THE ETHNIC CLEANSING OF MASAFER YATTA: ISRAEL’S NEW ANNEXATION STRATEGY IN PALESTINE

JUNE 2ND, 2022

By Ramzy Baroud

Source

The Israeli Supreme Court has decided that the Palestinian region of Masafer Yatta, located in the southern hills of Hebron, is to be entirely appropriated by the Israeli military and that a population of over 1,000 Palestinians is to be expelled.

The Israeli Court decision, on May 4, was hardly shocking. Israel’s military occupation does not only consist of soldiers with guns but elaborate political, military, economic and legal structures, dedicated to the expansion of the illegal Jewish settlements and the slow – and sometimes not-so-slow – the expulsion of the Palestinians.

When Palestinians state that the Nakba, or Catastrophe – which led to the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948 and the establishment of the state of Israel on its ruins – is a continuous, unfinished project, they mean exactly that. The ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from East Jerusalem and the endless torment of Palestinian Bedouins in the Naqab and, now in Masafer Yatta, are all testaments to this reality.

However, Masafer Yatta is particularly unique. In the case of occupied East Jerusalem, for example, Israel has made a fallacious, ahistorical claim that Jerusalem is the eternal and undivided capital of the Jewish people. It combined its unsubstantiated narrative with military action on the ground, followed by a systematic process that aimed at increasing the Jewish population and ejecting the original native inhabitants of the city. Such notions as ‘Greater Jerusalem’ and legal and political structures, like that of the Jerusalem Master Plan 2000, have all contributed towards turning the once absolute Palestinian majority in Jerusalem into a shrinking minority.

With the Naqab, Israel’s similar objectives were put into motion as early as 1948, and again in 1951. This process of ethnically cleansing the natives remains in effect to this day.

Though Masafer Yatta is part of the same colonial designs, its uniqueness stems from the fact that it is situated in Area C of the occupied West Bank.

In July 2020, Israel purportedly decided to postpone its plans to annex nearly 40% of the West Bank, perhaps fearing a Palestinian rebellion and unwanted international condemnation. However, the plan continued in practice.

Moreover, a wholesome annexation of West Bank regions would mean that Israel would become responsible for the welfare of entire Palestinian communities. As a settler-colonial state, Israel wants the land, but not the people. In Tel Aviv’s calculation, annexation without the expulsion of the population could lead to a demographic nightmare; thus, Israel needs to reinvent its annexation plan.

Though Israel has supposedly delayed the de jure annexation, it continued with a de facto form of annexation, one that has generated little international media attention.

The Israeli Court’s decision regarding Masafer Yatta, which is already being carried out with the expulsion of the Najjar family on May 11, is an important step toward the annexation of Area C.  If Israel can evict the residents of twelve villages, with a population of over 1,000 Palestinians, unhindered, more such expulsions are anticipated, not only south of Hebron, but throughout the occupied Palestinian territories.

The Palestinian villagers of Masafer Yatta and their legal representation know very well that no real ‘justice’ can be obtained from the Israeli court system. They continue to fight the legal war, anyway, in the hope that a combination of factors, including solidarity in Palestine and pressure from the outside, can ultimately succeed in compelling Israel to delay its planned destruction and Judaization of the whole region.

However, it seems that Palestinian efforts, which have been underway since 1997, are failing. The Israeli Supreme Court decision is predicated on the erroneous and utterly bizarre notion that the Palestinians of that area could not demonstrate that they belonged there prior to 1980 when the Israeli government decided to turn the area into ‘Firing Zone 918’.

Sadly, the Palestinian defense was partly based on documents from the Jordanian era and official United Nations records that reported on Israeli attacks on several Masafer Yatta villages in 1966. The Jordanian government, which administered the West Bank until 1967, compensated some of the residents for the loss of their ‘stone houses’ – not tents – animals and other properties that were destroyed by the Israeli military. Palestinians tried to use this evidence to show that they have existed, not as nomadic people but as rooted communities. This was unconvincing to the Israeli court, which favored the military’s argument over the rights of the native population.

Israeli firing zones occupy nearly 18 percent of the total size of the West Bank. It is one of several ploys used by the Israeli government to lay a legal claim on Palestinian land and to, eventually, years later, claim legal ownership as well. Many of these firing zones exist in Area C, and are being used as one of the Israeli methods aimed at officially appropriating Palestinian land with the support of the Israeli courts.

Now that the Israeli military has managed to acquire Masafer Yatta – a region spanning 32 to 56 sq km – based on completely flimsy excuses, it will become much easier in ensuring the ethnic cleansing of many similar communities in various parts of occupied Palestine.

While discussions and media coverage of Israel’s annexation scheme in the West Bank and the Jordan Valley have largely subsided, Israel is now preparing for a gradual annexation scheme. Instead of annexing 40% of the West Bank all at once, Israel is now annexing smaller tracts of land and regions, like Masafer Yatta, separately. Tel Aviv will eventually connect all these annexed areas through Jewish-only bypass roads to larger Jewish settlement infrastructures in the West Bank.

Not only does this alternative strategy allow Israel to avoid international criticism, it will also permit Israel to eventually annex Palestinian land while incrementally expelling Palestinians, helping Tel Aviv prevent demographic imbalances before they occur.

What is happening in Masafer Yatta is not only the largest ethnic cleansing scheme to be carried out by Israel since 1967, but the move should be considered the first step in a much larger scheme of illegal land appropriation, ethnic cleansing and official mass annexation.

Israel must not succeed in Masafer Yatta, because if it does, its original, mass annexation scheme will become a reality in no time.

Cycle of Violence: Israeli Authorities Prod Extremist Militias into Seeking “Vigilante Justice”

By Jessica Buxbaum

Source

“All of this is part of the Jewish-supremacy ecosystem — the pro-occupation, pro-settlement, xenophobic hate, and violent right wing in Israel.” – Eran Nissan, Mehazkim COO

BE’ER SHEVA/LYDD, OCCUPIED PALESTINE — In cities across 1948-occupied Palestine (modern-day Israel), Israelis are taking up arms to defend against so-called Palestinian terror.

A wave of Palestinian-initiated attacks against Israelis occurred just before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in March, prompting Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to call on civilians to arm themselves. “Whoever has a gun license, this is the time to carry a gun,” Bennett said in a video statement following the violence.

His request was met, as Israeli settlers in the Naqab, Lydd, and the Occupied West Bank have organized armed vigilante groups and are training in what they’ve called “self-defense” or to “protect” other settlers.

Eran Nissan — chief operating officer at Mehazkim, an Israeli progressive digital movement — explained the sentiment behind these militias’ formation. “Israelis were saying, ‘Arabs were trying to kill us and we called the police and the police didn’t come,’” Nissan said of the public’s feelings following the Gaza war last May. “This is the trauma, and on top of this, we see the rise of these militias — these private, armed gangs of Jewish Israelis that took to the streets to either bring back safety and security or reclaim Jewish honor.”

Sayeret Barel, a Jewish-supremacist militia in disguise

In December, a vigilante group called Sayeret Barel (Hebrew for Barel Patrol) was established in the Naqab, a southern desert region in 1948-occupied Palestine. The group was started by Almog Cohen, the Southern coordinator for the Kahanist Jewish Power political party — the same party far-right lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir belongs to. Cohen didn’t respond to requests for comment from MintPress News.

On its website, Sayeret Barel describes itself as a “civilian force of volunteers” that “will strengthen the enforcement agencies and increase the circle of security.” “Unfortunately, at the moment, the Negev [Naqab] is in constant decline, and the scale of crime is growing rapidly,” the group’s website reads. “If we do not take control and act, the situation will not get any better — it will get much worse.”

Condemnation of Sayeret Barel has been swift. On March 31, the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality (NCF), an Israeli organization advocating for Bedouin communities in the Naqab, sent a letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues, Dr. Fernand de Varennes, notifying him of the group’s establishment. “There is no room for private militias seeking to ostensibly operate within a legal framework and actually take the law into their own hands,” NCF wrote, noting that such militias typically form in proto-fascist regimes.

The group held its initiation ceremony in March, describing it as an opportunity to sign up for the Civil Guard, a volunteer unit within the Israeli police force. Civil Guard volunteers operate alongside the police and cannot work without a police officer present. Initially supportive, the police withdrew their support of Sayeret Barel after the group launched a crowdfunding campaign that the police said is in violation of the Civil Service Law, which prohibits law enforcement from raising and receiving funds.

While Sayeret Barel’s launch event described it as cooperating with the police, Mehazkim’s research highlighted how the group’s rhetoric characterizes it as an entity acting outside police authority. Specifically, Cohen, the group’s leader, said in an October interview with Israeli news channel Now 14 that, “We will set up an armed volunteer body that will protect the residents of the south. We have not received a permit yet and we do not intend to wait for any bureaucracy.” The group’s website also distinguishes itself from the Civil Guard, writing, “We are an independent force and there are several advantages: A fighter will receive authority even when he is not close to a policeman. We are not dependent on any political factors.”

Mehazkim’s Nissan described Sayeret Barel’s claims it’s working with the police as a façade. “It’s not about helping the police. It’s about substituting [for] the police,” Nissan said.

According to NCF, Sayeret Barel has recruited around 200 volunteers. The group says each volunteer will be given the power to search, detain and arrest, and that the force is divided into three squads: Quick-Response, where members will undergo anti-terror training; Patrol, where members will receive shooting training; and Technical, which manages administrative operations. Training is already underway as evidenced by Facebook posts from the Negev Rescue Committee, another organization Cohen runs.

The organization states it works with the police and the municipality of Be’er Sheva, the largest city in the Naqab. The Be’er Sheva Municipality did not respond to MintPress News’ inquiries requesting confirmation or denial of its collaboration with Sayeret Barel.

While Sayeret Barel calls itself an apolitical organization, Nissan described Cohen as a political activist whose Jewish Power Party agenda is very much a feature of Sayeret Barel. “Almog Cohen is very racist, nationalistic, right-wing in his statements — talking about Arabs as potential terrorists, calling for revenge, talking about herding non-combatants or bystanders, calling soldiers that fight orders to stop shooting heroes,” Nissan said.

Sayeret Barel is named after Barel Hadaria Shmueli, a border police officer who was killed near the Gaza Border in August. His death triggered a political campaign criticizing Prime Minister Bennett and the Israeli army’s policy of use of force as too lenient. In the wake of this political initiative, Sayeret Barel was born. “This is a political, organized attempt to weaken the support in the current government. This is a very political campaign that is masked as something from the bottom up, but it’s organized by a political party,” Nissan said.

Far-right groups like My Israel, Im Tirtzu, and Regavim have all collaborated with Sayeret Barel in such activities as political demonstrations and bill amendment proposals.

“All of this is part of the Jewish-supremacy ecosystem — the pro-occupation, pro-settlement, xenophobic hate, and violent right wing in Israel,” Nissan said.

Settlers patrolling the streets

The Naqab isn’t the only area in Palestine dealing with the emergence of armed militias. As it did last year, the city of Lydd is again facing threats from armed settler groups.

The Guardians of Lod (Lydd), an armed militia group, was formed following the recent attacks against Israelis. The group held an inaugural conference in March. Fida ​​Shehadeh, a Palestinian city council member, registered for the conference as a way to notify the organizers that the Palestinian residents are aware of these armed Jewish groups. “The conference was held to have Jewish residents be armed and use weapons whenever they see suitable, whenever they see there’s a threat on their lives,” Shehadeh said, emphasizing that municipal members are part of this group.

Despite police logos on the conference’s promotional material, the Israel Police told MintPress News it did not attend the conference and it was held contrary to their position. Lydd Mayor Yair Revivo did not respond to press inquiries on the establishment of armed militias in his city.

Shehadeh described the militia as broken down into various committees: the neighborhood committee, marching committee and parenting committee. “They’re trying to integrate these committees into the educational system, in a sense that they want the police to support them in making these committees official, so they can create what they call safety and security for the neighborhoods,” Shehadeh said. Shehadeh also said the group is inviting Jewish Israelis from other areas on social media to join their cause in Lydd.

Attacks against Palestinians haven’t occurred yet in Lydd, but elsewhere in Palestine Jewish violence against Palestinians has already erupted. Settler violence escalated after the attacks against Israelis, with settlers vandalizing Palestinian property with racist graffiti, setting cars ablaze, and throwing rocks at Palestinian homes and vehicles across the West Bank.

This month, members of the violent, right-wing settler movement Hilltop Youth posted a disturbing image of a man pinned to the ground, claiming he had entered an illegal settlement outpost and attacked them. As revealed by +972 magazine, the man in the photo is 63-year-old Nasif Abdel Jaber, a Palestinian-American with brain cancer. Abdel Jaber told +972 he was on his private agricultural land when the group attacked him.

Reports have also emerged of Hilltop Youth members in the West Bank organizing armed militias to patrol the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in Occupied East Jerusalem during Ramadan. Hilltop Youth did not respond to requests for comment.

Israeli gun culture

Requests for gun licenses by Israelis have spiked in recent weeks as well, with more than 1,500 firearm applications submitted in one day in March compared to the daily average of 60. But armed Israelis are nothing new, especially within the West Bank settler population, which is heavily armed, Nissan detailed. Likening the current mood among Israelis to that of American gun enthusiasts’ rhetoric, Nissan said, “Israeli Jewish society is packing up guns now, and it’s really easy to arm a society, but it’s really complicated to disarm a society.”

Amid ongoing violence, Israeli settlers are leading provocative, flag-waving marches across Palestine — including through Jerusalem’s Old City — in a fashion reminiscent of last year’s tensions. “It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy if we have armed Jews patrolling the streets, because an argument might escalate into a shoot-out and someone is going to lose their life. And then we’ll see violence erupt again, like we’ve seen just a year ago,” Nissan said.

From Nissan’s vantage point, these armed militias are doing the opposite of aiding the police, and instead are looking for points of friction between Jews and Palestinians at which to agitate. “They want to promote their narrative that Jews and Arabs are in this infinite religious war,” Nissan said. “And they’re there to escalate when the police’s main role is to de-escalate a situation.”

Churches Declare Christianity in The Holy Land is Under Threat from Jewish Extremists

March 09th, 2022

By Jessica Buxbaum

Source

Christianity was born in Palestine, but its population there is dwindling in numbers.
“We are facing a very dangerous situation,” Archbishop Theodosios said, “where in a few years we might find the holiest city for Christians without any local Christians, without any indigenous Christians.”

OCCUPIED EAST JERUSALEM — Last month, Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) announced plans to encompass Christian holy sites within a national park. Church leaders condemned the move as part of systematic efforts to drive Christians out of the Holy Land.

Following backlash, INPA withdrew the plan from the Jerusalem Municipality’s March agenda, saying it would instead have discussions with local churches on how to preserve the area. Yet the project is back on the municipality’s Local Planning and Construction Committee’s agenda, scheduled for Aug. 31. INPA did not respond to requests for comment on why this item was placed back on the municipality’s agenda.

The plan proposes expanding the Jerusalem Walls National Park, which surrounds the Old City, by about 25% and calls for taking over privately-owned Palestinain and Church-owned land, including some of the most sacred Christian sites. Originally, the proposal also included a Jewish cemetery, but it was left out when Jewish authorities managing the cemetery opposed the decision. 

Following the plan’s announcement, Israeli peace and human rights organizations Bimkom – Planners For Planning Rights, Emek Shaveh, Ir Amim, and Peace Now said in a joint statement:

There is a direct link between what is happening in Sheikh Jarrah and the expansion plan. These are various mechanisms used by Israel in East Jerusalem to entrench its sovereignty, to marginalize non-Jewish presence and to prevent much needed development of Palestinian neighborhoods, thereby increasing the pressure to push them out of the Old City basin.

Church leaders also slammed the outlined expansion in a letter to Israel’s Minister of Environmental Protection: 

This is a brutal measure that constitutes a direct and premeditated attack on the Christians in the Holy Land, on the churches and on their ancient, internationally guaranteed rights in the Holy City. Under the guise of protecting green spaces, the plan appears to serve an ideological agenda that denies the status and rights of Christians in Jerusalem.

The Jerusalem Walls National Park was established after Israel annexed East Jerusalem following the 1967 Six-Day War. Its declaration included the areas designated for expansion, but those efforts did not come to fruition — until now.

Israeli human rights organizations condemned expansion for restricting Palestinian building, while also stressing the park’s current state has significantly hindered Palestinian development.

Sari Kronish, the architect with Bimkom, said the Jerusalem Walls National Park contains several Palestinian neighborhoods, including Wadi-Hilweh and al-Hizbe. “It’s not just a ring around the Old City walls,” Kronish told MintPress News. “Both of these neighborhoods found themselves suddenly living inside a national park, which completely prevents their improvement and development and not to mention also brings heightened law enforcement.”

Palestinian neighborhoods are not the only community affected by the development of Israeli parks. Father Koryoun Baghdasaryan, chancellor of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, told MintPress that since 1967, the Armenian Patriarchate has not received a permit to construct anything new in the Armenian Quarter of the Old City because the area is declared a green space.

“The idea of declaring [areas] national parks or green zones is to impose restrictions,” Baghdasaryan said, explaining how these restrictions have depleted the quarter’s commercial activity and economic growth. “Armenians bought these properties to secure the income for the patriarchate, the convent, to survive here,” Baghdasaryan continued. “Now there is no profit for us.” 

