Family Separation Law: Israel’s Demographic War on Palestine Intensifies

July 14, 2021

Palestinians waiting at Qalandia Checkpoint (Photo: Patrick Edgar, Supplied)

By Ramzy Baroud

When the Israeli Knesset (parliament) failed to renew what is commonly referred to as the Family Reunification Law, news reports and analyses misrepresented the story altogether. The even split of 59 MKs voting in favor of the law and 59 against it gave the erroneous impression that Israeli lawmakers are equally divided over the right of Palestinians to obtain permanent residency status or citizenship in Israel through marriage. Nothing could be further away from the truth. 

Originally passed in 2003, the Citizenship and Entry Law was effectively a ban on Palestinian marriage. Under the guise of ‘security’, the law prohibited Palestinians in the West Bank, who marry Israeli citizens, to permanently move to Israel, obtain work, permanent residency and, ultimately, citizenship. 

The law was never made permanent as it was subjected to an annual vote, which successfully renewed it 17 times, consecutively. The 18th vote, on July 6, however, ran into an obstacle. Contrary to the perception given by media coverage, those who voted against the renewal of the ban did so for purely political reasons and not out of concern for the tens of thousands of Palestinian families that have splintered and broken up since the law came into effect.

Since the ousting of former Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, at the hands of his protégé, current Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, Israel’s former leader has been determined to topple Bennett’s already fragile coalition. Bennett’s government allies cobble up extreme right-wing parties, including Yamina, the party of the prime minister himself, centrist and even leftist parties, the likes of Meretz. It even hosts an Arab party, United Arab List, or Ra’am, of Mansour Abbas. A coalition of this nature is unlikely to survive long, considering Israel’s tumultuous politics, and Netanyahu – eager for an early election – will do everything in his power to facilitate what he sees as an imminent collapse.

Netanyahu’s Likud party and its allies in the opposition voted against renewing the discriminatory law to score a political point. Their justification, however, was more appalling than the law itself. The Likud wants the temporary law to become a permanent fixture, a Basic Law, to be added to dozens of other similar racially motivated laws that target the very fabric of Palestinian society. 

Welcome to Israel’s demographic war on the Palestinian people. This one-sided war is situated in the belief among Israel’s Jewish majority, that Israel’s greatest challenge is sustaining its demographic advantage which, thanks to a decided campaign of ethnic cleansing that began over seven decades ago, has been held by Jews over Palestinian Arabs. 

Israel’s main fear is not simply a decisive Palestinian majority between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea. Israel’s Jewish ruling classes are also rattled by the real possibility of the growing political influence of Israel’s Palestinian Arab constituency, and are doing everything in their power to ensure Palestinian holders of Israeli citizenship are kept at a minimum. The Citizenship and Entry Law was designed specifically to keep this population in check. 

The general elections of March 2020, in particular, provided a taste of what a doomsday scenario would look like.  Arab Israeli parties unified under the single ticket of the Joint List and emerged with 15 seats, making it the third-largest political bloc in the Israeli Knesset, after Likud and Blue and White. If Palestinian Arabs mastered this much influence, though they represent only 20% of the overall Israeli population, imagine what they could do if the demographic tide continues to shift in their favor.

For Israel, the future of Jewish majority – read: supremacy – is dependent on keeping the population equation in favor of Israeli Jews at the expense of Palestinian Arabs. Most of the laws that discriminate against Palestinians, regardless of where they reside – in fact, anywhere in the world – is motivated by this maxim.  

According to the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel (Adalah), Israel’s Palestinian Arab population is targeted with 65 different government laws and regulations, which ensure Palestinian Arabs do not prosper as a community, remaining politically disempowered, socio-economically disadvantaged and constantly threatened with the loss of their residency, and even citizenship. 

Palestinians elsewhere suffer an even worse fate. For example, Palestinians living in Jerusalem, who supposedly hold permanent residency status, are subjected to different types of legal harassment, so that Jerusalem can maintain its current Jewish majority. When Israel illegally occupied East Jerusalem in 1967, the city was almost entirely Palestinian Arab. Through numerous tactics, the city’s Arab population is now an ever-shrinking minority. Worse still, in 2018 Israel passed a law that granted the Ministry of Interior the right to revoke the residency of Jerusalemites based on the murky accusation of ‘breach of loyalty’.  

