Imagining Palestine: On Barghouti, Darwish, Kanafani and the Language of Exile

February 24, 2021

An archive photo of Mourid Barghouti with his late wife Radwa Ashour. (Via: Mourid Barghouti’s Twitter account)

By Ramzy Baroud

For Palestinians, exile is not simply the physical act of being removed from their homes and their inability to return. It is not a casual topic pertaining to politics and international law, either. Nor is it an ethereal notion, a sentiment, a poetic verse. It is all of this, combined.

The death in Amman of Palestinian poet, Mourid Barghouti, an intellectual whose work has intrinsically been linked to exile, brought back to the surface many existential questions: are Palestinians destined to be exiled? Can there be a remedy for this perpetual torment? Is justice a tangible, achievable goal?

Barghouti was born in 1944 in Deir Ghassana, near Ramallah. His journey in exile began in 1967, and ended, however temporarily, 30 years later. His memoir “I Saw Ramallah” – published in 1997 – was an exiled man’s attempt to make sense of his identity, one that has been formulated within many different physical spaces, conflicts and airports. While, in some way, the Palestinian in Barghouti remained intact, his was a unique identity that can only be fathomed by those who have experienced, to some degree, the pressing feelings of Ghurba – estrangement and alienation – or Shataat – dislocation and diaspora.

In his memoir, translated into English in 2000 by acclaimed Egyptian author, Ahdaf Soueif, he wrote, “I tried to put the displacement between parenthesis, to put a last period in a long sentence of the sadness of history … But I see nothing except commas. I want to sew the times together. I want to attach one moment to another, to attach childhood to age, to attach the present to the absent and all the presents to all absences, attach exiles to the homeland and to attach what I have imagined to what I see now.”

Those familiar with the rich and complex Palestinian literature of exile can relate Barghouti’s reference – what one imagines versus what one sees – to the writing of other intellectuals who have suffered the pain of exile as well. Ghassan Kanafani and Majed Abu Sharar – and numerous others – wrote about that same conflict. Their death – or, rather, assassination – in exile brought their philosophical journeys to an abrupt end.

In Mahmoud Darwish’s seminal poem, ‘Who Am I, Without Exile’, the late Palestinian poet asked, knowing that there can never be a compelling answer: “What will we do without exile?”

It is as if Ghurba has been so integral to the collective character of a nation, and is now a permanent tattoo on the heart and soul of the Palestinian people everywhere. “A stranger on the riverbank, like the river … water binds me to your name. Nothing brings me back from my faraway to my palm tree: not peace and not war. Nothing makes me enter the gospels. Not a thing …,” Darwish wrote.

The impossibility of becoming a whole again in Darwish and Barghouti’s verses were reverberations of Kanafani’s own depiction of a Palestine that was as agonizingly near as it was far.

“What is a homeland?” Kanafani asks in ‘Returning to Haifa’. “Is it these two chairs that remained in this room for twenty years? The table? Peacock feathers? The picture of Jerusalem on the wall? The copper-lock? The oak tree? The balcony? What is a homeland? .. I’m only asking.”

But there can be no answers, because when exile exceeds a certain rational point of waiting for some kind of justice that would facilitate one’s return, it can no longer be articulated, relayed or even fully comprehended. It is the metaphorical precipice between life and death, ‘life’ as in the burning desire to be reunited with one’s previous self, and ‘death’ as in knowing that without a homeland one is a perpetual outcast – physically, politically, legally, intellectually and every other form.

“In my despair I remember; that there is life after death … But I ask: Oh my God, is there life before death?” Barghouti wrote in his poem ‘I Have No Problem.’

While the crushing weight of exile is not unique to Palestinians, the Palestinian exile is unique. Throughout the entire episode of Palestinian Ghurba, from the early days of the Nakba – the destruction of the Palestinian homeland – till today, the world remains divided between inaction, obliviousness, and refusal to even acknowledge the injustice that has befallen the Palestinian people.

Despite or, perhaps, because of his decades-long exile, Barghouti did not engage in ineffectual discussions about the rightful owners of Palestine “because we did not lose Palestine to a debate, we lost it to force.”

He wrote in his memoir “When we were Palestine, we were not afraid of the Jews. We did not hate them, we did not make an enemy of them. Europe of the Middle Ages hated them, but not us. Ferdinand and Isabella hated them, but not us. Hitler hated them, but not us. But when they took our entire space and exiled us from it they put both us and themselves outside the law of equality.”

In fact, ‘hate’ rarely factors in the work of Barghouti – or Darwish, Kanafani, Abu Sharar and many others – because the pain of exile, so powerful, so omnipresent – required one to re-evaluate his relationship to the homeland through emotional rapport that can only be sustained through positive energy, of love, of deep sadness, of longing.

“Palestine is something worthy of a man bearing arms for, dying for,” wrote Kanafani. “For us, for you and me, it’s only a search for something buried beneath the dust of memories. And look what we found beneath that dust. Yet more dust. We were mistaken when we thought the homeland was only the past.”

Millions of Palestinians continue to live in exile, generation after generation, painstakingly negotiating their individual and collective identities, neither able to return, nor feeling truly whole. These millions deserve to exercise their Right of Return, for their voices to be heard and to be included.

But even when Palestinians are able to end their physical exile, chances are, for generations they will remain attached to it. “I don’t know what I want. Exile is so strong within me, I may bring it to the land,” wrote Darwish.

In Barghouti too, exile was ‘so strong’. Despite the fact that he fought to end it, it became him. It became us.

– Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA) and also at the Afro-Middle East Center (AMEC). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net

‘Beyond Vietnam’: Where Do We Go from Here?

January 14, 2021

Martin Luther King (1929 – 1968)

By Benay Blend

In “Beyond Vietnam” (1967), his speech delivered at the Riverside Church in New York, Martin Luther King opened by quoting from Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam. “A time comes when silence is betrayal,” King explained, then concluded: “That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.”

King’s words that followed still ring true today. In what was perhaps the most significant, but least appreciated, speeches of his career, King warned against falling into “conformist thought,” in particular regarding official policy during times of war.

There is no war today like Vietnam, but there is an ongoing foreign policy that commits imperialist acts abroad. As Peter Dreier notes, over 50 years since King’s Riverside Church address, the US remains involved in several ground wars as well as a war on “terrorism,” which is principally a battle against Muslims as well as immigrants, the latter of whom are motivated to flee their countries because of US-sponsored violence abroad.

In particular, there is foreign aid that goes, among other destinations, to the state of Israel. In this way, the Unites States allows the Zionist state to continue its Occupation of Palestinians by using all the brutality that we used in Vietnam.

As Ramzy Baroud observes, by going against “not only the state apparatus” but also the “liberal hierarchy” which posed as if they were his allies, King’s self-described “inner truth” cost him some support. “It was a lonely, moral stance,” wrote Michelle Alexander. “And it cost him.”

In her landmark Opinion Piece published one year ago in the New York Times, Alexander goes on to hold up King’s example as a standard that still holds true today. In particular, Alexander is concerned with questioning her own silence on what she calls “one of the great moral challenges of our time: the crisis in Israel-Palestine.”

Alexander circumvents King’s well-known advocacy for Israel’s “right to exist” by suggesting that “if we are to honor King’s message and not merely the man, we must condemn Israel’s actions.”

It is impossible to know how King’s position on the Middle East would have changed over time. Building on Alexander’s piece, David Palumbo-Liu cites King’s opposition to apartheid South Africa as a clue to how he would feel towards the same practices in Israel today.

“The fact that King explicitly linked colonialism and segregation suggests that he would indeed recognize the expansion of the occupation as a settler-colonial project. If he did, he would then have to reevaluate his support for Israel pre-1967, as so many others have in recent years. He might well have come to recognize the absolute continuity between the 1948 dispossession, exile, and colonization of Palestinians and the post-1967 occupation.”

Indeed, Hagai El-Ad, executive director of B’Tselem, Israel’s largest human rights organization, has just called for the end of “the systematic promotion of the supremacy of one group of people over another,” i.e. apartheid very similar to what existed in South Africa.

In other ways King’s voice speaks to present-day concerns. In his 1968 call for an “economic bill of rights,” King challenged the notion that this country could afford both “guns and butter,” a conundrum that still prevails today. “We have come to see that this is a myth,” he explained, “that when a nation becomes involved in this kind of war, when the guns of war become a national obsession, social needs inevitably suffer.”

Theoretically we are not at war. On the other hand, as long as we give military aid to countries that repress their people we are not at peace. At a time when Congress continues to propose huge increases in the country’s military budget by cutting programs for the poor, King’s speech holds true today.

As Ramzy Baroud observes, there has been very little direct aid to Americans struggling under the impact of the virus, yet Congress continues to provide Israel with enormous sums of money ostensibly for defense. In reality, these funds are very much needed at home.

“The mere questioning of how Israel uses the funds – whether the military aid is being actively used to sustain Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine, finance Jewish settlements, fund annexation of Palestinian land or violate Palestinian human rights,” Baroud explains, remains a “major taboo.”

Many years ago, Reverend King described “adventures like Vietnam” as “some demonic, destructive suction tube” that drew “men and skills and money” into the effort to keep it going. What would he think now of massive funds that go to another country which oppresses its people in ways similar to the Jim Crow South in which King was born?

At the closing of her memorial to Martin Luther King, Alexander pledges “to speak with greater courage and conviction about injustices beyond our borders, particularly those that are funded by our government, and stand in solidarity with struggles for democracy and freedom. My conscience leaves me no other choice.”

King, too, chose to address his vision “beyond Vietnam,” thereby to “a world that borders on our doors.”

In a statement regarding the January 6th right-wing riots in D.C., the US Peace Council reiterated that guns at the expense of butter were part of the root cause of disaffection. “While a record $740B military appropriation sailed through Congress with only 20 Democrats in opposition,” the statement read, “desperately needed reforms that benefit working people have been sidetracked.”

Moreover, the statement refuted a comment often heard in response to recent riots. According to the press and much of social media, what happened at the Capital was “sedition,” because this is America, and its “not who we are.” In reality, notes the Peace Council, what is happening today

“is a microcosm of what the capitalist financial institutions and elites have wreaked upon the planet through trade agreements and an imperialist foreign policy that has suppressed populations through illegal acts of interference, aggression, and economic warfare designed to create the conditions for exploitation, the theft of land and resources and environmental destruction.”

Because the root causes of our problems extend beyond our borders, the Council calls for solutions very much in the manner of King’s focus on the global nature of oppression. Accordingly, the statement concludes that:

“A unified grassroots mass movement is needed to address the fundamental class contradictions of the system as a whole and not limit itself to fighting against the symptoms solely by seeking cosmetic changes through elections and reforms from above. We need to bring all contingents of the people’s movement — labor, social justice, civil rights, human rights, environmental, peace — together under a single coordinated network, with a clear agenda that addresses the root causes of the present crisis and not only its variegated symptoms.”

In this way, more people will come to understand that the catastrophes we face will not be solved as long as what we allow to be done in our name abroad comes home to our nation’s capital. King knew that local police, in conjunction with para-military hate groups, used violence in much the same way as the far-right factions that more recently invaded D.C.

In both cases, the Klan and other groups were/are motivated by a desire to oppose the struggle for civil rights at home. Nevertheless, “our actions cannot be limited to the US,” concludes the US Peace Council, “because if the global elites are willing to oppress and exploit people anywhere, the crises we face will continue.”

The United States, concluded King, is “on the side of the wealthy, and the secure, while we create a hell for the poor.” In order to solve domestic problems while promoting global peace, he suggested “giv[ing] up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments,” and, he might have added, ending aid to countries like Israel that use the funds to wreak violence on Palestinians under the Occupation.

With “Beyond Vietnam,” concludes Baroud, King “courageously broke free from the confines of American exceptionalism,” thereby joining the civil rights struggle to “a worldwide movement of struggles against racism, colonialism and war.”

In 2021, it is more important now than ever to heed King’s words. Indeed, as Baroud suggests, “new strategies” will have “to replace the old ones” for the Palestinian struggle to succeed. His vision calls for unity among all factions, bringing together Palestinians in the homeland and elsewhere to formulate a blueprint for One Democratic State that would grant the Right of Return.

Harking back to King’s international idea, Baroud calls for “a global solidarity movement that rallies behind a unified Palestinian vision,” a plan that bypasses official circles that have done little to promote peace. While Baroud’s strategy focuses on freedom for the Palestinian people, if such a movement becomes one of transnational mutuality, it would be possible to bring about the liberation of all oppressed people worldwide, thereby remaining true to the “other, more revolutionary, radical and global King” that Baroud explains is more often “hidden from view.”

