Ramzy Baroud – Informed Comment https://www.juancole.com Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion Sun, 13 Jun 2021 05:01:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.18 On ‘conflict’, ‘peace’ and ‘genocide’: Time for new language on Palestine and Israel https://www.juancole.com/2021/06/conflict-genocide-palestine.html https://www.juancole.com/2021/06/conflict-genocide-palestine.html#respond Sun, 13 Jun 2021 04:03:28 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=198334 ( Middle East Monitor ) – On 25 May, famous US actor Mark Ruffalo tweeted an apology for suggesting that Israel is committing “genocide” in Gaza.

    “I have reflected and wanted to apologise for posts during the recent Israel/Hamas fighting that suggested Israel is committing ‘genocide’,” Ruffalo wrote, adding: “It’s not accurate, it’s inflammatory, disrespectful and is being used to justify anti-Semitism, here and abroad. Now is the time to avoid hyperbole.”

But were Ruffalo’s earlier assessments, indeed, “not accurate, inflammatory and disrespectful”? And does equating Israel’s war on besieged, impoverished Gaza with genocide fit into the classification of “hyperbole”?

To avoid pointless social media spats, one only needs to reference the “United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide”. According to Article 2 of the 1948 Convention, the legal definition of genocide is: “Any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, such as (a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”

In its depiction of Israel’s latest war on Gaza, the Geneva-based human rights group, Euro-Med Monitor, reported: “The Israeli forces directly targeted 31 extended families. In 21 cases, the homes of these families were bombed while their residents were inside. These raids resulted in the killing of 98 civilians, including 44 children and 28 women. Among the victims were a man and his wife and children, mothers and their children, or child siblings. There were seven mothers who were killed along with four or three of their children. The bombing of these homes and buildings came without any warning despite the Israeli forces’ knowledge that civilians were inside.”

As of 28 May, 254 Palestinians in Gaza were killed, and 1,948 were wounded in the latest 11-day Israeli onslaught, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. Though tragic, this number is relatively small compared with the casualties of previous wars. For example, in the 51-day Israeli war on Gaza in the summer of 2014, over 2,200 Palestinians were killed, and over 17,000 were wounded. Similarly, entire families, like the 21-member Abu Jame family in Khan Younis, also perished. Is this not genocide? The same logic can be applied to the killings of over 300 unarmed protesters at the fence separating besieged Gaza from Israel between March 2018 and December 2019. Moreover, the besiegement and utter isolation of over two million Palestinians in Gaza since 2006-2007, which has resulted in numerous tragedies, is an act of collective punishment that also deserves the designation of genocide.

One does not need to be a legal expert to identify the many elements of genocide in Israel’s violent behaviour, let alone language, against Palestinians. There is a clear, undeniable relationship between Israel’s violent political discourse and equally violent action on the ground. Potentially Israel’s next Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who has served the role of defence minister, in July 2013 stated: “I’ve killed lots of Arabs in my life – and there’s no problem with that.”

With this context in mind, and regardless of why Ruffalo found it necessary to back-track on his moral position, Israel is an unrepentant human rights violator that continues to carry out an active policy of genocide and ethnic cleansing against the native, indigenous inhabitants of Palestine.

Language matters, and in this particular “conflict”, it matters most, because Israel has, for long, managed to escape any accountability for its actions, due to its success in misrepresenting facts and the overall truth about itself. Thanks to its many allies and supporters in mainstream media and academia, Tel Aviv has rebranded itself from being a military occupier and an apartheid regime to an “oasis of democracy“, in fact, “the only democracy in the Middle East”.

This article will not attempt to challenge the entirety of the misconstrued mainstream media’s depiction of Israel. Volumes are required for that, and Israeli Professor Ilan Pappé’s Ten Myths about Israel is an important starting point. However, this article will attempt to present some basic definitions that must enter the Palestine-Israel lexicon, as a prerequisite to developing a fairer understanding of what is happening on the ground.

A military occupation – not a ‘conflict’

Quite often, mainstream Western media refers to the situation in Palestine and Israel as a “conflict“, and to the various specific elements of this so-called conflict as a “dispute“. For example, the “Palestinian-Israeli conflict” and the “disputed city of East Jerusalem”.

What should be an obvious truth, is that besieged, occupied people do not engage in a “conflict” with their occupiers. Moreover, a “dispute” happens when two parties have equally compelling claims to any issue. When Palestinian families of East Jerusalem are being forced out of their homes which are, in turn, handed over to Jewish extremists, there is no “dispute” involved. The extremists are thieves, and the Palestinians are victims. This is not a matter of opinion. The international community itself says so.

“Conflict” is a generic term. Aside from absolving the aggressor – in this case, Israel – it leaves all matters open to interpretation. Since US audiences are indoctrinated to love Israel and hate Arabs and Muslims, siding with Israel in its “conflict” with the latter becomes the only rational option.

Israel has sustained a military occupation of 22 per cent of the total size of historic Palestine since June 1967. The remainder of the Palestinian homeland was already usurped, using extreme violence, state-sanctioned apartheid, and, as Pappé puts it, “incremental genocide” decades earlier.

From the perspective of international law, the term “military occupation”, “occupied East Jerusalem”, “illegal Jewish settlements”, and so forth, have never been “disputed”. They are simply facts, even if Washington has decided to ignore international law, and even if mainstream US media has chosen to manipulate the terminology to present Israel as a victim, not the aggressor.

‘Process’ without ‘peace’

The term “peace process” was coined by US diplomats decades ago. It was put to use throughout the mid and late 1970s when, then-US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger laboured to broker a deal between Egypt and Israel in the hope of fragmenting the Arab political front and, eventually, sidelining Cairo entirely from the “Arab-Israeli conflict”.

Kissinger’s logic proved vital for Israel as the “process” did not aim to achieve justice according to fixed criteria that has been delineated by the United Nations for years. There was no frame of reference anymore. If any existed, it was Washington’s political priorities that, historically, almost entirely overlapped with Israel’s priorities. Despite the obvious US bias, the US bestowed upon itself the undeserving title of “the honest peace broker“.

This approach was used successfully in the write-up to the Camp David Accords in 1978. One of the accords’ greatest achievements is that the so-called “Arab-Israeli conflict” was replaced with the so-called “Palestinian-Israeli conflict”.

Now, tried and true, the “peace process” was used again in 1993, resulting in the Oslo Accords. For nearly three decades, the US continued to tout its self-proclaimed credentials as a peacemaker, despite the fact that it pumped – and continues to do so – $3-4 billion of annual, mostly military, aid to Israel.

On the other hand, the Palestinians have little to show. No peace was achieved; no justice was obtained; not an inch of Palestinian land was returned and not a single Palestinian refugee was allowed to return home. However, US and European officials and a massive media apparatus continued to talk of a “peace process” with little regard to the fact that the “peace process” has brought nothing but war and destruction for Palestine, and allowed Israel to continue its illegal appropriation and colonisation of Palestinian land.

Resistance, national liberation – not ‘terrorism’ and ‘state-building’

The “peace process” introduced more than death, mayhem and normalisation of land theft in Palestine. It also wrought its own language, which remains in effect to this day. According to the new lexicon, Palestinians are divided into “moderates” and “extremists”. The “moderates” believe in the US-led “peace process”, “peace negotiations” and are ready to make “painful compromises” in order to obtain the coveted “peace”. On the other hand, the “extremists” are the “Iran-backed“, politically “radical” bunch that use “terrorism” to satisfy their “dark” political agendas.

But is this the case? Since the signing of the Oslo Accords, many sectors of Palestinian society, including Muslims and Christians, Islamists and secularists and, notably, socialists, resisted the unwarranted political “compromises” undertaken by their leadership, which they perceived to be a betrayal of Palestinians’ basic rights. Meanwhile, the “moderates” have largely ruled over Palestinians with no democratic mandate. This small but powerful group introduced a culture of political and financial corruption, unprecedented in Palestine. They applied torture against Palestinian political dissidents whenever it suited them. Not only did Washington say little to criticise the “moderate” Palestinian Authority (PA)’s dismal human rights record, but it also applauded it for its crackdown on those who “incite violence” and their “terrorist infrastructure”.

