Middle East Monitor – Informed Comment https://www.juancole.com Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion Thu, 23 Sep 2021 05:05:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.18 Israel’s future is apartheid in a ‘solution of the three classes’ https://www.juancole.com/2021/09/israels-apartheid-solution.html Fri, 17 Sep 2021 04:06:33 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=200109 By Nasim Ahmed | –

( Middle East Monitor ) – Reading the reflections of one of Israel’s most celebrated contemporary public intellectuals on the apparently never-ending occupation of Palestine, I was reminded of an old saying about the nature of truth. “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”

When the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer made this observation some 170 years ago he had in mind historical figures like Galileo (1564-1642). The astronomer was persecuted for advocating the Copernican idea that the earth revolved around the sun and was not the centre of the universe. Though this idea was well known in the Muslim world, in Europe — where the authority of the church rested on a geocentric cosmic order with the church reflecting on earth its centrality to the universe — it triggered a fierce pushback.

In a not too dissimilar way, truth about Israel’s occupation is passing through Schopenhauer’s same three stages. Of course, we are not living in a time when opposition to the main doctrine upon which political and legal authority rests could see you hang, but that doesn’t mean that liberal democracies are immune to gross overreaction when accepted truths are challenged and questioned. We only need to look at the response of several US states to Ben & Jerry’s call for a peaceful boycott of settlements and companies in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories to recognise the centrality of the occupation state in American power circles, and the length to which elected officials will go to defend it, even if that means undermining the US Constitution regarding the right to free-speech.

Assuming all truth passes through the same three stages, looking at the current stage of Israel’s occupation it’s safe to presume that the truth and nature of its reality is coming to the end of the second phase. It’s thus entering the third stage where the Zionist state’s practice of apartheid is accepted as self-evident.

This optimistic view was reinforced by the recent intervention by acclaimed Israeli philosopher Yuval Noah Harari. The 45 year old, who has become something of a celebrity scholar and a Cassandra like figure warning about the threat to society posed by inequality and technology, is the author of a number of international bestsellers, including the 2011 Sapians: A Brief History of Humankind. His musing over the core questions about the future of Palestine comes as knowledge of Israeli apartheid has become mainstream following the publication of a number of reports by prominent human rights groups and the UN.

“Where do we go from here?” writes Harari contemplatively on the occasion of Yom Kippur. He is talking about the future of Israel and the “abandonment” of the two state-solution. With its central theme of atonement and repentance, Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year in Judaism. “If not two states for two peoples, then what exactly is Israel’s alternative vision? When we imagine the future, what exactly do we see there?”

Assuming that the most optimistic Israeli scenario will come true, and that it will be able to fulfil its vision in full, “What will it look like?” he asks. “Israel moved from a two-state solution to a three-class solution,” pointing out that there is only one country between the Mediterranean Sea and the River Jordan. Although Harari does not mention the word apartheid he does explain that there are “three types of people” who live in territory controlled by Israel: “Jews, who will enjoy all the rights. Type A Arabs, who will have some of the rights. And Type B Arabs, who will have almost no rights.”

Not only is this the reality today, but Harari also believes that judging by the voting pattern in the country, it seems that most Jews in Israel prefer it to stay this way forever. The lecturer at the Hebrew University in occupied Jerusalem argues that the solution of the three classes is not new and has been planned and implemented for decades with Israel unwilling to disclose its intention to the world. “Even today, when Israeli representatives give a public speech – say, at the UN General Assembly – they will not dare to speak openly about the solution of the three classes as a permanent solution. It just does not smell good.”

In an insightful observation about the function of the Palestinian Authority in maintaining the political charade erected by Israel he says that it is a “unique creature” similar to “Aladdin’s demon”. His argument is that as far as the Israelis are concerned there is no Palestine and no PA. Israel, in their eyes, has full sovereignty over historic Palestine and the PA exists merely to absolve Israel of any blame. “When we have to shirk responsibility – for example the responsibility to vaccinate the Palestinian population against [Covid-19] – we just have to rub the lamp, and Shazam! Suddenly this creature [the PA] emerges in all its glory, removing all responsibility from us.”

Urging Israelis to do some soul searching, he asks rhetorically: “Can we not admit that we are moving towards the solution of the three classes?” He explains: “That is, towards one country whose two million citizens are discriminated against in education, housing and policing, and whose millions more are not even eligible to vote in elections. One country, with three types of people. One country, where one type of people will always enjoy a preference for personal security, movement and employment.”

The root of Israel’s apparently never-ending occupation, argues Harari, stems from a worldview that puts “tribal loyalty” over all else. “Those who believe in the principle of tribal loyalty believe that the very demand for justice for those who are not members of the tribe is treason.”

His final message could not be more startling: “So on this Yom Kippur, before memorising ‘we have sinned, we have betrayed, we have robbed’, we should first ask ourselves according to what moral principles we generally define guilt, betrayal and robbery. Do we think that Jews are superior people by nature, entitled to special privileges? Do we think that justice is sometimes more important than tribal loyalty, or that loyalty to the tribe is always superior to justice? And is there still a way to reconcile the value claim to justice with the tribal claim to fidelity, without having to choose between the two, and without the desire to do justice being considered in our places a betrayal?”

