‘They have punished the victims’: Hebron struggles 25 years after Ibrahimi mosque massacre

zzat Karaki, centre, demonstrating with Youth Against Settlements for the reopening of Shuhada Street on 22 February 2019 (MEE/Megan Giovannetti)

The repercussions of the attack are still felt keenly by Palestinians in Hebron, who have seen their rights eroded and their formerly bustling city centre turn into a ghost town

By 

in

Hebron, occupied West Bank

“Since the massacre, everything changed.”

Jamal Fakhoury, 40, struggles to find the right words to describe his hometown.

With a furrowed brow and damp eyes, he utters: “Every day it’s a difficult life for Hebron.”

Fakhoury is reflecting on the Ibrahimi mosque massacre – the 25th anniversary is on Monday – and its impact on the southern occupied West Bank city.

On 25 February 1994, a Jewish-American settler named Baruch Goldstein opened fire on Palestinian worshippers inside the Ibrahimi mosque – also known as the Tomb of the Patriarchs – in the centre of the Old City of Hebron.

We are not humans at all. We are numbers

– Izzat Karaki, activist with Youth Against Settlements

Goldstein killed 29 men in an instant, and injured well over 100 more. Six other Palestinians were killed by Israeli security forces in the ensuing chaos.

Although it is the biggest city in the West Bank, Hebron’s residents are interconnected in almost every way through its cultural and family structures. Nearly every citizen has ties to the Ibrahimi mosque massacre through some relative, friend or neighbour.

“A settler from the US came and killed Palestinians,” Izzat Karaki, a 29-year-old activist with the Palestinian-led group Youth Against Settlements (YAS), said exasperatedly. “And after that they punish us, the victims.”

Beyond mourning for the lives lost, the attack has also affected the people of Hebron – and its generations to come – in a profound and structural way.

Full of life

“Before the massacre, I felt something like peace in the old city,” Fakhoury recalls.

He is from the Old City and still resides there, just around the corner from Shuhada Street and the mosque.

Along some two kilometres, Shuhada Street is tightly packed with shops sitting below several-storey high homes. The road leads directly to the Ibrahimi mosque and once stood as the heart of the Old City.

Munir, 65, owns a shop directly across from the mosque that remains open to this day. He likes to show laminated pictures to passing tourists of the bustling Shuhada Street back in its heyday, brimming with cars and people.

Munir shows a photo of Shuhada Street in the days before the massacre, back when the road was the bustling centre of Hebron (MEE/Megan Giovannetti)
Munir shows a photo of Shuhada Street in the days before the massacre, back when the road was the bustling centre of Hebron (MEE/Megan Giovannetti)

He does point out that the First Intifada, which started in 1988, only ended in 1993, five months before the massacre. “The six years of the Intifada were really not a normal time,” he said, pointing out that the area around the mosque “was part of the ‘playground’ where the Intifada took place”.

But, he explains, “before, this area was full of life”.

“We used to have four people working in this place,” Munir continues, showing the shop where he is standing. “Today, it is me alone and I am also taking care of two stores which belong to my neighbours.”

Collective punishment

“After the massacre, the mosque was closed for six months, and they [Israeli forces] closed Shuhada Street,” Karaki tells MEE.

For nearly three months, Karaki said, Palestinian residents of Hebron lived under an Israeli-imposed curfew while military checkpoints were built in the Old City – checkpoints that are still present today.

The aftermath of the Ibrahimi mosque massacre Hebron on 25 February 1994 (AFP)
The aftermath of the Ibrahimi mosque massacre Hebron on 25 February 1994 (AFP)

When the Tomb of the Patriarchs and the surrounding area was reopened to the public, the religious site had now been divided into two – a synagogue on one side, a mosque on the other.

Palestinians were no longer allowed to drive cars in the area, Munir says, and the number of Israeli soldiers and cameras around the Ibrahimi mosque dramatically increased.

The post-massacre changes made to the city were in a lot of ways a preface to the dramatic transformation that the Hebron Protocol was to create three years later.

The 1997 agreement between the Israeli government and the Palestine Liberation Organisation divided the city into two areas: Palestinian Authority-controlled H1 and Israeli military-controlled H2.

In H2, making up nearly 20 percent of Hebron, some 40,000 Palestinians currently live under Israeli military law, while the 800 Israeli settlers in H2 are ruled by Israeli civil law.

“Animals here have rights more than us,” Karaki exclaims. “Any cat, any dog can go to Shuhada Street. But me? I cannot.”

“Why? What did I do? We are not human at all.”

In the wake of the Hebron Protocol, shops were permanently closed in H2, and many Palestinians were driven out of their homes, many of whom “by military order”, Karaki explains.

The harsh living conditions and restricted freedom of living and movement in H2 drove many Palestinians out – turning the bustling city centre into a ghost town.

“We are talking about 1,827 shops closed and 140 apartments empty,” Karaki adds.

There are currently 20 permanent checkpoints inside the city of Hebron, dominating Palestinians’ lives with curfews and indiscriminate closures.

It is now necessary to go through two separate checkpoints just to enter the Ibrahimi mosque.

“When I go to my home every day they check my ID,” Fakhoury says, “I wait 20 minutes behind the checkpoint near the mosque.”