– Benay Blend earned her doctorate in American Studies from the University of New Mexico. Her scholarly works include Douglas Vakoch and Sam Mickey, Eds. (2017), “’Neither Homeland Nor Exile are Words’: ‘Situated Knowledge’ in the Works of Palestinian and Native American Writers”. She contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.

The American Money Tree: The Untold Story of US Aid to Israel

By Ramzy Baroud

Source

Congress quietly wedged billions of dollars of aid to Israel even as it debated for months over a measly $600 to help Americans endure the COVID downturn.

On December 21, the United States Congress passed the COVID-19 Relief Package, as part of a larger $2.3 trillion bill meant to cover spending for the rest of the fiscal year. As usual, US representatives allocated a massive sum of money for Israel.

While unemployment, thus poverty, in the US is skyrocketing as a result of repeated lockdowns, the US found it essential to provide Israel with $3.3 billion in ‘security assistance’ and $500 million for US-Israel missile defense cooperation.

Although a meager $600 dollar payment to help struggling American families was the subject of several months of intense debate, there was little discussion among American politicians over the large funds handed out to Israel, for which there are no returns.

Support for Israel is considered a bipartisan priority and has, for decades, been perceived as the most stable item in the US foreign policy agenda.  The mere questioning of how Israel uses the funds – whether the military aid is being actively used to sustain Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine, finance Jewish settlements, fund annexation of Palestinian land or violate Palestinian human rights – is a major taboo.

One of the few members of Congress to demand that aid to Israel be conditioned on the latter’s respect for human rights is Democratic Senator, Bernie Sanders, of Vermont, who was also a leading presidential nominee for the Democratic Party. “We cannot give it carte blanche to the Israeli government … We have the right to demand respect for human rights and democracy”, Sanders had said in October 2019.

His Democratic rival, now President-elect, Joe Biden, soon countered: “The idea that I’d withdraw military aid, as others have suggested, from Israel, is bizarre,” he said.

It is no secret that Israel is the world’s leading recipient of US aid since World War II.  According to data provided by the US Congressional Research Service, Israel has received  $146 billion of US taxpayers’ money as of November 2020.

From 1971 up to 2007, a bulk of these funds proved fundamental in helping Israel establish a strong economic base. Since then, most of the money has been allotted for military purposes, including the security of Israel’s illegal Jewish settlement enterprise.

Despite the US financial crisis of 2008, American money continued to be channeled to Israel, whose economy survived the global recession, largely unscathed.

In 2016, the US promised even more money. The Democratic Barack Obama Administration, which is often – although mistakenly – seen as hostile to Israel, increased US funding to Israel by a significant margin. In a 10-year Memorandum of Understanding, Washington and Tel Aviv reached a deal whereby the US agreed to give Israel $38 billion in military aid covering the financial years 2019-2028. This is a whopping increase of $8 billion compared with the previous 10-year agreement, which concluded at the end of 2018.

The new American funds are divided into two categories: $33 billion in foreign military grants and an additional $5 billion in missile defense.

American generosity has long been attributed to the unmatched influence of pro-Israeli groups, lead among them American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). The last four years, however, required little lobbying by these groups, as powerful agents within the administration itself became Israel’s top advocates.

Aside from the seemingly endless ‘political freebies’ that the Donald Trump Administration has given Israel in recent years, it is now considering ways to accelerate the timetable of delivering the remainder of US funds as determined by the last MOU, an amount that currently stands at $26.4 billion. According to official congressional documents, the US “also may approve additional sales of the F-35 to Israel and accelerate the delivery of KC-46A refueling and transport aircraft to Israel.”

These are not all the funds and perks that Israel receives. Much more goes unreported, as it is channeled either indirectly or simply promoted under the flexible title of ‘cooperation’.

For example, between 1973 and 1991, a massive sum of $460 million of US funds was allocated to resettling Jews in Israel. Many of these new immigrants are now the very Israeli militants that occupy the West Bank illegal settlements. In this particular case, the money is paid to a private charity known as the United Israel Appeal which, in turn, gives the money to the Jewish Agency. The latter has played a central role in the founding of Israel on top of the ruins of Palestinian towns and villages in 1948.

Under the guise of charitable donations, tens of millions of dollars are regularly sent to Israel in the form of “tax-deductible gifts for Jewish settlement in the West Bank and East Jerusalem,” the New York Times reported. Much of the money, falsely promoted as donations for educational and religious purposes, often finds its way to funding and purchasing housing for illegal settlers, “as well as guard dogs, bulletproof vests, rifle scopes and vehicles to secure (illegal Jewish) outposts deep in occupied (Palestinian) areas.”

Quite often, US money ends up in the Israeli government’s coffers under deceptive pretenses. For example, the latest Stimulus Package includes $50 million to fund the Nita M. Lowey Middle East Partnership for Peace Funds, supposedly to provide investments in “people-to-people exchanges and economic cooperation … between Israelis and Palestinians with the goal of supporting a negotiated and sustainable two-state solution.”

Actually, such money serves no particular purpose, since Washington and Tel Aviv endeavor to ensure the demise of a negotiated peace agreement and work hand-in-hand to kill the now defunct two-state solution.

The list is endless, though most of this money is not included in the official US aid packages to Israel, therefore receives little scrutiny, let alone media coverage.

As of February 2019, the US has withheld all funds to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, in addition to cutting aid to the UN Palestinian Refugees agency (UNRWA), the last lifeline of support needed to provide basic education and health services to millions of Palestinian refugees.

Judging by its legacy of continued support of the Israeli military machine and the ongoing colonial expansion in the West Bank, Washington insists on serving as Israel’s main benefactor – if not direct partner – while shunning Palestinians altogether. Expecting the US to play a constructive role in achieving a just peace in Palestine does not only reflect indefensible naivety but willful ignorance as well.

The Great Divider: COVID-19 Reflects Global Racism, Not Equality

December 18, 2020

‘This iniquity is expected to continue even in the way that the vaccines are made available,’ writes Ramzy Baroud. (Photo: File)

By Ramzy Baroud

The notion that the COVID-19 pandemic was ‘the great equalizer’ should be dead and buried by now. If anything, the lethal disease is another terrible reminder of the deep divisions and inequalities in our societies. That said, the treatment of the disease should not be a repeat of the same shameful scenario.

For an entire year, wealthy celebrities and government officials have been reminding us that “we are in this together”, that “we are on the same boat”, with the likes of US singer, Madonna, speaking from her mansion while submerged in a “milky bath sprinkled with rose petals,” telling us that the pandemic has proved to be the “great equalizer”.

“Like I used to say at the end of ‘Human Nature’ every night, we are all in the same boat,” she said. “And if the ship goes down, we’re all going down together,” CNN reported at the time.

Such statements, like that of Madonna, and Ellen DeGeneres as well, have generated much media attention not just because they are both famous people with a massive social media following but also because of the obvious hypocrisy in their empty rhetoric. In truth, however, they were only repeating the standard procedure followed by governments, celebrities and wealthy ‘influencers’ worldwide.

But are we, really, “all in this together”? With unemployment rates skyrocketing across the globe, hundreds of millions scraping by to feed their children, multitudes of nameless and hapless families chugging along without access to proper healthcare, subsisting on hope and a prayer so that they may survive the scourges of poverty – let alone the pandemic – one cannot, with a clear conscience, make such outrageous claims.

Not only are we not “on the same boat” but, certainly, we have never been. According to World Bank data, nearly half of the world lives on less than $5.5 a day. This dismal statistic is part of a remarkable trajectory of inequality that has afflicted humanity for a long time.

The plight of many of the world’s poor is compounded in the case of war refugees, the double victims of state terrorism and violence and the unwillingness of those with the resources to step forward and pay back some of their largely undeserved wealth.

The boat metaphor is particularly interesting in the case of refugees; millions of them have desperately tried to escape the infernos of war and poverty in rickety boats and dinghies, hoping to get across from their stricken regions to safer places. This sight has sadly grown familiar in recent years not only throughout the Mediterranean Sea but also in other bodies of water around the world, especially in Burma, where hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have tried to escape their ongoing genocide. Thousands of them have drowned in the Bay of Bengal.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accentuated and, in fact, accelerated the sharp inequalities that exist in every society individually, and the world at large. According to a June 2020 study conducted in the United States by the Brookings Institute, the number of deaths as a result of the disease reflects a clear racial logic. Many indicators included in the study leave no doubt that racism is a central factor in the life cycle of COVID.

For example, among those aged between 45 and 54 years, “Black and Hispanic/Latino death rates are at least six times higher than for whites”. Although whites make up 62 percent of the US population of that specific age group, only 22 percent of the total deaths were white. Black and Latino communities were the most devastated.

According to this and other studies, the main assumption behind the discrepancy of infection and death rates resulting from COVID among various racial groups in the US is poverty which is, itself, an expression of racial inequality. The poor have no, or limited, access to proper healthcare. For the rich, this factor is of little relevance.

Moreover, poor communities tend to work in low-paying jobs in the service sector, where social distancing is nearly impossible. With little government support to help them survive the lockdowns, they do everything within their power to provide for their children, only to be infected by the virus or, worse, die.

This iniquity is expected to continue even in the way that the vaccines are made available. While several Western nations have either launched or scheduled their vaccination campaigns, the poorest nations on earth are expected to wait for a long time before life-saving vaccines are made available.

In 67 poor or developing countries located mostly in Africa and the Southern hemisphere, only one out of ten individuals will likely receive the vaccine by the end of 2020, the Fortune Magazine website reported.

The disturbing report cited a study conducted by a humanitarian and rights coalition, the People’s Vaccine Alliance (PVA), which includes Oxfam and Amnesty International.

If there is such a thing as a strategy at this point, it is the deplorable “hoarding” of the vaccine by rich nations. Dr. Mohga Kamal-Yanni of the PVA put this realization into perspective when she said that “rich countries have enough doses to vaccinate everyone nearly three times over, whilst poor countries don’t even have enough to reach health workers and people at risk”. So much for the numerous conferences touting the need for a ‘global response’ to the disease.

But it does not have to be this way.

While it is likely that class, race and gender inequalities will continue to ravage human societies after the pandemic, as they did before, it is also possible for governments to use this collective tragedy as an opportunity to bridge the inequality gap, even if just a little, as a starting point to imagine a more equitable future for all of us.

Poor, dark-skinned people should not be made to die when their lives can be saved by a simple vaccine, which is available in abundance.

– Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA) and also at the Afro-Middle East Center (AMEC). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net

When the People Rose up: How the Intifada Changed the Political Discourse on Palestine

December 16, 2020

December 8 marks the 33rd anniversary of the First Palestinian Intifada. (Photo: File)

By Ramzy Baroud

December 8 came and went as if it was an ordinary day. For Palestinian political groups, it was another anniversary to be commemorated, however hastily. It was on this day, thirty-three years ago, that the First Palestinian Intifada (uprising) broke out, and there was nothing ordinary about this historic event.

Today, the uprising is merely viewed from a historic point of view, another opportunity to reflect and, perhaps, learn from a seemingly distant past. Whatever political context to the Intifada, it has evaporated over time.

The simple explanation of the Intifada goes as follows: Ordinary Palestinians at the time were fed up with the status quo and they wished to ‘shake off’ Israel’s military occupation and make their voices heard.

Expectedly, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) quickly moved in to harvest the fruit of the people’s sacrifices and translate them into tangible political gains, as if the traditional Palestinian leadership truly and democratically represented the will of the Palestinian people. The outcome was a sheer disaster, as the Intifada was used to resurrect the careers of some Palestinian ‘leaders’, who claimed to be mandated by the Palestinians to speak on their behalf, resulting in the Madrid Talks in 1991, the Oslo Accords in 1993 and all other ‘compromises’ ever since.

But there is more to the story.

Thousands of Palestinians, mostly youth, were killed by the Israeli army during the seven years of Intifada, where Israel treated non-violent protesters and rock-throwing children, who were demanding their freedom, as if enemy combatants. It was during these horrific years that such terms as ‘shoot to kill’ and ‘broken-bones policies’ and many more military stratagems were introduced to an already violent discourse.

In truth, however, the Intifada was not a mandate for Yasser Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas or any other Palestinian official or faction to negotiate on behalf of the Palestinian people, and was certainly not a people’s call on their leadership to offer unreciprocated political compromises.