If Harari is right, then Israel is heading for a “solution of the three classes”. The rest of the world will — many already do — call it apartheid, a serious crime under international law. The big question then will be, what is the world going to do about it? If experience to date is anything to go by, the answer will be, “Nothing whatsoever.”

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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Does Israel want to end its forever wars in Gaza? https://www.juancole.com/2021/09/does-israel-forever.html Thu, 16 Sep 2021 04:06:08 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=200091 Daud Abdullah | –

( Middle East Monitor) – Israel is finally waking up to the stark reality that it can no longer continue with its forever wars in Gaza. This was the critical message from Foreign Minister Yair Lapid when he spoke at a conference at Reichman University in Herzliya last weekend: “The State of Israel has a duty to tell its citizens we have turned every stone in an attempt to deal with the Gazan issue.”

After 15 years of relentless blockade and four destructive wars, Gaza remains indomitable. Lapid’s sense of hopelessness is not without precedent. In 1992, former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin famously lamented: “Try to give it back to the Egyptians, and they will say, ‘You are stuck with it.'” He then added: “I wish the Gaza Strip would sink into the water, but I cannot find for it such a solution.”

Lapid’s solution, which he intends to present to the Israeli cabinet, is equally whimsical. He wants their support for his ‘economy in exchange for security’ policy, which would end the cycle of confrontation and create stability on both sides of the border.

Even if the Israeli government adopts the plan in its current form, or with amendments, it will almost certainly count for nothing. Palestinians have had their fair share of revamped and failed policies. One of the most recent examples was the ‘peace through prosperity’ plan proposed by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Unsurprisingly, Gaza was not earmarked for this prosperity. The enclave had just fallen under Hamas’ control when Blair took up his post as envoy for the International Quartet in Palestine. He suggested that all international aid should be allocated to the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank. The plan was to transform the West Bank into ‘an oasis of prosperity and stability,’ while Gaza was left to descend into misery and poverty.

By so doing, the architects of this policy hoped not only to weaken and defeat Hamas, but also to illustrate to the people in Gaza what they stood to gain if they chose the path of ‘moderation’ over ‘extremism.’

Two years after Mr Blair left office as Quartet envoy, a 2017 UNCTAD report spoke of grinding de-development, suppressed human potential and denial of the basic human right to development in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip (WBGS).

It confirmed that unemployment rate in the Occupied Palestinian Territory was persistently among the highest in the world. In 2016 it stood at 18 per cent in the West Bank and 42 per cent in Gaza.

Also in that year, 2016, Palestinian imports from Israel exceeded exports to Israel by $2.6 billion, yet at a time it was possible for Palestine to obtain imports from cheaper and more competitive sources worldwide. They could not do so because they were, and still remain, trapped by the notoriously exploitative 1994 Paris Protocol.

By the time Mr Blair was ready to leave office in 2015, 26 per cent of the PA’s annual budget was spent on security while only 16 per cent went to education, nine per cent to health, and one per cent on agriculture.

Predictably, it was impossible to achieve either peace or prosperity when 60 per cent of the West Bank (Area C) is under Israeli control and denied to Palestinians. Most of the WB resources are located in this area, which has the potential to provide jobs in many sectors from agriculture to tourism, construction and mining.

In fact, it is precisely because of the occupation that only 21 per cent of cultivable land in the WB is used while 93 per cent of cultivated land is not irrigated.

Even by the most conservative of estimates, the IMF have reckoned that if there was no occupation, the real GDP per capita in the Occupied Palestinian Territory would currently be nearly 40 per cent higher. Other estimates suggest it could actually be 83 per cent higher.

The upshot of all this is that military occupation is antithetical to development; not even with the best intentions and goodwill. Nevertheless, it should come as no surprise if Lapid’s ‘economy in exchange for security’ plan is endorsed in some regional capitals. The Axis of Normalisation will for their own reasons be in the forefront to do so.

Perhaps the only silver lining on this dark horizon is that there are sensible and courageous voices in Gaza who have already dismissed the plan. To them, development remains a right and not a privilege. Occupation is not a right; it is a choice that leads only to human suffering and degradation.

If Israel really wants to end its forever wars in Gaza it must do the right thing. Instead of recycling discredited and deceptive formulae, it should first end its occupation and allow the Palestinians to exercise all their internationally recognised national rights.

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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France 24 English: “Israeli foreign minister proposes development plan for Gaza • FRANCE 24 English”

What does the US Withdrawal from Afghanistan mean for Israel? https://www.juancole.com/2021/09/withdrawal-afghanistan-israel.html Wed, 15 Sep 2021 04:06:44 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=200074 By Adnan Abu Amer | –

( Middle East Monitor) – Israelis are concerned about the shameful American withdrawal from Afghanistan and think that their government now needs to reassert its ability to protect its own interests in the region and beyond. The general feeling is that the withdrawal will now give Israel’s enemies more freedom to move, especially Iran, which will not hesitate to strengthen its relations with China, which in turn has clear interests in Afghanistan and the Arab Gulf. Events in Afghanistan have rung alarm bells for Israel and its allies in the region.

At the same time, Israelis believe that the US withdrawal from most of its strongholds in the Middle East and Central-South Asia — Iraq first and now Afghanistan, and perhaps Syria later — may push some regional states to move against Israel. The evaluation of America’s role in the Middle East is that US forces can no longer rely on using Arab countries for emergencies. A comprehensive view of the region puts Israel in a better position in terms of US interests, at least according to an uncertain Israeli assessment.

