From Electoral Politics to Coronavirus Response: In Israel, Apartheid Mentality Reigns

By Mico Peled

Source

Jerusalem, Palestine — Once again, Benjamin Netanyahu wins big in Israeli politics. Even as his main opponent, former Israeli army chief Benny Gantz was given a mandate to form and head a coalition government, Netanyahu, indicted and presumed to be on his way out, managed to pull in Gantz, break up the Blue and White opposition party, stop the coalition from forming, and remain on top.

Fifteen seats

In an unprecedented upset, the Arab Joint List, a coalition of four predominantly Palestinian political parties, was able to win fifteen seats in the Israeli Knesset. This made them the third largest block within the legislature. They were going to support a Gantz-led government from the outside, which means they would not be a part of the actual coalition government. This is an enormous gesture on behalf of the Joint List, whose constituents are primarily Palestinian citizens of Israel, the country’s most disenfranchised group of citizens.

It was a moment of sweet illusion when, thanks to the recommendation of the members of the Arab Joint List, Gantz was given the mandate to form a government and be the first politician to get Netanyahu out of the Premier seat in over a decade. However, that moment did not last long. It was naive to think that an Israeli politician would agree to rely on Palestinians to advance his political career – this would be a stain he could never erase. It was also naive to believe that there is anyone in Israeli politics that could not be outsmarted by Netanyahu.

General Gantz

Gantz is a good soldier, he had a long career in the service of the Israeli army, which ended after four years of being at its head. Throughout his career, Gantz was responsible for countless dead and injured Palestinians and unspeakable destruction all over Palestine and Lebanon. As army chief, he led the IDF during two bloody massacres in Gaza: one in November of 2012 and another, in the summer of 2014. The second was perhaps the worst massacre of Palestinians ever perpetrated by Israel. It lasted over 50 days in which 2,500 Palestinians were murdered and tens of thousands were injured.

Now, still a good soldier, Gantz obeyed Netanyahu, who was his boss while he was in uniform. He obediently broke up his own political alliance, Blue and White, threw his political allies under the bus, and turned his back on the voters. He also reneged on the one campaign promise that got him elected to begin with: to unseat Netanyahu.

Apartheid is a state of mind.

No Zionist political leader will rely on a Palestinian party. That is because the Israeli apartheid is not just a system of government, it is a state of mind. Israeli racism is deeply institutional and deeply personal to a point where a career politician, in this case, Benny Gantz, gave up the chance to be Prime Minister because it meant he would need to rely on Palestinian citizens of Israel.

One of the criticisms leveled at Gantz was that he was going to rely on the members of the Arab Joint List for his coalition, even though they had made it clear that if it came to a vote, they would never support another assault on Gaza. Furthermore, the members of the Joint List are opposed to the so-called Trump peace plan and are known to support Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. The acclaimed Israeli author David Grossman, considered a beacon of the “Zionist Left,” called on Gantz to work with the Joint List, he added, “even though I find some of their policies reprehensible.”

Apartheid in the time of COVID-19

In light of the outbreak of Covid-19, the Israeli government has called for serious restrictions on movement, cramping the lifestyle of Israelis to levels they had never experienced. It is said that the government, using its intelligence agencies, is collecting information on Israeli citizens who have the virus, and this is raising some objections. In fact, there are several campaigns now demanding “Freedom to Move” be restored and that the intelligence agencies not be involved in collecting data. Five million Palestinians who live no more than a few short miles from Israelis, live in ghettos, not to say concentration camps, and under the shadow of the Israeli intelligence agencies and no one ever hears of Israeli demands to allow them the freedom to move or to end the repression of their rights.

The Tel-Aviv marathon was held recently, just as the coronavirus issue was beginning to spread, and all the foreign runners were prohibited from participating. 40,000 Israeli runners participated in the event and not a word was said about the closures, arrests, water restrictions and lack of rights of millions of Palestinians who live a few miles from there.

It gets worse. Even with the outbreak of the coronavirus, Israeli authorities continue to demolish homes, arrest minors, and shoot protestors and Israeli settler gangs continue to terrorize Palestinians. This video, taken by a photographer from the human rights group, B’tselem shows settlers and soldiers shooting at Palestinians who were defending their home from an attack by settler thugs. The army arrested the photographer and took his camera.

In the Naqab, where over 100,000 Palestinian Bedouin citizens of Israel live in “unrecognized towns,” COVID-19 turned a terrible situation into a potential disaster. Because the Israeli authorities do not recognize these towns, they have no access to the basic most services like clean water, access roads or electricity, much less to health and medical services.

Palestinian Bedouin in the Naqab are all citizens of the state of Israel. They live in crowded conditions because they are prevented from building. The ones who dare to build are under constant fear of demolition and expulsion from their lands. These conditions make it impossible to adhere to the basic most safety precautions needed to stop the spread of Corona.

Schools are now closed and the Israeli Ministry of Education is providing lessons to Israeli citizens via the internet, but over 50 percent of Palestinian citizens of Israel live below the poverty line and have no internet access. In the Naqab, 70 percent of the students don’t even have access to electricity, much less wifi.

Apartheid Israel is alive and well, and at least for now, so is the man leading it.

