Middle East Monitor – Informed Comment https://www.juancole.com Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion Mon, 06 Feb 2023 05:24:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.7.8 International perspectives on apartheid and decolonization in Palestine https://www.juancole.com/2023/02/international-perspectives-decolonization.html https://www.juancole.com/2023/02/international-perspectives-decolonization.html#respond Mon, 06 Feb 2023 05:04:01 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=209903 By Omar Ahmed | –

(Middle East Monitor ) – A conference was held in London yesterday, hosted by MEMO entitled “International perspectives on apartheid and decolonization in Palestine” and included a diverse group of academics and writers discussing three broad themes: apartheid, genocide and decolonisation.

Dr Daud Abdullah, the Director of MEMO, kicked off the event by welcoming all attendees and those watching the live stream. He pointed out that “There are striking parallels between the socio economic conditions that exist in Palestine today and the degradation of the colonised peoples in the past.” This, he said was a consistent pattern in settler colonial regimes aimed at destroying and replacing indigenous populations of the Global South. However, the “tragedy” of Palestine need not remains constant, as Abdullah reminded that liberation ebbs and flows, “it comes in waves and it subsides.”

Conference in London on February 04, 2023 [Middle East Monitor]

In the formal opening address, Professor Joseph Massad provided a lecture on the historical roots of the Palestinian issue, namely Zionism, which he explained started off as a Christian Protestant movement, and not a Jewish cause dating back to the 16th century. By the 18th century, this increasingly secular ideology would eventually evolve into the idea that European Jews are directly linked with the Asiatic, ancient Hebrews of the Middle East. These are key Zionist arguments which are continually being used to justify the on-going colonisation of Palestine. This Zionist project, in true colonial fashion, went on to serving as a “buffer state” for the European powers. After the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, the Zionists started labelling the indigenous resistance as “anti-Semitism,” which has since become a central component of the project.

Academics Suja Sawafta and Sara Husseini shed light on the dynamics of settler-colonialism, both past and present as the topic of the day’s first panel. Suja spoke of the relevance of Orientalism, without which one would find it impossible to talk about the plight of the Palestinian people. As with other settler-colonialists, Zionists appropriated notions of supremacy and “othering” the native people of Palestine, who would be portrayed as less civilised and in need of being saved from their own “barbarity.” Sara who is the director of the British Palestinian Committee noted how the settler-colonialist and the apartheid state have essentially been omitted in prevailing discourse, with the “conflict paradigm” reduced to two peoples – Palestinians and Israelis fighting, in need of making peace. However, such an approach, she argued obscures the reality and the root causes of the issue. By extension, this narrative also obfuscates Britain’s facilitating role in the Nakba as the former mandatory power. This international impunity that Israel currently enjoys is being challenged, though, as mounting evidence of the apartheid state’s crimes become more widely available and publicised by civil society.

The second panel concerned “Apartheid as a prelude to genocidal practises”, and included contributions from Marc Owen Jones, an assistant professor of Middle East Studies at Hamad bin Khalifa University in Qatar who focusses on researching disinformation and digital media. Jones shed light on the “utopian and dystopian” contrasts in social media which have permeated across the world over the past decade, especially during the Arab Spring, where it was once thought that such digital technology could give a voice to the voiceless and oppressed, thereby challenging the power of the state. However, states especially in the Middle East have also co-opted this technology, often with the complicity of private companies for surveillance and to spread disinformation. He gave the example of how certain Gulf states have been utilising anti-Palestine hashtags, amid the surge in popular sentiments of solidarity being expressed by Arab netizens, particularly in opposition to the growing push for normalisation between Israel and Arab states. An interesting angle, was what Jones referred to as the emergence of “digital orientalism,” which is a situation where digital companies are treating the Global South with “minimum responsibility in terms of how they’re trying to abuse but also exploiting those places to make profits.” He gave the example of the genocide against the Rohingya in Myanmar and how Facebook acknowledged that it allowed hate speech to proliferate on its network without properly moderating the Burmese-language content.

Dutch-Palestinian Middle East researcher and analyst Mouin Rabbani discussed the apartheid state’s demographic engineering and fragmentation of the Palestinian people, both of which have been central to Israel’s strategy of colonisation. The very future of Israel’s existence, he said, depends to a large extent on the apartheid state’s ability to perpetuate these. However, he also noted that these practises also exist with the complicity of the West and indeed among the Palestinian Authority. This complicity in the fragmentation of the Palestinian people “is nothing short of criminal and tantamount to support for continued Israeli domination of Palestinian lives.”

The keynote address was delivered by Professor Michael Lynk, an associate professor at the University of Western Ontario and former UN Special Rapporteur for the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian Territories. In his experience, human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian Territories are rife and continuously getting worse, yet despite diplomats and policymakers being familiar with these illicit practises, nothing was being done, this in turn has spurred his own work on the subject. If the West or the Global North had taken the necessary action such as an end to trade and military agreements, Lynk contended, there would be an almost instantaneous end to the occupation.

The third and final panel session was on the topic of resistance and liberation. Cuban diplomat and director of the Research Centre for International Policy (CIPI) in Havana, Jose Ramon Cabañas spoke at length of the history of the Caribbean nation’s support for Palestine, highlighting that it even opposed the partition of Palestine, having itself been subjected to a colonial and later, an imperial power blockade.

Jeff Halper who self-identifies as “Jewish Israel” is an anthropologist and co-founder of “The One Democratic State Campaign” (ODSC) and was the last speaker on the panel and spoke optimistically of the one-state solution, a Palestinian-led movement. Halper who acknowledged he is a “settler” stressed that the liberation of Palestine must only come from the Palestinian people themselves. However, this will also depend on the outcomes of an “intra-Palestinian” conflict as to what the national agenda will resemble. The Palestinian liberation struggle Halper said, will exist within a wider struggle, in which “there’s not going to be the total liberation that the Palestinians have always dreamed of,” that is returning to the Palestinian nation, becoming Palestine again. He also cautioned that ending an apartheid state does not mean decolonisation, giving the example of South Africa, which although saw the end of the apartheid system, wasn’t decolonised immediately. Settler-colonialism is much larger than an apartheid regime. For Halper, both sides will have to contend with the fact that neither “nation” will be leaving and will be there to stay, hence the proposition of the “one-state” solution, which could in theory take three different forms. The most realistic being a shared state with “a new civic identity”.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor or Informed Comment.