However, the fear remains that what happened in Afghanistan could be mirrored in the occupied West Bank, not least due to the exposure of American weakness. The strategic patience and steadfastness of the Taliban have created an inspiring narrative for the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas.

In this context, Israelis are asking if events in Afghanistan could be replicated in the Palestinian arena, especially if Israel withdraws from parts of the West Bank in any deal with the Palestinians. Such an exit would almost certainly lead, at least in the short term, to instability, and encourage Hamas to try to expand its influence in the territory.

Although Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories are geographically distant from Afghanistan, the Israeli government claims that it will be required to respond to any development that threatens its security at home and abroad. In this case, it will take into account the current situation in the conflict with the Palestinians, and the de facto reality of a “one-state solution”, with all the negative political and social ramifications that it will have based on successive security warnings.

America’s exit from Afghanistan was embarrassing for Washington, but there were no demonstrations on US streets, either in support of or opposing the withdrawal. Any Israeli withdrawal from even a small part of the occupied West Bank, however, will cause a great stir. A lot of political determination and conviction will be required before such a move could be taken. Indeed, it could be beyond the current government, the survival of which would be threatened.

Israel expects the US withdrawal from Afghanistan to encourage its enemies to attack it. Although the Taliban movement does not pose a direct threat to Israel, it represents a concern for the colonial state, because it shares a border with Iran and the US withdrawal confirms the ongoing reduction of American intervention in the Middle East and beyond. Ideological and political differences aside, Israel knows that successive US presidents have shared a desire to end their involvement in the bloody wars in the Middle East and Central-South Asia. In doing so, believes Israel, America’s ability to challenge Iranian influence may create a domino effect tipping the scales of regional power at the expense of the Zionist state.

Nevertheless, there may be opportunities for Israel to enhance its regional position, because it is not only watching Afghanistan with concern but also, and perhaps more importantly, watching the positions of the Arab regimes that depend on the US for their security, in light of a growing mistrust in its ability to support them. Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region may approach Israel, as a possibly more reliable ally than the US, to fulfil their security needs, even without full normalisation of relations. Security cooperation between Israel and a number of Gulf States is already overt. It is thus likely that such Israeli cooperation with other Arab countries will increase.

Rapprochement and subsequent engagement with Israel may not be limited to “moderate” Arab countries. NATO, for example, could expand its security cooperation with the Zionist state, replacing the US with a willingness to get involved in regional affairs.

All of this is speculation at the moment in the wake of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. Although not actually part of the Middle East, a Taliban-led Afghanistan is going to play a major role in reshaping the region and how changes might affect 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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Palestinian Prisoners take hope from emptying of South African Apartheid Jails https://www.juancole.com/2021/09/palestinian-prisoners-apartheid.html Sat, 11 Sep 2021 04:04:49 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=199993 By Alie Komape | –

( Middle East Monitor ) – When you do an online search for South Africa’s Robben Island, one of the suggested words used is “escapes”. It is obviously a common research topic.

Robben Island was the site of a prison for those who resisted colonial rule going back centuries. Early reports suggest that it was used to house prisoners in the 1600s. The grave standing next to the prison of a Muslim sheikh who defied Dutch colonial rule dates back to that era, and is a pointer to the history of Islam in southern Africa.

During the apartheid era in South Africa, the threat of the maximum-security prison was used to instil fear in those who resisted White domination, and serve as a warning to those who might consider doing so.

Apartheid was introduced formally in South Africa by the National Party which came into power in 1948, the same year that the Zionist state of Israel was founded in occupied Palestine. Links between the two were strong throughout the apartheid era even, it is believed, in the development of nuclear weapons.

It is no surprise, therefore, that the Israeli regime often appears to be a carbon copy of apartheid South Africa, employing tactics similar to those of the White minority government in Pretoria in its subjugation of the Palestinians, not least the brutality of its prisons. The Israeli prison system is a political instrument of fear, like Robben Island, used to intimidate Palestinians who are politically active and resist the Zionist state’s military occupation.

Moreover, Israel uses imprisonment as a form of social and political control over the Palestinians. So-called “administrative detention” sees Palestinians held with neither charge nor trial for periods which can be extended indefinitely. No reason is given for such detention, and “secret evidence” is often cited. Administrative detention is never used against Jewish citizens of the apartheid state of Israel.

Earlier this week, six Palestinian prisoners escaped from Israel’s high-security Gilboa Prison. According to multiple reports, the six escaped through a tunnel dug over a number of months using an old, rusty spoon. Such an incident is unheard of in the 73 years since Israel was created in occupied Palestine. The nature of the escape weakens the psychological hold that Israel’s punishments have over the Palestinians. Even the harshest conditions imaginable can surely hold no terrors for determined freedom fighters.

Hundreds of Palestinians gather to protest against Israeli violations of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails in Hebron, West Bank on 8 September 2021. [Mamoun Wazwaz – Anadolu Agency]

In the unlikeliest of fashion, these six heroes have rekindled Palestinian resistance hopes and ambitions. They continue to evade what has been described as the biggest manhunt in Israel history.

