Middle East Monitor – Informed Comment https://www.juancole.com Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion Fri, 02 Jun 2023 04:22:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.7.9 A man without a Strategy: How Netanyahu is provoking Armed Intifada in the West Bank https://www.juancole.com/2023/06/strategy-netanyahu-provoking.html Fri, 02 Jun 2023 04:08:19 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=212373 Book Launch of Ramzy's Baroud latest book - The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story on 27 March, 2018 [Jehan Alfarra/Middle East Monitor]

After signing a military decree on 18 May, allowing illegal Israeli Jewish settlers to reclaim the abandoned Homesh settlement located in the northern Occupied West Bank, the Israeli government has informed the US Biden Administration that it will not turn the area into a new settlement.

The latter revelation was reported by Axios on 23 May. This contradiction is hardly surprising. While Israel’s far-right ministers, Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, know precisely what they want, Netanyahu is trying to perform an impossible political act: he wants to fulfil all the wishes of Ben-Gvir and Smotrich, but without veering off from the US political agenda in the Middle East, and without creating the circumstances that could eventually topple the Palestinian Authority.

Moreover, Netanyahu wants to normalise with Arab governments, while continuing to colonise Palestine, expand settlements and have complete control over Al-Aqsa Mosque and other Palestinian Muslim and Christian holy shrines.

Worse still, he wants, per the insistence of Ben-Gvir and his extremist religious constituency, to repopulate Homesh and create new outposts, while avoiding an all-out armed rebellion in the West Bank.

Concurrently, Netanyahu wants good relations with the Arabs and Muslims, while constantly humiliating, oppressing and killing Arabs and Muslims.

Indeed, such a feat is virtually impossible.

Netanyahu is not a novice politician who is failing at appeasing all his target audiences simultaneously. He is a right-wing ideologue, who uses the Zionist ideology and religion as the foundation of his political agenda. Anywhere else, especially in the Western world, Netanyahu would have been perceived to be a far-right politician.

One of the reasons that the West is yet to brand Netanyahu as such is that if there is a general agreement that Netanyahu is an affront to democracy, it would be difficult to engage with him diplomatically. While the likes of Italy’s far-right government of Giorgia Meloni, hosted Netanyahu last March, US President Joe Biden is yet to meet the Israeli leader in person, months after the latter composed his latest government of far-right religionists.

Netanyahu is aware of all these challenges, and that his country’s reputation, even among allies, is in tatters. The Israeli leader, however, is determined to persevere, for his own sake.

It took five elections in four years for Netanyahu to assemble a relatively stable government. New elections carry risks, as the opposition leader, Yair Lapid, is slated to win a majority of seats, if a sixth election is held.

But satisfying Ben-Gvir and others is turning Israel into a country governed by populist, nationalist leaders determined on instituting a religious war. Judging by the evidence on the ground, they might get what they want.

The truth is neither Ben-Gvir nor Smotrich has Netanyahu’s political savvy or experience. Rather, they are the political equivalent of bulls in a China shop. They want to sow the seeds of chaos and use the mayhem to further their agenda: more illegal settlements, more ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and, ultimately, a religious war.

Due to these pressures, Netanyahu, with an expansionist agenda of his own, is unable to follow a clear blueprint regarding how to fully annex large parts of the West Bank and render Palestinians permanently stateless. He cannot develop and maintain a consistent strategy because his allies have a strategy of their own. And, unlike Netanyahu, they care little for overstepping their boundaries with Washington, Brussels, Cairo or Amman.

This must be frustrating for Netanyahu who, through over 15 years in office, has developed an effective strategy based on several equilibriums. While slowly colonising the West Bank and maintaining a siege and occasional wars in Gaza, he also learned to feign the language of peace and reconciliation internationally. Though he had his own troubles with Washington in the past, Netanyahu often prevailed, with the support of the US Congress. And though he provoked Arab, Muslim and African countries on numerous occasions, he still managed to normalise ties with many of them.

His was a winning strategy, which he bragged about shamelessly at every election campaign. But it seems that the party is finally over.

Netanyahu’s new political agenda is now motivated by a single objective: his own survival or, rather, that of his family, several members of which are implicated by charges of corruption and nepotism. If the current Israeli government collapses under the weight of its own contradictions and extremism, it would be nearly impossible for Netanyahu to recover his position. If far-right parties abandon Netanyahu’s Likud, Israel will sink even deeper into a seemingly unending political crisis and social turmoil.

For now, Netanyahu will have to stay the course – that of unprovoked wars, deadly raids on the West Bank, attacks on holy shrines, repopulating or establishing new illegal settlements, allowing armed settlers to unleash daily violence against Palestinians and so on, regardless of the consequences of these actions.

One of these consequences is widening the armed rebellion to reach the rest of the Occupied West Bank.

For a few years now, the armed struggle phenomenon has been growing across the West Bank. In areas like Nablus and Jenin, armed Resistance groups have grown in power to the point that the PA is left with little control over these regions.

This phenomenon is also an outcome of the lack of a true Palestinian leadership that invests more in representing and protecting Palestinians against Israeli violence, rather than engaging in ‘security coordination’ with the Israeli military.