A term such as “resistance” – muqawama – was slowly but carefully extricated from the Palestinian national discourse. The term “liberation”, too, was perceived to be confrontational and hostile. Instead, such concepts as “state-building” – championed by former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and others – began taking hold. The fact that Palestine was still an occupied country and that “state-building” can only be achieved once “liberation” was first secured, did not seem to matter to the “donor countries”. The priorities of these countries – mainly US allies who adhered to the US political agenda in the Middle East – was to maintain the illusion of the “peace process” and to ensure “security coordination” between PA police and the Israeli army carried on, unabated.

The so-called “security coordination”, of course, refers to the US-funded joint Israeli-PA efforts at cracking down on Palestinian resistance, apprehending Palestinian political dissidents and ensuring the safety of the illegal Jewish settlements, or colonies, in the occupied West Bank.

War and, yes, genocide in Gaza – not ‘Israel-Hamas conflict’

The word “democracy” was constantly featured in the new Oslo language. Of course, it was not intended to serve its actual meaning. Instead, it was the icing on the cake of making the illusion of the “peace process” perfect. This was obvious, at least to most Palestinians. It also became obvious to the whole world in January 2006, when the Palestinian faction Fatah, which has monopolised the PA since its inception in 1994, lost the popular vote to the Islamic faction, Hamas.

Hamas, and other Palestinian factions, have rejected – and continue to reject – the Oslo Accords. Their participation in the legislative elections in 2006 took many by surprise, as the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) was itself a product of Oslo. Their victory in the elections, which was classified as democratic and transparent by international monitoring groups, threw a wrench in the US-Israeli-PA political calculations.

Lo and behold, the group that has long been perceived by Israel and its allies as “extremist” and “terrorist” became the potential leaders of Palestine! The Oslo spin doctors had to go into overdrive in order for them to thwart Palestinian democracy and ensure a successful return to the status quo, even if this meant that Palestine is represented by unelected, undemocratic leaders. Sadly, this has been the case for nearly 15 years.

Meanwhile, Hamas’s stronghold, the Gaza Strip, had to be taught a lesson, thus the siege imposed on the impoverished region for nearly 15 years. The siege on Gaza has little to do with Hamas’s rockets or Israel’s “security” needs, the right to “defend itself” and its supposedly “justifiable” desire to destroy Gaza’s “terrorist infrastructure”. While, indeed, Hamas’s popularity in Gaza is unmatched anywhere else in Palestine, Fatah, too, has a powerful constituency there. Moreover, the Palestinian resistance in the strip is not championed by Hamas alone, but also by other ideological and political groups, for example, the Islamic Jihad, the socialist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and other socialist and secular groups.

Misrepresenting the “conflict” as a “war” between Israel and Hamas is crucial to Israeli propaganda, which has succeeded in equating Hamas with militant groups throughout the Middle East and even Afghanistan. But Hamas is not Daesh, Al-Qaeda or the Taliban. In fact, none of these groups is similar, anyway. Hamas is a Palestinian Islamic nationalist movement that operates within a largely Palestinian political context. An excellent book on Hamas is the recently published volume by Dr Daud Abdullah, Engaging the World. Abdullah’s book rightly presents Hamas as a rational political actor, rooted in its ideological convictions, yet flexible and pragmatic in its ability to adapt to national, regional and international geopolitical changes.

But what does Israel have to gain from mischaracterising the Palestinian resistance in Gaza? Aside from satisfying its propaganda campaign of erroneously linking Hamas to other anti-US groups, it also dehumanises the Palestinian people entirely and presents Israel as a partner in the US global so-called “war on terror”. Israeli neofascist and ultranationalist politicians then become the saviours of humanity, their violent racist language is forgiven and their active “genocide” is seen as an act of “self-defence” or, at best, a mere state of “conflict”.

The oppressor as the victim

According to the strange logic of mainstream media, Palestinians are rarely “killed” by Israeli soldiers, but rather “die” in “clashes” resulting from various “disputes”. Israel does not “colonise” Palestinian land; it merely “annexes”, “appropriates” and “captures”, and so on. What has been taking place in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in occupied East Jerusalem, for example, is not outright property theft, leading to ethnic cleansing, but rather a “property dispute”.

The list goes on and on.

In truth, language has always been a part of Zionist colonialism, long before the state of Israel was itself constructed from the ruins of Palestinian homes and villages in 1948. Palestine, according to the Zionists, was “a land with no people” for “a people with no land”. These colonists were never “illegal settlers” but “Jewish returnees” to their “ancestral homeland”, who, through hard work and perseverance, managed to “make the desert bloom”, and, in order to defend themselves against the “hordes of Arabs”, they needed to build an “invincible army”.

It will not be easy to deconstruct the seemingly endless edifice of lies, half-truths and intentional misrepresentations of Zionist Israeli colonialism in Palestine. Yet, there can be no alternative to this feat because, without proper, accurate and courageous understanding and depiction of Israeli settler colonialism and Palestinian resistance to it, Israel will continue to oppress Palestinians while presenting itself as the victim.

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.

Unless otherwise stated in the article above, this work by Middle East Monitor is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Via Middle East Monitor

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Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

AJ+: “Is Israel Guilty Of Apartheid Against Palestinians?”

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Did Palestinians help Bring down Israel’s Netanyahu, who ensured their Statelessness? https://www.juancole.com/2021/06/palestinians-netanyahu-statelessness.html https://www.juancole.com/2021/06/palestinians-netanyahu-statelessness.html#respond Thu, 10 Jun 2021 04:04:42 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=198283 ( Middle East Monitor) – How has Benjamin Netanyahu managed to serve as Israel’s longest-serving Prime Minister? With a total of 15 years in office, he has surpassed the 12-year mandate of Israel’s founding father, David Ben Gurion. The answer to this question will become particularly critical for future Israeli leaders who hope to emulate Netanyahu’s legacy, now that his historic leadership is likely to be coming to an end.

Netanyahu’s “achievements” for Israel cannot be judged according to the same criteria as that of Ben Gurion. True, both were staunch Zionist ideologues and savvy politicians. Unlike Ben Gurion, though, Netanyahu did not lead a so-called “war of independence”, merging militias into an army and carefully constructing a “national narrative” that helped Israel to justify its numerous crimes against the indigenous Palestinians, at least in the eyes of the Zionist state and its supporters.

The clichéd explanation for Netanyahu’s success in politics is that he is a “survivor”, a hustler and a wily old fox; or, at best, a political genius. However, there is more to Netanyahu than mere soundbites. Unlike other right-wing politicians around the world, he did not simply exploit or ride the wave of an existing populist movement. Instead, he was the main architect of the current version of Israel’s right-wing politics. If Ben Gurion was the founding father of Israel in 1948, Netanyahu was the founding father of the new Israel in 1996. While Ben Gurion and his disciples used ethnic cleansing, colonisation, and illegal settlement construction for strategic and military reasons, Netanyahu, while carrying on with the same practices, changed the narrative altogether.

For Netanyahu, the Biblical version of Israel was far more convincing than the secular Zionist ideology of yesteryear. By changing the narrative, Netanyahu managed to redefine the support for Israel around the world, bringing together right-wing religious zealots and chauvinistic, Islamophobic, far-right, and ultra-nationalist parties in the US and elsewhere.

His success in rebranding the centrality of the idea of Israel in the minds of its traditional supporters was not a mere political strategy. He also shifted the balance of power in Israel by making Jewish extremists and illegal settlers in the occupied Palestinian territories his core constituency. Subsequently, he reinvented Israeli conservative politics altogether.