To understand the meaning of the Intifada and its current relevance, it has to be viewed as an active political event, constantly generating new meanings, as opposed to a historical event of little relevance to today’s realities.

Historically, the Palestinian people have struggled with the issue of political representation. As early as the mid-20th century, various Arab regimes have claimed to speak on behalf of the Palestinian people, thus, inevitably using Palestine as an item in their own domestic and foreign policy agendas.

The use and misuse of Palestine as an item in some imagined collective Arab agenda came to a relative end after the humiliating defeat of several Arab armies in the 1967 war, known in Arabic as the ‘Naksa’, or the ‘Letdown’. The crisis of legitimacy was meant to be quickly resolved when the largest Palestinian political party, Fatah, took over the leadership of the PLO. The latter was then recognized in 1974 during the Arab Summit in Rabat, as the ‘sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people’.

The above statement alone was meant to be the formula that resolved the crisis of representation, therefore drowning out all other claims made by Arab governments. That strategy worked, but not for long. Despite Arafat’s and Fatah’s hegemony over the PLO, the latter did, in fact, enjoy a degree of legitimacy among Palestinians. At that time, Palestine was part and parcel of a global national liberation movement, and Arab governments, despite the deep wounds of war, were forced to accommodate the aspirations of the Arab people, keeping Palestine the focal issue among the Arab masses as well.

However, in the 1980s, things began changing rapidly. Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982 resulted in the forced exile of tens of thousands of Palestinian fighters, along with the leaderships of all Palestinian groups, leading to successive and bloody massacres targeting Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.

The years that followed accentuated two grave realities. First, the Palestinian leadership shifted its focus from armed struggle to merely remaining relevant as a political actor. Now based in Tunis, Arafat, Abbas and others were issuing statements, sending all kinds of signals that they were ready to ‘compromise’ – as per the American definitions of this term. Second, Arab governments also moved on, as the growing marginalization of the Palestinian leadership was lessening the pressure of the Arab masses to act as a united front against Israeli military occupation and colonialism in Palestine.

It was at this precise moment in history that Palestinians rose and, indeed, it was a spontaneous movement that, at its beginning, involved none of the traditional Palestinian leadership, Arab regimes, or any of the familiar slogans. I was a teenager in a Gaza refugee camp when all of this took place, a true popular revolution being fashioned in a most organic and pure form. The use of a slingshot to counter Israeli military helicopters; the use of blankets to disable the chains of Israeli army tanks; the use of raw onions to assuage the pain of inhaling teargas; and, more importantly, the creation of language to respond to every violent strategy employed by the Israeli army, and to articulate the resistance of Palestinians on the ground in simple, yet profound slogans, written on the decaying walls of every Palestinian refugee camp, town or city.

While the Intifada did not attack the traditional leadership openly, it was clear that Palestinians were seeking alternative leadership. Grassroots local leadership swiftly sprang out from every neighborhood, every university and even in prison, and no amount of Israeli violence was able to thwart the natural formation of this leadership.

It was unmistakably clear that the Palestinian people had chosen a different path, one that did not go through any Arab capital – and certainly not through Tunis. Not that Palestinians at the time quit seeking solidarity from their Arab brethren, or the world at large. Instead, they sought solidarity that does not subtract the Palestinian people from their own quest for freedom and justice.

Years of relentless Israeli violence, coupled with the lack of a political strategy by the Palestinian leadership, sheer exhaustion, growing factionalism and extreme poverty brought the Intifada to an end.

Since then, even the achievements of the Intifada were tarnished, where the Palestinian leadership has used it to revive itself politically and financially, reaching the point of arguing that the dismal Oslo Accords and the futile peace process were, themselves, direct ‘achievements’ of the Intifada.

The true accomplishment of the Intifada is the fact that it almost entirely changed the nature of the political equation pertaining to Palestine, imposing the ‘Palestinian people’, not as a cliche used by the Palestinian leadership and Arab governments to secure for themselves a degree of political legitimacy, but as an actual political actor.

Thanks to the Intifada, the Palestinian people have demonstrated their own capacity at challenging Israel without having their own military, challenging the Palestinian leadership by organically generating their own leaders, confronting the Arabs and, in fact, the whole world, regarding their own moral and legal responsibilities towards Palestine and the Palestinian people.

Very few popular movements around the world, and throughout modern history, can be compared to the First Intifada, which remains as relevant today as it was when it began thirty-three years ago.

 – Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA) and also at the Afro-Middle East Center (AMEC). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net

‘Long Live the (Dead) Peace Process’: Abbas Prioritizes US Ties over Palestinian National Unity

December 9, 2020

President-elect Joe Biden with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. (Photo: File)

By Ramzy Baroud

No one seemed as excited about the election of Joe Biden being the next President of the United States as Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas. When all hope seemed lost, where Abbas found himself desperate for political validation and funds, Biden arrived like a conquering knight on a white horse and swept the Palestinian leader away to safety.

Abbas was one of the first world leaders to congratulate the Democratic President-elect on his victory. While Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, delayed his congratulatory statement in the hope that Donald Trump would eventually be able to reverse the results, Abbas suffered no such illusions. Considering the humiliation that the Palestinian Authority experienced at the hands of the Trump Administration, Abbas had nothing to lose. For him, Biden, despite his long love affair with Israel, still represented a ray of hope.

But can the wheel of history be turned back? Despite the fact that the Biden Administration has made it clear that it will not be reversing any of the pro-Israel steps taken by the departing Trump Administration, Abbas remains confident that, at least, the ‘peace process’ can be restored.

This may seem to be an impossible dichotomy, for how can a ‘peace process’ deliver peace if all the components of a just peace have already been eradicated?

It is obvious that there can be no real peace if the US government insists on recognizing all of Jerusalem as Israel’s ‘eternal’ capital. There can be no peace if the US continues to fund illegal Jewish settlements, bankroll Israeli apartheid, deny the rights of Palestinian refugees, turn a blind eye to de facto annexation underway in Occupied Palestine and recognize the illegally-occupied Syrian Golan Heights as part of Israel, all of which is likely to remain the same, even under the Biden Administration.

The ‘peace process’ is unlikely to deliver any kind of a just, sustainable peace in the future, when it has already failed to do so in the past 30 years.

Yet, despite the ample lessons of the past, Abbas has decided, again, to gamble with the fate of his people and jeopardize their struggle for freedom and a just peace. Not only is Abbas building a campaign involving Arab countries, namely Jordan and Egypt, to revive the ‘peace process’, he is also walking back on all his promises and decisions to cancel the Oslo Accords, and end ‘security coordination’ with Israel. By doing so, Abbas has betrayed national unity talks between his party, Fatah, and Hamas.

Unity talks between rival Palestinian groups seemed to take a serious turn last July, when Palestine’s main political parties issued a joint statement declaring their intent to defeat Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’. The language used in that statement was reminiscent of the revolutionary discourse used by these groups during the First and Second Intifadas (uprisings), itself a message that Fatah was finally re-orienting itself around national priorities and away from the ‘moderate’ political discourse wrought by the US-sponsored ‘peace process’.

Even those who grew tired and cynical about the shenanigans of Abbas and Palestinian groups wondered if this time would be different; that Palestinians would finally agree on a set of principles through which they could express and channel their struggle for freedom.

Oddly, Trump’s four-year term in the White House was the best thing that happened to the Palestinian national struggle. His administration was a jarring and indisputable reminder that the US is not – and has never been – ‘an honest peace broker’ and that Palestinians cannot steer their political agenda to satisfy US-Israeli demands in order for them to obtain political validation and financial support.

By cutting off US funding of the Palestinian Authority in August 2018, followed by the shutting down of the Palestinian mission in Washington DC, Trump has liberated Palestinians from the throes of an impossible political equation. Without the proverbial American carrot, the Palestinian leadership has had the rare opportunity to rearrange the Palestinian home for the benefit of the Palestinian people.

Alas, those efforts were short-lived. After multiple meetings and video conferences between Fatah, Hamas and other delegations representing Palestinian groups, Abbas declared, on November 17, the resumption of ‘security coordination’ between his Authority and Israel. This was followed by the Israeli announcement on December 2 to release over a billion dollars of Palestinian funds that were unlawfully held by Israel as a form of political pressure.

This takes Palestinian unity back to square one. At this point, Abbas finds unity talks with his Palestinian rivals quite useless. Since Fatah dominates the Palestinian Authority, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestine National Council (PNC), conceding any ground or sharing leadership with other Palestinian factions seems self-defeating. Now that Abbas is reassured that the Biden Administration will bequeath him, once again, with the title of ‘peace partner’, a US ally and a moderate, the Palestinian leader no longer finds it necessary to seek approval from the Palestinians. Since there can be no middle ground between catering to a US-Israeli agenda and elevating a Palestinian national agenda, the Palestinian leader opted for the former and, without hesitation, ditched the latter.

While it is true that Biden will neither satisfy any of the Palestinian people’s demands or reverse any of his predecessor’s missteps, Abbas can still benefit from what he sees as a seismic shift in US foreign policy – not in favor of the Palestinian cause but of Abbas personally, an unelected leader whose biggest accomplishment has been sustaining the US-imposed status quo and keeping the Palestinian people pacified for as long as possible.

Although the ‘peace process’ has been declared ‘dead’ on multiple occasions, Abbas is now desperately trying to revive it, not because he – or any rational Palestinian – believes that peace is at hand, but because of the existential relationship between the PA and this US-sponsored political scheme. While most Palestinians gained nothing from all of this, a few Palestinians accumulated massive wealth, power and prestige. For this clique, that alone is a cause worth fighting for.

– Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA) and also at the Afro-Middle East Center (AMEC). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net

‘In My Heart, I am a Palestinian‘: Palestine Mourns Legendary Footballer Diego Armando Maradona

November 25, 2020

By Palestine Chronicle Staff

The 20th century’s greatest footballer, Diego Armando Maradona, died in San Andrés, Argentina, at the age of 60. The Argentine Football Association reported that the cause of death was cardiac arrest.

Maradona has been struggling with various health crises in recent years, the most recent of which was earlier this month when he reportedly suffered from a brain hemorrhage. 

Maradona’s fans around the world expressed their shock and deep sadness for his passing. Palestinians were not an exception. However, for Palestinian football fans, Maradona represented more than a mere player, arguably the best in the world. He was something else entirely. 

“In Palestine, you cannot hate Maradona. Your only option is to love him and you couldn’t have any negative opinion about him,” Palestinian journalist and editor of The Palestine Chronicle Ramzy Baroud said. “Maradona inspired something in us as a collective – a man of small built, from a terribly poor background, brown like us, fiery like us and passionate like us, making his way to the top of the world. For us, it was not about football or sports. It was about hope. It felt as if anything was possible.”

“You can only imagine our excitement when we learned that Maradona cared for Palestine, and made many gestures in support of our struggle. Our joy was complete. Indeed, until the very end, he took moral stances for Palestine, affirming, once more, in July 2018 that ‘In my heart, I am a Palestinian,” Baroud added.

The statement of solidarity was communicated then to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. However, this was not the only instance in which Maradona was vocal in his support of the Palestinian cause.

For example, in 2012, Maradona described himself as “the number one fan of the Palestinian people .. I respect them and sympathize with them.” 

During the Israeli war on Gaza in the summer of 2014, Maradona expressed his outrage. “What Israel is doing to the Palestinians is shameful,” he said in a statement. 

Also, in that same year, media reports spoke of negotiations between the Palestinian Football Association and the Argentinian football legend, who was rumored to be the next coach of the Palestinian national team during the 2015 AFC Asian Cup. 

“Growing up in Gaza, we loved Maradona. In fact, personally, I loved and played football because of him. Whenever he played, whether for Argentina, Napoli or other teams, we would drop everything and gather in front of our small black and white television set to watch him play,” Baroud said. 

In Palestine, we share the struggles of all oppressed, working-class people everywhere, and, in turn, we say ‘In our collective Palestinian heart, we are Argentinians; we Are South Americans,” Baroud added.  

“Thank you, Maradona. You will forever represent something beautiful in all of us.”

(The Palestine Chronicle)

Ramzy Baroud on Pompeo’s Designation of BDS as ‘Antisemitic’

Source

November 20, 2020

Ramzy Baroud speaks about Pompeo’s visit to illegal Jewish settlements. (Photo: Video Grab)

The United States Secretary of State has made an unprecedented visit to an Israeli settlement in the illegally occupied West Bank and the disputed Golan Heights – the first chief diplomat from the U.S to do so.