The occupied West Bank and Gaza are confined, as only Israel determines who remains and who is permanently exiled. The Israeli military occupation of these regions has taken population control to a whole new level; it is almost an exact science.

This is also precisely why Israelis abhor the very discussion of the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees, for they consider it an implicit call for the ‘destruction of Israel as a Jewish state’. According to this logic, if millions of Palestinian refugees are allowed to return to their homes and lands in historic Palestine, Israel will no longer exist in its current form, as a Jewish state, but will become a democratic state for all of its citizens, instead.

What is likely to happen next is that Israel’s Interior Ministry will continue to find caveats in Israel’s ever-flexible laws to block the reunification of Palestinian families, until the Knesset officially renews the Citizenship and Entry Law or, worse, make it permanent. Either way, Israel’s demographic war on Palestinians is likely to intensify in the future. Considering that it is a war that cannot rationally be won, Israel is likely to delve deeper into the abyss of apartheid.

As Israel continues to experiment with controlling the Palestinian population, it would be shameful if the international community continued to remain silent. This moral outrage must end. 

 – 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

Gaza: Visualizing Destruction – Palestine Chronicle Short Documentary

June 17, 2021

Gaza: Visualizing Destruction is a short documentary produced by the Palestine Chronicle. (Image: The Palestine Chronicle)

By Palestine Chronicle Staff

What does ‘toppled to the ground’ actually mean in real life? What happens to a neighborhood once a missile explodes and the bodies of dead and wounded are collected?

In this latest video production by The Palestine Chronicle team, we attempt to visualize destruction and locate the names of those who died in the homes and neighborhoods in which they once lived.

A Gaza-based Palestinian Journalist, Wafaa Aludaini takes us on this emotional but necessary journey throughout the war-torn Gaza Strip. 

“Numbers without names, stats without faces and charts without the human being that gives them true meaning, are insufficient to tell the story of Palestine,” Palestinian journalist and editor of The Palestine Chronicle Ramzy Baroud said. 

“At the Palestine Chronicle, we have always defied that norm, which plagues much of the media. The Palestinian people are not sound bites and are not faceless, passive victims. This short video is our attempt at helping our readers visualize Gaza, the destruction of the last Israeli war and the people who underwent that harrowing experience,” Baroud added. 

“It is extremely important for the world to see how Gaza looks like right now, after the latest, bloody Israeli offensive. It is important to visually experience the destruction, to know that our attention towards Palestine cannot be limited to the days in which Israel bombards Gaza,” Romana Rubeo, managing editor of The Palestine Chronicle said.

“During the 11-day war, at The Palestine Chronicle, we tried to provide as much information as we could. I think that associating words with images is a powerful tool to keep attention high. For each child, for example, a home is a safe haven. Seeing how Israel turned these safe havens into heaps of rubble in a matter of seconds is as painful as it is necessary,” Rubeo added.

(The Palestine Chronicle)

How Palestinian Resistance Altered the Equation

JUNE 1, 2021

Photograph Source: Neil Ward – CC BY 2.0

BY RAMZY BAROUD

The ceasefire on May 21 has, for now, brought the Israeli war on Gaza to an end. However, this ceasefire is not permanent and constant Israeli provocations anywhere in Palestine could reignite the bloody cycle all over again. Moreover, the Israeli siege on Gaza remains in place, as well as the Israeli military occupation and the rooted system of apartheid that exists all over Palestine.

This, however, does not preclude the fact that the 11-day Israeli war on the besieged Gaza Strip has fundamentally altered some elements about Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians, especially the Palestinian Resistance, in all of its manifestations.

Let us examine the main actors in the latest confrontation and briefly discuss the impact of the Israeli war and the determined Palestinian resistance on their respective positions.

‘Mowing the Grass’ No More

‘Mowing the grass’ is an Israeli term used with reference to the habitual Israeli attacks and war on besieged Gaza, aimed at delineating the need for Israel to routinely eradicate or degrade the capabilities of the various Palestinian resistance groups on the street.

‘Mowing the grass’ also has political benefits, as it often neatly fit into Israel’s political agendas – for example, the need to distract from one political crisis or another in Israel or to solidify Israeli society around its leadership.