He also trained an entire generation of right-wing, far-right, and ultra-nationalist Israeli politicians, giving rise to such unruly characters as former Defence Minister and the leader of Yisrael Beiteinu, Avigdor Lieberman, former Justice Minister, Ayelet Shaked, and former Defence Minister, and Netanyahu’s likely replacement, Naftali Bennett.

Indeed, a whole new generation of Israelis grew up watching Netanyahu take the right-wing camp from one success to another. For them, he is the saviour. His hate-filled rallies and anti-peace rhetoric in the mid-1990s galvanised Jewish extremists, one of whom killed former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who engaged the Palestinian leadership through the “peace process” and, ultimately, signed the Oslo Accords.

On Rabin’s death in November 1995, Israel’s political “left” was devastated by right-wing populism championed by its new charismatic leader, Netanyahu, who, just a few months later, had become Israel’s youngest Prime Minister.

Despite the fact that, historically, Israeli politics is defined by its ever-changing dynamics, Netanyahu has helped the right prolong its dominance, completely eclipsing the once-hegemonic Labor Party. This is why the right loves him. Under his rule, illegal Jewish colonies have expanded at an exponential rate, and the meager possibility of a two-state solution has been buried forever.

Moreover, Netanyahu changed the relationship between the US and Israel, with the latter no longer a “client regime” — not that it ever was in the strict definition of the term — but one that holds a great deal of sway over the US Congress and the White House.

Every attempt by Israel’s political elites to dislodge Netanyahu has failed. No coalition was powerful enough; no election outcome was decisive enough; nobody was successful enough to convince Israeli society that they could do more for them than Netanyahu. Even when Gideon Sa’ar from Netanyahu’s own Likud party tried to stage a coup against him, he lost the vote and the support of the Likudists, later to be ostracised altogether.

Sa’ar then founded his own party, New Hope, continuing with the desperate attempt to oust the seemingly unconquerable Netanyahu. Four general elections within only two years still failed to push him out. All possible mathematical equations to unify various coalitions, all united by the single aim of defeating Netanyahu, have failed. Each time, he came back, with greater resolve to hang on to his position, challenging contenders within his own party as well as his enemies from outside. Even Israel’s legal system, which is currently trying Netanyahu for corruption, has not been powerful enough to compel the disgraced prime minister to resign.

Until last month, Palestinians seemed to be marginal, if at all relevant to this conversation. Those living under Israeli military occupation looked as if they were mollified, thanks to Israeli violence and Palestinian Authority acquiescence. The Palestinians in Gaza, despite occasional displays of defiance, were battling a 15-year Israeli siege. Palestinian communities inside Israel seemed alien to any political conversation pertaining to the struggle and aspirations of the Palestinian people as a whole.

All of these illusions were dispelled when Gaza rose in solidarity with a small Palestinian community in Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem. The resistance ignited a torrent of events that, within days, united all Palestinians, everywhere. Consequently, the popular Palestinian revolt has shifted the discourse in favour of Palestinians and against the Israeli occupation.

Expressing the significance of that moment perfectly, the Financial Times wrote, “The ferocity of the Palestinian anger caught Israel by surprise.” Netanyahu, whose extremist goons were unleashed against Palestinians everywhere, just as his army was unleashed against besieged Gaza, found himself at an unprecedented disadvantage. It took only 11 days of its military offensive to shatter Israel’s sense of “security”, expose its sham democracy and tarnish its image around the world.

The once untouchable Netanyahu became the mockery of Israeli politics. His conduct in Gaza was described by leading Israeli politicians as “embarrassing“, a defeat, and a “surrender“.

Benjamin Netanyahu has struggled to redeem himself. It is too late. As strange as this may sound, it was not Bennett or Lieberman who finally dethroned the “King of Israel”, but the Palestinians.

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.

Middle East Monitor

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Bonus video added by Informed Comment:

CBS this Morning: “Israel’s parliament to vote on new unity government that could see Benjamin Netanyahu lose power”

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Despite massive losses, the Palestinians have altered the course of history https://www.juancole.com/2021/05/despite-massive-palestinians.html Thu, 27 May 2021 04:02:57 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=198034 ( Middle East Monitor) – The “Palestinian Revolt of 2021” will go down in history as one of the most influential events to have shaped collective thinking irreversibly in and around Palestine. Only two other events can be compared with what has just transpired: the revolt of 1936 and the 1987 First Intifada.

The general strike and rebellion of 1936-39 were momentous events because they represented the first unmistakable expression of collective Palestinian political agency. Despite their isolation and humble resistance tools, the Palestinian people rose across Palestine to challenge the combination of British and Zionist colonialism.

The Intifada of 1987 was also historic. It was the unprecedented sustainable collective action that unified the occupied West Bank and Gaza after the Israeli occupation of what remained of historic Palestine in 1967. That legendary popular revolt, though costly in blood and sacrifices, allowed Palestinians to regain the political initiative and, once more, to speak as one.

The Intifada was eventually thwarted by the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. For Israel, Oslo was a gift from the Palestinian leadership that allowed it to suppress the Intifada and use the then newly-created Palestinian Authority (PA) to serve as a buffer between the Israeli military and the occupied, oppressed Palestinians.

The history of Palestine has followed a dismal trajectory ever since; one of disunity, factionalism, political rivalry and, for the privileged few, massive wealth. Nearly four decades have been wasted on a self-defeating political discourse centred on US-Israeli priorities, mostly concerned with “Israeli security” and “Palestinian terrorism”.

Old but befitting terminology such as liberation, resistance and popular struggle were replaced with the more “pragmatic” language of the “peace process”, “negotiation table” and “shuttle diplomacy”. According to this misleading discourse, the Israeli occupation of Palestine was depicted as a “conflict” and “dispute”, as if basic human rights were subject to political interpretation.

Predictably, the already powerful Israel became more emboldened, tripling the number of its illegal colonies in the West Bank along with the population of its illegal settlers. Palestine was segmented into tiny, isolated South African-style Bantustans, each carrying a code — Areas A, B and C — and the movement of Palestinians within their own homeland became conditioned on obtaining various coloured permits from the Israeli military authorities which controlled the bizarrely-named “Civil Administration”. Women giving birth at military checkpoints in the West Bank, cancer patients dying in Gaza while waiting for permission to cross the nominal border for hospital treatment and more became the everyday reality of Palestine and the Palestinians.

In time, the Israeli occupation of Palestine became a marginal issue on the international diplomatic agenda. Meanwhile, Israel cemented its relationship with numerous countries around the world, including many in the Southern hemisphere which had historically stood in alongside Palestine.

Even the international solidarity movement for Palestinian rights became confused and fragmented, itself a direct expression of Palestinian confusion and fragmentation. In the absence of a unified Palestinian voice amid the prolonged political feud, many took the liberty of lecturing Palestinians on how to resist, what “solutions” to fight for and how to conduct themselves politically. It seemed that Israel had finally gained the upper hand and this time it was for good.

A Palestinian demonstrator hurls a rock towards Israeli forces during clashes near the Jewish settlement of Beit El near Ramallah in the occupied West Bank on May 14, 2021. [ABBAS MOMANI/AFP via Getty Images]

Desperate to see Palestinians rise again, many called for a third Intifada, including intellectuals and political leaders. It was as if the flow of history, in Palestine — or elsewhere — adheres to fixed academic notions or is compelled by the urging of some individual or organisation.

The rational answer was, and remains, that only the Palestinian people will determine the nature, scope and direction of their collective action. Popular revolts are not the outcome of wishful thinking but of circumstances, the tipping point of which can only be decided by the people themselves.