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Thomas Friedman shows that liberal Jews have no Reason left to defend Israel https://www.juancole.com/2023/01/thomas-friedman-liberal.html Sun, 29 Jan 2023 05:02:27 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=209753 By Nasim Ahmed

( Middle east Monitor ) – I watched the recent discussion between Thomas Friedman and Peter Beinart with great interest. Friedman, a New York Times columnist and arguably the journalist who has most shaped the US debate over Israel-Palestine in recent decades, was invited onto Beinart’s podcast to talk about Zionism, the two-state solution and Israel’s latest far-right government.

Friedman spoke at length about the evolution of his thinking about Israel-Palestine and Zionism over the course of his life, and whether he thinks the two-state paradigm still makes sense, subjects which he has addressed in his many books on the Middle East and were not of much interest to me on this occasion. I was more interested to hear if he had anything more to say about his recent columns in the New York Times which highlighted powerfully a growing wedge between American Jews and Israel.

In his latest piece, Friedman urged US President Joe Biden to “save Israel” from becoming a bastion of zealotry. “Israel is on the verge of a historic transformation — from a full-fledged democracy to something less, and from a stabilising force in the region to a destabilising one,” said Friedman. “Can Joe Biden save Israel?” he asked, with the looming possibility of it turning into an “illiberal bastion of zealotry”. In December Friedman wrote another piece in the NYT under the headline “The Israel We Knew Is Gone”. In another column he asked, “What in the World Is Happening in Israel?”

In his interview with Beinart, Freidman was more cautious with his words than one would have expected after reading his NYT columns. For example, in “What in the World is Happening in Israel?” he argued that “the prospect for a two-state solution has all but vanished.” He even acknowledged that no one wants to formally declare it dead and buried, because categorically ruling it out would have enormous ramifications. Hence, diplomats, politicians and liberal Jewish organisations pretend that it still has a faint heartbeat.

In his remarks about the two-state solution during the Beinart interview, Friedman was not so keen to declare it dead and buried. He cited Palestinian pollsters to argue that it’s still the only viable option. “How do you make a difference which make this [Israel and Palestine] better for people on both sides on more days and in more ways?” That’s the principal which guides him, he said, while insisting that two states for two people inside historic Palestine remains the best option.

Both Friedman and Beinart are liberal Jews. Unlike Beinart, though — who has had a very public political conversion regarding Israel and Zionism — Friedman has been less willing to part company with his past loyalties. That, however, does not mean that he has not become disillusioned over the direction that Israel is taking. I sensed that the main reason Freedman is less trenchant in his views over Israel than Beinart is because, as one of the main commentators in the US on the Middle East, the NYT columnist is less concerned about the rights and wrongs of “the conflict” as much as he is about his audience. “Do you want to make a point, or do you want to make a difference?” is another of his key principals, Freidman said, shooting back with a prickly response when Beinart presented him with a charge sheet of Israeli crimes against the Palestinians, beginning with the ethnic cleansing in 1948 through to the crime of apartheid.

Having spent most of his professional career covering Israel and Palestine, usually in defence of the occupation state, Friedman has come to see himself as someone with influence not just in the US, but also in Israel, and therefore does not want to say anything to undermine his position. Being at the centre of the debate where one can influence the views of people one disagrees with is better than shouting from the outside. That is the logic, I guess, but it looks as though it’s the only thing that’s keeping Friedman from making a political conversion similar to Beinart’s few years ago.

The flaw in this is obvious. For a start, Israel’s trajectory since its founding has been moving away from everything liberals claim to value and respect. Despite their number and influence, liberal advocates of Israel have failed miserably to halt its transformation into an apartheid state. Instead of being a check on Israel’s behaviour, they checked-in their own values and principals. What difference has it made being “within” and part of the conversation, I’d like to ask Friedman and others like him. It seems to be a perfectly apt question.

Friedman did offer a possible explanation for Israel’s behaviour. The people he is “most angry” with are pro-Israel lobby groups like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and other American Jewish organisations. He accused them of doing the bidding of far-right Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Explaining Washington’s inability to hold Israel to account, he said that the US administration is where it is with regard to Israel because pro-Israel lobby groups “at every turn use their power and influence” to prevent America from adopting a “more serious and vigorous” policy. “Bibi [Benjamin] Netanyahu was able to speak to the US Congress because it was bought and paid for by AIPAC,” he said, underlining the influence of the pro-Israel lobby in Washington.

During their discussion, Friedman and Beinart spoke briefly about the allegation that Israel practices apartheid and the claim that criticism of Zionism is anti-Semitic, a view which is being pushed through the adoption of the highly controversial International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism. The view that Israel practices apartheid should not be controversial, said Friedman. He has used the term himself, and many Israeli leaders have warned that the state would preside over an apartheid system if it failed to grant Palestinians their rights. As for criticism of Zionism being ant-Semitic, he said he just won’t go there, because such a proposition is ridiculous.

This was an interesting discussion. In agreeing to take part, Thomas Friedman has demonstrated that liberal Jews have no reason left to defend Israel.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor or Informed Comment.

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Having brought in Disruptive Israeli Extremists, Can Netanyahu’s Government Survive? https://www.juancole.com/2023/01/disruptive-extremists-netanyahus.html Wed, 25 Jan 2023 05:06:08 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=209665 By Motasem A Dalloul | –

( Middle East Monitor ) – Before it was formed, the new far-right Israeli government coalition has been plagued with disputes and disagreements, despite the fact that all of its members are from the right-wing parties and all of them, at least, share the same principles, although each Party has its own procedures to achieve the common goals.

