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.

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.

If The US Is OK with Israeli Annexing the West Bank, Why Is It Sanctioning Russia for Annexing Crimea?

By David Morrison

Source

Trump at the Israeli American Council National Summit 8b64d

At a ceremony in the East Room in the White House on 28 January 2020, President Trump unveiled his 181-page “vision” for Israel/Palestine to an audience of enthusiastic cheerleaders, many flown in from Israel for the occasion. While he spoke, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stood by his side and afterwards he welcomed the President’s “vision” ecstatically.

And well he might.  The “vision” was written for him, if not by him.  According to US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, it is the “product of more than three years of close consultations” between Trump, Netanyahu and their senior staff.  Understandably, therefore, it gives Netanyahu almost everything he has ever wished for politically.  In essence, the document is an agreement between the US and Israel about the future of Israel/Palestine.

Trump’s favours to Netanyahu

Of course, this is not the first incidence of Prime Minister Netanyahu, and Israel, receiving political favours from President Trump.  Already, under the Trump administration,

  • in December 2017, the US recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and, in May 2018, moved the US embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv
  • in August 2018, the US ended financial support for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).
  • in September 2018, the US cut $25 million of financial support for 6 hospitals for the care of Palestinians in East Jerusalem
  • in September 2018, the US closed the PLO office in Washington
  • in February 2019, the US ended financial support to the Palestinian Authority
  • in March 2019, the US recognised as Israeli sovereign territory the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights (which Israel took over by force in 1967 and has subjected to military occupation ever since)
  • in November 2019, the US declared that the 130+ Jewish-only settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Golan Heights are “not per se inconsistent with international law” (in the words of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo)

Perhaps, the US flagrantly breaching the nuclear deal it signed with Iran (and other states) should be added to this list.  When he unveiled his “vision” on 28 January 2020, President Trump boasted:

“As everyone knows, I have done a lot for Israel: moving the United States Embassy to Jerusalem; recognizing — (applause) –- recognizing the Golan Heights — (applause) — and, frankly, perhaps most importantly, getting out of the terrible Iran nuclear deal.  (applause)”

A much bigger favour to Netanyahu

Now, the President has done Netanyahu (and Israel) a much bigger favour – he has undertaken that the US will henceforth recognise a lot more Israeli-occupied territory as sovereign Israeli territory, this time territory East of the Green Line, that is, in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem).

In recent months, Netanyahu has said that he wanted to annex to Israel (a) the Jordan Valley and (b) areas surrounding the Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank.  It is probably not a coincidence that annexations along these lines are at the heart of the President’s “vision” for Israel/Palestine – and there is no suggestion that Palestinians are to be consulted, let alone have a veto, about these annexations.

After the President unveiled his “vision”, Netanyahu responded ecstatically:

“This is a historic day.  And it recalls another historic day.  We remember May 14th, 1948, because on that day, President Truman became the first world leader to recognize the State of Israel after our first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, declared our independence.  That day charted a brilliant future.

“Mr. President, I believe that down the decades — and perhaps down the centuries — we will also remember January 28th, 2020, because on this day, you became the first world leader to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over areas in Judea and Samaria that are vital to our security and central to our heritage.  (Applause) …

“For too long — far too long — the very heart of the Land of Israel where our patriarchs prayed, our prophets preached, and our kings ruled, has been outrageously branded as illegally occupied territory.  Well, today, Mr. President, you are puncturing this big lie.  (Applause)

“You are recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over all the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, large and small alike.  (Applause)”

Israel seized the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) by military force in June 1967 and has colonised it relentlessly in the ensuing years transferring over 620,000 of its citizens across the Green Line into Jewish-only settlements.

If some or all of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) becomes sovereign Israeli territory on a permanent basis, then with the blessing of the US, Israel will have acquired territory by military force in flagrant violation of the first principle of international law.  The US can no longer complain about Russia annexing Crimea, not least because that was done with the consent of the people living there.

A false notion: Israel an occupier

This US recognition of Israeli sovereignty over first the Golan Heights and now parts of the West Bank was foreshadowed during the Trump presidential campaign by his advisory team on Israel.  This consisted of Jason Greenblatt, who was until recently his chief negotiator on Israel/Palestine (along with his son-in-law, Jared Kushner), and David Friedman, who is now US Ambassador to Israel.

A joint statement by Greenblatt and Friedmanjoint statement by Greenblatt and Friedman on 2 November 2016 contained the following short but very significant sentence:

“The false notion that Israel is an occupier should be rejected.”

