown up under Communism, the Russian- and Eastern European-Israelis have a visceral dislike of the Ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) form of Judaism fundamentalism, with its strict adherence to numerous minute rules, including not working or so much as turning on the light on Saturdays (the Sabbath).

According to Muhammad Watad at the Israeli Arab 48 newspaper, Lieberman said that by joining the 8-party Change coalition and participating in the formation of the new government, he had achieved three long-time goals of his party:

1. Ensuring that Netanyahu was out of the prime ministership

2. The formation of a government without the Haredim Jewish fundamentalists.

3. Making himself the Minister of Finance and ensuring that there would be no new taxes. He is quoted as having said that the Finance Ministry figures should not be treated as “officials” but only a “team” and “staff.” He seems as hostile to his own ministry as Trump was to the Internal Revenue Service, which has been so starved of funds it can’t afford to go after billionaire tax cheats who can tie the IRS up in court.

I suppose there is an analogy between Lieberman’s goals and those of Mitt Romney in the U.S. Imagine if Romney could sideline Donald Trump, sideline the Evangelicals in the GOP, and become president in 2024; he’d also want to ensure no new taxes. In that (wholly implausible) scenario he would certainly sound as self-satisfied and full of himself as Lieberman does now. Romney is not a secularist the way Lieberman is, but his Mormonism does mean he isn’t an easy fit with a lot of Evangelicals.

Extremist Ayelet Shaked of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s far right wing Yamina Party, sort of the Marjorie Taylor Greene of Israel, said that she fought for the post of Interior Minister, which she got, because she wanted to devolve power to local municipalities and governments. The Interior Ministry is like the US Homeland Security or ICE, and she pledged to expel asylum seekers (many of them from Africa, who came because the Israeli government expressed sympathy for their plight at home). Shaked once argued that the mothers of any Palestinians who committed violence should also be killed.

Haredim are only 10 percent of the Israeli population but have been given many special perquisites. They are not evenly distributed–the Ultra-Orthodox are powerful in Jerusalem and environs but not in Tel Aviv. Some Haredim hail from Central Europe and are Ashkenazim, whereas others hail from the Middle East and are Sephardim or Mizrahim. The Ultra-Orthodox Shas Party has 7 seats in parliament, and the United Torah Judaism Party also has 7 seats. Radical extremist Bezalel Smotrich’s Religious Zionist Party, which has support both from Haredim and Conservative Jews, has 6 seats. The three were swing votes in alliance with the secular-leaning ultra-nationalist Likud Party and garnered substantial benefits from previous governments, including exemptions from the draft and subsidies for seminary study that got members out of having to work for a living. None of these Haredim parties is in the new government. In contrast, secular Israeli Judaism is all about having a luscious ham sandwich when you want one.

Ironically, the Religious Zionist Party of Smotrich, many of whom admire mass murderer of Palestinians Baruch Goldstein and urge the violent expulsion of all Palestinians, inadvertently played a key role in unseating Netanyahu. Netanyahu had been open to allying with Palestinian-Israeli Mansour Abbas of the Muslim fundamentalist United Arab List, which has four seats in the Knesset and which would have allowed him to remain prime minister. The Religious Zionist Party put their feet down and said they absolutely would not serve in a government with Palestinian representation. Smotrich and his colleagues shot themselves in the feet and ensured that the Ultra-Orthodox ended up outside government entirely.


Bonus Video:

CGTN Global Watch: “NEW ISRAEL GOVERNMENT: Benjamin Netanyahu loses power, Naftali Bennett sworn in as Prime Minister”

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Ta’seel Interview with Juan Cole on Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires (Video) https://www.juancole.com/2021/06/interview-muhammad-prophet.html https://www.juancole.com/2021/06/interview-muhammad-prophet.html#respond Mon, 14 Jun 2021 04:59:02 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=198355 Ta’seel Commons | –

A wide-ranging and in-depth discussion with Prof. Juan Cole on his recent book “Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires”. The discussion begins with remarks about the question of the sources for such a history, it then situates the life of the prophet in the context of late antiquity and the contemporaneous ‘world war’ between Rome and Persia. Quranic allusions to these geopolitics are highlighted, followed by an illuminating discussion on the original meaning of Islam and Kufr in this early period and the ecumenism of the Prophet in accomodating and embracing the religious diversity of the time. The original theological and social ecumenism of the Quran is in obvious contrast to the later narrative of exclusivism which is a backprojection of triumphalist Abbasid chroniclers.