Mike Pompeo visited The Psagot Winery – part of a network of settlements in the West Bank – which are considered illegal under international law.

Well, how significant is this trip? More so, that it comes hot on the heels of the projected victory of President-Elect Joe Biden, a past critic of illegal settlements.

To look into this, we spoke to Skype Dr. Ramzy Baroud, a US-Palestinian journalist, and Editor of the Palestine Chronicle.

Related News

Escalating the Demographic War: The Strategic Goal of Israeli Racism in Palestine

November 4, 2020

Racist graffiti on the walls of a Palestinian property in the West Bank. (Photo: via Social Media)

By Ramzy Baroud

The discussion on institutional Israeli racism against its own Palestinian Arab population has all but ceased following the final approval of the discriminatory Nation-State Law in July 2018. Indeed, the latest addition to Israel’s Basic Law is a mere start of a new government-espoused agenda that is designed to further marginalize over a fifth of Israel’s population.

On Wednesday, October 28, eighteen members of the Israeli Parliament (Knesset) conjured up yet another ploy to target Israeli Arab citizens. They proposed a bill that would revoke Israeli citizenship for any Palestinian Arab prisoner in Israel who, directly or indirectly, receives any financial aid from the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Worthy of mention is that these MKs not only represent right-wing, ultra-right and religious parties, but also the Blue and White (Kahol Lavan) ‘centrist’ party. Namely, the proposed bill already has the support of Israel’s parliamentary majority.

But is this really about financial aid for prisoners? Particularly since the PA is nearly bankrupt, and its financial contributions to the families of Palestinian prisoners, even within the Occupied Territories – West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza – is symbolic?

Here is an alternative context. On Thursday, October 29, the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, revealed that the Israeli government of right-wing Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, plans to expand the jurisdiction of the Jewish town of Harish in northern Israel by 50 percent. The aim is to prevent Palestinians from becoming the majority in that area.

The contingency plan was formulated by Israel’s Housing Ministry as a swift response to an internal document, which projects that, by the year 2050, Palestinian Arabs will constitute 51 percent of that region’s population of 700,000 residents.

These are just two examples of recent actions taken within two days, damning evidence that, indeed, the Nation-State law was the mere preface of a long period of institutional racism, which ultimately aims at winning a one-sided demographic war that was launched by Israel against the Palestinian people many years ago.

Since outright ethnic cleansing – which Israel practiced during and after the wars of 1948 and 1967 – is not an option, at least not for now, Israel is finding other ways to ensure a Jewish majority in Israel itself, in Jerusalem, in Area C within the occupied West Bank and, by extension, everywhere else in Palestine.

Israeli dissident historian, Professor Ilan Pappe, refers to this as ‘incremental genocide’. This slow-paced ethnic cleansing includes the expansion of the illegal Jewish settlements in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and the proposed annexation of nearly a third of the Occupied Territories.

The besieged Gaza Strip is a different story. Winning a demographic war in a densely populated but small region of two million inhabitants living within 365 sq. km, was never feasible. The so-called ‘redeployment’ out of Gaza by late Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, in 2005 was a strategic decision, which aimed at cutting Israel’s losses in Gaza in favor of expediting the colonization process in the West Bank and the Naqab Desert. Indeed, most of Gaza’s illegal Jewish settlers were eventually relocated to these demographically-contested regions.

But how is Israel to deal with its own Palestinian Arab population, which now constitutes a sizeable demographic minority and an influential, often united, political bloc?

In the Israeli general elections of March 2020, united Arab Palestinian political parties contesting under the umbrella group, The Joint List, achieved their greatest electoral success yet, as they emerged as Israel’s third-largest political party. This success rang alarm bells among Israel’s Jewish ruling elites, leading to the formation of Israel’s current ‘unity government’. Israel’s two major political parties, Likud and Kahol Lavan, made it clear that no Arab parties would be included in any government coalition.

A strong Arab political constituency represents a nightmare scenario for Israel’s government planners, who are obsessed with demographics and the marginalization of Palestinian Arabs in every possible arena. Hence, the very representatives of the Palestinian Arab community in Israel become a target for political repression.

In a report published in September 2019, the rights group, Amnesty International, revealed that “Palestinian members of the Knesset in Israel are increasingly facing discriminatory attacks.”

“Despite being democratically elected like their Jewish Israeli counterparts, Palestinian MKs are the target of deep-rooted discrimination and undue restrictions that hamstring their ability to speak out in defense of the rights of the Palestinian people,” Amnesty stated.

These revelations were communicated by Amnesty just prior to the September 27 elections. The targeting of Palestinian citizens of Israel is reminiscent of similar harassment and targeting of Palestinian officials and parties in the Occupied Territories, especially prior to local or general elections. Namely, Israel views its own Palestinian Arab population through the same prism that it views its militarily occupied Palestinians.

Since its establishment on the ruins of historic Palestine, and until 1979, Israel governed its Palestinian population through the Defense (Emergency) Regulations. The arbitrary legal system imposed numerous restrictions on those Palestinians who were allowed to remain in Israel following the 1948 Nakba, or ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

In practice, however, the emergency rule was lifted in name only. It was merely redefined, and replaced – according to the Israel-based Adalah rights group – by over 65 laws that directly target the Palestinian Arab minority of Israel. The Nation-State Law, which denies Israel’s Arab minority their legal status, therefore, protection under international law, further accentuates Israel’s relentless war on its Arab minority.

Moreover, “the definition of Israel as ‘the Jewish State’ or ‘the State of the Jewish People’ makes inequality a practical, political and ideological reality for Palestinian citizens of Israel,” according to Adalah.

Israeli racism is not random and cannot be simply classified as yet another human rights violation. It is the core of a sophisticated plan that aims at the political marginalization and economic strangulation of Israel’s Palestinian Arab minority within a constitutional, thus ‘legal’, framework.

Without fully appreciating the end goal of this Israeli strategy, Palestinians and their allies will not have the chance to properly combat it, as they certainly should.

– Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA) and also at the Afro-Middle East Center (AMEC). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net

The World is Changing: China Launches Campaign for Superpower Status

October 23, 2020

China’s President Xi Jinping (R) and US President Donald Trump. (Photo: File)

By Ramzy Baroud

The outdated notion that China ‘just wants to do business’ should be completely erased from our understanding of the rising global power’s political outlook.

Simply put, Beijing has long realized that, in order for it to sustain its economic growth unhindered, it has to develop the necessary tools to protect itself, its allies and their combined interests.

The need for a strong China is not a novel idea developed by the current Chinese President, Xi Jinping. It goes back many decades, spanning various nationalist movements and, ultimately, the Communist Party. What sets Xi apart from the rest is that, thanks to the unprecedented global influence acquired by Beijing during his incumbency (2013 – present), China is now left with no alternative but to match its ‘economic miracle’ with a military one.

US President, Donald Trump, made the trade deficit between his country and China a cornerstone in his foreign policy agenda even before his rise to power. That aside, it is the military deficit that concerns China most. While world media often focuses on China’s military encroachment in the South China Sea – often dubbed ‘provocations’ – little is dedicated to the massive US military presence all around China.

Tens of thousands of US troops are stationed in the West Pacific and in other regions, creating an encirclement, all with the aim of cutting off the possibility of any Chinese strategic expansion. Numerous US military bases dot the Asia-Pacific map, stationed mostly in Japan, South Korea, Philippines, Singapore, Guam and Australia.

In response to China’s military maneuvers in the South China Sea, the US composed the 2018 National Defense Strategy, which is raising the prospects of military confrontations between the US and its Asian allies on the one hand, and China, on the other. US military expansion soon followed. On September 8, the Wall Street Journal, citing US officials, reported that the Republic of Palau has “asked the Pentagon to build ports, bases and airfields on the island nation”.

It is obvious that the Pentagon would not base such a consequential decision on the wishes of a tiny republic like Palau. The immensely strategic value of the country – spread over hundreds of islands in the Philippine Sea, with close ties to China’s arch-enemy and US ally, Taiwan – makes Palau a perfect choice for yet more US military bases.

This is not new. The rise of China, and its clear intentions to expand its military influence in the Pacific, has irked the US for years. Barack Obama’s administration’s ‘Pivot to Asia’ in 2012 was the genesis of the new American belief regarding the imminent challenges awaiting it in that region. The National Defense Strategy of two years ago was a further confirmation that the focal point of US foreign policy has largely shifted away from the Middle East to the Asia-Pacific.

The compromising language that became a feature in China’s foreign policy throughout the 1980s and 90s is now being supplanted by a different discourse, one of political resolve and unprecedented military ambitions. In his speech at the historic October 2017 Communist Party Congress in Beijing, Xi declared the dawn of a “new era”, one where development and strength must synchronize.

“The Chinese nation … has stood up, grown rich, and become strong. It will be an era that sees China moving closer to center stage and making greater contributions to mankind,” he said.

Since then, Xi has tirelessly aimed to strike the balance between strength, bravery and victory with that of progress, ingenuity and wealth. For the “China dream” to be realized, “it will take more than drum beating and gong clanging to get there.”

The Chinese quest to reach its coveted ‘center stage’ has already been launched in earnest. In the economic realm, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is in full swing. Announced by Xi in 2013, the giant plan hopes to outweigh all traditional trade channels that have been put in place over the course of many years. When completed, the China-led infrastructure network will establish connectivity throughout Asia as well as the Middle East and Africa. If successful, a future China could, once more, become a world-leading hub of trade, technological renovation and, of course, political power.

In contrast, the US has solidified its global dominance largely based on military might. This is why the US counter-strategy is now intently focused on military expansionism. On October 6, US Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, said that his country’s navy requires more than 500 ships to counter China. Of this number, 355 traditional warfighting vessels are needed by 2035. This future fleet is dubbed “Battle Force 2045”.

Particularly intriguing in Esper’s recent announcement is the claim that by 2045, “Beijing wants to achieve parity with the United States Navy, if not exceed our capabilities in certain areas and to offset our overmatch in several others.” In fact, Beijing already has. China currently has the largest navy in the world and, according to the Pentagon, “is the top ship-producing nation in the world by tonnage.”

By China’s own calculations, Beijing does not need 25 more years to fully change the rules of the game. On October 15, President Xi told the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Marine Corps to focus their energy on “preparing for war”. Many interpretations have already been made of his statement, some linking it to the US, others to Taiwan, to various South China Sea conflicts and even to India. Regardless, Xi’s language indicates that China does not ‘just want to do business’, but is ready to do much more to protect its interests, even if this means an all-out war.

China’s foreign policy under Xi seems to portray an entirely different country. China now wields enough wealth, economic strategic influence – thus political power – to start the process of strategic maneuvering, not only in the Asia Pacific but in the Middle East and Africa, as well.

Another central piece in Xi’s strategy is to copy the American model and to rebrand China as a stately power, a defender of international law and against global crises. The US’ growing isolationism and failed leadership at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic have been Xi’s perfect opportunity for this new China debut.

The world is changing before our eyes. In the coming years, we are likely to, once more, speak of a bipolar – or, possibly, tri-polar – world, one in which Washington and its allies no longer shape the world for their benefit. In some way, China is well on its way to reclaim its new status.

– Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA) and also at the Afro-Middle East Center (AMEC). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net

RCF: Ramzy and Zarefah Baroud on Gaza’s History of Resistance (WATCH)

October 22, 2020

Ramzy and Zarefah Baroud discuss Gaza’s history of resistance. (Photo: video grab)

By Rachel Corrie Foundation

The Gaza Strip has been made into an Israeli combat zone with the decided aim of crushing Palestinian resistance. Israeli weapons, most of which are courtesy of Washington, have for, at least, 14 years turned Gaza into the world’s largest open air prison. But neither prison nor siege have ended the Palestinian struggle for freedom. Palestinians in Gaza, as elsewhere, are determined to claim their rights, no matter how high the price.

The discussion touches on the stories of real Palestinians who have paid a high price for their resistance, in all of its forms.

For more information on Ramzy’s latest book, These Chains Will Be Broken, follow this link.

Dr. Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books on Palestine, including My Father Was a Freedom Fighter, The Last Earth and his latest, These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons (Clarity Press, Atlanta). Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA), Istanbul Zaim University, and at the Johannesburg-based Afro-Middle East Center (AMEC). His website is ramzybaroud.net.

Zarefah Baroud is a recent Master’s graduate from the University of Washington, researching American aid programs to the Israeli military. She works for American Muslims for Palestine in Washington DC and produces advocacy and education based content surrounding the Palestinian struggle. Baroud has published various articles on CounterPunch, Common Dreams, Socialist Worker, and others.