Settlers taking over 

In their letter to Israel’s environmental protection minister regarding the extension of the Jerusalem Walls National Park, church leaders wrote:

In recent years, we cannot help but feel that various entities are seeking to minimize, not to say eliminate, any non-Jewish characteristics of the Holy City by attempting to alter the status quo… [I]t seems that [the plan] was put forward and is being orchestrated, advanced and promoted by entities whose apparent sole purpose is to confiscate and nationalize one of the holiest sites to Christianity and alter its nature.

The churches are referring here to Israeli settler groups. More specifically, the settler associations Ir David Foundation (or El’ad) and Ateret Cohanim, which have been part of real estate and building operations in and around the Old City. 

El’ad is most recognized for managing the City of David archeological site located in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan and near Al-Aqsa Mosque. In addition to spurring eviction lawsuits against Silwan residents, El’ad also conducts archaeological excavations beneath Silwan’s streets, damaging the structural foundations of many Palestinian homes. The organization is also involved in the construction of a pedestrian bridge cutting through the Old City. 

“They’re trying to create a ring of settlement-related tourism attractions around the Old City,” said Talya Ezrahi, external relations coordinator at Emek Shaveh, an Israeli non-profit focused on archaeology. “Their objective is to transform the identity of the space around the Old City from one that is multicultural and multi-faith into one that has a Judeocentric narrative that justifies the settlements.”

Ateret Cohanim’s endeavors are slightly different. In the Christian Quarter of the Old City, the settler group purchased the Petra and New Imperial hotels from the Greek Orthodox Church in 2004 through a secret deal orchestrated by Nikolaos Papadimas, who was then responsible for the church’s properties. Papadimas disappeared following the $1.25 million sale. Now, the New Imperial Hotel’s Palestinian management is embroiled in a legal battle against their eviction after Israel’s Supreme Court ruled the deal was done in good faith in 2019. 

The hotel is situated between the Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches and next to the Old City’s main entrance, Jaffa Gate. “If this is in the hands of this radical group, this will threaten the Christian presence on Jaffa Gate and in Jerusalem,” Walid Dajani, the hotel’s manager, told MintPress. His family has been running the hotel since 1949 and are protected tenants. 

Archbishop Theodosios of Sebastia, from the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, explained lands owned by the Greek Orthodox church are part of a Christian waqf or trust, meaning they are not for sale. “These properties support the steadfastness of Christians,” Archbishop Theodosios said. “These deals are illegal and these properties shall remain in the ownership of the church.” The religious leader added the Christian waqf had been under threat prior to the establishment of the Israeli state. “It started even before 1948,” Archbishop Theodosios said. “There are so many lands that belonged to churches in western Jerusalem that have been confiscated and so many Israeli official institutions were then built on these lands.”

Ateret Cohanim declined to comment on the matter. 

Attacks against Christians increasing 

A Palestinian Christian, lights candles, in a morning Christmas mass at St. George Melkite Greek Catholic Church, in the West Bank village of Burqin near Jenin city, Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2013. (AP Photo/Mohammed Ballas)

belonging to the Christian community are under threat, so too is their own safety. 

Both Father Baghdasaryan and Archbishop Theodosios described how nearly anyone wearing a cross while walking through the Old City will experience verbal or physical assaults from Jewish extremists. “Once a person is identified as a Christian — doesn’t matter whether he is a clergyman, seminarian or a lay person — they [the settlers] just behave like they are not welcome here. They spit on them. They curse them,” Baghdasaryan said.

Armenian Christians are most susceptible to attacks, given the Armenian Quarter’s proximity to the Jewish Quarter. Last May, Armenian reverends Father Tiran Hakobyan and Father Arbak Sarukhanyan were beaten by a group of Israeli settlers while walking to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre from the Armenian Convent. Sarukhanyan was hospitalized for his injuries. “I have been in Jerusalem since 1995. [Attacks are] increasing yearly. In the past, there has never been any physical violence, but recently it’s becoming more and more common,” Baghdasaryan said.

Baghdasaryan has been spat on numerous times and Archbishop Theodosios has also been attacked when walking through the Old City. “Some of them are kids. They’re little children who spit, who verbally assault and who are treating religious people and elderly people in a very offensive way,” Archbishop Theodosios said. “These children are being raised on racism and hatred. They think that Jerusalem only belongs to them and not to any other people.”

But it’s not just physical violence that’s disturbing the Christian presence in Jerusalem. Archbishop Theodosios described how the municipality, together with settler groups, often organizes loud festivals during Jewish holidays in the Christian Quarter near the New Gate. “There will be music and dancing that is disrupting the area’s holiness and disrupting the daily lives of residents,” Archbishop Theodosios said.  “It’s an attempt to change the dominant Christian atmosphere of that area.”

Erasing a community

Israel Palestinians Easter
Palestinian Christians carry an effigy of Jesus Christ covered by flowers, during a symbolic funeral as part of their services marking Good Friday in the West Bank village of Al-Zababedah near Jenin, Friday, April 18, 2014. Followers of the Eastern Orthodox Churches are marking the solemn period of Easter. (AP/Mohammed Ballas)

Christianity was born in Palestine, but its population there is dwindling in numbers. In 2019, Jerusalem’s Palestinian Christian population was only 4% of the city’s demographic, with just under 5,000 residents in the Old City’s Christian Quarter.

Archbishop Theodosios believes strategic efforts are behind the city’s decreasing Christian numbers. Violence and land confiscation are part of a larger plan to empty Jerusalem of its Christian inhabitants.  

“We are facing a very dangerous situation,” Archbishop Theodosios said, “wherein a few years we might find the holiest city for Christians without any local Christians, without any indigenous Christians.”

How unrest in Bedouin villages poses a threat to Israel’s government

22 Jan, 2022 

Source

By Robert Inlakesh

Robert Inlakesh is a political analyst, journalist and documentary filmmaker currently based in London, UK. He has reported from and lived in the occupied Palestinian territories and currently works with Quds News and Press TV. Director of ‘Steal of the Century: Trump’s Palestine-Israel Catastrophe’. Follow him on Twitter @falasteen47

The Negev’s Bedouin demonstrations first re-erupted on January 9 in opposition to an afforestation (tree planting) project by the quasi-governmental body called the Jewish National Fund (JNF) in what Israel calls “disputed lands.” They quickly turned violent as Bedouin residents of nearby villages confronted what they saw as a drive to displace their communities. Israel’s police forces, domestic intelligence service (Shin Bet), and, as of last Thursday, the Israeli military, were all deployed to help put down the growing movement. The clashes that ensued resulted in tens of Bedouin Palestinians being arrested and injured. Additionally, stones were thrown at an Israeli train and an Israeli journalist’s car was torched.

The JNF project is just the beginning of a larger $48 million project set forth by the Israel Land Authority, which threatens to cover residential areas where six unrecognized Bedouin villages are located. While Israeli environmentalists argue that the project is geared towards cleaning up the land, Bedouin villagers see the push as a means of displacing them and taking away their agricultural lands, which is where the JNF began planting trees last week. Although the tree planting has been frozen as of an Israeli government concession, following pressure by Israeli lawmaker Mansour Abbas’s threat to pull out of the coalition government, the projects for construction in the Negev are still under way.

Israeli Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked announced in late December the construction of four settlements in the Negev, as part of a project to establish 12 new settlements there and raise the Jewish population to 2 million over 10 years. Shaked is part of Israeli Premier Naftali Bennett’s right-wing Yamina Party, and this is where the issue begins to get more complex for the current Israeli administration, and poses a major threat to its political establishment.

Just days before the surge of protests, on January 6, the Israeli government was pressured to freeze plans for a phosphate mine project in the Negev, which threatened to displace 36,000 Bedouins living in al-Fura’a village. This came after Israeli lawmaker Mansour Abbas’ ‘Ra’am Party’ pressured the government to halt the plan. Abbas, leader of the ‘United Arab List’, made history by becoming the first Palestinian-Israeli to enter an Israeli coalition government. Bennett and Yair Lapid, who negotiated a power-sharing agreement – meaning both would share serving as prime minister – did so to oust former PM Benjamin Netanyahu and received criticism for aligning centrists, right wingers and an Islamic party in order to do so. This now also means that if Mansour Abbas pulls out of the government, he could effectively cause the fall of the Bennett-Lapid coalition as it would not hold a majority in the Knesset. 

When it comes to the issue of Bedouin in the Negev, Mansour Abbas understands that a large portion of his voter base (60%) comes from that region and so on this issue he is willing to throw his weight around. Attempts have been made to secure the establishment of four Bedouin villages in the Negev by Abbas, although Israel’s plan is to have three major newly constructed Bedouin areas, where 70% of the Bedouin community would live, which would pave the way for communities to be forcibly transferred to these segregated Bedouin areas. 

On this issue I spoke to a Bedouin Palestinian protester, present at the al-Atrash village demonstrations. Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said that “most of us reject this plan and seek to remain on our lands.” He told me he feels the “oppression we face, especially with our homes being destroyed,” which has led to a rise in Palestinian nationalism and political activism amongst the Negev population. “If you look at the demonstration, whose flag do you see held high? [The Palestinian flag],” he said.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid seems to prefer a pragmatic stance here, but his coalition partner Bennett cannot afford to abandon his base by appearing weak on popular right-wing causes. Netanyahu’s Likud Party has also gotten into the mix with the party’s spokesperson, Jonatan Urich, stating“The Bennett government mulling to stop planting due to violence against police is a continuation of it selling out the Negev to the Islamic Movement,” hitting out at Bennett from the right. For the Israeli opposition, led by Likud, if the government loses its majority over this issue, it paves the way for their possible, gradual, return to power.

Riya al-Sanah, an activist from Lakiya village in the Negev, says “Israel has pursued a policy of displacement through what they call infrastructure and national priority projects, this includes laying railways or roads, industrial areas, or in this case forestation.”

Of course in a settler colonial context the majority of the project, and certainly this context, described as being in the interest of the population comes against the direct interests of the Palestinian population, so what Palestinians are saying here on the ground is that you are planting trees and uprooting people… this is not a new strategy, this is a project the JNF has led even prior to 1948.”

“Planting trees is a method to hide the presence of Palestinian communities. So, for example, a lot of Israel’s national parks are constructed on the remains of Palestinian villages. Forestation is also a mechanism that is used to stop Palestinians returning to their land once they are actually displaced,” says al-Sanah, elaborating on why planting the trees has caused such a strong response. “It’s a step towards displacing the communities, it’s not just about planting the trees, people see that as a way of taking their land.”

Riya also stated that the displacement of Bedouins in the Negev and the West Bank are very much interlinked. In the Negev, she explained, “as well as facing systematic house demolitions, they [Bedouins] are disconnected from the water, electricity and any infrastructure which enables a reasonable standard of living.” She also believes the demonstrations of solidarity taking place throughout the country are “a continuation of what we saw in May of last year, when Palestinians everywhere rose up against Israeli policies of displacement in Sheikh Jarrah [in East Jerusalem].”

In 2020, a report put together by the Israeli NGO called the ‘Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality’, indicated – using statistics from 2017, 2018 and 2019 – that an average of 2,000 Bedouin homes had been destroyed yearly in the region. The Bedouin population is estimated to be around 300,000 in the Negev (al-Naqab in Arabic), and they are the most impoverished community inside Israel, with the majority lacking basic welfare, education and health services. Whilst Israeli settlements and Kibbutzim communities stand at 114 for Israeli Jews, all recognised by the state, only seven of 53 Israeli-Bedouin villages are currently fully recognised.

In 1948, the population of around 100,000 Bedouin that lived in the Negev were reduced to 11,000, due to Israeli expulsion efforts. The remaining group of Arab Bedouin were displaced to an area called al-Siyaj, which was placed under military rule. In 1965 the Israeli Knesset adopted the ‘Planning and Building Law’, which then made most of the Siyaj area “agricultural lands,” making building homes there illegal. This even meant homes built there prior to the law taking effect would also be considered illegal. Al-Araqib is an example of a village, demolished 186 times, that has fallen victim to Israel deeming building in such areas illegal. 

Riya al-Sanah says, of the current demonstrations, “it is not just the question of recognition of the existing residential areas… the demands are recognition and ownership of the land in the Naqab [Negev], which Israel has consistently refused to do.” She went on to say that “the demands [of the demonstrators] are not just about recognition, because the card of recognition is often waved by Israel and historically has not happened… recognition has only happened in partial areas of the land and there are villages with partial recognition, which has meant there’s still home demolitions going on in villages recognised since 2000.” 

In 2017, due to rising tensions over Israeli government neglect of the Bedouin community, a five-year plan was adopted by the Knesset to tackle the socioeconomic disadvantages faced by Bedouins in the Negev. But, due to a lack of implementation, Mansour Abbas has criticized the government and urged them to fulfill their obligations. Israel clearly sees economic benefits in constructing infrastructure in the Negev; the area is also a key portion of the country for the military and its bases.

Palestinian citizens of Israel in areas like Umm al-Fahm, Haifa, Kufr Qassim and elsewhere have now mobilised to confront Israeli construction plans in the Negev, uniting with the Bedouin of the south and protesting for their cause as their own. Hamas, the PFLP, DFLP, PIJ and other political parties have come out to urge their supporters to confront Israel in the Palestinian occupied territories over the Negev issue also. If the issue goes too far and Israel’s government cannot agree on concessions, this could potentially lead to the most serious threat to the state’s stability since May last year, a very bad prospect for Bennett and Lapid.

Israel is Tightening Its Grip on Syria’s Golan Heights by Creating “Facts on the Ground”

January 20th, 2022

By Jessica Buxbaum

Source

In the occupied Golan Heights, the population of Settlers and Syrians is approximately equal, but experts fear that a new Israeli project will turn Syrians into a demographic minority on their own land.

MAJDAL SHAMS, OCCUPIED GOLAN HEIGHTS — On Dec. 15, 1981, the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) enacted a law officially annexing the Golan Heights — Syrian territory captured by Israel during the 1967 Six Day War. Now, 40 years later, the Israeli government hopes to double the size of Jewish settlements there by the end of this decade, in an effort human-rights activists see as further normalizing a forgotten occupation.

Last month, the Israeli government approved a $300 million plan to promote Jewish settlement expansion in the occupied Golan Heights. In response, Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel and Al-Marsad – Arab Human Rights Center in Golan Heights submitted a letter to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett this month demanding the plan’s cancellation, given that it is a violation of international law to build settlements on occupied land.

“Attempts to normalize the occupation of the Syrian Golan have no validity in international law and the status of the Golan Heights remains occupied territory,” Adalah attorney Suhad Bishara said in a press release. The Israeli government has yet to respond to the organizations’ letter.

Currently, about 28,000 settlers reside in 34 settlements in the Golan. They operate 167 settlement businesses and control 95% of the land. The new government initiative seeks to double the settler population in the Golan in five years by establishing two new settlements and relocating or building factories in the region. The aim is to add 23,000 settlers and construct 7,300 housing units. It also wants to boost the population of Katzrin, the largest settlement in the Golan, by 50,000 residents by 2040.

“The expansion of settlements in the Golan Heights not only violates the rules of international humanitarian law and human-rights law but also deepens the discriminatory reality against the natives concerning their rights to use natural resources,” Al-Marsad attorney Karama Abu Saleh said. “This exacerbates the situation whereby settlers have privileges in receiving budgets and access to natural resources, while the natives are suffering from land shortages and other crises.”

A forgotten occupation

In 2019, then-President Donald Trump signed a proclamation declaring the Golan Heights as part of Israel — not Syria. In doing so, the United States became the first country to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Syrian territory. Two days after Israel’s official annexation of the Golan Heights in 1981, the UN Security Council used Resolution 497 to determine the Knesset’s Golan Heights Law as null and void. Today, most of the international community considers the Golan Heights occupied.

Israel decided to build a settlement in honor of Trump — to be called Trump Heights  — as a thank you to the former president for his executive order. Trump Heights is part of the government’s development plan to increase the settler population in the Golan. While Trump’s action altered the U.S.’ Middle East strategy, it did not change the global status quo, Adalah attorney Bishara reiterated, telling MintPress News:

The declaration of the Trump administration in this regard did not change anything on the ground. It has, of course, its international implications in terms of how Israel perceives this acknowledgement. But in terms of international law, the annexation and any recognition by any state, including the U.S., does not change the status of the area as an occupied territory and the Syrian community there as a protected community under international humanitarian law.”

Al-Marsad’s founder and director, Nizar Ayoub, said that Trump’s declaration increased settlement activity in the Golan, with many settlements adopting expansion projects. “A few years ago, settlers were around 19,000 to 20,000. Now, there are about 28,000 to 29,000 settlers,” Ayoub said.

But Trump’s decision isn’t the only factor speeding up settlement expansion efforts in the Golan. “The Israelis are taking advantage of the holocaust going on in Syria and the destruction of the Syrian state,” Wael Tarabieh, director of Al-Marsad’s Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Program told MintPress News. “So this is the opportunity that they are using to cement their grip on the Golan.”

After Israel occupied more than two-thirds of the Syrian Golan during the 1967 War, 95% of the population was displaced and banned from returning. Israeli forces destroyed the area’s infrastructure and built settlements using the rubble from the razed villages. But the speed at which the settlements expanded was slower than what Israel hoped, Tarabieh explained. “The heart of the Golan is almost empty because the policy of the settlers since the occupation was to go as far as possible toward the Syrian ceasefire line and to create facts on the ground there,” Tarabieh said, detailing that until 2010, Israel and Syria were in discreet negotiations about what to do with the Golan, thereby keeping settlement expansion from happening. This changed, however, when war broke out in Syria.