Alongside many more intriguing and eye-opening details of the prophetic biography, Prof. Cole also addresses some audience questions: such as those on Banu Qurayza, POWs and Slavery, and the relevance for the prophetic biography for peace studies.

Juan Cole is Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. For three and a half decades, he has sought to put the relationship of the West and the Muslim world in historical context. He is the author of “Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires”, as well as many other books including ‘The New Arabs’, ‘Engaging the Muslim World’, and ‘Napoleon’s Egypt’

He is the editor and creator of the award-winning Informed Comment news and commentary website – which average 4.5 million page views a year.

He has made various television, radio and press appearances. He has written widely about Egypt, Iran, Iraq, and South Asia. Prof. Cole commands Arabic, Persian, and Urdu and reads Turkish
He has translated works of the Lebanese-American author Kahlil Gibran
And most recently, published a new translation of the persian famous Rubaiyaat of Omar Khayyam.


Ta’seel Commons: Interview with Juan Cole on “Muhammad: Prophet of Peace amid the Clash of Empires”


Ta’seel Commons (Ta’seel: “contextualization, to “give an asl [root] to”) is an online space for disseminating information on contemporary ‘Islams’ and their place in the world.

For nearly two decades digitality has been revolutionizing all sectors, not least knowledge production and knowledge consumption. Many people are predicting the radical reconfiguration of the brick and mortar university as a result of online learning. Utilizing digital tools, Ta’seel Commons provides high quality content occupying the important space between the (purely) academic and the (purely) journalistic.

Ta’seel Commons covers a broad spectrum of topics from Theology to Philosophy, from Sociology to Anthropology, from History to Politics, from Sharia to Ethics. We tackles issue that are current and ongoing, historic and philosophical, sociological and metaphysical, grounded in an approach attuned to western critical sensibilities and the broader principles of the Islamic tradition.

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Israel’s New PM Bennett called Evil by Fundamentalist Jewish Parties even as He plans more Expropriation of Palestinians https://www.juancole.com/2021/06/fundamentalist-expropriation-palestinians.html https://www.juancole.com/2021/06/fundamentalist-expropriation-palestinians.html#respond Sun, 13 Jun 2021 05:40:26 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=198342 Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – The new government of extreme-right Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, set to be approved on Sunday afternoon by the Israeli parliament, has big plans for Occupied Palestine. Nidal Muhammad Watad at the Israeli newspaper Arab 48 reports that Bennett boasts that his government, despite being based on an 8-party coalition that includes the center-left Labor and Meretz Parties, will be further Right wing than that of outgoing Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

He hopes to bring government ministries from Tel Aviv, Israel’s old capital, to Jerusalem, which he hopes to make its new one in a practical and not just symbolic sense. Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem is illegal in international law and is not recognized by most of the countries in the world, but Bennett hopes to make it a fait accompli.

Bennett also says he intends to halt what he calls “illegal attempts at building” by Palestinians in Area C of the Palestinian West Bank. Israel has occupied the Palestinian West Bank since 1967, an occupation that has become illegal because it has lasted decades, has deeply changed the lifeways of the occupied population, and has involved flooding hundreds of thousands of Israeli squatters onto Palestinian land (which they have stolen).

In the Oslo Accords of the 1990s, on which Israel has entirely reneged, the Palestinian West Bank was initially divided into areas A, B, and C, with A turned over to the Palestine Authority already in the mid-1990s. It was envisaged that Israel would withdraw from Areas B and C by 1999, but then Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu deliberately destroyed the agreement and refused to pull out. Since then ever more thousands of Israelis have engaged in a land rush to homestead on property stolen from its Palestinian proprietors. From Bennett’s twisted point of view, whenever Palestinians in Area C, under direct Israeli military rule, build a new house on their own land, that is “illegal” because Israel won’t issue a building permit. Bennett wants to tear down these Palestinian homes and encourage even more Israeli squatters to build in Area C instead.