In order to appease, for example, the leaders of the extremist far-right Jewish parties, such as Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir, head of the Likud Benjamin Netanyahu, was obliged to invent new ministries and create new jobs with others.

Far-right, ultra-nationalist Religious Zionism Party leader, Bezalel Smotrich, became Finance Minister and had a position of Minister in the Defence Ministry to follow up his own plans to create and promote settlements, leading to the full annexation of the Occupied West Bank.

Netanyahu was obliged to modify the mission of the Ministry of Internal Security or Ministry of Public Security in order to give certain authority to extremist Otzma Yehudit leader, Itamar Ben Gvir, to follow up his extremist and provocative plans in the Occupied Territories and his ministry’ was named the Ministry of National Security.

It seems that Netanyahu brought them to the ring by signing the coalition agreement, but he is trying to go ahead with his government based on his own plan. The dismantling of the illegal Jewish settler outpost of Or Chaim, which was built on a strategic hilltop in the northern West Bank, was a demonstration of what has been going on.

This incident disclosed a likely chronic conflict between Netanyahu, on the one hand, and Ben Gvir and Smotrich, on the other.  Israeli Defence Minister, Yoav Gallant, gave his orders to dismantle the illegal settlement, despite the strong opposition of both far-right extremist ministers.

“Minister Smotrich issued an order this morning, in accordance with his authority, to the head of the Civil Administration to stop the evacuation and to take no action until he could hold a discussion on the issue at the start of the week,” a statement issued by Smotrich’s office said.

“Defence Minister Gallant ordered the evacuation to go ahead, despite the order and without consulting with Minister Smotrich, and completely against the coalition agreements that form the basis for the existence of the government.”

Ben Gvir commented on the incident saying: “It’s not right that when Arabs build in Judea and Samaria (West Bank), the Civil Administration does not uphold the law, but when it’s Jews they come within hours to destroy the outpost.”

National Missions Minister, Orit Strock, from Smotrich’s Religious Zionism party tweeted: “Mr Prime Minister, coalition agreements must be respected and this is 100 per cent your responsibility.”

In addition to the disputes among the coalition parties, Netanyahu is facing a very challenging dilemma – massive anti-government protests have erupted over the planned judicial overhaul aimed to dismantle the High Court of Justice of its strong tools that rein in illegal government procedures.

On Saturday, Israeli police estimated that some 100,000 Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv, protesting Netanyahu’s plan to overhaul the judicial system. It is the second massive demonstration staged last week, for the same reason. Protesters raised Israeli flags and placards that read: “Our Children will not live in a Dictatorship” and “Israel, We Have A Problem.”

Opposition leader and former Prime Minister, Yair Lapid, who joined the protests, told media: “People came here today to protect their democracy.” Lapid and other opposition and former senior Israeli leaders have strongly criticised the judicial changes. Former Defence Minister, Moshe Yaalon, called on the Israelis to involve in “street battles” in order to undermine the judicial overhaul.

Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption, pledged, last week, to continue with the judicial overhaul plans, despite the protests. “They want to turn us into a dictatorship, they want to destroy democracy,” Al Jazeera reported the head of the Israeli Bar Association, Avi Chimi, saying. “They want to destroy judicial authority; there is no democratic country without a judicial authority.”

On Wednesday, the Israeli High Court ruled that the Deputy Prime Minister, Interior and Health Minister, Aryeh Deri, must be removed from his posts, pushing Netanyahu to fire him on Sunday. Firing Deri has caused a major problem for Netanyahu, as this is putting the seven seats in the Knesset of Deri’s Shas Party at stake.

The Israeli government coalition is made up of the Likud, which has only one fourth of the Knesset seats and is depending on the alliances with other small religious and fanatic parties, including Shas, the Jewish Power and Religious Zionism.

Facing all of these challenges, the government of Netanyahu – who is on trial for the corruption accounts – might not survive and Israel might go to the fifth election in less than three years.

“It will not be easy for the coalition government,” left-wing Israeli journalist, Meron Rapoport, told MEMO. “They [government partners] are in power less than a month, but already have many problems. I think they will survive the next months, but I am not sure thay will pass the budget so maybe we will have elections early next year.”

Speaking to MEMO, right-wing Israeli journalist, Baruch Yedid, said: “Netanyahu to survive following Deri’s ouster because he has enough support from other right-wing parties, but the protests [against the judicial overhaul] still posing a big danger for him.”

Yedid also said: “The pressure of the judicial system is gigantic, added to the massive political pressure from the US. So, the situation is not positive for Netanyahu.”

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor or Informed Comment.

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Netanyahu’s claim of Jewish exclusivity in Palestine must be challenged https://www.juancole.com/2023/01/netanyahus-exclusivity-challenged.html Mon, 23 Jan 2023 05:08:09 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=209627 By Iqbal Jassat | –

( Middle East Monitor ) – The defiant declaration by Benjamin Netanyahu that he is going to press ahead and complete Israel’s colonial project in Palestine must be challenged by the world. Regardless of international law and conventions, his government is going to continue to defy them.

Knowing full well that Israel has America’s backing, and that western capitals are far too scared to call him out, Netanyahu made the following brazen statement: “These are the basic lines of the national government headed by me: The Jewish people have an exclusive and unquestionable right to all areas of the Land of Israel. The government will promote and develop settlement in all parts of the Land of Israel — in the Galilee, the Negev, the Golan, Judea and Samaria.”

This leaves no room for ambiguity. He has set out the outcome of his pact agreed with the small far-right parties in what has been described as the “most extreme” right-wing regime in Israeli history. The implications of this for the Palestinians are dire; Netanyahu and his ghastly regime intend to ethnically cleanse them.

His categoric statement implies that Palestinians either do not exist or, if they do, they have no right to continue living in Palestine, to which “the Jewish people have an exclusive and unquestionable right to all areas”. Netanyahu, of course, uses the term “the Land of Israel”, but in case some apologists for apartheid Israel try to play down the enormity of Netanyahu’s declaration by suggesting that he is referring to the 1949 Armistice (“Green”) Line, do not be misled.