As the World Turns Its Attention to the Pandemic, Israel Is Moving Forward with Military Raids

By Lucas Leiroz

Source

Jenin West Bank 15839

The West Bank situation is becoming increasingly complicated amid the coronavirus pandemic and territorial disputes between Palestinians and Israelis. At first, the Palestinian Authority and Israel showed signs of cooperation in combating the pandemic. A few weeks ago, joint measures were announced between both sides to contain the epidemic of the new coronavirus in the region. The measures include distribution of cleaning and personal hygiene materials, in addition to virus testing kits and medical equipment.

On the part of Tel Aviv, the total closure of the West Bank was promoted, allowing, however, access for Palestinian workers involved in the construction and agriculture sectors to the Jewish state, which is why the proposal was well accepted by Ramallah. On the part of the Palestinians, the West Bank has also been blocked, but only partially and for two weeks, since last Sunday (March 22), in addition to the implementation of a series of control and quarantine measures.

However, efforts to contain the pandemic have not prevented Israeli incursions into the region, which have increased recently. Ibrahim Melhim, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority, acknowledged Israeli efforts to contain the coronavirus in the country and in Palestine, but criticized the unstoppable incursions against the Palestinians. “We have very strong round-the-clock coordination with the Israeli side to prevent the coronavirus from spreading (…) At the same time, Israel continues to operate in the Palestinian Territories as if there is no coronavirus crisis (…) They [Israeli forces] continue their raids across the West Bank, arresting people and confiscating lands, and that harms the existing coordination between the PA and Israel putting an additional burden on the Palestinian Authority,” said the spokesman.

Apparently, Israel pretends to collaborate with Palestine to stop the pandemic, when, in fact, it freely promotes its military maneuvers in the region, which go unnoticed by the mainstream media, strongly focused on covering the viral tragedy. In addition, Tel Aviv’s own collaboration to control COVID-19 in the region seems extremely limited. The blocking measures made it impossible, for example, for doctors from the “Physicians for Human Rights” (an Israeli NGO that serves Palestinians free of charge) to move alongside the West Bank, clearly hampering medical care in the region.

Mention should also be made of the fact that Israel, not Palestine, is the major focus of infections by the new coronavirus in the region. Israel has already more than 1.000 officially reported cases of the disease, in addition to one death, and several suspicions. In contrast, Palestine has around 60 infected people. It is clear from these data that the most stringent containment measures should come exclusively from Ramallah, since the Israeli military presence in the region itself poses a serious risk to Palestinian public health.

According to a survey by the Truman Institute for Peace at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 63% of Israelis say Israel must help Palestinians during the coronavirus crisis. Vered Vinitsky-Serousse, president of the Institute, said that “the majority of Israelis believe that, when necessary, the government should devise preventive measures to help Palestinians during the Covid-19 epidemic.” The big problem, however, is how these joint maneuvers are conducted. Perhaps the first step to be taken in establishing joint measures is the definitive and immediate end to military incursions in the region, which constantly bring insecurity and terror to the Palestinian people.

The situation of tensions in the region must still be read in the context of the so-called “Deal of the Century”, the “peace” proposal for the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians announced by American President Donald Trump. The “agreement” was celebrated unilaterally by the Washigton-Tel Aviv axis, with no participation of Palestinians, which is why it was rejected by the Palestinian Authority and the Arab League. The document foresaw the annexation of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, leaving around 70% of the region under Palestinian rule – a figure much lower than that proposed by all previous attempts to resolve the conflict. Everything indicates that Israel will not stop its attempts to occupy that territory as much as possible.

It is in this context that the “joint” actions between Israelis and Palestinians must be analyzed with skepticism and suspicion. Are these pandemic containment measures really good, even when behind them the Israeli army expands its occupation in the region with increasingly aggressive incursions? Also, to what extent does Palestine benefit from the help of these joint actions when Israel has an absurdly greater number of infected people? Would Israel be able to help the Palestinians? Or would that aid be a mask for such military incursions? All of these are valid questions.

It is also worth remembering that a few weeks ago, at the end of February, Israel announced the construction of more than 2.000 new settlements in Palestinian territories – and on the same occasion, Netanyahu authorized the construction of other 7.000 units in the East Jerusalem region. These data mean that Israel’s aggressiveness against the Palestinians was increasing recently. Did this aggression really disappear from Tel Aviv’s plans in the face of a “commotion” with public health in Palestine (which is much better than the situation in Israel)? Perhaps, the mainstream media and Human Rights observers should divide their attention between the coronavirus and the conflict in Palestine, before more serious clashes erupt.

Pompeo Warns ICC Against Investigating US/Israeli War Crimes

By Stephen Lendman

Source

Since established by the Rome Statute in 2002, the International Criminal Court never held the US, other Western nations, or Israel accountable for high crimes of war and against humanity.

Only their victims were prosecuted, falsely blamed for the highest of high crimes committed against them by the US, NATO, Israel, and their imperial partners.

For nearly two decades, the ICC operated solely as imperial tool — continuing the same agenda today unless it goes another way for justice never pursued before.

It’s hard taking seriously chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s announced probes into whether Israel and the US committed war crimes in Occupied Palestine and Afghanistan respectively.

The former probe was announced in December, the latter one in early March — whitewash twice over their likely outcomes if conducted.