Golan Heights
Druse supporters of President Assad wave Syrian flags during a rallydemanding the return of the Golan Heights in Majdal Sham. Oded Balilty |AP

Today, only 27,000 Syrians remain concentrated in five villages (Majdal Shams, Buqaatha, Masaada, Ain Qinya, and Ghajar) in the northern Golan. Settlers and Syrians are approximately equal in number now, but Al-Marsad’s Tarabieh believes the new settlement project will turn the Syrians into a demographic minority on their own land. He explained:

The main point is ignored and denied all the time, which is that the other Syrians who were uprooted from their lands count at more than half a million and no one is talking about them. No one is talking, for example, about the right of return for the Syrians as we talk about the Palestinians. That’s why we call it a forgotten occupation, and everybody is treating the Golan as if it were a normal expansion of Israeli land.”

And amid the crisis in Syria, the Golan’s Syrians are left without a voice, Tarabieh said, continuing:

Because of what’s happened in Syria in the last decade, the people [here] are helpless and they feel helpless. If you take a look at the local media, you’ll find that the reaction from the side of locals [to Israel’s settlement plan] is very few compared to what we used to see in the past years. And this explains that the people of the Golan, the Syrians, do not have any political support or representation.”

Despite most of the global community recognizing Israel’s occupation of the Golan Heights as a violation of international law, the oppression is largely absent from international headlines.

Adalah attorney Bishara surmised this is because public attention has been preoccupied with Syria’s civil war, ongoing developments in the occupied Palestinian Terrirtories, and a raging pandemic. With the occupation of the Golan less of a violent land grab compared to the volatile situation in Palestine, Israel’s injustice against Syrians gets pushed aside.

As less focus is drawn to the issue from an international perspective, within Israel’s government the occupation becomes further normalized. Bishara concluded:

It seems that the Golan Heights is becoming consensus. Because even Meretz [an Israeli left-wing political party] government members voted in favor of this governmental decision, which says that there is a consensus along the whole spectrum of the Israeli political arena — from the right wing to the so-called left, Zionist parties.”

How settlement expansion will impact the native Syrians

Golan’s remaining Syrian villages control less than 4% of their own land. This is because Israel designated the occupied Golan Heights as “state land,” meaning the Israeli government determines its use. While turning some of it into military training fields and outposts, other portions were allocated as nature reserves and national parks, and the largest area is reserved for settlement development. A severe housing crisis emerged out of the Israeli-made land shortage — a problem that will only be exacerbated by the government’s settlement plan.

Discriminatory land policies have made it nearly impossible for Syrians to receive building permits, forcing them to build illegally and risk demolition orders. Israeli authorities have issued 1,570 demolition orders since its annexation of the Golan. As a result, many Syrians have had to pay exorbitantly high fines, go to prison, or have their homes demolished.

“The new project to double the settlement population will seriously affect the Syrian villages. As long as the settlements are expanding, more restrictions will be forced on the local population and make the housing crisis here even more difficult,” Ayoub said.

Golan Heights
Israeli tanks maneuver in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, Aug. 4, 2020. Ariel Schalit |AP

Israel’s plan to turn more than 2,000 acres of the Golan into a national park has severely restricted the surrounding villages’ development. Majdal Shams, for instance, is now unable to expand because of limited space.

Al-Marsad’s Tarabieh speculated the settlement expansion plan may benefit local construction businesses; but, overall, the Syrian-Golanese economy will suffer.

“The economic situation will become worse and worse with time,” Tarabieh said, explaining how along with settlement growth, Israel hopes to transform the Golan Heights into Israel’s renewable-energy capital. Last year, Israel approved a plan to build a giant wind farm on a fifth of Syrian agricultural land in the Golan — significantly harming the natives’ health, environment and economy, and depleting their natural resources. “That’s why people feel that they can do nothing. We are a few people without any kind of support,” Tarabieh said.

But he argued that the Syrian communities are not in regular confrontation with the settlers, but rather the Israeli government is their main source of friction. “When we talk about the housing crisis, people don’t connect it directly to the settlers. They connect it to the policies of the Israeli government, because we deal with the Israeli authorities,” Tarabieh said. “They are the ones who reject our need to expand the villages.”

In daily life, the settler and indigenous populations have coexisted in a relatively quiet, peaceful way, as Tarabieh described. Settlers visit the Syrian villages’ medical clinics and supermarkets. They employ Syrian architects and engineers to build their homes. And you’ll find young Syrians working for settlers in agricultural spaces. “It’s not a daily conflict with the settlers. It’s not a direct clash between the settler and the Syrian native. It’s between us and the [Israeli] government.” Tarabieh said.

With greater settlement development, however, Tarabieh believes the balance of power in the Golan will shift. “When these settlers control more lands, this tension will grow,” he said. “And we may become closer to our Palestinian fellow brothers in the sense of the relationships with the settlers.”

Israeli “Visitors” to Al-Aqsa Part of Plan for Third Jewish Temple

December 07th, 2021

By Jessica Buxbaum

Source

“They [the Israeli settlers] are not coming here to enjoy the architecture or even to feel associated with the past. No, they are looking to the future.” – Dr. Yousef Nathseh

OCCUPIED EAST JERUSALEM — Accompanied by police, 150 Israeli settlers stormed the Al-Aqsa compound during the Jewish festival of Chanukah this past week. Scores of Jews now force their way into Al-Aqsa regularly, in what many Palestinian Muslims fear signals the imminent destruction of the Al-Aqsa Mosque to make way for a Third Jewish Temple.

In October, an Israeli Magistrate Court ruled to allow “silent” Jewish prayer at the Al-Aqsa complex, reversing the status quo of Al-Aqsa being strictly reserved for Muslim worship. The decision came after Rabbi Aryeh Lippo requested the court remove a temporary ban imposed on him by Israeli police when he was caught praying at the Al-Aqsa compound. Israel does not have a law prohibiting Jewish prayer at the holy site but, in order to curtail conflict, authorities have enforced a ban on Jewish prayer there since 1967.

The court ruling was overturned and Lippo’s ban upheld but Palestinian concerns surrounding a potential Israeli takeover of the holy site remain. The justifications for those concerns will be the subject of this article.

“This is an Israeli policy to vacate Al-Aqsa Mosque from the Muslims in order to start a new period for the Jews by rebuilding that temple inside this area,” the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) Deputy Governor of Jerusalem Abdullah Siam told MintPress News. “This is the final aim of Israel in the Old City.” MintPress News was unable to speak to Governor Adnan Ghaith because Israel has placed him under house arrest.

Israeli violations of Al-Aqsa

After Israel annexed East Jerusalem following the 1967 Six-Day War, control over the Al-Aqsa compound was given to Jordan through a religious trust called the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf. Non-Muslims are allowed to visit, but prayer is forbidden.

According to the PA’s Jerusalem Governorate, Jewish settler tours of the Al-Aqsa compound occur twice daily – in the morning and again in the afternoon. Nearly 3,900 Jewish settlers entered Al-Aqsa complex in November. Israel’s parliamentary Education Committee also approved educational tours of Al-Aqsa compound for Jewish students.

The Al-Aqsa complex is surrounded by Israeli construction. Settler organization Elad is building a metal structure overlooking Al-Aqsa Mosque atop land belonging to a Palestinian family in Silwan. The Jerusalem Municipality has bulldozed graves in the Bab al-Asbat Cemetery along the eastern walls of the Al-Aqsa compound to make room for a national park. Israeli authorities have desecrated graves in Bab al-Rahma Cemetery, which is also located along the eastern walls of the Al-Aqsa compound. And in 2020, Israel’s National Infrastructure Committee announced plans to build an underground railway tunnel along the edge of Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Israeli bulldozers and Jewish prayers aren’t the only activities violating the sanctity of Al-Aqsa. Muslims are frequently prevented from worshiping at the holy site.

On the first day of the holy month of Ramadan this year, Israel banned thousands of Muslims from entering Al-Aqsa on the grounds that they hadn’t received COVID-19 vaccination yet (this as Israel was refusing to provide equitable distribution of the vaccine to Palestinians).

Mr. Siam emphasized that bans on Muslim worship aren’t just reserved for holidays, but occur year-round. “Every morning in Al-Aqsa, [Israel] has started to ask the Palestinian who would come inside, ‘Why you are coming? From where are you coming?’ And if they are youths, they keep their IDs and say, ‘When you get out, you can take your ID,’” Siam said.

Israel al-Aqsa
Worshippers take cover as Israeli forces fire tear gas into the al-Aqsa Mosque, May 10, 2021. Mahmoud Illean | AP

The governorate’s office also mentioned how many Palestinians will not only have their IDs confiscated, but may also be called in for interrogation and banned from Al-Aqsa for months or even a full year. “And also in the morning, many police with their uniforms, with their guns, start to walk around inside Al-Aqsa,” Siam continued. “By this way, they want to make the Muslims afraid and move them away from the place that the settlers will go through inside Al-Aqsa. So, the Israeli Police are sharing with the settlers in these attacks of Al-Aqsa.”

In regard to permitting Jews entry to the Al-Aqsa compound, the Israel Police told MintPress:

[T]he police act in accordance with the guidelines that are designated to enable protecting public order, welfare and security, and these are transmitted at the entrance of visitors to the Mount area. We will continue to permit visits to the Temple Mount [what Israel calls Al-Aqsa compound] in accordance with the customary guidelines for visits at the site.”

While a ban on Jewish prayer is purportedly in place, visitors to the Al-Aqsa complex say the police seldom enforce it. Miko Peled, an Israeli-American activist who stumbled upon a Jewish tour of the religious site in May, stated:

The police repeated several times, ‘No praying aloud, no religious symbols allowed.’ But as soon as we walked in, the prayers began, and the police just let them, and stood there and guarded them as they were going through this.”

American charities behind the Temple Mount movement

The Jerusalem Governorate, which monitors Israeli violations of Al-Aqsa, said settler incursions have increased in frequency and size recently. The movement’s booming popularity can largely be attributed to the Temple Institute, the Temple Mount Heritage Foundation, and The Open Gate – the main groups promoting Jewish ascension onto the Al-Aqsa compound and the rebuilding of a Third Jewish Temple there.

Orthodox Judaism believes that the rebuilding of the temple – destroyed by the Romans in 70 C.E. – can happen only after the arrival of the Messiah, although not all factions support this idea.

The Temple Mount movement network receives funding from the Israeli government, but they are also supported by tax-exempt donations from American charities and foundations.

P.E.F. Israel Endowments Fund, a non-profit based in New York, and Texas-based non-profit Biblical Faith accept donations for the Temple Institute. American charities Israel Independence Fund (IIF) and the Central Fund of Israel (CFI) support the Temple Mount Heritage Foundation. And New York charity One Israel Fund supports The Open Gate. These charities also receive sizable donations from foundations run by some of America’s wealthiest individuals, including recently deceased billionaires Sheldon Adelson and Irving Moskowitz.

According to the most recent Internal Revenue Service tax returns analyzed by MintPress, P.E.F. Israel Endowments Fund received funding from the Benjamin and Susan Shapell FoundationMindel FoundationDennis Berman Family Foundation, and Ben and Esther Rosenbloom Foundation. The Ben and Esther Rosenbloom Foundation gave the most, contributing $60,000 to the charity in 2019.

The One Israel Fund received donations from the Benjamin and Susan Shapell Foundation, Dennis Berman Family Foundation, and the Cherna Moskowitz Foundation – which contributed the most, at $230,000 in 2019.

And CFI is financed by the Cherna Moskowitz Foundation, C FundingCarl & Sylvia Family Freyer FoundationAbraham and Esther Hersh FoundationNer Tzion Foundation, Ben and Esther Rosenbloom Foundation, Mindel Foundation, Irving I Moskowitz Foundation, and the Adelson Family Foundation. The Irving I Moskowitz Foundation contributed the most, giving $1,047,000 to CFI in 2019.

Of the organizations cited above, those whose contact information was publicly available were contacted, but only the Temple Mount Heritage Foundation responded to a MintPress inquiry. Tom Nisani – director of Beyadenu, or the Temple Mount Heritage Foundation – said the organization’s goal is the Jewish right to enter the Al-Aqsa complex and Israeli sovereignty of the site.

While activists within the Temple Mount movement paint the issue as one relating to religious freedom, Dr. Yousef Nathseh, who retired from the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf in August as the Tourism and Archaeology department’s director, explained the subtext behind these tours is what is so worrisome for Muslims.

“It is not an innocent visit. It is a visit that would like to deliver a political message,” Dr. Nathseh said. “They are not coming here to enjoy the architecture or even to feel associated with the past. No, they are looking to the future.”

Peled, who grew up in Palestine, elaborated that, contrary to mainstream belief, these Temple Mount activists are not on the fringes of Israeli society. Rather, this ideology is fully cemented into the state’s narrative. He recounted:

I remember as a kid that there were a lot of non-religious songs about how building the new temple is part of our national goal. So this is much deeper than most people think. Most people think it’s a bunch of religious fanatics, but it’s not. It’s part of the Zionist national project.”

Tensions brewing

On the first night of Chanukah, Israeli President Isaac Herzog sparked controversy when he lit the candles at Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron in the Occupied West Bank. The site is sacred to both Muslims and Jews, but Herzog’s act was seen as fanning the flames in a historically contentious city.

In 1994, Jewish settler Baruch Goldstein killed 29 Muslim worshippers at Ibrahimi Mosque. Following the massacre, the religous site was split between Muslim and Jewish worship, with Muslim access cut to 40%.

Deputy Governor Siam fears what happened to Ibrahimi Mosque may become Al-Aqsa’s fate. “The settler organizations demarcated [Ibrahimi Mosque]. And this has become a normal thing now in Hebron,” Siam said. “They want to do the same in Al-Aqsa.”

For Peled as well, concerns surrounding Al-Aqsa’s destruction are legitimate, especially when considering today’s discourse in Israeli politics. Goldstein was a disciple of Israeli-American extremist Meir Kahane, and now Itamar Ben-Gvir, a fellow Kahanist, is part of the Knesset (Israeli parliament). On Sunday, Ben-Gvir led a group of Israeli settlers into the Al-Aqsa compound to perform Jewish rituals. This is not the first time he’s entered the compound.

“We are very, very close to this actually happening. We are absolutely very close because [Israel is] destroying everything else,” Peled said. He continued:

They’re destroying all the other monuments that nobody pays attention to, which have any kind of significance to Palestinian history. Al-Aqsa is a little more high-profile, so they’re taking their time with that. But there’s no question that is part of the objective – destroying Al-Aqsa and building a temple.

Words without Action: The West’s Role in Israel’s Illegal Settlement Expansion

November 04th, 2021

By Ramzy Baroud

Source

The international uproar in response to Israel’s approval of a massive expansion of its illegal settlement enterprise in the occupied Palestinian West Bank may give the impression that such a reaction could, in theory, force Israel to abandon its plans. Alas, it will not, because the statements of ‘concern,’ ‘regrets’, ‘disappointment’ and even outright condemnation are rarely followed by meaningful action.

True, the international community has a political, and even legal, frame of reference regarding its position on the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Unfortunately, however, it has no genuine political mandate, or the inclination to act individually or collectively, to bring this occupation to an end.

This is precisely why the announcement on October 27 by Israel that it has given a ‘final approval’ for the building of 1,800 housing units and initial approval for another 1,344 will unlikely be reversed anytime soon. One ought to keep in mind that this decision came only two days after an earlier announcement that the Israeli government had advanced construction tenders for 1,355 housing units in the occupied West Bank.

Israel has rarely, if ever, reversed such decisions since its establishment on the ruins of historic Palestine. Moreover, since Israel’s occupation of Palestinian East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, Israel’s colonial project has remained in constant and unhindered expansion. 54 years should have been enough for the international community to realize that Israel has no intentions whatsoever to end its military occupation on its own accord, to respect international law and to cease construction of its illegal settlements.

Yet, despite this obvious fact, the international community continues to issue statements, moderate in their language, at times, even angry at others, but without ever taking a single action to punish Israel.

A quick examination of the US government’s reaction to the news of settlement expansion tells of the lack of seriousness from Washington towards Israel’s continued disregard of international law, peace and security in the Middle East.

“We strongly oppose the expansion of settlements,” said US State Department spokesman, Ned Price, adding that the Israeli decision is “completely inconsistent with efforts to lower tension and ensure calm.”

Since when was Israel concerned about ‘lowering tensions’ and ‘ensuring calm’? If these were truly important US demands and expectations, why then, does the US keep funneling billions of dollars a year in military aid to Israel, knowing fully that such armaments will be used to sustain the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine and other Arab lands?

If, for the sake of argument, we assume that Washington is finally shifting its policies on Israel and Palestine, how does it intend to pressure Israel to cease settlement construction? Mr. Price has the answer: The Biden Administration would “raise our views on this issue directly with senior Israeli officials in our private discussions”, he said on October 26. “Raise our views”, as opposed to demanding accountability, threatening retaliation, or, God forbid, withholding funds.

While it is true that the US government is Israel’s main western benefactor, Washington is not the only hypocritical administration in this regard. The Europeans are not fundamentally different, despite the fact that their statements might be a tad stronger in terms of language.

“Settlements are illegal under international law and constitute a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-state solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace between the parties,” read a statement issued by the office of EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, on October 29.

The statement mirrors the exact sentiments and language of numerous statements issued in the past, ones that “strongly reject” the Israeli action, and “urge” the Israeli government to “revoke” its recent decisions for the sake of “sustainable peace”, and so on. One may even muse to claim that the task of preparing these statements must be the easiest of all clerical work at the EU offices, as it is largely a matter of a simple ‘cut and paste’.