For decades the Israeli regime has sought to break the spirit of Palestinian political prisoner, who continue to go on hunger strike in protest at the conditions in which they are held. Prisoners’ rights are non-existent, and violations are well documented by international human rights organisations. One such report stands out; ironically it was drafted by representatives of the Israeli regime. The Public Defence Office said in 2019 that the conditions in which Palestinian prisoners are held, and their treatment by the regime, were abysmally inhumane; that torture was rife; and that child prisoners also faced torture as a matter of routine.

For prisoners held in such awful conditions to escape as they did is an act of resistance to be applauded. Indeed, congratulations have poured in from around the world on social media.

Once a formidable symbol of colonial apartheid oppression, Robben Island is today a museum visited by tourists. Israel now knows that its maximum security prison system is not invincible, and that Palestinian patience and determination can break down the strongest barriers, and strike back at even the most brutal of regimes.

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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Taliban seek China as Silk Road reconstruction Partner https://www.juancole.com/2021/09/taliban-reconstruction-partner.html Mon, 06 Sep 2021 04:04:01 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=199897 Ali Hussein Bakir | –

( Middle East Monitor) – In an interview conducted recently with an Italian newspaper, the Taliban movement spokesperson, Zabiullah Mujahid, pointed out that the movement was ready to rely on China economically in its bid to manage the country following their swift takeover after the US troops withdrawal from the country after twenty years of occupation. Zabiullah told the Italian La Republica newspaper that; “China is our principal and most important partner. It represents a fundamental and exceptional opportunity for us because China is ready for investment in our country and for rebuilding it.”

Within this context, the Taliban spokesperson pointed to three important facts. The first is that the movement assigns great attention to the Silk Road project, which is considered a priority for Beijing in order to enhance its influence at the international level. The second is that Afghanistan possesses huge copper mines and that with the help of China it would be possible to revive work at them and even modernise them. As for the third fact, Zabiullah said that China would become something of a passage for Afghanistan toward global markets.

Such statements regarding China are not the first of their kind and it is obvious they will not be the last. The movement realises the importance of China not just at the level of geographical proximity and direct relationship but at the international level too in terms of China’s heavyweight, as well as its role and ambition in the international arena. The Taliban movement also knows well that governing Afghanistan is a completely different matter compared to resisting the occupation and that this would require it to take into consideration regional and international balances, achieving security and stability, and attracting foreign investments to the country.

OPINION: ‘Western media has worked overtime to demonise the valiant people of Afghanistan,’ says Taliban leader

From its own perspective, China considers Washington’s withdrawal to be a brutal defeat for the United States; a development that destroyed its image, reputation, and international credibility. Prior to the US withdrawal, China supported the internal Afghan-Afghan dialogue. Yet at the same time, it sent messages saying in effect that it is open to recognising the Taliban when the right time for doing so arrives. Some Chinese newspapers have said explicitly that Beijing has no interest in having a hostile relationship with the Taliban but at the same time called on the movement to recognise the necessity of dissociating itself completely from terrorism. Perhaps, the visit made to China toward the end of July by Mullah Bradar with a senior Taliban delegation and their meeting with the Chinese Foreign Minister pointed to an implicit Chinese recognition of the movement as a representative of Afghanistan and reflected China’s early conceptions about this matter.

Undoubtedly, China is the biggest winner in the current situation. It will definitely benefit from the situation once stability is accomplished in the country, money starts pouring into Afghanistan and China is allowed to invest and rebuild in the country. Such circumstances could create great opportunities for it, especially by working with Pakistan too. The Afghan factor is expected to bolster ties between Pakistan and China and create new mutual interests.

18 million Afghans, half the country, need humanitarian assistance and roughly 3 million are internally displaced – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

” data-medium-file=”https://i1.wp.com/www.middleeastmonitor.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/IMG_3388-scaled.jpg?fit=500%2C310&quality=85&strip=all&zoom=1&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i1.wp.com/www.middleeastmonitor.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/IMG_3388-scaled.jpg?fit=933%2C579&quality=85&strip=all&zoom=1&ssl=1″ src=”https://i1.wp.com/www.middleeastmonitor.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/IMG_3388.jpg?resize=500%2C310&quality=85&strip=all&zoom=1&ssl=1″ alt=”18 million Afghans, half the country, need humanitarian assistance and roughly 3 million are internally displaced – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]” data-recalc-dims=”1″ data-lazy-loaded=”1″ >

18 million Afghans, half the country, need humanitarian assistance and roughly 3 million are internally displaced – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

The irony, yet, is that as much as the US withdrawal from Afghanistan is likely to provide China with more opportunities, it is also likely to present certain challenges. At the domestic level, it is not easy to sell the notion of dealing with the Taliban as a rational, open and moderate player. The reason for such difficulty goes back to the negative picture created traditionally by the Chinese government for Islam and Islamic movements locally. For quite some time China has linked the Taliban movement to the Eastern Turkistan movement. Several official reports accused the Taliban of funding, training and arming the movement in China. For this reason, the Chinese public is currently confused by the effort its own government is making to present the Taliban in a completely different light.

Above all, China remains cautious from a security perspective despite its ambition to play a major economic role in Afghanistan in the coming period in a manner that would allow it to expedite the construction of the Afghan part of its Belt project. It would like also to invest in extracting the mineral resources stored underground in Afghanistan, which are estimated to have a value ranging between two and three trillion dollars.