By spelling out and identifying the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) in Zionist terms as “Galilee, Negev, Golan, Judea and Samaria”, all of which are, he says, “parts of the Land of Israel” earmarked for development with more illegal Jewish settlements, he has expressed the unambiguous intention to expand and entrench the settler-colonial state across all of occupied Palestine. And perhaps even beyond. Israel, remember, has never declared where its borders are; it’s the only UN member state not to do so.

Such unilateral expansionism is not unique to the current regime because all previous Israeli governments since 1948 have conducted similar illegal and immoral projects including land grabs, forced evictions and the creation of “facts on the ground”. This enforced Judaisation of Palestine has been at the core of Zionism’s colonial project. Now Netanyahu has reiterated his regime’s commitment to complete it. Moreover, he has made that commitment in public, in full view of the world’s media; he is both brazen and unrepentant about it.

In doing so, he has exposed for all to see that the whole “peace process” and so-called “diplomatic” moves have been and remain shameless charades. He has thus pulled the rug from under the feet of the UN. The question now arises as to whether this international institution will react and, if so, what its response will be.

The same can be asked of Israel’s Western allies. Will they continue to behave like proverbial ostriches and stick their collective heads into the ground? After all, the US and Western Europe are complicit in Israel’s war crimes against the Palestinians.

Ever since the British colonial era, which implanted Israel in the heart of the Muslim world, the Zionist regime has been a major source of destabilisation, terror and wars in the region and beyond. Indeed, as an integral part of the West’s military industrial complex, Israel has amassed a massive arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, making it extremely dangerous. It is a rogue state totally out of control; its recklessness is evident in Netanyahu’s bravado.

However, instead of a comprehensive review and assessment by the US to realign its policy on Israel in line with global conventions on human rights, true to form the Biden administration has opted to reward it. Writing in Mondoweiss, Mitchell Plitnick reminds us of Biden’s recent elevation of Israel to a “full military partner” that, apart from setting a “dangerous precedent”, actually works against US interests.



Plitnick’s warning is backed up by analyst Paul Pillar, who correctly points out that: “The risks of a closer military relationship with Israel centre on Israel’s tendency to get involved in deadly scrapes. Israel is the Middle Eastern state that has thrown its military weight around, with multiple attacks on other nations, more than any other state in the region. Israel has repeatedly initiated wars, including the big one in 1967, which began with an Israeli attack on Egypt. Later came repeated Israeli invasions of Lebanon, multiple devastating military attacks on the Palestinian-inhabited Gaza Strip, an attack on an Iraqi nuclear reactor (an attack that revived and accelerated a covert Iraqi nuclear weapons programme), and a later similar attack in Syria.”

These warnings should not be treated lightly, especially by countries such as South Africa, whose foreign policy in respect of Israel needs to undergo radical transformation. That the ANC-led government has recalled its ambassador and campaigns vigorously on various platforms, including the African Union, falls far short of the expectations that Palestinians very rightly have of post-Apartheid South Africa.

In the Middle East, apartheid Israel has by far outstripped the evils of South Africa’s racist regime, yet retains a proud presence in Pretoria with its flag fluttering in the skies of a democratic country. It is shameful that Israelis are able to travel freely from Tel Aviv to Johannesburg and Cape Town without any hurdles, while Palestinians are burdened with severe visa restrictions.

It is equally deplorable that many South African Jewish citizens serve in Israel’s occupation army, an army of terrorists that’s known to be engaged in horrific crimes against Palestinians in a daily ritual of slaughter. These include war crimes and crimes against humanity.

These facts scream at us in news reports, television broadcasts and social media platforms. And while President Cyril Ramaphosa routinely expresses the South African government’s dismay at all of this, such words are hopelessly inadequate. If apartheid South Africa was subjected to sanctions by the UN and isolated by the community of nations, surely consistency in enforcing the same against the apartheid state of Israel is a reasonable expectation?

Netanyahu’s declaration is not only a reminder that Israel is a serial violator of international law, but also dares the world to take punitive measures by subjecting his regime to sanctions and isolation. Will South Africa step up to take on this challenge? Does it have any other option?

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor or Informed Comment.


Why 1.8 Billion Muslims are Furious: By Status Quo, Jordan is supposed oversee their 3rd Holiest Shrine, in Jerusalem, but Israel won’t Let it https://www.juancole.com/2023/01/supposed-holiest-jerusalem.html Fri, 20 Jan 2023 05:04:20 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=209559 By Motasem A Dalloul | –

( Middle East Monitor ) – Israeli occupation forces detained the Director of Al-Aqsa Mosque, Sheikh Omar Al-Kiswani, as he entered the Noble Sanctuary on Tuesday. He was humiliated and searched before being allowed to enter the Islamic holy site.

Last week, the Israeli occupation forces delayed Britain’s Minister for the Middle East, Lord Tariq Ahmad, for more than half an hour while he was visiting Al-Aqsa Mosque. The minister was subjected to a prolonged security check at the Lions Gate (Bab Al-Asbat).

The occupation state went further on Wednesday when it prevented Jordanian Ambassador to Israel Ghassan Majali from entering Al-Aqsa Mosque, claiming that there had been no coordination for his visit. Witnesses saw Israeli military policy surrounding Majali as his bodyguards tried to prevent them from touching the ambassador and clear the way for him, but the police insisted on turning him back.

In response, Amman summoned the Israeli ambassador to protest against the humiliation of its ambassador. Jordanian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Sinan Majali said that a “strongly-worded letter of protest” was handed to the Israeli ambassador “to be delivered immediately to his government.”

He stated that the letter made it clear that “the Kingdom condemns all measures aimed at unacceptable interference in the affairs of Al-Aqsa Mosque, and reminds Israel that the Jordan-run Jerusalem Awqaf and Al-Aqsa Affairs Department has the exclusive authority to administer the holy site’s affairs and manage entries to the site.”