Now that Ben-Gvir and Smotrich’s followers are wreaking havoc in the West Bank in the absence of any protection for Palestinian civilians, Palestinian fighters are adopting the role of protectors. The Lions’ Den is a direct manifestation of this reality.

For Palestinians, armed resistance is a natural response to military occupation, apartheid and settler violence. It is not a political strategy per se. For Israel, however, violence is a strategy.

For Netanyahu, the frequent deadly raids on Palestinian towns and refugee camps translate into political assets that allow him to keep his extremist supporters happy. But this is short-term thinking. If Israel’s unchecked violence continues, the West Bank could soon find itself in an all-out military uprising against Israel and an open rebellion against the PA.

Then, no magic trick or balancing act by Netanyahu can possibly control the outcomes.

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

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Biden Administration to Combat Antisemitism, but won’t Shield Israel from Criticism https://www.juancole.com/2023/05/administration-antisemitism-criticism.html Wed, 31 May 2023 04:08:40 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=212319 Nasim Ahmed
( Middle East Monitor) – Supporters of Israel advocating for the controversial International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism have suffered a major blow in their ongoing effort to shield the apartheid state from criticism, following the release of a strategy document by the White House detailing its plan to combat the rise of anti-Jewish racism. Since at least 2016, anti-Palestinian groups have been clamouring to place the IHRA at the heart and centre of regulatory frameworks, which critics say is designed to police free speech on Israel and Palestine.

Yesterday, the US President Joe Biden had his say on the issue and the outcome is far from what advocates of the IHRA had been calling for. Instead of adopting the IHRA as the only definition of anti-Semitism, which hundreds of pro-Israel groups had been advocating for during consultation, its status has been demoted as one of the definitions of anti-Jewish racism alongside others that “serve as valuable tools to raise awareness and increase understanding of anti-Semitism.”

The White House’s strategy for combatting anti-Semitism refers to IHRA as “most prominent” but also “non-legally binding working definition” alongside other definitions it “welcomes and appreciates”. The US Administration also cites the non-controversial “Nexus Document” as a valid definition of anti-Semitism. Unlike the IHRA, the Nexus Document does not conflate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. Interestingly, the IHRA is only mentioned once in the report, alongside other less controversial definitions of anti-Semitism, that do not mention Israel.

Noticeably, the White House did offer its own definition of anti-Semitism: “Anti-Semitism is a stereotypical and negative perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred of Jews” said the strategy document, without mentioning Israel once. “It is prejudice, bias, hostility, discrimination or violence against Jews for being Jews or Jewish institutions or property for being Jewish or perceived as Jewish. Anti-Semitism can manifest as a form of racial, religious, national origin, and/or ethnic discrimination, bias, or hatred; or, a combination thereof. However, anti-Semitism is not simply a form of prejudice or hate. It is also a pernicious conspiracy theory that often features myths about Jewish power and control.”

To the disappointed of pro-Israel groups, the White House’s definition does not mention the apartheid state once. Seven of the eleven examples of anti-Semitism in the IHRA conflate criticism of Israel with ant-Jewish racism. Because of this fact, opponents of the IHRA have warned that instead of focusing on how to keep Jews safe, the so called “working definition” is fixated on shielding Israel from accountability. The Biden administration seems to be implicitly sympathetic to this view. With no mention of Israel in the White House’s own definition of anti-Semitism, there is no other way to interpret the position of the Biden administration other than to view it as a snub to advocates of the IHRA. Having campaigned hard and long to make sure that the IHRA was at the heart and centre of the White House’s strategy to combat anti-Semitism, it was mentioned once and only in passing.

The Biden administration’s strategy represents “the most comprehensive and ambitious US government effort to counter anti-Semitism in American history”. To develop this strategy, the White House held listening sessions with more than 1,000 diverse stakeholders across the Jewish community and beyond. These sessions have included Jews from diverse backgrounds and all denominations. The White House also met with Special Envoys who combat anti-Semitism around the globe to learn from their best practices. Bipartisan leaders in Congress and from across civil society, the private sector, technology companies, civil rights leaders, Muslim, Christian and other faith groups, students and educators and countless others were engaged during “listening sessions”.

A bitter row had ensued during the consultation period over the status of the IHRA. Though there is said to have existed a broad consensus that anti-Semitism in America is a crucial problem and must be addressed, some Jewish organisations tried to undermine this effort, according to Hadar Susskind, the President and CEO of Americans for Peace Now. By insisting on the prioritisation of the IHRA above all other issues, Susskind claimed that a number of American Jewish organisations had prioritised shielding Israel from criticism over combatting anti-Semitism.

“Rather than support this far-reaching  plan to truly combat anti-Semitism, there are those in our community who, instead, insist that this plan should be about the IHRA definition, and only the IHRA definition,” said Susskind on twitter, while revealing details of the polarisation in the Jewish community over the IHRA. “Why are some insisting that the IHRA definition is so unique that it alone is worthy of inclusion in this effort?” Susskind asked. “Why do those same people insist that the Nexus definition and the Jerusalem Declaration on Anti-Semitism are so unacceptable as tools to combat anti-Semitism?”