(Rachel Corrie Foundation)

European Hypocrisy: Empty Words for Palestine, Deadly Weapons for Israel

October 21, 2020

Palestinian PM Mohammad Shtayyeh makes a speech via video conference at the European Parliament Committee meeting on Foreign Affair. (Photo: via WAFA)

By Ramzy Baroud

In theory, Europe and the United States stand on completely opposite sides when it comes to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. While the US government has fully embraced the tragic status quo created by 53 years of Israeli military occupation, the EU continues to advocate a negotiated settlement that is predicated on respect for international law.

In practice, however, despite the seeming rift between Washington and Brussels, the outcome is, essentially, the same. The US and Europe are Israel’s largest trade partners, weapon suppliers and political advocates.

One of the reasons that the illusion of an even-handed Europe has been maintained for so long lies partly in the Palestinian leadership itself. Politically and financially abandoned by Washington, the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas has turned to the European Union as its only possible savior.

“Europe believes in the two-state solution,” PA Prime Minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh, said during a video discussion with the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs on October 12. Unlike the US, Europe’s continued advocacy of the defunct two-state solution qualifies it to fill the massive gap created by Washington’s absence.

Shtayyeh called on EU leaders to “recognize the State of Palestine in order for us, and you, to break the status quo.”

However, there are already 139 countries that recognize the State of Palestine. While that recognition is a clear indication that the world remains firmly pro-Palestinian, recognizing Palestine as a State changes little on the ground. What is needed are concerted efforts to hold Israel accountable for its violent occupation as well as real action to support the struggle of Palestinians.

Not only has the EU failed at this, it is, in fact, doing the exact opposite: funding Israel, arming its military and silencing its critics.

Listening to Shtayyeh’s words, one gets the impression that the top Palestinian official is addressing a conference of Arab, Muslim or socialist countries. “I call upon your Parliament and your distinguished Members of this Parliament, that Europe not wait for the American President to come up with ideas … We need a third party who can really remedy the imbalance in the relationship between an occupied people and an occupier country, that is Israel,” he said.

But is the EU qualified to be that ‘third party’? No. For decades, European governments have been an integral part of the US-Israel party. Just because the Donald Trump administration has, recently, taken a sharp turn in favor of Israel should not automatically transform Europe’s historical pro-Israel bias to be mistaken for pro-Palestinian solidarity.

Last June, more than 1,000 European parliamentarians representing various political parties issued a statement expressing “serious concerns” about Trump’s so-called Deal of the Century and opposing Israeli annexation of nearly a third of the West Bank. However, the pro-Israel US Democratic Party, including some traditionally staunch supporters of Israel, were equally critical of Israel’s plan because, in their minds, annexation means that a two-state solution would be made impossible.

While US Democrats made it clear that a Joe Biden administration would not reverse any of Trump’s actions should Biden be elected, European governments have also made it clear that they will not take a single action to dissuade – let alone punish – Israel for its repeated violations of international law.

Lip service is all that Palestinians have obtained from Europe, as well as much money, which was largely pocketed by loyalists of Abbas in the name of ‘State-building’ and other fantasies. Tellingly, much of the imaginary Palestinian State infrastructure that was subsidized by Europe in recent years has been blown up, demolished or construction ceased by the Israeli military during its various wars and raids. Yet, neither did the EU punish Israel, nor did the PA cease from asking for more money to continue funding a non-existent State.

Not only did the EU fail to hold Israel accountable for its ongoing occupation and human rights violations, it is practically financing Israel, as well. According to Defence News, a quarter of all of Israel’s military export contracts (totaling $7.2 billion in 2019 alone) is allocated to European countries.

Moreover, Europe is Israel’s largest trading partner, absorbing one-third of Israel’s total exports and shipping to Israel nearly 40% of its total import. These numbers also include products made in illegal Jewish settlements.

Additionally, the EU labors to incorporate Israel into the European way of life through cultural and music contests, sports competitions, and in a myriad other ways. While the EU possesses powerful tools that can be used to exact political concessions and enforce respect for international law, it opts to simply do very little.

Compare this with the recent ultimatum the EU has given the Palestinian leadership, linking EU aid to the PA’s financial ties with Israel. Last May, Abbas took the extraordinary step of considering all agreements with Israel and the US to be null and void. Effectively, this means that the PA would no longer be accountable for the stifling status quo that was created by the Oslo Accords, which was repeatedly violated by Tel Aviv and Washington. Severing ties with Israel also meant that the PA would refuse to accept nearly $150 million in tax revenues that Israel collects on behalf of the PA. This Palestinian step, while long overdue, was necessary.

Instead of supporting Abbas’ move, the EU criticized it, refusing to provide additional aid for Palestinians until Abbas restores ties with Israel and accepts the tax money. According to Axios news portal, Germany, France, the UK and even Norway are leading the charge.

Germany, in particular, has been relentless in its support for Israel. For months, it has advocated on behalf of Israel to spare Tel Aviv a war crimes investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC). It has placed activists, who advocate the boycott of Israel, on trial. Recently, it has confirmed the shipment of missile boats and other military hardware to ensure the superiority of the Israeli navy in a potential war against Arab enemies. Germany is not alone. Israel and most European countries are closing ranks in terms of their unprecedented military cooperation and trade ties, including natural gas deals.

Continuing to make references to the unachievable two-state solution, while arming, funding and doing more business with Israel is the very definition of hypocrisy. The truth is that Europe should be held as accountable as the US in emboldening and sustaining the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

Yet, while Washington is openly pro-Israel, the EU has played a more clever game: selling Palestinians empty words while selling Israel lethal weapons.

– Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA) and also at the Afro-Middle East Center (AMEC). His website is http://www.ramzybaroud.net

Israeli Forces Demolish Palestinian Bedouin Village for 177th Time (VIDEO)

Source

August 27, 2020

Israeli forces habitually destroy al-Araqeeb village. (Photo: via Twitter)

The Israeli authorities today demolished the Palestinian Bedouin village of al-Araqeeb, in the Naqab desert, for the 177th time since 2000 and for the sixth time this year, according to the Palestinian news agency WAFA.

Israeli police broke into the village and tore down the tents and tin structures, leaving the villagers, including children, homeless.

The village was last leveled on March 5, 2020, and every time the residents rebuild their tents and small houses, Israeli police return to raze them.

The village shelters, inhabited by Palestinian families, were built out of wood, plastic, and corrugated iron.

Located in the Naqab desert, the village is one of 51 “unrecognized” Arab villages in the area and is constantly targeted for demolition ahead of plans to Judaize the Naqab by building homes for new Jewish communities.

Israeli bulldozers, which Bedouins are charged for, have demolished everything, from the trees to the water tanks, but Bedouin residents have tried to rebuild it every time.

Bedouins in the Naqab, who are Israeli citizens, abide by the same laws as Jewish Israeli citizens. They pay taxes but do not enjoy the same rights and services as Jews in Israel and the state has repeatedly refused to connect their towns to the national water and electricity networks in an effort to end their presence in that area of the country.

“Al-Araqeeb is only symbolic of that historic fight,” Palestinian journalist and editor of The Palestine Chronicle, Ramzy Baroud, wrote in a recent article.

“It would be no exaggeration to state that there is a war waged by Israel against Palestinian Bedouins. The aim is to destroy their culture and to force them into townships similar to those of Apartheid South Africa,” Baroud added.

(Palestine Chronicle, WAFA, Social Media)

The Hopelessness Discourse: How Palestinian Pessimism Could Spark a Much-Needed Rebellion

By Ramzy Baroud

Source

Palestine’s biggest challenge is not the failure of the people to register as a factor in the liberation of their own land, but their quisling leadership’s inability to appreciate the immense potential of harnessing the energies of Palestinians everywhere to stage a focused and strategic, anti-colonial, liberation campaign.

In a recent TV discussion, a respected pro-Palestine journalist declared that if any positive change or transformation ever occurs in the tragic Palestinian saga, it would not happen now, but that it would take a whole new generation to bring about such a paradigm shift.

As innocuous as the declaration may have seemed, it troubled me greatly.

I have heard this line over and over again, often reiterated by well-intentioned intellectuals, whose experiences in researching and writing on the so-called ‘Palestinian-Israeli conflict’ may have driven some of them to pessimism, if not despair.

The ‘hopelessness discourse’ is, perhaps, understandable if one is to examine the off-putting, tangible reality on the ground: the ever-entrenched Israeli occupation, the planned annexation of occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank, the shameful Arab normalization with Israel, the deafening silence of the international community and the futility of the quisling Palestinian leadership.

Subscribing to this logic is not only self-defeating but ahistorical as well. Throughout history, every great achievement that brought about freedom and a measure of justice to any nation was realized despite seemingly insurmountable odds.

Indeed, who would have thought that the Algerian people were capable of defeating French colonialism when their tools of liberation were so rudimentary as compared with the awesome powers of the French military and its allies?

The same notion applies to many other modern historic experiences, from Vietnam to South Africa and from India to Cuba.

However, the ‘hopelessness discourse’ is not as innocent as it may seem. It is propelled by the persisting failure to appreciate the centrality of the Palestinian people – or any other people, for that matter – in their own history. Additionally, it assumes that the Palestinian people are, frankly, ineffectual.

Interestingly, when many nations were still grappling with the concept of national identity, the Palestinian people had already developed a refined sense of modern collective identity and national consciousness. General mass strikes and civil disobedience challenging British imperialism and Zionist settlements in Palestine began nearly a century ago, culminating in the six-month-long general strike of 1936.

Since then, popular resistance, which is linked to a defined sense of national identity, has been a staple in Palestinian history. It was a prominent feature of the First Intifada, the popular uprising of 1987.

The fact that the Palestinian homeland was lost, despite the heightened consciousness of the Palestinian masses at the time, is hardly indicative of the Palestinian people’s ability to affect political outcomes.

Time and again, Palestinians have rebelled and, with each rebellion, they forced all parties, including Israel and the United States, to reconsider and overhaul their strategies altogether.

A case in point was the First Intifada.

When, on December 8, 1987, thousands took to the streets of the Jabaliya Refugee Camp, the Gaza Strip’s most crowded and poorest camp, the timing and the location of their uprising was most fitting, rational and necessary. Earlier that day, an Israeli truck had run over a convoy of cars carrying Palestinian laborers, killing four young men. For Jabaliya, as with the rest of Palestine, it was the last straw.

Responding to the chants and pleas of the Jabaliya mourners, Gaza was, within days, the breeding ground for a real revolution that was self-propelled and unwavering. The chants of Palestinians in the Strip were answered in the West Bank, and echoed just as loudly in Palestinian towns, including those located in Israel.

PALESTINIAN UPRISING 1987

The contagious energy was emblematic of children and young adults wanting to reclaim the identities of their ancestors, which had been horribly disfigured and divided among regions, countries and refugee camps.

The Intifada – literally meaning the “shake off” – sent a powerful message to Israel that the Palestinian people are alive, and are still capable of upsetting all of Israel’s colonial endeavors. The Intifada also confronted the failure of the Palestinian and Arab leaderships, as they persisted in their factional and self-seeking politics.

In fact, the Madrid Talks in 1991 between Palestinians and Israelis were meant as an Israeli- American political compromise, aimed at ending the Intifada in exchange for acknowledging the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as a representative of the Palestinian people.

The Oslo Accords, signed by Yasser Arafat and Israel in 1993, squandered the gains of the Intifada and, ultimately, replaced the more democratically representative PLO with the corrupt Palestinian Authority.

But even then, the Palestinian people kept coming back, reclaiming, in their own way, their importance and centrality in the struggle. Gaza’s Great March of Return is but one of many such people-driven initiatives.

Palestine’s biggest challenge in the movement is not the failure of the people to register as a factor in the liberation of their own land, but their quisling leadership’s inability to appreciate the immense potential of harnessing the energies of Palestinians everywhere to stage a focused and strategic, anti-colonial, liberation campaign.

This lack of vision dates back to the late 1970s, when the Palestinian leadership labored to engage politically with Washington and other Western capitals, culminating in the pervading sense that, without US political validation, Palestinians would always remain marginal and irrelevant.

The Palestinian leadership’s calculations at the time proved disastrous. After decades of catering to Washington’s expectations and diktats, the Palestinian leadership, ultimately, returned empty-handed, as the current Donald Trump administration’s ‘Deal of the Century’ has finally proven.