That principle has been implemented in respect of the Golan Heights and now in respect of part of the West Bank.  In addition, it is reflected in US State Department documents, which no longer refer to the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), Gaza and the Golan Heights as “the occupied territories”.

The internationally agreed position

The Security Council has always regarded the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) as Israeli occupied territory and never as territory belonging to the State of Israel.  Thus, Security Council Resolution 2334 passed on 23 December 2016 specifically called upon UN member states to “distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967”.

The same is true of the International Court of Justice (“the principal judicial organ of the United Nations” in the words of the UN Charter).  In its July 2004 Advisory Opinion Legal consequences of the construction of a wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory it left no doubt that Israel was the occupying power in  the West Bank under international law:

“The territories situated between the Green Line … and the former eastern boundary of Palestine under the Mandate were occupied by Israel in 1967 during the armed conflict between Israel and Jordan. … All these territories (including East Jerusalem) remain occupied territories and Israel has continued to have the status of occupying Power.” (Paragraph 78)

All, or nearly all, states in the world (apart from Israel and the US) accept this UN position that the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) is Israeli occupied territory.

Most states also accept the UN position that, along with Gaza, the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) should form the territory of a Palestinian state, with its capital in East Jerusalem, existing alongside Israel in its pre-1967 borders – and that any adjustments to the pre-1967 borders by way of land swaps must be agreed between Israel and Palestine.  The EU has always been very firm on the latter point, saying:

“The EU will recognize changes to the pre-1967 borders, including with regard to Jerusalem, only when agreed by the parties.”

Of course, a “two-state solution” along these lines is not going to happen.  It’s not going to happen because Israel has no intention of reversing its aggression of June 1967 and withdrawing from the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) so that a Palestinian state can be established.  And there is no chance of sufficient external pressure being brought to bear on Israel to force it to withdraw – which is what should have been done in the wake of Israel’s aggression in June 1967.

A Palestinian “state”

Trump’s “vision” document does propose the creation of a Palestinian “state”, of a kind arrogantly dictated by the US and Israel.  They have decreed that its territory would consist of Gaza plus those parts of the West Bank (about 50% of it) not already selected by them for annexation to Israel – and that it would have a capital on the outskirts of East Jerusalem, not in Jerusalem itself.

Its West Bank territory would consist of a number of non-contiguous chunks, linked together by a network of roads, bridges and tunnels and surrounded by territory to be annexed to Israel – and therefore with no access to the outside world except through Israeli-controlled territory.

At Israel’s insistence, the Palestinian “state” would be demilitarised, and Israel would retain the right to make armed incursions into its territory to ensure that it remained demilitarised and, in Israel’s opinion, non-threatening to Israel.  Hamas and other paramilitary groups in Gaza would have to disarm, recognise the State of Israel (with its greatly expanded territory, presumably) and hand over control of Gaza to the Palestinian Authority or “another national or international body acceptable to the State of Israel”, to quote from Trump’s “vision” document.

If this “state” were ever to come into existence, it would mean the continuation of Israeli occupation for Palestinians with Israel still in control of all the land between the Jordan and the Sea.

(For more on the US/Israel requirements for a Palestinian “state”, see the Endnote below)

Negotiations with Palestinians?

Responding to President Trump in the White House on 28 January, Netanyahu said:

“Mr. President, … because I believe your peace plan strikes the right balance where other plans have failed, I’ve agreed to negotiate peace with the Palestinians on the basis of your peace plan.  (Applause)”

Later he qualified this by saying that Palestinians had to “agree to abide by all the conditions” in the “peace plan” (see Endnote below) before Israel would be prepared to “negotiate peace” with them.

Trump had earlier said that the territory he had allocated to a Palestinian “state” would “remain open and undeveloped for a period of four years” during which Palestinians can “negotiate with Israel, achieve the criteria for statehood, and become a truly independent and wonderful state”.

None of this matters, of course, since the “peace plan” is completely unacceptable to Palestinian leaders and to the Palestinian public: an opinion poll carried out by Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that 94% of Palestinians were opposed to it (despite President Trump’s judgment that: “It’s very good for them.  In fact, it’s overly good to them.”).

Are annexations going to happen?

Are the proposed annexations going to happen?  Almost certainly, they will, whether Netanyahu remains Prime Minister or is replaced by Benny Gantz.  Palestinian opposition will count for nothing.  Both Trump and Netanyahu made it clear on 28 January that the annexations are going ahead.  Trump said:

“We will form a joint committee with Israel to convert the conceptual map [pubin the “vision” document] into a more detailed and calibrated rendering so that recognition can be immediately achieved.”