Watad points out that five of the party leaders in the 8-party coalition have been in coalition with Netanyahu in the past, and some members of Change in parliament have been very close to him, so that it would be foolish to expect the “Change” government actually to change much in the way of policy.

Bennett’s extreme-Right views have not stopped the Religious Right in Israel from attacking him, since they see him as formerly one of their own who became a turncoat just to get the prime minister position. Shas and United Torah Judaism, two parties of the Religious Right, have viscerally criticized him

They said that they would do whatever they could to stop his “leftist, secular” government. They are right that it is largely secular, though Bennett himself is not. Six of the eight parties that make up his coalition are secular-minded. The exceptions are Bennett’s Yamina Party and the Palestinian-Israeli United Arab Front of Mansour Abbas, which takes its inspiration from the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.

Aryeh Deri, leader of the fundamentalist Shas, said that the new government poses a danger to “the form and identity of the Jewish state.”

Yaakov Litzman of Agudat Yisrael, a member of the United Torah Judaism bloc, called the new government “a government of the extreme Left that has lost is way and its conscience.” He called on Bennett to take off his kippa or yarmulke (head covering) forever, since he had dishonored it.

Moshe Gafni of the Ashkenazi Haredi Party, part of United Torah Judaism, called Bennett “evil.”

Bennett pointed out that his Yamina Party has been in the opposition during the government of national unity headed by Netanyahu, which included Shas and United Torah Judaism, but that he had not called on Gafni to take off his kippah. He said, “The Haredi [Ultra-Orthodox] Knesset members will not teach us what Judaism is and certainly what Zionism is. As Prime Minister, I will take care of the Haredi community and the Torah world.”

The Ultra-Orthodox or Haredim are about 8 percent of Israel’s population, but under Netanyahu (himself a secularist), they have wielded political power far beyond their numbers and have garnered special perquisites for their members, some of whom prefer to study the Bible than to work and who want to be exempt from military service.

They are thus analogous to the American Evangelicals, who are only 16 percent of Americans but who have captured the Republican Party and have it do their bidding.


Bonus Video:

CBS this Morning: “Israel prepares for political shakeup amid Prime Minister Netanyahu’s expected exit”

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Like an Arab Dictator faced with Massive Protests, Israel’s Netanyahu offers to Resign if his Likud Party can remain in ruling coalition https://www.juancole.com/2021/06/dictator-netanyahu-coalition.html https://www.juancole.com/2021/06/dictator-netanyahu-coalition.html#respond Sat, 12 Jun 2021 05:14:15 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=198324 Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Basil Maghribi of the Israeli newspaper Arab 48 reports that on Friday, outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu made a last-ditch attempt to derail parliament’s installation of the Change Coalition as the Israeli government, which is expected to take place on Sunday.

Netanyahu sent people from his circle to talk to people in the circle of Benny Gantz, leader of the center-right Blue and White Party, offering to resign “today” as prime minister in favor of Gantz if only the latter would defect from the Change coalition and join his far right likud-led government.

Netanyahu in his past 12 years a prime minister has gained a reputation for being ruthless, unprincipled, and a backstabber. Apparently Netanyahu foresaw that his offer would lack credibility, since nothing prevented him from reneging on it as soon as he succeeded in breaking up Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid-led Change alliance. (Yesh Atid [“There is a Future”] is a centrist party.) He therefore is reported to have guaranteed Gantz that Blue and White could return to the Change fold within 48 hours if Netanyahu tried to pull the old switcheroo.

Israel’s Channel 12 reported the development, and said that Gantz greeted the offer with a decisive “no.”

This episode reminds me of the 2011 Arab Spring, when Arab dictators, after weeks of demonstrations and the occupation of city squares, began to see the writing on the wall and started trying to negotiate their futures instead of angrily giving orders “or else.”

