‘Today They Took My Son’–a film by Farah Nabulsi

Posted on January 31, 2017

A new film, soon to be released by Farah Nabulsi, the daughter of diaspora Palestinians. In June of 2016, Nabulsi launched OceansofInjustice.com , a project in which she brought together a website and a short film with the aim of drawing attention to the many injustices faced by Palestinians, especially children. Now in 2017, she hopes to raise awareness even further with this, her second short film, “Today They Took My Son.”

A screening is set to be held in London on February 5, 2017. You can find out more about it here.

Saudi, U.S., NATO genocide in Yemen threatens lives of 18 million Yemenis

RSFP

The United Nation’s aid chief has warned that Yemen is facing the risk of all-out famine this year… Warning, you may find the images in the follwing reports disturbing.

 

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Sweeping House Demolitions: ‘A Declaration of War Against the Arab Community’

January 17, 2017 4:06 AM

Palestinians protest the demolition of eleven homes in Qalansuwa by taking to the streets and launching a general strike.


Alternative Information Center (AIC), Beit Sahour

Leaders of the Palestinian community in present-day Israel announced a general strike as hundreds of Palestinians took to the streets in protest of the demolition of 11 houses in the town of Qalansuwa.

The strike was observed in Nazareth, Umm al-Fahm, Haifa as well as Qalansuwa.

The Joint List, a coalition of primarily Palestinian parties that is the third largest bloc in the Israeli Knesset, condemned the demolitions.“The act of demolishing 11 houses, whose owners built on their private lands in Qalansuwa, is an unprecedented crime and a declaration of war against the residents of Qalansuwa and against the Arab community in Israel,” the party said in a statement. “The Arab public will not stand idle by this policy and will defend the right to fair and safe housing.”

Joint List MK Dr. Yousef Jabareen added:

“The source of this issue lies in the institutional, planning, and legal barriers forcing the Arab citizens to build without a permit as a last resort to ensure a basic right of shelter. It is inhuman and immoral to push the Arab citizens into choosing between two terrible decisions: either remain homeless or build without a formal permit.”

Joint List MK Jamal Zahalka said, in reference to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “We suggested negotiation to solve the problem of unlicensed houses, but the government sent bulldozers to demolish them, leaving us no choice but to defend our homes.”

Another demonstration is planned for Friday in Qalansuwa. Protestors will gather at the Rabat Mosque and march in the direction of the demolished homes.

The High Follow-Up Committee for Arabs in Israel is planning further actions to upset Israel’s discriminatory city planning regime in coordination with the mayor of Qalansuwa and Joint List MKs.

Also in Human Interest — 12/25/16 DCI Report: Children in West Bank Face Deadliest Year of Past Decade

 

Palestine news

Palestinian Mayor Resigns After Israelis Demolish 10 Homes in His Town

[ Ed. note – Qalansawe is an Arab town located within pre-1967 Israel, though adjacent to the Green Line ]

Ma’an News

QALANSAWE (Ma’an) — Israeli authorities demolished 10 homes belonging to Palestinian citizens of Israel in the city of Qalansawe in central Israel on Tuesday morning, prompting a defeated mayor to resign after Israeli authorities refused for decades to approve the city’s master plan.

Local sources told Ma’an the devastating demolition campaign sparked clashes between Israeli police and residents.

Mayor Abd al-Basit Mansour visited the area along with members of the municipal council and announced he would resign from his post, as Israeli bulldozers razed the homes to ground.

Mansour told reporters that, “We have been waiting for approval of a master plan for twenty years, but our request fell on deaf ears.”

“As head of Qalansawe municipality, who doesn’t have the power to change anything, I decided to send my resignation to the ministry of interior.”

Dozens of locals crowded in the area in an attempt to prevent bulldozers from demolishing the structures, but Israeli police officers dispersed them.

One homeowner described the demolition as part of Israel’s policy of “oppression, injustices, and displacement.”

Qalansawe resident Ashraf Abu Ali criticized leaders of Palestinian communities in Israel. “What have they done to prevent demolitions in the Arab communities?” he asked, asserting that Palestinian citizens of Israel will “remain under threat as long as master plans and allocating land for construction are dealt with so recklessly.”

Another owner of one of the demolished houses Hassuna Makhlouf said he held Qalansawe’s mayor responsible, along with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

He told Ma’an that Israeli police officers treated homeowners “violently” during the demolition raid.

Continued here

First week of 2017: israel demolishes homes of 151 Palestinians, almost four times last year’s average

First week of 2017: Israel demolishes homes of 151 Palestinians, almost four times last year’s average

The IDF’s Civil Administration is carrying out Netanyahu’s vow to demolish the homes of Arabs with a vengeance.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s promise to settlers from the unauthorized outpost of Amona to enforce the law “equally” by demolishing the homes of Arabs is being strictly fulfilled.

The number of Palestinian buildings demolished in the first week of January 2017 is almost four times as high as the weekly average for 2016: 20 structures. In 2015, the average was 10 structures a week, according to the records of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

In Area C, which is under full Israeli civil and security control, between Monday and Thursday the Israel Defense Forces’ Civil Administration demolished 65 structures in Palestinian communities, and seven rainwater cisterns. The Jerusalem Municipality demolished another two homes in East Jerusalem. Some 151 people, including 90 children, lived in the buildings that were demolished.

On Monday, the day on which the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee discussed a proposal to annex the city of Ma’aleh Adumim (east of Jerusalem) to Israel, the Civil Administration and IDF forces demolished 12 tin and wood shacks – including eight used for living purposes – in two Bedouin communities from the Jahalin tribe south of the settlement; three shacks in Bir al-Maskub; and nine in Wadi Sneysel. In total, 84 people, 68 of whom are children, lost the roofs over their heads within just a few hours.

Last August, the Civil Administration demolished structures in these communities. But the residents have nowhere else to live and were forced to build new shacks. In the 1990s, dozens of families from the Jahalin tribe were expelled from the area in order to allow the expansion of the settlement.

On Tuesday, the Civil Administration demolished 49 structures in Khirbet Tana in the northwestern part of the Jordan Valley: 13 residential structures, 9 portable toilets and the rest various agricultural buildings. Twenty-eight adults and 22 children lost their homes because of the demolitions. Another 71 people were affected by the destruction of the agricultural structures.

Some 40 families (250 men and women) live in this ancient village of caves, east of the village of Beit Furik. In four previous raids last year, the Civil Administration demolished 150 shacks, sheep pens, tents and various sanitary structures – as well as a school that had been built thanks to European contributions. During the raid on Tuesday, a work stoppage order was also presented for the new school, which is again being constructed with European donations. The High Court of Justice had dismissed a petition of the residents of Khirbet Tana against the order to permanently evacuate their homes, but the residents have built simple new dwellings and a school because they refuse to leave the village where their families lived long before 1948, and before the IDF declared the area a firing zone.

On Wednesday, a large army force raided the lands of the village of Tekoa, southeast of Bethlehem. Here, the Civil Administration bulldozers demolished seven rainwater cisterns and another three sheds used for agricultural purposes. The head of the village council told Haaretz that one of the cisterns was dug some 25 years ago, while the others were dug more recently. Some 180 people depend on these cisterns for their livelihood. And Thursday morning, the Civil Administration demolished an agricultural structure in the village of Jinsafut, east of Qalqilyah in the West Bank.

In mid-December, the Civil Administration told Haaretz that it was holding 11 agricultural machines, mostly tractors, that were confiscated from Palestinian farmers after the IDF turned their lands in the northern Jordan Valley into a firing zone.

The Palestinians must pay the Civil Administration a ransom of a few thousand shekels to release each tractor, and make a commitment not to commit the “offense” a second time. In 2016, only two tractors were released after payment was made. In addition to their agricultural uses, the tractors also aid in transporting water to the residents and their livestock, from the springs that are located a few kilometers away from the sheds. Israel does not allow the Palestinian communities in areas under its control to connect to the water infrastructure.

Another tractor was confiscated from farmers in the northern Jordan Valley on December 21, after they tried to reach their lands on the east side of Highway 90 (named after that preacher of Palestinian population transfer, former Minister Rehavam Ze’evi).

In the final three months of 2016, the IDF conducted 20 live-fire training drills on the land of the Palestinian communities in the northern Jordan Valley. According to the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, these drills meant about 220 people – including some 100 minors from the communities of Al-Ras al-Ahmar, Khirbet Khumsa and Abzik – were ordered to temporarily leave their homes on 19 different occasions.

In the village of Al-Farisiyah, which was not evacuated, the army forbade the residents to graze their sheep on the nearby lands, then trained on the cultivated fields and even placed mobile toilets on them, B’Tselem reported. In addition, the troops cleared part of the land in the area to make it easier for military vehicles to pass, and in doing so caused additional damage to the agricultural lands.

The IDF Spokesman’s Office told Haaretz that the “firing zones in the Jordan Valley in particular, and in the area of Judea and Samaria in general, were declared firing zones with an order under the authority of the military commander of the region back in the 1970s, based on security needs. Residents found in these firing zones are doing so in violation of the law.

“Before every military drill, actions are taken whose purpose is to prevent bodily harm or damage to property, such as conducting lookouts, patrols, placing security and dialoguing with the residents of the area through the Civil Administration. During the drills, the residents are requested to leave the exercise area. The actions mentioned in response were approved through the Supreme Court in petitions that were filed in similar matters,” said the IDF Spokesman’s Office.

Dafna Banai of Machsom Watch reported on Tuesday, December 20, 2016: “All tracks connecting the Palestinian Jordan Valley with the West Bank localities of Aqraba, Beit Furik and Tubas are now blocked with earth mounds, ditches, huge boulders and locked gates. Even those opened in the past few years have now been blocked again.”

“Only Gokhia Gate, which separates the Jordan Valley from Nablus and Tubas, is open today [since Sunday, according to local residents]. All of a sudden, there are no ‘security grounds,’ no ‘danger to Palestinians because the area is used for maneuvers’ – of all times, when the maneuvers are on, the gate is open (to enable war machines free passage without delay every time it has to be opened and closed). Near the gate, three armored vehicles and bored soldiers are seen. A military exercise is taking place again in the Palestinian Jordan Valley. We entered Al-Ras al-Ahmar, but couldn’t get through beyond the first encampment because of the thick mud. It was raining heavily this morning and the entire region turned into one big swamp,” she wrote.

“From 12 noon until 4:30 P.M., the road ascending to Tyassir and the rest of the West Bank was blocked because of the army’s maneuvers. Long lines of Palestinian vehicles were seen from Al-Malih, where two bored soldiers were stopping traffic. The soldiers had no idea when the road would be open again,” reported Banai.

“The Palestinians, mostly men, day workers on their way home from their work in the settlements – were loafing around on the road, smoking. Some asked us to ask the soldiers to let them get home – here, there, 200 meters away in Al-Burj. But the soldiers claimed they had orders not to let anyone through, no exceptions. We were also in phone contact with Mahdi, who was on the other [western] side of the blockage, and he spoke of long waiting lines there as well. Worst of all – school and kindergarten children (like 5-year-old Rina) had to wait on the road for 4.5 hours! They roamed around among the APCs, begging the soldiers for some food; they hadn’t had anything to eat since morning,” she wrote

PCHR Weekly Report: 67 civilians abducted, including 10 children; one woman shot and wounded

08 JAN
1:55 AM

In its Weekly Report On Israeli Human Rights Violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories for the week of 29 Dec. 2016 – 04 Jan 2017, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) found that Israeli forces continued systematic crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Israeli forces conducted 74 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank and a limited one in the Gaza Strip. 67 civilians, including 10 children, were abducted. 10 of them, including 6 children, were abducted in occupied Jerusalem.

Israeli attacks in the West Bank:

In the West Bank, Israeli forces stationed at Qalandia checkpoint at the northern entrance to occupied Jerusalem opened fire at Jihan Hashimah (35) from al-‘Issawiya village, northeast of the city. As a result, she was hit with 3 bullets to the leg and then abducted. The aforementioned woman was walking near the cars track when she was shot. Israeli forces claimed she had a knife.

During the reporting period, Israeli forces conducted at least 74 military incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. During these incursions, Israeli forces abducted at least 67 Palestinian civilians, including 10 children. Ten of them, including 6 children, were abducted in occupied Jerusalem. Moreover, two civilians were abducted while participating in Kufor Qaddoum weekly protest in addition to arresting the wounded woman at Qalendia checkpoint. Therefore, during this week, the number of abducted civilians mounted to 70, including 10 children and a wounded woman.

On 02 January 2017, in light of the cold and rainy weather during these days, Israeli forces and their heavy equipment demolished 11 dwellings built of tin plates belonging to al-Jahalin Bedouin family in Sneisel Valley area in al-Khan al-Ahmar, east of occupied Jerusalem, rendering 87 individuals homeless. Most of them were children and women.

On 04 January 2017, Israeli municipality bulldozers demolished a house comprised of two apartments belonging to ‘Adnan Shweiki in Sho’afat neighbourhood, north of occupied Jerusalem. The 300-square-meter house sheltered two families comprised of 14 members, including 10 children, with a rental contract.

On the same day, Israeli municipality bulldozers demolished a house belonging to the family of ‘Amer ‘Ebeido in Beit Hanina village, north of the city. The two-storey house sheltered two families of 8 members, including a child.

Dozens of temporary checkpoints were established in the West Bank and others were re-established to obstruct the movement of Palestinian civilians. 2 Palestinian civilians, one of them was a child, were abducted at military checkpoints.

Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip:

In the Gaza Strip, in the context of targeting fishermen in the Sea, on 01 January 2017, Israeli gunboats opened fire at Palestinian fishermen, northwest of Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip, and chased them. The shooting recurred in the same area on 03 January 2017 and on 04 January 2017 in the western side of Jabalia. The boats were sailing in those incidents within 3 nautical miles. However, neither causalities nor damages to the boats were reported.

On 04 January 2017, an Israeli gunboat hit a fishing boat manned by Mohammed al-Hessi (33) from al-Shati’ refugee camp. As a result, the boat capsized and the fisherman is so far missed. The boat was sailing within 5 nautical miles off al-Soudaniyah shore in the northern Gaza Strip.

In the context of targeting the border areas, on 01 January 2017, Israeli forces stationed along the border fence between the Gaza Strip and Israel opened fire at agricultural fields to the west of the fence. The shooting recurred on 01 January 2017. No casualties were reported.

The illegal closure of the Gaza Strip, which has been steadily tightened since June 2007 has had a disastrous impact on the humanitarian and economic situation in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli authorities impose measures to undermine the freedom of trade, including the basic needs for the Gaza Strip population and the agricultural and industrial products to be exported. For 9 consecutive years, Israel has tightened the land and naval closure to isolate the Gaza Strip from the West Bank, including occupied Jerusalem, and other countries around the world. This resulted in grave violations of the economic, social and cultural rights and a deterioration of living conditions for 2 million people. The Israeli authorities have established Karm Abu Salem (Kerem Shaloum) as the sole crossing for imports and exports in order to exercise its control over the Gaza Strip’s economy. They also aim at imposing a complete ban on the Gaza Strip’s exports. The Israeli closure raised the rate of poverty to 65%. Moreover, the rate of unemployment increased up to 47% and youth constitutes 65% of the unemployed persons. Moreover, 80% of the Gaza Strip population depends on international aid to secure their minimum daily needs. These rates indicate the unprecedented economic deterioration in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli settlement activities:

Israeli Settlement activities continued in the West Bank. On 03 January 2017, Israeli forces and its heavy equipment demolished 14 dwellings and 22 other facilities in Kherbet Tana, east of Beit Foriq village, east of Nablus. Those facilities belong to 15 families comprised of 86 members, including 33 children. It should be mentioned that the Israeli forces demolished dwellings in Kherbet Tana 4 times before in 2016 in order to Empty them of their original inhabitants and seize them under the pretext that they are located within Area C.

Israeli attacks against non-violent demonstrations:

Israeli troops engaged in the use of excessive force against peaceful demonstrations protesting settlement activities and the construction of the annexation wall.

Following the Friday prayer, on 30 December 2016, dozens of Palestinian civilians and Israeli and international human rights defenders organized demonstrations in Bil’in and Ni’lin villages, west of Ramallah, and al-Nabi Saleh village, northwest of the city, protesting against the annexation wall and settlement activities. Israeli forces forcibly dispersed the protests, firing live and metal bullets, tear gas canisters and sound bombs. They also chased the protesters into olive fields and between houses. As a result, many of the protesters suffered tear gas inhalation while others sustained bruises as Israeli soldiers beat them up. Israeli forces also abducted Jamil al-Barghuthi (45) from Deir Abu Mash’al, northwest of Ramallah, and Ghaleb Helmi Shtaiwi (25) from Kafer Qadoum village, while both were participating in the weekly demonstration of Kafer Qadoum village.

Recommendations to the international community:

Due to the number and severity of Israeli human rights violations this week, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) called on the international community to follow certain recommendations. Among these were a recommendation that the international community act to stop all Israeli settlement expansion activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories through imposing sanctions on Israeli settlements and criminalizing trading with them.

In addition, PCHR calls upon the United Nations to confirm that holding war criminals accountable in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is a precondition to achieve stability and peace in the regions, and that peace cannot be built at the expense of human rights.

Click here for the full text of the report.

Palestine news

2016–Not Exactly a Gay, Carefree Year

hindoyan

Mireille Hindoyan, a Syrian champion swimmer, was killed in a rocket attack launched by terrorists on September 30 in Aleppo. Her 12-year-old brother Arman also died in the attack.

By Richard Edmondson

Podesta–Pizzagate–Aleppo–Palmyra–Saudi war crimes in Yemen–Israeli settlements–Brexit–Brazillian coup–fake news–dust boy in ambulance–sexist Trump–crooked Hillary–these are just some of the trending terms that made 2016 a year to remember…or maybe better yet one to forget.

But of course how often have we heard the old adage, “those who forget history are doomed to repeat it”? So lest we fall prey to the ominous, horrifying thought of repeating 2016, maybe we should take a few moments to review “the year that was,” so to speak.

If we added up all the gallons of blood shed this year–from wars in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and elsewhere–along with the amount cascading and flowing from shootings in the United States plus terror attacks in Europe, across Turkey, parts of Africa, and Orlando, Florida–we’d have an amount of blood so voluminous it likely would fill up a river running 50 miles or more.

In terms of terror attacks alone, you can go here to find an interesting interactive map of the world that shows locations where attacks occurred in 2016. Click a location and out will pop details about the incident that occurred there. Or rather I should say incidents plural, since some places were the scene of multiple attacks. Aden Yemen, for instance, experienced 26 terror attacks in 2016 and a total of 389 fatalities. (Note: the mapmakers do not include Saudi airstrikes as terror attacks. The number is limited solely to attacks carried out by Islamic State, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or by “unknown” parties.)

Worldwide, as of this writing, the number of attacks comes to 1,805 for the entire year, piling up a total of 15,910 fatalities, with probably the largest number recorded in Syria. Aleppo alone shows 25 attacks and 431 fatalities, although that sounds to me like a very conservative figure (and surely worth noting is the mapmakers’ admission to getting their data from Wikipedia), considering the many reports we heard of artillery shells fired from the eastern part of the city, with countless attacks as well upon people attempting to flee the terrorist-held zones.

But in any event, we should ask ourselves an important question here: what is the reason for all this? Why is it 2016 was such a gruesome and bloody year? The short answer–and sometimes short answers are the best–is that a small number of countries, including the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia, have been hell-bent on regime change in one country or another. And if there is one thing we might desire some day to see–possibly in 2017, although I’m not getting my hopes up–it would be that any attempt by any country to destabilize or overthrow the government of another should be labeled a war crime, or perhaps more precisely, a crime against peace, for that is what it is.

As I say, though, I’m not hopeful we’ll see anything like this, at least in 2017. And until we have such a ban in place–with strict enforcement and prosecution of actual violators by an International Court of some sort–then the Middle East is likely to remain a festering sore for the time being. Given that this is the case, let’s turn our attention to the longest-running festering sore in the region, which of course would be the conflict between the Palestinians and Israel.

The Nakba Turns 68

Back in early May, just as Palestinians were about to mark the 68th anniversary of their Nakba (“catastrophe”), it was reported that Israeli officials were having anxiety attacks about a soon-to-be-released report by the Middle East Quartet addressing the issue of stalled peace talks and the rather bleak prospects for a two-state solution. The Quartet consists of the UN, the US, the EU, and Russia–and Israel was said to be perspiring over the thought that the report might focus on settlements as being the chief obstacle to peace.

“The main question is how harsh criticism of the settlements will be,” said an unidentified Israeli official who was quoted by Haaretz–and it was reported that Israel was engaged in extensive lobbying in order to “soften” the tone of the report.

Apparently (surprise! surprise!) the lobbying campaign was successful. When the Quartet report came out on July 1, its comments about the settlements were tepid and offset by denunciations of  “terrorist acts” and “incitement to violence” committed by the subject Palestinians. I put up a post at the time entitled Quartet Issues Wishy-Washy Report on Israeli Occupation.

But by Christmas, the UN was in a different frame of mind, the Security Council adopting–by a vote of 14-0 with one abstention–a resolution “condemning all measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967,” and defining such measures as including “the construction and expansion of settlements, transfer of Israeli settlers, confiscation of land, demolition of homes and displacement of Palestinian civilians.” Furthermore, the resolution pronounced such measures “in violation of international humanitarian law and relevant resolutions.”

There was also some language calling upon “both parties” to act according to international law and to “refrain from provocative actions, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric,” but clearly the harshest criticism in the resolution was reserved for Israel rather than the Palestinians. Or to put it another way, this was the criticism the Israelis had feared in the Quartet Report but which they had been able to  avoid and squelch through their lobbying efforts.

So what happened? What led the UN to make such a striking U-turn in such a short time? The Quartet Report, keep in mind, was issued on July 1. The Security Council resolution was passed on December 23. That’s not a lot of time. And many of the same governments either cast votes or had influence in both actions. What might account for such a turnabout?

Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, accused the Obama administration of being secretly behind the resolution, claiming to have “absolute” proof of such, though without presenting any. To be sure, the US cast the lone vote of abstention, and of course heaping blame upon America and bellowing out fire and brimstone over an alleged “betrayal” helps deflect some of the heat off Israel which otherwise would accrue to the Jewish state over its policies.

But even if the US did secretly back the measure, it’s doubtful that Western countries holding seats on the Security Council would have gone along with it but for the fact that patience with Israel is rapidly running out in much of the world. After all, France, the UK, Spain, and Japan all voted for the resolution.

Moreover, it’s probably a safe bet that actions committed by Israel–both by its leaders as well as its security forces–have contributed considerably to this waning of support. And in 2016, the world witnessed some pretty grotesque behavior by Israelis, including the execution of a critically injured Palestinian by an Israeli soldier and the later elevation of that soldier to the status of national hero.

The incident I’m referring to took place on March 24, which happened to be the Jewish holiday of Purim in Israel, and was captured on video. What the footage shows is Abdul Sharif, 21, lying on his back on a street in Hebron, when Elior Azaria, an Israeli soldier, steps forward and fires a bullet into his head. Sharif and another Palestinian, Ramzi Aziz Qasrawi, had allegedly carried out a stabbing attack earlier against another Israeli soldier, who apparently was only superficially wounded and who can be seen being tended to by paramedics at one point in the video.

The video immediately went viral worldwide. For this reason, and probably no other, Azaria was arrested, but it was clear from the start that the Israeli public was outraged–not at the killing that had occurred but that the soldier had even been arrested for it at all!

The timeline of events leading up to the shooting was kind of interesting. On March 15, just nine days before Sharif’s execution, Israel announced it had seized 579 acres of Palestinian land near the Dead Sea for construction of Jewish settlements as well as tourism enterprises. It was the largest confiscation in recent years. Two days later, on March 17, the land appropriation was condemned by the EU, but then on March 21, a brand new land grab was announced, of approximately 296 additional acres, near Nablus.

Then came the brutal killing in Hebron. Much of the world’s attention at the time was focused on Belgium, which had experience a bloody terrorist attack just the day before, but the video that emerged from Hebron was so shocking it even managed to upstage the images from Brussels.

On Friday, the day after the shooting, Ma’an News reported that the Palestinian cameraman who had shot the video had become the target of threats and harassment. Meanwhile, Aymen Odeh, a Palestinian member of the Israeli Knessett, tweeted that “Israel has turned in recent months into a place in which executions are carried out in public with the encouragement of cheering mobs.”

hebronmurder

Azaria was charged with manslaughter, not murder, but even the lesser charge clearly was too much for the Israeli public. On April 19, several thousand Israelis rallied in his support in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv. It was an event marked by speeches and much flag waving, and Odeh’s words seemed to be borne out when a woman, in what became almost an iconic photograph, was observed holding a sign reading “Kill them all.”

 photo c60b1f1d-df7a-4243-8f64-a0d0ebe1bd9b_zpshdgaoigu.jpg

To say that Azaria was treated “humanely” by the Israeli judicial system would be an understatement. On Friday, April 22, the murderer was released from custody so that he might go home and spend Passover with his family.

 photo axreleased_zps3bw6u3wu.jpg

His trial on the manslaughter charge finally got under way in May, but as the year comes to a close a verdict still has not been reached in the case.

BDS Under Fire

2016 also saw an expansion of attacks against the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement–in a number of countries and perhaps particularly in the US. Two states in particular, New York and California, ramped up the fight.

In California, Assembly bill 2844 was introduced prohibiting the state from contracting with any business engaged in a boycott of Israel. Backed by two lawmakers in the main, Travis Allen and Richard Bloom, the bill passed the state’s Judiciary Committee on April 19–the same day Israelis were holding their rally in support of Azaria–a confluence of events I made note of in a post entitled Ruled by the Insane:

“It is always the right time to fight against discrimination and hate speech, and today the Republicans are honored to stand strong in this bipartisan fight,” said state Assemblyman Travis Allen, who supports the bill.

So pause and consider: here we have Israeli citizens gathering in large numbers to issue a call for mass murder–but in this California lawmaker’s view, the parties guilty of “hate speech” are those participating in a boycott of Israel. The irony is certainly not lost upon the sane (or that is to say, the dwindling percentage of Americans who still fall into the “sane” category), but of course looking for sanity in the US political sphere these days is about like searching for a needle in a haystack…

Allen, by the way, isn’t Jewish. He’s a Christian Zionist (he reportedly refers to the West Bank as “Judea and Samaria”), but in his ardent support for Israel, the Yahweh-fearing Mr. Allen seems to have few peers. It’s nice that Bloom and Allen, one being Democrat the other a Republican, were able to overcome their political differences, although of course in US politics love of Israel is a “bipartisan” issue.

The bill was signed into law by California Governor Jerry Brown on September 24, after being approved in the State Assembly by a vote of 69-1 and passing the Senate by 34-1.

In New York, the story was similar, although Governor Andrew Cuomo sidestepped the state’s legislature and simply signed an executive order. But the net effect was much the same. Executive order 157, signed on June 5, mandates the drawing up of a list of businesses or other entities engaged in a boycott against Israel, directing state agencies to cease doing business with such concerns. In a post on the matter I made note of a particularly heavy irony involved: Cuomo previously had basically endorsed a boycott of North Carolina over its transgender restroom law. So here was the governor of New York–basically lending his support of a boycott against another US state but attempting to penalize anyone calling for a boycott of Israel.

War and Peace

The Syrian war raged on throughout 2016, exacting its usual toll in blood, although some very welcomed news came at two different points in the year– the first being the liberation of Palmyra on March 27, Easter Sunday, followed by the liberation of the entire city of Aleppo earlier this month, just in time for Christmas, and which gave rise to a joyous Christmas celebration in that maimed and battered city. It may be only a coincidence, but the occurrence of these two wonderful developments and their coinciding with two Christian holidays gives us pause for thought.

Of course a lot of death and a lot of tears came with it. In the liberation of Palmyra a heroic sacrifice was made by Aleksandr Prochorenko, a Russian Special Operations Officer who had been sent into Palmyra to identify ISIS positions and to pass their coordinates along to command for airstrikes. On the night of March 15-16 Prochorenko found himself surrounded by terrorists. Rather than allow himself to be captured, he called in an airstrike–on himself and his attackers.

He was remembered in his hometown of Gorodki, where he was hailed as a hero and where he left behind his wife, Ekaterina, who was pregnant with their first child.

prochorenko3

Prochorenko was also remembered in Palmyra, the ancient city he gave his life to liberate, where the St. Petersburg Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra performed in concert on May 5. The concert was given in Prochorenko’s memory as well as in memory of Khaled al-Assad, the esteemed Syrian archaeologist and Palmyra resident who had been captured by ISIS and killed the previous year.

alassad

The liberation of Aleppo, too, came at great cost, and it may well be the people of Aleppo who have suffered most in this conflict. On September 30, an artillery shell fired from eastern Aleppo tore into the mostly Armenian neighborhood of Villi, in the government-controlled area of the city, killing a champion Syrian swimmer, Mireille Hindoyan, and her younger brother Arman.

Truth is usually the first casualty in war, and this has been especially true in the year 2016. When Western media got hold of Mireille’s story, they immediately tried to portray her death as the result of a Russian airstrike–but as I reported in a post here, this prompted a Twitter storm over the dishonest reporting. RT set the record straight in a report that included an interview with the girl’s mother:

In my own post on the story, I commented:

It was last month that John Kerry famously accused Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov of living in a “parallel universe.” The US Secretary of State of course got it backwards. The alternate reality is the one he and other US officials are surfing in. Millions of Americans, in fact, are hopelessly entrapped in this alternate reality, this parallel universe, and I am not optimistic they will find their way out anytime soon.

The lies told over the Syrian war have been legion. A few other giant whoppers about Syria that came out in 2016 were the “dust boy in the ambulance story” that sent Western media into a frenzy in August; the travails of a purported 7-year-old girl named “Bana Alabed,” who began posting tweets in perfect English in September; and of course the saga of the White Helmets, the faux “Syria Civil Defense” outfit who had a Netflix movie made about them but got passed over for a Nobel Prize in October.

Additional lies on Syria in 2016:

  • that the Syrian Army was blocking humanitarian aid to Aleppo
  • that the rebels in eastern Aleppo were “moderates”
  • that the Syrian Army was committing atrocities and causing a “meltdown of humanity” in its retaking of Aleppo
  • and of course the standard jejune about the Syrian president being a “dictator” who “kills his own people”

US Election

The US presidential campaign also contributed mightily to making 2016 a year to remember…or a year to forget, as the case may be. The concerted media attacks on one candidate in particular–with the other candidate being reported on in an entirely uncritical manner–did more to expose the outright trickery and dishonesty of the media perhaps than anything seen in our lifetimes. Even the “weapons of mass destruction” charade used to justify invading Iraq in 2003 didn’t tarnish the media’s reputation to this extent, and Trump’s election, in spite of the propaganda cannonades discharged against him, was an amazing refutation of the establishment elites and their news outlets.

While CNN, the Washington Post, and others published a seemingly endless series of attack pieces against Trump, Wikileaks published thousands of emails exposing the corruption of the DNC and the Clinton campaign staff, this as Project Veritas posted videos revealing the involvement of Democratic Party operatives in schemes such as hiring protesters to show up at Trump rallies.

Brexit and Jeremy

Politics in the UK this year were fascinating to watch as well. On June 23, the people of Great Britain voted in favor of exiting the European Union–a campaign that came to be widely referred to as “Brexit.” The Brexit vote took place on June 23. On June 25 it was reported that results of the referendum had cost the world’s 400 richest people an estimated $127.4 billion, and indeed the howls of anguish were almost audible. How soon Brexit is implemented–if it is implemented at all–remains to be seen, and certainly there seem to be politicians in Britain working to derail it, but much like the election of Trump in the US, the Brexit vote has been taken as a massive public repudiation of the elites.

The year also had its ups and downs for Jeremy Corbyn, whose Labour Party came under fierce attack. In April, party member Naz Shah was accused of “anti-Semitism” over a tweet posted two years earlier in which she had humorously suggested the Palestine-Israel conflict could be resolved by relocating Israel to the United States. This was after former London Mayor Ken Livingstone pointed out, in a radio interview, that Hitler had supported Zionist goals of having Jews immigrate to Palestine–an historically accurate observation, but one which, like Shah’s tweet, set off howls of protest.

“You’re a disgusting racist, Livingstone,” Labour MP John Mann screamed in a face-to-face confrontation with the former mayor. “A disgusting racist rewriting history.”

On April 28, I put up a post entitled, UK Labour Party Descends Into Madness–Searching for Anti-Semites Under the Bed!–in which I commented: “With some members openly calling for the suspension of others, the party is on a frenzied quest to flush and ferret out supposed ‘anti-Semites’ from within its ranks.”

Sadly, rather than go head-to-head with the accusers, Corbyn made the decision to appease them. Both Livingstone and Shah were placed on suspension.

Year-End Madness

The loss of the Democrats in November was immediately blamed on Russian hacking. No evidence was supplied at the time, and still none has been forthcoming, but of course that doesn’t stop the accusations from being made. So heated has the rhetoric become that Vladimir Putin was led to comment that the Democrats should “learn to lose with dignity,” though there seems little chance of that.

In this, the final week of 2016, Obama ordered an expansion of the sanctions against Russia, along with the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats from the country. He is also blocking access to two pieces of property–one in Maryland and the other on Long Island in New York–that supposedly are owned by the Russian government and which have been “used by Russian personnel for gathering intelligence.”

Also this week we have witnessed a verbal spat between John Kerry and Benjamin Netanyahu over the issue of Israeli settlements, with Kerry, for perhaps the first time in his political career, daring to speak at least a partial version of the truth on that matter.

“No one thinking seriously about peace can ignore the reality of what the settlements pose to that peace,” said the US Secretary of State in what was billed as his “farewell speech.” Kerry added:

Over 1,300 Palestinians including over 600 children have been displaced by demolitions in 2016 alone — more than any previous year. So the settler agenda is defining the future of Israel. And their stated purpose is clear. They believe in one state — greater Israel. In fact, one prominent minister who heads a pro-settler party declared just after the U.S. election, and I quote, “The era of the two-state solution is over,” end quote. And many other coalition ministers publicly reject a Palestinian state, and they are increasingly getting their way, with plans for hundreds of new units in East Jerusalem recently announced and talk of a major new settlement building effort in the West Bank to follow.

Why Kerry would make such a speech now, at this particular time, is not clear. If he and Obama think one speech is going to make people forget about eight years of duplicity and of acting in Israel’s interest, rather than America’s, they are probably mistaken.

In a video-taped response, Netanyahu derided the speech as being “as unbalanced as the anti-Israel resolution passed at the UN last week,” and asserted that it “encourages boycotts and sanctions against Israel” while also reflecting “a radical shift in US policy towards the Palestinians on final status issues.”

He also accused the Palestinian Authority of “inculcating a culture of hatred towards Israel in an entire generation of young Palestinians,” though of course it isn’t Palestinians holding up signs saying “Kill them all” at protest rallies organized in support of cold-blooded murderers. That would be our trusted allies, the Israelis.

Finally, Netanyahu closed out his tirade with a petulant rant about Israel’s “right to exist,” asking rhetorically, “How can you make peace with someone who rejects your very existence?”, and then claiming:

See, this conflict is not about houses, or communities in the West Bank, Judea and Samaria, the Gaza district or anywhere else. This conflict is and has always been about Israel’s very right to exist. That’s why my hundreds of calls to sit with President Abbas for peace talks have gone unanswered. That’s why my invitation to him to come to the Knesset was never answered. That’s why the Palestinian government continues to pay anyone who murders Israelis a monthly salary.

The persistent Palestinian refusal to recognize a Jewish state remains the core of the conflict and its removal is the key to peace.

But of course it is Israel which has never once recognized Palestine’s right to exist–not the other way around. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat formally recognized Israel’s right to exist in 1988, and a peace proposal endorsed by the entire Arab League and based upon the 1967 boundaries has been on the table since 2002.

It is not the Palestinians who have rejected peace; it is Israel.

And so the year draws to a close. What a long one it’s been, or at least it seems that way. Perhaps the words of Shelley are apropos:

Unfathomable Sea! whose waves are years,
Ocean of Time, whose waters of deep woe
Are brackish with the salt of human tears!

Each year comes, dances its little jig on the stage of life, and then departs. But I have a feeling about 2016. Something tells me, given its unfathomable sea of madness, that its reverberations and echoes are going to ricochet into the years ahead.

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