What matters to China within the context of security is Afghanistan’s stability, the severance by the Taliban of any ties with Eastern Turkistan, and refraining from criticising Chinese policy in this regard. The Taliban seems to have realised this quite early. Evidently, it has never commented on China’s stance or its policies toward the Uyghur Muslims.

READ: ‘Afghanistan evacuation revealed Europe’s immigration incompetence’

At the regional level, a failure of the Taliban to run Afghanistan, or the return of internal strife, or turning Afghanistan into a battlefield or a postal box for proxy wars, would this time lead to huge financial, security and political pressures on Beijing; given that the United States is no longer present in Afghanistan to handle such a situation. China would then find itself in an extremely difficult situation. Any reckonings related to benefiting from the situation inside Afghanistan would evaporate and perhaps turn into a nightmare.

Internationally, should the situation deteriorate in the future, China would become the target of sharp criticism from the international community, especially if China chooses to deal with the Taliban separately, without waiting for a united stance by the international community. However, should it prefer to deal with any potential opposition to the Taliban in the future, China would expose its own interests to danger. This might also turn the Taliban into an enemy instead of being a potential friend. Therefore, China’s reckonings in Afghanistan will be extremely critical in the coming period.

Translated from Arabi21, 4 September 2021

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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“Wion Wideangle | China and the Taliban: friends with benefits?”

Did President Biden privately demand far Right Israeli PM Bennett stop expulsion of E Jerusalem Palestinians? https://www.juancole.com/2021/09/president-privately-palestinians.html Thu, 02 Sep 2021 04:02:18 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=199834 By Motasem A Dalloul | –

( Middle East Monitor) – According to Israel’s Channel 12 TV channel, in the middle of last month Prime Minister Naftali Bennett turned down a request by Defence Minister Benny Gantz to meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Gantz was disappointed with Bennett’s decision, and insisted that it was not only important for him to meet with Abbas, but also that he is the most senior and appropriate Israeli official to do so given that Bennett’s electoral base is on the far right.

Bennett is opposed to renewing the peace process with the Palestinians and gave no reason for turning down Gantz’s request. However, left-wing and centrist politicians in his government coalition believe that resuming official relations with the PA leadership and supporting the authority is in Israel’s best interests.

Just two weeks later, Gantz’s office revealed that he had held two separate meetings with Abbas: the first included senior security and civil affairs officials, and the second was just the two men on their own. Moreover, Gantz went to Abbas’s stronghold, the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah. They discussed security, diplomatic, economic and civil society issues.

“Israel is ready for a series of measures that would strengthen the PA economy,” Gantz is reported to have told Abbas. He pledged a NIS500m ($155m) loan for the PA, to be repaid from the monthly tax revenues collected by Israel on the authority’s behalf.

It now seems that Bennett was not happy with the Abbas meeting, but he could not prevent it. It looks as if he was obliged to let it go ahead. Award-winning Israeli journalist Meron Rapoport believes that this happened because the military lobby is imposing its agenda on the government.

“There is a conflict between the politicians and the army in Israel,” he told me, “and the military lobby won the round regarding support for the PA. Bennett just surrendered to this lobby. He allowed Gantz’s meeting with Abbas and agreed to allow the transfer of money to Gaza.”

As education minister in 2018 under former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Bennett opposed the transfer of funds from Qatar to help the Palestinians in Gaza. He compared the cash to “protection money” paid to criminals. Addressing Netanyahu, he added: “You might buy short-term quiet, but you accustom the other side to applying violence as a way of advancing its interests.”

Now, he is allowing support for the PA and Qatari money for Gaza. He prevented Gantz from holding a meeting with Abbas, and then approved the meeting. This suggests strongly that he is following the agenda of others, notably the Israeli military and Washington.

Rapoport told me that the military lobby in Israel believes that “money brings calm”. What’s more, Gantz’s meeting with Abbas came immediately after Bennett’s return from Washington where he met Joe Biden. The US president, asked him to take steps towards improving the lives of Palestinians.

According to Israeli journalist Oren Ziv, a staff reporter and photographer at Local Call and +972 Magazine, Biden agreed to discuss the Palestinian issues in a closed meeting so that he would not embarrass Bennett. Biden apparently ordered Bennett, who supported the eviction of Palestinians from Jerusalem, to take practical measures to stop such evictions in the city’s Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood. The US leader highlighted “the importance of refraining from actions that could exacerbate tensions, contribute to a sense of unfairness, and undermine efforts to build trust.”

Following the meeting with Biden, Bennett vowed to bolster the PA and prop it up during its financial crisis. He also gave up his annexation plans.

Right-wing journalist Baruch Yedid reported Israeli sources as saying that Biden had also ordered the US Consulate in occupied East Jerusalem to be reopened. The sources, Yedid told me, said that Bennett “begged” Biden not to make these orders public and to postpone the reopening of the consulate until after the passing of the budget bill so that the Knesset will pass the bill, which will “preserve” the coalition government.

Bennett is “weak”, said Rapoport. He agreed with me that the prime minister is not carrying out his own agenda, and simply accepted Biden’s orders, including the consulate issue. If that is the case — and I think it is — then what, we are entitled to ask, is Bennett doing as prime minister? He has apparently accepted that he will be no more than a puppet acting on behalf of others. He has not only given up his own views, but is also adopting policies against them.

Motasem A Dalloul is MEMO’s correspondent in the Gaza Strip.