Majali noted that the letter stressed how important it is that, “Israel, as an occupying power, must adhere to its commitments under international law… regarding Jerusalem and its holy sites and Al-Aqsa Mosque in particular.” The letter pointed out that Jordan is the official and internationally-recognised custodian of Muslim and Christian holy places in Jerusalem.

This may be true in terms of the letter of the law, but the reality on the ground is very different. I report almost every day on Israeli violations against the Palestinian people and their land and property, as well as the holy sites “under Jordanian custodianship”. From what I observe, I can say that Jordan is under the power of the Israeli occupation and has nothing to do with Jerusalem. It has not even been able to protect its own national honour and dignity there, as the incident with the ambassador demonstrated.

Since it swept the Jordanians out of East Jerusalem in 1967, Israel has had the upper hand over the people, land and holy sites in the occupied territory, including Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest place on earth for all Muslims, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, one of the most sacred sites for Christians.

As the occupying power, apartheid Israel has an obligation under international law to maintain the status quo in occupied Jerusalem until the determination of its final status through peaceful negotiations. That status quo arose out of the events of 1948 onwards.

In 1948, Zionist terror gangs occupied West Jerusalem and its neighbourhoods, taking 85 per cent of the city. Jordan controlled the Old City and some neighbourhoods and villages, amounting to 11 per cent. The remaining 4 per cent was regarded as no man’s land where the UN placed its headquarters. According to the 1947 UN Partition Plan for Palestine, Jerusalem was supposed to be an international city.

Following the creation of the occupation state, Israel declared West Jerusalem to be its capital and Jordan annexed East Jerusalem to the West Bank, which was under its control. Both acted in defiance of the UN partition resolution.

In 1967, Israel occupied the rest of Palestine, including the Gaza Strip, which had been controlled by Egypt, and the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The occupation state duly annexed East Jerusalem and extended its sovereignty over all of the holy city. That annexation has never been recognised in international law.

Indeed, according to international law, Israel is a belligerent occupier of the territories beyond the acknowledged borders in place at the beginning of June, 1967, which were based on the 1949 Armistice (“Green”) Line. As such, it is obliged, according to the UN and legal experts, to act according to international humanitarian law in the occupied territories.

Article 4 and 47 of the Fourth Geneva Convention prevents belligerent occupiers from annexing the occupied territories or imposing its sovereignty over them. The status quo mentioned above must be maintained.

Jordanian custodianship followed the decision in 1924 of the Supreme Muslim Council, the highest Muslim body in charge of Muslim community affairs in Mandatory Palestine, to choose Hussein Bin Ali, grandfather of Jordan’s King Abdullah II, to be custodian of Al-Aqsa Mosque. Custodianship became a Hashemite legacy administered by consecutive Jordanian monarchs.

In 1994, when Jordan signed a peace deal with the Israeli occupation state, the treaty recognised Jordan’s role as custodian of Christian and Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem. In 2013, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and King Abdullah II signed an agreement to “defend Jerusalem and its holy sites”. The agreement between Abbas and Abdullah confirmed the 1924 decision to choose the Hashemites as custodians of Jerusalem.

However, Israel has no respect for international laws and agreements. If the international community does nothing to rein-in the occupation state, and the UN Security Council is not willing to implement Chapter 7 of the UN Charter (“Action with Respect to Threats to the Peace…”), why does Jordan not take serious measures to protect Al-Aqsa Mosque and its own custodianship in the holy city?

Israel allows its extreme far-right ministers and illegal settlers to invade Al-Aqsa Mosque with impunity, and now it has stopped a Jordanian ambassador from entering the Noble Sanctuary. What else can we expect to see? Sadly, I see the total occupation of the holy city by Israel. It has already declared that Jerusalem is the “undivided” capital of the state, de facto annexation has already happened. With the helpless UN watching on, Israel shows its contempt for Jordan, the Palestinians and international law knowing full well that it too can act with impunity.

“All decisions regarding the Temple Mount [Al Aqsa Mosque] and Jerusalem will be made by the Israeli government,” said the then Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett last year. “It holds sovereignty over the city, without any foreign considerations. We certainly reject any foreign interference in the decisions of the Israeli government. A united Jerusalem is the capital of only one state – the State of Israel.”

Jordan has done nothing to protect its historic custodianship over the Islamic and Christian holy sites in the city of Jerusalem, so is the Hashemite Kingdom really the custodian today? In name only, perhaps it is, but the reality on the ground tells a completely different story.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor or Informed Comment.

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Have Israeli Extremists Ben-Gvir and Smotrich set Sights on Ethnic Cleansing of Palestinians? https://www.juancole.com/2023/01/extremists-cleansing-palestinians.html Wed, 11 Jan 2023 05:06:44 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=209366 By Feras Abu-Helal | –

( Middle East Monitor ) – At the end of last month, Benjamin Netanyahu formed the most extreme Israeli government since the Occupation of Palestine in 1948. The government includes two of the most racist and extremist politicians, namely Itamar Ben-Gvir, head of the Otzma Yehudit  Party, and Bezael Smotrich, head of the Religious Zionism Party.

The afore-mentioned Ministers are followers of the late extremist Rabbi Meir Kahane, whose party was banned from participating in the Knesset elections in the 1980s and was classified as a terrorist group in the US.

The two Ministers adopt an extremely extremist ideology, to the extent that former Israeli Prime Minister, Yair Lapid, described Ben-Gvir as the most

irresponsible man in the Middle East, in the context of his comment on the recent provocative storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque last week.

TVc: “Israel Tells Police To Remove Palestine Flags From Public Spaces”

As for Smotrich, he is a fascist politician who was accused by the former deputy head of the Shin Bet, which is Israel’s internal security agency, of terrorism and of planning to carry out attacks against main roads in Gaza during the Occupation army’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005. Although he denies these accusations, his extremist ideas are clear and cannot be denied.