Explaining the difference, Susskind said that “the IHRA definition and only the IHRA definition has been weaponised by the Israeli government and those who defend its worst policies and actions”. He mentioned how the IHRA definition has been used repeatedly to define anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism and “honed into a weapon to shut down criticism of Israeli policy and discourse on Israel-Palestine.”

J Street, another liberal pro-Israel advocacy group, which had urged the Biden administration not to incorporate the IHRA in its strategy, also welcomed the report. “Importantly, the strategy avoids exclusively codifying any one specific, sweeping definition of anti-Semitism as the sole standard for use in enforcing domestic law and policy, recognising that such an approach could do more harm than good” said J Street. “While some voices have pushed the White House to give the full force of US law to the IHRA Working Definition of Anti-Semitism and its accompanying examples, the Biden Administration rightly cites this definition as just one of a range of illustrative and useful tools in understanding and combating anti-Semitism.”

J Street went on to add that it was supported by many other advocates in the Jewish community – including the definition’s original author, Kenneth Stern – in warning that the IHRA and examples of anti-Jewish racism cited in the definition have been used to focus attention disproportionately on criticism of Israel and advocacy of Palestinian rights.

In refusing to endorse the IHRA as the only definition of anti-Semitism, President Biden has shown that a genuine effort to combat the rise of anti-Jewish racism cannot have a document shielding Israel from accountability at the heart and centre of its strategy.

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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New Bill of Israel’s Extremist Gov’t Expels, bars from Universities Palestinian-Israeli Students who Raise Palestine Flag https://www.juancole.com/2023/05/universities-palestinian-palestine.html Sun, 28 May 2023 04:02:40 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=212260 ( Middle East Monitor ) – The extremist Israeli government is preparing a law to dismiss Israeli Arab students who raise the Palestine flag or express their support for Palestinian resistance inside universities, Israel Hayom revealed on Thursday.

An extremist Israeli Mk from the far-right Otzma Yehudit Party is preparing the law, the Israeli newspaper disclosed, pointing out that the draft law is currently in its final stages.

If an Arab student is charged with raising the Palestine flag or supporting the Palestinian resistance against the Israeli occupation, according to the law, they would be dismissed from their university.

Meanwhile, the law calls for academic institutions to prevent the existence of student bodies that violate Israeli laws.

According to the Israeli daily, heads of Israeli universities strongly criticised the law, stressing: “It is problematic and dangerous.”

Heads of Israeli universities expressed their hope that the education minister would undermine the law proposal at the Knesset’s Legislative Committee.

They suggested that such a law aims to turn universities into arms for the Israeli police and intelligence services as they would be ordered to monitor thousands of students and punish them over issues protected under the freedom of expression laws.

At the same time, the university heads indicated that such a law has consequences for the academic ties and status between Israeli universities and their international counterparts.

In addition, it would lead to a wide-scale wave of academic boycotts of Israeli universities.

Head of Tel Aviv University Ariel Porat responded to the law proposal: “The Palestinian Authority is not a hostile state or a terrorist organisation. Raising its flag is protected under the freedom of expression law.”

Porat added: “If we applied this law, we would be likely obliged to have a large number of our students away from the university. They would not bear this suppression and would not hesitate to raise the PA flag.”

The current Israeli government is the most extremist ever in Israel’s history. Since its formation last year, it has introduced several apartheid laws affecting Arabs in Israel and the Palestinians and encouraged illegal settlement.

Via Middle East Monitor

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Digital Data collected by Israel’s Electronic Wolves helps to Terrorise the Palestinians https://www.juancole.com/2023/05/collected-electronic-palestinians.html Sat, 27 May 2023 04:08:14 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=212222 By Basem Khandakji | –

( Middle East Monitor ) – An Amnesty International report published this month revealed details of the latest systems used by the Zionist state to enhance its comprehensive monitoring of occupied Palestine and its people, who are subject to the surveillance, control and punishment of this fascist security regime. The report noted that the Israeli security services are using high-tech surveillance systems through their military checkpoints across the occupied Palestinian West Bank; the systems are called Red Wolf, Blue Wolf and Wolf Pack.

Red Wolf is the newest system and is used by the Zionist colonial troops specifically in the city of Hebron. The system works by scanning Palestinians’ faces as they pass through the discriminatory security checkpoints with neither their knowledge nor consent.

The Zionist state’s security databases must be loaded with the Palestinians’ biometric data, as they are the targets of the system. This is done by providing each colonial checkpoint with more than 15,000 images capable of performing face recognition on everyone who passes through or is detained there.

The Blue Wolf system is an electronic application installed by the Zionist soldiers on their smart phones, which guarantees the photographing and monitoring of all Palestinians passing through the checkpoints, including children and the elderly. This photo data helps to update the security database used by the colonial Israeli security system to persecute and pursue Palestinians.

The Wolf Pack relies primarily on the information and data provided by both the Red Wolf and Blue Wolf systems to build the largest database possible of most of the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. In doing so, the Zionist security system uses the latest and most accurate surveillance technology in the world.