In his response to Trump that day, Netanyahu said:

“Regardless of the Palestinian decision [to enter into negotiations], Israel will preserve the path of peace in the coming years.  … At the same time, Israel will apply its laws to the Jordan Valley, to all the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, and to other areas that your plan designates as part of Israel and which the United States has agreed to recognize as part of Israel.  (Applause)”

For obvious reasons, Netanyahu hoped that visible progress could be made on this prior to the Israeli General Election on 2 March.  However, the Trump administration vetoed that and insisted that the joint US/Israel mapping committee first complete its work of defining precisely what territory is to be annexed.  The committee has now been set up – it is headed by the US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, who explained that the US was anxious that the annexation process was completed properly in one go and the US didn’t have to recognise several incremental annexations.  Needless to say, there are no Palestinian representatives on this committee that is to divide up their land.

It is possible that, after the election on 2 March, Netanyahu will be replaced as Prime Minister by Benny Gantz, the leader of the Blue and White party (who was formerly head of the Israeli military).  Will that delay or prevent the annexations going ahead?  That’s unlikely, since from the outset he has expressed support for Trump’s plan: on 27 January after he was briefed by Trump himself about it, he described it as “a significant and historic milestone” and said:

“Immediately after the elections, I will work toward implementing it from within a stable, functioning Israeli government, in tandem with the other countries in our region.”

The President himself is bound to be keen to complete the annexations before his re-election campaign, because that would please the Evangelical Christian voters who form a significant part of his electoral base – and it would ensure that, if he lost the election, his Democratic successor would be faced with a fait accompli.

Almost all the Democratic presidential candidates have expressed opposition to his plan: for example, Senator Elizabeth Warren said:

“Trump’s ‘peace plan’ is a rubber stamp for annexation and offers no chance for a real Palestinian state. Releasing a plan without negotiating with Palestinians isn’t diplomacy, it’s a sham. I will oppose unilateral annexation in any form—and reverse any policy that supports it.”

But would a Democratic president attempt to reverse the annexations?  That’s very doubtful, since it would require at the very least the US to threaten to cut off military aid to Israel.

What is to be annexed

Under the Oslo Agreement, the Israeli-occupied West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem) was divided into three areas.  The largest, Area C, with around 61% of the land area is where Israel has built 130+ Jewish-only settlements.

Israel treats Area C as if its sole purpose is to serve Israeli needs, expanding settlements there relentlessly, their population having more than tripled since the Oslo Agreement was signed in 1993.  Israel doesn’t consider itself obligated in any way to the estimated 200,000 Palestinians living in Area A, banning virtually all construction and development by them.  When, having no other option, Palestinians build without permits, their buildings, including their living quarters, are liable to be demolished by Israel, with the residents themselves being billed for the demolition costs.

Most of the approximately 2.5 million Palestinian residents of the West Bank live in Areas A and B, which consist of 165 disconnected “islands” surrounded by land designated as part of Area C.

In total, Israel has transferred over 413,000 of its citizens into Area C.  A further 209,000 Israeli citizens now live in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem.  Colonisation of occupied territory was and is contrary to international law – to be precise, it is war crime contrary to Article 8.2(b)(viii) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which states that “the transfer, directly or indirectly, by the Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies” is a war crime.

Up to now, Israel has treated the settlements in Area C as extensions of its sovereign territory, applying most of its domestic laws there and allowing settlers to vote in Knesset elections.  Now, the settlements are to be annexed and treated as an integral party of Israel.  Here, we are talking about all the settlements and the land around them being annexed to Israel, not just a few of the settlements located close to the Green Line.  This avoids any political difficulties for an Israeli government from having to uproot Jews from outlying settlements and repatriate them to Israel.

The fact that the settlements are widely spread across the West Bank makes it difficult to construct a contiguous territory to be annexed to Israel.  Nevertheless, Trump’s “vision” document claims that “approximately 97% of Israelis in the West Bank will be incorporated into contiguous Israeli territory”.  But, 15 of the settlements are planned to be in enclaves within “Palestinian territory” with dedicated access routes connecting them to Israeli-controlled territory.  (By “Palestinian territory”, we mean the territory in the West Bank generously assigned to a Palestinian “state” by the US and Israel).

It is Trump’s “vision” that this territory with its attached enclaves become sovereign Israeli territory.  Conquest and a 50-year programme of colonisation is about to bear fruit for Israel.

Jordan Valley

The US has also agreed that the Jordan Valley be annexed to Israel.  Trump’s “vision” states bluntly:

“The Jordan Valley, which is critical for Israel’s national security, will be under Israeli sovereignty.” (p12)

East Jerusalem

When the US has recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017, it didn’t formally recognise East Jerusalem as sovereign Israeli territory, even though Israel had long since treated it as such.