This month, May 2021, was that very tipping point. Palestinians rose in unison from Jerusalem to Gaza, across every inch of occupied Palestine, as well as Palestinian refugee communities throughout the Middle East and, in doing so, they also resolved an impossible political equation. The Palestinian “problem” was no longer the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem alone, but the Israeli racism and apartheid which have targeted the Palestinian communities inside Israel as well. It was also about the crisis of the Palestinian leadership and the deep-seated factionalism and political corruption.

When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided on 8 May to unleash hordes of police and Jewish extremists on Palestinian worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque, who were protesting against the ethnic cleansing of the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in East Jerusalem, he was merely attempting to gain some political credibility among Israel’s most chauvinist right-wing constituencies. He also wanted to remain in power or, at least, to avoid prison following his upcoming trial on corruption and fraud charges.

He did not anticipate, however, that he was unleashing one of the most historic events in Palestine, one that would ultimately resolve a seemingly impossible Palestinian quandary. True, Netanyahu’s assault on the largely civilian population of Gaza killed hundreds of people, including women and children, and wounded thousands. The violence he perpetrated in the West Bank and in Arab neighbourhoods in Israel killed scores more. However, on 20 May, it was the Palestinians who claimed victory when the unconditional ceasefire came into force; hundreds of thousands of people rushed onto the streets to declare their triumph as one unified, proud nation.

Winning and losing wars of national liberation cannot be measured by gruesome comparisons between the number of dead or the degree of destruction inflicted on each side. If this was the case, no colonised nation would ever have fought for and won its freedom.

The Palestinians won because, once more, they emerged from the rubble of Israeli bombs as a whole, a nation determined to win its freedom at any cost. This realisation was symbolised in the many scenes of Palestinian crowds celebrating while waving the banners of all of the factions, without prejudice and without exception.

Finally, it can be asserted unequivocally that the Palestinian resistance scored a major victory, arguably unprecedented in its proud history. This is the first time that Israel has been forced to accept that the rules of the game have changed, most likely forever. It is no longer the only party able to determine political outcomes in occupied Palestine, because the Palestinian people are finally a force to be reckoned with.

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

This work by Middle East Monitor is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

Al Jazeera English: “Israeli court delays ruling on expulsion of families in Silwan”

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Netanyahu thought Ethnically Cleansing Sheikh Jarrah would Unite Israeli Right; Instead it United Palestinians https://www.juancole.com/2021/05/netanyahu-cleansing-palestinian.html Wed, 19 May 2021 04:02:33 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=197902 (Middle East Monitor) – From the outset, some clarification regarding the language used to depict the ongoing violence in occupied Palestine, and also throughout Israel. This is not a ‘conflict’. Neither is it a ‘dispute’ nor ‘sectarian violence’ nor even a war in the traditional sense.

It is not a conflict, because Israel is an occupying power and the Palestinian people are an occupied nation. It is not a dispute, because freedom, justice and human rights cannot be treated as if a mere political disagreement. The Palestinian people’s inalienable rights are enshrined in international and humanitarian law and the illegality of Israeli violations of human rights in Palestine is recognised by the United Nations itself.

If it is a war, then it is a unilateral Israeli war, which is met with humble, but real and determined Palestinian resistance.

Actually, it is a Palestinian uprising, an Intifada unprecedented in the history of the Palestinian struggle, both in its nature and outreach.

For the first time in many years, we see the Palestinian people united, from Jerusalem Al-Quds, to Gaza, to the West Bank and, even more critically, to the Palestinian communities, towns and villages inside historic Palestine – today’s Israel.

This unity matters the most, is far more consequential than some agreement between Palestinian factions. It eclipses Fatah and Hamas and all the rest because without a united people there can be no meaningful resistance, no vision for liberation, no struggle for justice to be won.

Right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could never have anticipated that a routine act of ethnic cleansing in East Jerusalem’s neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah could lead to a Palestinian uprising, uniting all sectors of Palestinian society in an unprecedented show of unity.

OPINION: Palestinians do not want anti-Semites at our rallies

The Palestinian people have decided to move past all the political divisions and the factional squabbles. Instead, they are coining new terminologies, centered on resistance, liberation and international solidarity. Consequently, they are challenging factionalism, along with any attempt at making Israeli occupation and apartheid normal. Equally important, a strong Palestinian voice is now piercing through the international silence, compelling the world to hear a single chant for freedom.

The leaders of this new movement are Palestinian youth who have been denied participation in any form of democratic representation, who are constantly marginalised and oppressed by their own leadership and by the relentless Israeli military occupation. They were born into a world of exile, destitution and apartheid, led to believe that they are inferior, of a lesser race. Their right to self-determination and every other right were postponed indefinitely. They grew up helplessly watching their homes being demolished, their land being robbed and their parents being humiliated.

Finally, they are rising.

Without prior coordination and with no political manifesto, this new Palestinian generation is now making its voice heard, sending an unmistakable, resounding message to Israel and its right-wing chauvinistic society, that the Palestinian people are not passive victims; that the ethnic cleansing of Sheikh Jarrah and the rest of occupied East Jerusalem, the protracted siege on Gaza, the ongoing military occupation, the construction of illegal Jewish settlements, the racism and the apartheid will no longer go unnoticed; though tired, poor, dispossessed, besieged and abandoned, Palestinians will continue to safeguard their own rights, their sacred places and the very sanctity of their own people.

No human rights in Gaza – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Yes, the ongoing violence was instigated by Israeli provocations in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in East Jerusalem. However, the story was never about the ethnic cleansing of Sheikh Jarrah alone. The beleaguered neighbourhood is but a microcosm of the larger Palestinian struggle.

Netanyahu may have hoped to use Sheikh Jarrah as a way of mobilising his right-wing constituency around him, intending to form an emergency government or increasing his chances of winning yet a fifth election. His rash behaviour, initially compelled by entirely selfish reasons, has ignited a popular rebellion among Palestinians, exposing Israel for the violent, racist and apartheid state that it is and always has been.

Palestinian unity and popular resistance have proven successful in other ways, too. Never before have we seen this groundswell of support for Palestinian freedom, not only from millions of ordinary individuals across the globe but also from celebrities – movie stars, footballers, mainstream intellectuals and political activists, even models and social media influencers. The hashtags #SaveSheikhJarrah and #FreePalestine, among numerous others, are now interlinked and have been trending on all social media platforms for weeks. Israel’s constant attempts at presenting itself as a perpetual victim of some imaginary horde of Arabs and Muslims are no longer paying dividends. The world can finally see, read and hear of Palestine’s tragic reality and the need to bring this tragedy to an immediate end.

None of this would be possible were it not for the fact that all Palestinians have legitimate reasons and are speaking in unison. In their spontaneous reaction and genuine, communal solidarity, all Palestinians are united, from Sheikh Jarrah to all of Jerusalem, to Gaza, Nablus, Ramallah, Al-Bireh and even Palestinian towns inside Israel – Al-Lud, Umm Al-Fahm, Kufr Qana and elsewhere.

In Palestine’s new popular revolution, factions, geography and any political division are irrelevant. Religion is not a source of divisiveness but of spiritual and national unity.

The ongoing Israeli atrocities in Gaza are continuing, with a mounting death toll. This devastation will continue for as long as the world treats the devastating siege of the impoverished, tiny Strip as if irrelevant. People in Gaza were dying long before the Israeli airstrikes began blowing up their homes and neighbourhoods. They were dying from the lack of medicine, polluted water, the lack of electricity and the dilapidated infrastructure.

Gaza Strip fatalities [UN OCHA]

We must save Sheikh Jarrah, but we must also save Gaza; we must demand an end to the Israeli military occupation of Palestine and, with it, the system of racial discrimination and apartheid. International human rights groups are now precise and decisive in their depiction of this racist regime, with Human Rights Watch – and Israel’s own rights group, B’Tselem, joining the call for the dismantlement of apartheid in all of Palestine.

Speak up. Speak out. The Palestinians have risen. It is time to rally behind them.