The transfer policy, which involves putting pressure on Palestinians to emigrate from their country, is the most dangerous idea in the ideology of the two

extremist Ministers. Smotrich said, during a session of the Knesset in 2021, that Ben-Gurion “should have finished the job” and expelled all Palestinians from Israel (Palestine) after the 1948 war.

On another occasion, he said that Arab and Muslim politicians, in general, who hold Israeli citizenship and do not recognise the authority of Israel, should be prevented from residing in it (i.e. in their country and the land of their ancestors). As for Ben-Gvir, he confirmed in a televised interview that the government should establish a Ministry of Immigration to encourage the Palestinians to leave their country (meaning expel them) if they “hate Israel or do not believe in it”.

The population of Israel is about 9.7 million, of which 74 per cent are Jews and 21 per cent are Arabs, according to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics. The Jewish majority has been declining annually since 2009, when it was 80 per cent in that year, while the percentage of Palestinians has gradually increased during this period.

This demographic change – in its slightness – constitutes a great concern for the Israeli right wing, but the greatest concern for the majority of Israeli politicians is the demographic change in all of historical Palestine, including the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, where the Jewish majority has declined to almost half, according to The Economist and the Palestinian and Israeli statistics bureaus.

The issue of demographic distribution in historical Palestine has always been a fundamental issue in Zionist politics. For some, it represents a dilemma for the so-called Israeli “democracy”, because no real democracy prevents part of the population from their electoral/democratic right based on their identity, gender or religion. At the same time, granting the Palestinians this right in all of historic Palestine will threaten the so-called “Jewishness of Israel”. Therefore, the Israeli left considers the two-state project the only way to solve this dilemma, while the right and the far right, which has dominated Israeli politics for years, reject this strategy, making the idea of “transferring” the Palestinians from their country an important matter in the political debate today in the Occupation State.

While the policy of expulsion and displacement towards the Palestinians is not new, what is new is that it has become not limited to them, but rather has extended with the rise of the extreme right to include the Jews. Ben-Gvir says he wants to expel Jewish politicians who are “disloyal to Israel” to Europe. As for Smotrich, he is trying, along with another group of religious MKs, to abolish the “grandchild clause” from the so-called Israeli Law of Return, which gives the right to third-generation Jews to immigrate to Occupied Palestine.

Smotrich said recently that 70 per cent of immigrants from the countries of the former Soviet Union during the past months are not Jews, considering this a great danger to the majority of the Jewish nation and a “Jewish ticking time bomb” that must be dealt with.

The Occupying state deprived the Palestinians from the right to return to their homeland, despite the international resolutions confirming this right while, at the same time, it approved what it calls the “Law of Return” for the Jews since the displacement of the Palestinians and the establishment of a state on their ruins in 1948. Historically, the entire Israeli political spectrum, including the Zionist left, opposed the Right of Return for the Palestinians, though some of them are now at risk of deportation from the apartheid state they supported, if the far right’s strategy succeeds.

There is only one thing confirmed by reality and history, which is that any attempt to deport the Palestinians from their country to solve the “demographic problem” will not succeed. On the one hand, the Palestinians have been, generation after generation, for seventy years dreaming of returning to their country, and every Palestinian home still contains their “key of return” as a symbol of this right, including in the refugee camps, in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and all over the world. On the other hand, the Arab countries neighbouring Palestine cannot receive more waves of refugees in light of their instability and miserable economic conditions, in addition to the fact they are already suffering from political problems related to refugees.

Renowned Jewish academic, Avi Shalaim, says, “Anti-Semitism is not an Arab phenomenon, it is a European phenomenon. Zionism is not an Eastern phenomenon, rather a European phenomenon. It is a solution to the problem of Jews in Europe (after the Holocaust).” The Europeans wanted to solve the “Jewish problem” by establishing an Occupying State in Palestine, but in doing so, they created a new problem, which is the “Palestinian issue”.

Perhaps the irony of history is that the Kahane followers in the new Zionist government want to export this problem to Europe, which created this problem in the first place. This approach seems clear in the statements by Ben-Gvir and Smotrich, as it was in the ideology of their late extremist inspiration, Meir Kahane.

European countries will not be able to accept the idea of displacing the Palestinians and welcoming them, especially in light of the rise of the extreme right and anti-immigration in Europe. Arab countries will not be able to receive more immigrants for the reasons we mentioned, and the Palestinians will not accept immigration again. Therefore, there is only one solution to the Palestinian issue, which is the return of the Palestinian refugees to their homeland.

This article first appeared in Arabic in Arabi21 on 9 January 2023

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor or Informed Comment.

Via Middle East Monitor

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Is Israel Being Turned into a Jewish Theocracy? https://www.juancole.com/2023/01/israel-turned-theocracy.html Mon, 09 Jan 2023 05:08:17 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=209286 By Mohammad Makram Balawi | –

( Middle East Monitor ) = Benjamin Netanyahu, the longest serving prime minister of Israel, built his entire career on confronting Iran. His argument is, Iran is building a nuclear weapon and its intent on using it against Israel and wiping out the Jewish people and he is the only person who can stop the genocide. After decades of Israeli propaganda, Iran has not built a nuclear weapon nor attacked Israel. However, Netanyahu continues with the same rhetoric.

Ironically, after all this demonisation of Iran, Netanyahu has built a government which seems very keen on making Israel a Jewish copy of Iran. His partners from the religious ultra-Orthodox parties, such as Bezalel Smotrich, made it very clear that their goal is to make Israel a state governed by the Torah and Jewish law.

In fact, more than half of the ministers of his government – 16 out of the 31 ministers – are from religious parties, such as Religious Zionism and Jewish Power, Netayahu’s own Likud party MKs are not exactly liberal, on the contrary they have strong inclinations towards the far right.

Indeed, Israel which was mainly built by Jewish European migrants, and always saw itself as an integral part of the more advanced Western civilisation, looks more and more like a Middle Eastern country; a highly militarised country, lacking political stability and social cohesion, deriving its existence and legitimacy from God Himself, with a ruler who has been ruling for decades.