“If you don’t have your ID you are not allowed to get in or to pass through the checkpoint,” Karaki concurs. “We are not humans at all. We are numbers.”

Monitoring group expelled

The massacre led to the creation of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH), an international organisation meant to monitor the situation in the city and document violations of international law and human rights.

In its 22-year-long presence, TIPH filed more than 40,000 incident reports – many of which Karaki says the Palestinians Authority can take to the International Criminal Court.

Jamal Fakhoury waits in line at one of 20 Israeli army checkpoints in H2 (MEE/Megan Giovannetti)
Jamal Fakhoury waits in line at one of 20 Israeli army checkpoints in H2 (MEE/Megan Giovannetti)

But last month, the Israeli administration refused to renew TIPH’s mandate, forcing it out of the city.

Fakhoury, like many Palestinians in the Old City, enjoyed TIPH and felt safe with its monitors’ presence.

“I think it will be difficult now with no one watching the problems,” Fakhoury says. He fears things “will get worse, because the Israeli government doesn’t like to tell people what is happening here”.

There are currently four Israeli settlements inside the city of Hebron – Avraham Avino, Beit Romano, Tel Rumeida, Beit Hadassah – all established well before the 1994 massacre.

But since the expulsion of Palestinian from H2, it has become easier for Israelis to occupy Palestinians homes.

“Usually settlers focus on the empty houses,” Karaki explains. “Where there is an empty house, they occupy it and change it from a Palestinian (home) to a settlement.”

With TIPH gone, Palestinians fear that they will witness an increase in both settlement expansion and settler violence.

“When I go to my home I need to protect myself, protect my home,” Karaki says.

Citing the Fourth Geneva Convention as an example, he says: “On paper, soldiers are here to protect me like they protect settlers. But unfortunately, we see something different.”

Hope for the future?

YAS has stepped in recently to fill in the void left by TIPH. Its activists walk around the Old City most mornings, monitoring settler activity and protecting Palestinian children on their walk to school.

On Friday, YAS organised its 10th annual “Open Shuhada Street” demonstration to denounce the ongoing situation in Hebron – just like every year in the past quarter century. Israeli forces reportedly fired tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets at demonstrators, injuring at least two Palestinians, including a 13-year-old boy.

“Here, nothing changes,” Munir says. “It’s the same year after year after year.”

But despite the grim circumstances, Karaki says it is important for him as an activist to keep fighting with a purpose.

“Often people are shocked when I say if there is a tomorrow, there is hope,” he says.

But his optimism is dampened by what he and all Palestinians in Hebron have witnessed for years.

“Usually when tomorrow comes, it only gets worse.”

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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Brits and the Holocaust

January 29, 2019

Not to see that Gaza is a concentration camp is a Holocaust denial!!!

Not to see that Gaza is a concentration camp is a Holocaust denial!!!

By Gilad Atzmon

The British and Jewish press reported yesterday that a poll released to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day found that “1 in 20 British adults does not believe the Holocaust happened and 12%  think the scale of the genocide has been exaggerated.”

Nearly half of those questioned said they did not know “how many Jews were murdered by the Nazis and one in five people thought fewer than two million Jews were killed.”

This is proof, once again, that the more they dogmatically insist on trumpeting the primacy of Jewish suffering, the less people are interested in the Jewish plight. The same principle applies to anti-Semitism, the more Jewish institutions bemoan the tragedy, opposition to Jewry grows  in the Kingdom and beyond.

Speaking for the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, which commissioned the poll, Olivia Marks-Woldman told the BBC that: “without a basic understanding of this recent history, we are in danger of failing to learn where a lack of respect for difference and hostility to others can ultimately lead.” If Marks-Woldman is truly concerned about ‘respect for difference and hostility to others’ she may want to point out what she and the Trust have done to stop the holocaust now taking place in Palestine at the hands of no other than the Jewish State.

Karen Pollack, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said in a statement that the survey showed “the need to increase education about the genocide.” How many more hours should BBC Radio 4 dedicate to the Nazi era and Jewish suffering bearing in mind that we have only 24 each day?

The Jewish press also noted that the poll results are consistent with CNN’s recent findings that one-fifth of Europeans believe Jewish people have too much influence in finance and politics, and one-third said they knew nothing at all or “just a little” about the Holocaust.  I wonder if this means that it is time that Jewish institutions examine themselves and try to figure out what is at play here.  Why are Europeans ‘denying’ the Jewish past? How is it possible that the more time, effort and money are invested in ‘Holocaust education’ the ‘less educated’ people seem to be?

But here’s the twist. The Times Of Israel reported yesterday that last December “a major European report found nearly 90 percent of European Jews feel that anti-Semitism has increased in their home countries.”  Apparently the most common ‘anti-Semitic’ statements Jews heard were “comparisons between Israelis and the Nazis with regard to the Palestinians.”

Perhaps the Holocaust Memorial Trust ought to be reassured by this positive finding.  Not only do Europeans and Brits understand the Holocaust, they manage to apply its message in a universal manner. They are disgusted by fascism, racism, ethnic cleansing and oppression and happen to see Israel’s leadership as the Nazis of our time. I accept that this may be offensive for some Jews, but it does indicate that the most important lesson of the Holocaust, the importance of opposition to racism and oppression, is well and widely understood.