All of this demonstrates the extent of Israel’s obsession with turning the Palestinians into mere data and numbers. The objective is to strip away the emotions, morality and humanity of the oppressed Palestinian people, but in doing so it also removes all three from the inhuman Israeli oppressors. Stripping them of these characteristics is intended to ease the surveillance, persecution, marginalisation and confiscation process established by the Zionist colonial apartheid system. Using these electronic wolves de-humanises the Palestinians in the eyes of the oppressors and makes it easier to persecute and, when deemed necessary, kill them. This creates some distance between Israeli tyranny on the ground and the façade of the state’s supposedly moral stance and conscience, in a way that guarantees that the oppression and exclusion can continue.

In short, the electronic wolves act as a proxy free of consciousness, rationality or morality so that the survivors of Nazism and their descendants are not filled with guilt about pursuing the Palestinians and liquidating them. The settler-colonial state promotes this illusion of moral distance with its encyclopaedic collection of gaunt images of the persecuted Palestinian people. Unwittingly, the Zionists behind the use of this technology are actually filling their soldiers’ minds with subconscious reminders that they are terrorising the Palestinians.

This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Quds on 22 May 2023 and was translated and edited for MEMO

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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The 3.6 mn. Syrian Refugees in Turkiye now a Political Football between the Two Leading Candidates https://www.juancole.com/2023/05/refugees-political-candidates.html Thu, 25 May 2023 04:04:45 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=212201

( Middle East Monitor ) – The Turkish election scene is truly disgusting, a scene in which the Syrian refugees have become a scapegoat and the subject of fierce bidding by various parties. Recent days have witnessed a peak in this regard, reflecting the outcome of the first round of the presidential elections that took place in conjunction with the parliamentary elections on Sunday, 14 May. The current President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, received just under half of the votes, so a second round was required, while the opposition candidate, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, received about 45 per cent, and the fascist far-right candidate won about 5 per cent.

As a reminder, Erdogan is running in the elections on behalf of the Justice and Development Party that he founded and leads, and the People’s Alliance that combines his party with the ultranationalist Nationalist Movement Party (MHP)  classified in the far right, as well as smaller groups, including the Free Cause Party, known in Turkiye as the “Turkish Hezbollah”. As for Kilicdaroglu, he is the leader of the Republican People’s Party, which is associated with the legacy of Mustafa Kemal, the founder of the Turkish Republic, as well as with the international social democratic movement. He ran in the presidential elections on behalf of a coalition that includes six parties, known as the Table of Six and the Nation’s Alliance, which includes parties whose positions range from Kemalist (Good Party) to conservative Islamist (Felicity Party).

As for the third candidate, Sinan Ogan, he is a former member of the Nationalist Movement Party who ran in the first presidential election round under the banner of the Ancestral Alliance, which identifies with the fascist heritage. Similar to far-right groups everywhere, a major pillar of the Ancestral Alliance platform, as well as the Nationalist Movement Party, is hostility towards immigrants and refugees, which basically means hostility towards Syrian refugees, whose numbers reached over 3.5 million in Turkiye, out of the 5.5 million refugees who left Syria in the last ten years.

The top two candidates who remain in the running for the second round on Sunday, Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu, thought that gaining the support of the third candidate, Ogan, would lead those who voted for him in the first round to vote for them in the second round, meaning they would win the election. Intense efforts were made in this regard during the past week, as the two battling candidates competed to win the endorsement of the fascist alliance candidate.

Last Thursday, Kilicdaroglu delivered a speech immersed in opportunism in a miserable attempt to woo voters who voted for Ogan in the first round. He launched an attack on Erdogan, accusing him of flooding Turkiye with refugees, while exaggerating their number by claiming that it was 10 million, and promising to expel them from the country if he were to win the elections. Kilicdaroglu also blamed Erdogan for his negotiations with terrorists in the early years of his presidency, in reference to the PKK. This speech, which reflects Kilicdaroglu’s desperation to achieve his dream, is a losing bet, as he failed to woo the far right. Instead, he received great criticism from the left-wing opposition, whose votes he is counting on, including the Peoples’ Democratic Party, who are sympathetic towards the PKK.

On the other hand, Erdogan met with Ogan last Friday and, while what happened between the two in the meeting was not disclosed, it led to the Ancestral Alliance candidate announcing on Monday his endorsement of renewing the term of the current President. It is likely that the MHP circles played a role in urging Ogan to support Erdogan. The fact is that the latter, after losing the absolute majority in the 2015 parliamentary elections, made a sharp political turn and allied with the MHP, which has been sharing power with it since then, and this coincided with the re-ignition of the war with the PKK.

There has also been a gradual shift in the Turkish government’s rhetoric and practical measures, from welcoming the Syrian refugees to considering them a burden on the country that must be eliminated. Erdogan became determined to create a “Safe Zone” inside the Syrian territory in order to remove the refugees from Turkiye to it, while suggesting that forcibly returning refugees to eastern Syria would flood the areas with a concentrated Kurdish population with Arabs. However, this project has faced major obstacles, including American displeasure with it, and the Syrian regime’s rejection, supported by Russia and Iran. The Turkish government took the initiative to copy the Arab regimes, that it was in conflict with until recently, in their approach to reconcile with the rule of the Assad family, hoping to make a deal with the latter that would allow for the return of the majority of the refugees to the Syrian territories, which is also what the Lebanese and Jordanian rulers are seeking.