The dictator of Tunisia, Zein El Abidin Bin Ali, offered on January 14, 2011, not to run again for the presidency in 2014 (he always won with 99 percent of the vote whenever he ran), and to institute new personal freedoms. The offer mollified no one, and on January 15 he had to flee to Saudi Arabia.

The authoritarian Hosni Mubarak, who came to power in Egypt in 1981, was overthrown in February of 2011. Before the army finally just put him on a helicopter to Sharm El Shaikh, he came out and offered to resign the following September. Of course, the youth revolutionaries could not trust him actually to step down after the passage of several months, when the street crowds would have evaporated and the pressure would be off. Then Mubarak offered to resign on Thursday evening, February 10, in a televised speech. But he could not bring himself to do so, and the army sent him away from the capital on February 11.

So now, just like Ben Ali and Mubarak, Netanyahu is offering to resign as prime minister as long as his Likud can remain in the ruling coalition rather than going into the opposition. Long-serving authoritarian rulers are all alike, bargaining for some better deal that just being forced entirely out of office immediately.

Gantz had already been in a national unity government, last year, led by Netanyahu and is apparently done with him. Defense Minister Gantz, on the center-right, is quarreling with Netanyahu over illegal Israeli squatter-settlements on the Palestinian West Bank. I mean, all of them are illegal by the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949. But even the Israeli government considers Israeli wild men who just up and move to the West Bank and squat on Palestinian land without any Israeli government permit or backing to be doing something illegal. The government’s main concern is not stealing Palestinian land but that the “illegal” settlements are often isolated, open to attack, and put a burden on the Occupation army, which has to try to protect them. Every once in a while, the Israeli government dismantles such squatter-settlements, and Gantz is in the process of doing so right now with regard to Evyatar, thrown together on land that belongs to owners in the Palestinian villages of Beta, Kablan and Yitma. Netanyahu remonstrated with Gantz and doesn’t want him to act against the squatters.

It isn’t just Gantz. The Change coalition as a whole is only united by hatred of or fatigue with Netanyahu. It is the strangest of strange bedfellows, with two center-left parties (Meretz and Labor), the centrist Yesh Atid, and far right parties like Yisrael Beitenu of Avigdor Lieberman and the Yamina Party (much to Netanyahu’s right) of Naftali Bennett, the incoming prime minister. It for the first time includes a Palestinian-Israeli party, the Muslim fundamentalist United Arab List of former dentist Mansour Abbas.

Maghribi points out that Abbas’s participation in the new government will face two immediate challenges. On Tuesday, Netanyahu secured cabinet permission for militant Jewish squatters eyeing Palestinian homes as their own to march through Palestinian neighborhoods provocatively, waving Israeli flags and taunting residents about the Israeli conquest of 1967, which has left 5 million Palestinians stateless and under Israeli military rule. Abbas and the other three members of parliament may be tested if the march raises substantial tensions. On Wednesday, a law expires and will have to be renewed by parliament that forbids Palestinian-Israelis who marry spouses in the West Bank or Gaza from bringing their spouse to live with them in Israel. The law is discriminatory, since Jewish Israelis can bring Jewish spouses to live in Israel from anywhere in the world. It seems unlikely to me, however that either of these developments will affect the United Arab List’s participation in the new government.

They will still have Netanyahu to hate. He is calling for a vote next month of the Likud Party on party leader, convinced he can win it despite the fall of his government. In parliamentary systems it is common for a former prime minister to be unseated as party head under such circumstances.


Bonus Video:

TRT World: “Israel’s Parliament to vote on new coalition government”

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Israeli Security Forces won’t Vaccinate Occupied Palestinians, Ban Palestinian Health Worker Committees that Do https://www.juancole.com/2021/06/palestinians-palestinian-committees.html https://www.juancole.com/2021/06/palestinians-palestinian-committees.html#respond Fri, 11 Jun 2021 05:30:54 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=198307 Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Amnesty International complains that, on the morning of June 9, Israeli forces invaded the headquarters in Ramallah of the Palestinian Health Worker Committees. They stole the computers and memory drives in the office and banned the organization for six months.