My battle for truth and freedom involves  some expensive legal services. I hope that you will consider committing to a monthly donation in whatever amount you can give. Regular contributions will enable me to avoid being pushed against a wall and to stay on top of the endless harassment by Zionist operators attempting to silence me.

ATB

Gilad

«ISrael» IS «ISIS»

Hussein Samawarchi

When the word “terrorist” is mentioned, it would be normal to imagine a person with rugged features who places a bomb in an innocent family’s house. This same individual would be so cold-hearted that he might have shot a child the day before. He would be a dogmatic follower of fanatic beliefs which allow him to end people’s lives without losing any sleep. A terrorist is filled with hate and presumes himself to be higher on the righteousness scale. He believes that he has been a victim, that he has been hard done by. These feelings are what turn him from a naturally born compassionate human to a murderous sociopath.

The above can easily describe any member of “ISIS”. It is also a description of an “Israeli” soldier. They are both the same.

Terrorism is when heavily armed men abuse, verbally and physically, a young man walking back home with less than minimum pay in his wallet because their apartheid regime will not allow him to work unless he accepts peanuts for hard labor. Terrorism is when these armed men shoot a beautiful teenager through the books in the backpack she’s carrying; the amount of bullets piercing her innocent body make it seem like they were target practicing. It is when they drag an eight-year-old boy by the hair across the street and kick him with army boots into their vehicle; his mother suffers a broken jaw from the strike of a shoulder stock of a rifle while trying to hold on to him.

These are the terrorists that make up what is called “The Most Moral Army.”
Since the word “Moral” is definitely misplaced in this description, namely due to the atrocities that the free press of the world reports on a daily basis out of occupied Palestine, then every word in this sentence can be subject to error. The usage of the word “Army” is also misplaced if a person considers that an army has to belong to a country and the latter cannot be a fabricated entity void of indigenous culture.

Far from their destructive unlawful presence in the area which is based on murder and horror, it almost makes a person feel sympathy towards the “Israelis” for their lack of anything cultural that binds them to this land. They are so culturally bankrupt that they practically steal dishes and claim them for their own. The illegal settlers whose national dishes are Bigos, Banush, and Sauerbraten have suddenly claimed the Jordanian Hummus and the Lebanese Tabbouleh to be theirs. It is so sad.

Going at this pace, we will soon be seeing rabbis wearing Sherwals and dancing the famous Dabkeh, claiming that to be part of their folklore as well.

Shipping in a mix of foreigners to massacre locals and steal their land under biblical pretenses neither makes their claims nor their presence legal. If the Holy Bible sanctions murder and theft then the Pope of Rome will have a lot of explaining to do. But, we all know it doesn’t because the Christians of the Middle East have been amongst the fiercest defenders of the Holy Land against the Zionist infestation.

Latifa Abu Humaid’s house was surrounded and had explosives planted in it. The old woman’s home was demolished. This came after she had lost her six sons to assassination and incarceration. If this is not terrorism, what is?

It does not come as a surprise, though, that the “Israelis” operate this way. That they rely on subhuman unethical rules of engagement with anyone opposing their tyranny. After all, they walk in the footsteps of the creators of their unlawful geographical entity. Individuals like Golda Meir who, as “Prime Minister”, was a part of creating a list of 20-35 people tagged for assassination. She gave the green light to begin the killings and she supervised the process. Is the act of orchestrating assassinations not terrorism?

“Israel’s” terrorism is also practiced by proxy. It has foreign agents placed in top positions of other governments working for its benefit. Nicky Haley gave, yet, another cheap performance at the United Nations the other day. It was because the motion to name the Palestinian resistance a terror group did not see the light. The voting result of the international community caused her feelings to be hurt. Nicky doesn’t have any feelings when Palestinian children lose their lives at the hands of murderous settlers; her Zionist emotions are triggered only when “Israel” doesn’t get its way. She did that “I’ll huff and I’ll puff” routine against those who failed to vote in her masters’ favor. Threats are another shade of terrorism.

Just like the term “anti-Semitic” has been outrageously twisted, the term “terrorist” is becoming a joke because of how it is being wrongly slapped on all those who actually fight terrorism. The men of Hezbollah are “terrorists” for defending their land, Palestinians are “terrorists” for hanging on to their rights, the Syrians are “terrorists” for fighting “ISIS”, and the list goes on. I wonder if children in the US will begin suing their parents on terrorism charges for not buying them enough toys.

There is no doubt that many Jews were persecuted in the first half of the past century, but that is definitely not an excuse for anyone to be granted an international license to terrorize humanity and, definitely, not an excuse to turn Palestine into holocaust grounds for its people. This is said with the strong belief that those occupying Palestine and committing all the terror do not represent Judaism; rather, Zionism disguised as Judaism. In all cases, the people of Palestine did not have anything to do with the Zionist creation of the Nazi party and the subsequent conspiracy against Jews.