May 2021 will be remembered as the time that ‘mowing the grass’ can no longer be easily invoked as a military and political strategy by the Israeli government, as the Gaza resistance and the popular rebellion that was ignited throughout all of Palestine has raised the price by several-fold that Israel paid for its violent provocations.

While Israeli military and political strategists want to convince us, and themselves, that their relationship with Gaza and the Palestinian Resistance has not changed, it actually has and, arguably, irreversibly so.

The Altered Equation

The Palestinian fight for freedom has also been fundamentally altered, not only because of the unprecedented resilience of Palestinian resistance, but the unity of the Palestinian people, and the rise of a post-Oslo/peace process Palestinian nation that is united around a new popular discourse, one which does not differentiate between Palestinians in Jerusalem, Gaza, or anywhere else.

Palestinian unity around resistance, not peace process, is placing Israel in a new kind of quandary. For the first time in its history, Israel cannot win the war on the Palestinians. Neither can it lose the war, because conceding essentially means that Israel is ready to offer compromises – end its occupation, dismantle apartheid, and so on. This is why Israel opted for a one-sided ceasefire. Though humiliating, it preferred over-reaching a negotiated agreement, thus sending a message that the Palestinian Resistance works.

Still, the May war demonstrated that Israel is no longer the only party that sets the rules of the game. Palestinians are finally able to make an impact and force Israel to abandon its illusions that Palestinians are passive victims and that resistance is futile.

Equally important, we can no longer discuss popular resistance and armed resistance as if they are two separate notions or strategies. It would have been impossible for the armed resistance to be sustained, especially under the shocking amount of Israeli firepower, without the support of Palestinians at every level of society and regardless of their political and ideological differences.

Facing a single enemy that did not differentiate between civilians and fighters, between a Hamas or a Fatah supporter, the Palestinian people throughout Palestine moved past all of their political divisions and factional squabbles. Palestinian youth coined new terminologies, ones that were centered around resistance, liberation, solidarity and so on. This shift in the popular discourse will have important consequences that have the potential of cementing Palestinian unity for many years to come.

Israel’s Allies Not Ready to Change

The popular revolt in Palestine has taken many by surprise, including Israel’s allies. Historically, Israel’s Western supporters have proven to be morally bankrupt, but the latest war has proved them to be politically bankrupt as well.

Throughout the war, Washington and other Western capitals parroted the same old line about Israel’s right to defend itself, Israel’s security and the need to return to the negotiation table. This is an archaic and useless position because it did not add anything new to the old, empty discourse. If anything, it merely demonstrates their inability to evolve politically and to match the dramatic changes underway in occupied Palestine.

Needless to say, the new US Administration of Joe Biden, in particular, has missed a crucial opportunity to prove that it was different from that of the previous Donald Trump Administration. Despite, at times, guarded language and a few nuances, Biden behaved precisely as Trump would have if he was still  President.

What ‘Palestinian leadership’?

The head of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, and his circle of supporters represent a bygone era. While they are happy to claim a large share of whatever international financial support that could pour in to rebuild Gaza, they do not represent any political trend in Palestine at the moment.

Abbas’s decision to cancel Palestine’s elections scheduled for May and July left him more isolated. Palestinians are ready to look past him; in fact, they already have. This so-called leadership will not be able to galvanize upon this historic moment built on Palestinian unity and resistance.

The Palestinian Authority is corrupt and dispensable. Worse, it is an obstacle in the way of Palestinian freedom. Palestine needs a leadership that represents all Palestinian people everywhere, one that is truly capable of leading the people as they attempt to chart a clear path to their coveted freedom.

Expanding the Circle of Solidarity

The incredible amount of global solidarity which made headline news all over the world was a clear indication that the many years of preparedness at a grassroots level have paid off. Aside from the numerous expressions of solidarity, one particular aspect deserves further analysis: the geographic diversity of this solidarity which is no longer confined to a few cities in a few countries.

Pro-Palestine solidarity protests, vigils, conferences, webinars, art, music, poetry and many more such expressions were manifest from Kenya to South Africa, to Pakistan to the UK and dozens of countries around the world. The demographics, too, have changed, with minorities and people of color either leading or taking center stage of many of these protests, a phenomenon indicative of the rising intersectionality between Palestinians and numerous oppressed groups around the globe.