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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Al Jazeera English: “Israeli settler attacks on Palestinians ‘becoming more violent’”

The Neocons Strike Back: Blair’s Carping at Biden’s Afghanistan Withdrawal is Spite that He Couldn’t Recolonize the Muslim World https://www.juancole.com/2021/08/afghanistan-withdrawal-recolonize.html Thu, 26 Aug 2021 04:04:09 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=199704 By Nasim Ahmed | –

( Middle East Monitor ) – The architects of the “war on terror” have hit back following the humiliating US withdrawal from Afghanistan. From the political leaders who sanctioned never-ending wars to the intellectual high priests in journalism, academia and think tanks who cooked it up, exponents of Western imperialism have been doing the media rounds over recent days in a desperate bid to salvage their reputation.

They blame everyone but themselves for the ignominious ending to the occupation championed by neoconservative ideologues whose goal under the Project for the New American Century was to remake the Arab and Muslim world through the aggressive use of US military might in a bid, so they claimed, to enforce freedom and democracy. The disastrous end to the invasion of Iraq should have been the final nail in the coffin to the reputation and careers of the “high priests of war” who set America on a course towards not one but two humiliating defeats. Instead, the many decades of inflated threats and overstated dangers have been a source of personal gains.

Such has been the case, possibly because there was a final hope of vindication in Afghanistan, seen by many as “the good war” as opposed to “the bad war” in Iraq. Or perhaps it’s simply the case that our modern society is suffering from a deep sickness whereby war and conflict are the way to personal gain and success. In economic terms, the war in Afghanistan has been a massive boon for US defence contractors, which is probably the kind of perverse political situation former US President Dwight D Eisenhower had in mind when he warned Americans to guard against the “unwarranted influence” of the “military-industrial complex”.

The intervention by Tony Blair about the withdrawal of US troops has probably caused the most controversy. For days, many people have watched in fury as the two-decade long campaign in Afghanistan comes to an end accompanied by a conspicuous silence from the former British prime minister, one of the architects of the war on terror.

READ: The Taliban’s victory emphasises the legitimate right to self-determination

Blair has been a constant presence over the past two decades, domestically and across the Middle East, which cannot be said about his buddy George W Bush. In stark contrast to Blair, the former US President released a very short statement in which he called for American unity in helping Afghan refugees. Offering neither blame nor mind-numbing justification for the course on which he set America, Bush appeared content that his legacy has been tarnished even more.

When he finally mustered the courage to offer his views in a lengthy essay over the weekend, Blair not only slammed US President Joe Biden’s move to complete the troop withdrawal as “imbecilic”, “tragic”, “dangerous” and “unnecessary”, but also defended his own record and, to much dismay, doubled down on the neoconservative agenda. Writing for the Institute for Global Change that bears his name, he repeated the case for ongoing military intervention to curb the spread of what he called “Radical Islam”. He was neither contrite nor self-reflective while warning that the West is at risk of losing its pre-eminent position in the world if it fails to stand up to the threat posed by “Islamism” and groups like the Taliban.

With arguments that appeared to be frozen in time, Blair rehashed the same talking points cooked up by neoconservative ideologues and think tanks two decades ago to justify America’s never-ending wars. “Islamism is a long-term structural challenge inconsistent with modern societies based on tolerance and secular government.” He painted a picture depicting the threat from “radical Islam” emanating from every corner of the globe.

Sections of the far-right also subscribe to a version of this view in what is often referred to as the great replacement theory. They believe that there is a worldwide Muslim conspiracy to destroy Western civilisation and replace the “white race”. The way to deal with the threat posed by Muslims, the argument goes, is through the mass mobilisation of the “indigenous” white population and acts of terror against Muslims and anyone aiding their cause.

There is no evidence that Blair agrees with such a hateful, racist and violent conspiracy theory. However, as with any pernicious ideology, its growth and evolution requires respectable and mainstream figures to believe in and promote what might be termed a sanitised version.

In his essay, Blair did just that. He argued that the fight against radical Islam is a “strategic challenge” which the West must face in the same way that it faced and defeated “Revolutionary Communism”. His logic is that, unlike the threat from communism, the West does not recognise radical Islam as a civilisational challenge requiring a similar level of will and determination. Regarding the defeat of communism Blair pointed out that, “We understood it was a real menace and we combined across nations and parties to deal with it.”

READ: Engage with the Taliban without reservation

The battle to defeat communism “lasted more than 70 years”, with tremendous determination from the West to vanquish the totalitarian ideology. “Throughout that time, we would never have dreamt of saying, ‘well, we have been at this for a long time, we should just give up’,” Blair argued. The West, he wrote, is in danger of losing the battle for civilisation against an equally menacing totalitarian ideology. “This is what we need to decide now with Radical Islam. Is it a strategic threat? If so, how do those opposed to it including within Islam, combine to defeat it?”

Continuing with his overstating of the danger, Blair explained that not confronting radical Islam was also a policy decision with risks. “We have learnt the perils of intervention in the way we intervened in Afghanistan, Iraq and indeed Libya. But non-intervention is also policy with consequence.” He urged the West to move forward with the “sense of rediscovery that [we] represent values and interests worth being proud of and defending.”