We’ve all watched the movie “Schindler’s List”. There weren’t any Nazi officers from Gaza or Ramallah or Nablus. Not a single one was called Omar or Khalid or Mohyi Eldeen. So, if it is a matter of reprisal, they have, without doubt, unleashed their malice and spite onto the wrong people.

Source: Al-Ahed New

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Occupied Palestine in 2018: Record Deaths and Injuries, Food Insecurity, Demolitions, Record Low Humanitarian Funding

Global Research, December 30, 2018
ReliefWeb 27 December 2018

Trends affecting humanitarian affairs in the occupied Palestinian territory

Today, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) released a summary of data collected during 2018. Further breakdowns and statistics from previous years are available through the links below.

Record numbers of Palestinian deaths and injuries

A total of 295 Palestinians were killed and over 29,000 were injured in 2018 by Israeli forces. This is the highest death toll in a single year since the Gaza conflict of 2014 and the highest number of injuries recorded since OCHA began documenting casualties in the oPt in 2005.

About 61 per cent of the fatalities (180 people) and 79 per cent of the injuries (over 23,000) were in the context of Gaza’s ‘Great March of Return’ demonstrations by the fence. Across the oPt, 57 of the Palestinian fatalities and about 7,000 of the injuries were under 18 years of age. At least 28 of the Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in 2018 were members of armed groups in Gaza and another 15 were perpetrators or alleged perpetrators of attacks against Israelis in the West Bank.

A total of 14 Israelis were killed during the year by Palestinians and at least 137 others were injured. While the number of fatalities is nearly the same as in 2017 (15 people), the proportion of civilians among these fatalities (50 per cent) increased compared to the previous year (27 per cent).

Uptrend in attacks by settlers

In 2018, OCHA recorded 265 incidents where Israeli settlers killed or injured Palestinians or damaged Palestinian property, marking a 69 per cent increase compared with 2017; as a result, one Palestinian woman was killed, and another 115 Palestinians were injured (another two Palestinian suspected perpetrators of attacks were killed by Israeli settlers). Palestinian property vandalized by settlers includes some 7,900 trees and about 540 vehicles.

There were at least 181 incidents where Palestinians killed or injured settlers and other Israeli civilians in the West Bank or damaged Israeli property, a 28 per cent decline compared with the previous year. However, the number of Israelis killed in these incidents in 2018 (seven), increased compared to 2017 (four).

West Bank demolitions continue, but fewer Palestinians are displaced

In 2018, the Israeli authorities demolished or seized 459 Palestinian structures across the West Bank, mostly in Area C and East Jerusalem, overwhelmingly on the grounds of a lack of Israeli-issued building permits, which are almost impossible to obtain, slightly more than in 2017. Such incidents displaced 472 Palestinians, including 216 children and 127 women, the lowest such figure since OCHA began systematically recording demolitions in 2009. In Area C alone, there are over 13,000 pending demolition orders, including 40 issued against schools.

The blockade on Gaza still extremely restrictive

The land, sea and air blockade on the Gaza Strip, imposed by Israel citing security concerns, continued, with people being able to exit on an exceptional basis only. On a monthly average, in 2018 (Jan-Nov) there were some 9,200 exits from Gaza by permit holders through the Israeli-controlled Erezcrossing, a 33 per cent increase compared to 2017, but 35 per cent less than the 2015-2016 average. The Egyptian-controlled Rafah Crossing has opened on a regular basis since May, recording about 56,800 exits in all of 2018, up from a yearly average of less than 19,000 in 2015-2017.

The rate of approval of permit applications for UN national staff to leave Gaza stood at 59 per cent during 2018, up from 47 per cent in 2017. However, the total number of applications submitted in 2018 dropped by 24 per cent, primarily due to the larger number of staff that were denied for security reasons and banned for reapplying for 12 months, currently 131 compared to 41 staff by the end of 2017.

Kerem Shalom, controlled by Israel, remained the almost exclusive crossing for the movement of commodities to and from Gaza, with limited imports also allowed via the Salah Ad Din Gate on the border with Egypt. On a monthly average, about 8,300 truckloads of goods entered Gaza via both crossings in 2018, 17 per cent below the equivalent average in the previous two years, while 209 trucks exited Gaza on average, mostly to West Bank markets, nearly the same as in 2016-2017. Access to fishing areas and to farming lands near the fence inside Gaza remained restricted.

More people in Gaza food insecure

About 1.3 million people in Gaza, or 68 per cent of the population, were identified as food insecure in 2018, primarily due to poverty, up from 59 per cent in 2014, when a similar survey was conducted. The unemployment rate in Gaza reached an average of almost 53 per cent in the first three quarters of 2018, an all-time record, with youth unemployment at 69 per cent. By contrast, in the West Bank, 12 per cent of the Palestinians are food insecure, down from 15 per cent in 2014, while unemployment stood at an average of 18 per cent.

Record-low in humanitarian funding

While humanitarian needs across the oPt rose during 2018, funding levels for humanitarian interventions declined significantly: only US$221 million had been received, against the $540 million requested in the 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan

Note: Data on casualties and demolitions is as of 26 December 2018 and is subject to caveats and definitions available in these links. Israeli fatalities exclude a baby delivered prematurely after the injury of his mother. Data on exits via Erez crossing is up to 30 November 2018, and data on imports and exports, as well as on the Rafah crossing are as of 15 December 2018.