A critical fight ahead for Palestinians is the fight of delegitimizing and exposing Israeli colonialism, racism and apartheid. This fight can be won at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), the International Criminal Court (ICC), the International Court of Justice (ICJ), UNESCO and numerous international and regional organizations, in addition to the countless civil society groups and community centers the world over.

For this to happen, every voice matters, every vote counts, from India to Brazil, from Portugal to South Africa, from China to New Zealand, and so on. Israel understands this perfectly, thus the global charm offensive that right-wing Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has been leading for years. It is essential that we, too, understand this, and reach out to each UN member as part of a larger strategy to deservingly isolate Israel for ongoing war crimes and crimes against humanity.

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

Unity at Last: The Palestinian People Have Risen

May 21, 2021

The Palestinian people observe a nationwide general strike to protest Israel’s relentless bombardment of the besieged Gaza Strip. (Photo: via Al-Haq)

By Ramzy Baroud

From the outset, some clarification regarding the language used to depict the ongoing violence in occupied Palestine, and also throughout Israel. This is not a ‘conflict’. Neither is it a ‘dispute’ nor ‘sectarian violence’ nor even a war in the traditional sense.

It is not a conflict, because Israel is an occupying power and the Palestinian people are an occupied nation. It is not a dispute, because freedom, justice and human rights cannot be treated as if a mere political disagreement. The Palestinian people’s inalienable rights are enshrined in international and humanitarian law and the illegality of Israeli violations of human rights in Palestine is recognized by the United Nations itself.

If it is a war, then it is a unilateral Israeli war, which is met with humble, but real and determined Palestinian resistance.

Actually, it is a Palestinian uprising, an Intifada unprecedented in the history of the Palestinian struggle, both in its nature and outreach.

For the first time in many years, we see the Palestinian people united, from Jerusalem Al Quds, to Gaza, to the West Bank and, even more critically, to the Palestinian communities, towns and villages inside historic Palestine – today’s Israel.

This unity matters the most, is far more consequential than some agreement between Palestinian factions. It eclipses Fatah and Hamas and all the rest, because without a united people there can be no meaningful resistance, no vision for liberation, no struggle for justice to be won.

Right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could never have anticipated that a routine act of ethnic cleansing in East Jerusalem’s neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah could lead to a Palestinian uprising, uniting all sectors of Palestinian society in an unprecedented show of unity.

The Palestinian people have decided to move past all the political divisions and the factional squabbles. Instead, they are coining new terminologies, centered on resistance, liberation and international solidarity. Consequently, they are challenging factionalism, along with any attempt at making Israeli occupation and apartheid normal. Equally important, a strong Palestinian voice is now piercing through the international silence, compelling the world to hear a single chant for freedom.

The leaders of this new movement are Palestinian youth who have been denied participation in any form of democratic representation, who are constantly marginalized and oppressed by their own leadership and by the relentless Israeli military occupation. They were born into a world of exile, destitution and apartheid, led to believe that they are inferior, of a lesser race. Their right to self-determination and every other right were postponed indefinitely. They grew up helplessly watching their homes being demolished, their land being robbed and their parents being humiliated.

Finally, they are rising.

Without prior coordination and with no political manifesto, this new Palestinian generation is now making its voice heard, sending an unmistakable, resounding message to Israel and its right-wing chauvinistic society, that the Palestinian people are not passive victims; that the ethnic cleansing of Sheikh Jarrah and the rest of occupied East Jerusalem, the protracted siege on Gaza, the ongoing military occupation, the construction of illegal Jewish settlements, the racism and the apartheid will no longer go unnoticed; though tired, poor, dispossessed, besieged and abandoned, Palestinians will continue to safeguard their own rights, their sacred places and the very sanctity of their own people.

Yes, the ongoing violence was instigated by Israeli provocations in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem. However, the story was never about the ethnic cleansing of Sheikh Jarrah alone. The beleaguered neighborhood is but a microcosm of the larger Palestinian struggle.