The HWC has been a key actor in the Palestinian response to the coronavirus pandemic, which is still ongoing in the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza. Its workers have helped get the word out about the dangers of the virus, have told the public how to avoid it through social distancing and masking, and the HWC hospitals and clinics have treated victims, even sending out mobile clinics to remote communities.

Despite being the Occupying power with responsibilities for the health of the occupied population, Israel has refused to vaccinate the Palestinian population, and its attacks on the Palestinian economy have left the Palestine Authority, which only has influence in 40 percent of the West Bank, unable to afford expensive Western vaccines.

Only about 6.5 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have had at least one shot, whereas over 80 percent of Israelis are vaccinated.

Of the 5 million or so stateless Palestinians under Israeli military occupation, 339,859 Palestinians have fallen ill with COVID-19 and it has left 3,792 of them dead.

I called this disparity in vaccination rates “the clearest example of Apartheid” at Scheerpost.

Distant countries such as Qatar and even the Biden administration are being of more help to the Occupied Palestinians than is the occupying power, Israel. Biden will send some vaccines.

Saleh Higazi, the Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at AI is quoted as saying, ““The Health Work Committees is one of the main providers of health services in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, running hospitals and health clinics providing medical care to marginalized communities. Israel’s shut down of its headquarters will have major consequences for the provision of essential health services to thousands of Palestinians, a program for women’s health that was at the headquarters has now stopped.”

Apparently Israeli security sees HWC as having a connection the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which it deems a terrorist organization. But if indeed PFLP members have turned to running hospitals and providing health care, you’d think the Israeli government would be happy about that instead of punishing them for it. Anyway, in a civilized country with a rule of law, you can’t apply collective punishment for guilt by association. If somebody has broken the law, so arrest the law-breaker. Banning a whole health organization is something only a dictatorial regime would do.


Bonus Video:

Democracy Now! from March: “Marc Lamont Hill and Mitchell Plitnick on Israel’s “Indifference to Palestinian Health”

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Another Tinderbox: 1,500 Palestinians in Silwan, East Jerusalem, under threat of Expulsion from Homes by Israeli Authorities https://www.juancole.com/2021/06/palestinians-jerusalem-authorities.html Thu, 10 Jun 2021 05:33:04 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=198285 Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Al-Watan reports that the Israeli-controlled Jerusalem municipality on Tuesday issued a letter to 13 families in Silwan near the Old City of Jerusalem giving them 21 days to get their families and possession out of their homes, after which the homes would be demolished.

The homes were built on land owned by the Palestinian residents, but Israel had refused to issue them building permits, so from the point of view of Israeli officials, the buildings were erected illegally. This is typical of the mind games the Israeli government plays with the 370,000 Palestinian residents of Jerusalem (pop. 900,000). Actually it is Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem and part of the West Bank that is illegal in international law.

Back in 2010, then mayor Nir Barkat announced a plan to demolish Palestinian neighborhoods in Silwan and to build on the land a gaudy “archeological park,” “the gardens of the kings,” commemorating the supposed gardens of the kings of ancient Israel.

MEMO writes, “The Al-Bustan neighbourhood in Silwan, which is south of the Old City, has 119 families in 88 buildings that are under threat of demolishment to make way for an Israeli archaeological park.”

This project is sort of like the Bible museums put up by fundamentalists in the US, which are ahistorical. The stories of ancient Israeli kings were spun by exiled Jews living in the Achaemenid empire in the 500s BC, half a millennium after the fact, and many archeologists do not find them historical.

Tawny Holm wrote in The Journal of the American Oriental Society in 2017,

    “the Bible’s lengthy portrait of Kings Saul, David, and Solomon is subject to a great deal of skepticism nowadays, especially since extrabiblical evidence for this period is extremely sparse. The Aramaic Tel Dan inscription is witness to the existence of a “House of David” in the ninth or eighth century B.c.e., but tells us nothing about the dynastic founder, David, himself. Additionally, according to Israel Finkelstein’s proposal for a “low chronology” in the 1990s, sites or structures that used to be connected to the great King David or his son Solomon in the tenth century B.c.e. (such as the monumental gates at sites such as Hazor, Gezer, and Megiddo) may now be dated up to a century later. Furthermore, even scholars who would follow a “high chronology” have been compelled by the archaeological evidence to downgrade the extent of any tenth-century kingdom centered around Jerusalem.”