In any case, the far-right nationalist party has held the key to Turkish rule since 2015, i.e., since the Justice and Development Party needed it to secure a majority in the Turkish Parliament. This was further established in the 2018 elections, in which the party won a little less than half of the seats (295 out of 600). As for the last elections, the party won only 268 seats, and its nationalist ally won 50 seats, while the Nation Alliance won 212. This means that whoever wins the elections next Sunday, whether Erdogan (which is likely) or Kilicdaroglu, will be forced to rely on the Nationalist Movement Party to for a parliamentary majority, which confirms that the Syrian refugees will definitely be the scapegoat at the next stage.

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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Nakba: Remembering Israel’s Massacre of Palestinians at Tantura https://www.juancole.com/2023/05/remembering-massacre-palestinians.html Tue, 23 May 2023 04:08:52 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=212156 Nasim Ahmed

( Middle East Monitor ) – On this day in May 1948, up to 200 Palestinians were massacred by Israeli troops in the coastal village of Tantura, located 35 kilometres south of Haifa. It was one of the 64 Palestinian coastal villages on the road between Tel Aviv and Haifa, of which only two remain today, Furaydis and Jisr Al-Zarka. The rest were ethnically cleansed, as were hundreds of other villages, towns and cities elsewhere in occupied Palestine.

What: Tantura Massacre

When: 22-23 May 1948

Where: Palestine

What Happened?

A week after David Ben-Gurion, the executive head of the World Zionist Organisation, declared the establishment of the State of Israel, the small coastal village of Tantura became the scene of one of the worst massacres carried out by Zionist colonial forces against the indigenous Palestinian population. The massacre took place against the backdrop of what the Palestinians call the Nakba, the catastrophe which saw 750,000 Palestinians, nearly three quarters of the population, being driven out of their homes by Zionist paramilitary groups. The catastrophe is now the longest running refugee crisis in the modern era.

By the beginning of May 1948, Tantura was one of the last remaining Palestinian villages on the stretch of the coastal plain south of Haifa to Tel Aviv. It had a population of 1,500 and like many Palestinian villages scattered along the cost thrived in an economy based around fishing and agriculture. The village was assigned to Israel under the controversial 1947 UN Partition Plan for Palestine. It was not until six months later that the full extent of the terrible fate inflicted on Tantura by the international community would be known.

On 9 May, members of the Jewish terrorist group Irgun, which bombed the King David Hotel in Jerusalem two year earlier backed by the Haganah, held a meeting to decide what to do with the handful of villages scattered along the coast. Before turning their attention to unarmed villagers in Tantura, the Haganah and the more extreme militant Zionist terrorist organisation the Stern Gang were part of a brutal military campaign which led eventually to more than 600 Palestinian towns and villages being razed to the ground. Dozens of massacres were carried out during the “Plan Dalet” campaign, including one in Deir Yassin, six weeks before Israeli soldiers swept through Tantura.

The Haganah’s Thirty-Third Battalion (the Third Battalion of the Alexandroni Brigade) attacked the village, killing up to 200 Palestinians. The massacre took place during the night and lasted several hours, according to Palestinian witnesses. Their accounts of the massacre by Israeli forces have been documented. According to some sources, as many as 300 Palestinians are said to have been killed.

What happened next?  

Following its creation, Israel took measures to control the narrative of its own creation in occupied Palestine. Before the military opened its archives from 1948, its policy was to forbid the release of any documents detailing the ethnic cleansing and human rights violations, including war crimes committed by Israeli forces, or anything that might “harm the [Israel Defence Forces]’s image” or expose it as “devoid of moral standards.” Historians have cited Tantura in describing the cover-up, showing just how effective silence over Israel’s brutal past has been in obscuring crimes against humanity.

Over the years, the release of classified documents has further confirmed Palestinian accounts of the countless massacres perpetrated by Zionist paramilitary groups and Israeli soldiers. The full extent of the violence perpetrated by Israeli soldiers against the villagers in Tantura has also been retold by academics and filmmakers. An Israeli researcher named Theodore Katz produced a thesis for the University of Haifa which found that the occupation state had committed the mass murder of civilians in Tantura. Katz based his research on 140 hours of audiotaped interviews conducted with 135 witnesses to the event, half of them Jews, half of them Arabs.

Recounting the massacre, Katz’s account described how Tantura’s population was rounded up on the beach. Women and children were separated from male children and young men aged roughly 13-30. Deputy company commander Shimshon Mashvitz ordered soldiers to take groups of young men, line them up against a wall and shoot them in the head. About 85 were killed in this manner. According to Katz, 200 were killed altogether. Israeli soldiers dumped the Palestinian bodies in mass graves on top of which now sits a popular Israeli beach resort.

Filmmaker Alon Schwarz produced a documentary, Tantura, which had its world premiere last year at the Sundance Festival. Katz is one of the central characters in the documentary.