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The Elusive Middle East Peace

December 18, 2018

by Ghassan Kadi for The Saker Blog

Subtle news sources coming on the grapevine allude to impending Middle East fresh peace talks. The end of the “War on Syria” will bring serious and realistic opportunities for Russian-sponsored peace talks, and there are direct and indirect hints and leaks made by certain officials here and there, hints and leaks which will become overt and obvious in the near future, culminating into news to the effect that new peace talks will resume.

The Arab/Israeli conflict seems intractable, and every time peace talks loom, we need to remember to examine the root of the problem and consider ways in which the deadlock can be surmounted.

Four decades after Kissinger pushed the USSR out of its position in the Arab/Israeli negotiation talks and made it law for America to defend Israel, the one-sided unparalleled superiority that America provided Israel with was not “good enough” to give Israel the “safe haven” that Zionism promised Jewish migrants with after the horrors of the Holocaust. If anything, the more aggression the state of Israel displayed and the more audacious America was in providing it with impunity, the more determined Palestinians became; and Hamas was the direct outcome of the joint Israeli/American bullying and the Palestinian despair that followed the supposed peace talks of the Oslo Agreement.

In retrospect, Kissinger, the man who gave “shuttle diplomacy” its name, has inadvertently created a deadlocked situation, and in doing so, America has done itself a huge disfavour in the unconditional support it provided Israel with over all those years and has turned itself into a de-facto pariah arbitrator; a mediator that axis-of-resistance Arabs, and all Palestinians in particular, do not trust. In doing so, it kicked itself out of the scene, paving the way for Russia to fill the void it left behind.

On the other hand, Russia is on talking terms with all parties in the Middle East and President Putin personally has good and strong relationships with Israel, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and of course Syria. Furthermore, Putin had all the reasons to sever ties with Erdogan, however the master of pragmatism managed to find a way to mend the rift without losing face, and even though Erdogan has not yet shown any credibility, Putin sees Turkey as a potential key player in the peace process in Syria.

Notwithstanding all of the above, all the American Russophobic rhetoric amounts to nothing, because America and Russia will always be on talking terms.

Briefly put, no entity other than Russia is potentially able to bring all Middle Eastern parties to the negotiation table, and the “hints” speak of such eventuality, come the end of the War on Syria; and this is what Putin wants.

In the meantime, relevant parties will have to accept to come to the negotiation table, and be prepared to negotiate.

It was easy back in 1948 for the Arabs to carry the “push them back” slogan; referring to sending Jewish migrants back to where they came from. More than seven decades after the establishment of Israel, if the Palestinian cause were to maintain the moral upper ground, this “ambition” can no longer apply to second and third generation Jews who were born in the land their forefathers migrated to; albeit those forefathers migrated and settled illegally. By the same token, and most importantly, Palestinians cannot be expected to take the moral upper ground alone without a reciprocal agreement that grants them the long-awaited justice; including the right of return.

And as negotiations mean to give and take, it is interesting to note that the English term is said in this sequence; give and take, rather than take and give, because if a negotiator does not begin with giving, he will not be able to take.

This will be the sticking point because religious hardliners on both Arab and Israeli sides have perfected the art of each claiming to be the rightful and exclusive owner of the Holy Land. As a matter of fact, it was only when the religious spin replaced the national argument of the Arab struggle that a secular fight was taken to theocratic camp and Zionism was, to some degree, able to use history to support its argument. That said, even though Jewish presence in Palestine indeed predates Islam, this does not justify the displacement of Palestinian Arabs, both Muslims and Christians. For Palestinians therefore to win both the humane and religious arguments, the endorsement of an Arab-Palestinian-Levantine identity and carrying its banner is one that cannot be refuted; because it is an all-inclusive definition; including Jews, and one that is moral and timeless.

But let us briefly examine the fundamentalist counter Muslim claim of the ownership of Palestine from a realistic vantage point. Are Muslims the rightful and exclusive owners of Palestine?

Back in 2011, I wrote an article titled “Palestine is not for Muslims”. I had it edited when the UN was voting for a Palestinian state, and now it is time to revise it.

The Quran is a Holy Book and not a real estate title deed. There is no mention of any land rights in the Quran. The city of Jerusalem (Al-Quds in Arabic) is not even mentioned in the Quran. There is however a mention of “Al-Masjed Al-Aksa” which Muslims believe to be in Jerusalem/Al-Quds. This does not make Al-Quds inherently a Muslim city, and even if it did, there is absolutely no reference in the Quran to any Muslim exclusivity.

Speaking of claims of exclusive ownership of Jerusalem, we cannot and should not ignore a time in history during which the Catholic Church was so desirous to take the city from the “infidels”. The “infidels” back then were the Muslims, not the Christians as per the current ISIS terminology; but the congruency in the ideologies behind the definitions is clear.

Speaking of ISIS, when Zionism established the state of Israel, the Zionist aggression was (and continues to be) practised equally against both Arab Muslims and Christians. The anti-Zionist resistance was the Arab Resistance, and it was comprised of both Christians and Muslims. When Fateh was established, it was then meant to be an armed struggle for the liberation of Palestine. George Habash, the founder of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) was a Christian.