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)

This work by Middle East Monitor is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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Channel Four News: “Palestinians hold general strike as Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocket attacks continue”

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“Much Worse than Apartheid”: Israel’s Discourse on Palestine is Crumbling https://www.juancole.com/2021/05/apartheid-discourse-palestine.html Sun, 16 May 2021 04:02:51 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=197819 On April 27, one of the world’s largest and most credible rights groups, Human Rights Watch (HRW), concluded, in a comprehensive 213-pages report, that Israel is an apartheid state.

“Across these areas and in most aspects of life, Israeli authorities methodically privilege Jewish Israelis and discriminate against Palestinians. Laws, policies, and statements by leading Israeli officials make plain that the objective of maintaining Jewish Israeli control over demographics, political power and land has long guided government policy,” the report entitled “A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution” read in part.

More specifically, HRW wrote that Israeli “authorities have dispossessed, confined, forcibly separated and subjugated Palestinians by virtue of their identity to varying degrees of intensity.” This led it to unequivocally conclude that “these deprivations are so severe that they amount to the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.”

While, on their own, HRW’s conclusions carry a significant legal and potentially political weight, the report is hardly an isolated event. Only a few months ago, in January, a leading Israeli rights group, B’tselem, reached a similar conclusion.

“In the entire area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, the Israeli regime implements laws, practices and state violence designed to cement the supremacy of one group – Jews – over another – Palestinians,” B’tselem’s report, entitled “A Regime of Jewish Supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is Apartheid”, read.

The above are two significant, if not earth-shattering, additions to a burgeoning legal literature that points to Israel’s racial discrimination and outright apartheid. All of this signals a vastly changing discourse concerning Israel’s unlawful practices in occupied Palestine.

In fact, both reports are published against the backdrop of an equally unprecedented study conducted by the United Nations itself. In 2017, the UN-affiliated Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), released its own report, entitled “Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid”. The UN report was authored by two leading intellectuals, international law expert Professor Richard Falk and political scientist Professor Virginia Tilley. Its language represented a radical departure from the UN’s ever-guarded approach to the Palestine-Israel subject, often the outcome of fear of American retribution.

What makes HRW’s latest report, however, more significant than any other previous legal arguments regarding racism and apartheid in Israel, is its timing, as it was published shortly after the International Criminal Court (ICC) decided, despite intense Israeli lobbying and American pressure, to open an investigation of alleged war crimes committed in occupied Palestine.

Though the ICC investigation does not, as of yet, include the Crime of Apartheid, future findings, especially with the HRW report in mind, could alter the course of the investigation. Indeed, the exhaustive HRW report certainly provides ample evidence that the crime of apartheid is, in fact, being committed and is widely spread, not only in occupied Palestine but also within historic Palestine, today’s Israel.

That in mind, it is important that the HRW, B’tselem and ESCWA reports are placed within a proper context, one that examines the evolution of the apartheid narrative, mostly in the Western discourse, concerning Palestine and Israel. This understanding is important in the sense that it could help illuminate the possible direction, in addition to the political and legal consequences of labeling Israel an apartheid regime.

Tellingly, it was Africa, not the West, that first began coining today’s terminology concerning Israel’s racism and apartheid. In 1975, the Organisation of African Unity passed Resolution 77 (XII), condemning Israel’s founding ideology, Zionism, as it considered it “a danger to world peace”. Then, it launched a global campaign aimed at unmasking “the racist aggressive nature of the Zionist entity”. This condemnation was made within the larger context of condemning racist apartheid regimes in South Africa and elsewhere.

It is historically significant to point out that it was this morally driven African stance on Palestine and against racism in all of its forms, which served as the foundation upon which UN General Assembly Resolution 3379 of 1975 was based. The UN Resolution, which was revoked in 1991 under intense American pressure, had recognized Zionism as “a form of racism and racial discrimination”.

The famous 1997 declaration by South Africa’s anti-apartheid icon, and first post-Apartheid President, Nelson Mandela, that “we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians,” was not an isolated moral stance against injustice. Instead, it was fully consistent with other statements and declarations made by many other African liberation leaders throughout the continent’s anti-colonial struggle.

With time, the direct correlation between South African apartheid and Israeli apartheid became more palpable. “I have witnessed the systemic humiliation of Palestinian men, women and children by members of the Israeli security forces,” said anti-apartheid leader, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, following a trip to Palestine in 2014.

“Their humiliation,” Tutu added, with reference to the Palestinians, “is familiar to all black South Africans who were corralled and harassed and insulted and assaulted by the security forces of the apartheid government.”

In a 2014 interview with the US-based TV program, ‘Democracy Now’, MIT Professor Noam Chomsky went further, suggesting that “in the Occupied Territories, what Israel is doing is much worse than apartheid.” He elaborated,

“To call it apartheid is a gift to Israel, at least if by ‘apartheid’ you mean South African-style apartheid. What’s happening in the Occupied Territories is much worse. There’s a crucial difference. The South African Nationalists needed the black population. That was their workforce. … The Israeli relationship to the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories is totally different. They just don’t want them. They want them out, or at least in prison.”

Even before radical intellectual voices were openly using the word ‘apartheid’, the term was slowly surfacing in mainstream Western societies and intellectual circles. Defending his 2006 book “Peace Not Apartheid” in an interview with American National Public Radio NPR, former US President Jimmy Carter insisted that “Apartheid is a word that is an accurate description of what has been going on in the West Bank, and it’s based on the desire or avarice of a minority of Israelis for Palestinian land.”

With time, references to the term ‘apartheid’ were utilised by other mainstream leaders, intellectuals, and celebrities. A recent example is that of famous American actor Mark Ruffalo’s interview with Mahdi Hasan’s NBC program last October. Ruffalo courageously spoke of the Israeli violence and “asymmetrical warfare” against the Palestinian people, describing the system of separation created by Israel as a “kind of apartheid”.

These are but a few examples of many such references to Israeli apartheid which are growingly present in academic research, in social media and in statements by high-profile individuals. Fearing that the label of apartheid is on its way to being the acceptable designation of Israel, the Israeli government and its supporters are laboring to mute the conversation altogether, by equating criticism of Israel and Zionism with anti-Semitism.

However, as HRW’s and other human rights organisations’ reports have indicated, Israel is clearly losing the battle of public opinion.

Anti-Semitism, or the supposed hate for Israel, has nothing to do with any of this. As the HRW report and the previous report by Israel’s own rights group, B’tselem, demonstrate, the use of the word ‘apartheid’ is grounded in a legal framework, which was articulated by the United Nations itself.

According to the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid in 1976, the Crime of Apartheid is described as follows:

The crime of apartheid’, which shall include similar policies and practices of racial segregation and discrimination as practiced in southern Africa, shall apply to the (…) inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them..

None of the previously mentioned reports deviated from that description. For example, HRW wrote,

A stated aim of the Israeli government is to ensure that Jewish Israelis maintain domination across Israel and the OPT (Occupied Palestinian Territories). (…) Other steps are taken to ensure Jewish domination, including a state policy of ‘separation’ of Palestinians between the West Bank and Gaza, which prevents the movement of people and goods within the OPT, and ‘Judaization’ of areas with significant Palestinian populations, including Jerusalem as well as the Galilee and the Negev in Israel.

Earlier, B’tselem made similar assertions.

Dismissing a legally justifiable conclusion – itself based on the harrowing reality under which Palestinians have been forced to subsist for decades – as if another form of ‘anti-Semitism’ is a desperate attempt at delaying the inevitable. Israel’s apartheid status will eventually become the global designation of Israel’s practices in Palestine, as was the case in South Africa.

In truth, the cracks in the wall of the Israeli narrative were always present. Critics of Israel’s racist and violent policies against Palestinians included many courageous intellectuals and movements, some of whom paid a heavy price for that courage. But a combination of factors, including the absence of Palestinian voices in mainstream academia and media, in addition to the intimidation tactics and smear campaigns used by Israel and its supporters, kept criticism of Israeli apartheid at a minimum.