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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Israeli Extremists’ ‘Flag March’ Reveals the Occupation’s Dilemma in Palestinian East Jerusalem https://www.juancole.com/2023/05/extremists-occupations-palestinian.html Sun, 21 May 2023 04:08:38 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=212113

( Middle East Monitor ) – The fragility of a position is sometimes exposed when there is an exaggeration of self-confidence and an attempt to demonstrate control over the situation. This is the impression given by the march of Israeli settlers and extremists, who paraded through the Old City of Jerusalem on Thursday, 18 May 2023, waving their flags and chanting extreme right-wing slogans, backed by Occupation forces and directly sponsored by the Israeli government.

The goal of the annual “Flag March” is to appear as a significant event, suggesting power and control, but it reveals the Occupation’s dilemma in Jerusalem each year. The Occupation authority mobilised a crowd of settlers on this day with armed support and deployed thousands of its forces for this purpose, reaching 3,300 members, according to official announcements. Meanwhile, Palestinian residents of Jerusalem continue to demonstrate throughout the year, despite the armed Israeli force directed against them, and the relentless campaigns of persecution, intimidation, arrest and killing.

In other words, the ceremonial marches sponsored by the Israeli government and Occupation authorities do not reflect the real situation in Jerusalem or its cultural identity; rather, they indicate the Occupation’s assault, its fabricated arrogance and its lack of self-confidence. Why does a government resort to all this fabrication, accompanied by security mobilisation and the exclusion of Palestinian residents of Jerusalem from the scene, if it is truly confident in the legitimacy of its existence and the stability of its control over its alleged “unified capital”?

The reality is that the identity of Jerusalem remains clearly Arab Palestinian, despite more than half a century of settlement expansion, the restriction of life for Palestinian citizens in East Jerusalem and the exaggeration in distorting its scene and heavy raising of Israeli flags on confiscated buildings. The showcase reaches its peak when the Occupation authorities resort to visual tricks on some occasions by projecting blue and white lights onto the historical walls of Jerusalem to paint them with an Israeli visual identity. However, this trick, among others, fails the next day to conceal the Arab Palestinian nature of the city, which is a vibrant and visible nature, inside and outside the walls, intertwined with Islam and Christianity, and does not require sophisticated techniques to demonstrate it.

The Israeli “Flag March” is merely an intended showcase of Occupation power, which mobilises a crowd saturated with naive mythical slogans. Upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that the audience of the “Flag March” primarily consists of extremist settlers who have been attracted to live in settlements illegally established under international law on land stolen from its Palestinian owners. Fascist expressions among these individuals are clearly escalating, such as the raising of the flag of the fascist “Kahane Chai” movement – classified as a terrorist on American and European lists – during the march on 18 May, 2023. In these flag marches, it is common to hear chants such as “Mavit le Aravim”, which means “Death to Arabs!” This racist chant is sometimes altered to “Mavit le Hablanim”, which means “Death to Terrorists!” and this does not need much intelligence to conclude that they allude to the “Arabs” as well, the Palestinian people, in particular, as these racist discourses deny its existence in the first place.

This fascist situation enjoys a clear official sponsorship, to the extent that the march on 18 May, 2023 was distinguished by the participation of several ministers in the Israeli government, who represent its most extreme figures: Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, as they represent an explicit fascist approach that has become dominant in Israeli political life due to existing electoral balances. The influence of these figures is likely to increase in the upcoming ballot rounds, due to internal demographic reasons and others related to their increasing influence in state institutions and authorities. Minister Israel Katz also participated in the march; he is known for his policies of encouraging settlement and offering attractive facilities to settlers through the multiple ministries he has headed, so far. He is one of the advocates for the annexation of the West Bank and has caused crises with European governments when he made derogatory remarks about the Belgian and Polish people.

The “Flag March” represents an attempt to occupy Jerusalem morally, after it was militarily occupied by the army, a goal also sought by Israeli propaganda through justifying the Occupation with myths, as applied in short films and promotional videos dedicated to denying the Arab Palestinian, and Islamic-Christian identity of the city.

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs has often released short promotional clips of this kind to justify the Occupation of Jerusalem, in an attempt to impose its naive narrative. One of these clips, for example, depicts a young and charming Israeli family, in a theatrical manner that imitates Hollywood family comedy, living in a small new apartment symbolising the concept of “the small state that they begrudge us”. Soon, groups of people, followed by other groups, start knocking at the door claiming their ownership of the apartment, and then the Arabs come as the last of these groups, of course, accompanied by derogatory insinuations towards them, and there is no mention of Palestinians at all.

The global audience is expected to enjoy their time with the art of deception filled with effects, without attempting to engage their minds with questions like: Why did not they depict the reality that does not need acting, for example, by showing the suffering of an old Palestinian family in the place where settlers coming from the United States, their heads filled with historical myths and their pockets with generous money, knock on their door?!

Israeli propaganda invests vast amounts of money in this field, but deception does not win in the end, especially in the age of imagery, networked experience and live broadcasting. More authentic scenes come from within Jerusalem, conveyed by smartphones to the world, and these visual facts are capable of shaking the naive propaganda of the Occupation to its core.