Yet, again, when it comes to action, Brussels, like Washington, refrains from taking any. Worse, these entities often bankroll the very action they protest, while insisting that they are standing at the exact same distance between Israelis and Palestinians, assigning themselves such roles as “honest peace brokers”, “peace mediators” and the like.

One should not be in the least surprised by Israel’s recent announcement. In fact, we should expect more settlement expansion and even the construction of new settlements, because that is what colonial Israel does best.

Within a matter of a few days, Israel has announced its intentions to build, or start bids for, nearly 4,500 settlement units. Compare this number with the settlement expansion during Donald Trump’s term in office. “Israel promoted plans for more than 30,000 settler homes in the West Bank during the four years (Trump) was in power,” the BBC reported, citing an Israeli group, Peace Now, as saying in its recent findings.

Those figures in mind, if the Israeli government under Naftali Bennett continues with this hurried pace of illegal housing construction, it could potentially match – and even overtake – the expansion that took place during the terrible years of the Trump era. With no accountability, this catastrophic political paradigm will remain in place, irrespective of who rules Israel and who resides in the White House.

Israel is doing what any colonial power does. It expands at the expense of the native population. The onus is not on colonial powers to behave themselves, but on the rest of the world to hold them accountable. This was true in the case of the South African Apartheid and numerous other examples throughout the Global South. It is equally true in the case of Israeli Apartheid in Palestine.

The truth is that a thousand or a million more statements by western governments will not end the Israeli occupation, or even slow down the pace of Israeli military bulldozers as they uproot Palestinian trees, destroy homes and construct yet more illegal colonies. If words are not backed by action – which is very much possible, considering the massive military, political and economic leverage the West wields over Israel – then the West remains a party in this conflict, not as a ‘peace broker’, but as a direct supporter of the Israeli occupation and apartheid.

Water as Weapon of War: Activists Say Israel is Drying Out the West Bank to Drive Out Palestinians

October 06th, 2021

By Jessica Buxbaum

Source

MASAFER YATTA, OCCUPIED WEST BANK — Last weekend, around 600 Israeli, Palestinian and international activists marched across Masafer Yatta in the Occupied West Bank to deliver a water tanker to Palestinian villagers. Their message was clear: Water is a human right, and Israel is depriving Palestine of this basic necessity.

Amid a sea of rippling Palestinian flags, demonstrators walked alongside a tractor transporting the water tanker from the village of At-Tuwani. The protesters did not reach their intended destination. Instead, they turned back at the village of Mfakara in order to avoid a confrontation with the Israeli Army waiting for them atop a nearby hill.

Demonstrators attempt to deliver a water tank from the Palestinian village of At-Tuwani.

“Water is a right for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re Black or white or Jewish or Arab,” ​​Adam Rabee — an activist with Combatants for Peace (CFP), one of the march’s organizers — told MintPress News.

On Monday, CFP, along with other human rights organizations, submitted an urgent appeal to international bodies, demanding they “pressure Israel to allow access to water to Palestinians living in Area C,” the Occupied West Bank area that includes Masafer Yatta.

CFP started the water accessibility campaign for Palestine in August. In September, they led a field visit to Masafer Yatta for 20 diplomats from the European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada, Brazil, Mexico and Switzerland. During the tour, CFP raised awareness of Palestine’s water crisis and urged the representatives to engage in dialogue with Israel toward providing Palestinians with full access to water.

“[The diplomats] saw families and children without water,” Rabee said of the visit. “My feeling is that they want to help and we have support.”

Soldiers aiding settlers in water attacks

Saturday’s protest was calm and without clashes, but the event was underscored by earlier violence.

Tuesday of that week, at least 60 masked Israeli settlers raided Mfakara — throwing stones, turning over cars, cutting water pipes and slitting the throats of sheep. Five children were injured during the attack, including a four-year-old boy who was sent to the hospital after being pelted in the head with rocks. Israeli soldiers watched from the sidelines — during what activists are describing as a “pogrom”– intervening only to fire tear gas, stun grenades and rubber-coated steel bullets at Palestinians.

Earlier in September, a CFP protest to deliver water to Palestinian communities was met with violence from Israeli soldiers. Six Israelis and two Palestinans were injured — including Rabee, who was hit in the stomach with a tear-gas canister.

Protesters held blown-up images of the recent violence as they marched last weekend. In Mfakara, the ground was strewn with shards of glass. Several of the villagers’ cars were dented and the windshields shattered.

The windshield of a Palestinian villager’s car was shattered when Israeli settlers and soldiers attacked the village of Mfakara.

Noma Hamamdah, a Palestinian shepherd living in Mfakara, picked up a tear gas canister off the ground outside his home. He said this was one of 20 launched at the community by the army on Tuesday. He lifted his pants’ leg to reveal where he was hit with a rubber bullet. His daughter-in-law, Sabreen Hamamdah, said the army fired tear gas into their homes and settlers slashed the tires of their water tanker during the raid.

Noma Hamamdah with his son.

“Since last Tuesday we didn’t get water until today,” Noma said, referring to the delivery of the new tanker from activists. “The army aids the settlers and it’s because of the army the settlers have the ability to attack us and destroy our water tanks.” Eight windows in the family’s home were broken, Noma said. He pointed to a bullet hole in the wall of his house where Israeli soldiers fired when trying to disperse settlers. “We’ve been told [President Joe] Biden is a man of peace and he loves peace, but we’ve never heard him mention the Palestinians even once,” Noma continued. “And if the Havat Maon illegal settlement leaves us alone, then there will be peace in this area.”

Noma Hamamdah standing next to his water cistern, in which he stores the water.

Havat Maon is a notoriously violent, illegal settlement outpost adjacent to the Palestinians villages in Masafer Yatta. All of Israel’s settlements are illegal under international law but legal under Israeli law. Outposts, constructed without Israeli authority, are defined as illegal by both international and Israeli law.

Living without water

On days without water, Mfkara operates much like a commune. “We usually borrow from each other and when the water comes, we redivide the water,” Noma said.

Sabreen described how household chores like washing dishes, doing laundry and bathing the children are put off until water is replenished. “I have to put everything on hold until there is water,” she told MintPress. “I can’t do anything until the water comes back.”

Noma Hamamdah’s daughter-in-law, Sabreen.

Sabreen receives 20 liters of water (about 5 gallons) costing 500 shekels ($155) from At-Tuwani, or she sources water from a nearby aquifer. That same amount of water costs nearby Israeli settlers about 100 shekels or $30. Water is stored in a cistern serving 10 people for domestic, agricultural and livestock use and may last between two to four days.

The average American uses between 80-100 gallons of water per day for indoor use. This number doesn’t account for outdoor water use, which, for herding communities like Masafer Yatta, is a significant portion of their water consumption. According to the Palestinian Hydrology Group (PHG), Palestinians in the West Bank consume about 18 gallons of water per day. This is below the World Health Organization recommendation of 26-31 gallons of water daily to maintain a basic standard of living. By comparison, Israelis use about 80 gallons of water per day and Israeli settlers may use up to 210 gallons daily.

The history of water apartheid

When Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza after the 1967 war, it took control of the areas’ water resources. The state established pumping quotas and banned construction of new wells in the occupied territories.

Mekorot, Israel’s national water company, was put in charge of the Occupied Palestinian Territories’ (oPT) water in 1982. By 1986, pumping quotas were reduced by 10 percent for Palestinian wells — fostering greater water insecurity.

The 1995 Oslo II Accord was portrayed as a turning point for water independence in Palestine. The Palestinian Water Authority (PWA) and Israeli-Palestinian Joint Water Committee were created but Israel retained control of the flow and volume of water given to the oPT. Despite the name, the PWC doesn’t oversee water resources. Instead its role is to distribute the limited water supply Israel provides.

The agreement was supposed to last only five years but remains in effect today. Under the initiative, 80 percent of the West Bank’s water is for Israeli use and 20 percent is for Palestinian use. Israelis also enjoy an unlimited supply of water while Palestinians have their supply restricted.

What was billed as a cooperative venture between Palestine and Israel is merely the occupation of water in disguise.

“There are no official meetings between the Palestinans and the Israelis because the Israelis don’t consider us as a counterpart,” Dr. Abdelrahman Al Tamimi, PHG’s director, said.

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) nonetheless told MintPress that the Palestinian Authority is responsible for providing water to the West Bank and touted collaboration between Palestine and Israel.

“Master programs are being promoted in the area of Judea and Samaria [West Bank], which will address the water supply until the years 2040-2050, to all populations in the area. We will note that these programs are being coordinated with the Palestinian Water Authority and [have] even been shifted in light of its requests,” a COGAT spokesperson said.

“The only solution for lack of water is water”

Dr. Al Tamimi outlined the three main reasons for water scarcity in the oPT — all originating from Israel’s occupation.

First, Israel has not increased the West Bank’s water quota to meet the demands of its rapidly growing population, which is now nearly double what it was in 1995. Al Tamimi explained Israel only increased the commercial consumption (about 10-12 percent of the demand) to around 160 million gallons.

Al Tamimi added that the Oslo II Accord doesn’t allow for Palestinians to do groundwater drilling — eliminating this as a possible water resource. And finally, owing to Israeli military control of Area C of the West Bank, Palestinians are often blocked from developing wells and springs in the region.

Al Tamimi explained these three main factors have intensified the water crisis, specifically in remote Palestinian communities, noting “Some villages in the south of Hebron or north of Jenin receive water twice a month or once a week.”

Water access varies by region in the West Bank. Urban and developed areas have running water while villages Israel prevents from connecting to a water grid rely mostly on costly trucks delivering water that is then stored in black and white tanks on people’s roofs.

“When water is moved from place to place, it’s vulnerable to pollution,” Al Tamimi said. “Because you cannot guarantee the cleanliness of the truck, how they pumped water from the well to the truck and how they empty the trucks. Water is vulnerable to be polluted by air, by bacteria and by other things.”

“The problem is there is no monitoring and there is no authority controlling the quality of water in Area C,” he added.

Palestinians also have to pay a relatively high price for potentially unsafe water. Tanker prices increase when transported on rough terrain — another infrastructural problem, caused by Israel forbidding these communities to pave their roads.

“According to international standards, the average cost of the water bill should not be more than 1 percent of that family’s income. But in some Palestinian villages, they pay more than 10 or 12 percent of their income just to purchase the water,” Al Tamimi said. “The only solution for lack of water is water. There are no other alternatives.”

Access to water in Area C is exacerbated by Israel’s systematic policy of demolishing and confiscating water equipment and resources. Italian NGO WeWorld reported nearly 10 percent of the buildings demolished by Israeli forces in 2020 were water, sanitation and hygiene structures.

CFP’s statement said:

The Military Commander of the West Bank justifies these practices by saying that the Palestinian communities in Area C did not receive building permits; however, the Israeli government’s own policy does not allow Palestinians to obtain building permits in this area. At the same time, all the Israeli outposts and settlers who live in buildings without legal permits are allowed to connect to the water grid.

Activists from the Israeli organization Combatants for Peace hold a banner demanding water for all.

For CFP’s Rabee, water deprivation in Area C highlights the severe discrimination Israel perpetuates. “The Palestinian man can only get water three days a week. And then this illegal outpost next to it has running water,” Rabee said. “So it’s just a very stark example of apartheid.”

My Visit to Lyd, Where Historical and Contemporary Zionist Oppression Meet

August 19th, 2021

By Miko Peled

Source

Palestine stretches from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean and goes right through the ancient Palestinian city of Lyd.

LYD, PALESTINE — One of the toughest challenges facing those who fight for justice in Palestine is breaking the Zionist paradigm, which limits the name Palestine to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. These two delineations of territory have no historical meaning and no geographical significance. They are no different from other parts of Palestine except that they were drawn by Zionists who, after the murderous 1948 campaign of ethnic cleansing, decided that they would not include those two areas within the boundaries of the Zionist state.

In 1967 the State of Israel occupied these two areas, and today the West Bank exists only in people’s imagination, while the Gaza Strip operates as a prison. After the disastrous Oslo process began in 1993, and the Palestinian Authority came into being, these two areas became known to the world as the State of Palestine.

Lyd as it was

In July 2021, I visited the city of Lyd, where I met with Councilwoman Fida Shehada, a Palestinian member of the Lyd City Council who was kind enough to spend a day with me in her city. She gave me a tour of the town before we sat down for a lengthy and detailed interview, which will soon be posted to my Patreon page.

“Lyd has archeological sites that show it is as old as the city of Jericho,” Shehada told me. However, the state and the municipality refrain from excavating because these sites have no value to the Zionist narrative. Lyd is perhaps most famous for being home to the Church of Saint George. The church was built over the grave of the famous Saint George of Lyd, who was buried in the city of his Palestinian mother’s birth after he was martyred in the early fourth century.

Church of Saint George, Lyd
Church of Saint George, Lyd, Palestine

The world-renowned hip hop band “Dam” is also from the city of Lyd. According to their website, “Struck by the uncanny resemblance of the reality of the streets in a Tupac video to the streets in their own neighborhood in Lyd, Tamer Nafar, Suhell Nafar and Mahmood Jrere were inspired to tell their stories through hip hop.”

1948 bloodbath

It is becoming clear today that the city of Lyd may well have been the site of the worst massacres by Zionist militia in 1948. In a move more cynical than can be imagined, the municipality of Lyd was renamed Lod in Hebrew, and a plaza was built to commemorate the Palmach right in front of the Dahmash Mosque. The Palmach was the largest of the Zionist militias and was responsible for committing massacres in the city.

The mosque itself was the site of a horrifying bloodbath when citizens from the city, who were fleeing the shooting, crowded into it seeking shelter from the violence. But a Zionist militia headed by Moshe Dayan and Yitzhak Rabin took no pity on those seeking refuge and massacred everyone in the mosque. More than 150 men, women and children were gunned down.

Palmach Plaza LYD
The Palmach Plaza in front of the Dahmash Mosque, the site of the massacre, commemorating the murderers as the memory of the victims lingers

Those who were not gunned down at the mosque or on the streets were forced to leave the city, and an estimated 40,000 men, women and children were made to take part in what became known as “The Death March.”

In her book “Palestinian Women, Narrative Histories and Gendered Memory,” published in 2011 by Zed Books, Dr. Fatma Kassem recorded the testimonies of Palestinian women from Lyd who survived the massacres and the forced expulsion.

Some of the women whom Dr. Kassem interviewed had witnessed the massacre at the mosque. One recalled:

The first days when the Jews came in, people went inside the mosques, they thought that the Jews would not kill them in the mosques. But they killed everyone who was inside.”

Another woman remembered:

My father and many others went inside the mosque to protect themselves. He was not fighting. He was an old man. My father and my cousin pushed them into the mosque and [the militia] shot all of them.”

The Kaminitz Law

In 2017, the Knesset passed legislation cracking down on “illegal” construction. The provisions of the new law were based on a report written by Deputy Attorney General for Civil Law Erez Kaminitz. According to Fida Shehada, this law has resulted in over 40,000 demolition orders for Palestinian homes in the north and central parts of the country alone — this does not include the Naqab, Jerusalem or the West Bank. The Kaminitz Law is one of many racist laws designed to keep Palestinian citizens of Israel from building homes.

“I remember one day I saw seven homes being demolished all at the same time, at the same minute,” Shehada told me. “I wanted to understand why this was happening and how to prevent this from happening in the future.”

This drove Shehada to study urban planning. But, she said, “then I saw that when they draw plans for the city, they only have plans for the Israeli population, not the Palestinians.” The city does not account for the growth of the Palestinian population, which makes up about 30% to 40% of the city’s population.

Miko Peled Fida Shehada

Miko Peled, left, meets with councilwoman Fida Shehada in the city of Lyd

“We have 30% Palestinian population, but 40% of the school children,” Shehada said, and smiled as she saw the puzzled look on my face. Officially, on record, the Palestinians make up 30%. Still — because of another racist law, called the Citizenship Law, which limits the rights of Palestinians to wed other Palestinians — some are Palestinian women who are married to Palestinian men are deprived of citizenship.

Their children are citizens but cannot attend public schools, “while their mothers are not allowed to study or work or leave their homes.” So, if the father dies, the mother has to leave, and if she takes the children with her back to the West Bank or Gaza, they will lose their status — which, with all its difficulties, is still better than that of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

A new reality?

In an effort to instill the love of settlement activity in the hearts of Israeli Jews, religious Zionist settlers have made Lyd their home. They have their own municipal budgets and luxury apartments built for them exclusively, even as Palestinians struggle to find housing in the city. During the uprising of May 2021, over 500 armed settlers from the racist, violent Regavim movement moved into the city’s municipality. They aimed to incite violence and terrorize the Palestinian population.

When Councilwoman Shehada questioned the mayor about this, he threatened to report her to the Shabak. The Shabak is the Israeli secret police, known for targeting, detaining and torturing Palestinian political activists. She had to remind him that the Shabak does not work for the mayor’s office.

The most surprising thing I saw or heard during my visit to Lyd was a comment by Councilwoman Shehada: “I am very optimistic,” she said with a grin. “Things are changing, we have seen more Palestinians resist and organize, and I believe that we are facing a new reality today.”

If there is room for optimism, Shehada certainly has a big role in it. “I decided to run for mayor in the upcoming elections,” she told me. Local elections are scheduled to be held in the fall of 2021. Even if the world hasn’t come to terms with reality, Palestine stretches from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean and goes right through the ancient Palestinian city of Lyd.

The Fight to Save Lifta, the Last Remaining Palestinian Village

July 09th, 2021

By Jessica Buxbaum

Source

See the source image
Lifta, the only town Israel did not demolish after the Nakba, stands as a symbol of the Palestinian right of return, but an Israeli government “development” plan may soon change that.

LIFTA, JERUSALEM — Yacoub Odeh is 81 years old but he can still remember his childhood in the Palestinian village of Lifta as if it were yesterday. Children playing together in the gardens, swimming in the pools and laying in the grass.

Today, Lifta remains as a frozen time capsule. While the residents were expelled during Israel’s 1948 ethnic cleansing campaign (Nakba), the ruins of their homes still stand. These ruins carved into the lush hillside are perceived as a symbol of the Palestinians’ right of return. This is the only town Israel did not demolish after the Nakba, but a government plan may soon change that.

In May, the Israel Lands Authority (ILA), the government agency in charge of managing public lands, issued a new tender for construction in Lifta. The development scheme, known as Plan 6036, seeks to build 259 housing units along with a commercial and business space and a luxury hotel on top of and around the existing houses. Daphna Golan-Agnon, a law professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and part of the Save Lifta Coalition’s board, explained that while the homes may not be demolished, “the village will disappear behind walls of concrete needed to hold new construction.”

The bid was supposed to be held on July 4, but significant public opposition delayed it to July 29.

Lifta Jerusalem
The ruins in Lifta, a Palestinian village ethnically cleased in 1948. Liebe Blekh | MintPress News

Attempts to demolish Lifta have been ongoing for years. The ILA first published a tender for Plan 6036 in 2010 after the Israeli state approved the construction plan for Lifta in 2006. A 2012 Jerusalem District Court ruling found Plan 6036 insufficient and requested amending it in accordance with a conservation survey on Lifta from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).

The IAA survey was completed in 2017 and found that Plan 6036 could not be executed without making significant adjustments in order to preserve the ancient village. Plan 270b was drawn up to fit the survey’s findings but in 2017 the Local Planning and Building Committee of Jerusalem temporarily halted the initiative for further examination.

The recent ILA announcement was met with hundreds of letters to Jerusalem’s mayor rejecting the sale. When reached for comment, the Municipality of Jerusalem told MintPress News that it “wasn’t informed about the publication of this tender and didn’t approve it. The mayor of Jerusalem asked all the relevant authorities to reconsider the construction plan.” The Israel Lands Council, which operates the ILA, did not respond to a request for comment.

‘In one hour, we became refugees’

Lifta’s strategic location at the edge of Jerusalem has made it a prime target for land grabs. Acting as a suburb of Jerusalem, Lifta’s placement next to the Jerusalem-Jaffa Highway makes for an easy trip to the Mediterranean while still being tied to the city of Jerusalem.

Lifta, often referred to as the entrance to Jerusalem, was a wealthy, agricultural community supported by olive presses and flour mills and situated atop the Wadi al-Shami spring. Homes made of limestone were cut into the hillside and Lifta’s roads wended through the valley.

Prior to the 1948 Nakba, Zionist militias like the Haganah saw seizing Lifta as necessary to cement Jewish control over all of Palestine. According to the Haganah Historical Archives, “[s]ecuring the western exit of the city [of Jerusalem] entailed the eviction of Arabs.”  Israeli historian Benny Morris said the Haganah fired the first shots in 1947, setting off the mass expulsion of Lifta’s 2,960 residents.

In December 1947, the Haganah killed a Palestinian business owner in Lifta. Later that month, one of Lifta’s two coffeehouses was ambushed with gunfire and grenades. The attack killed six and wounded seven. Two months into 1948, the Jewish Agency chairman and future first prime minister of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, boasted of the ethnic cleansing’s success, telling his political party members: “From your entry into Jerusalem through Lifta — Romema, through Mahane Yehuda, King George Street and Mea She’arim — there are no strangers. One hundred percent Jews.“

Odeh, head of the Lifta Cultural Heritage Protection Commission, was 8-years-old when Lifta came under siege by Zionist forces.

Lifta refugee
Yacoub Odeh, Nakba survivor and head of the Lifta Cultural Heritage Protection Commission. Liebe Blekh | MintPress News

“I remember one day my mother was preparing the fire to heat our room, and then [the Zionist miltiias] began to shoot. My brothers began to cry, ‘Mama, mama! They’re shooting us!’ My mom took us inside the room in the corner and under a table to protect us,” Odeh said, recalling two stories of Lifta — the town’s beauty and charm and then its tragic fall.

“There is the beautiful life and then began the miserable life because of the occupation.”

Toward the end of February 1948, Odeh’s father put him, his siblings and his mother into a truck heading to Ramallah to escape the violence in Lifta. Odeh’s father stayed behind to defend the village from the Zionist gangs.

“We were only wearing the clothing we had on because we are coming back tomorrow. We are coming back. Now we just want to be far from the shooting.” Odeh took a deep sigh and said, “In one hour, we became refugees.”

Today, 55 buildings out of approximately 450 remain in Lifta, including a club, mosque, cemetery and school, which now operates as a school for Israeli Jews. Liftawi refugees are estimated at around 30,000 and live in Jerusalem, the Occupied West Bank and the Diaspora. Most of the homes are empty, but a few are occupied by Israeli settlers. According to Zochrot, the Israeli nonprofit seeking to raise awareness of the Nakba, the “settlements of Mey Niftoach and Giv’at Sha’ul were built on village lands and now have become parts of the suburbs of Jerusalem.”

Saving Lifta

The Save Lifta Coalition orchestrated the campaign to the mayor and has been organizing since 2010 against Plan 6036. The organization spent five years working with scholars, activists, conservation specialists and higher education professionals to develop an alternative to 6036.

Their proposal aims to “expand the area of the national park and turn the village into a natural urban space for the adjacent neighborhoods,” while preserving Lifta’s cultural landscape.

The World Monuments Fund added Lifta to its list of endangered sites in 2018 and UNESCO added the village to its tentative list of world heritage sites.

‘Not something we can discuss now’

When asked about the plan’s responsibility regarding the right of return for Palestinians, Golan-Agnon said, “our plan is a plan to save Lifta as it is for the future generations to decide upon its fate.” She explained:

Many of us [in the coalition] do think there should be a right of return for Palestinians but we know it’s not something we can discuss now. So we say, it’s beautiful, keep it open, and then one day there can be a decision about what happens and who’s coming.

Dana Amawi’s grandmother grew up in Lifta and was expelled from the village in 1948. Now the family lives in Amman, Jordan. The 20-year-old said she was shaken to her core upon hearing the news of the sale. “Lifta symbolized a tiny, very small bit of hope that maybe we will be able to return to it,” Amawi told MintPress. “And now to think that other people might live in the house that I have the right to be in, it’s very sad.”

Lifta Jerusalem
A Palestinian woman holds a partially eaten fig picked from a tree in Lifta. Liebe Blekh | MintPress News

Amawi said that her grandmother fell ill after learning of the auction. “She got sick. She had a fever and she was really, really sad because to her, this is where she grew up. This is where her earliest memories are and this is where she has the right to be,” Amawi said.

Stone houses like the one Odeh spent his early childhood in now crumble from neglect. The walls are sprayed with graffiti and piles of trash line the floors. On Shabbat (the Jewish sabbath), you’ll often find Israelis bathing in the spring’s waters.

Aseel AlBajeh, advocacy officer and legal researcher at the Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq, visited Lifta in 2018. Her grandmother, who lives in Ramallah, is from Lifta. “It was a painful experience,” AlBajeh said of her time in Lifta. “I wasn’t sure if I wanted to come back to Lifta in this situation.”

‘You are here as a visitor’

During her visit, AlBajeh tried recalling her grandmother’s memories of a flourishing Lifta, but she said those stories were disrupted by the fact that she’s only in Lifta because of a permit she received from the Israeli government to enter 1948-occupied Palestine or modern-day Israel from the West Bank. “You are here as a visitor. It’s like it’s not a place where you belong, or this is what [the Israeli government] intends for refugees to feel like,” AlBajeh said. “Settlers were swimming in the spring of the village and they were blasting loud music, and it also disrupted my ability to even imagine Lifta as Palestinian.”

Jewish settlers in LIfta
Israeli settlers in Lifta hold a middle finger to a group of Palestinian children. Blekh | MintPress News

To help her reclaim Lifta, AlBajeh took a small piece of the village’s remains during her visit. She collected a broken tile painted with traditional designs from one of the house’s floors, knowing this might be the last physical object she can have of Lifta.

“Lifta is a witness of what happened during the Nakba,” AlBajeh said, explaining:

We have this connection as Palestinians, and when we see the cactus plants, we connect this as evidence that displacement happened here. And if you go to Lifta, you’ll see the huge amount of cactus. So even if the houses remain and [Israel] tries to remove the cactus, it’s still painful… It’s not about the stones or about the trees. It’s about the whole identity of Lifta and the Palestinian history, which we still connect to. “

‘We were kings in our village’

Odeh’s memories paint Lifta as an idyllic place, an oasis carved into the steep slopes of Jerusalem where life was carefree and bountiful. “We were kings in our village,” Odeh said. “Everything we need, we had — a life so simple. We didn’t need cinema or computers, no, everything we needed came from our land.”

But the minute Odeh and his family became refugees, their resources became scarce. “At that time there were no charitable associations or agencies ready to help,” Odeh recalled. “You know what Nakba means? Nakba does not mean to destroy homes. No, Nakba means to destroy the life — economic life, social life, educational life, political life. They destroyed our life.”

Upon reminiscing about Lifta, Odeh said his dream is to go back home:

I miss my childhood. Palestinian children have lost their childhood life to play like children, to go to the theater, to concerts, to football. No, until now we have house demolitions, we have arrests, we have land confiscation and killings. Every day we have events like these — if not my family, my neighborhood.”

“The Palestinian Sharpeville” – Dr Haidar Eid on the Global Implications of the Gaza Massacre

By Dan Cohen

Source

Gaza
Dr. Haidar Eid, a professor of cultural studies at Gaza’s al-Aqsa University on Israel’s targeting of middle and upper-class segments of Gaza, comparisons to the fall of South African apartheid, and how the attack on Gaza will fuel the rise of BDS.

Behind The Headlines’ Dan Cohen speaks with Dr. Haidar Eid, a professor of cultural studies at Gaza’s al-Aqsa University. They discuss Israel’s targeting of middle and upper-class segments of Gaza, comparisons to the fall of South African apartheid, and how the current attack on the Gaza Strip will fuel the rise of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement.

Facebook, Social Media Giants Admit to Silencing Palestinian Voices Online

May 14th, 2021

By Jessical Buxbaum

Source

Social media companies including Facebook have admitted to MintPress that pro-Palestinian posts were removed, blaming “technical bugs” and “spam filters.”

OCCUPIED EAST JERUSALEM — In a video posted on activist organization Jewish Voice for Peace’s Twitter account, Muna El-Kurd explained why social media is so vital for the Palestinian cause.

“We rely on the honorable people standing in solidarity with us, people who tweet #SaveSheikhJarrah everyday,” Muna El-Kurd said. “Even a short tweet or post is a treasure.”

El-Kurd and her family are under threat of forcible displacement by Israel settlers and Israeli government forces from their home in Sheikh Jarrah, a neighborhood in Occupied East Jerusalem. Over the past week, Palestinians on the ground have documented both Israeli police brutality and settler violence.

In response, the world rallied behind Palestinian home defenders online by sharing information related to Sheikh Jarrah, al-Aqsa Mosque, and Israel’s ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestine. However, activists claim their content was met with censorship from the very platforms with which they’re engaging.

Instagram disabled Muna El-Kurd’s account last week and her brother, Mohammed El-Kurd, had several of his Instagram stories removed and was threatened with account deletion.

A flurry of content removal and banning

Activists reported that social media companies have been removing their content, stating it violated community guidelines or deeming it “hate speech.” Reports also included suspended and deactivated accounts and text-only content labeled “sensitive,” a designation usually reserved for photos and videos containing violence, gore or derogatory images. The “Save Sheikh Jarrah” Facebook group was also deactivated, according to Mohammed El-Kurd.

Reports were largely centered on Instagram and Twitter, with some restrictive behaviors conducted by Facebook and even TikTok.

Over the weekend, hashtags related to al-Aqsa Mosque, Sheikh Jarrah and Jerusalem could not be found on Instagram.

According to internal employee communications provided to Buzzfeed, al-Aqsa — the third holiest site in Islam — was flagged by Instagram as associated with “violence or dangerous organizations.” The label is typically reserved for terrorist groups.

During the last days of Ramadan, worshippers at al-Aqsa were attacked with stun grenades and rubber bullets by Israeli police in riot gear. More than 170 Palestinians were injured. Social media users hoping to publicize the state violence instead found their content removed from search results.

Twenty-four rights organizations signed a statement demanding that Facebook and Twitter reinstate affected accounts and explain their actions:

The removed content and suspended accounts on both Instagram and Twitter are involved in documenting and reporting what is happening in Sheikh Jarrah, as well as denouncing Israel’s policies of ethnic cleansing, apartheid and persecution. These violations are not limited to Palestinian users, but also affect activists around the world who are using social media to raise awareness about the grave situation in Sheikh Jarrah.

Nadim Nashif, founder and CEO of 7amleh, one of the letter’s signatories, said the digital rights organization had received approximately 200 cases of social media censorship related to the recent events in Palestine. However, he believes the actual number could be well into the thousands, as many users experiencing censorship may not report it.

“Actually, 99 percent of our [content removal] appeals to social media companies were put back, with no questions asked. And this is clearly because these posts did not really violate their community standards,” Nashif told MintPress News. “What’s basically happening is the Israeli Cyber Unit is abusing the system of so-called voluntary takedown.”

When reached for comment, a Twitter spokesperson said “Our automated systems took enforcement action on a small number of accounts in error by an automated spam filter.”

“We are expeditiously reversing this action to reinstate access to the affected accounts, some of which have already been reinstated,” Twitter said.

Facebook, which owns Instagram, responded to requests for comment from MintPress by issuing a statement that reads in part:

We know there have been several issues that have impacted people’s ability to share on our apps, including a technical bug that affected Stories around the world, and an error which temporarily restricted content from being viewed on the Al Aqsa mosque hashtag page. While both issues have been fixed, they never should have happened in the first place. We’re so sorry to everyone who felt they couldn’t bring attention to important events, or who felt this was a deliberate suppression of their voice. This was never our intention.

Corporate and government collaborative censorship

As previously reported by MintPress, social media suppression of Palestinian media is not a new phenomenon. 7amleh’s research unveiled significant cooperation between social media behemoths and Israel in targeting Palestinian content: According to a 2020 7amleh report on the systematic erasure of Palestinian content, the Israeli Ministry of Justice’s Cyber Unit is responsible for submitting removal requests to tech companies based on purported violations of domestic law and the companies’ community guidelines.

7amleh wrote in their report:

The Israeli Minister of Justice, Ayelet Shaked, stated that ‘Facebook, Google, and YouTube are complying with up to 95% of Israel’s requests to delete content that the Israeli government says incites Palestinian violence.’ This shows a significant focus on Palestinian content and efforts to label Palestinian political speech as incitement to violence.

The Israeli government and non-governmental organizations also encourage citizens to participate in these censorship efforts by making their own content removal requests with regard to Palestinian information.

“The big issue of the voluntary takedowns is that there aren’t any legal or bureaucratic procedures to clarify them,” Nashif said.

In 2019, Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) filed a joint petition to Israel’s High Court of Justice against the Cyber Unit on the grounds its mechanisms violate the constitutional rights of freedom of expression and due process. Last month, Israel’s Supreme Court rejected that petition.

“As usual, the Supreme Court supported and validated the actions of the Cyber Unit,” Nashif said. “And now they’re trying to suppress the Palestinian voice by intensifying these requests for takedowns.”

Nashif could not confirm that Israel’s Cyber Unit is behind the latest alleged censorship. But through Adalah and ACRI’s use of the Freedom of Information Law, 7amleh knows the government entity made more than 15,000 requests last year to social media platforms. Nashif explained:

We don’t have evidence about what’s happened in the last week because neither the Cyber Unit nor Facebook is transparent about the takedowns. But it’s clear from following them, researching their policies, speaking with people working in Facebook and from the different appeals in the court against the Cyber Unit, we know that this is obviously happening.”

Escalating violence, growing grassroots action

Tensions in Jerusalem and throughout Palestine have intensified in recent days. At the time of writing, Israeli airstrikes have killed 87 Gazan Palestinians, including 18 children, and rocket fire from Hamas, the resistance movement governing Gaza, has killed six Israelis and one Indian national. More than 530 Palestinians have been injured and 28 Israelis wounded.

Israeli forces have fired skunk water and stun grenades at crowds demonstrating against the expulsions of Sheikh Jarrah residents. Armed groups of Israelis are currently storming Palestine’s streets—chanting “Death to Arabs,” destroying Palestinian properties, and attacking Palestinians.

Palestinians Gaza
Palestinians carry the body of a child found in the rubble home destroyed by a precision Israeli airstrikes in Gaza, May 13, 2021. Abdel Kareem Hana | AP

Palestinians Gaza
A relative mourns over the bodies of four young brothers from the Tanani family killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza, May 14, 2021. Khalil Hamra | AP

Palestinians Gaza
A wounded boy lies on a stretcher following an Israeli attack in Beit Lahiya, Gaza, May 10, 2021. Mohammed Ali | AP

The Israeli Supreme Court postponed a court hearing on the possible dispossession facing Sheikh Jarrah families, including the El-Kurds. The court is expected to set a new date in 30 days.

While the Israeli authorities continue crushing Palestinian dissent on the ground, Nashif said Palestinian voices remain silenced online as well.

“Our feeling is that it’s less now because we are getting fewer requests to appeal. But it is still happening,” Nashif said, referring to how the Israeli Cyber Unit, artificial intelligence, and pro-Israel internet communities like Act.IL are all part of the campaign to diminish the Palestinian perspective on social media.

“You have to understand that this is a fight on narrative,” Nashif said. “There is a strong attempt to suppress the Palestinian narrative.”

US/Western Support for Israel Mass Slaughter and Destruction Throughout the Occupied Territories

May 16, 2021

By Stephen Lendman

Source

Support by the US-dominated West lets apartheid Israel reign terror on Occupied Palestinians with impunity — as it’s done from inception since its 1947-48 war of aggression.

An illegitimately created Jewish state in the Arab Middle East remains a prescription for endless conflict.

It’s ongoing perpetually by Israel against Palestinians its ruling regimes want dispossessed of their homes and land, against Syria for years and Lebanon at the Jewish state’s discretion.

As long as apartheid Israel exists, the Middle East will remain one of the world’s hot spots.  

What the Netanyahu regime named Operation Guardian of the Walls, Hamas calls Operation Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Sword.

A statement its leadership issued last week said the following:

“We warned the enemy not to insist on attacking our holy sites and our people.” 

“The enemy, however, continued its brutality, so it’s time now to pay a price.” 

“We have accumulated our military experience in a bid to defend our people, whom we will never abandon.” 

“Our weapon is the weapon of all our people.”

“The time when the coward enemy can attack Al-Aqsa and Al-Quds without being held accountable is over.”

Sunday marks day-seven of Israeli aggression on Gaza — and throughout the Occupied Territories perpetually — defenseless Palestinian civilians paying the biggest price.

Deaths, injuries and mass destruction increase by the hour, including by smashing residential buildings in the Strip and other non-military-related targets.

In all preemptive Israeli wars, inflicting maximum pain, suffering, deaths, destruction, and slow-motion genocide are key objectives — in flagrant breach of the UN Charter and other international law.

On Saturday, Netanyahu pledged to continue endless Israeli aggression on Gaza.

In response, Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyah vowed that “resistance” to Israeli state terror “will not give in.”

According to Gaza health officials Sunday morning, pre-dawn Israeli terror-bombing killed over two dozen more Palestinians in the Strip, including 8 more children.

As of early Sunday morning local time, at least 182 Palestinians were massacred by Israel in cold blood, including around 50 children — thousands injured in Gaza and throughout the Territories.

Whatever the death, injury, and destruction toll at any moment in time, carnage continues to increase hourly throughout one day after another — how it’s been since May 10.

On Sunday, the UN Security Council will hold a first-ever open discussion on the ongoing conflict — to include representatives from Occupied Palestine, Israel and other regional countries, notably Jordan and Egypt.

Two earlier closed-door sessions were held in the past week.

So far, Biden regime hardliners — in support of Israeli aggression — blocked issuance of a statement criticizing it.

Over the weekend, the Biden regime again defied reality by falsely blaming Hamas for Israel’s preemptive reign of terror on Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Netanyahu regime envoy to Washington Gilad Erdan thanked “POTUS” for its one-sided support.

In cities worldwide, large-scale pro-Palestinian rallies continue to be held.

Some participants carried banners and chanted: 

“Free Palestine.” 

“Israel is a terrorist state.” 

“Occupation No More.” 

“We demand change.”

“Not in my name.”

“Solidarity with Palestine.”

“From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” and other anti-Israeli slogans. 

Jewish state flags were burned.

In the US, thousands turned out in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Houston, Denver, and elsewhere nationwide, including downtown Chicago where I live — in solidarity with long-suffering Palestinians.

According to WGN TV Chicago:

“A massive group of protesters from The Chicago Coalition for Justice in Palestine filled Congress Plaza in downtown Chicago Wednesday to condemn…Israeli aggression.”

“Demonstrators (rallied along the city’s) Magnificent Mile,” including near Chicago’s landmark Water Tower.

CBS TV Chicago reported on a south side “Bridgeview (rally) in support of Palestinians.”

In Los Angeles on Saturday, one demonstrator likely spoke for many others nationwide, saying:

“I’m here because I want a Palestinian life to equal an Israeli life and today it doesn’t,” adding:

“When you have a nuclear-armed state and another state of villagers with rocks, it is clear who is to blame.”

May 15 marked the 73rd anniversary of Nakba Day — the catastrophe, reflecting mass-displacement of Palestinians and decades of endless suffering under suffocating occupation.

Earlier I quoted a violently displaced Palestinian saying the following:

“I cannot forget three horror-filled days in July of 1948.” 

“The pain sears my memory, and I cannot rid myself of it no matter how hard I try.”

“First, Israeli soldiers forced thousands of Palestinians from their homes near the Mediterranean coast, even though some families had lived in the same houses for centuries.”

“My family had been in the town of Lydda in Palestine at least 1,600 years.” 

“Then, without water, we stumbled into the hills and continued for three deadly days.”

“The Jewish soldiers followed, occasionally shooting over our heads to scare us and keep us moving.” 

“Terror filled my eleven-year-old mind as I wondered what would happen.”

“I remembered overhearing my father and his friends express alarm about recent massacres by Jewish terrorists. Would they kill us, too?”

“We did not know what to do, except to follow orders and stumble blindly up the rocky hills.” 

“I walked hand in hand with my grandfather, who carried our only remaining possessions-a small tin of sugar and some milk for my aunt’s two-year-old son, sick with typhoid.”

Palestinians are no match against Israeli brutality committed against them — how it’s always been.

Nakba survivors recall the horror they endured. 

Arabs were gunned down in cold blood, women raped.

Other atrocities were committed. Hundreds of thousands displaced hoped one day they’d return.

They and descendants are still waiting, enduring ruthless militarized occupation.

On Nakba Day 2021, the 

Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) explained “10 facts you need to know about the Palestinian Nakba:”

1. Zionist militia forcibly displaced from “750,000 and 1,000,000 Palestinians into exile, making them refugees.”

2. Around eight million Palestinian refugees are denied their legal “right to return to their homes, lands and other property by Israel, simply because they are not Jewish.”

3. The Nakba was well-planned forced displacement of indigenous Arabs to create a Jewish state in historic Palestine.

4. “Zionist militia begun its ethnic cleansing of Palestinian towns and villages months before the creation of the State of Israel.”

5. Jewish state Arab citizens are discriminated against for being non-Jews and treated like fifth column threats which they’re not.

6. In creating an illegitimate Jewish state by stealing historic Palestinian land, Zionist militia “destroyed about 530 Palestinian towns and villages to prevent refugees from returning.”

7. The Jewish National Fund (JNF)…holds…stolen (Palestinian) land as “the perpetual property of the Jewish People” — illegally.

8. “The Nakba did not end in 1948 and continues to this day, in the form of Israel’s ongoing theft of Palestinian land for settlements and for Jewish communities inside Israel, its destruction of Palestinian homes and agricultural land, revocation of residency rights , deportations, demographic engineering, periodic brutal military assaults, and forced displacement.”

9. “Many (East Jerusalem)Sheikh Jarrah…residents were ethnically cleansed from their homes during the Nakba.” 

“They currently face becoming refugees for the second or third time.”

Throughout the Occupied Territories, “(i)ndigenous Palestinians are being forced from their homes by state sponsored violence at the hands of Israeli soldiers, Israeli police, and armed Israeli” settlers.

10. Israeli law “prohibits Palestinians who are second-class citizens of the state from commemorating the Nakba on May 15.” 

“This does not stop Palestinians from remembering.”

According to the BNC, the most effective way to support justice for long-suffering Palestinians is by “(s)har(ing) stories of the Nakba from Palestinians and join(ing) BDS campaigns.”

Muna is Palestine, Yakub is Israel: The Untold Story of Sheikh Jarrah

May 12th, 2021

Sheikh Jarrah Feature photo

By Ramzy Baroud

Source

There are two separate Sheikh Jarrah stories – one read and watched in the news and another that receives little media coverage or due analysis. 

There are two separate Sheikh Jarrah stories – one read and watched in the news and another that receives little media coverage or due analysis. The obvious story is that of the nightly raids and violence meted out by Israeli police and Jewish extremists against Palestinians in the devastated East Jerusalem neighborhood.

For weeks, thousands of Jewish extremists have targeted Palestinian communities in Jerusalem’s Old City. Their objective is the removal of Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. They are not acting alone. Their riots and rampages are directed by a well-coordinated leadership composed of extremist Zionist and Jewish groups, such as the Otzma Yehudit party and the Lehava Movement. Their unfounded claims, violent actions and abhorrent chant “Death to the Arabs” are validated by Israeli politicians, such as Knesset member Itamar Ben-Gvir and the Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem, Arieh King.

Here is a little introduction to the political discourse of Ben-Gvir and King, who were caught on video shouting and insulting a wounded Palestinian protester. The video starts with MK Ben-Gvir disparagingly yelling at a Palestinian who was apparently wounded by Israeli police, yet returned to protest against the evictions planned for Sheikh Jarrah.

Ben-Gvir is heard shouting, “Abu Hummus, how is your ass?”

“The bullet is still there, that’s why he is limping,” responds the Deputy Mayor, King, to Ben-Gvir.  King continues, “Did they take the bullet out of your ass? Did they take it out already? It is a pity it did not go in here,” King continues, pointing to his head.

Delighted with what they perceive to be a whimsical commentary on the wounding of the Palestinian, Ben-Gvir and King’s entourage of Jewish extremists laugh.

While “Abu Hummus”, wounded yet still protesting, is a testament to the tenacity of the Palestinian people, King, Ben-Gvir, the settlers and the police are a representation of the united Israeli front aimed at ethnically cleansing Palestinians and ensuring Jewish majority in Jerusalem.

Another important participant in the ongoing Israeli ethnic cleansing campaign in Jerusalem is Israel’s court system which has provided a legal cover for the targeting of Palestinian inhabitants of Jerusalem.

The legal foundation of the Jewish settlers’ constant attempts at acquiring more Palestinian properties can be traced back to a specific 1970 law, known as the Legal and Administrative Matters Law, which allowed Jews to sue Palestinians for properties they claim to have owned prior to the establishment of Israel on the ruins of historic Palestine in 1948. While Palestinians are excluded from making similar claims, Israeli courts have generously handed Palestinian homes, lands and other assets to Jewish claimants. In turn, these homes, as in the case of Sheikh Jarrah and other Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, are often sold to Jewish settler organizations to build yet more colonies on occupied Palestinian land.

Last February, the Israeli Supreme Court awarded Jewish settlers the right to many Palestinian homes in Sheikh Jarrah. Following a Palestinian and international backlash, it offered Palestinians a ‘compromise’, whereby Palestinian families relinquished ownership rights to their homes and agreed to continue to live there as tenants, paying rents to the very illegal Jewish settlers who have stolen their homes in the first place, but who are now armed with a court decision.

However, the ‘logic’ through which Jews claim Palestinian properties as their own should not be associated with a few extremist organizations. After all, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948 was not the work of a few extreme Zionists. Similarly, the illegal occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 1967 and the massive settlement enterprise that followed was not the brainchild of a few extreme individuals. Colonialism in Israel was, and remains, a state-run project, which ultimately aims at achieving the same objective that is being carried out in Sheikh Jarrah – the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians to ensure Jewish demographic majority

This is the untold story of Sheikh Jarrah, one that cannot be expressed by a few news bytes or social media posts. However, this most relevant narrative is largely hidden. It is easier to blame a few Jewish extremists than to hold the entire Israeli government accountable. Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is constantly manipulating the subject of demographics to advance the interests of his Jewish constituency. He is a strong believer in an exclusive Jewish state and also fully aware of the political influence of Jewish settlers. For example, shortly before the March 23 elections, Netanyahu made a decision to greenlight the construction of 540 illegal settlement units in the so-called Har-Homa E Area (Abu Ghneim Mountain) in the occupied West Bank, in the hope of acquiring as many votes as possible.

While the Sheikh Jarrah story is garnering some attention even in mainstream US media, there is a near-complete absence of any depth to that coverage, namely the fact that Sheikh Jarrah is not the exception but the norm. Sadly, as Palestinians and their supporters try to circumvent widespread media censorship by reaching out directly to civil societies across the world using social media platforms, they are often censored there, as well.

One of the videos initially censored by Instagram is that of Muna al-Kurd, a Palestinian woman who had lost her home in Sheikh Jarrah to a Jewish settler by the name of Yakub.

“Yakub, you know this is not your house,” Muna is seen outside her home, speaking to Yakub.

Yakub answers, “Yes, but if I go, you don’t go back. So what’s the problem? Why are you yelling at me? I didn’t do this. I didn’t do this. It’s easy to yell at me, but I didn’t do this. 

Muna: “You are stealing my house.”

Yakub: “And if I don’t steal it, someone else is going to steal it.”

Muna: “No. No one is allowed to steal it.” 

The untold story of Sheikh Jarrah, of Jerusalem – in fact, of all of Palestine – is that of Muna and Yakub, the former representing Palestine, the latter, Israel. For justice to ever be attained, Muna must be allowed to reclaim her stolen home and Yakub must be held accountable for his crime.

Forced Evictions of Palestinians for Exclusive Jewish Development

By Stephen Lendman

Source

Theft of Palestinian land followed the infamous 1917 Balfour Declaration that called for establishment of a nation for Jews on their historic land.

Endless conflict, occupation, dispossession, and repression — along with social and cultural fragmentation — define conditions for beleaguered Palestinians.

They’ve endured over 100 years of suffering with no end of it in sight because the world community is dismissive of their rights.

Israeli land theft for exclusive Jewish development began in earnest during its so-called 1947-48 war of independence.

Around 78% of historic Palestinian land was stolen, the rest during Israel’s preemptive 1967 Six Day War.

Israeli laws illegitimately legitimized theft of Palestinian land for exclusive Jewish use.

Israel’s Basic Law affirms that “ownership of Israel Lands, being the lands in Israel of the State, the Development Authority or the Keren Kayemet Le-Israel (KKL — Jewish National Fund, JNF), shall not be transferred either by sale or in any other manner.” 

Israeli laws prohibit Arabs from buying, leasing or using land exclusively reserved for Jews — part of what apartheid is all about.

Most often, Israeli courts rubber-stamp land theft when Arab owners petition for justice routinely denied them.

The same goes for nearly all issues related to their rights and well-being.

Since mid-April, Palestinians clashed with Israeli security forces in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood and surrounding areas over ordered forced evictions of Palestinian families.

Last month — together with about 190 other organizations — the US Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) called on the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, to investigate, when the CCR called “war crimes and crimes against humanity in (Occupied) Palestine.”

Eight or more Sheik Jarrah Palestinian families face unlawful forced eviction.

Israel’s Jerusalem District Court ordered six families to vacate their homes by May 2, others by August 1.

CCR and other groups urged the ICC to intervene on behalf of Palestinian rights, saying the following:

“(W)e ask that you include as part of the investigation the war crimes of forcible transfer of parts of the population of the occupied territory (art. 8(2)(b)(viii) and 8(2)(a)(vii)), transfer by the Occupying Power of parts of its civilian population into the territory it occupies (art. 8(2)(b)(viii)), destruction and appropriation of property not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully (art. 8(2)(a)(iv))  and, as these forced evictions are part of an ongoing, widespread and systematic attack against Palestinian civilians, the crimes against humanity of deportation or forcible transfer (art. 7.1(d)), persecution (art. 7.1(h)), apartheid (art. 7.1(j)) and other inhumane acts causing great suffering or serious injury to inter alia mental health (art. 7.1(k).”

In 2018, the ICC expressed concern about Israel’s planned eviction of the Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar.

At the time, it accused Israel of “extensive destruction of property without military necessity and population transfers in an occupied territory,” adding:

These actions “constitute war crimes under the Rome Statute.”

The same applies to what’s ongoing in Occupied East Jerusalem’s Sheik Jarrah neighorhood.

Long-suffering Palestinians justifiably accuse Israel of discriminatory mistreatment throughout the Occupied Territories.

Its legal system and courts systematically deny Palestinians justice afforded Jews alone.

CCR and allied organizations called on the ICC to condemn Israeli forced evictions from Sheikh Jarrah.

They also urged the ICC to warn Israeli perpetrators that their actions may constitute crimes of war and against humanity.

Continuing their daily police state crackdown on fundamental Palestinian rights, Israeli forces stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Friday where tens of thousands of Palestinians gathered for prayer on the holy month of Ramadan’s last Friday. 

They attacked Palestinian protesters in Jerusalem neighborhoods with rubber-coated steel bullets, stun grenades, tear gas, and beatings.

Palestinians inside the mosque — Islam’s third holiest site after Mecca’s Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina — were assaulted the same way.

According to the Palestinian Red Crescent, over 200 people were injured from clashes with Israel police in the mosque and elsewhere in Jerusalem, dozens hospitalized.

A field hospital was set up to treat the injured.

Earlier on Friday, Israeli forces lethally shot two Palestinians.

In response to Israeli violence, Hamas leader Ismael Haniyeh accused the Netanyahu regime of “playing with fire,” adding:

“This is a battle you can’t win.”

Islamic Jihad’s Secretary General Ziyad al-Nakhalah warned Israel of a strong response against its ongoing violence.