I have recently spoken with two young Palestinian female activists: one is based in besieged Gaza and the other in the city of Seattle. Their forward-thinking discourse is, itself, a testament that the pessimism of some intellectuals does not define the thinking of this young Palestinian generation, and there would be no need to dismiss the collective efforts of this budding generation in anticipation of the rise of a ‘better’ one.

Malak Shalabi, a Seattle-based law student, does not convey a message of despair, but that of action. “It’s really important for every Palestinian and every human rights activist to champion the Palestinian cause regardless of where they are, and it is important especially now, ” she told me.

“There are currently waves of social movements here in the United States, around civil rights for Black people and other issues that are (becoming) pressing topics – equality and justice – in the mainstream. As Palestinians, it’s important that we (take the Palestinian cause) to the mainstream as well,” she added.

“There is a lot of work happening among Palestinian activists here in the United States, on the ground, at a social, economic, and political level, to make sure that the link between Black Lives Matter and Palestine happens,” she added.

On her part, Wafaa Aludaini in Gaza spoke about her organization’s – 16th October Group – relentless efforts to engage communities all over the world, to play their part in exposing Israeli war crimes in Gaza and ending the protracted siege on the impoverished Strip.

“Palestinians and pro-Palestinian activists outside are important because they make our voices heard outside Palestine, as mainstream media does not report (the truth of) what is taking place here,” she told me.

For these efforts to succeed, “we all need to be united,” she asserted, referring to the Palestinian people at home and in the diaspora, and the entire pro-Palestinian solidarity movement everywhere, as well.

The words of Malak and Wafaa are validated by the growing solidarity with Palestine in the BLM movement, as well as with numerous other justice movements the world over.

On June 28, the UK chapter of the BLM tweeted that it “proudly” stands in solidarity with Palestinians and rejects Israel’s plans to annex large areas of the West Bank.

BLM went further, criticizing British politics for being “gagged of the right to critique Zionism and Israel’s settler-colonial pursuits”.

Repeating the claim that a whole new generation needs to replace the current one for any change to occur in Palestine is an insult – although, at times, unintended – to generations of Palestinians, whose struggle and sacrifices are present in every aspect of Palestinian lives.

Simply because the odds stacked against Palestinian freedom seem too great at the moment, does not justify the discounting of an entire nation, which has lived through many wars, protracted sieges and untold hardship. Moreover, the next generation is but a mere evolution of the consciousness of the current one. They cannot be delinked or analyzed separately.

In his “Prison Notebooks”, anti-fascist intellectual, Antonio Gramsci, coined the term “pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.”

While logical analysis of a situation may lead the intellect to despair, the potential for social and political revolutions and transformations must keep us all motivated to keep the struggle going, no matter the odds.

PA Political Circus: Why Abbas Must Hand the Keys over to the PLO

Source

June 24, 2020

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh in Ramallah. (Photo: via Facebook)

By Ramzy Baroud

The painful truth is that the Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas has already ceased to exist as a political body that holds much sway or relevance, either to the Palestinian people or to Abbas’ former benefactors, namely the Israeli and the American governments.

So, when the Palestinian Authority Prime Minister, Mohammed Shtayyeh, announced on June 9, that the Palestinian leadership had submitted a ‘counter-proposal’ to the US’ Middle East peace plan, also known as the ‘Deal of the Century’, few seemed to care.

We know little about this ‘counter-proposal’, aside from the fact that it envisages a demilitarized Palestinian state within the pre-1967 borders. We also know that the Palestinian leadership is willing to accept land swaps and border adjustments, a provision that has surely been inserted to cater for Israel’s demographic and security needs.

It is almost certain that nothing will come out of Shtayyeh’s counter-proposal and no independent Palestinian state is expected to result from the seemingly historical offer. So, why did Ramallah opt for such a strategy only days before the July 1 deadline, when the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to launch its process of illegal annexation in the occupied West Bank and the Jordan Valley?

The main reason behind Shtayyeh’s announcement is that the Palestinian leadership is often accused by Israel, the US and their allies of supposedly rejecting previous ‘peace’ overtures.

Rightly, the Palestinian Authority rejected the ‘Deal of the Century’, because the latter represents the most jarring violation of international law yet. The ‘Deal’ denies Palestine’s territorial rights in occupied East Jerusalem, dismisses the right of return for Palestinian refugees altogether, and gives carte blanche to the Israeli government to colonize more Palestinian land.

In principle, Netanyahu also rejected the American proposal, though without pronouncing his rejection publicly. Indeed, the Israeli leader has already dismissed any prospects of Palestinian statehood and has decided to move forward with the unilateral annexation of nearly 30% of the West Bank without paying any heed to the fact that even Trump’s unfair ‘peace’ initiative called for mutual dialogue before any annexation takes place.

As soon as Washington’s plan was announced in January, followed by Israel’s insistence that annexation of Palestinian territories was imminent, the Palestinian Authority spun into a strange political mode, far more unpredictable and bizarre than ever before.

One after another, Palestinian Authority officials began making all sorts of contradictory remarks and declarations, notable amongst them Abbas’ decision on May 19 to cancel all agreements signed between Palestinians and Israel.

This was followed by another announcement, on June 8, this time by Hussein Al-Sheikh, a senior Palestinian Authority official and Abbas’ confidante, that if annexation takes place the Authority would cut off civil services to Palestinians so that Israel may assume its legal role as an Occupying Power as per international norms.

A third announcement was made the following day by Shtayyeh himself, who threatened that, if Israel claims sovereignty over parts of the West Bank, the Authority would retaliate by declaring statehood within the pre-1967 borders.

The Palestinian counter-proposal was declared soon after this hotchpotch of announcements, most likely to offset the state of confusion that is marring the Palestinian body politic. It is the Palestinian leadership’s way of appearing pro-active, positive, and stately.

The Palestinian initiative also aims at sending a message to European countries that, despite Abbas’ cancellation of agreements with Israel, the Palestinian Authority is still committed to the political parameters set by the Oslo Accords as early as September 1993.

What Abbas and Shtayyeh are ultimately hoping to achieve is a repeat of an earlier episode that followed the admission of Palestine as a non-state member of the United Nations General Assembly in 2011. Salam Fayyad, who served as the Authority Prime Minister at the time, also waved the card of the unilateral declaration of statehood to force Israel to freeze the construction of illegal Jewish settlements.

Eventually, the Palestinian Authority was co-opted by then-US Secretary of State, John Kerry, to return to another round of useless negotiations with Israel, which won the Authority another ten years, during which time it received generous international funds while selling Palestinians false hope for an imaginary state.

Sadly, this is the current strategy of the Palestinian leadership: a combination of threats, counter-proposals and such, in the hope that Washington and Tel Aviv will agree to return to a by-gone era.

Of course, the Palestinian people, occupied, besieged, and oppressed are the least relevant factor in the Palestinian Authority’s calculations, but this should come as no surprise. The Palestinian leadership has operated for many years without a semblance of democracy, and the Palestinian people neither respect their government nor their so-called President. They have made their feelings known, repeatedly, in many opinion polls in the past.

In the last few months, the Authority has used every trick in the book to demonstrate its relevance and its seriousness in the face of the dual-threat of Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’ and Netanyahu’s annexation of Palestinian lands. Yet, the most significant and absolutely pressing step, that of uniting all Palestinians, people and factions, behind a single political body and a single political document, is yet to be taken.

Considering all of this, it is no exaggeration to argue that Abbas’ Authority is gasping its last breath, especially if its traditional European allies fail to extend a desperately needed lifeline. The guarded positions adopted by EU countries have, thus far, signaled that no European country is capable or even willing to fill the gap left open by Washington’s betrayal of the Palestinian Authority and of the ‘peace process’.

Until the Authority hands over the keys to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) so that the more democratically representative Palestinian body can start a process of national reconciliation, Netanyahu will, tragically, remain the only relevant party, determining the fate of Palestine and her people.

– Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press, Atlanta). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA), Istanbul Zaim University (IZU). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net

Palestine Bleeds: Execution of Autistic Man is Not an Exception but the Norm

Source

June 10, 2020

The mother of Iyad Hallaq, an autistic Palestinian man who was killed by Israeli forces in Jerusalem. (Photo: via Social Media)

By Ramzy Baroud

A 32-year-old man with the mental age of an 8-year-old child was executed by Israeli soldiers on May 30, while crouching behind his teacher near his special needs school in the Old City of Jerusalem.

The cold-blooded murder of Iyad Hallaq might not have received much attention if it were not for the fact that it took place five days following the similarly heartbreaking murder of a 46-year-old black man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis, at the hands of American police.

The two crimes converge, not only in their repugnancy and the moral decadence of their perpetrators but also because countless American police officers have been trained in Israel, by the very Israeli ‘security forces’ that killed Hallaq. The practice of killing civilians, with efficiency and callousness, is now a burgeoning market. Israel is the biggest contributor to this market; the US is the world’s largest client.

When thousands of people rushed to the streets in Palestine, including hundreds of Palestinian and Israeli Jewish activists in Jerusalem, chanting “Justice for Iyad, justice for George”, their cry for justice was a spontaneous and heartfelt reaction to injustice so great, so blatant.

Hallaq’s story might appear particularly unique, as the ‘suspected terrorist’ was killed while merely walking in King Faisal Street in Jerusalem, on his way to take out the trash. He was afraid of soldiers and terrified of blood.

“He was also afraid of the armed police officers who stood along the route to the special needs center he went to, where he participated in a vocational training program,” the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, reported.

Hallaq’s many fears, which may have appeared exaggerated by his family, turned out to be true. Even an autistic person in Palestine is not safe from the vengeance of soldiers.

But Iyad Hallaq did not need to die for Israel to maintain its pathological sense of ‘security’. The fact that he was already shot and wounded, and found bleeding in a roofless garbage room in Jerusalem’s Old City, was not enough to spare him that horrific fate. The fact that the man screamed in agony while hiding behind his caregiver, who pleaded with the soldiers, begging them to stop puncturing his already bleeding body with more bullets, was also not enough.

Still, the soldiers stepped forward, and from a very close range, fired three bullets into Hallaq’s midsection as he lay wounded on his back. Instantly, the young man, the ‘apple of the eyes of his parents’, ceased breathing.

“He was our mother’s love, her entire life,” Iyad’s sister, Diana said in an interview with +972 magazine., adding:

“She would hold his hand like he was a baby, and he would walk with her to the market, or the mosque or the clothing store. He was like her shadow. She worried about him and whether other kids would bother or hurt him.”

Caught off guard by the grisly nature of the murder and the mental state of the victim, Israel’s spin doctors moved quickly to contain the damage, initially spreading lies that Hallaq was carrying a toy gun at the time of the shooting, then backing off, promising an investigation.

But what is there to investigate? In recent years, the Israeli army has upgraded its code of conduct, adopting a shoot-to-kill policy of any Palestinian they suspect of attempting to harm Israeli occupation soldiers, even when the alleged Palestinian ‘attacker’ is no longer posing a threat.

In the case of Gaza, where protesters are separated from Israeli snipers by barbed wire and nearly a mile-long empty space, the Israeli military issued orders, as of June 2019, to shoot and kill ‘key instigators’ of the mass protests even while ‘at rest’. Hundreds of people have been killed in Gaza’s Great March of Return in this way, and the ‘key instigators’ included medics, journalists, young boys, and girls.

Indeed, the killing of Palestinian civilians is a regular occurrence. It is the devastating routine with which Palestinians have been forced to co-exist for many years and for which Israel was never ever held accountable.

Only one day before Hallaq was murdered, Fadi Samara Qaad, 37, was killed by Israeli occupation soldiers while driving his car near the Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh, west of Ramallah.

The Israeli military immediately claimed that Qaad “tried to ram his car into a group of soldiers” before they opened fire, killing him on the spot.

This is the go-to Israeli military pretense that is often offered when a Palestinian driver is shot and killed by Israeli soldiers. Otherwise, the Palestinian victim, whether a man, a woman, or a child, is often accused of carrying a ‘sharp object’.

Hallaq’s mental disability might have spared him, in the eyes of some, from being that archetypical ‘terrorist’, although the Israeli army immediately raided his house, looking for ‘evidence’ that would implicate him and be useful in their sinister propaganda.

In the case of Qaad, a Palestinian worker, on his way to join his wife in a nearby town to celebrate the Muslim Eid holiday, the Israeli army statement suffices, no questions asked.