Following the publication of his essay, Blair gave a lengthy interview to Sky News in which he repeated the arguments for continued Western intervention. A stream of articles followed which condemned the 68-year-old and his lack of remorse over what many view as a clear policy disaster of his making to add to the disastrous invasion of Iraq.

Does Blair’s bold and unapologetic intervention have anything to do with his lucrative post-parliamentary career? Since he stepped down as Prime Minister in 2007 Blair has set up various bodies advising some of the most authoritarian regimes in the world. He is not only said to have profited personally from inflating threats and overstating the dangers of Islamism — a term that is often simply shorthand for political activism by Muslims — but has also continued to peddle the neo-con agenda to shape Western policy towards Islam and Muslims. Perhaps Blair more than most of his discredited ideological bedfellows exemplifies the saying, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

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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BBC from 2015: “Jeremy Corbyn on Tony Blair and ‘war crimes’ – Newsnight”

Even love is forbidden under Israeli apartheid https://www.juancole.com/2021/08/forbidden-israeli-apartheid.html Wed, 25 Aug 2021 04:06:04 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=199690 By Muhammad Hussein | –

Israel’s apartheid system directed at the Palestinians is well documented. Within Israel’s officially-recognised borders — which the state has never actually declared — as well as across the occupied Palestinian territories, the people of occupied Palestine have long faced systematic discrimination which denies them the same rights afforded to Jewish Israelis and foreigners.

Separate roads, discriminatory laws, the “Separation Wall” and hundreds of military checkpoints combine to subject Palestinians to having daily life complicated beyond comprehension. All of this has been described by human rights organisations as “apartheid”. That, in a nutshell, is the system imposed by Israel on the Palestinians, even those who are Israeli citizens.

Israeli apartheid not only affects Palestinians, however but also their spouses from different countries. In a recent article published in Haaretz, Israeli journalist Amira Hass outlined this phenomenon by citing letters and requests that she received from German women who are married to Palestinian men living in the occupied West Bank. Every time that the three women Hass mentioned leave their homes in the West Bank to visit their home country, for example, they face the very real possibility that they will not be allowed to return.

Given that every Westerner has to fill out an Israeli tourist visa application, usually for a single-entry visa which they must renew every few weeks or months, these women already have a limited time in which they can lawfully stay in their marital home before renewal becomes due. If they choose to travel abroad before the visa expires, there is a risk that re-entry will not be permitted.

Hass confirmed that if the women were married to Israeli citizens, however, they would hardly face the same problems and would at least have been granted a multiple-entry visa, if not actual residency status.

When Hass asked the women whether the German consulate in Ramallah was a viable option for them to turn to for help, they stressed that when they do so “we’re told that they can’t do anything. It’s very frustrating.” Other Western spouses have the same problem, including US citizens, explained the journalist.

What shocks many, including Hass, is that even citizens of Western countries with strong ties and alliances with Israel are subjected to such treatment. It makes me wonder how much worse the ordeal could be for citizens of non-Western states – dare I say even Arab states – when they face the same policy and procedure.

Clearly and tragically, according to Israel, any foreigner – no matter where they are from – who loves a Palestinian and gets married is making a very grave mistake.

Furthermore, Hass acknowledges that the issue has been exacerbated by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and the travel restrictions that come with it. Israel has been able to exploit the pandemic to help it to restrict Palestinians from reuniting with their foreign spouses. If this means that the Palestinian spouse opts to go and live abroad with his or her wife or husband, so much the better from an Israeli point of view. It is all part of the ethnic cleansing by stealth of the Palestinian population that has been going on for decades.

What is noteworthy, is that foreign governments collaborate with this system and are thus complicit in the injustice that it engenders. The Palestinian Authority’s security coordination — collaboration — with Israel is hardly surprising; it is a corrupt entity that is forced to rely on Tel Aviv to stay afloat. It has no real independence, not least in security matters, and allows Israeli occupation forces to run amok within the territories under PA “control”. Israel even has control of the Palestinian Population Registry, a fact from much of this marriage issue stems.

However, the “helplessness” of the German and US Consulates in Israel – a supposed ally and partner – is surprising. That Western nations are unable, even unwilling, to support their citizens abroad and fight for their rights suggests that diplomats understand that they are dealing with a state which is above them — and above the law — and on a higher footing than they are. It’s a bizarre role reversal, given the amount of political and financial aid that they bestow in Israel’s favour.

Such influence and leverage over Western nations is, of course, nothing new as far as Israel is concerned. However, the fact that such nations do not even dare to speak out on behalf of their own citizens – we are not talking about Palestinians here, remember – presents the reality that perhaps they have become even weaker in their ability to challenge Israel.

By failing, intentionally or unintentionally, to do the bare minimum to help their citizens secure their rights when abroad, and curb the inherent injustices of Israel’s apartheid system, the West is entirely complicit in its perpetuation. When even love is forbidden for Palestinians and their spouses, it is obvious that something is very badly wrong in what is, after all, touted shamelessly as “the only democracy in the Middle East”.

Muhammad Hussein is an International Politics graduate and political analyst on Middle Eastern affairs, primarily focusing on the regions of the Gulf, Iran, Syria and Turkey, as well as their relation to Western foreign policy.