Ben Caspit recently wrote in Al-Monitor: “Netanyahu is not known for being religious, not observing Kashrut dietary laws nor the Sabbath. He has never been spotted in tefillin (leather strips used in Jewish prayers). Netanyahu, a Western-educated, ostensibly secular realist, is now trapped in his new persona as messiah of a camp with which he has little in common.”

To appease his ultra-orthodox Jewish partners, Netanyahu is to amend the legislation which allows every Jew to get Israeli citizenship, and put more religious restrictions and laws redefining who is a Jew in first place, and therefore who is entitled to be an Israeli citizen. This will lead to a selective process in which only those who meet the ultra-orthodox parameters will be allowed in, and will also reduce the number of Jewish immigrants to Israel. It is a demographic plan to change the social makeup of Israel, by increasing the number of religious Jews who have big families, described by Netanyahu himself as an economic burden. This selective process will decrease the number of non-religious Jews, and will eventually enable religious Jews to permanently control every detail in the state.

In his speech to the Knesset, Netanyahu set three major objectives for his government; confronting Iran’s attempts to have nuclear weapons, improving infrastructure including building a bullet train and expanding normalisation agreements with Arab countries. Two objectives which he did not mention by which are in his new government’s guidelines are expanding illegal Jewish-only settlements in the occupied West Bank and stressing the state’s Jewish identity.

Many now question whether, under a religious government, expectant mothers will be able to get medical attention on a Saturday or whether the tourism industry will continue to operate on the Jewish Sabbath, when a pious Jew should not work instead dedicating time to worship.

Although Netanyahu put Iran as the top priority in his speech, the coalition guidelines put it as the sixth or seventh point, and instead stress plans to illegally strengthen Israel’s grip on the occupied Golan Heights, the West Bank and Jerusalem. They fail to mention the Palestinians. This reflects the real intentions of this government, which is basically usurping what is left of the West Bank through building more Jewish-only settlements, Judaising Jerusalem and achieving diplomatic relations with Arab countries.

Each and every minister in Netanyahu’s government; Yoav Galant, Bezalel Smotrich, Aryeh Deri, Itamar Ben-Gvir, Ofir Sofer, Miri Regev, Orit Strook … etc, has his or her own personal radical agenda for Israel. On Tuesday, Ben-Gvir stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque, causing angry reactions from the Arab and Muslim world. As a result of this criticism, Netanyahu cancelled a planned visit to the UAE.

Will the “most extreme government in the history of Israel” be able to function? What objectives will it achieve? How long will it last? Where is the region heading? These are the questions which we will see answered in the coming months.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor or Informed Comment.

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Ben-Gvir is seeking a prominent spot within Netanyahu’s next coalition – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

Why the Middle East is moving and must move away from Oil and Gas https://www.juancole.com/2023/01/middle-east-moving.html Sat, 07 Jan 2023 05:02:21 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=209305 By Elif Selin Calik | –

( Middle East Monitor ) – In 2022, the biggest energy issue in the Middle East was Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) oil cut as the world economy entered into a period of ‘heightened uncertainty and rising challenges’. In October, OPEC cut its 2022 forecast for growth in world oil demand for a fourth time since April and also trimmed next year’s figure, citing slowing economies, the resurgence of China’s COVID-19 containment measures and high inflation.

On the other hand, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 has become a factor that increases the importance of the Middle East in terms of regional and global energy policies. Especially in the European-centred energy crisis that started with Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, energy resources in the Middle East began to be considered as an alternative. This brought about the increasing importance of the Middle East in global politics. As a matter of fact, it is possible to evaluate the gap left by the USA in the regional policy of 2022 as a year that China is trying to take centre stage. The Middle East has an important place in the “Belt and Road Project” designed by China as the “New Silk Road”. China is trying to become an effective power on the energy policy as well as the trade line it wants to establish.

France 24: “Egypt is turning to Solar Power

Relatedly, the Middle East is an indispensable energy source for China. Being the world’s largest oil importer, China imports more than 10 million barrels of crude oil per day, half of which is from Middle Eastern countries. According to the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organisation, trade between Sino-Arab countries has increased nearly 10 times in the last 17 years. The trade volume between the two sides increased from $36.7 billion in 2004, when the China-Arab Cooperation Forum was established, to $330 billion in 2022. Looking at the 2022 data, there is a decrease in crude oil imported by China from Russia compared to the first quarter of 2022. In 2022, significant increases were seen in import rates from Middle Eastern countries such as Iraq, United Arab Emirates, Oman and Kuwait. The Strait of Hormuz is used as a transit route in order to meet its energy need.

It was also remarkable that China held a China-Arab Countries summit in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, in December 2022. At this point, one of the most important countries is Iraq. After the elections were held in Iraq in 2021, a government could be formed in more than a year. While the new Prime Minister of Iraq, Mohammed Shia Es-Sudani, first took steps in domestic politics, he seems to continue the “balance in foreign policy” approach, which tended to become more visible during the period of Mustafa Al-Kazemi. Sudani’s participation in the China-Arab Countries Summit and the statements he made there are remarkable in this sense. Sudani expressed his willingness to be a part of Iraq’s “New Silk Road”. At this point, it would not be wrong to say that Iraq is trying to relieve itself through cooperation in the region.

For decades, the Middle East has derived its wealth from its plentiful reserves of oil and gas. Middle East countries started to follow global pattern on renewable energy. Energy Transition in the Middle East shows that the power mix in Middle Eastern countries is dominated by thermal power, which accounted for more than 90 per cent of the total energy consumption in 2022, with the main source of fuel being natural gas. Despite the lack of energy policies and technology for renewables in the region, rich Gulf countries such as Qatar and the UAE have taken robust initiatives to enforce policies in their individual domains. One such example is the regulatory policy for electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure released by the Abu Dhabi Department of Energy in May 2022, aiming to establish a concrete framework for the ownership and management of EVS.