Republicans and undemocratic Dems militantly oppose revealing anything that exposes high crimes committed by the state and those of its imperial allies, notably Israel.

Last December, Pompeo slammed the ICC, saying:

“We firmly oppose…any…action that seeks to target Israel unfairly (sic),” adding:

“We do not believe the Palestinians qualify as a sovereign state (sic), and they therefore are not qualified to obtain full membership, or participate as a state in international organizations, entities, or conferences, including the ICC (sic).”

Despite a rap sheet of nearly 75 years of high crimes of war, against humanity, and other abuses of international law, Israel was never held accountable — what’s long overdue.

The State of Palestine exists as a PLO-represented UN observer state.

More importantly, the PLO  adopted the Palestinian Declaration of Independence on November 15, 1988 — drafted by Law Professor Francis Boyle, its legal advisor at the time.

He explained that Palestinian statehood is “determinative, definitive, and irreversible,” adding:

Palestine satisfies all essential criteria for sovereign independence and full de jure UN membership. 

The Palestine National Council (PNC) as the PLO’s legislative body is empowered to proclaim the existence of Palestine. 

Bensouda said she’s “satisfied that there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation into the situation in Palestine,” adding:

“There is a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes were committed in the context of the 2014 hostilities in Gaza” by Israeli forces, evidence indicating they engaged in disproportionate attacks, “willful killing and willfully causing serious injury to body or health…and intentionally directing an attack against objects or persons using the distinctive emblems of the Geneva Conventions.”

In response to a proposed ICC investigation of US war crimes in Afghanistan, Pompeo said the Trump regime “will not tolerate…attempts to investigate or prosecute Americans,” adding:

“I’m announcing a policy of US visa restrictions on those individuals directly responsible for any ICC investigation of US personnel.”

“If you’re responsible for the proposed ICC investigation of US personnel in connection with the situation in Afghanistan you should not assume that you still have, or will get, a visa or that you will permitted to enter the United States.”

“We’re prepared to take additional steps, including economic sanctions, if the ICC does not change its course.”

Perhaps the Trump regime will invade or terror-bomb the court and/or assassinate its prosecutors if they dare investigate and pronounce the US or Israel guilty of high crimes the world community knows both countries committed time and again.

In response to Pompeo’s March remarks, an ICC statement said the court “will continue to do its independent work, undeterred, in accordance with its mandate and the overarching principle of the rule of law” — what it never did before so the claim is dubious at best.

In response to Israeli AG Mendelblit’s objection to an ICC investigation of Netanyahu regime war crimes, falsely claiming it has no jurisdiction over Israeli actions, B’Tselem responded as follows:

Mendelblit falsely claimed that there’s no Palestinian state or occupation.

He “conveniently ignor(ed) the facts on the ground, the principles of international law, and the declared positions of the international community,” adding: 

“He glosse(d) over more than 52 years in which Israel has kept the West Bank and Gaza Strip under a cruel, violent occupation regime, transforming the area completely.” 

“Palestinian space is now fragmented into isolated units in which Palestinians live without political rights or any real control over their lives – which are run by various Israeli authorities.”

He also turned reality on its head, claiming Israel and Palestinians negotiate in good faith — what never occurred since Israel’s 1947-48 war of aggression, stealing 78% of historic Palestine.

In June 1967, it took the rest extrajudicially — thereafter seizing Palestinian-owned land dunum by dunum, the process continuing until there’s nothing left but isolated/worthless scrubland, surrounded by Israeli security forces and hostile settlers.

B’Tselem: Israeli regime officials admitted that they do not “view the occupation as temporary and intend to cement control over the Palestinians while dispossessing them of land and rights” — what’s been ongoing since 1947.

Palestinians joined the ICC in 2015. They’re entitled to petition the court to investigate Israeli high crimes too egregious to ignore.

B’Tselem: Throughout Jewish state history, its regimes “enjoyed total immunity regarding its actions in the Occupied Territories.” 

“Domestically, not a single person has paid a significant price for these actions thanks to the almost blanket criminal and civil immunity Israel accords itself.” 

“Internationally, (virtually nothing) has been done to compel Israel to change its policies,” nothing to hold its war criminals accountable for Nuremberg-level high crimes. 

“Instead, (the Jewish state) enjoys generous financial benefits and international legitimacy. Israel is now railing against the prospect of actually being held accountable for some of its crimes.”

B’Tselem’s executive director Hagai El-Ad said the following:

“Israel’s attempt to clutch at formalistic straws to evade the ICC’s jurisdiction is shameful.” 

“Since Palestine joined the Rome Statute, it has the right to demand an investigation into the situation there.” 

“Palestine…is under Israeli occupation, whose crimes the ICC has the jurisdiction – and responsibility – to investigate.” 

“We hope the Court will make the right decision, sustain the (chief) prosecutor’s position, and decide: indeed it has jurisdiction – and there will be an investigation.”

If Bensouda is serious about investigating and holding Israel and the US accountable for their high crimes of war and against humanity, she should pursue her mandate in both cases expeditiously without restraint.

It never happened before and most likely won’t seek accountability and justice ahead  against the US and Israel — no matter how grievous their indisputable high crimes.