The “Flag March” draws attention to the fact that the Israeli flag is raised in Jerusalem by force of arms, the power of oppression and policies of persecution imposed on the city’s residents. Meanwhile, the Occupation forces thwart any attempt to raise the Palestinian flag, as seen during the march. The fear of the Occupation authorities does not stop at the Palestinian flag; it extends to the prohibition of cultural and civil activities and other aspects of daily life. This was evident when the Occupation forces brutally attacked the funeral procession of the renowned journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh, in Jerusalem, who was killed by Israeli soldiers on 11 May, 2022, while she was covering the news. The Occupation’s fear of the emergence of the real Palestinian scene from this city to the world led it to chase the journalist’s coffin, which was carried by the people of Jerusalem after leaving the church. The coffin was about to fall down despite representatives of Western diplomatic missions were attending the funeral ceremony.

It is common to see scenes of assault, abuse and pursuit against Palestinians in the neighbourhoods of Jerusalem, and even at religious events and holy places. For example, the Occupation forces attacked worshippers, including women, children, and Christian clergy who were on their way to the Church of the Resurrection to celebrate Holy Saturday before Easter on 15 April, 2023, while their attacks on worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque continued during the month of Ramadan, which coincided with it.

The notion of “We are here”, which the “Flag March” seeks to express, appears in reality to be evidence of the Israeli incapacity in Jerusalem. This march, coming 56 years after the Occupation of East Jerusalem, remains contingent on imposing extraordinary coercive measures that escalate, year after year, to paralyse daily life in the city. The aim of this is simply to distract the Palestinian citizens from the scene. During the march on 18 May, 2023, Occupation forces assaulted Palestinian citizens near Damascus Gate, one of the main gates of historic Jerusalem, and tormented them within the Old City, forcing them to disappear from the area to preserve the pure Israeli propaganda scene. This remains a “routine procedure”, in any case. Settlers and extremists demonstrated provocative behaviour during their movement, accompanied by Occupation forces in the alleys of Jerusalem, and clashed with any Palestinians they encountered at doors and windows. Occupation forces intervened to suppress Palestinians in favour of their audience whenever a brawl broke out along the way. The march attempted to display extreme self-confidence, but the reality of the false fabrication was exposed whenever a small Palestinian flag appeared in its path or was raised in the air by a balloon launched by a Jerusalemite child. Occupation forces rushed to stifle these signs of life, through which the persecuted residents of Jerusalem affirm: “We are here.”

The “Flag March” attempted to depict a fabricated epic image, while Palestinians continue to cling to their city and residential neighbourhoods, threatened with forced eviction. The world has witnessed this in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood or in the marginalised Khan Al-Ahmar village, deprived of basic life necessities. In contrast, these settler crowds came to Jerusalem only under the official patronage of an Occupation regime that grants them generous economic privileges, stringent security protection and weapons that they carry day and night. The hope is that these generations will come to the city and the Occupied West Bank and settle there, contrary to international law.

What is the significance behind ceremonial marches that require no sacrifices, marches that are carried out by a settler and extremist audience with dense and exceptional support from the Occupation forces? During these marches, they conduct arrests, oppressive measures and strict restrictions against the people of Jerusalem, in order to fabricate the false scene they desire. Only the Palestinians in Jerusalem continue the public epic for many decades, facing continuous retaliation from the Occupation forces, and paying the price for that through their freedom and lives.There is an authentic flag march in Jerusalem that deserves the support of the whole world. It is the public epic that the unarmed Palestinian Jerusalemites are waging under Occupation, demanding freedom, rights and justice, despite the sacrifices and risks they face.


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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Israeli Military Apologizes for Killing US Journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, a Year after the Shooting https://www.juancole.com/2023/05/military-apologizes-journalist.html Mon, 15 May 2023 04:04:23 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=212017 ( Middle East Monitor ) – Israel’s military has apologised for its killing of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, after a year of denial of its responsibility for the shooting.

Shireen Abu Akleh, the correspondent who covered the West Bank for Al Jazeera for two decades, was shot in the back of the head while covering an Israeli military raid in the West Bank city of Jenin last May.

Occupation forces initially insisted that she was merely caught in the crossfire and shot by Palestinian resistance fighters, but Israel later acknowledged after an investigation that Abu Akleh was likely killed by a member of its military, but claimed that it was unintentional.

Now, in an interview with CNN and its anchor Eleni Giokos on Thursday, the Israeli military’s chief spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari has issued an apology for the journalist’s killing. “I think it’s an opportunity for me to say here that we are very sorry of the death of Shireen Abu Akleh”, he said.

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Voice of America: “Israel Apologizes for the Killing of Shireen Abu Akleh” | VOANews


“She was a journalist, a very established journalist. In Israel we value our democracy and in a democracy we see high value in journalism and in a free press”, Hagari claimed. “We want journalists to feel safe in Israel, especially in war time, even if they criticise us.”

The apology comes just days after the press watchdog, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), published a report on the first anniversary of Abu Akleh’s killing, revealing that the Israeli military has killed 20 journalists since 2001 and has not taken accountability for any of those incidents.

Despite Tel Aviv’s acknowledgement of its role in Abu Akleh’s killing and its apology, there remains little hope for the arrest and prosecution of those soldiers who were responsible for the shooting, with the Israeli military notoriously maintaining immunity from such legal consequences.