The genie, however, is finally out of the bottle and a massive edifice of intellectual, historical and legal discourses are quickly building up an irrefutable case against Israel’s apartheid. No amount of Israeli propaganda and smear campaigns can turn the tide back in favor of Israel. While it may be too early to speak of a major paradigm shift, it is certainly no longer far-fetched to imagine that such a possibility is finally at hand.

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

C
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Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

AJ+: “Is Israel Guilty Of Apartheid Against Palestinians?”

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Is Grassroots American Activism Shifting Public Opinion toward the Palestinians? https://www.juancole.com/2021/04/grassroots-american-palestinians.html Wed, 28 Apr 2021 04:01:26 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=197486 ( Middle East Monitor) – At a recent J Street Conference online, US Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren broke yet another political taboo when they expressed willingness to leverage US military aid as a way of putting pressure on Israel to respect Palestinian human rights. Sanders believes that the US “must be willing to bring real pressure to bear, including restricting US aid, in response to moves by either side that undermine the chances for peace.” Warren, meanwhile, showed a willingness to restrict military aid as a “tool” to push Israel to “adjust course”.

Generally, Sanders’ increasingly pro-Palestinian stances are more progressive than those of Warren. Both, though, are still hovering within the mainstream Democratic discourse: a willingness to criticise Israel as long as that criticism is coupled with equal — if not even more pointed — criticism of the Palestinians.

Seraj Assi explained this dichotomy in an article published in Jacobin Magazine: “Sanders’ stance on Israel-Palestine could undoubtedly be more progressive. He has consistently voted in favour of US military aid to Israel, which subsidises occupation, settlement expansion, and systematic violence against Palestinians. He still opposes the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) campaign, signing onto an anti-BDS letter to the UN Secretary-General in 2017 and reiterating his opposition to BDS.”

However, as Assi himself indicated, Sanders’ position on Palestine and Israel cannot be judged simply against some imagined ideal. It should be seen within the context of America’s own political culture, within which any criticism of Israel is viewed as “heretical”, if not outright anti-Semitic.

Sanders’ influence on the overall Democrat political discourse is palpable. He has paved the way for more radical, younger voices in the US Congress who now openly criticise the occupation state, while remaining largely unscathed by the wrath of the pro-Israel lobby, mainly the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Gone are the days when AIPAC and other pro-Israel pressure groups shaped domestic American political discourse on Israel and Palestine. Nothing indicates that the tide has turned completely against Israel, yet. However, a decisive US public opinion shift must not be ignored. It is this popular shift that is empowering voices within the Democratic Party to speak out more freely without jeopardising their political careers, as was often the case in the past.

In order to decipher the roots of the anti-Israeli occupation, pro-Palestinian sentiments among Democrats, some numbers could be helpful. While Sanders, Warren, and other Democrat officials are willing to criticise Israel but vehemently reject BDS, the membership of the Democratic Party does not hold the same view. An early 2020 Brookings Institute poll found that, among Democrats who had heard about BDS, “a plurality, 48 per cent, said they supported the Movement, while only 15 per cent said they opposed it.”

This indicates that grassroots activism, which directly engages with ordinary Americans, is largely shaping their views on the movement to boycott Israel. Ordinary Democrats are leading the way, while their representatives are merely trying to catch up.

Other numbers are also indicative of the fact that the vast majority of Americans oppose pro-Israel efforts to promote laws and legislation as a political tool to criminalise boycotts. Such laws, they rightly believe, infringe on the constitutional rights to free speech. Expectedly, 80 per cent of Democrats lead the way in opposing such measures, followed by 76 per cent of independents and 62 per cent of Republicans.

Such news must be disturbing for Tel Aviv. The Israeli government has invested heavily through AIPAC and other pro-Israel groups to brand BDS and any other movement that criticises the military occupation and systematic apartheid in Palestine as “anti-Semitic”.

Israelis find this new phenomenon quite confounding. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been criticised repeatedly in the past, even by mainstream Israeli officials and media pundits, for turning Democrats against the occupation state by siding unabashedly with former US President Donald Trump and his Republican Party against their domestic rivals in America. In doing so, Netanyahu has basically helped to turn no-questions-asked support for Israel from a bipartisan issue into a Republican-only cause. A February 2020 Gallup poll reflected that reality, finding that 70 per cent of Democrats support the establishment of a Palestinian State, in comparison with just 44 per cent of Republicans.

The rooted support for Israel among establishment Democrats is too deep — and well-funded — to be erased in a few years, but the pro-Palestine, anti-Israeli occupation trend continues unabated, even after the defeat of Trump at the hands of the Democratic Party candidate, President Joe Biden. The past year, in particular, has been difficult for the pro-Israel lobby, which is unaccustomed to electoral disappointments. Last June, for example, the lobby painted itself into a corner when it rallied behind one of the most faithful supporters of the occupation state, Representative Eliot Engel of New York, and depicted his opponent Jamaal Bowman as “anti-Israel”.

Bowman is hardly anti-Israel, although his position is relatively more moderate than Engel’s extreme, one-sided views. In fact, Bowman had made it clear that he continues to support US aid to Israel and openly opposes BDS. However, unlike Engel, he was not the perfect candidate whose love for Israel is blind, unconditional, and everlasting. To the embarrassment of the lobby, Engel lost his seat in the US Congress, one which he had held for more than 30 years.

Unlike Bowman, Cori Bush is a grassroots activist from Missouri who ousted the pro-Israel Congressman William Lacy Clay. She has defended the Palestine boycott movement as a matter of freedom of speech, despite a relentless smear campaign describing her as “anti-Semitic” merely for appearing in photos with pro-Palestine activists. Last August, Bush — a Black American woman from a humble background — became US Representative for Missouri’s 1st congressional district, despite the efforts of the pro-Israel lobby to deny her such a position.

It is important to acknowledge the role played by individuals in the undeniable shift within the American political discourse on Palestine and Israel. Ordinary people are making a real difference. While the pro-Israel lobby still wields the dual weapon of money and propaganda, politically engaged grassroots activism is proving decisive in garnering American solidarity with Palestine, while translating this solidarity slowly but surely into political gains. This is bottom-up politics in action.

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

This work by Middle East Monitor is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

Senator Bernie Sanders @ J Street’s 2019 National Conference

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Israel’s Latest Election produces no Clear Winner, except the far Right and the Occupation https://www.juancole.com/2021/04/election-produces-occupation.html Thu, 01 Apr 2021 04:03:15 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=196986 ( Middle East Monitor ) – A “major setback” was the recurring theme in many news headlines reporting on the outcome of Israel’s General Election last week. While this referred specifically to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s failure to secure a decisive victory in the country’s fourth election in two years, it is only part of the narrative.

It certainly was a setback for Netanyahu, who has resorted repeatedly to Israeli voters as a final lifeline in the hope of escaping his growing list of problems: splits within his Likud Party; the constant plotting of his former right-wing coalition partners; his own trials on corruption and fraud charges; and his lack of political vision that does not cater to his and his family’s interests.

Yet, the outcome of this one was the same as the preceding three elections, with no party having an absolute majority. A coalition has to be formed. Netanyahu’s right-wing camp — his potential coalition partners — consists of even more ardently right-wing parties. Aside from the Likud, which won thirty Knesset seats, they include Shas with nine seats; United Torah Judaism with seven; and Religious Zionism with six. With just 52 seats at his potential disposal, Netanyahu’s base is more vulnerable and more extreme than ever before.

Yamina, on the other hand, emerged with seven seats and is a logical partner in Netanyahu’s possible coalition. It is headed by staunchly right-wing Naftali Bennett, who assumed the role of minister in various Netanyahu-led right-wing coalitions, and who sits — ideologically speaking — to the right of Netanyahu. A keen politician, Bennett has, for years, tried to escape Netanyahu’s dominance and claim the leadership of the right-wing. While joining another coalition headed by the Likud leader is hardly his best-case scenario, Bennett might return reluctantly to the Netanyahu camp for now, because he has no other real option.