The Coronavirus Outbreak is Revealing the Appalling Conditions Faced by Palestinians in Israeli Prisons

By Delilah Boxstein

Source

Ramallah, West Bank — Palestinian political prisoner Muwaffaq Arouq, 77, is now in critical condition. He has lost weight, has a fever and can only eat through a feeding tube inserted into his abdomen, according to the Committee of Prisoners and Former Prisoners’ Affairs. Doctors discovered Arouq had cancer in July, but the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) delayed his treatment until November — worsening his condition. And yet, amid the rapid spread of the coronavirus, Israel continues its policy of medical neglect against Palestinian prisoners.

As activists demand for the release of Arouq and other sick prisoners, Qaddoura Fares, president of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club, says the coronavirus pandemic has increased concerns for prisoners whose health is deteriorating.

‘Punishing Palestinian prisoners’ with new procedures

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh called on the Israeli government to release all prisoners, especially children and those suffering from diseases last week but Fares doesn’t have hope that drastic measures like this will be taken.

“We are calling on the Israeli government to clean the rooms and the spaces prisoners are moving in to be sure that they will not be attacked by this virus,” Fares said. “But the prisoners tell me that the Israeli administration did nothing.” Fares mentioned that the IPS is “acting as usual” except for adding new procedures like denying family visits to prisoners.

Palestinian prisoner rights organization, Addameer, detailed Israel’s so-called preventive procedures in a new report. In addition to canceling family visits, Israeli authorities suspended lawyers’ visits and changed instructions regarding civil court procedures. Trials for security prisoners at Israeli civil courts will now be held without the detainee present. These sessions will be attended by the prisoner’s lawyer and detainees will be permitted to be in contact through visual or audio means from prison.

Charlotte Kates, international coordinator for Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, said it is already incredibly difficult for families to receive reliable information about their loved ones in jail, even when there’s not a health crisis happening.

“There’s been this constant push to prevent family visits so it doesn’t seem like a real attempt to protect people from the disease and comes across instead as another way of punishing Palestinian prisoners,” Kates said.

According to news reports, 19 Palestinian prisoners and 15 Israeli officers were held in quarantine at Asqalan Prison after an Israeli doctor interacted with a Palestinian prisoner seeking treatment. The physician tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus five days before meeting with the prisoner. And in Al-Maskobiya prison in Jerusalem, 100 prisoners were isolated after an officer was suspected of having the virus. Both quarantines have officially ended. However, the IPS is preparing to house prisoners diagnosed with the deadly virus at Sahranem Prison in the Negev desert along the Egyptian border.

A systematic policy of medical neglect

More than 5,000 Palestinians — including women and children ­— are currently held in Israeli prisons with 700 suffering from poor health and nearly 300 in critical condition, according to 2019 statistics from Palestinian non-governmental organization The Center for Defense of Liberties and Civil Rights “Hurryyat.” Four prisoners are suffering from dangerous cancers, 10 have tumors, 68 have been shot or injured, 11 are paralyzed and 17 suffer from mental illnesses. Palestinian prisoners also suffer from heart disease, kidney failures, blood pressure problems and diabetes. In 2019, five Palestinian prisoners died in Israeli jails, with three dying as a direct result of medical negligence.

Eighteen prisoners are now permanently hospitalized at the infamous Ramleh Prison Hospital. This facility is where prisoners with the most debilitating health problems go for treatment. Sick inmates may wait for days at the hospital to see a doctor, but the trip there can be equally as long. Fares details how ailing prisoners traveled three days in a metal van tied to metal chairs with feet and hands cuffed. They don’t have access to food or a toilet as they spend hours picking up other sick prisoners. Most sick inmates won’t even go to Ramleh because they know how excruciating the journey can be. “A lot of prisoners refuse to get out [of the jail] because they understand what is waiting for them,” Fares said.

Lana Ramadan, International Advocacy Officer for Addameer, said that prisoners dying from medical negligence ranges from two to four every year on average. “Usually these things happen, the prisoner would be in a really harsh situation, he may or may not get treatment, maybe he dies, people would speak about it and then things would calm down until it happens again,” Ramadan said. “So it keeps on happening. It is systematic. It’s a policy the IPS has. They don’t give medical treatment to prisoners.”

Israel’s prison conditions worsening inmates’ health

As described in Addameer’s report, prisons are overcrowded, with small cells lacking proper ventilation. Resources like medications, adequate nutrition and water are scarce. Prisons lack sterilizers and cleaning materials, although Addameer noted that some prisoners were given cleaning equipment recently.

“These people who are suffering from severe health conditions are spending their days in conditions that are not sanitary, not cared for properly and they are not receiving the reliable health care treatment that they need,” Kates said. She pointed out that often more than six to ten inmates are stuffed together in tiny, dirty cells crawling with insects and vermin. Prisoners have to purchase hygiene products from the canteen but may be banned from purchasing items if they participate in protests like hunger strikes. In these instances, prisoners may share these hygiene products with each other — only further reducing cleanliness and sanitation.

“There’s no system here that’s making sure these folks’ health is being protected,” Kates said. “Instead they’re being subjected to even more dangers to their health beyond the threat of COVID-19.”