Back then, the state of Israel was the ideological ISIS equivalent of the time, and the Palestinian resistance was a secular force trying to redeem freedom and secularism. In reality, the ISIS-like stance of Israel did not change at all.

To this effect, ISIS-minded Zionists regarded all Arabs as equally unequal to them, and when they were pillaging the Church of Nativity two decades ago, the West stood back and watched. The world seems to be totally at ease that the state of Israel continues to act as an ISIS; only of different denomination.

As Israel treated both Christian and Muslim Palestinians as second grade citizens, it was only natural for the anti-Israeli resistance to be nationally-based and driven. The slogan of those days was “Al-Quds lil Arab” ie Al-Quds belongs to Arabs. There was even a song with that title. The term Arabs meant back then referred to the inhabitants of the land; ie Muslims, Christians, as well as Jews who refute Zionism.

Suddenly, sometime in the 1980’s, a huge turn of events took place in Lebanon and Palestine almost at the same time.

The 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon was soon followed by a resistance then named the “Lebanese Resistance”. Soon after Hezbollah rose to prominence the name changed to “Islamic Resistance”. In Palestine, Hamas rebunked the anti-Israeli resistance and turned into an Islamic resistance as well. All of a sudden, the struggle against Zionism changed course from a national secular Arab struggle into a religious one.

The biggest losers here are the Palestinian Christians as they are well and truly excluded by both Zionists and fundamentalist Muslims.

It is most ironic that Western Christian Zionists find it so easy to sympathize with Zionism, and at the same time manage to ignore the plight of Palestinian Christians. How ironic! The truth about Christian Zionists is that they are neither Christians nor Jews; they are Zionists, period.

When Islamists make claims of ownership of Palestine in general and of Al-Quds/Jerusalem to be specific, they would be using the same false argument of Zionists; only from their own equally unfounded perspective. Two wrongs do not make it right.

Fair and open-minded Palestinians, especially non-fundamentalist Muslims, need to realise that they have to make loud and clear statements to their policy makers that they refuse fanaticism and bigotry irrespective who the culprit is.

If we refute the ISIS mind, we must refute it in all of its forms, denominations and agendas. Justice cannot be selective any more than one wrong can be undone by another wrong.

Palestine is not for Muslims, nor is it for Jews or Christians; not exclusively. It is for all of them combined, but again not exclusively. Palestine is for its people, and they don’t have to belong to any of the Abrahamic religions. That land is for its people without any favouritism and exclusion. And, if any hard-line, orthodox, fanatic, violent, militant Zionist settlers don’t accept this, justice stipulates it is they who should be made to leave.

So back to President Putin and his hush-hush peace plan. Adversity often brings opportunities, and Putin is quite aware of the historical and geopolitical significance of the present moment.

Russia will most probably be trying to broker a two-state solution that is acceptable by all parties concerned. Realistically however, there is no lasting resolution that can be based on anything other than a one-state resolution in which all citizens have equal rights; just like any other self-respecting nation state. Any resolution short of this outcome is tantamount to endorsing an apartheid-type system.

This brings us back to the give-and-take concept for conflict resolution. Normally, in a negotiation situation, giving is seen to be for losers and taking is for winners, but reality can dictate pragmatic changes in direction; and it has, at least on the Palestinian side.

From the early days during which Palestinians expressed anger and frustration saying they wanted to push back Jewish migrants into the sea and restore the homeland from “water to water” (ie from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River), the Palestinian leadership had to learn from the humiliation of many defeats, numerous let downs from Arab states, the UN and the whole world, to accept to settle for the West Bank and Gaza in lieu of putting an end to armed resistance and acknowledging the state of Israel.

This Palestinian “acceptance” did not come easy and was not endorsed by all Palestinians, but when the PLO went to Oslo with this objective in mind with the expectation of a reciprocal “acceptance” from Israel, the final outcome was more than disappointing.

Israel reached its military height specifically on the 9th of June 1967; the day when Egyptian President Nasser made his resignation speech. At that point in time, Arabs were at their nadir, and with the most humiliating defeat they have endured in history, all they felt they could seek was a withdrawal of Israel to the pre-1967 war borders.

Slowly and gradually, Arabs had to go through the phase of denial of defeat that they were not prepared to accept.

They first demanded the UN for a resolution and managed to gain support for UNSC Resolution 224 which called for the unconditional Israeli withdrawal of Israel from the “occupied territory”. In this, Arab states accepted that the new definition of “occupied territory” meant what Israel managed to occupy during the Six-Day-War of 1967. This was a huge shift, because the original Arab definition of “occupied territory” meant all of Israel. But the Arab forced resignation to the status quo was not enough to persuade Israel into negotiating a land-for-peace deal. Israel was not prepared to give in order to take (peace).

The October 1973 War, aka Yom Kippur War, was a turning point in history. Even though the military gains of Egypt and Syria were not huge, they were big enough to change the course of events; at least psychologically. However, when Egyptian President Sadat signed a unilateral peace agreement with Israel, the Arab World fell into disarray.