What Holm is saying is that the Assyrians were the gossips of the ancient world and they wrote down anything important that happened in the Near East on clay tablets. They even wrote about obscure Arab queens. But they don’t know anything about a kingdom of David or Solomon. Then, Jerusalem doesn’t seem to have been inhabited in the 1000s BC when the older literature dated David (he’s now been moved down to the 800s or 700s). And it hasn’t been possible to connect buildings to either one. My guess is that if they existed at all they had really, really nice goatskin tents and were minor chieftains.Then the writers of the Bible in Achaemenid Iraq imagined them into palaces and a capital like Babylon or Persepolis.

Anyway, the so-called “garden of the kings” museum is unlikely to reflect the latest archeological findings– it is just Israeli nationalism, wherein the modern Israeli state, erected by refugees from Central Europe, is somehow justified with reference to the fabulous Israeli kings of ancient times. It is a feature of nationalism to enlist a romanticized and fictionalized past in its service. Nations are, however, always invented and are fairly recent things. Poles like Binyamin Netanyahu have no more connection to King David, assuming he existed, than anyone else in the Mediterranean basin. We’re all descended from him, and even from much more recent historical figures.

So anyway, something on the order of 1,500 Palestinians are going to be kicked out into the street for the sake of this nationalist vanity project. They were supposed to have been given the opportunity to put up alternative buildings, but that hasn’t happened. From a Palestinian point of view, it looks an awfully lot like the Israeli government doesn’t want 370,000 Palestinians in Jerusalem, and maybe doesn’t want any at all, and is gradually displacing them with Jewish squatters on their land. (Nobody disputes that the “garden of the kings” is to be built on land owned by Palestinians.)

This summary expulsion of people from their homes, which is also happening in Sheikh Jarrah, has provoked regular demonstrations in East Jerusalem this spring by a new generation of young Palestinians who are determined not to take it lying down. Those demonstrations have spread to towns in the Occupied Palestinian West Bank, which is also being colonized by Israeli squatters stealing their land. And the amazing thing is that in April and May young Palestinian-Israelis in towns with big Arab populations exploded with protests in Israel proper, over Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah. The Israeli authorities are arresting the activists in East Jerusalem, and have also arrested hundreds of young Palestinians and Palestinian-Israelis in the West Bank and in Israel. So much for a democratic right to protest.


Bonus Video:

Mondoweiss: “In Jerusalem’s Silwan, Israeli settlers wage another battle to takeover Palestinian homes”

Netanyahu’s Poison Pill: Militant Squatter-Settler March through Palestinian E Jerusalem set for Tuesday after New Israeli Gov’t is Installed https://www.juancole.com/2021/06/netanyahus-palestinian-jerusalem.html Wed, 09 Jun 2021 05:14:31 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=198268 Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – At the insistence of outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli cabinet authorized the so-called “Flag Day” march of militant Israeli squatter-settlers through Palestinian East Jerusalem for next Tuesday. So reports Mahmoud Mujadala at the Arab 48 Israeli newspaper.

Netanyahu denied charges that his fixation with humiliating Palestinians with this march through their neighborhood was intended to cause a social explosion and forestall the formation of a new government, which will be voted on this Sunday, and which will end his 12-year run as prime minister. However, it seems likely that he is hoping that the ensuing tensions with Palestinians and with Israelis of Palestinian heritage (20% of the population of Israel proper) will damage the incoming government.

Minister of Defense Benny Gantz had earlier canceled the march, which is intended to humiliate the population of East Jerusalem by commemorating the 1967 Israeli conquest of the Palestinian West Bank. It would be like a lot of Americans flying to Iraq each year on April 9 and marching through Sunni neighborhoods of Baghdad with American flags to recall the US 2003 invasion.