As the prison conditions exacerbate inmates’ health, medical staff is not trained to handle the severe illnesses prisoners experience. Doctors in Israeli jails are not specialized. In most cases, they just prescribe water and painkillers. This was the exact outcome for Palestinian prisoner Sami Abu Diak, who, in 2015, was merely given painkillers instead of a proper diagnosis. Without a legitimate diagnosis, Abu Diak suffered for weeks and his condition worsened before he finally began treatment for cancer. Abu Diak lost his battle to cancer in November inside Ramleh prison clinic.

For Helmi Al-Araj, Executive Director of Hurryyat and a former prisoner, the poor medical treatment isn’t just because these physicians are unqualified. “These doctors deal with ailing prisoners with irresponsibility and no respect to prisoners because they deal with their enemies,” Al-Araj said. “They don’t take this as a humanitarian case. They deal with prisoners as enemies who are terrorists and did something against their government.”

Fares, who spent 14 years in prison for armed activism, agreed Palestinians are seen as “the other.” “Israel is developing a mentality that there is a difference between the soldier and the prisoner,” Fares said. “In their mind, they think we are not human enough.”

Yet while Fares does believe medical negligence stems from the growing far-right ideology of the Israeli government, he thinks reform is possible if Palestine presents a united front. “Today Hamas is acting alone. Fatah is acting alone. And the Israeli administration knows how deep the Palestinian crisis goes, so they use it.”

Imagining Return: Palestinians in Jordan’s Sprawling Refugee Camps Still Yearn for Home

B Miko Peled

Source

Amman, Jordan — Abna’a Gaza (the Children of Gaza) is a status given to Palestinian refugees who fled from the Gaza Strip to Jordan in 1967. They fled during the 1967 war and consequent Israeli occupation of Gaza. Today, over five decades later, these Palestinians who originally fled to Gaza from their homes in greater Palestine in 1948 number 150,000. They remain mostly in camps, unable to leave, unable to work except for menial labor, with no access to healthcare and with no formal national identity.

The Larger Refugee Issue

Israel and the various other Zionist institutions have always claimed that the refugee problem has nothing to do with them. They offer all sorts of stories to explain the flight of close to one million Palestinians from their homes and land. Still, all the obfuscation in the world cannot change the fact that Zionist militias forced Palestinians out of Palestine in an attempt to establish a state with a clear – if not an absolute – Jewish majority.

In cities like Tabariya and Safad, in the north, in large stretches of land in the Naqab in the south, and in West Jerusalem, which became the capital city of Israel, the ethnic cleansing was so complete that not even one Palestinian family remained.

Now, over seven decades later, the Palestinian refugee population is estimated at around five million people. Banned from returning to their lands and homes, they live in squalor in refugee camps that quite often are only a few short miles from their original homes.

The Gaza Camp

Lying in Jordan’s rolling northern hills, Jerash is said to be one of the best kept ancient Roman cities outside of Italy. Much of the ancient ruins are still intact and they are an incredible sight to see. A few short miles from Jerash, however, lies the Palestinian refugee camp, Gaza Camp. It is an equally incredible sight to behold but for completely different reasons.

I visited the Gaza Camp for the first time in 2013 and then again in February 2020 and though some small changes were visible. By and large, the living conditions and the abject poverty remain the same. Forty thousand people live in this particular camp, which sits on about a quarter of a square mile.

Jerash Gaza refugee camp

The camp residents are all Abna’a Ghaza, an Arabic phrase meaning the sons of Gaza. All were turned into refugees in 1948 and sent to resettle in Gaza. Then, in 1967, they fled as Israeli forces occupied Gaza and were settled in this camp, where to this day they are forced to live this impossible reality.

During my visit to Gaza Camp, I visited the home of Umm Mohammed. She lives in a small house with several rooms with her children and grandchildren. The house is made of cinder block and tin and is freezing cold. The children run around barefoot and resources are scarce. The local camp school has six thousand students who attend in two shifts. The boys and girls take turns, each month switching shifts.

Umm Mohammad hails from a village near the city of Bir-a-Saba in the Naqab Desert. Today, the city is called Be’er Sheva and the desert has been renamed the Negev. Some say that in Jordan alone there are close to one million refugees from the city of Bir-a-Saba. Umm Mohamad was 13 in 1948 when Zionist forces expelled her family. “I was 13,” she recounted, “we left on a caravan of camels.” She went on to tell us that “the Jews committed a massacre, killing people in their sleep.”

Jerash Gaza refugee camp

Imagining Return

Zochrot means “remembering” in Hebrew. It is also the name of an NGO “working since 2002 to promote acknowledgment and accountability for the ongoing injustices of the Nakba, the Palestinian catastrophe of 1948 and the reconceptualization of the Return as the imperative redress of the Nakba and a chance for a better life for all the country’s inhabitants.”

Zochrot is dedicated to keeping the memories of destroyed Palestinian towns and villages alive by providing information, action on the ground and tours throughout historic Palestine. Zochrot also operates a website chock full of articles, studies, testimony and a wealth of other valuable information on all issues regarding historic Palestine.