He could, however, opt for another radical path, like that taken by former Likudite, Gideon Sa’ar of New Hope and Avigdor Lieberman of Yisrael Beiteinu, by trying to oust Netanyahu, even if this means forming a shaky, short-lived coalition.

The anti-Netanyahu camp does not seem to have much in common in terms of politics, ideology or ethnicity — a crucial component in Israeli politics — other than the collective wish to get rid of the prime minister. If an anti-Netanyahu coalition is somehow cobbled together — uniting Yesh Atid (seventeen seats), Kahol Lavan (eight), Yisrael Beiteinu (seven), Labor (seven), New Hope (six), the Arab Joint List (six) and Meretz (six) — the coalition would still fail to reach the required threshold of 61 seats for a simple majority.

To avoid returning to the polls for the fifth time in under three years, the anti-Netanyahu coalition would be forced to cross many political red lines. For example, Netanyahu’s former anti-Arab allies, namely Lieberman and Sa’ar, would have to accept joining a coalition that includes the Arab Joint List. The latter would have to make a similar ideological leap into the dark and cooperate with political parties which have avowedly racist, chauvinistic and anti-peace agendas. To secure the much-sought majority, though, they would still need a push either from Bennet’s Yamina or Mansour Abbas’s United Arab List (Ra’am).

Bennett is known for his ideological rigidity, and he understands that a coalition with the Arabs and the left could jeopardise his position with his ideological base on the right and the far-right. If he is to join an anti-Netanyahu coalition, it would be for the sole purpose of passing legislation in the Knesset that prevents politicians on trial from participating in elections. This has been Lieberman’s main strategy for quite some time. Once this mission is achieved, these odd political bedfellows would pounce on each other to claim Netanyahu’s position at the helm of the right.

For Abbas’s United Arab List, however, the story is quite different. Not only did he betray desperately needed Arab unity in the face of an existential threat posed by Israel’s growing anti-Arab politics, but he also went on to suggest his willingness to join a Netanyahu-led coalition.

However, even for an opportunist like Abbas, joining a right-wing coalition with groups that champion such slogans as “Death to the Arabs” could be extremely dangerous. From the perspective of the Arab citizens of Israel — 20 per cent of the population — Abbas’s politics already border on treason. Joining the chauvinistic, violent Kahanists — who ran as part of the Religious Zionism list — to form a government that aims to save Netanyahu’s political career, would place this inexperienced and foolhardy politician in direct confrontation with his own Palestinian Arab community.

Alternatively, Abbas may wish to vote in favour of the anti-Netanyahu coalition as a direct partner, or from the outside. As with Bennett, both options would make Abbas a potential kingmaker, an ideal scenario from his point of view and less than ideal from the point of view of a coalition that, if formed, would be unstable.

Consequently, it is inadequate to categorise the outcome of the latest Israeli election as a “setback” for Netanyahu alone; it is also a setback for everyone else. Netanyahu failed to achieve a clear majority, but his enemies failed to make a case to Israeli voters for Netanyahu to be shunted out of politics altogether. He remains the uncontested leader of the Israeli right and his Likud party still holds thirteen seats more than its closest rival.

Though the centre parties unified temporarily in previous elections in the form of Kahol Lavan (Blue and White), it quickly disintegrated; and this is equally true for the once unified Arab parties. Disuniting just before last week’s election, these parties squandered Arab votes and, with it, any hope that racist, militaristic, and religiously zealous Israeli politics could possibly be fixed from within.

This means that, whether Netanyahu goes or stays, the next Israeli government is likely to remain firmly to the right. Moreover, with or without Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, Israel is unlikely to produce a politically unifying figure, one who is capable of redefining the country beyond the Netanyahu personality cult.

As for ending the Israeli occupation of Palestine, dismantling apartheid and, with it, the illegal Jewish settlements, it remains a distant dream. These issues were hardly mentioned at all during the election campaign, let alone discussed. Israel’s Kafkaesque politics are starting to look permanent.

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

Unless otherwise stated in the article above, this work by Middle East Monitor is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

i24 News: “Israel: President Rivlin to Give Mandate for Formation of Next Gov’t”

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Law of the Occupier: Israel’s Ethnic Cleansing of Palestinians of East Jerusalem https://www.juancole.com/2021/03/cleansing-palestinians-jerusalem.html Wed, 24 Mar 2021 04:04:38 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=196810 ( Middle East Monitor) – A Palestinian man, Atef Yousef Hanaysha, was killed by Israeli occupation forces on 19 March during a weekly protest against illegal Israeli settlement expansion in Beit Dajan, near Nablus, in the northern West Bank. Although tragic, this news reads like a routine item from occupied Palestine, where the shooting and killing of unarmed protesters is part of the daily reality. That reality, though, is part of a wider, more sinister development.

Since right-wing Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, announced in September 2019 his intention to formally and illegally annex nearly a third of the occupied Palestinian West Bank, tensions have remained high. The killing of Hanaysha is only the tip of the iceberg. In occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank, a massive battle is already underway. On one side, Israeli soldiers, army bulldozers, and illegal armed Jewish settlers are carrying out daily missions to evict Palestinian families, displace farmers, burn orchards, demolish homes and confiscate land. On the other side, Palestinian civilians, often unorganised, unprotected and leaderless, are fighting back.

The territorial boundaries of this battle are largely located in occupied East Jerusalem and in so-called “Area C” of the West Bank — which covers nearly 60 per cent of the total area of the occupied territory — which is under complete and direct Israeli military control. No other place represents the perfect microcosm of this uneven war than the neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem.

On 10 March, fourteen Palestinian and Arab organisations issued a “joint urgent appeal to the United Nations Special Procedures on forced evictions in East Jerusalem” to stop the Israeli evictions in the area. Successive decisions by Israeli courts have paved the way for the Israeli army and police to evict fifteen Palestinian families — 37 households of around 195 people — in the Karm Al-Ja’ouni area in Sheikh Jarrah as well as Batn Al-Hawa neighbourhood in the town of Silwan.

These imminent evictions are not the first, nor will they be the last. Israel occupied Palestinian East Jerusalem in June 1967 and formally, though illegally, annexed it in 1980. Since then, the Israeli government has vehemently rejected international criticism of the occupation, declaring instead that Jerusalem is the “eternal and undivided capital of Israel”.

To ensure that its annexation of the city is irreversible, the Israeli government approved the Master Plan 2000, a massive scheme that was undertaken to rearrange the boundaries of the city in such a way that it would ensure the permanent demographic majority of Israeli Jews at the expense of the city’s indigenous inhabitants. The Master Plan was no more than a blueprint for state-sponsored ethnic cleansing, which saw the destruction of thousands of Palestinian homes and the subsequent eviction of numerous families.

While news headlines occasionally present the habitual evictions of Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan, and other parts of East Jerusalem as if it is simply a matter of counterclaims between Palestinian residents and Jewish settlers, the story is, in fact, a wider representation of Palestine’s modern history. Indeed, the innocent families which are now facing “the imminent risk of forced eviction” are re-living their ancestral nightmare of the Nakba, the very deliberate ethnic cleansing of historic Palestine in 1948.

Two years after the native inhabitants of historic Palestine were dispossessed of their homes and lands and ethnically cleansed, Israel enacted the so-called Absentees’ Property Law of 1950. The law, which has no legal or moral validity, simply granted to the State the properties of Palestinians who were driven out or fled from the war, to do with it as it pleases. Since those “absentee” Palestinians have never been allowed to exercise their legitimate right of return, as enshrined in international law, the Israeli law was state-sanctioned theft on a grand scale. It aimed ultimately to achieve two objectives: to ensure that Palestinian refugees do not return or attempt to claim their stolen properties in Palestine; and to give Israel a legal fig leaf for permanently confiscating Palestinian land and homes.