In 2023, the Middle East should not keep all their energy sources in one basket. As world oil demand in 2023 will rise by 2.25 million barrels per day (bpd), or about 2.3 per cent, according to the Mc Kinsey report, the region must find another way to produce energy. Oil and gas corporations in the region should explore sustainable substitutes to current energy generation methods, diversifying their assets, pouring funds into the development of renewable technology, such as solar, wind, nuclear, hydro and bio power. In that regard, emission capture Technologies for clean environment will play a key role in reducing the environmental impact of oil and gas operations in the region for the future of young generations.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor or Informed Comment.

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Jewish supremacy is state policy, says Netanyahu https://www.juancole.com/2023/01/jewish-supremacy-netanyahu.html Wed, 04 Jan 2023 05:06:04 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=209217 ( Middle East Monitor ) – American Jewish leaders are right to be worried. As Benjamin Netanyahu peels away at the façade that has maintained support for the occupation state within liberal Jewish constituencies in the US and elsewhere, they are discovering that their democratic image of Israel is but a figment of their imagination. Any remaining doubt about Israel’s identity was erased last week when Netanyahu declared that the preservation of Jewish supremacy will be state policy.

“The Jewish people have an exclusive and unquestionable right to all areas of the Land of Israel,” said Prime Minister Netanyahu at the head of the most extreme right-wing Israeli government ever. “The government will promote and develop settlement in all parts of the Land of Israel — in the Galilee, the Negev, the Golan, Judea and Samaria,” he added in a series of tweets which outlined his policy priorities.

According to the Palestinian legal centre Adalah, Netanyahu’s declaration went further than the 2018 Jewish National State Law, which defines self-determination as unique to the Jewish people within the “State of Israel”. Critics slammed the law as racist, because it denied the 20 per cent of Israel’s population who aren’t Jews the same rights as those granted to Jews. By declaring that the guiding principle of the new government is the preservation of Jewish supremacy in every inch of historic Palestine — “the Land of Israel” — including territories which are supposed to become a future Palestinian state, an Israeli prime minister has for the first time announced publicly that state policy in Israel will pursue the vision of Jewish extremists like the late Rabbi Meir Kahane. Although seen as a religious fanatic, the views of the founder of the proscribed terror group the Jewish Defence League (JDL) have become mainstream in Israeli politics.

Unsurprisingly, Netanyahu’s announcement provoked a backlash. Several Jewish leaders in the US warned Israeli officials that racist and extremist steps taken by the far-right government would greatly harm support for Israel from American Jews. Representatives of several mainstream US Jewish organisations which are said to be the “backbone of the pro-Israel community in the US” attended the meeting at which the warning was issued.

Jewish Voice Peace, a left-leaning US organisation, outlined the ramifications of Netanyahu’s announcement. “The new Israeli government is making Jewish supremacy official,” the group said on Twitter. “This means increasing Israel’s displacement, harm and possible expulsion of Palestinians. More land theft, greater restriction of movement, increased imprisonment, and more surveillance and censorship.”

JVL described the shift as a “brazen and horrifying effort to ensure the state of Israel protects Jews exclusively” and accused the new Israeli government of entrenching forms of settler colonialism and Jewish supremacy. “The Israeli government’s commitment to and reliance on settler colonialism has been evident since its beginning,” it continued, while labelling Netanyahu’s remarks as the “clearest iteration” of Israel’s practice of the crime of apartheid.

American academic Marc Lamont Hill, the author of Except for Palestine: The Limits of Progressive Politics, also reacted to Netanyahu’s comments. The former CNN commentator was fired in 2018 for a speech at the UN where he called for justice and equality in historic Palestine. “We have an opportunity to not just offer solidarity in words but to commit to political action, grassroots action, local action, and international action that will give us what justice requires and that is a free Palestine from the river to the sea,” said Lamont Hill. Predictably, his comments were denounced as anti-Semitic by Israel and supporters of the apartheid state who called for him to be fired from his job at Temple University in Philadelphia where he is professor of media studies.

“In these remarks, Netanyahu is declaring ALL areas of historic Palestine to be Israel including the West Bank and East Jerusalem,” added Lamont Hill. He shared Netanyahu’s tweet while also appearing to compare reactions to the Israeli prime minister’s remarks with his comments at the UN about establishing justice between the river and the sea. “He’s claiming everything from the Jordan RIVER to the Mediterranean SEA. Is this a call to genocide? Is this a clear cry to eliminate Palestinians?” asked Prof. Lamont Hill.


He explained that his point about using the slogan “from the river to the sea” — a chant often heard at pro-Palestine rallies — was not a call for violence and remains, in fact, the opposite of what Netanyahu is calling for. It’s hard to dispute Lamont Hill’s claim. Israel was founded on the ethnic cleansing of three-quarters of the Palestinian population of Palestine and has maintained its domination of the territory through a brutal military occupation and violence. Indeed, the ethnic cleansing has never stopped. Further entrenchment and expansion of the same racist regime that subjugates non-Jews will only be feasible through yet more state terrorism and state-sponsored violence.

“I call for justice in all regions of historic Palestine,” said the academic as he refuted the claim by one of his pro-Israel Twitter followers that the chant is anti-Semitic. In clarification, he said that he was pointing out how the same people who accused him of anti-Semitism are now silent when Netanyahu makes the same territorial statement in favour of Jewish supremacy.

Mark Lamont Hill is right to expose the double standards. No Western government or pro-Israel lobby group, including those which push the “two-state solution” — which Netanyahu’s plan will kill forever — has said anything about the expansion of a regime of Jewish supremacy over every inch of historic Palestine. As my fellow MEMO columnist Yvonne Ridley argued at the time in Lamont Hill’s defence, the pro-Israel lobby’s ongoing efforts to weaponise anti-Semitism were dealt a major blow when Temple University resisted pressure to sack the professor. They and the many Western governments subsidising the apartheid regime of Israel have now suffered another blow. They have nowhere to hide from the hypocrisy of their unquestioning support for the occupation state.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor or Informed Comment.

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