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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Vice News: “Palestinian Homes Are Being Demolished in Jerusalem”

Why Palestinian children under Israeli occupation do not Enjoy a Safe and Secure Life https://www.juancole.com/2021/08/palestinian-children-occupation.html Sun, 22 Aug 2021 04:04:35 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=199632 By Motasem A Dalloul | –

More than 1.2 million Palestinian children in the occupied territories returned to their schools for the new academic year on 15 August. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA), most of them have been counting down the days and looking forward to schools reopening. “Because for many young people in Palestine, 2021 has truly been a long, hot year to date.”

Explaining why, the UN OCHA pointed to the Covid-19 pandemic, throughout which keeping up with classes remotely was a challenge. In the Gaza Strip, nearly 180,000 Palestinian children will be returning to schools that are still damaged after the Israeli military offensive in May, which killed 255 people, including 67 children; more than 41,000 homes were totally or partially destroyed.

The pandemic is still affecting Gaza badly, and Israel has been blocking medical equipment and hygiene disposables at the nominal border. The children are particularly affected by Covid-19 when their parents are infected or have to isolate. It is a traumatic experience, especially for the youngsters. Indeed, many thousands of children in Gaza also suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder; every time they hear a drone or other Israeli aircraft they expect bombs to follow.

“Children not only have a right to a safe education but are afforded special protections under international human rights law in view of their specific vulnerability,” explained UN OCHA. “Since the beginning of 2021 [though], a total of 79 Palestinian children have been reported killed and 1,269 injured.” Eleven of those killed lived in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem, where 19 boys and five girls have been wounded in attacks by illegal settlers.

Furthermore, Israel is holding 170 children aged between 12 and 17 in prison, Military Court Watch has reported. That was the number as of the end of June, and the organisation pointed out that this was a six per cent increase on the previous month. A number of children are being held in administrative detention, with neither charge nor trial.

“According to the Israeli Prison Service,” said Military Court Watch, “69 per cent of child detainees were forcibly transferred and/or unlawfully detained in Israel in June. This is in violation of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and Article 8 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.”

Palestinian children under Israeli occupation do not enjoy a safe and secure life as there is always a possibility that they will be attacked by Israeli security forces or illegal settlers. Even the US, Israel’s main supporter in the international community, says that the occupation state “has a responsibility to protect children and teachers from harassment and violence by settlers on their way to and from school – and in any event.”

It is worth noting that Israel is not only targeting Palestinian children, but is also targeting the organisations which defend them or expose Israeli crimes against them. On 29 July, for example, Israeli occupation forces raided the offices of Defence for Children International – Palestine and confiscated equipment, including computers and hard drives. Among the items stolen by the Israeli occupation forces were the legal aid files of the children facing charges in military courts.

Military Court Watch has reported the case of a 16-year-old Palestinian boy from the West Bank who had a painful back injury which prevented him from sleeping in April. About 30 Israeli soldiers banged on the door of his house one night and told his father that he had “five seconds” to open it. Fifteen soldiers entered the family home and arrested the boy. After a harsh interrogation, during which he said that he was insulted repeatedly, the child was placed in solitary confinement for 18 days during which he made 20 or so appearances in a military court. After three months in prison he was released with an eight month suspended sentence.

A 14-year-old child from Nablus told Military Court Watch that he was walking to his friend’s house when an Israeli military jeep drove towards him and stopped. It was 3 o’clock in the afternoon. “A soldier stepped out and asked me what I was doing,” the boy explained. He was handcuffed — “very tight and painful” — and taken to the jeep where he was hit with a rifle butt by a soldier.

“The jeep drove to Huwwara military base where I was taken to a shipping container. The soldiers then turned the air conditioner on very cold and I was freezing.” After several questions, an Israeli soldier who claimed that he was a Muslim “asked me if I wanted to collaborate with them… and I told him I would never collaborate even if he stuck his gun to my head. Then he asked me if I wanted a cigarette and I told him I did not smoke. Then he asked to see my Facebook page. Then the commander came and told the soldier to leave me alone.”

About two hours later, he was taken outside and left in the sun. “I asked for some water but the soldiers did not respond. One of them spat at me and I started to shout. Soldiers heard my shouts and came to see what was going on. One of them slapped me and then made fun of me.”

Many rights groups around the world, including Israeli organisations have reported that Israel abuses Palestinian children systematically, but their reports are largely ignored. The UN’s own agencies conduct investigations and publish reports, but the international organisation simply expresses its “concern” and calls upon Israel to respect UN human rights guidelines and conventions.

Israel ignores such concerns, of course, and is allowed to act with impunity. This was confirmed by Amnesty International in a report last year. Such impunity, said Amnesty, allows Israel to get away with “torture and other ill-treatment of detainees, including children… Palestinian civilians, including children, from the Occupied Palestinian Territories were prosecuted in military courts that did not meet international fair trial standards.”

How long is the world going to allow such abuses to continue? It is clear for all to see that Israel is not the haven of democracy that it claims to be. The reality is that it is an apartheid state which treats international laws and conventions with contempt, and the world lets it get away with doing so, to the detriment of the people of occupied Palestine, including children. If we are to believe that the UN, the US, Britain and countries in the West generally really do care about human rights (as we have heard all week about the situation in Afghanistan), then Israel’s impunity must be brought to an end, and the colonial occupation state must be held to account for its crimes, not least those against children.

Motasem A Dalloul is MEMO’s correspondent in the Gaza Strip.

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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TRT World: “Saving the children of Gaza”