After capturing and occupying the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in June 1967, Israel greatly expanded the city by annexing West Bank land and applying Israeli law to the expanded city.  From then on, Israel regarded the expanded Jerusalem as an integral part of Israel.  This was not accepted by the Security Council, which has always regarded it (and the rest of the West Bank) as Israeli occupied territory, as did most states in the world, including the US, apart from Israel.

On Jerusalem, Trump’s “vision” states bluntly:

“Jerusalem will remain the sovereign capital of the State of Israel, and it should remain an undivided city.” (p17)

That would seem to be a statement that the US now recognises all of Jerusalem, including occupied East Jerusalem, as sovereign Israeli territory.

International reactions

The Ambassadors of three Gulf States – Oman, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates – attended the ceremony in the East Room in the White House on 28 January, when President Trump unveiled his “vision” for Israel/Palestine, and were publicly thanked by him for their attendance.

Afterwards, it was suggested that they attended the event because they were given the false impression that his “vision” included a Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem, whereas in reality there is no Palestinian state and no capital in East Jerusalem.

A few days later representatives from the three states joined the other members of the Arab League in unanimously rejecting what they called the US-Israeli deal, saying that it “does not meet the minimum rights and aspirations of Palestinian people”.  However, no action was proposed that would impose a cost on Israel for annexing Palestinian territory.

The EU was unable to make an official statement criticising the US proposals because that required unanimity amongst the 27 member states.  The EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell couldn’t achieve unanimity because, as a result of lobbying by Israel, at least six states (including Italy, Hungary, Austria and the Czech Republic) objected.

Borrell issued a critical statement on his own, warning that “steps towards annexation, if implemented, could not pass unchallenged”.  Those are empty words – on the Israel/Palestine issue the EU is now paralysed.

When the Security Council held a meeting on the US/Israel proposals on 11 February, the EU was not in a position to present an official policy on the proposals.  However, a joint statement issued by Belgium, France, Germany, Estonia and Poland at the Security Council had the merit of robustly restating EU policy:

“The annexation of any part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, constitutes a breach of international law, undermines the viability of the two-State solution and challenges the prospects for just, comprehensive and lasting peace. In line with international law and relevant UN Security Council resolutions, we do not recognise Israel’s sovereignty over the territories occupied since 1967.”

The UK, by contrast, limited itself to expressing “concern” at the about possible annexations.

A draft Security Council resolution critical of the US/Israel proposals was not pressed to a vote because it was not going to get the nine positive votes necessary to force the US to veto it.

The sad conclusion is that there is no pressure worthy of the name on the US/Israel that might persuade them not to go ahead with the proposed annexations.

Crimea

To say that, in the past, the US has applied double standards in its response to Russia’s takeover of Crimea compared with Israel’s takeover of Palestinian territories is a gross understatement.

In June 1967, Israel took over Palestinian territories whose populations were overwhelmingly opposed to being taken over by Israel.  But no economic sanctions have ever been imposed by the US to force Israel to withdraw.  Quite the contrary, Israel has been showered with US tax dollars over the years and today it receives more US aid (mostly military) than any other state in the world.  Before leaving office, President Obama promised that this largesse would continue, promising Israel $38 billion over the following 10 years.

By contrast, in 2014 Russia took over Crimea whose population was both overwhelmingly Russian and overwhelmingly in favour of being taken over by Russia (and was part of Ukraine in 2014 rather than Russia because of an arbitrary decision in 1954 by the USSR Supreme Soviet to transfer it without its consent from the Russian SFSR to the Ukrainian SSR).  Nevertheless, Russia was immediately subjected to economic sanctions by the US, sanctions that are still in force today.

With the President’s recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights and now great swathes of the West Bank, the divergence in standards has widened further.  To be consistent, the President should immediately recognise Russia’s sovereignty over Crimea and lift the economic sanctions imposed on Russia because of its takeover of Crimea.

Endnote: US/Israel requirements for a Palestinian “state”

The Palestinian “state” prescribed in President Trump’s “vision” for Israel/Palestine would mean the continuation of Israeli occupation in a not very different form: if the “state” ever came into existence, Israel would remain in control of all the land between the Jordan and the Sea, including the territory assigned to a Palestinian “state” by the US/Israel.