The organization recently launched a campaign called “Choosing to remember – voting for return,” to encourage Israeli citizens to remember Palestinian refugee issues during the March 2 Israeli elections. A post made on Zochrot’s Facebook page to promote the campaign (accessible by clicking “see more” on the post’s caption) reads in part:

Tomorrow, Israel’s citizens will vote for the third time within a year. Once again, the most important and critical issues in our lives here are not part of the agenda or platforms of the Zionist parties. Recognizing the Nakba, including the crimes of 1948 and the ongoing Nakba, is not proposed by any party. Recognizing the right of return and a practical plan for the return of refugees are not even discussed.
The political system and society in Israel continue to deny and erase these issues.”

We choose to remember the crimes of the Nakba, remind Israeli society of them and make them visibly present everywhere, at every opportunity, and oppose their erasure. We vote for the return of Palestinian refugees and view this return as an opportunity to liberate ourselves of the colonialist mindset and practices that define Israeli politics.”

As Israel and the United States presented the latest version of a plan to bring Palestinians surrender, known colloquially as the Deal of the Century, the approach of Zochrot presents a real alternative. In the current political climate, discussing the Palestinian right of return in practical terms while demanding it on all political platforms will create the polarization needed to distance those who seek justice and peace from those who wish to continue to spill innocent blood.

Funding Crimes

Jordan’s Gaza camp is no more than an hour’s drive from the country’s border with Palestine. Most, if not all the inhabitants, came from the Naqab. In other words, these refugees could all be home, in their country and on their land in less than a three-hour drive. Israel, of course, would never allow that to happen.

Palestinian refugee camp

Walking through the camp, poverty is rampant. Small projects lie in various states of completion, donated by various NGOs here and there, one to pave a road, another to refurbish the school. One cannot help but think of the four billion dollars the United States gives Israel each year. Israel is a wealthy country and has no need for foreign aid, yet Palestinians in refugee camps are living in abject poverty. Yet the U.S., Germany and other countries constantly contribute to its wealth while ignoring and even perpetuating the poverty inflicted upon Palestinians.

A strong Israeli state has guaranteed that Palestinians remain poor and hopeless. Imagine reversing the roles. Imagine what three or four billion dollars per year could do to repatriate and compensate Palestinian refugees and ensure a better future for all who live in historic Palestine. As the Zochrot slogan says, “Imagine Return.”

Who Made Coronavirus? Was It the U.S., Israel or China Itself?

By Philip Giraldi

Source

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The most commonly reported mainstream media account of the creation of the Coronavirus suggests that it was derived from an animal borne microorganism found in a wild bat that was consumed by an ethnic Chinese resident of Wuhan. But there appears to be some evidence to dispute that in that adjacent provinces in China, where wild bats are more numerous, have not experienced major outbreaks of the disease. Because of that and other factors, there has also been considerable speculation that the Coronavirus did not occur naturally through mutation but rather was produced in a laboratory, possibly as a biological warfare agent.

Several reports suggest that there are components of the virus that are related to HIV that could not have occurred naturally. If it is correct that the virus had either been developed or even produced to be weaponized it would further suggest that its escape from the Wuhan Institute of Virology Lab and into the animal and human population could have been accidental. Technicians who work in such environments are aware that “leaks” from laboratories occur frequently.

There is, of course and inevitably, another theory. There has been some speculation that as the Trump Administration has been constantly raising the issue of growing Chinese global competitiveness as a direct threat to American national security and economic dominance, it must might be possible that Washington has created and unleashed the virus in a bid to bring Beijing’s growing economy and military might down a few notches. It is, to be sure, hard to believe that even the Trump White House would do something so reckless, but there are precedents for that type of behavior. In 2005-9 the American and Israeli governments secretly developed a computer virus called Stuxnet, which was intended to damage the control and operating systems of Iranian computers being used in that country’s nuclear research program. Admittedly Stuxnet was intended to damage computers, not to infect or kill human beings, but concerns that it would propagate and move to infect computers outside Iran proved to be accurate as it spread to thousands of PCs outside Iran, in countries as far flung as China, Germany, Kazakhstan and Indonesia.

Inevitably there is an Israeli story that just might shed some light on what has been going on in China. Scientists at Israel’s Galilee Research Institute are now claiming that they will have a vaccine against coronavirus in a few weeks which will be ready for distribution and use within 90 days. The institute is claiming that it has been engaged in four years of research on avian coronavirus funded by Israel’s Ministries of Science & Technology and Agriculture. They are claiming that the virus is similar to the version that has infected humans, which has led to breakthroughs in development through genetic manipulation, but some scientists are skeptical that a new vaccine could be produced so quickly to prevent a virus that existed only recently. They also have warned that even if a vaccine is developed it would normally have to be tested for side effects, a process that normally takes over a year and includes using it on infected humans.

If one even considers it possible that the United States had a hand in creating the coronavirus at what remains of its once extensive biological weapons research center in Ft Detrick Maryland, it is very likely that Israel was a partner in the project. Helping to develop the virus would also explain how Israeli scientists have been able to claim success at creating a vaccine so quickly, possibly because the virus and a treatment for it were developed simultaneously.