According to Palestinian eyewitnesses in Jerusalem on Friday, Israeli forces aimed potentially lethal rubber-coated steel bullets at Palestinians’ heads and faces to seriously injure, disable or kill.

Red Crescent health workers confirmed that many Palestinians suffered wounds to their head and/or eyes.

Israeli forces attacked an East Jerusalem clinic involved in treating injured Palestinians with stun grenades.

Throughout Ramadan, Israeli security forces greatly restricted Palestinians’ access to Al-Aqsa and other Muslim holy sites in the Territories.

At the same time, extremists settlers participated in “Death to Arab” marches in Jerusalem — unrestricted.

Since mid-April, Sheik Jarrah Palestinians have been demonstrating daily against forced Israeli evictions from their homes — for the crime of being Arabs in an apartheid Jewish state.

Violently attacked by Israeli security forces and extremist settlers, they continue demonstrating peacefully for their rights at risk of being lost.

Days earlier, Israel’s Supreme Court postponed their forced eviction before perhaps ruling on the issue during or after a Monday May 10 hearing.

On Sunday May 9, one of the holiest Ramadan nights, massive crowds of Palestinian worshipers are expected to converge on the Al-Aqsa compound and mosque.

Sunday is also Jerusalem Day. It commemorates Israel’s illegal seizure and annexation of what the UN considers an international city, the capital of no single country.

Along with tens of thousands of Palestinians expected to rally throughout the city Sunday, extremist Israeli settlers and likeminded ultra-nationalists are likely to turn out in large numbers for “Death to Arab” marches — risking clashes between both sides.

Another day and night of violence is highly likely, perhaps exceeding what’s gone on so far.

One Sheik Jarrah resident likely spoke for others, saying:

“Our people will remain steadfast and patient in their homes, in our blessed land.”

Following Friday prayers, thousands of Palestinians chanted what’s been heard before during Jerusalem protests, saying:

“With our soul and blood, we will redeem you, Aqsa.”

An unanswered question is whether what’s gone on for weeks is the beginning of a Third Intifada.

It’s possible if daily Israeli violence continues and its High Court upholds illegal dispossession of Sheik Jarrah families from their homes.

A Final Comment

Last Friday, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Rupert Colville said the following:

If implemented, Sheik Jarrah evictions “would violate Israel’s obligations under international law” — pertaining to its illegal seizure and occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967, adding:

“We call on Israel to immediately halt all forced evictions, including those in Sheikh Jarrah, and to cease any activity that would further contribute to a coercive environment and lead to a risk of forcible transfer.”

Like the US and its key Western partners, Israel long ago abandoned the rule of law, operating exclusively by its own rules.

The US under both right wings of its war party has always been dismissive of Palestinian rights while pretending otherwise. 

It showed in an unacceptable statement by deputy State Department spokeswoman Jalina Porter.

Calling on both sides in Jerusalem “to ensure calm and act responsibly to deescalate tensions and avoid violent confrontation” stopped short of condemning Israeli violence like many times before.

Since establishment of Israel on stolen Palestinian land in 1948, the US and West looked the other way in response to the Jewish state’s highest of high crimes.

At the same time, the West has always been dismissive of Palestinian rights, according to the rule of law.

Dominant hardliners in the US and West today don’t give a hoot about them — one-sidedly supporting Israel like always before.

An Old Green Colonial Trick: Israel Masking Land Grabs as Environmental Conservation

Al-Walaja Feature photo

By Jessica Buxbaum

Source

“More and more open areas in East Jerusalem are being designated as preservation or national parks, and this is clearly in order to prevent Palestinian urban development.” — Sari Kronish, Israeli planning rights organization Bimkom

OCCUPIED EAST JERUSALEM — For decades, a Palestinian village on the southern tip of Jerusalem has lived on and cultivated the land. But a series of recent efforts by Israel is not only threatening their way of life but potentially displacing them from their homes.

On January 25, the Jerusalem District Planning Committee rejected the residents of Palestinian village al-Walaja’s plan to legalize their homes and further develop the community. Instead, the committee declared their land an ancient agricultural area in need of environmental conservation that should be transformed into a national park.

The notion of environmental integrity struck Amy Cohen, director of international relations and advocacy at Israeli non-profit Ir Amim, as contradictory.

“The planning committee and the [Israel] Civil Administration within the West Bank [have] been promoting and advancing plans within the same area for Jewish settlers,” Cohen said. “It shows massive discrimination in how [Israel] treats Palestinian areas in order to suppress the residential development.”

The committee’s decision paves the way for the lifting of the demolition freeze on 38 al-Walaja homes. On April 26, Israel’s Supreme Court will convene for a hearing on al-Walaja’s 2018 petition over its resident-initiated outline plan.

al-Walajeh Map
The portion of al-Walaja (spelled Al Walajeh on this map) facing mass demolitions is shaded in brown within the purple circle between the apartheid wall (red line) and the Jerusalem municipal border/annexation line (blue line). Credit | Ir Amim

Ibrahim A’raj, 37, grew up in al-Walaja. The home he built for his family in 2016 is now under threat of demolition. A’raj expects the court will not rule in al-Walaja’s favor in April and his house will be demolished.

“It’s not logical or legal,” A’raj said, referring to the Planning Committee’s rejection of the development plan for environmental reasons. “The village is surrounded by settlements and the wall, which destroyed the nature and environmental landscape.”

The Planning Committee did not respond to requests for comment.

Zones and no permits

When Israel annexed East Jerusalem in 1967, it took the northern section of al-Walaja as well. Today, al-Walaja is split between Jerusalem and Areas B and C of the West Bank, so one-third of the land is controlled by the Jerusalem Municipality and the rest by the Bethlehem Governorate.

The Jerusalem area of al-Walaja has been at risk of forced displacement for a decade as a result of the Planning Committee’s refusal to discuss an outline plan. This refusal has made it impossible for the community to obtain building permits, so A’raj had to construct his house without one.

Amid the absence of building permits, demolition orders have increased. More than 20 homes have been razed in al-Walaja since 2016.

An isolated village cut off from its surroundings

Israeli authorities have prevented al-Walaja from developing while expanding Jewish settlements around the village and the apartheid wall (the barrier separating the West Bank and Israel).

Construction of the wall on three sides of al-Walaja cut off the village from nearly 300 acres of its agricultural land and turned that land into Nahal Refaim National Park. Har Gilo settlement lies to the south of al-Walaja. The Israel Civil Administration’s proposed expansion of the Har Gilo settlement to the west of the village will extend the wall, thereby enclosing al-Walaja and fully isolating it from its surroundings. The Civil Administration did not respond to requests for comment.

“The wall and the settlements deprived us from accessing our own land that we worked so hard to cultivate,” A’raj said, mentioning how the villagers are now blocked from the olive trees they harvested before the wall was built.

al-Walaja wall
Ancient agricultural terraces in al-Walaja (left) and Israel’s destruction of ancient terraces to build the wall (right). Photos | B’Tselem

Al-Walaja residents experience harassment daily from Israeli settlers and authorities. A’raj explained:

The Civil Administration confiscates our equipment when we start building a new house. The settlers around us use drones to take pictures when we start building and send them to the Civil Administration. The police put checkpoints at the entrance of the village and sometimes inside the village and the Walaja Bypass Road [connecting Har Gilo settlement to Jerusalem] gets a lot of traffic, so it limits our movement.”

A’raj lamented that if his home is demolished, he will likely leave al-Walaja, the place he’s called home his whole life. “It’s a huge tyranny that I have to leave my own house and my own land,” he said.

Israel doesn’t provide alternative or temporary housing for Palestinians whose homes they demolish. Sari Kronish — East Jerusalem planner for Bimkom, an Israeli planning rights organization — described the government’s lack of consideration in helping displaced families find housing as one of the “dark sides of the Israeli regime at the moment.”

“The very sad reality is that the authorities don’t offer [the uprooted Palestinians] anything. They just treat them as lawbreakers who are receiving their penalty,” Kronish said. “People just become homeless and become displaced.”

Ir Amim’s Cohen emphasizes that what Israel is enacting isn’t just the wide-scale displacement of Palestinians but also an attempt at annexation. She elaborated:

It’s an acute humanitarian toll that’s exacted upon the families, but it is also in service to the Israeli objective of consolidating control, which completely undermines any sort of conditions for a two-state solution based on two capitals. Because if you can completely segment Palestinian contiguity and advance steps toward de facto annexation of these areas, then you’re foiling a prospect of an agreed resolution.”

Not just al-Walaja

In what many Palestinians have described as a continuation of the Nakba (Israel’s 1948 ethnic cleansing campaign in Palestine), Israel is currently in the process of expelling thousands of Palestinians from East Jerusalem under the pretext of preservation.

“More and more open areas in East Jerusalem are being designated as preservation or national parks, and this is clearly in order to prevent Palestinian urban development,” Kronish said.

In the Al-Bustan neighborhood of the East Jerusalem district of Silwan, mass dispossession looms over the residents in order to make room for the touristic venture, Garden of the King. The community of Sheikh Jarrah is experiencing displacement at the hands of settler groups for the Shimon HaTzadik National Park.

Israel has long employed the practice of stealing Palestinian land and claiming it for recreational purposes. Many of Israel’s prized national parks were built on top of Palestinian villages destroyed during the Nakba. In Jerusalem, for instance, the remains of the village of Lifta are now a national park and hotel. Garbage and graffiti adorn what’s left of Lifta’s stone houses. Most of the village’s inhabitants, who were expelled in 1948, and their descendants live in refugee camps around Jerusalem — unable to return to home.

“It’s a form of institutional confiscation and settlement in the guise of green protection,” Kronish said.

Displacing indigenous peoples under the claim of conservation is an inherently settler-colonialist tactic spanning regions and centuries. Most well-known national parks in the United States like Yellowstone and Yosemite were once Native American tribal territories. In order to create an “uninhabited wilderness,” the federal government first had to remove the native peoples living on that land.

Modern environmentalism ignorantly dictates Some environmentalist assumptions suggest humans cannot coexist with wildlife. But that racist assumption idea ignores the history of indigenous communities living with and preserving nature.

Native Americans understood how to sustainably tend to the land. And just as in al-Walaja, maintaining the land is part of their livelihood.

Kronish explained:

This type of agricultural lifestyle is very dependent on people living [on] and working the land harmoniously. Once people are displaced, attempts at preservation become artificial. The residents would argue that by continuing to live there, they are more able to continue to preserve. For them, it’s not a question of preservation. It’s a question of a way of life and connection to the land.”

Revealed: Israeli Settler Groups With Ties To the US Are Evicting Palestinians in Mass

By Jessica Buxbaum

Source

Jessica Buxbaum investigates the slew of Israeli settler groups working to evict Palestinian families from their East Jerusalem homes with the aid of millions of dollars from American donors.

Occupied East Jerusalem — Nearly 20 Palestinian families face homelessness amid a raging pandemic and cold, wet winter in occupied East Jerusalem because of eviction lawsuits from Israeli settler groups backed by wealthy American donors.

Over the last few months, Israeli courts upheld the eviction orders of 16 Palestinian families in the East Jerusalem districts of Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah. The evictions are carried out through lawsuits by Israeli company Nachalat Shimon and settler associations Ateret Cohanim and Elad. These three organizations argue the land the families’ homes are on belongs to them because Yemeni Jews owned the land before 1948. Israel’s discriminatory Legal and Administrative Matters Law allows Jews to claim ownership of property they lost during the 1948 War but doesn’t guarantee that same right to Palestinians.

Nachalat Shimon operates in Sheikh Jarrah and is responsible for the evictions of 11 Palestinian families in the neighborhood since 2008. Ateret Cohanim and Elad work to displace Palestinian residents in Silwan and have evicted 14 families in the area since 2015. Silwan is part of Jerusalem’s “Holy Basin,” an area coveted by Jewish settlers because of its proximity to the Old City and purported connections to King David. While 16 families are under threat of imminent eviction, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that over 800 Palestinians are at risk of forced eviction, chiefly as a result of Israeli settlers.

The planned annexation of Greater Jerusalem. Areas in blue are, or soon will be, under Israeli control. Credit | Ir Amim

While Ateret Cohanim and Elad receive Israeli donations, the majority of their money comes from abroad. Ateret Cohanim received nearly 5 million shekels (roughly $1 million U.S. dollars) in foreign donations in 2018 but only 100,000 shekels or $3,000 domestically. Elad, also known as the Ir David Foundation, secured significantly more foreign monies with over 60,000 shekels or $20 million coming from abroad in 2019 and just 760,000 shekels or about $230,000 from Israel.

Public information is limited on where exactly these entities receive their donations from. According to the Israeli settlement watchdog group, Peace Now, Elad has not disclosed a donor list to Israel’s Registrar of Associations since 2005. However, it’s well-documented that Ateret Cohanim receives money from its sister nonprofit American Friends of Ateret Cohanim and Elad receives funds from its American wing, Friends of Ir David.

American money behind the settlements 

The United States’ Internal Revenue Service doesn’t require nonprofits to disclose their donors, allowing American Friends of Ateret Cohanim and Friends of Ir David haven’t to avoid publishing this information in their tax filings. Despite this, Friends of Ir David reported providing grants of $20 million to organizations in the Middle East in 2018. On its tax forms, the group writes its stated purpose is “to provide assistance to organizations in the Old City of Jerusalem and the Ancient City of David.” 

Elad is currently working with the Israel Antiquities Authority to excavate a nearly 300-foot-long tunnel under the Wadi Hilweh neighborhood of Silwan in hopes of unearthing the First and Second Jewish Temples. This archaeological dig is part of Israel’s recent efforts to “Judaize” Jerusalem and erase any Palestinian heritage from the city.

American Friends of Ateret Cohanim reported close to $550,000 in 2016 (the most recent filing available). The organization, also known as the Jerusalem Reclamation Project, states that part of its mission is to “provide aid for security equipment in support of the safety and protection of community residents, and provide funds to needy families for housing renovations and repairs.”  

Israeli Settler US dollars
US Ambassador David Friedman, left, talks to casino magnate Sheldon Adelson at an event in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan. Tsafrir Abayov | AP

Close analysis of IRS reports from 2014-2019 by MintPress News reveals American philanthropists gave large sums to these organizations.

The Hertog Foundation, Irving I Moskowitz Foundation, Adelson Family Foundation, Mindel Foundation, Samueli Foundation, Jay and Jeannie Schottenstein Foundation, and the Jewish Communal Fund all donated to Friends of Ir David. The biggest contributors came from the foundations belonging to American billionaires Roger Hertog, Irving Moskowitz, and Sheldon Adelson. The Adelson Family Foundation gifted Friends of Ir David around $3 million in 2018. The Irving I Moskowitz Foundation contributed $1.5 million, and the Hertog Foundation gave around $600,000 during the five-year period.

The Cherna Moskowitz Foundation, the Jewish Communal Fund, and the Mermelstein Foundation have all donated to the American Friends of Ateret Cohanim. During the five years examined, the charity belonging to Irving Moskowitz’s wife, Cherna, gave the most with a total of $775,000.

These foundations, along with American Friends of Ateret Cohanim and Friends of Ir David, are tax-exempt entities. The organizations whose contact information is available did not respond to requests for comment.

Nachalat Shimon is even less transparent than Ateret Cohanim and Elad. According to documents obtained by Peace Now, Shimon Hazadik Holdings LTD is registered in the Israeli Corporation Authority as the owner of Nachalat Shimon.

Peace Now’s investigation also discovered that Shimon Hazadik is registered in Delaware’s Division of Corporations and another company with a similar name—Shimon Hazadik Partners—is also registered in Delaware. Both companies’ statuses have been canceled due to failure to pay taxes. Nachalat Shimon did not respond to a request for comment.

The Jewish National Fund’s hand in advancing settlements

While Nachalat Shimon, Ateret Cohanim, and Elad are the primary entities behind the current evictions, the Jewish National Fund (JNF) has also been involved in evicting Palestinian families, specifically by collaborating with Elad.

The JNF markets itself as an environmental organization helping to green Israel’s landscape. In reality, JNF has uprooted Palestinian communities since before Israel became a state.

+972 Magazine investigation found that JNF has cooperated with Elad lawyers for decades to evict Palestinian families in Silwan. Historical documents indicate that the JNF purchased Palestinian properties in Silwan through its subsidiary, Hemnutah. Hemnutah then works with Elad on eviction proceedings. In coordination with the JNF, Elad is attempting to evict the Sumarin family from their home in Silwan.

The US-Israel connection 

Since Israel’s inception, the state has overwhelmingly relied on American dollars to maintain its occupation of Palestine and the Syrian Golan—whether that’s through military aid or donations to Jewish settlements. Brian Reeves, Peace Now’s director of Development and External Relations, attributes this to the U.S. having the world’s largest Jewish population outside of Israel.

“Israel would not be a country today—100%— if it did not come from foreign funding from the United States,” Reeves said.

“And the United States has continued to invest billions of dollars per year in philanthropic work in Israel,” Reeves added.” “While a lot of that money might sound like it’s going toward archeology and things we all support, it’s actually going to right-wing organizations that are exploiting the archaeology for ideological reasons at the expense of the local Palestinian population.”

While Israeli organizations on the right and the left obtain financial support from the U.S., Reeves pointed out that conservative causes secure substantially more.

“For right-wing people, Israel is their pet project so they’ll put a disproportionate amount of their allocations and philanthropic work toward Israel,” Reeves said.

As an Israeli, though, Reeves’ main concern is how the influx of foreign wealth is subsequently driving the nation’s priorities.