This is the same stifling logic that has prevailed in Palestine for so many years, and counting. Children are killed for throwing stones at men with guns, who have invaded their homes and villages; pregnant women are gunned down at Israeli army checkpoints; men with amputated legs on wheelchairs shot by snipers while protesting and demanding their freedom.

All of this is taking place in the complete absence of any promising political horizon. Even the protracted and ultimately useless ‘peace process’ has been halted in favor of greater American backing of Israel and of the Israeli government’s mad rush to expand illegal Jewish settlements.

To secure his colonial accomplishments – read: land theft – Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is about to reveal the crown jewel of his legacy, as he prepares for the expansion of Israel’s borders through the annexation of yet more Palestinian land.

Inspired by the common struggle that ties them with their African-American brethren, Palestinians are now left only with their cries for justice: Palestinian lives matter, hoping, for once, the world may hear and echo their screams and, perhaps, do something.

– Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press, Atlanta). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA), Istanbul Zaim University (IZU). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net

‘Justice is Indivisible’: Placing Palestine Back at the Center of Muslim Discourse in the West

Source

May 4, 2020

Times Square, New York in July 2014, during Israeli brutal military attack on Gaza. (Photo: via AMP)

By Ramzy Baroud

It was nearly twenty years ago at a Muslim conference in Washington D.C. that I heard the distressing argument that Palestine should not be made a central topic in the American Muslim political agenda.

The point, which took many by surprise, was enunciated by a young American Pakistani Muslim academic, whose name is not important for my purpose here.

What I found reassuring then, however, was that almost everyone at the gathering shook their head in disagreement. The young academic was clearly an intellectual pariah. It was clear that Muslims, at least the attendees of that specific conference, will not be abandoning their advocacy for the freedom of the Palestinian people anytime soon.

A few months later, the September 11 attacks took place, unleashing a Pandora’s Box of violence, racism, orientalism, and Islamophobia, the outcome of which would continue to be felt for years to come.

A less discussed portion of the American war on Islam and Muslims in the last twenty years is the systematic and centralized attempt at breaking down the American Muslim society. The same can, of course, be said of the anti-Muslim sentiment that flourished in Europe during the West’s wars on Afghanistan and Iraq, and other Muslim countries.

Since then and till today, American Muslims found themselves forced to make bleak choices to avoid media demonization and government persecution.

Some chose to toe the line, in fact, to become an advocate of the very colonial, savage powers that were unleashed against Muslims everywhere – killing, torturing, imprisoning and sanctioning with no regard whatsoever for the very international law that the West itself had fashioned following World War II.

The likes of Hamza Yusuf, formally known as Mark Hanson, was and, perhaps, remains the best example of the so-called ‘pet Muslim’, as he became known due to his collaboration with the George W. Bush regime during the genocidal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The likes of Yusuf became immensely crucial to the American-Western designs in Muslim countries, being the ideal amalgamation between the ‘native informer’ – as a supposedly learned Muslim, although a white person himself – and the typical orientalist – the Western scholar that can be trusted in deciphering and dissecting the Muslim ‘Orient’ to the colonialist West.

According to the Guardian newspaper, Yusuf once told Muslim political dissidents, “If you hate the west, emigrate to a Muslim country”, thus displaying the same racist sentiment often lobbed by far-right chauvinists to anyone who dares question government policies on war, immigration, or anything else.

This very sentiment was repeated by US President, Donald Trump, when he tweeted last July, “In America, if you hate our Country, you are free to leave.”

According to the infinite wisdom of Yusuf and Trump, one can only earn the right to be a fully bonified citizen if one fully abandons one’s right to display any disagreement with one’s government’s policies.

In Yusuf’s shameful thinking, it also follows that a Muslim can never truly be a permanent citizen in any western polity, a sentiment embraced by the very neo-fascist movements that are currently plaguing Europe.

It should come as no surprise, then, that when US Secretary of State and well-known anti-Muslim bigot, Mike Pompeo, announced the formation of the Commission on Unalienable Rights – another platform for political and religious prejudices targeting Trump’s enemies around the world – Yusuf was immediately handpicked to be a member of that commission.

The problem, however, is bigger than a single orientalist. It has become clear that the terrible consequences of September 11 – the bloody wars that followed, and the tragic but predictable backlash of anti-Western militancy in the US, Europe and elsewhere – have, sadly, emasculated mainstream Muslim discourse in Western countries, the US especially.

Once upon a time, every Friday, hundreds of Imams throughout American mosques would breach solidarity with Palestine, Kashmir, Afghanistan, Chechnya, and so on. Money would be raised for various organizations that provided aid for victims of wars throughout the Muslim world. In fact, unity around Palestine seemed to bring millions of Muslims together despite their vastly different cultures, classes, and even their very own interpretations of Islam itself.

The outcome of September 11, namely the so-called ‘war on terror’, has changed all of that, imposing a new paradigm and a stark choice on Muslim communities all across the country.

The shutting down of the Holy Land Foundation, because of its support of Palestinian and other victims of Israeli violence, was only the tip of the iceberg. The accounts of many Muslim charities and organizations were drained, while hundreds, if not thousands of well-educated and outspoken Muslim intellectuals were either detained, deported, fired from their jobs or forced into silence by other means.

Sadly, it was the dawn of a new and tragic era where the self-loathing, self-seeking and opportunistic Muslim intellectual peddlers reigned supreme.

It is through this compromising bunch, that Western governments managed to tailor their own version of the ‘good Muslim’, to be juxtaposed with the radical, God-forbid, free-thinking Muslim, unfairly but incessantly seen as a terrorist sympathizer.

I had the displeasure of knowing or learning about many of these ‘good Muslims’ in the last twenty years, who are so keen at claiming the spots at phony ‘interfaith dialogue’ conferences, giddily serving the role of the well-behaved Muslim whenever demanded of them.

For this odd breed of Muslims, Palestine is an obstacle, and Kashmir is a forgotten, wasteland, for their mission is not to advocate on behalf of the oppressed. Instead, they are often used as middlemen who convey the official diktats of governments, states, and city councils to their fellow Muslims. In other words, they become the ‘official’ Muslims, whose agenda is not that of their own community – helping to mobilize, organize and advocate while building solidarity with other marginalized groups – but, as in the case of Yusuf, embracing the agenda of Trump himself.

The problem with these spiritual charlatans is that they feed the misguided view that Muslims can only be either quisling hacks or potential terrorists; that Muslims must be subdued or they become a danger to society; and that Muslims cannot be part of a larger collective of political dissidents who advocate justice and equality in their own society, and the world over.

Currently, at many mosques across the US, Palestine, Kashmir, Afghanistan, and other places of great and perpetual injustice are hardly mentioned. Many shy away even from political advocacy and intersectionality within their own communities. Perhaps, they fear that doing so would place them at the radar of the FBI or local enforcement agencies.

But, what is Islam without justice?

In one Quranic verse (5:8), God says, “O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm for God, witnesses in justice, and do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness”.

The emphasis on justice and the building of communities and nations that stand for what is right is at the core of Islamic values, and neither Mark Hansen nor any other self-proclaimed Muslims can possibly change that.

As for governments that are constantly caricaturing Muslims and Islam to fit their own agendas, they are not doing themselves any favors either, for a strong society is predicated on the freedom of individuals and groups to operate within a legal and democratic framework, with the overriding goal of advancing the interests of the entire nation.

Freedom for Palestine, Kashmir, Afghanistan, as well as the rights of minorities, social justice, gender and racial equality, all go hand-in-hand. No sincere justice advocate, self-respecting scholar, and needless to say, true Muslim, would disagree with the notion that justice is indivisible, a moral doctrine has defined Islam and Muslims for fifteen centuries.

– Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press, Atlanta). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA), Istanbul Zaim University (IZU). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net

Hate as a Common Ground: Why Israel’s Coalition Government Is Likely to Survive

By Ramzy Baroud

Source

Israeli leaders insist that democracy, transparency, and inclusion are achievable, even when millions of the country’s Arab citizens are marginalized and continue to be victims of institutional racism that dates back to the very foundation of Israel.

Shortly after an agreement to form a “national emergency government” in Israel, leader of the Blue and White (Kahol Lavan) party, Benny Gantz, tweeted triumphantly that ‘democracy’ in Israel has been ‘safeguarded’.

But how is a deal that would grant Israel’s right-wing Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, a veto power over the very judicial system which will determine his fate, a form of democracy?

In January, Netanyahu was indicted on multiple counts of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. His trial is scheduled for May 24.

By making such an assertion, Gantz is simply deluding himself, following one the most disgraceful acts of political betrayal in the country’s modern history. By agreeing to join Netanyahu’s Likud party, Gantz has demolished his own parliamentary group which unified several major parties in one single bloc, all with the aim of removing Israel’s longest-serving leader from power.

The Blue and White, which until recently consisted of three parties (Hosen Li-Israel, Yesh Atid and Telem), presented itself to Israeli voters as a political force that would finally restore some credibility to Israel’s ailing political institutions.

Clearly, Israel was not ready for such a mission.

It is convenient to blame Gantz for the collapse of Israel’s once-burgeoning opposition, but the problem with Israel’s political elites is far more complex than that of a single individual.

Israeli leaders insist that democracy, transparency, and inclusion are achievable, even when millions of the country’s Arab citizens are marginalized and continue to be victims of institutional racism that dates back to the very foundation of Israel.

In actuality, Gantz could have formed a government with the help of the Joint List, a coalition of Arab and progressive parties, which is the only Israeli political bloc that represents hope for a better, more inclusive future.

The supposed Israeli ‘centrist’, however, opted to join Netanyahu – and to, consequently, alienate his own allies, Yesh Atid and Telem – than meet the reasonable conditions of the Joint List.

The Joint List, which had eventually endorsed Gantz to form a government, had merely requested the removal of the Nation-State Law (which defines Israel as a Jewish State), the Kaminitz Law (which restricts building in Arab communities in Israel) and ending the Israeli occupation of Palestine, in accordance with international law.

The Arab parties’ demands were simply too much for Gantz to handle, for several reasons.

One, Gantz is essentially a right-wing politician and a military hawk, who favors the annexation of the occupied Palestinian territories and has called for even harsher wars on Gaza.

Two, the Blue and White would have never been able to build a wider coalition if it adhered to any of these demands. This much was made clear by the head of Yisrael Beiteinu leader, Avigdor Lieberman.

Three, Member of Knesset (Parliament) Zvi Hauser, one of the most influential figures of the Blue and White, is among the main forces behind the racist Nation State Law of July 2018. Expecting Hauser to cancel the jewel of his political achievements would be most unrealistic and would have further destabilized a party that has already lost nearly half of its supporters in a matter of days.

Hauser is an interesting character, an ambitious politician and a person to watch, as he will play an important future role in Israel’s coalition government.

Hauser will now become the “proverbial long arm of the Judicial Appointments Committee,” according to Yossi Verter, writing in Haaretz. This committee, in particular, was the main stumbling block in the difficult negotiations, which preceded the announcement of a government coalition deal between Gantz and Netanyahu.

According to the deal, Netanyahu can accept or reject any of Hauser’s future appointments. Hauser is unlikely to find Netanyahu’s interference unacceptable, simply because he is used to the idea of being Netanyahu’s point man.

Yes, indeed, Hauser entered public service in 1994 to serve as the Likud party’s spokesman under Netanyahu who, at the time, was the country’s opposition leader.  In fact, Hauser’s political career throughout the years seems to be intrinsically linked to Netanyahu’s own.

And here, yet, is another common ground between the Likud and the Blue and White, which could make the planned annexation of parts of the occupied Palestinian West Bank and Jordan Valley very much possible.

The text of the coalition government agreement spoke of potential annexation of parts of the occupied territories as early as the summer, in accordance with the US President Donald Trump’s “Vision for Peace”.

This understanding was by no means a concession on the part of Gantz, who, too, supports some form of annexation.

That’s where Hauser’s role becomes vital once more, for it was Hauser himself who headed the ‘Coalition for the Israeli Golan’, which championed and promoted Israel’s sovereignty over the occupied Syrian Golan Heights.

Hauser’s wish received a huge boost in March 2019, when Trump signed the order recognizing the Golan Heights as Israeli.

Despite its difficult birth and the Blue and White setback, the Netanyahu-Gantz coalition has more in common than meets the eye:

For one, Gantz seems to have abandoned his strategy of getting rid of Netanyahu through the court system. With Hauser as a middle man, Netanyahu, at least for now, is somewhat safe.

Secondly, not only is the annexation of Palestinian territories (despite strong Palestinian and international rejection to such a move) not a point of contention between the coalition partners, but a point of agreement as well.