This territory includes Gaza and the West Bank, minus the areas in the West Bank which the US has approved for annexation by Israel in the “vision” document.  These areas consist of all the 130+ Jewish-only settlements built illegally by Israel since it took over the West Bank by force in 1967, along with large swathes of land around them, plus the Jordan Valley and East Jerusalem.

The West Bank territory of the “state” would consist of a number of non-contiguous chunks, linked together by a network of roads, bridges and tunnels and surrounded by territory to be annexed to Israel – and therefore with no access to the outside world except through Israeli-controlled territory.

Sovereignty

So much for the territory assigned by the US to the new Palestinian “state”.  As for the sovereignty, which the new “state” will be able to exercise, suffice to say the US has agreed that it will be highly restricted by Israel.  To quote from the “vision” document:

“Upon signing the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Agreement, the State of Israel will maintain overriding security responsibility for the State of Palestine” (p21)

“The State of Israel will continue to maintain control over the airspace and the electromagnetic spectrum west of the Jordan river.” (Appendix 2C)

“The State of Israel will retain sovereignty over territorial waters, which are vital to Israel’s security and which provides stability to the region.” (p13)

“The lack of ports has raised the costs of Palestinian economic activity. Though the State of Palestine will include Gaza, security challenges make the building of a port in Gaza problematic for the foreseeable future.” (p27)

“Five years following the signing of the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Agreement and assuming the full satisfaction of the Gaza Criteria, the State of Palestine shall have the right, subject to the satisfaction of State of Israel’s security and environmental requirements, to create an artificial island off the coast of Gaza to develop a port to serve Gaza (the “GAZA PORT”), as well as an airport for small aircraft.” (p29)

“All persons and goods will cross the borders into the State of Palestine through regulated border crossings, which will be monitored by the State of Israel. Israeli border crossing officials, using state of the art scanning and imaging technology, shall have the right to confirm that no weapons, dual-use or other security-risk related items will be allowed to enter into the State of Palestine.” (p24)

A demilitarized “state”

The “vision” document is clear:

“The State of Palestine shall be fully demilitarized and remain so” (p22)

The document extols the virtue of this for Palestine, presenting military expenditure as a burden which Israel is generously prepared to carry on behalf of Palestinians:

“Every country spends a very significant sum of money on its defense from external threats. The State of Palestine will not be burdened with such costs, because it will be shouldered by the State of Israel. This is a significant benefit for the economy of the State of Palestine since funds that would otherwise be spent on defense can instead be directed towards healthcare, education, infrastructure and other matters to improve Palestinians’ well-being.” (p21)

“A demilitarized State of Palestine will be prohibited from possessing capabilities that can threaten the State of Israel including:  weapons systems such as combat aircraft (manned and unmanned); heavy armored vehicles; mines; missiles; rockets; heavy machine guns; laser/radiating weapons; anti-air; anti-armor; anti-ship; military intelligence; offensive cyber and electronic warfare capabilities; production facilities and procurement mechanisms for weapons systems; military infrastructure and training facilities; or any weapons of mass destruction.” (Appendix 2C)

The State of Palestine will not have the right to forge military, intelligence or security agreements with any state or organization that adversely affect the State of Israel’s security, as determined by the State of Israel. The State of Palestine will not be able to develop military or paramilitary capabilities inside or outside of the State of Palestine.” (Appendix 2C)

Israel will have a permanent veto over Palestinian security capabilities:

“[Palestinian security] capabilities (i) may not (A) violate the principle that the State of Palestine in all its territory, including Gaza, shall be, and shall remain, fully demilitarized or (B) derogate the State of Israel’s overriding security responsibility, and (ii) will be agreed upon by the State of Palestine and the State of Israel.

“Any expansion of Palestinian security capabilities beyond the capabilities existing on the date this Vision is released shall be subject to agreement with the State of Israel.” (Appendix 2C)

Israel will retain the right to make armed incursions into Palestinian territory:

“The State of Israel will maintain the right to dismantle and destroy any facility in the State of Palestine that is used for the production of prohibited weapons or for other hostile purposes. While the State of Israel will use its best efforts to minimize incursions into the State of Palestine, the State of Israel will retain the right to engage in necessary security measures to ensure that the State of Palestine remains demilitarized and non-threatening to the State of Israel, including from terrorist threats.” (Appendix 2C)

Palestinian prisoners and administrative detainees in Israeli jails

The signing of a “peace agreement” is often accompanied by the release of prisoners and the granting of amnesty to individuals for actions prior to the signing of the agreement.

If this agreement ever came to pass, Palestinians would not even get their prisoners out.  Instead, the “vision” document sets out a very limited scheme for prisoner release and amnesty (p30): Israel will release Palestinian prisoners and administrative detainees, but not “(i) those convicted of murder or attempted murder, (ii) those convicted of conspiracy to commit murder … and (iii) Israeli citizens”.

In the first phase of releases immediately after an agreement is signed, prisoners to be released must generally have served at least two-thirds of their sentence; in the second phase, at an unspecified future time, they must have served at least half their sentence.

Refugees

First and foremost, the “vision” document states:

“There shall be no right of return by, or absorption of, any Palestinian refugee into the State of Israel.” (p32)

Secondly, Israel will be able to restrict Palestinian immigration into the “state” of Palestine:

“The rights of Palestinian refugees to immigrate to the State of Palestine shall be limited in accordance with agreed security arrangements.” (p33)

The immigration rate “shall be agreed to by the parties and regulated by various factors”, for example, “security risks to the State of Israel” (p33).  Presumably, one of “parties” will be Israel.

The United Nations Relief & Works Agency (UNRWA) which was established by the UN General Assembly in 1949, provides education, health care and social services in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Gaza and the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) to over 5 million Palestinians registered as refugees with the Agency.

The “vision” document boasts: “In the last 10 years alone, the US contributed approximately $2.99 billion ($3.16 billion in 2017 terms), which accounted for 28% of all contributions to UNRWA” (p31).  The document doesn’t mention that the US ceased making contributions to UNRWA in August 2018.

A couple of pages later the document declares:

“Upon the signing of the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Agreement, Palestinian refugee status will cease to exist, and UNWRA will be terminated and its responsibilities transitioned to the relevant governments.” (p33)

The document does not identify any “government” that has agreed to take over relevant UNRWA responsibilities, though it does say that the US “will endeavor to raise a fund to provide some compensation to Palestinian refugees” (p33).

Happily, UNRWA cannot be “terminated” by the US since it was established by the UN General Assembly and operates under its auspices.

Conduct During Negotiations

In Section 22 headed Conduct During Negotiations, the “vision” document instructs the PLO and the Palestinian Authority to

“Refrain from any attempt to join any international organization without the consent of the State of Israel;” (p39)

“Take no action, and shall dismiss all pending actions, against the State of Israel, the United States and any of their citizens before the International Criminal Court, the International Court of Justice, and all other tribunals” (p39)

It’s not clear if all these conditions continue to apply in the unlikely event of Palestinian statehood being achieved, for instance, would Israel have a veto over the State of Palestine being a party to the International Criminal Court?

The PLO and the Palestinian Authority is instructed to cease giving financial support to the families of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and

“Take all necessary actions to immediately terminate the paying of salaries to terrorists serving sentences in Israeli prisons, as well as to the families of deceased terrorists.  The latter must be done prior to the signing of an agreement.” (p39)

Conditions for Palestinian statehood

In Section 22, the “vision” document lays down an astonishing set of conditions which Palestinians must fulfil before they are deemed worthy of statehood by Israel and the US.  It says:

“The following criteria are a predicate to the formation of a Palestinian State and must be determined to have occurred by the State of Israel and the United States …

  • The Palestinians shall have implemented a governing system with a constitution or another system for establishing the rule of law that provides for freedom of press, free and fair elections, respect for human rights for its citizens, protections for religious freedom and for religious minorities to observe their faith, uniform and fair enforcement of law and contractual rights, due process under law, and an independent judiciary with appropriate legal consequences and punishment established for violations of the law.
  • The Palestinians shall have established transparent, independent, and credit-worthy financial institutions …
  • The Palestinians shall have achieved civilian and law enforcement control over all of its territory and demilitarized its population.
  • The Palestinians shall have complied with all the other terms and conditions of this Vision.”

Few states in this world satisfy these conditions, and none in the Middle East.

Not even Israel – because, according to the US, it discriminates against its Arab citizens.  In its 2016 Report on Human Rights Practices in Israel & the occupied territories (published on 3 March 2017), the US State Department asserts that one of “the most significant human rights problems in Israel” is “institutional and societal discrimination against Arab citizens of Israel, many of whom self-identify as Palestinian, in particular in access to equal education, housing, and employment opportunities”.

Clearly, Israel has some way to go before it is worthy of statehood.

 

American Citizens Killed and Tortured by Israel?

By Philip Giraldi

Source

No one is ever held accountable

Mahmoud Shaalan 831be

One of the principal functions of a United States Embassy overseas is to provide citizen services, which includes coming to the assistance of Americans who are treated badly by the local government. It is a responsibility that most embassies take seriously, with the exception of the facility currently located in Jerusalem. One has to understand that that is so because the United States Embassy in Israel is like no other. In other countries, the American Embassy exists to support American travelers, businesses and a broad range of national interests. In Jerusalem the Embassy exists to support Israeli interests and to serve as an apologist every time the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu goes on a killing spree or does something else that is similarly outrageous, to include bombing neighboring Syria every other day.

America’s current ambassador, former Trump bankruptcy lawyer David Friedman, has funded Israel’s illegal settlements, which did not in any way complicate his confirmation as nearly everyone in Congress and the White House does not believe that the Palestinians actually are human beings. Since taking up his position, Friedman has defended Israel when its army sharpshooters have shot down scores of unarmed Gazans, including children, and has both praised and endorsed out-and-out theft by the Israeli government in Jerusalem, on the West Bank and the Golan Heights.

What the U.S. Embassy under Friedman will not do is put any real pressure on the Israeli government if its security forces or rampaging settlers kill, beat, maim or torture an American citizen, especially if said citizen happens to be of Palestinian descent. Indeed, Friedman is only the latest manifestation of Israel-first-itis among U.S. Ambassadors, the rot having started inevitably with Bill Clinton, who appointed Australian citizen Martin Indyk as the first Jewish ambassador to Tel Aviv. The two most recent ambassadors, Friedman and Daniel Shapiro, both political appointees, have also been Jewish. Shapiro so enjoyed being an Israeli that he decided to remain in the country after his appointment as ambassador was completed. He now works for an Israeli government funded think tank.

The Israeli army and police have in fact killed a number of American citizens without any real pushback from the Department of State or White House. The unwillingness to confront Israel on any level stems from the formidable Jewish power in the United States, which uses money and media control to corrupt the political system at national, state and local levels. The media and the chattering political class worry about Russian interference while ignoring the implications of Haaretz article that appeared on February 12th entitled “AIPAC Must Stop Bernie Sanders – At All Costs!” AIPAC is, of course, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, widely regarded as the chief U.S. lobbying arm of the Jewish state.

Betty McCollum 4f828

*(Betty McCollum U.S. Representative for Minnesota’s 4th congressional district at a women’s roundtable at Hillary for Minnesota Headquarters in St Paul, MN. Credit: Lorie Shaull/ Flickr)

And witness the fate of Congresswoman Betty McCollum from Minnesota, who fell afoul of the Israel Lobby when she introduced H.R.2407, legislation that prohibits American taxpayer money from being used by Israel to arrest and detain Palestinian children. She stated that “Israel’s system of military juvenile detention is state-sponsored child abuse designed to intimidate and terrorize Palestinian children and their families. It must be condemned, but it is equally outrageous that U.S. tax dollars in the form of military aid to Israel are permitted to sustain what is clearly a gross human rights violation against children.” She might have added that the estimated 10,000 Arab children who have been detained since 2000 are frequently tortured by the Israeli authorities. The bill currently has 23 cosponsors and is unlikely to attract more due to fear of the Lobby. It will never reach the House floor for a vote and will never become law.

McCollum’s courage was on display when she was viciously attacked by AIPAC, which posted Facebook ads that referenced “radicals in the Democratic party,” including a photo of McCollum, with the text stating that “It’s critical that we protect our Israeli allies especially as they face threats from Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah ISIS and — maybe more sinister — right here in the U.S. Congress.”  McCollum stood her ground against being called “more sinister” than ISIS and released a statement that describes AIPAC as a “hate group,” which of course it is, but she will find few in the Democratic party brave enough to defend her.

Israel’s willingness to kill Americans in support of what it perceives as its own interests goes back nearly to the founding of the state in 1948. The Lavon Affair of 1954 was an Israeli plot to bomb the U.S. Embassy Information Agency libraries in Alexandria and Cairo Egypt, blaming the attacks on the Egyptians to draw the United States closer to Israel. The bombs were placed by Egyptian Jews acting for Israeli intelligence. They exploded, but fortunately no one was killed.

In June 1967 Israel was at it again, attacking the intelligence gathering U.S. naval vessel the U.S.S. Liberty in international waters, killing thirty-four American sailors, Marines and civilians in a deliberate air and sea onslaught that sought to sink the intelligence gathering ship and kill all its crew. It was the worst attack ever carried out on a U.S. Naval vessel in peace time. In addition to the death toll, 171 more of the crew were wounded in the two-hour assault. The Israelis, whose planes had their Star of David markings covered up so Egypt could be blamed, attacked the ship repeatedly from the air and with gunboats from the sea. When one Israeli pilot hesitated, refusing to attack what was clearly an American ship, he was instructed to proceed anyway.

The most disgusting part of the tale relates to how U.S. warplanes sent to the Liberty’s aid from an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean were called back by Defense Secretary Robert McNamara acting under orders from President Lyndon Baines Johnson, who declared that he would rather see the ship go to the bottom of the sea than embarrass his good friend Israel. Ironically, the first ship to reach the Liberty and offer assistance was from the Soviet Union, an offer that was declined.

More recently there have been a number of killings of Americans. In a bizarre incident in August 1988, an elderly Palestinian-American with a heart condition died after being forced to climb stairs to paint over anti-Israeli graffiti on a school wall. Rebhi Barakat Kaid, 67, of Columbus, Ohio, was on the West Bank visiting relatives. He died of a heart attack after three Israeli soldiers ordered him and his 14-year-old Chicago-born grandson at gunpoint to climb the 22 steep steps that led from the house to the street above without his being allowed to take his heart medicine first.

Much better known is the March 2003 killing of Washington State’s Rachel Corrie, who was deliberately run over by an Israeli military bulldozer when she was protesting the destruction of a Palestinian village. A month later there was an incident in which Brian Avery, a 24-year-old from Albuquerque, New Mexico, was shot in the face in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin by Israeli soldiers in an armored personnel carrier firing machine guns at protesters.

In March 2009 Tristan Anderson, a 37-year-old from Oakland, California, suffered permanent brain damage when Israeli soldiers shot him in the face with a tear gas canister as he watched a protest in the West Bank village of Nilin.

Another American citizen, Furkan Doğan, an 18-year-old born in Troy, New York, was killed aboard the Turkish flagged Mavi Marmara in the Mediterranean Sea in May 2010 as a flotilla of international activists attempted to break Israel’s illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip to deliver humanitarian supplies. The United Nations’ General Assembly Human Rights Council determined that Doğan had been killed by Israeli naval commandos through an “extra-legal, arbitrary and summary execution.” He was shot five times, including once in the face from “point blank range.”

The same day that Israel murdered Furkan Doğan, 21-year-old Emily Henochowicz of Potomac, Maryland, was protesting the attack on the flotilla at the Qalandiya checkpoint near Jerusalem, when an Israeli soldier shot her in the face with a teargas cannister, resulting in the loss of an eye.

And then there was in October 2014 the shooting by Israeli soldiers of Orwa Hammad, a 14-year-old Palestinian-American from Louisiana. The Israeli army claimed that Hammad was throwing a Molotov cocktail at the time of his death, but witnesses stated that he was among a group of children throwing rocks at the heavily armed and armored soldiers.

And most recently, there is the case of Florida-born 16-year-old Palestinian-American Mahmoud Shaalan who was shot repeatedly at an Israeli check point on the West Bank on February 26, 2016 while he was walking to a nearby village to visit his aunt. He was still alive after the shooting, but Israeli soldiers denied him any medical treatment for three hours and he died before an ambulance was allowed to approach him.

Arrest of Palestinians and others without probable cause under “administration detention” guidelines followed by torture has also become a hallmark of Israel’s occupation of Arab land. Torture methods used by Israel include stress positions, severe beatings, sleep deprivation, emotional blackmail, threats of torture of family members and the transfer of detainees to secret prisons where torture is constant. In one case reported to a Human Rights Association “The harsh beating was committed with the intention to kill the detainee.”

In another reported case of torture, nineteen-year-old Mahmoud Zakarner’s testicles were smashed by soldiers in front of his uncle to force the man to provide the names of Palestinian resistance members. Mahmoud is now paralyzed and unable to speak as a result.

Israeli expertise in torture is in demand from authoritarian regimes worldwide, creating a growth industry for the specialized “advisers and technicians.” Many are currently working with right wing regimes in South and Central America. Several even showed up at Abu Ghraib as trainers for U.S. interrogators and were able to suggest refinements like the “Palestinian chair.”

Inside Israel torture of Palestinians is routine on the grounds of “necessity” and absurd “ticking-bomb” scenarios. The courts and the medical profession aid and abet the practice. Over 1200 complaints regarding the torture of Palestinians in Israeli prisons have not resulted in even a single indictment of the torturers.

So, killing Americans as well as many others and torturing prisoners are all in a day’s work for the Jewish state. What is disgraceful, of course, is the fact that the United States government, which has the power to do something about it, instead chooses to do nothing to stop the bleeding or even to demand inquiries to find out who is to blame. Instead, Washington lavishes money and praise on Israel, reportedly America’s best friend and closest ally, while it also avoids looking at the horrors that are evident to most of the rest of the world.

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