In any event, there are definite political ramifications to the appearance of the coronavirus, and not only in China. In the United States President Donald Trump is already being blamed for lying about the virus and there are various scenarios in mainstream publications speculating over the possible impact on the election in 2020. If the economy sinks together with the stock market, it will reflect badly on Trump whether or not he is actually at fault. If containment and treatment of the disease itself in the United States does not go well, there could also be a considerable backlash, particularly as the Democrats have been promoting improving health care. One pundit argues, however, that disease and a sinking economy will not matter as long as there is a turnaround before the election, but a lot can happen in the next eight months.

And then there is the national security/foreign policy issue as seen from both Jerusalem and Washington. It is difficult to explain why coronavirus has hit one country in particular other than China very severely. That country is Iran, the often-cited enemy of both the U.S. and Israel. The number of Iran’s coronavirus cases continues to increase, with more positive tests confirmed among government officials last Saturday. There were 205 new coronavirus cases, bringing the government claimed total to 593 with 43 fatalities, though unofficial hospital reports suggest that the deaths are actually well over 100. That’s the highest number of deaths from the virus outside of China.

No less than five Iranian Members of Parliament have also tested positive amid a growing number of officials that have contracted the disease. Iran’s vice president Masoumeh Ebtekar and deputy health minister Iraj Harirchi had also previously been confirmed with the virus.

The usual suspects in the United States are delighted to learn of the Iranian deaths. Mark Dubowitz, Executive Director of the Washington-based but Israeli government connected Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) boasted on twitter Tuesday that “Coronavirus has done what American economic sanctions could not: shut down non-oil exports.” An Iranian government spokesman responded that “It’s shameful and downright inhuman to cheer for a deadly Virus to spread – and enjoy seeing people suffer for it…” Dubowitz followed up with an additional taunt, that Tehran has “spread terrorism” in the Middle East and “now it’s spreading the coronavirus.”

So, you have your choice. Coronavirus occurred naturally, or it came out of a lab in China itself or even from Israel or the United States. If one suspects Israel and/or the United States, the intent clearly would have been to create a biological weapon that would damage two nations that have been designated as enemies. But the coronavirus cannot be contained easily and it is clear that many thousands of people will die from it. Unfortunately, as with Stuxnet, once the genie is out of the bottle it is devilishly hard to induce it to go back in.

The United States Is in Syria Illegally as a Proxy for Israel and Saudi Arabia

By Philip Giraldi

Source

James Jeffrey Netanyahu e1db3

The first week in February was memorable for the failed impeachment of President Donald Trump, the “re-elect me” State of the Union address and the marketing of a new line of underwear by Kim Kardashian. Given all of the excitement, it was easy to miss a special State Department press briefing by Ambassador James Jeffrey held on February 5th regarding the current situation in Syria.

Jeffrey is the United States Special Representative for Syria Engagement and the Special Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIL. Jeffrey has had a distinguished career in government service, attaining senior level State Department positions under both Democratic and Republican presidents. He has served as U.S. Ambassador to both Turkey and Iraq. He is, generally speaking, a hardliner politically, closely aligned with Israel and regarding Iran as a hostile destabilizing force in the Middle East region. He was between 2013 and 2018 Philip Solondz distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), a think tank that is a spin-off of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). He is currently a WINEP “Outside Author” and go-to “expert.”

Professor John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt, academic dean at Harvard University ‘s Kennedy School of Government, describe WINEP as “part of the core” of the Israel Lobby in the U.S. They examined the group on pages 175-6 in their groundbreaking book The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy and concluded as follows:

“Although WINEP plays down its links to Israel and claims that it provides a ‘balanced and realistic’ perspective on Middle East issues, this is not the case. In fact, WINEP is funded and run by individuals who are deeply committed to advancing Israel’s agenda … Many of its personnel are genuine scholars or experienced former officials, but they are hardly neutral observers on most Middle East issues and there is little diversity of views within WINEP’s ranks.”

In early 2018 Jeffrey co-authored a WINEP special report on Syria which urged “…the Trump administration [to] couple a no-fly/no-drive zone and a small residual ground presence in the northeast with intensified sanctions against the Assad regime’s Iranian patron. In doing so, Washington can support local efforts to stabilize the area, encourage Gulf partners to ‘put skin in the game, drive a wedge between Moscow and Tehran, and help Israel avoid all-out war.”

Note the focus on Iran and Russia as threats and the referral to Assad and his government as a “regime.” And the U.S. presence is to “help Israel.” So we have Ambassador James Jeffrey leading the charge on Syria, from an Israeli perspective that is no doubt compatible with the White House view, which explains why he has become Special Representative for Syria Engagement.

Jeffrey  for his term of office shortly after being appointed by President Trump back in August 2018 when he argued that the Syrian terrorists were “. . . not terrorists, but people fighting a civil war against a brutal dictator.” Jeffrey, who must have somehow missed a lot of the head chopping and rape going on, subsequently traveled to the Middle East and stopped off in Israel to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It has been suggested that Jeffrey received his marching orders during the visit.

Two months later James Jeffrey declared that he would like to see Russia maintain a “permissive approach” to allow the Israelis to attack Iranian targets inside Syria. Regarding Iran’s possible future role in Syria he observed that “Iranians are part of the problem not part of the solution.”