Thirdly, with Gantz’s rejection of a coalition that includes the Joint List, and Netanyahu’s complete disregard for the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank and Gaza, Palestinians are entirely erased from the political map of Israel’s ruling elites. This is unlikely to change in the future as well.

There is one positive aspect in Israel’s unpromising government coalition, and that is clarity. Knowing of Netanyahu’s anti-Palestinian, anti-peace, and anti-international law long legacy, we should have all the clarity needed to understand that no just peace can possibly be achieved when Netanyahu is still at the helm.

The same can be said of Gantz as well, who preferred to willingly shake the hand of the devil than to find common ground among the leaders of Israel’s Palestinian Arab community.

Even when Netanyahu’s eighteen-month term as Prime Minister expires, a Gantz-led Israeli government is unlikely to fare any better.

Coronavirus: How Are European Countries Treating Refugees Amid the Pandemic?

By Romana Rubeo & Ramzy Baroud

Source

Neglecting the refugees while fighting coronavirus is as foolish as it is inhumane. The last few months have taught us that self-centered strategies do not apply in the cases of global healthcare crises.

As soon as the COVID-19 pandemic began spreading its tentacles throughout China and eventually to the rest of the world, the World Health Organization (WHO), along with other international groups, sounded the alarm that refugees and migrants are particularly vulnerable to the deadly disease.

“We strongly emphasize the need for inclusive national public health measures to ensure migrants and refugees have the same access to services as the resident population, in a culturally sensitive way,” Dr. Santino Severoni, Special Adviser on Health and Migration at WHO/Europe implored governments throughout the continent.

More than 120,000 ‘irregular’ migrants and refugees have landed on European shores in 2019 alone, a large percentage from war-torn Syria.

Having hundreds of thousands of people navigate dangerous terrains or held under inhumane conditions in various camps and detention centers without proper medical care is already bad enough. It is far worse, however, that these vulnerable groups are now enduring the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic without much government attention, a centralized strategy or even safe shelters.

Euronews reported last month on the story of 56 people arriving on the Greek island of Lesbos, coming mostly from Afghanistan and various African countries.

Just as the coronavirus was peaking in Europe, these unfortunate escapees of war and poverty arrived to find that they have no protection, no assistance, and no prospect of any help arriving any time soon.

One Afghan refugee said that the group was left fending for itself, for fourteen days without any support, not even gloves or masks.

But not all European countries neglected the refugees, partially or entirely. Although one of the poorest European countries, Portugal has decided to legalize all of its undocumented refugees and migrants, therefore, providing them with the same medical attention and support as its own citizens.

Below, is a quick look at how European countries treated refugees and migrants since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

Spain

Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and other Council of Europe member states suspended the deportation of refugees to their own countries.

For its part, Spain has finally emptied its Centros de Enternamiento de Extranjeros (CIE), the notorious detention and deportation centers that have been criticized by various human rights groups in the past.

59% of all refugees and migrants to Spain were reportedly held in the CIE. By early April, however, that percentage had gone down to zero, according to the Italian newspaper, Corriere della Sera.

It remains unclear, however, if and when CIE will resume their activities or if Spain will review the status of refugees and migrants who have been slated for deportation prior to the outbreak of the virus.

Portugal

Spain’s precautionary measures are different from those of its neighbor, Portugal. The latter will treat all refugees and migrants, who have pending applications as permanent residents, starting July 1.

The government decision was meant to secure refugees’ and migrants’ access to public services during the coronavirus outbreak.

“Applicants including asylum seekers need only provide evidence of an ongoing request to qualify – granting them access to the national health service, welfare benefits, bank accounts, and work and rental contracts,” Reuters reported.

A spokesman for Portugal’s Ministry of Internal Affairs, Claudia Veloso, summed up the logic behind her government’s decision in a language that is, sadly, quite alien to the pervading European political discourse on refugees:

People should not be deprived of their rights to health and public service just because their application has not yet been processed. In these exceptional times, the rights of migrants must be guaranteed.”

Italy

One of the countries that has suffered most as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Italy has a significant population of refugees and asylum seekers, numbering 300,000 by the end of 2018.

On March 12, due to the closure of courts across the country, the Italian government suspended all hearings and appeals relevant to asylum seekers. It remains unclear when the pending status of refugees will be reviewed, considering the high death toll and the degree of economic devastation that has afflicted Italy in recent months.

Although, by law, all foreigners in Italy have access to the country’s healthcare system, “many asylum seekers fear going to hospitals if undocumented, or face discrimination or language barriers,” Refugees International said last March.

“All this will make it harder to detect the virus in a highly vulnerable population,” the refugee advocacy organization added.

France

The fate of France’s refugees and undocumented migrants has worsened, not only because of the spread of the coronavirus but also because of the government’s haphazard and uncaring response.

A sizable number of France’s refugee and migrant communities are minors who arrived to the country without being accompanied by adults. The French government has been criticized repeatedly in the past for failing to address the issue of child refugees and migrants. Shockingly, the government’s behavior was hardly altered by the spread of the coronavirus, leaving children in a legal limbo during the world’s worst healthcare crisis since the Spanish flu in 1918.

“The treatment of these children by the authorities was already unacceptable before the epidemic, and today it is not only intolerable but also dangerous,” Benedicte Jeannerod, France director at Human Rights Watch warned in March.

“The authorities should urgently address this and provide these children with shelter and access to essential services to stop the spread of coronavirus in this already vulnerable group,” he added.

Germany

In the Ellwangen camp in Southwest Germany, the EU Observer reported that “nearly half of the roughly 600 people at (the) refugee camp … have tested positive for Covid-19, but are being forced to share facilities with everyone else.”

“We stayed in the same building and flat as people who had been tested positive for two days. We used the same kitchens and had meals with them. Because of this neglect, we will also get corona,” a refugee at the camp told The Guardian.

The refugees’ biggest concern in Germany is not pertaining to their legal status and potential deportation, but to medical neglect as well, as detention camps are overcrowded and refugees are getting infected with the virus in droves.

While some European governments speak of human solidarity, and, as in the case of Portugal, back their words with actions, others remain as unbenevolent and as unkind as ever.

That said, neglecting the refugees while fighting to halt the spread of the coronavirus is as foolish as it is inhumane. The last few months have taught us that provisional and self-centered strategies do not apply in the cases of global healthcare crises.

The mistreatment of refugees by some European countries, however, should not come as a complete surprise, for vulnerable refugees have suffered immense hardship while seeking a safe haven on the continent for many years.

In fact, Europe seems to have run out of solidarity for its own so-called ‘European community’, leaving poor EU members, such as Italy and Spain battling the deadly virus alone, without extending a helping hand or, at times, even mere words of sympathy.

 

The Virus of Occupation: Israelis Have Taken To Spitting on Palestinians During Coronavirus

By Ramzy Baroud

Source

Now that we know that the deadly coronavirus can be transmitted through saliva droplets, Israeli soldiers and illegal Jewish settlers are working extra hard to spit at as many Palestinians, their cars, doorknobs, and so on, as possible.

If this sounds to you too surreal and repugnant, then you might not be as familiar with the particular breed of Israeli colonialism as you may think you are.

In all fairness, Israelis have been spitting at Palestinians well before the World Health Organization (WHO) lectured us on the elusive nature of the COVID-19 disease and on the critical need to apply ‘social distancing’.

Indeed, if you Google the phrase ‘Israeli spitting’, you will be inundated with many interesting search results, the like of “Jerusalem Judge to Jews: Don’t Spit On Christians“, “Christians in Jerusalem want Jews to Stop Spitting on Them“, and the more recent, “Israel Settlers Spitting on Palestinian Cars Raises Concern over Attempt to Spread Coronavirus”.

Interestingly, most of this coverage throughout the years has been carried out by Israel’s own media, while receiving little attention in Western mainstream media.

One could easily classify such degrading acts as yet another example of the Israelis’ false sense of superiority over Palestinians. But the deliberate attempt at infecting occupied Palestinians with the coronavirus is beneath contempt, even for a settler-colonial regime.

Two particular elements in this story require a pause.

First, that acts of spitting at Palestinians and their properties, by both occupation soldiers and settlers, have been widely reported in many parts of occupied Palestine.

This means that, within a matter of days, the Israeli army and settlers’ cultures so swiftly adapted their pre-existing racism to employ a deadly virus as the latest tool in subjugating and harming Palestinians, whether physically or symbolically.

Second, the degree of ignorance and buffoonery that accompany these racist and degrading acts.

The power paradigm that has governed the relationship between colonial Israel and colonized Palestinians has, thus far, followed a typical trajectory, where Israel’s bad deeds often go unpunished.

Those racist Israelis who are deliberately trying to infect Palestinians with the COVID-19 are not only criminal in their thinking and behavior, but utterly foolish as well.

When Israeli soldiers arrest or beat up Palestinian activists, they are as likely to contract the coronavirus as they are to transmit it.

But, of course, Israel is doing much more to complicate, if not entirely hinder, Palestinian efforts aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus.

On March 23, a Palestinian worker, Malek Jayousi, was tossed out by Israeli authorities at the Beit Sira military checkpoint, near Ramallah, after he was suspected of having the coronavirus.

A video footage of the poor worker huddling near the checkpoint, after he was “dumped like trash”, has gone viral on social media.

PLO Department of Public Diplomacy & Policy@PalestinePDP

Widespread condemnation of inhumane Israeli treatment of this Palestinian worker. He was dumped on the side of the road by an Israeli military checkpoint near Ramallah after his Israeli employer suspected he could have . Malek is now receiving proper care.@ilo

Embedded video

As shocking as that image was, it was repeated in other parts of the West Bank.

Of course, the Palestinian workers were not tested for the virus, but had merely exhibited flu-like symptoms, enough to make Israel dispose of them as if their lives did not matter in the least.

Two weeks later, the Palestinian Governor of the occupied city of Qalqiliya, Rafi’ Rawajbeh,  told reporters that the Israeli army has opened several wastewater tunnels near the northern Palestinian city, with the aim of smuggling Palestinian workers back to the West Bank, without prior coordination with the Palestinian Authority.

Without testing hundreds of those smuggled workers, the PA, already operating with limited capacity to confront the disease, will find it impossible to contain the spread of the virus.

Palestinian claims of Israel’s deliberate attempt at worsening the spread of the coronavirus in Palestine were further confirmed by the Geneva-based Euro-med Monitor, which, on March 31, called on the international community to investigate the ‘suspicious behavior’ of Israeli soldiers and Jewish settlers.

During Israeli army raids on Palestinian homes, soldiers “spat at parked cars, ATMs and shop locks, which raises fears of deliberate attempts to spread the virus and cause panic in the Palestinian society,” Euro-Med stated.

Article 56 of the Fourth Geneva Convention does not say anything about the need for members of the Occupying Power to stop spitting at occupied and subjugated communities; most likely, because it is a given that such sordid behavior is completely unacceptable and does not require a separate textual reference.

However, Article 56, as was recently emphasized by UN Special Rapporteur for the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory, Michael Lynk, does require Israel, the Occupying Power, to “ensure that all the necessary preventive means available to it are utilized to ‘combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics.’”

Israel, however, is failing its legal mandate, and horribly so.

Even the Israeli mayor of Jerusalem, Moshe Leon, has himself stressed the inequality in the official Israeli response to the spread of the coronavirus.

In his letter of April 7 to the Israeli Health Ministry Director General, Moshe Bar Siman Tov, Leon warned against “the serious shortage of medical equipment at (Palestinian) hospitals in (occupied) East Jerusalem, particularly protective equipment and equipment to conduct coronavirus testing.”

Despite the severe shortages in East Jerusalem and West Bank hospitals, the situation in the besieged Gaza Strip is simply disastrous, as Gaza’s Health Ministry has declared on April 9 that it has run out of its coronavirus test kits, which never amounted to more than few hundred, in the first place.

This means that the many Gazans who are already under quarantine will not be released any time soon, and that new cases will not be detected, let alone cured.

We have repeatedly warned in the last few weeks that this terrifying scenario was going to happen, especially as Israel is using the coronavirus as an opportunity to further isolate Palestinians and to barter potential humanitarian aid with political concessions.

Without immediate and sustainable intervention from the international community, occupied Palestine, and especially impoverished and besieged Gaza, could become a hotbed for COVID-19 for years to come.

Israel will never relent without international intervention. Without being held accountable, even a deadly virus will never alter the habits of a vile military occupation.

%d bloggers like this: