In Wake of HRW Apartheid Report, Israeli Propagandists Launch Global PR Offensive

By Alan Macleod

Source

Much of the online anger at the Human Rights Watch report was actually manufactured by an Israeli government-sponsored app, Act.IL, which organized supporters of the Jewish state to act in sync to create an artificial groundswell of opposition to it. 

NEW YORK — A recently released bombshell Human Rights Watch (HRW) report has made waves around the world. For the first time, the New York-based non-governmental organization has categorized Israel as an apartheid state guilty of “crimes against humanity.”

The 213-page study goes into detail about a range of racist laws and policies carried out by successive administrations, concluding that there is an “overarching Israeli government policy to maintain the domination by Jewish Israelis over Palestinians and grave abuses committed against Palestinians living in the occupied territory, including East Jerusalem.”

The report accuses the state of Israel of widespread “institutional discrimination” and of “denying millions of Palestinians their fundamental rights…solely because they are Palestinian and not Jewish.” It further notes that, across Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, it has “sought to maximize the land available for Jewish communities and to concentrate most Palestinians in dense population centers.”

“Prominent voices have warned for years that apartheid lurks just around the corner if the trajectory of Israel’s rule over Palestinians does not change,” said the organization’s executive director, Kenneth Roth. “This detailed study shows that Israeli authorities have already turned that corner and today are committing the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.

Perhaps most importantly, Human Rights Watch is now openly calling for global action to end the repression. The report asks the International Criminal Court to investigate and prosecute those involved in Palestinian persecution. While not explicitly endorsing the Boycott, Divestment and Sactions (BDS) movement, Human Rights Watch directly advocates that “[s]tates should impose individual sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes, against officials and individuals responsible for the continued commission of these serious crimes,” and for businesses to “cease business activities that directly contribute to the crimes of apartheid and persecution.”

A big splash

The report was widely covered across the world and has been heralded by Palestine solidarity activists, with experts seeing it as a potential turning point in the struggle for Palestinian sovereignty. “It was inevitable that Human Rights Watch would have to declare Israel an Apartheid state and, from what I hear, Amnesty International is going to be next to say it,” Asa Winstanley of the Electronic Intifada told MintPress. “It puts Israel’s backers in a difficult spot because Human Rights Watch is really part of the establishment so they cannot just dismiss it and it makes it impossible to ignore… It is harder for them to say Human Rights Watch is anti-Semitic, but they’re trying it anyway,” he added.

Trying indeed. Michigan Congresswoman Lisa McClain tweeted that “Human Rights Watch has shown again how they have an anti-Israel agenda,” suggesting they instead focus their attention on China or Iran’s repressive governments. “Hostility and hypocrisy are HRW’s hallmarks when it comes to Israel,” wrote the American Jewish Committee. The Jerusalem Post’s editorial board was equally condemnatory, denouncing what they saw as the “cynical appropriation of the suffering of the victims of the actual apartheid regime.” Other Israeli journalists described the report as “a disgrace to the memory of the millions who suffered under that policy [apartheid] in South Africa.” The news even made enough waves to force a response from the White House. Press Secretary Jen Psaki replied that “[a]s to the question of whether Israel’s actions constitute apartheid, that is not the view of this administration.”

Organized spontaneity

Yet much of the online anger at the report was actually manufactured by an Israeli government-sponsored app, Act.IL, which organized supporters of the Jewish state to act in sync to create an artificial groundswell of opposition to it. The app, which reportedly has a budget of over $1 million per year, instructed users to leave combative comments on Facebook, Twitter, and popular news outlets, and to like and promote others who did the same.

Human Rights Watch’s Facebook post announcing the report’s release has received over 1,400 comments, hundreds of them written in a similar, scathingly negative tone. One that the app directly told users to signal boost, for instance, described Palestinians as a people “indoctrinated with hate for Israel and Jews for over 100 years,” and claimed they were paid salaries to murder Israelis. It also presented the 1967 war and occupation as a humanitarian effort to bring electricity and other infrastructure to Arabs.

Another “mission” Act.IL gave its users was to promote a Facebook comment attacking the report as “nothing more than hate speech” and calling its lead author a “rabid anti-Zionist and Israel hater.”

Omar Shakir HRW
One of the many images provided to Act.IL users for their astroturfing campaign against HRW

Act.IL is one of the chief tools in Israel’s online public relations enterprise. The app debuted in 2017 and is part of what Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs Gilad Erdan called an “Iron Dome of Truth.” “Our cell phones are the number one weapon against us,” he explained, noting that public opinion in the U.S. was beginning to turn against them. While most of the app’s nearly 20,000 users are volunteers, a core of them are paid operatives, with many students receiving scholarships as a reward for their work.

The app has been designed to feel like a game, with points assigned for completing “missions” such as sharing pro-Israel videos, reporting anti-Israel content, signing petitions, or attending online seminars. Users can track their progress on leaderboards, earn badges and prizes, and chat with other members of the community. While it might feel like Animal Crossing or World of Warcraft for some, its creators see this very much as a new front in the war against Palestine. Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked categorizes BDS as “another branch of terrorism in the modern age,” and has been an important voice in taking the fight to a new front.

An Act.IL mission encouraging astroturfing of online discussions. Source |
@AntiBDSApp

There is also an online toolkit full of folders of responses to typical questions and issues that arise. Users can, for instance, go to the BDS folder to find stock replies to their arguments. Or they can go to a specific folder to find articles, images and videos they can use to demonize Hamas.

The missions are organized by outlet, so users can, for instance, target only Facebook, Telegram, or other platforms they are most familiar with. At the time of writing, there are 10 missions each to complete on Facebook and YouTube, 30 on Instagram, 25 on Twitter.

One current challenge is to upvote an answer to a question on Quora that asks about the validity and purpose of checkpoints in the West Bank. The answer claims they are purely about protection from terror attacks, and claims that Red Crescent ambulances are used to ferry bombs around the area. Other missions include pressuring an online store to remove a bag with a message stating “Make Israel Palestine Again.”

Act.IL
An Act.IL “mission” encouraging users to demand the removal of products with pro-Palestinian messaging

“It is quite astounding how openly they do it. But, of course, when you see a comment online, you wouldn’t necessarily think that it was coming from the Israeli government, but this is essentially what is happening,” Winstanley said. “Israel is not the only state to do this, but they do it fairly successfully.”

For all this, however, it is clear that Act.IL has a serious problem with user retention and lacks the volunteer numbers for it to be truly game changing.

Controlling the message

In a time of heightened awareness about foreign government interference online, it is particularly surprising that these operations can be openly carried out across virtually every major platform. Big tech companies like Twitter, YouTube and Facebook are constantly deleting tens of thousands of Russian, Chinese, Iranian and Cuban accounts belonging to what they claim are organized, state-sponsored disinformation campaigns.