What Jeffrey meant was that because Israel had been “allowed” to carry out hundreds of air attacks in Syria ostensibly directed against Iran-linked targets, the practice should be permitted to continue. Israel had suspended nearly all of its airstrikes in the wake of the shoot down of a Russian aircraft in September 2018, an incident which was caused by a deliberate Israeli maneuver that brought down the plane even though the missile that struck the aircraft was fired by Syria. Fifteen Russian servicemen were killed. Israel reportedly was deliberately using the Russian plane to mask the presence of its own attacking aircraft.

Russia responded to the incident by deploying advanced S-300 anti-aircraft systems to Syria, which can cover most of the more heavily developed areas of the country. Jeffrey was unhappy with that decision, saying “We are concerned very much about the S-300 system being deployed to Syria. The issue is at the detail level. Who will control it? what role will it play?” And he defended his own patently absurd urging that Russia, Syria’s ally, permit Israel to continue its air attacks by saying “We understand the existential interest and we support Israel” because the Israeli government has an “existential interest in blocking Iran from deploying long-range power projection systems such as surface-to-surface missiles.”

Later in November 2018 James Jeffrey , declaring that U.S. troops will not leave Syria before guaranteeing the “enduring defeated” of ISIS, but he perversely put the onus on Syria and Iran, saying that “We also think that you cannot have an enduring defeat of ISIS until you have fundamental change in the Syrian regime and fundamental change in Iran’s role in Syria, which contributed greatly to the rise of ISIS in the first place in 2013, 2014.”

As virtually no one but Jeffrey and the Israeli government actually believes that Damascus and Tehran were responsible for creating ISIS, the ambassador elaborated, blaming President Bashar al-Assad for the cycle of violence in Syria that, he claimed, allowed the development of the terrorist group in both Syria and neighboring Iraq.

He said “The Syrian regime produced ISIS. The elements of ISIS in the hundreds, probably, saw an opportunity in the total breakdown of civil society and of the upsurge of violence as the population rose up against the Assad regime, and the Assad regime, rather than try to negotiate or try to find any kind of solution, unleashed massive violence against its own population.”

Jeffrey’s formula is just another recycling of the myth that the Syrian opposition consisted of good folks who wanted to establish democracy in the country. In reality, it incorporated terrorist elements right from the beginning and groups like ISIS and the al-Qaeda affiliates rapidly assumed control of the violence. That Jeffrey should be so ignorant or blinded by his own presumptions to be unaware of that is astonishing. It is also interesting to note that he makes no mention of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, kneejerk support for Israel and the unrelenting pressure on Syria starting with the Syrian Accountability Act of 2003 and continuing with embrace of the so-called Arab Spring. Most observers believe that those actions were major contributors to the rise of ISIS.

Jeffrey’s unflinching embrace of the Israeli and hardline Washington assessment of the Syrian crisis comes as no surprise given his pedigree, but in the same interview where he pounded Iran and Syria, he asserted oddly that “We’re not about regime change. We’re about a change in the behavior of a government and of a state.”

Some of James Jeffrey’s comments at last week’s press conference are similarly illuminating. Much of what he said concerned the mechanics of relationships with the Russians and Turks, but he also discussed some core issues relating to Washington’s perspective on the conflict. Many of his comments were very similar to what he said when he was appointed in 2018.

Jeffrey expressed concern over the thousands of al-Nusra terrorists holed up in besieged Idlib province, saying “We’re very, very worried about this. First of all, the significance of Idlib – that’s where we’ve had chemical weapons attacks in the past… And we’re seeing not just the Russians but the Iranians and Hizballah actively involved in supporting the Syrian offensive… You see the problems right now in Idlib. This is a dangerous conflict. It needs to be brought to an end. Russia needs to change its policies.”

He elaborated, “We’re not asking for regime change per se, we’re not asking for the Russians to leave, we’re asking…Syria to behave as a normal, decent country that doesn’t force half its population to flee, doesn’t use chemical weapons dozens of times against its own civilians, doesn’t drop barrel bombs, doesn’t create a refugee crisis that almost toppled governments in Europe, does not allow terrorists such as HTS and particularly Daesh/ISIS emerge and flourish in much of Syria. Those are the things that that regime has done, and the international community cannot accept that.”

Well, one has to conclude that James Jeffrey is possibly completely delusional. The core issue that the United States is in Syria illegally as a proxy for Israel and Saudi Arabia is not touched on, nor the criminal role in “protecting the oil fields” and stealing their production, which he mentions but does not explain. Nor the issue of the legitimate Syrian government seeking to recover its territory against groups that almost everyone admits being terrorists.

Virtually every bit of “evidence” that Jeffrey cites is either false or inflated, to include the claim of use of chemical weapons and the responsibility for the refugees. As for who actually created the terrorists, that honor goes to the United States, which accomplished that when it invaded Iraq and destroyed its government before following up by undermining Syria. And, by the way, someone should point out to Jeffrey that Russia and Iran are in Syria as allies of its legitimate government.

Ambassador James Jeffrey maintains that “Russia needs to change its policies.” That is not correct. It is the United States that must change its policies by getting out of Syria and Iraq for starters while also stopping the deference to feckless “allies” Israel and Saudi Arabia that has produced a debilitating cold war against both Iran and Russia. Another good first step to make the U.S. a “normal, decent country” would be to get rid of the advice of people like James Jeffrey.

 

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