As Naftali Bennett – the country’s prime minister at the time of the killing – said last week, Israeli soldiers should not be prosecuted when civilians are not killed deliberately. “If there’s a battle going on and there’s collateral damage that is not deliberate, then no. Otherwise, what you would do is shackle all the hands of fighters”.

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Gaza and the Illegal Israeli use of Sanctions as a Tool for Collective Punishment https://www.juancole.com/2023/05/sanctions-collective-punishment.html Fri, 12 May 2023 04:04:48 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=211931

International humanitarian law derived from the Geneva Convention of 1949 and the 1977 Protocols, states clearly that no person should be punished for any actions he did not commit. This principle applies to all individuals, including prisoners of war, ethnic groups and the wider civilian population. It is supposed to be protection against the consequences of war waged on civilians. It is also supposed to govern the conduct of war, which is evil in any case.

Yet collective punishment figures prominently in human history, just like war itself. In the modern world, collective punishment is given fancy names to disguise its inhumane effects. “Foreign policy tools”, for example, or simply “sanctions”, both political and economic, targeting certain government elites. Sanctions have been used widely by powerful nations against weaker states. The most recent cases of sanctions act as a form of collective punishment when imposed by the very countries that are supposed to be the protectors of world peace and human rights, including the United States.

When sanctions are applied the aim is always the same: to change the political discourse or behaviour of another state or people regardless if their behaviour is indeed punishable under international law. To make the case for “collective punishment” more convincing, such measures are often justified by enforcing them through the UN. Again, powerful states use their position to attack weaker nations through the UN Security Council, turning it into what the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi once called “the council of horror”. Examples of this have been seen in relation to Cuba, Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan, to name but a few.

The collective punishment meted out against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip stands out as brutality against more than two million people because of acts allegedly committed by a few of their fellow citizens. Furthermore, the sanctions on Gaza include a near total blockade on the densely populated enclave which sees fishermen prevented from exploiting their own territorial waters. The sanctions thus impose hunger and poverty on an already malnourished and desperately poor population.

Israel always defends such brutality by claiming that it is meant to punish what it calls Palestinian “militant” groups such as Hamas. The reality, though, is that the entire population is being punished in open violation of the Geneva Conventions in a manner which goes way beyond any more usual — but equally unacceptable — act of collective punishment.

Israel keeps a list of items that are banned from entering Gaza because, as the occupation state claims falsely, they benefit those who are resisting — legitimately, I might add — the Israeli military occupation and are designated as “militants” and “terrorists”. While the ban on construction materials and fuel makes the headlines, other important items never get mentioned.

Between 2007 and 2010, for example, the list of banned items included things like paper, paper pins, nutmeg, tarpaulin sheets for huts, fishing nets and nylon sheeting for greenhouses. Until June 2010, biscuits and chocolate were banned unless the end user was one of the international organisations operating in Gaza and caring for the Palestinians’ humanitarian needs.

Via Pixabay.

To compound the misery, Israel generally does not announce what is banned and what is not. Importers, private traders, merchants, the Palestinian Authority (PA) and international organisations only find out when they submit their lists of items they wish to transfer into Gaza as part of the tedious task of seeking permission from the Israeli occupation authorities.

Exports also have their banned and permitted list. Furniture and furniture parts were banned, then permitted, only to banned again earlier this month.

The ban goes further to include things like medical supplies and diagnostic equipment needed for the health sector in Gaza. In January this year, the health authority in Gaza warned that Israeli restrictions on certain medical equipment, such as mobile X-ray machines, threaten the quality of the health care provision in the territory.

Until June 2007, Israel justified bans by citing security threats. Three years later, “humanitarian minimums” were the norm, Israel-speak for a blanket ban on almost everything. The occupation authorities never disclose the criteria they use to make banning decisions; or what “humanitarian” actually means. Tarpaulin sheets, for example, were banned until 2010, and are always in demand by the poorest of the poor in Gaza due to the regular destruction of their homes by Israeli missiles and bombs, as happened this week. When civilian homes are bombed, tarpaulin sheets are essential items to provide shelter from the elements.

The same policy of “collective punishment” means that Israel also decides who can enter or leave Gaza and when. This usually means that hundreds of Palestinians are left stranded in Egypt or in Israel itself waiting for permission to go home; or are blocked from seeking medical treatment, study opportunities or work elsewhere. Short visits to see relatives, even if they are dying, are discouraged by this policy, as people have no idea how much time they will need to spend at the border post.

Apartheid Israel uses a different set of sanctions against the PA, its supposed partner in the non-existent peace process, including the withholding of taxes collected by Israel on the PA’s behalf. This make it difficult for the PA to pay the salaries of its public workers and security personnel who act as an arm of the Israeli security services in protecting illegal settlers and curbing resistance activism.

Egypt also plays the collective punishment card against the Palestinians in Gaza by the frequent closure of the border crossing due to alleged security concerns. Nobody should be surprised by any of this, given that both Egypt and Israel are client states of the US, which is a serial offender when it comes to collective punishment.

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

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