In an effort to gauge the legality of its operations, MintPress reached out to Facebook, YouTube, Quora, and other big platforms used by Act.IL. We received no response from any of them. While this is particularly noteworthy — as these companies have teams of public relations representatives and are extremely forthright and timely with responses on other issues — it is perhaps not surprising. Facebook especially has long been working closely with the Israeli government in deciding which voices to censor. As far back as 2016, Ayelet Shaked boasted that Facebook removed 95% of the posts her office asked them to. Yet when Shaked herself called for a genocidal war against Palestine and its women, who give birth to “little snakes,” not only did the post remain online, it received thousands of likes and was widely circulated.

“The concern is that Facebook is adopting Israeli policy and terminology when it comes to defining what incitement is,” said Nadim Nashif, co-founder of 7amleh, the Arab Centre for the Advancement of Social Media. 7amleh was therefore dismayed when last year, Facebook appointed former Israeli Minister of Justice Emi Palmor to its Oversight Board, the council having the final say in the moderation of content on the platform used by 2.6 billion people worldwide. In her role as justice minister, Palmor was directly implicated in the persecution and subjugation of Palestinians.

Earlier this year, an Israeli Defense Forces soldier attempted to sue a Palestinian-American activist living in California over an allegedly slanderous Facebook post condemning her for participating in ethnic cleansing. Remarkably, the plaintiff attempted to convince a California judge to apply Israeli law to the incident, despite the fact that both she and the defendant are American citizens.

Inside the world of academia, professors critical of Israel have found themselves pushed out of the profession. In 2007, prominent critic of Israel Norman Finkelstein was denied tenure at DePaul University for political reasons. Seven years later, the University of Illinois “unhired” Steven Sailata for his comments denouncing Operation Protective Edge, the 2014 Israeli attack on Gaza. Emails showed that wealthy donors put significant pressure on the university to pull the plug on him. More recently, Cornel West was blocked from a tenured job at Harvard this year, despite having previously held tenure at Harvard, Princeton, and Yale. “Being the faculty advisor for the Palestinian student group was the one that probably went outside of the line for many Harvard staff,” West told Krystal Ball and Kyle Kulinski. “It’s a joke. It’s ridiculous. It’s ludicrous. It’s preposterous that it wouldn’t have something to do with politics.”

Top media figures have also paid the price for their support of BDS. CNN fired commentator Marc Lamont Hill after he made a speech at the United Nations calling for a free Palestine. Meanwhile, journalist Abby Martin was blocked from speaking at a conference at Georgia Southern University last year after she refused to sign a contract promising to renounce BDS. Georgia is one of dozens of U.S. states to have anti-BDS legislation, essentially forcing any would-be recipient of public contracts or funds, including government employees, to sign a pledge not to boycott Israel. Martin is currently suing the state of Georgia.

Perhaps the greatest PR victory for the Israel lobby in recent years was its defamation campaign against British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. The lifelong pacifist, anti-racist campaigner was transformed into a raging anti-Semite in the minds of many, thanks to a massive propaganda onslaught. In the three months before the 2019 election, there were 1,450 articles in national British newspapers linking Corbyn with anti-Semitism, chiefly because of his support for Palestinian liberation. Much of this was orchestrated by Israel and its lobby, which worked closely with journalists and politicians keen to see the socialist politician’s demise. The media blitz succeeded. When media researchers asked the public what percentage of Labour members faced official complaints over anti-Semitism, the average guess was 34%. The actual answer was less than 0.1%; and more than half of those complaints were made by one person. Corbyn lost the election and the U.K. chose Boris Johnson.

Winstanley, whose documentary “How they brought down Corbyn” premiered last week, told MintPress:

“The most effective propaganda strategy against [Corbyn] was the fabrication that he was an anti-Semite on the basis of his past criticisms of Israel and his Palestinian solidarity. In my view, the maliciously fabricated anti-Semitism crisis against the Labour Party was the main factor in his [being deposed] as Labour Party leader. Without this factor, he would have made it to Number 10 Downing Street and become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.”

Apartheid states

While Human Rights Watch’s report is new, the charge of apartheid is not. In 2017, a United Nations report “clearly and frankly concludes” that Israel is “a racist state that has established an apartheid system that persecutes the Palestinian people.” Earlier this year, Israeli human rights organization B’TSelem also used the word “apartheid,” claiming that Israel had established “a regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.”

In the wake of World War Two and the Holocaust, Israel was created by the United Nations in 1947, cutting a section of territory from the British mandate of Palestine to form a new state. While it was immediately recognized by the international powers, Arabs who lived in the region were dead against it, leading to a war in 1948. David Ben Gurion and the founding fathers of Israel immediately began a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the local population, razing their villages and forcing them to flee. Today there are more than 5 million Palestinians registered as refugees.

While many defenders of Israel today balk at the comparison to apartheid South Africa, the two countries were close friends for much of the late 20th century, seeing themselves as similar settler colonial projects surrounded by hostile nations. Furthermore, leaders of the African liberation movement saw themselves as part of the same struggle as those in Palestine. “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians,” Nelson Mandela said in 1997. “I have witnessed the systemic humiliation of Palestinian men, women and children by members of the Israeli security forces,” said Archbishop Desmond Tutu in a statement endorsing BDS. “Their humiliation is familiar to all black South Africans who were corralled and harassed and insulted and assaulted by the security forces of the apartheid government,” he added.

A turning tide

The Human Rights Watch report is the latest reference point showing Western public sympathies swaying towards Palestine. During the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination race, a number of top-tier candidates very publicly shunned the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, refusing to attend the AIPAC conference. Last week, the Pilsbury family called for a global boycott of the food company that bears its name. “As long as General Mills [which owns the Pilsbury brand] continues to profit from the dispossession and suffering of the Palestinian people, we will not buy any Pillsbury products,” they stated, denouncing the building of a factory on illegal settlement land.

Advocates for Palestine hailed Human Rights Watch’s study. Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies wrote:

There can be little doubt that much of HRW’s decision to issue this report now was based on the recognition that not only is it no longer political suicide to call Israeli apartheid what it is, but that we are now at a tipping point whereby failing to call out apartheid risks losing credibility for a human rights organization. It’s a huge victory for our movement.”

The battle, however, is far from won, and it is clear that the Israel lobby will continue to fight to hold back the tide until it is insurmountable.

St. Petersburg International Economic Forum Can Strengthen Relations Between Palestine & Russia

By Denis Korkodinov

Source

St. Petersburg International Economic Forum Can Strengthen Relations Between Palestine & Russia

According to experts, the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum not only strengthens Russia’s mediation efforts to overcome the existing problems in Palestine, but can also serve as a basis for mobilizing Palestinian economic factions, turning them into a powerful instrument of international influence.

The International Economic Forum, scheduled for June 2-5, 2021 in St. Petersburg, contributes to the strengthening of relations between Russia and Palestine. Moscow would like to use the event to discuss joint projects with Palestinian colleagues and open a new page in the interaction of the two countries.

The current state of the Palestinian question allows us to make an unambiguous conclusion that Ramallah is on the verge of a fateful systemic change in the principles of cooperation. The organization of an inter-Arab dialogue and the foreign policy of Iran and Turkey allow Palestine to remain on the periphery of international attention. However, the reaction of most of the countries of the Arab world to the so-called “Deal of the Century” and the process of “Israelization” that has swept the Middle East serve as a certain signal for many countries that the Palestinian dossier is rapidly losing the interest of many regional players. This state of affairs is explained, first of all, by the protracted internal political crisis, the conflict between Hamas and Fatah, as well as the low economic attractiveness of Palestine for international investors. In this regard, the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum may become a unique opportunity for Ramallah to enlist the support of big business, establish a dialogue with international partners and use Russian levers of influence on long-standing regional conflicts.

It is worth noting that the strengthening of Russian-Palestinian relations over the past 10 years has been due to Moscow’s particularly prominent foreign policy in the Middle East. Now Russia has a great interest in resolving Palestinian-Israeli conflicts and restoring the Palestinian economy, which has suffered not only from international sanctions, but also due to the global spread of COVID-19. The St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, to which Palestinian politicians and businessmen are invited, once again testifies that Moscow is ready to play a decisive role in resolving Palestinian problems and aims to restore the positions of Ramallah that were lost as a result of the “Deal of the Century”. At the same time, ensuring the economic independence of the Palestinians is a key point in this area of cooperation between the two countries.

The decision to participate in the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum may be an attempt to resolve the long-standing crisis between Fatah and Hamas and serve as a guarantee that the Palestinian people will forget about their political differences in order to achieve the sole goal of economic prosperity of their state.

Moscow is quite active in influencing the political and economic processes in Palestine and is especially actively helping to overcome the Palestinian crisis. The St. Petersburg International Economic Forum can become a negotiating platform for Fatah, Hamas and their foreign partners.

According to experts, the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum not only strengthens Russia’s mediation efforts to overcome the existing problems in Palestine, but can also serve as a basis for mobilizing Palestinian economic factions, turning them into a powerful instrument of international influence. In addition, given that Russia is ready for dialogue with all representatives of Palestine, it will be difficult enough to accuse Moscow of being biased or intending to express its sympathies to any one Palestinian group. In addition to Russia’s real support for the Palestinian dossier, the Kremlin, at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, offers the prospect of significant economic investment. In particular, Moscow is ready to develop cooperation with Ramallah in the field of agriculture, as well as on projects for the construction of industrial facilities in Bethlehem, Jerekhon, Hebron and other Palestinian cities, which is a very tempting prospect, given that Palestine is now in dire need of economic assistance.

“The Present” — A Painful Short Film Tells the Whole Story of What It Means to be Palestinian

By Miko Peled

Source

In “The Present,” as throughout all of Palestine, soldiers, police officers, secret police, or Shabak agents, have the power — indeed they are instructed — to harass, humiliate, and take the lives of Palestinians in the most arbitrary fashion.

OCCUPIED PALESTINE — The Present” — a Palestinian film directed by Farah Nabulsi, with Saleh Bakri in the main role — was nominated for an Academy Award in the category of Live Action Short Film. In the end it did not win an Oscar, although it was deserving of one. In his acceptance speech, Travon Free, who won the award for his movie “Two Distant Strangers,” quoted James Baldwin, who said that “the most despicable thing a person can be is indifferent to other people’s pain.”

“The Present” is only about 23 minutes long, yet it encomapses the totality of Palestine and the Palestinian experience. It also shows the indifference that is so prevalent to the pain of Palestinians.

The story is simple; in fact, it could not be more simple. A father, Yusef, played convincingly by Saleh Bakri, wakes up in the morning and takes his daughter Yasmin, played beautifully by Mariam Kanj, to buy a gift for his wife on the day of their anniversary. The gift is a surprise and the two set out happily planning to return and surprise the mother. But they are Palestinians living in Palestine and as such they are not permitted to enjoy even the simplest of pleasures.

The short trip to the store and back is filled with the indignities and humiliation that are part of a Palestinian’s daily life. These indignities are imposed on men, women, and even children. Even a father wanting to spend a special day with his daughter is denied that pleasure because Palestine is occupied and governed by a ruthless militant regime that is not only indifferent to the suffering and the feelings of Palestinians; it humiliates them and makes their life unliveable as a matter of policy.

An alternate path

Anyone who has been to Palestine has seen the checkpoints placed on roads where one part of the road, usually the wider part, provides free and easy access to Jews while Palestinians have to go through a narrow path and a checkpoint. Jews walk or drive freely and Palestinians are stopped; they must show their ID cards and quite often are randomly held for hours. Some are killed.

Humiliation, degradation and fear are built into the part of the road through which Palestinians must pass. Israeli soldiers and contractors who operate the checkpoints have long known that security is not their purpose, but rather humiliation and a show of power, such as it may be.

In “The Present,” the father and daughter leave their home, which is walking distance from the checkpoint, to go to the store. As they stand and wait, a car with Israelis drives by and the soldiers wave them through with a smile. I’ve seen and experienced this countless times as I drove through checkpoints. “Shalom, ma nishma,”  Hello, how are things, they say; and I answer back “Yofi hakol beseder,” Great, all is well.

The Present two roads
Scenes from “The Present.” Credit | Native Liberty

For reasons beyond understanding, the soldier at this checkpoint decides to pull Yusef out of the line and make him sit and wait in a cage built next to the road. The young daughter has to sit outside the cage and wait as well. There are no facilities, and no one cares what happens to the Palestinians, be they children or adults.

At last they leave the checkpoint and the daughter straggles behind her father as they walk to the bus stop. Yusef turns to see why his daughter is walking so slowly and he realizes she is embarrassed and uncomfortable because she has wet her pants. Yusef cuddles his daughter and tries to comfort her in this moment of shame and discomfort. They must board the bus like that until they reach a store, where he is able to buy her new clothes and eventually the gift they had gone to buy for Yasmin’s mother.

Back pain

Anyone who has suffered from severe chronic back pain, to the point where pain medication is needed constantly, can relate to this movie. In a brilliant aside, Yusef suffers from terrible back pain. In fact, in the very first scene we see him take his meds. Then his wife asks him how his back is doing and he replies, “same as always.”

On top of the indignities, the humiliation, the constant fear of the soldiers, and the ease with which they use their weapons on Palestinians, Yusef is struggling with this constant pain. He had not anticipated that their journey would last as long as it did and therefore he did not have his meds with him when the pain hit. He says nothing but his face says it all.

The Present Back Pain
Scenes from “The Present.” Credit | Native Liberty

At the store, Yusef asks why the pharmacy next door is closed — a death in the family, he is told. “Have you any painkillers?” he asks, “We did but we are sold out,” the lady at the register tells him. Now he knows the pain will remain with him and the day is not yet over.

Yusef and Yasmin proceed to purchase the gift, and return home. But on the way they must still go through the checkpoint, the same checkpoint where they had both already suffered humiliation. Now it is evening, the memories come back; the soldiers remember Yusef and harass him again for no reason; his pain, both physical and emotional, are severe and reach a boiling point.

An eerie resemblance

One of the soldiers at the checkpoint bears an eerie resemblance to a solider I had encountered once while traveling with a Palestinian friend. We were traveling in the West Bank to visit a mutual friend and a checkpoint was placed on the road for no explicable reason. The young soldier in charge was white — as in European white — with a beard. He wasn’t tall and he wore his helmet and gun in a clumsy manner. Like the soldier in the movie, he had no reason to stop us from proceeding but he had the power and the gun and so he was king.

The Present IDF Soldiers
Scenes from “The Present.” Credit | Native Liberty

As these words are written, Jerusalem is burning and Israelis are in the streets calling for the killing and forced expulsion of Palestinians. In “The Present,” as throughout all of Palestine, soldiers, police officers, secret police, or Shabak agents, have the power — indeed they are instructed — to harass, humiliate, and take the lives of Palestinians in the most arbitrary fashion. Farah Nabulsi with Saleh Bakri gave the world a glimpse into a day in the life of a Palestinian. How long will the world remain indifferent?

Why Israel Fears the Nakba: How Memory Became Palestine’s Greatest Weapon

By Ramzy Baroud

Source

Israel is afraid of Palestinian memory, since it is the only facet of its war against the Palestinian people that it cannot fully control.

n May 15, thousands of Palestinians in Occupied Palestine and throughout the ‘shatat’, or diaspora, participated in the commemoration of Nakba Day, the one event that unites all Palestinians, regardless of their political differences or backgrounds.

For years, social media has added a whole new stratum to this process of commemoration. #Nakba72, along with #NakbaDay and #Nakba, have all trended on Twitter for days. Facebook was inundated with countless stories, videos, images, and statements, written by Palestinians, or in global support of the Palestinian people.

The dominant Nakba narrative remains – 72 years following the destruction of historic Palestine at the hands of Zionist militias – an opportunity to reassert the centrality of the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees. Over 750,000 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed from their homes in Palestine in 1947-48. The surviving refugees and their descendants are now estimated at over five million.

As thousands of Palestinians rallied on the streets and as the Nakba hashtag was generating massive interest on social media, US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, paid an eight-hour visit to Israel to discuss the seemingly imminent Israeli government annexation, or theft, of nearly 30% of the occupied Palestinian West Bank.

“The Israeli government will decide on the matter, on exactly when and how to do it,” Pompeo said in an interview with Israeli radio, Kan Bet, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Clearly, the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu has American blessing to further its colonization of occupied Palestine, to entrench its existing Apartheid regime, and to act as if the Palestinians simply do not exist.

Considering the massive US political sway, why do Palestinians then insist on making demands which, according to the pervading realpolitik of the so-called Palestinian-Israeli conflict, seem unattainable?

Since the start of the peace process in Oslo in the early 1990s, the Palestinian leadership has engaged with Israel and its western benefactors in a useless political exercise that has, ultimately, worsened an already terrible situation. After over 25 years of haggling over bits and pieces of what remained of historic Palestine, Israel and the US are now plotting the endgame, while demonizing the very Palestinian leaders that participated in their joint and futile political charade.

Strangely, the rise and demise of the so-called ‘peace process’ did not seem to affect the collective narrative of the Palestinian people, who still see the Nakba, not the Israeli occupation of 1967, and certainly not the Oslo accords, as the core point in their struggle against Israeli colonialism.

This is because the collective Palestinian memory remains completely independent from Oslo and its many misgivings. For Palestinians, memory is an active process. It is not a docile, passive mechanism of grief and self-pity that can easily be manipulated, but a generator of new meanings.

In their seminal book “Nakba: Palestine, 1948, and the Claims of Memory”, Ahmad Sa’di and Lila Abu-Lughod wrote that “Palestinian memory is, at its heart, political.”

This means that the powerful and emotive commemoration of the 72nd anniversary of the Nakba is essentially a collective political act, and, even if partly unconscious, a people’s retort and rejection of Donald Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’, of Pompeo’s politicking, and of Netanyahu’s annexation drive.

Despite the numerous unilateral measures taken by Israel to determine the fate of the Palestinian people, the blind and unconditional US support of Israel, and the unmitigated failure of the Palestinian Authority to mount any meaningful resistance, Palestinians continue to remember their history and understand their reality based on their own priorities.

For many years, Palestinians have been accused of being unrealistic, of “never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity,” and even of extremism, for simply insisting on their historical rights in Palestine, as enshrined in international law.

These critical voices are either supporters of Israel, or simply unable to understand how Palestinian memory factors in shaping the politics of ordinary people, independent of the quisling Palestinian leadership or the seemingly impossible-to-overturn status quo. True, both trajectories, that of the stifling political reality and people’s priorities seem to be in constant divergence, with little or no overlapping.

However, a closer look is revealing: the more belligerent Israel becomes, the more stubbornly Palestinians hold on to their past. There is a reason for this.

Occupied, oppressed and refugee camps-confined Palestinians have little control over many of the realities that directly impact their lives. There is little that a refugee from Gaza can do to dissuade Pompeo from assigning the West Bank to Israel, or a Palestinian refugee from Ein El-Helweh in Lebanon to compel the international community to enforce the long-delayed Right of Return.

But there is a single element that Palestinians, regardless of where they are, can indeed control: their collective memory, which remains the main motivator of their legendary steadfastness.

Hannah Arendt wrote in 1951 that totalitarianism is a system that, among other things, forbids grief and remembrance, in an attempt to sever the individual’s or group’s relation to the continuous past.

For decades, Israel has done just that, in a desperate attempt to stifle the memory of the Palestinians, so that they are only left with a single option, the self-defeating peace process.

In March 2011, the Israeli parliament introduced the ‘Nakba Law’, which authorized the Israeli Finance Ministry to carry out financial measures against any institution that commemorates Nakba Day.

Israel is afraid of Palestinian memory, since it is the only facet of its war against the Palestinian people that it cannot fully control; the more Israel labors to erase the collective memory of the Palestinian people, the more Palestinians hold tighter to the keys of their homes and to the title deed of their land back in their lost homeland.

There can never be a just peace in Palestine until the priorities of the Palestinian people – their memories, and their aspirations – become the foundation of any political process between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Everything that operates outside this paradigm is null and void, for it will never herald peace or instill true justice. This is why Palestinians remember; for, over the years, their memory has proven to be their greatest weapon.

India’s Kashmir propaganda: A leaf out of Israel’s book

Soleil de la Palestine (Sun of Palestine) – Beautiful Song For The Children of Palestine

Rebel Voice

This video contains one of the most beautiful and uplifting songs you will hear for many a day. It focuses on the children of Palestine, the most vulnerable targets of an out-of-control Israeli regime who regularly brutalize, abduct, injure and kill these little ones.

This song is good enough to top the charts. The lyrics are in the beautiful French language which only adds to the gentle nature of the song. Rebel Voice asks that you share this video widely and, if possible, contribute to the charity responsible for it. They help the long-suffering children of Palestine. What better reason does one need than that?

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From the River to the Sea: The Inevitable End of Settler Colonialism in Palestine

By Miko  Peled
Source

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JERUSALEM, PALESTINE — The call “From the River to the Sea, Palestine shall be Free” brings out the worst in the Zionist spokespersons. From CNN and Fox News to the various Zionist trolls and spokespersons around the world: “Aha!” they say, “The true face of these anti-Semites has been exposed.” Panic seems to strike as they assert that this is “a call for genocide of the Jews.” But the assumption that a free Palestine calls for the expulsion or killing of Jews is one that is made mostly by Zionists who can see Palestine only as a place where one side rules over and kills the other, but never where all people live in peace. Furthermore, it has become basic strategy to always cry “anti-Semitism” when the Zionist narrative is challenged.

Where should the Jews go?

After a lecture I gave at University College of London alongside Dr. Azzam Tamimi, where I discussed the merits of the One State from the River to the Sea, I was asked by a Jewish student, “Where should the Jews go?” My reply was, “Why do you want them to go?” That was a reaction similar, though far less loud, to the reactions to Marc Lamont Hill’s speech at the United Nations, and both are indicative of the same thinking: a free Palestine means death to the Jews. However, the vision of a free Palestine (from the River to the Sea, where else?) is one of a country in which all people live free as equal citizens under the law. If anyone who lives there now does not want to live in a state in which all people are governed by the same laws, then perhaps that will not be the place for them.

Where else?

If Palestine is not from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea than where is it? Even if there was once an argument in support of the Two State Solution — or, in other words, a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital — Israel killed it. For over fifty years, or since the war of June 1967, consecutive Israeli governments had made it clear through statements and creation of facts on the ground that the entire country is Israel and belongs to Jews and is for Jews to settle. No part of the country has been spared the spread of Zionist settler colonialism, violence and restrictions.

Israel turned the Gaza Strip into a concentration camp. Its residents, through actions of the State of Israel and no fault of their own, are mostly homeless refugees with soaring levels of poverty and unemployment. Clearly, the Gaza Strip in its present condition is not fit to be part of any state, and the first condition in any agreement must be the lifting of the siege, rebuilding, and rehabilitation of the Gaza Strip and its inhabitants.

The West Bank no longer exists. It is now called Judea and Samaria and — like the Naqab, Al-Jaleel, and most other parts of Palestine — it is littered with settler colonies built at the expense of Palestinians and in violation of Palestinian rights. The areas in which Palestinians still reside are in fact small prisons with economic and political limitations that make life practically impossible. Travel for Palestinians between different parts of what used to be the West Bank is restricted at best and is at times impossible — and this includes even the so-called president of the Palestinian Authority, who requires a permit from Israel in order to travel within the areas in which he has authority.

East Jerusalem, like its Western half, has been ravaged by settler colonialism to a point where in some areas Jerusalem has become unrecognizable. Unlike in West Jerusalem, where the ethnic cleansing was absolute and not a single Palestinian family remains, the ethnic cleansing of East Jerusalem has not yet been completely successful. However, towns and villages like Bir-Nabala, Qalandia, A-Ram, and others — areas that are adjacent to the city and that were once flourishing business and residential districts — are now ghost towns as a result of the Zionist ethnic cleansing campaign.

Calling out Israel

The arguments in favor of a partition of Palestine and the creation of two states have always been weak and impractical. This was particularly true after 1948 when Israel was established on 78 percent of Palestine and Zionist settler colonialism was internationally legitimized and accepted. However, the final nail in the coffin of the partition idea was hammered in by the Zionists themselves after 1967 when the remaining 22 percent of Palestine, including East Jerusalem, was taken by Israel.

The building of settlements, destructions of towns, villages and neighborhoods was immediate and it was clear to anyone who was paying attention that this conquest was irreversible. The discussion on a Two State Solution at that point only allowed Israel to build new, Jewish only settler-colonies in the newly conquered lands, claiming that if one day there will be a peace agreement they will consider removing them.

Palestine never ceased to exist from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea, and even the renaming of the country as “Israel” has not changed that. At the same time, the discussions of partition and a Two State Solution did not slow down the seven-decade-long Zionist rape and pillaging of the country. So today, when discussing a free Palestine, as Dr. Marc Lamont Hill did, one has no choice but to mention all of Palestine, from the River the Sea, and yet Dr. Hill still received a barrage of criticism from all directions.

How it will end

The question as to how the Zionist regime and settler colonialism will be brought to an end is an important one to discuss. The clearest and most practical vision to date seems to be that, as in South Africa, the Zionist state will have no choice but to capitulate. This will happen largely as a result of the success of the BDS campaign, political isolation, and on-the-ground Palestinian resistance. Every Israeli prime minister, from this moment on, must know that he or she is likely, like De Klerk in Apartheid South Africa, to announce the end of the apartheid regime in Palestine, unconditionally release the Palestinian prisoners, and call for one-person-one-vote elections. This will lead to the creation of a legislature and a government that represents all people who live between the River to the Sea.

History and Biblical Scholarship: Al-Quds Is Not Jerusalem

By Dr. Elias Akleh
Source

The Zionist Israeli state calls on the Old Testament/Torah as a historical document to prove its legality to “re-claim” Palestine; their god’s promised land. To assert this legality and the myth of the promised land Zionist Organization, since its establishment, had recruited the science of archaeology, employing western Christian biblical archaeologists, to provide the required “historic” proof of the right of the Jews; alleged modern Israelites, to Palestine. This became very critical after Julius Wellhausen; the biblical scholar and Professor Ordinarius of Theology and head of the German School of Biblical Criticism, published his 1883 book “Geschichte Israels”, later titled as “Prolegomena zur Geschichte Israels” claiming that the Old Testament/Torah stories were invented during the Babylonian exile to serve certain theological and political purposes.

American biblical scholars and archaeologists, such as William Fox Albright, were recruited to refute Wellhausen’s claims. Albright was endorsed by covertly Zionist financed Biblical Colloquium; a scholarly society devoted to the analysis and discussions of biblical matters, and the preparations, publication, and distribution of biblical literature to brainwash readers and students with a specific theological ideology. Albright, as well as other biblical archaeologists like him, was also honored (bribed) by the American Friends of the Israel Exploration Society. His writings; such as “Why the Near East Needs the Jews”, are flagrant racist Zionist propaganda ignoring the vast archaeological history of the indigenous Palestinians while emphasizing the fake unproven Israelites’ narrative in Palestine.

The western Christian biblical archaeologists and scholars were mostly Judeo-Christians believing that the Torah/Old Testament was a real historical precursor for the New Testament.  Influenced by this biased theological training they needed to confirm the Torah’s narrative as a real history in order to authenticate their own distorted Christian belief.  Their lack of understanding of the ancient Middle Eastern dialects, cultures, geography and social habits, had distorted their interpretations of the archaeological findings by attributing them to the Israelites and to Solomon and David eras based on their own interpretation of the Torah rather than on the true scientific archaeological research and investigation.

Through their distorted writings and teachings these false biblical scholars had perpetrated a historical genocide against the Palestinian history by ignoring the hundreds of thousands of years of history of Palestine before the reported Abraham’s immigration to the land. They considered Palestine as a mere empty background theater for the Israelites that gained importance only when Israelites occupied it.

Although many archaeologists and historians have their own innate personal private doubts about the biblical stories, due to lack of any true archaeological evidence, they did not dare to publish or to openly state their doubts for fear of Zionist reprisal. Thomas L. Thompson; a biblical scholar, theologian and university professor, who dared in his books such as “The Historicity of the Patriarchal Narratives” in 1974, “Early History of Israelite; People from the Written and Archaeological Sources” in 1992 and particularly “The Bible in History: How Writers Create a Past” in 1999, to cast doubts about the Torah’s narrative as a reliable historical evidence, and to suggest that the bible should be considered only as a literature rather than a historical book, was severely criticized by contemporary archaeologists dubbing him a biblical minimalist, and was kicked out of his teaching position from the  Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Since the establishment of the colonial Zionist state of Israel, especially between 1950 and 1960, archaeology became an Israeli national obsession seeking proof for their alleged roots in Palestine to justify and to assert their military occupation of the land. After 70 years of continuous archaeological excavations under and around the Haram al-Sharif and al-Aqsa Mosque (the alleged Israelite Temple Mount) looking for the alleged Solomon’s Temple, not a shred of evidence was found to substantiate the temple myth. Many Israeli archaeologists spent many years digging one site after another to be eventually disappointed due to lack of any evidence for any Jewish roots in Palestine. All the archaeological excavations revealed only the history of indigenous Palestinians and other invaders of the country such as ancient Egyptians, Persians, Greeks and Romans.

Jewish Israeli archaeologist Ze’ev Herzog, a professor in the Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies at Tel Aviv University, had joined Yigael Yadin; an Israeli politician, military official and archaeologist, in conducting many excavations throughout Palestine. Finding no evidence of the alleged Jewish roots in Palestine he eventually agreed with Wellhausen’s findings and arguedthat the Exodus from Egypt probably never happened, the Ten Commandments were not given on Mount Sinai, and Joshua never conquered Palestine. He casted serious doubts on David’s and Solomon’s monarchies, stating that if they existed they were probably no more than tribal chieftains. He stated:

“The many Egyptian documents known to us do not make any reference to the sojourn of the Children of Israel in Egypt or the events of the Exodus … generations of scholars tried to locate Mount Sinai and the stations of the tribes of Israel in the desert.  Despite all this diligent research, not one site was identified that could correspond to the biblical picture.”

A more devastating blow to the Zionist/Judaic myth was dealt by the revelations of the Jewish Israeli historian Professor Shlomo Sand in his lectures and book “The Invention of the Jewish People”.  Professor Sand argues that the so-called Jewish people had never been one nation with one race, rather they came from different groups of people from different countries and different races (white European Jews, black African Jews, brown Middle Eastern Jews, and so forth) who adopted Judaism as their faith. He affirms that the contemporary “Jewish people” have no connection at all to ancient Israelites, and their history is just an invented myth. In an interview with the Israeli Ha’aretz he stated:

“The Romans did not exile peoples (Israelites) and they could not have done so even if they had wanted to. They did not have trains and trucks to deport entire populations.  That kind of logistics did not exist until the 20th century. From this, in effect, the whole book was born: in the realization that Judaic society was not dispersed and was not exiled … There are no scientific evidence or record about the exile of Jews two thousand years ago.”

He also stressed his views that the present Israeli state is just a product of Zionist colonization and concluded that:

“Jews have no origin in Palestine whatsoever and therefore their act of so-called ‘return’ to their ‘Promised land’ must be realized as invasion executed by a tribal-ideological clan.”

Another Jewish Israeli archaeologist; Israel Finkelstein; the director of the Sonia and Marco Nadler Institute of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University, states in his book “The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of its Sacred Texts” that many biblical stories had never happened but were written by what he calls “a creative copywriter” to advance a political agenda. He disputed the biblical description of Israel as a great empire with Jerusalem as its capital, where King Solomon had built a splendid temple, and stated that Jerusalem was just a small village with a small tribe and a small temple. He states:

“There is no archaeological evidence for it. There is something unexampled in history.  I don’t think there is any other place in the world where there was a city with such a wretched material infrastructure but which succeeded in creating such a sweeping movement in its favor as Jerusalem, which even in its time of greatness was a joke in comparison to the cities of Assyria, Babylon or Egypt.  It was a typical mountain village. There is no magnificent finding, no gates of Nebuchadnezzar, no Assyrian reliefs, no Egyptian temples – nothing. Even the (Solomon) temple couldn’t compete with the temples of Egypt and their splendor … Contrary to what is usually thought, the Israelites did not go to pray in Jerusalem.  They had a temple in Samaria (today’s Sabastia) and at Beit El (Bethel).

The science of archaeology clearly shows that Jews have no roots in Palestine. Palestine was never ancient Israel, and Palestinian al-Quds was never Jewish Jerusalem. Many books of the Torah specifically and clearly mention this fact.

Many Arab historians, such as Dr. Kamal Salibi, Dr. Ahmad Daoud and Dr. Fadel Rabi’i, have written historical research books disputing the biblical narratives. This article will quote Dr. Fadel Rabi’i; an Iraqi Arab linguist, anthropologist and mythologist, since some of his books focused specifically on Palestine and al-Quds particularly; “Al-Quds is not Jerusalem, A Contribution to Correcting Palestine’s History” and “Imaginative Palestine: Land of Torah in Ancient Yemen” (two volumes) in Arabic. The geographical and historical accuracy of these two books were authenticated and confirmed by two present-day prominent Yemeni historians; Dr. Hussein Abdullah Al-Umari and Dr. Yousef Abdullah.  As his main references Rabi’i relied heavily on the Torah in Hebrew language published by The Society for Distributing Hebrew Scripture, pre-Islamic Arabian poetry, “Geography of the Arabian Peninsula” by Jewish Yemeni Arab Hamadani; Hasan Ibn Ahmad Ibn Ya’coub al-Hamadani; an eighth century well-known geographer and traveler, and on the Greco-Roman geographer Ptolemy’s “The Geography”.

To understand Rabi’i’s studies one needs to have a thorough knowledge of the Middle Eastern geography especially of the Arabian Peninsula, understand the importance of the pre-Islamic poetry, and a thorough understanding of the ancient Semitic languages and most importantly the local dialects, without which translation into western languages would cause grave mistakes.

Arabian tribes in the Peninsula were identified by different attributive names. They were identified with the name of their chief; banu Israel or bani Israel as the children of tribal chief called Israel. Another identification was through their religious faiths; Jews or Yehud for worshipper of Yahweh, others are identified as Phallustins of Philistins (plural in Hebrew and totally different than the present-day Palestinians) for worshipper of the Phallus; the male sexual organ. Another identification was through the area of their residence; e.g. beit Yebose meaning the house of Jebusites, beit Lechem meaning the house of Lechem, or Hasidim who live in Hasid valley, and Hasmonim/Hashmonim who live in Hasad/Hashad area, or Mesrim/Mesraim who live in Mesrin in Yemen.

Relying on his references Rabi’i asserts that banu Israel and the Jews/Yehud were two separate Yemeni tribes, who fought among themselves, thus the Torah’s war story between kingdom of Israel (banu Israel) and kingdom of Judah (Jews/Yehud); (2 Samuel: 2). The Islamic Qur’an as well differentiated between banu Israel as a tribe and the Jews, who worshiped Yahweh. Arab poetry of pre-Islamic, of Umayyad and of Abbasid eras also mentioned banu Israel and Jews as separate Yemeni tribes.

Authentic Judaism/Yahudia is actually an ancient Arabic religion sprang in southern west Arabian Peninsula. Jews were Arabs, who worshiped Yahweh. In pre-Islamic and Islamic eras no one would consider being an Arab and at the same time a Jew was paradoxical. The same applies on Philistin Arabs; worshippers of the Phallus. Jewish Arabs and Philistin Arabs are no different than Christian Arabs.

Rabi’i’s main theme is that present-day Palestine has never been ancient Israel and that the city of al-Quds has never been Jerusalem, and that biblical stories took place in south western area of the Arabian Peninsula, mainly in Yemen. He uses geographical locations described in many biblical books and compare them with locations mentioned in the references he relied on to prove his theory.

The first three chapters of the book of Nehemiah tells the story of the Persian king Artaxerxes releasing Nehemiah and other Jews from exile to go back to Jerusalem (ur-salm) to build its wall and the temple. Nehemiah 2:12 – 3:30 give detailed description and names of the damaged walls, gates and towers of Jerusalem/ur-Salm. The book mentions 10 gates; Valley Gate, Refuse Gate, Fountain Gate, Sheep Gate, Fish Gate, Old Gate, Water Gate, Horse Gate, East Gate and Miphkad Gate. Al-Quds city has only eight gates with totally different names. Other locations mentioned in Nehemiah, such as Serpent well, Broad wall, Pool of Shelah, King Garden, tower of Hundred, tower of Hananel, tower of the Ovens and governor residence beyond the river, are places and a river that do not exist in al-Quds. Apparently, Nehemiah was describing a different city (Yemini ur-Salm) than al-Quds.

Rabi’i also quotes other Torah books, particularly Joshua, that describes a totally different geography of another Jerusalem and another land. Joshua 12 lists the names of the kingdoms, whose kings were defeated by Joshua; Ai, Jarmuth, Lachish, Eglon, Gezer, Makkedah, Aphek and others. Present day Palestine never knew these kingdoms, many of whom were known in ancient Yemen. Joshua 14 – 21 divides the land among the tribes. The names of these divided territories were never known to and never existed Palestine.

Rabi’i also examined the names of Jewish tribes released from Persian exile. Ezra 8 has one list and Nehemiah 7 has another. The names in these lists are also detailed in Hamadani’s book as Yemeni Arab tribes. Palestine never knew these tribes. All geographical locations and names of Jewish tribes mentioned in the Torah’s books never applied to Palestine, but to ancient Yemen as described in details by Hamadani.

Examining the ancient Egyptian, Persian and Roman records Rabi’i could not find any mention of a “Palestine” until 330 A.D. mentioned in the ancient Roman Land Administration Records after Rome occupied the Levant area. Al-Quds was a small outpost on a hill called Elya/Eulia; a Roman name. Palestine then was populated mostly by Monophysite Christian Ghassanid and Nabatean Arabs. When emperor Constantine converted into Christianity he decided to enlist the local Christian population in his wars against the Sassanid Persian empire. He renamed the area Phalastine/Palestine and Elya/Eulia Jerusalem citing the names from the Torah. He also ordered the Torah to be translated from Hebrew to Greek. The translations were carried out mainly by Yemeni Jewish Rabbis, had many linguistic mistakes and political manipulations adopting the newly-named Palestine and Jerusalem as ancient Israel/Yehuda and ur-Salm.

Rabi’i argues that since the Torah was written around 500 B.C. and the name Palestine was first invented in 330 A.D. then Torah’s Philistin could never be present-day Palestine and Jerusalem/ur-Salm could never be al-Quds. Through lies and manipulations history is written by politicians, theologists, and military victorious leaders.

Judaism/Yahudia is a religion adopted by groups of different nationalities. We have Jewish Americans, Jewish Britons, Jewish French, Jewish Africans, Jewish Chinese, Jewish Khazars and so on. They have no national origin with Jewish/Yehud Yemeni Arabs.

Zionism, a colonialist ideology, has hijacked Judaism, as well as Christianity in the form of Judeo-Christianity, to lure Jews and Christians into the construction of the Great Israel project on the ruins of the Arab World starting with the occupation of the mischievously called Holy Land. The whole Arab World, with Palestine as its front, will never escape this colonial project and resurrect their true identity unless their history and religions; Christianity as well as Islam, are freed from the politically and religiously manipulated and erroneous Torah narrative.

BDS is a war Israel can’t win

BDS is a war Israel can’t win

Israel’s apologists would call the BDS campaign “immoral”, but the slander is laughably false.

By Stanley L Cohen

Israeli think-tank fellow Yossi Klein Halevi, writing recently in the Los Angeles Times would have American readers believe that the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement is “immoral” and threatens the peace of “the region’s only intact society”, while simultaneously boasting it can’t touch Israel’s health and global economic integration.

Yet his reasoning from “morals” rings hollow, and amounts to little more than the shilling of the professional apologist industry deployed on Israel’s behalf throughout the Western media, in the never-ending defence of the oppressive status quo in Palestine.

Halevi excoriates BDS, disingenuously, for making the Jewish state “the world’s most pressing problem” today, while extolling Israel’s freedoms and national righteousness. Of course, his complaint manages to engage in both self-pitying and craven boosterism at the same time – a kind of perverse humble-brag.

No, Mr Halevi, Israel is not the world’s greatest problem – rather, Israel is Palestine’s great, existential, enduring problem for a people who have lived their whole lives under the constant, brutal and de-humanising occupation of this enlightened state.

Palestine’s ordeal

Most of the world has been content to overlook Palestine’s ordeal – fatigued by 68 years of this conflict, and understandably inured to the epic suffering of its people, who understand that their tragic condition can only hold its attention briefly.

The endless failed international “peace” efforts, the vicissitudes of negotiations, and periodic spasms of violence have become like the weather – always there.
This is precisely why the BDS movement has come to figure so prominently in Palestinian hopes – it side-steps the moribund “peace process” and banks on people-power as leverage against state and institutional power, applied against a responsive economy, such as Israel’s.

In the view of Palestinians, the state of Israel has never possessed legitimacy, not by international standards, as it was founded on expulsion, land-theft and military occupation. The BDS movement approaches this abstract issue by offering practicable action for citizens in the West, while the official international community dithers away the decades, leaving Palestinians worse off than ever before.