Mujadala reports that Netanyahu had insisted that the march be allowed to go ahead this Thursday, despite warnings of the Shin Bet intelligence agency that it could provoke substantial unrest. The procession was originally scheduled during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and at a time when feelings among Palestinians are raw because a Supreme Court decision may order large numbers of them thrown out of their homes in favor of the Jewish squatters. Tensions in Jerusalem led to major attacks by Israeli security on East Jerusalem Palestinians and even on worshipers at the sacred al-Aqsa Mosque, which provoked Hamas rocket launches and led to an 11-day Israeli Air Force assault on the Palestinians of the densely populated Gaza Strip. Israeli citizens of Palestinian heritage protested in large numbers in several Israeli towns and cities in sympathy with those over the Green Line, something that had not been seen for decades.

Arab 48 reports that Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman, Army Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavy, and police Commissioner Yaakov Shabtai all argued forcefully that the march should not follow the route the organizers had originally intended, which would have them enter the Old City from Damascus Gate, proceed through the Muslim quarter and arrive at the Wailing Wall. They warned that this route would result in an immediate escalation of tensions in East Jerusalem, as well as in Israeli cities with big Palestinian-Israeli populations.

Channel 11 reported from knowledgeable sources that Netanyahu emphasized at the closed-door meeting that the route of the procession must be the one proposed by the settler organization. He is said to have asserted, “We will not surrender to Hamas. I believe that the march must take place as planned. The purpose is not to foil the establishment of a new [Israeli] government, contrary to what is being said.”

Minister of Public Security and Likud MP Amir Ohana said that the recent operation against Gaza was intended to strengthen deterrence. “What message do you send to Hamas by canceling the Israeli Flag procession in Jerusalem? We thereby grant the Hamas movement the appearance of victory.”

The Likud really seems to be haunted by Hamas, a small party-militia of a few tens of thousands of ragtag, poorly trained and equipped guerrillas ruling 2 million Palestinians while besieged and blockaded by Israel. It would be as though the Biden administration made all its policies so as to make sure that Nicaraguans didn’t feel good about themselves.

Mujadala says that the website of the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharanot reported that such a “heated argument” took place between Netanyahu and Gantz that they had to suspend the cabinet meeting and then had a two-man, one-on-one session in which they hammered out the compromise of scheduling the march for next Tuesday instead. Netanyahu is thought to have backed off his (and his Likud Party’s) insistence on holding the march this Thursday because he was not assured of winning a cabinet vote on the matter in that case.

Some 370,000 Palestinians live in East Jerusalem, a city of 900,000. Only ten percent of the municipal government budget is apportioned to their needs. The Israeli squatters want gradually to ethnically cleanse East Jerusalem of Palestinians, and are using the Israeli courts to displace them from their homes.

After the cabinet decision was announced, extremist member of parliament from the Jewish Power party, Itamar Ben-Gvir, announced that he would lead a march through Palestinian East Jerusalem on Thursday, since the cabinet had bowed down to Hamas by postponing it.

In another article on Tuesday, Mujadala reported that the prospective Bennett government intends to settle even more Israelis in East Jerusalem and will try to strengthen Israeli claims on the city as their undivided capital by moving more government ministries there physically from Tel Aviv. Israel’s attempt to annex East Jerusalem and parts of the Palestinian West Bank adjacent to it are illegal in international law and not recognized by the Biden administration, though they were by Trump. All this is to say that Bennett’s Jerusalem policies will continue those of Netanyahu, despite all the trouble those have caused.


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How the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood Saved Israeli Democracy from Netanyahu https://www.juancole.com/2021/06/palestinian-brotherhood-democracy.html Tue, 08 Jun 2021 05:37:36 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=198251 Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Mervat Oaf writes for al-Jazeera on how Mansour Abbas and his Muslim Brotherhood-inspired United Arab List became unlikely kingmakers in Israeli politics.