The Israeli military occupation of the remainder of historic Palestine in 1967 necessitated, from an Israeli colonial perspective, the creation of fresh laws that would allow the State and the illegal settlement enterprise to claim yet more Palestinian properties. This took place in 1970 in the form of the Legal and Administrative Matters Law. According to the new legal framework, only Israeli Jews were allowed to claim lost land and property in Palestinian areas.

Many of the evictions in East Jerusalem take place within the context of these three interconnected and strange legal arguments: the Absentees’ Property Law, the Legal and Administrative Matters Law, and the Master Plan 2000. Understood together, we can easily decipher the nature of the Israeli colonial scheme in East Jerusalem, where Israeli Jewish individuals, in coordination with settler organisations, work together to fulfil the vision of the State.

In their joint appeal, Palestinian human rights organisations describe how the flow of eviction orders issued by Israeli courts culminate in the construction of illegal Jewish settlements. Confiscated Palestinian properties are usually transferred to a branch within the Israeli Ministry of Justice called the Israeli Custodian General. The latter holds on to these properties until they are claimed by Israeli Jews, in accordance with the 1970 Legal and Administrative Matters Law. Once Israeli courts honour Jewish individuals’ legal claims to the confiscated Palestinian lands, these individuals often transfer their ownership rights or management to settler organisations. In no time, the latter utilise the newly-acquired property to expand existing settlements or to start new ones. All settlements are, of course, illegal under international law.

While the Israeli State claims to play an impartial role in this scheme, it is actually the facilitator of the entire process. The final outcome manifests in the ever-predictable scene, where an Israeli flag is triumphantly hoisted over a Palestinian home and a Palestinian family is assigned a tent from the UN and a few blankets.

While the above picture can thus be dismissed by some as another routine, common occurrence, the situation in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem has become extremely volatile. Palestinians feel that they have nothing more to lose and Netanyahu’s government is more emboldened than ever. The killing of Atef Hanaysha, and others like him, is only the beginning of an imminent and widespread confrontation.

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

This work by Middle East Monitor is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

Middle East Eye: “‘We have to be united’: Palestinians in East Jerusalem district challenge Israeli eviction push”

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Imagining Palestine: Literature and the Language of Exile https://www.juancole.com/2021/02/imagining-palestine-literature.html Wed, 24 Feb 2021 05:03:48 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=196307 ( Middle East Monitor ) – For Palestinians, exile is not simply the physical act of being removed from their homeland and their inability to return. It is not a casual topic pertaining to politics and international law, either. Nor is it an ethereal notion, a sentiment, a poetic verse. It is all of this combined.

The death in Amman of Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti, an intellectual whose work has been linked intrinsically to exile, brought back to the surface many existential questions: are Palestinians destined to be exiled forever? Can there be a remedy for this perpetual torment? Is justice a tangible, achievable goal?

Barghouti was born in 1944 in Deir Ghassana, near Ramallah. His journey in exile began in 1967, and ended, however temporarily, 30 years later. His memoir I Saw Ramallah — published in 1997 — was an exiled man’s attempt to make sense of his identity, one that was formulated within many different physical spaces, conflicts and airports. While, in some way, the Palestinian in Barghouti remained intact, his was a unique identity that can only be fathomed by those who have experienced, to some degree, the pressing feelings of Ghurba — estrangement and alienation — or Shataat — dislocation and diaspora.

In his memoir, translated into English in 2000 by acclaimed Egyptian author Ahdaf Soueif, he wrote: “I tried to put the displacement between parentheses, to put a last period in a long sentence of the sadness of history… But I see nothing except commas. I want to sew the times together. I want to attach one moment to another, to attach childhood to age, to attach the present to the absent and all the presents to all absences, attach exiles to the homeland and to attach what I have imagined to what I see now.”

Those familiar with the rich and complex Palestinian literature of exile can relate Barghouti’s reference — what one imagines versus what one sees — to the writing of other intellectuals who have suffered the pain of exile as well. Ghassan Kanafani and Majed Abu Sharar, along with numerous others, wrote about that same conflict. Their death — or, rather, assassination — in exile brought their philosophical journeys to an abrupt end.

READ: Remembering Mahmoud Darwish

In Mahmoud Darwish’s seminal poem, “Who Am I, Without Exile”, the late Palestinian poet asked, knowing that there can never be a compelling answer, “What will we do without exile?”

It is as if Ghurba has been so integral to the collective character of a nation, that it is now a permanent tattoo on the heart and soul of Palestinians everywhere. “A stranger on the riverbank, like the river… water binds me to your name. Nothing brings me back from my faraway to my palm tree: not peace and not war. Nothing makes me enter the gospels. Not a thing…,” wrote Darwish.

The impossibility of becoming a whole again in the verses of Darwish and Barghouti were reverberations of Kanafani’s own depiction of a Palestine that was as agonisingly near as it was far.

“What is a homeland?” Kanafani asks in Returning to Haifa. “Is it these two chairs that remained in this room for twenty years? The table? Peacock feathers? The picture of Jerusalem on the wall? The copper-lock? The oak tree? The balcony? What is a homeland? … I’m only asking.”

But there can be no answers, because when exile exceeds a certain rational point of waiting for some kind of justice that would facilitate one’s return, it can no longer be articulated, relayed or even fully comprehended. It is the metaphorical precipice between life and death; “life” as in the burning desire to be reunited with one’s previous self; and “death” as in knowing that without a homeland one is a perpetual outcast, physically, politically, legally, intellectually and every other form.

“In my despair I remember; that there is life after death… But I ask: Oh my God, is there life before death?” wrote Barghouti in his poem “I Have No Problem”.

While the crushing weight of exile is not unique to Palestinians, the Palestinian exile is itself unique. Throughout the entire episode of Palestinian Ghurba, from the early days of the Nakba — the destruction of the Palestinian homeland in 1948 — till today, the world remains divided between inaction, obliviousness and refusal to even acknowledge the injustice inflicted upon the Palestinian people.

READ: Renowned Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti dies aged 76

Despite or, perhaps, because of his decades-long exile, Barghouti did not engage in ineffectual discussions about the rightful owners of Palestine “because we did not lose Palestine to a debate, we lost it to force.”

He wrote in his memoir: “When we were Palestine, we were not afraid of the Jews. We did not hate them, we did not make an enemy of them. Europe of the Middle Ages hated them, but not us. Ferdinand and Isabella hated them, but not us. Hitler hated them, but not us. But when they took our entire space and exiled us from it they put both us and themselves outside the law of equality.”

In fact, “hate” rarely factors in the work of Mourid Barghouti — or Darwish, Kanafani, Abu Sharar and many others, for that matter — because the pain of exile, so powerful, so omnipresent, required one to re-evaluate the relationship to the homeland through emotional rapport that can only be sustained through positive energy, of love, of deep sadness, of longing.

“Palestine is something worthy of a man bearing arms for, dying for,” wrote Kanafani. “For us, for you and me, it’s only a search for something buried beneath the dust of memories. And look what we found beneath that dust. Yet more dust. We were mistaken when we thought the homeland was only the past.”

Millions of Palestinians continue to live in exile, generation after generation, painstakingly negotiating their individual and collective identities, neither able to return, nor feeling truly whole. These millions deserve to exercise their legitimate Right of Return, to have their voices heard and to be included.

But even when Palestinians are able to end their physical exile, the chances are that for generations they will remain attached to it. “I don’t know what I want. Exile is so strong within me, I may bring it to the land,” wrote Darwish.

In Barghouti too, exile was “so strong”. Despite the fact that he fought to end it, it became him. It became us.

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Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

Mahmoud Darwish reads “Tibaq / Antithesis” – Homage to Edward Said

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