In simple and short terms, Arab expectations were dwindling while the Israeli ones were escalating; despite the rise of the new form of anti-Israeli resistance spearheaded by Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Palestine’s Hamas.

In simple and short terms again, though Israel’s refusal to relent has resulted in creating an Arab camp that is prepared to accept its agenda, it also created another camp that has vowed to fiercely resist any settlement that does not provide justice to the Palestinian people, and this latter group has become battle-hardened and prepared to fight and inflict serious damage to Israel’s might.

The most prominent player here is the Hezbollah military factor that rained rockets on Israel during the July 2006 war, even hitting a frigate, and sees itself more capable in any future escalation. Hezbollah is deeply embedded in the Lebanese society and cannot be uprooted. It sees time to be on its side and it is moving from strength to strength.

The axis-of-resistance is living in the euphoria of the outcome of the July 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, the many setbacks of Israel in Gaza and the victory of Syria against all odds.

The resistance side is waiting and poised for further confrontations. Hezbollah therefore will not easily accept any resolution that does not provide it with some real and tangible victory.

Meanwhile, Israel is tooth and nail still hanging on to the euphoria of the outcome of the 1967 Six-Day War. The Israeli side is not yet prepared to accept that time is not on its side. In a nutshell, Israel is not yet prepared to give so it can take (peace).

This will be Russia’s main obstacle in bringing all parties to negotiations on pragmatic grounds. Short of being able to convince Israel to give, Russia may find that the only way for this paradigm shift to happen in the Israeli psyche is through war; and in this case by a resounding Israeli defeat. This is perhaps why Russia is bolstering Syrian defences and specifically air defences. After all, if Israel loses its superiority in the air, and if its ground defences are unable to stop Hezbollah’s rockets, or at least some of them, then the new balance of power will no longer be on Israel’s side.

Now, will Netanyahu’s government, or any other future Israeli government for that matter, be prepared to take the risk of a new military confrontation with the prior knowledge that it has lost its upper hand in the fight? Will Israel accept to sacrifice its citizens in the hope that a new battle will restore its military superiority against all odds? To ask the question in a different way, what punishment does Israel need in order to be brought down to the negotiating table, the agenda of which is to find a way to establish a two-state solution let alone a one-state solution? But once again, Israel is not yet ready to give and take. It won’t return the Golan for any political gain, and it won’t even agree to lift the siege on Gaza.

At this stage, the best outcome to expect from Russian-mediated peace talks, with or without a war, if one is reached at all, is perhaps a two-state solution. This will be a huge step in the right direction, but in reality, such a resolution is nothing more than a disengagement. That said, Sharon’s wall has made it virtually impossible to draw practical border lines for a viable Palestinian state to exist, and thus created a nightmare for any future serious two-state-based peace talks. Whilst walls can be reconfigured, or even better torn down, in the long run, an apartheid two-state solution will always be morally wrong, and at best, should be regarded as an interim step towards establishing one state that ensures equal rights to all of its citizens.

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Spare Me U.S. Tears For Jamal Khashoggi – This Excuse For Trump-bashing Ignores The CIA’s Past Crimes

A generation ago, the CIA’s ‘Operation Phoenix’ torture and assassination programme in Vietnam went way beyond the imaginations of the Saudi intelligence service. And have we forgotten about the thousands of Muslims still perishing under our bombs and missiles and mortars?

By Robert Fisk

December 06, 2018 “Information Clearing House” –     Can I be the only one – apart from his own sycophants – to find the sight of America’s finest Republicans and Democrats condemning the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia for murdering Jamal Khashoggi a bit sickening? “Crazy”. “Dangerous”. A “wrecking ball”. A “smoking saw”. These guys are angry. CIA director Gina Haspel, who was happy to sign off on the torture of her Muslim captives in a secret American prison in Thailand, obviously knew what she was talking about when she testified about Mohammed bin Salman and the agony of Jamal Khashoggi.

US government leaks suggest that Haspel knew all about the shrieks of pain, the suffering of Arab men who believed they were drowning, the desperate pleading for life from America’s victims in these sanctuaries of torment in and after 2002. After all, the desperate screams of a man who believes he is drowning and the desperate screams of a man who believes he is suffocating can’t be very different. Except, of course, that the CIA’s victims lived to be tortured another day – indeed several more days – while Jamal Khashoggi’s asphyxiation was intended to end his life. Which it did.

A generation ago, the CIA’s “Operation Phoenix” torture and assassination programme in Vietnam went way beyond the imaginations of the Saudi intelligence service. In spook language, Khashoggi was merely “terminated with maximum prejudice”. If the CIA could sign off on mass murder in Vietnam, why shouldn’t an Arab dictator do the same on a far smaller scale? True, I can’t imagine the Americans went in for bone saws. Testimony suggests that mass rape followed by mass torture did for their enemies in Vietnam. Why play music through the earphones of the murderers?

But still it goes on. Here’s Democrat senator Bob Menendez this week. The US, he told us, must “send a clear and unequivocal message that such actions are not acceptable on the world’s stage”. The “action”, of course, is the murder of Khashoggi. And this from a man who constantly defended Israel after its slaughter of the innocents in Gaza.