Israelis of Palestinian heritage comprise a little over 20 percent of the Israeli population, and most of them are Muslims. Their politics, however, has skewed toward leftist parties. In contrast, a minority supported Muslim fundamentalism, inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood. Sheikh Abdallah Nimr Darwish founded the Islamic Movement in 1971. In 1996 the leadership decided to run for seats in the Israeli parliament, which caused the movement to split. The northern branch headed by Sheikh Raed Salah rejected entering Israeli politics and adopted a radical stance, sometimes openly expressing sympathy with the Hamas Party over the Green Line, though there is no evidence it engaged in violence. It was ultimately banned. The southern branch, guided by Darwish and headed by Sheikh Hamad Abu Daabs, was determined to enter the Israeli civic sphere, and condemned Holocaust denialism. So you had rejectionist fundamentalists and accommodationist fundamentalists.

This pattern of some on the religious Right rejecting the status quo while some cooperate with it can be seen throughout the Muslim world. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood was driven underground after the 2013 military coup and they reject the al-Sisi government, whereas the Salafi fundamentalists are quietists and happy to support the state (Salafis also run for parliament in Egypt). Like the US religious Right, the Muslim religious Right cooperates with political parties in hopes of shaping legislation in a conservative, fundamentalist direction– fighting back against women’s rights, against projects of the Left, against government interference with private property.

Mansour Abbas, born 1974, was trained as a dentist at Hebrew University and practiced before entering politics. He joined the southern branch of the Islamic Movement, got elected to parliament, and ultimately came to head a small parliamentary block of Muslim fundamentalists. His party joined with the Joint Arab List (JAL), which includes leftists and Palestinian nationalists, and which won an astounding 15 seats in an Israeli parliament of 120 seats in 2019. The Jewish parties, however, refused to deal with the UAL and froze it out of their coalitions.

In early 2021, some leaders of the United Arab List, such as Ayman Odeh, expressed support for gay rights. Mansour Abbas and his colleagues were outraged, and they withdrew from the JAL, forming what they called, confusingly enough, the United Arab List. In the recent round of elections, The leftist Joint Arab List won 6 seats, and the fundamentalist United Arab List won 4 seats.

Before the election, Mansour Abbas gave a prime time address to the Israeli public in which he argued for the coexistence in the Holy Land of Jews, Christians and Muslims. Being a Muslim fundamentalist, he abandoned the rhetoric of Palestinian nationalism, which made him seem less threatening to the Israeli political establishment.

After the last election, neither the far right wing Binyamin Netanyahu nor his main rival, centrist Yair Lapid, could put together a 61-seat majority with the Jewish parties. Abbas made it clear that his United Arab List was available for coalition-building. Natanyahu toyed with the idea, but his coalition includes far right Jewish religious parties who vowed never to form a government with the help of Muslim Palestinian-Israelis.

So then the centrist and thriller writer Lapid was able to pick up the United Arab List as one of eight diverse parties in his coalition, with those four seats getting him to 61. He wooed the right wing extremist Naftali Bennett and his small Yamina Party with an offer to rotate the prime ministership, letting Bennett go first, for two years.

Israeli politicians have fulminated against the Muslim Brotherhood for decades as a dire threat to Israel, so it is ironic, to say the least, that this Israeli government would depend on a Brotherhood-inspired party for its very existence.

The tale of how we got here is also in some ways not very edifying. The United Arab List split from the other Arab parties in Israel because its members are bigoted toward gays. They were rejected as a coalition partner by Netanyahu’s allies because those are bigoted toward Arabs. Lapid’s eight-party coalition of leftists, Jewish estremists, and Muslim fundamentalists is driven by a visceral hatred of Netanyahu, who in his 12 years as prime minister has made successive power grabs and deeply wounded Israeli democracy.

From another point of view, if the new government takes power, it would be a sign of Israel being integrated further into the Middle East. Pro-Muslim parties in Tunisia and Morocco have also been in coalition with leftist and nationalist parties. If Libya can emerge from its civil war, that will also require a big tent coalition of Muslim fundamentalists and Libyan nationalists. This time, at least, Israeli politics looks much more Middle Eastern than Central European.


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