“Coming from an Israeli perspective, how do we feel about the fact that our own politics, media, and country’s agenda is largely influenced by both right-wing Jewish and evangelical funding?” Reeves said. “Imagine if [President Joe] Biden was funded for the most part by outside private donors in foreign countries. It would just be absurd.”

“It’s infringing on our sovereignty and we’re letting it happen.”

How Israel Wages War on Palestinian History

By Jonathan Cook

Source

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When the Palestinian actor Mohammed Bakri made a documentary about Jenin in 2002 – filming immediately after the Israeli army had completed rampaging through the West Bank city, leaving death and destruction in its wake – he chose an unusual narrator for the opening scene: a mute Palestinian youth.

Jenin had been sealed off from the world for nearly three weeks as the Israeli army razed the neighbouring refugee camp and terrorised its population.

Bakri’s film Jenin, Jenin shows the young man hurrying silently between wrecked buildings, using his nervous body to illustrate where Israeli soldiers shot Palestinians and where bulldozers collapsed homes, sometimes on their inhabitants.

It was not hard to infer Bakri’s larger meaning: when it comes to their own story, Palestinians are denied a voice. They are silent witnesses to their own and their people’s suffering and abuse.

The irony is that Bakri has faced just such a fate himself since Jenin, Jenin was released 18 years ago. Today, little is remembered of his film, or the shocking crimes it recorded, except for the endless legal battles to keep it off screens.

Bakri has been tied up in Israel’s courts ever since, accused of defaming the soldiers who carried out the attack. He has paid a high personal price. Deaths threats, loss of work and endless legal bills that have near-bankrupted him. A verdict in the latest suit against him – this time backed by the Israeli attorney general – is expected in the next few weeks.

Bakri is a particularly prominent victim of Israel’s long-running war on Palestinian history. But there are innumerable other examples.

For decades many hundreds of Palestinian residents in the southern West Bank have been fighting their expulsion as Israeli officials characterise them as “squatters”. According to Israel, the Palestinians are nomads who recklessly built homes on land they seized inside an army firing zone.

The villagers’ counter-claims were ignored until the truth was unearthed recently in Israel’s archives.

These Palestinian communities are, in fact, marked on maps predating Israel. Official Israeli documents presented in court last month show that Ariel Sharon, a general-turned-politician, devised a policy of establishing firing zones in the occupied territories to justify mass evictions of Palestinians like these communities in the Hebron Hills.

The residents are fortunate that their claims have been officially verified, even if they still depend on uncertain justice from an Israeli occupiers’ court.

Israel’s archives are being hurriedly sealed up precisely to prevent any danger that records might confirm long-sidelined and discounted Palestinian history.

Last month Israel’s state comptroller, a watchdog body, revealed that more than one million archived documents were still inaccessible, even though they had passed their declassification date. Nonetheless, some have slipped through the net.

The archives have, for example, confirmed some of the large-scale massacres of Palestinian civilians carried out in 1948 – the year Israel was established by dispossessing Palestinians of their homeland.

In one such massacre at Dawaymeh, near where Palestinians are today fighting against their expulsion from the firing zone, hundreds were executed, even as they offered no resistance, to encourage the wider population to flee.

Other files have corroborated Palestinian claims that Israel destroyed more than 500 Palestinian villages during a wave of mass expulsions that same year to dissuade the refugees from trying to return.

Official documents have disproved, too, Israel’s claim that it pleaded with the 750,000 Palestinian refugees to return home. In fact, as the archives reveal, Israel obscured its role in the ethnic cleansing of 1948 by inventing a cover story that it was Arab leaders who commanded Palestinians to leave.

The battle to eradicate Palestinian history does not just take place in the courts and archives. It begins in Israeli schools.

A new study by Avner Ben-Amos, a history professor at Tel Aviv University, shows that Israeli pupils learn almost nothing truthful about the occupation, even though many will soon enforce it as soldiers in a supposedly “moral” army that rules over Palestinians.

Maps in geography textbooks strip out the so-called “Green Line” – the borders demarcating the occupied territories – to present a Greater Israel long desired by the settlers. History and civics classes evade all discussion of the occupation, human rights violations, the role of international law, or apartheid-like local laws that treat Palestinians differently from Jewish settlers living illegally next door.

Instead, the West Bank is known by the Biblical names of “Judea and Samaria”, and its occupation in 1967 is referred to as a “liberation”.

Sadly, Israel’s erasure of Palestinians and their history is echoed outside by digital behemoths such as Google and Apple.

Palestinian solidarity activists have spent years battling to get both platforms to include hundreds of Palestinian communities in the West Bank missed off their maps, under the hashtag #HeresMyVillage. Illegal Jewish settlements, meanwhile, are prioritised on these digital maps.

Another campaign, #ShowTheWall, has lobbied the tech giants to mark on their maps the path of Israel’s 700-kilometre-long steel and concrete barrier, effectively used by Israel to annex occupied Palestinian territory in violation of international law.

And last month Palestinian groups launched yet another campaign, #GoogleMapsPalestine, demanding that the occupied territories be labelled “Palestine”, not just the West Bank and Gaza. The UN recognised the state of Palestine back in 2012, but Google and Apple refused to follow suit.

Palestinians rightly argue that these firms are replicating the kind of disappearance of Palestinians familiar from Israeli textbooks, and that they uphold “mapping segregation” that mirrors Israel’s apartheid laws in the occupied territories.

Today’s crimes of occupation – house demolitions, arrests of activists and children, violence from soldiers, and settlement expansion – are being documented by Israel, just as its earlier crimes were.

Future historians may one day unearth those papers from the Israeli archives and learn the truth. Those Israeli policies were not driven, as Israel claims now, by security concerns, but by a colonial desire to destroy Palestinian society and pressure Palestinians to leave their homeland, to be replaced by Jews.

The lessons for future researchers will be no different from the lessons learnt by their predecessors, who discovered the 1948 documents.

But in truth, we do not need to wait all those years hence. We can understand what is happening to Palestinians right now – simply by refusing to conspire in their silencing. It is time to listen.

How the UK Government Provides Cover for Israel’s Crimes

By Stuart Littlewood

Source

 

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MP Alister Jack has finally replied to my question asking where he and the UK government stand on the threat by Israel to annex more Palestinian territory known as the West Bank. It seems the Government has urged them not to do it.

I doubt if his letter reproduced here, is his own work. It is sprinkled with the humbug and deceit repeated for decades by Tory and Labour governments and was likely penned at least 20 years ago by a Foreign Office scribbler vaccinated with an Israeli embassy gramophone needle. It is still used as a reply template by MPs and ministers who dare not speak their own minds or are plain clueless.

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As usual, Her Majesty’s Government wants “a safe and secure Israel” but only “a viable and sovereign Palestinian state”. What a deplorable statement. Viable means workable in the most meagre sense. And when it comes to safety and security why can’t Mr. Jack be evenhanded? His words (if they are indeed his) express clear racial prejudice favouring the wellbeing and prosperity of one people at the expense of another which, I’d have thought, deserves a sharp rap on the knuckles.

He says there can be no changes to the status quo without a negotiated agreement between the parties. Mr Jack is surely aware that the status quo is itself illegal and breaches umpteen UN resolutions. And why does he feel the Palestinians must ‘negotiate’ their freedom? Picture the scene with the invader holding a gun to the head of the victim whose land the invader has occupied under brutal military control and in defiance of international law for 70+ years. Why is Mr Jack joining his colleagues in calling for more lopsided negotiations instead of pushing for law and justice?

‘Nothing shall be done to prejudice the rights of non-Jewish communities….’ Sorry, forget that.

So many experts are saying that a negotiated two-state solution is impossible. Does anyone seriously think the Israelis will voluntarily give up their ill-gotten territorial gains which are crucial to their Greater Israel dream? The only peaceable way to change their mind is through the persuasive power of BDS and other sanctions. For that reason BDS is under relentless Zionist attack and is fiercely opposed by the servile UK Government. The reason why the West endlessly woffles about ‘negotiations’ is their cowardly failure ever since 1948 to confront Israel’s greedy ambition for expansion and domination. That inconvenient bit in Britain’s 1917 pledge to Rothschild and the Zionist Federation about “it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine” is best forgotten. It’s so much easier for the UK Government to say and do nothing while their Zionist ‘friends’ surreptitiously complete their programme of creeping annexation. And never mind the 70+ years of grief this has caused innocent Palestinians.

Mr Jack refers to Boris Johnson’s article in Yedioth Ahronoth which appeared on the very day Netanyahu was supposed to be carrying out his crazed threat. “Annexation would represent a violation of international law…. I profoundly hope that annexation does not go ahead,” he wrote. “If it does, the UK will not recognize any changes to the 1967 lines, except those agreed between both parties.” But Israel has repeatedly violated international law and repeatedly been rewarded, so why should it care what the UK thinks about boundary changes? They have been changing all the time. Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem (including the Old City) in 1967 was a flagrant breach of international law, and what did the UK or anyone else do about it? “I want to see an outcome that delivers justice for both Israelis and Palestinians,” says Johnson absurdly. He has no interest in justice otherwise he’d be leading the charge for implementing international law and UN resolutions which have already ruled on the issue.

As for Israel’s annexation misfire, it looks like world hostility gave Netanyahu cold feet and he and Trump cast around in desperation for a face-saver. They found it the United Arab Emirates’ ‘MBZ’ with whom they cobbled a deal for full diplomatic relations between Israel and the UAE provided Israel suspended annexation, and this is touted as a triumph. No-one of course insisted on actually abandoning annexation and you can bet the piecemeal ethnic cleansing, destruction of Palestinian homes and confiscation of their lands will continue unabated.

Mr. Jack then says he’s proud that the UK supports UNRWA and is providing £34.5 million funding this year.  If the Palestinians were allowed their universal right to freedom of movement and self-determination in their homeland there’d be no need to keep throwing our tax money at agencies like UNRWA. It’s scandalous that money for our own schools and hospitals has been diverted to subsidise Israel’s long-running programme of thieving, collective punishment, dispossession and the trashing of the Palestinian economy.

Mr Jack goes on to say: “The UK’s position on Israeli settlements is clear.” Well no, it isn’t. They are illegal and even constitute a war crime yet the UK Government doesn’t mind if companies or individuals profiteer from using and endorsing those squats to the detriment of the Palestinians. And he seems to agree with his government’s opposition to the UN’s business and human rights database. Back in March 2016, UN Human Rights Council resolution 31/36 mandated the High Commissioner’s Office to produce a database of all businesses engaged in activities related to Israel’s settlement enterprise and having implications for the rights of the Palestinian people. Fair enough, you might think. But a year ago 103 local, regional and international organizations felt it necessary to call on the High Commissioner to release the Database expressing deep concern that the document and names of the companies facilitating the settlement programme had been withheld from circulation for 3 years due to political pressure. In the meantime the Israeli government had escalated the construction of new squats and broadcast its intention to formally annex parts of the West Bank in further violation of international law.

“The Database will bring an important degree of transparency on the activities of businesses which contravene rules and principles of international humanitarian and human rights law as a result of their operations in or with illegal Israeli settlements,” they said.

Amnesty International commented: “Naming the businesses which profit in the context of this illegal situation sends a clear message from the international community that settlements must never be normalized. These companies are profiting from and contributing to systematic violations against Palestinians.”

And Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights said: “The UK Government abstained on the vote of this Human Rights Council resolution in March 2016…. It was the only state to declare that the database was ‘inappropriate’ and that ‘it would not co-operate in the process’ of its implementation.” LPHR felt that the reasons given for the Government’s position “did not individually or cumulatively amount to an adequate basis for justifiably opposing the UN Database”. One such reason was that the UK Government thought the Human Rights Council should focus on states rather than private companies. LPHR says this contradicts the UK’s earlier agreement, along with the rest of the international community, that companies as well as states have vital responsibilities in protecting and advancing respect for human rights.

I won’t trouble Mr Jack for an explanation for all this. It’s enough that voters and campaigners are aware of the skullduggery.

On Israel’s Bizarre Definitions: The West Bank is Already Annexed

By Ramzy Baroud

Source

The truth is that Israel rarely behaves as an ‘Occupying Power’, but as a sovereign in a country where racial discrimination and apartheid are not only tolerated or acceptable but are, in fact, ‘legal’ as well.

Wednesday, July 1, was meant to be the day on which the Israeli government officially annexed 30% of the occupied Palestinian West Bank and the Jordan Valley. This date, however, came and went and annexation was never actualized.

“I don’t know if there will be a declaration of sovereignty today,” said Israeli Foreign Minister, Gabi Ashkenazi, with reference to the self-imposed deadline declared earlier by Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. An alternative date was not immediately announced.

But does it really matter?

Whether Israel’s illegal appropriation of Palestinian land takes place with massive media fanfare and a declaration of sovereignty, or whether it happens incrementally over the course of the coming days, weeks, and months, Israel has, in reality, already annexed the West Bank – not just 30% of it but, in fact, the whole area.

It is critical that we understand such terms as ‘annexation’, ‘illegal’, ‘military occupation’, and so on, in their proper contexts.

For example, international law deems that all of Israel’s Jewish settlements, constructed anywhere on Palestinian land occupied during the 1967 war, are illegal.

Interestingly, Israel, too, uses the term ‘illegal’ with reference to settlements, but only to ‘outposts’ that have been erected in the occupied territories without the permission of the Israeli government.

In other words, while in the Israeli lexicon the vast majority of all settlement activities in occupied Palestine are ‘legal’, the rest can only be legalized through official channels. Indeed, many of today’s ‘legal’ 132 settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem, housing over half a million Israeli Jewish settlers, began as ‘illegal outposts’.

Though this logic may satisfy the need of the Israeli government to ensure its relentless colonial project in Palestine follows a centralized blueprint, none of this matters in international law.

Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Conventions states that “Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive”, adding that “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”

Israel has violated its commitment to international law as an ‘Occupying Power’ on numerous occasions, rendering its very ‘occupation’ of Palestine, itself, a violation of how military occupations are conducted – which are meant to be temporary, anyway.

Military occupation is different from annexation. The former is a temporary transition, at the end of which the ‘Occupying Power’ is expected, in fact, demanded, to relinquish its military hold on the occupied territory after a fixed length of time. Annexation, on the other hand, is a stark violation of the Geneva Conventions and the Hague Regulations. It is tantamount to a war crime, for the occupier is strictly prohibited from proclaiming unilateral sovereignty over occupied land.

The international uproar generated by Netanyahu’s plan to annex a third of the West Bank is fully understandable. But the bigger issue at stake is that, in practice, Israel’s violations of the terms of occupation have granted it a de facto annexation of the whole of the West Bank.

So when the European Union, for example, demands that Israel abandons its annexation plans, it is merely asking Israel to re-embrace the status quo ante, that of de facto annexation. Both abhorring scenarios should be rejected.

Israel began utilizing the occupied territories as if they are contiguous and permanent parts of so-called Israel proper, immediately following the June 1967 war. Within a few years, it erected illegal settlements, now thriving cities, eventually moving hundreds of thousands of its own citizens to populate the newly acquired areas.

This exploitation became more sophisticated with time, as Palestinians were subjected to slow, but irreversible, ethnic cleansing. As Palestinian homes were destroyed, farms confiscated, and entire regions depopulated, Jewish settlers moved in to take their place. The post-1967 scenario was a repeat of the post-1948 history, which led to the establishment of the State of Israel on the ruins of historic Palestine.

Moshe Dayan, who served as Israel’s Defense Minister during the 1967 war, explained the Israeli logic best in a historical address at Israel’s Technion University in March 1969. “We came to this country which was already populated by Arabs, and we are establishing a Hebrew, that is a Jewish state here,” he said.

“Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you, because these geography books no longer exist; not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there, either … There is no one place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population,” he added.

The same colonial approach was applied to East Jerusalem and the West Bank after the war. While East Jerusalem was formally annexed in 1980, the West Bank was annexed in practice, but not through a clear legal Israeli proclamation. Why? In one word: demographics.

When Israel first occupied East Jerusalem, it went on a population transfer frenzy: moving its own population to the Palestinian city, strategically expanding the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem to include as many Jews and as few Palestinians as possible, slowly reducing the Palestinian population of Al Quds through numerous tactics, including the revocation of residency and outright ethnic cleansing.

And, thus, Jerusalem’s Palestinian population, which once constituted the absolute majority, has now been reduced to a dwindling minority.

The same process was initiated in parts of the West Bank, but due to the relatively large size of the area and population, it was not possible to follow a similar annexation stratagem without jeopardizing Israel’s drive to maintain Jewish majority.

Dividing the West Bank into Areas A, B, and C as a result of the disastrous Oslo accords, has given Israel a lifeline, for this allowed it to increase settlement activities in Area C – nearly 60% of the West Bank – without stressing too much about demographic imbalances. Area C, where the current annexation plan is set to take place, is ideal for Israeli colonialism, for it includes Palestine’s most arable, resource-rich, and sparsely populated lands.

It matters little whether the annexation will have a set date or will take place progressively through Israel’s declarations of sovereignty over smaller chunks of the West Bank in the future. The fact is, annexation is not a new Israeli political agenda dictated by political circumstances in Tel Aviv and Washington. Rather, annexation has been the ultimate Israeli colonial objective from the very onset.

Let us not get entangled in Israel’s bizarre definitions. The truth is that Israel rarely behaves as an ‘Occupying Power’, but as a sovereign in a country where racial discrimination and apartheid are not only tolerated or acceptable but are, in fact, ‘legal’ as well.

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