That such leverage should be applied to Israel is entirely justified. After all, autocratic dictatorships with closed economies, lacking – in Halevi’s celebratory words – “an independent judiciary, a free press, universal healthcare and religious freedom” are not typically responsive targets to protest campaigns for justice, like that of the BDS movement.

Citizens in America don’t propose a boycott of North Korea – the US government does that for them, making it illegal to do business with that outlaw state: yes, the very same US government which blocks every effort by the United Nations and international courts to address the illegality of Israeli settlements, military occupation, collective punishment, economic enslavement, and wholesale destruction and murder of a captive population.

Advantages of civil society

If America’s obstruction of international law did not shield Israel from accountability, there would be no need for BDS.

Because Israel possesses all the institutions and advantages of civil society, then presumably its economy and citizens would therefore be responsive to an effective grassroots campaign of boycott and economic push-back.

And if the campaign were to succeed, this same society might be expected to search its collective soul over its choices – and challenge its government’s policies.

This obvious point seems to have escaped Halevi, and others, who brand the movement as “immoral, because it perpetuates the lie that Israel is solely or even primarily to blame” for the Palestinian condition. Yet if we look around the room, who else is there?

Who attacks Palestinians’ cities with warplanes and tanks, walls them in, isolates them from contact with the world, cuts off their electricity, destroys their infrastructure, takes their water, and builds on their land after evicting them?

Who puts their teenagers in jail, takes their farms, cuts down their olive trees? It isn’t North Korea; it isn’t Putin’s Russia; it isn’t a rapacious China. Israel is the author of the present Palestinian condition, as it has been for decades, with its American backers, and there isn’t much point rehashing the failure of Camp David, or Oslo, or the Palestinian leadership since 1936, or 1948, or 1967.

BDS leaves that debate to “think-tank” intellectuals like Halevi and others. Justice for the Palestinians will not be achieved through debating societies.

BDS offers to its supporters a non-violent, crowd-sourced, material response to the intransigence of Israel and her rampant, continuing illegality. Israel’s apologists would call the campaign “immoral”, but the slander is laughably false.

The logic of justice

BDS compels no one to join it; it constrains no one but by force of reason, and the logic of justice.

In Halevi’s topsy-turvy morality, it is the BDS movement that sins against moral law, in persuading people, institutions and governments to vote with their wallets and their consciences on the rights of Palestinians – rather than Israel, which claims legitimacy to the world, even as it continues to build new settlements on Palestinian land, and subjugates its people to military occupation, dispossession and violence, in violation of international law.

The propagandists of Israeli power understand all too well that BDS is the first clear-eyed, internationalist movement of people – not governments, not Western “quartets”, not the UN Security Council – to look at Palestine with fresh eyes and accurate information. It demands that until Israel ceases its occupation and oppression of millions of Palestinians, there cannot, and should not, be any “business as usual” with the regime.

If Israeli critics want to smear BDS as “bigoted” – a dog-whistle for “anti-Semitic” – because of its endorsement of the Palestinian Right of Return, let them address the historical truth: at least 800,000 Palestinians were expelled en masse, in the creation of the Israeli state – that number has since grown to 7,000,000 stateless refugees with another 4 million internally displaced within their own nation.

No effort has ever been made by official Israeli society to acknowledge and address this simple reality – that many elderly Palestinians living in UN camps, or Gaza City slums, or the West Bank, remember their homes in places such as Jaffa, Yibna, or the numerous towns and villages erased from the map.

It serves no use to deny this fact – perhaps a good starting point for intellectuals like Halevi would be in saying, yes, it is not too late to admit those rights and seek redress, together with the Palestinians.

BDS is brave enough to put the Right of Return up front, as a moral position; if Israel were ready to move forward, it could do the same. Who knows – perhaps good things could come from starting from the truth.

And what of Israel’s boast of its progressive freedoms? They do not withstand scrutiny in the slightest – religious freedom, for example, is under clear attack for every Muslim who wishes to worship at al-Aqsa, or travel to Jerusalem, or leave Gaza and return again, with access routinely denied.

Through Israeli military travel bans on Palestinians, families are separated, unable to worship or observe religious rituals together, or attend the mosque of their choice.

Likewise, any progressive Reform Jew or Jewish American visiting will tell you that Orthodox Judaism does not welcome them, either – Israel’s Rabbinate monopolises official control over the very legitimacy of being Jewish, and denies marriage rights to thousands of couples, even going so far as to jail couples marrying illegally, or rabbis conducting such ceremonies.

Orthodox cultural control

Under Orthodox cultural control in Jerusalem and elsewhere, women are subordinated literally to a “back of the bus” status, and segregated without access to full social freedom and the right to work.

As for an independent judiciary, Palestinians never see it, instead enduring the injustices of military courts and the state security apparatus leaving thousands of them including children as permanent political detainees denied the most fundamental rights, while its civil courts refuse jurisdiction over Palestinian complaints.

And Israel’s “free press” leaves much to be desired. Halevi appears to be ignorant of the targeting of Palestinian journalists in recent years for arrest and prosecution in military courts under “incitement” laws; or the Israeli Defence Forces’ censoring of social media in the Occupied Territories.

The absurd equivocation of Halevi and his colleagues in the “Love Israel” industry hits a shrill note, asking American readers to accept that the BDS movement “is itself a crime”.

But free and open debate of the true status of Israeli occupation in Palestine, and the organising efforts to convince states, businesses and people to stop investing in Israel’s bloody enterprise, is hardly criminal. In America, it is known as “the marketplace of ideas”.

We are all free to argue for justice as we see it, and BDS has had more than a decade of mounting success because its arguments convince reasonable people of the truth – no one is buying any more the tired, old brand of “Israel, the Enlightened Democracy”.

BDS is the brave and steady labour of people of conscience to move the stalled, bogus “peace process” forward by applying economic pressure, plain and simple.

The old narrative of a blameless Israel, fighting off Palestinian “terrorists”, is a hard sell, and BDS will continue to build on its successes because Israel’s defenders can no longer suppress the truth, or sweep it under some wishful fantasy of a benevolent, progressive Israel that doesn’t exist, and never has.

Originally appeared in Al Jazeera Opinions

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2016/07/bds-war-israel-win-160711070045873.html

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stanley-cohen-sheikh-yassin_20120811_1946049197

**Stanley L. Cohen is a U.S. based attorney and human rights activist who has done extensive work in the Middle East and Africa. He has handled prominent international cases including that of Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzook. He has served as a consultant to Middle East governments and Movements including Hamas and Hezbollah and NGO’s and foundations in Palestine, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. He has sued Israel, the US and Egypt on behalf of Palestinians for human rights violations and represented Radio Station 786 on a free speech case in South Africa. A frequent visitor to the region Cohen has been the subject of numerous interviews in all media over many years and addressed numerous human rights conferences in the Middle East, Gulf and Africa. The list of those he has defended and worked for throughout his career is extensive and can be found on istanleycohen.org He also has a blog at https://cagedbutundaunted.wordpress.com/

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