So what on earth is going on here? Perhaps the “world’s stage” of which Menendez spoke was the White House – an appropriate phrase, when you come to think about it – where the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia has been no stranger. Yet when at least one recent US presidential incumbent of that high office can be considered guilty of war crimes – in Iraq – and the deaths of tens of thousands of Arabs, how come American senators are huffing and puffing about just one man, Mohammed bin Salman, who (for a moment, let us set aside the Yemen war) is only being accused of ordering the murder and dismemberment of one single Arab?

After all, world leaders – and US presidents themselves – have always had rather a soft spot for mass murderers and those who should face war crimes indictments. Trump has infamously met Kim Jong-un and invited him to the White House. We are all waiting for Rodrigo Duterte to take up his own invitation.

Obama lavished hospitality at the White House on a host of bloody autocrats – from Gambia, Burkina Faso and Cameroon – before we even recall Suharto, whose death squads killed up to half a million people; and Hosni Mubarak, whose secret police sometimes raped their prisoners and who sanctioned the hanging of hundreds of Islamists without proper trials, and his ultimate successor, Field Marshal-President al-Sisi, who has around 60,000 political prisoners locked up in Egypt and whose cops appear to have tortured a young Italian student to death. But Giulio Regeni wasn’t murdered in an Egyptian consulate. This list does not even include Ariel Sharon, who as Israeli defence minister was accused by an Israeli inquiry of personal responsibility for the massacre of 1,700 Palestinian civilians at the Sabra and Chatila camps in Beirut in 1982.

So what is this “clear and unequivocal message” that senator Menendez is rambling on about? The message has been clear and unequivocal for decades. The US “national interest” always trumps (in both senses) morality or international crime. Why else did the United States support Saddam Hussein in his attempt to destroy Iran and his use of chemical warfare against Iran? Why else did Donald Rumsfeld plead with Saddam in December 1993 to allow the reopening of the US embassy in Baghdad when the Iraqi dictator (a “strongman” at the time, of course) had already used mustard gas against his opponents? By the time Rumsfeld arrived for his meeting, more than 3,000 victims had fallen amid Iraqi gas clouds. The figure would reach at least 50,000 dead. Which is, in mathematical terms, Jamal Khashoggi times 50,000.

Yet we are supposed to recoil with shock and horror when Haspel – who might herself have a few admissions to make to senators on other matters – suggests that America’s latest favourite Middle Eastern tyrant knew about the forthcoming murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Does Menendez think that Saddam hadn’t signed the death sentences of thousands of Iraqi men and women – which, as we know from his later “trial”, he did – before meeting Rumsfeld? Or that Duterte, who has compared himself to Hitler, doesn’t sign off on the killing of his murdered drug “suspects”? Or that Suharto had absolutely nothing to do with half a million murders in Indonesia?

It’s instructive, indeed, that the thousands of innocents killed in the Yemen war, an offensive undertaken by Mohammed bin Salman himself with logistical support from the US and UK – and it doesn’t need Haspel to tell us this – hasn’t exactly left US senators shocked. Just another bunch of Arabs killing each other, I suppose. Starvation didn’t get mentioned by the senators emerging from Haspel’s closed hearing. Yet the senators know all about the mosque bombings, wedding party bombings, hospital bombings and school bombings in Yemen. Why no tears for these innocents? Or is that a bit difficult when the US military – on every occasion by accident, of course – has bombed mosques, wedding parties, hospitals and schools in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria?

No, the shock and horror and the need for full disclosure about the Saudis is primarily about Trump, and the need to tie him in to the cruel murder of a Washington Post journalist and US resident whose gruesome demise has been blamed by the American president upon a “vicious world”.

But there is something more than this, the appalling fact – albeit only a folk memory, perhaps, for many with scarcely any institutional memory at all – that 15 of those 9/11 hijackers were Saudis, that Osama bin Laden was a Saudi, that George W Bush secretly flew bin Laden family members out of the US after 9/11, that the Saudis themselves are heir to a blighted, rural, cruel version of Sunni Islam – based on the pernicious teachings of the 18th century Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab​ – which has inspired the Taliban, al-Qaeda, Isis and all the other killer cults whom we have proclaimed to be the West’s Enemy No 1.

Nailing Mohammed Bin Salman to a crucifix – a method of execution favoured by the Wahhabis – is an easy kill for US senators, of course. You hit the president and smash those unhappy historical details all in one fell swoop.

But don’t bank on it. Oil and arms are a potent mix. Old Abd al-Wahhab’s home is protected in a new tourist haunt in the suburbs of Riyadh. Come to think of it, the national mosque of Qatar – hostile to rapacious Saudi Arabia but another recipient of US weapons and a supporter of Islamist forces in Syria and Iraq – has a capacity for 30,000 souls, was built only seven years ago and is named after Abd al-Wahhab himself.

This is the dangerous world in which America and its allies now tread, disdainful of the thousands of Muslims who perish under our bombs and missiles and mortars – proxy-delivered by those we should distrust – ignorant of the religious currents which rumble on beneath our feet and beneath the House of Saud. Even the virtually useless information Haspel learned in the CIA’s “black centres” could have told senators this. If they had bothered to ask.

This article was originally published by  The Independent ” 

 

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