Netanyahu may have hoped to use Sheikh Jarrah as a way of mobilizing his right-wing constituency around him, intending to form an emergency government or increasing his chances of winning yet a fifth election. His rash behavior, initially compelled by entirely selfish reasons, has ignited a popular rebellion among Palestinians, exposing Israel for the violent, racist and apartheid state that it is and always has been.

Palestinian unity and popular resistance have proven successful in other ways, too. Never before have we seen this groundswell of support for Palestinian freedom, not only from millions of ordinary individuals across the globe, but also from celebrities – movie stars, footballers, mainstream intellectuals and political activists, even models and social media influencers. The hashtags #SaveSheikhJarrah and #FreePalestine, among numerous others, are now interlinked and have been trending on all social media platforms for weeks. Israel’s constant attempts at presenting itself as a perpetual victim of some imaginary horde of Arabs and Muslims are no longer paying dividends. The world can finally see, read and hear of Palestine’s tragic reality and the need to bring this tragedy to an immediate end.

None of this would be possible were it not for the fact that all Palestinians have legitimate reasons and are speaking in unison. In their spontaneous reaction and genuine, communal solidarity, all Palestinians are united, from Sheikh Jarrah, to all of Jerusalem, to Gaza, Nablus, Ramallah, Al-Bireh and even Palestinian towns inside Israel – Al-Lud, Umm Al-Fahm, Kufr Qana and elsewhere. In Palestine’s new popular revolution, factions, geography and any political division are irrelevant. Religion is not a source of divisiveness but of spiritual and national unity.

The ongoing Israeli atrocities in Gaza are continuing, with a mounting death toll. This devastation will continue for as long as the world treats the devastating siege of the impoverished, tiny Strip as if irrelevant. People in Gaza were dying long before the Israeli airstrikes began blowing up their homes and neighborhoods. They were dying from the ack of medicine, polluted water, the lack of electricity and the dilapidated infrastructure.

We must save Sheikh Jarrah, but we must also save Gaza; we must demand an end to the Israeli military occupation of Palestine and, with it, the system of racial discrimination and apartheid. International human rights groups are now precise and decisive in their depiction of this racist regime, with Human Rights Watch – and Israel’s own rights group, B’tselem, joining the call for the dismantlement of apartheid in all of Palestine.

Speak up. Speak out. The Palestinians have risen. It is time to rally behind them.

– 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

Ramzy Baroud in TRT: Who Can Hold Israel Accountable? (VIDEO)

Palestine Chronicle editor Ramzy Baroud discusses Israel’s accountability for its crimes against Palestinians. (Photo: Video Grab)

Palestine Chronicle editor Ramzy Baroud discusses Israel’s accountability for its crimes against Palestinians.

(TRT)

A Palestinian Prayer for Ramadan: May the Voices of the Oppressed Be Heard

April 21, 2021

Palestinian Muslims performing prayers and reading Quran in the Great Al-Omari Mosque in the early days of the holy month of Ramadan. (Photo: Fawzi Mahmoud, The Palestine Chronicle)

By Ramzy Baroud

COVID-19 cases in Palestine, especially in Gaza, have reached record highs, largely due to the arrival of a greatly contagious coronavirus variant which was first identified in Britain.

Gaza has always been vulnerable to the deadly pandemic. Under a hermetic Israeli blockade since 2006, the densely populated Gaza Strip lacks basic services like clean water, electricity, or minimally-equipped hospitals. Therefore, long before COVID-19 ravaged many parts of the world, Palestinians in Gaza were dying as a result of easily treatable diseases such as diarrhea, salmonella and typhoid fever.

Needless to say, Gaza’s cancer patients have little fighting chance, as the besieged Strip is left without many life-saving medications. Many Palestinian cancer patients continue to cling to the hope that Israel’s military authorities will allow them access to the better equipped Palestinian West Bank hospitals. Alas, quite often, death arrives before the long-awaited Israeli permit does.

The tragedy in Gaza – in fact in all of occupied Palestine – is long and painful. Still, it ought not to be classified as another sad occasion that invokes much despair but little action.

In fact, the struggle of the Palestinians is integral to a larger struggle for fundamental human rights that can be witnessed throughout the Middle East which, according to a recent Carnegie Corporation report, is one of the most economically unequal regions in the world.

From war-torn Libya to war-torn Syria, to Yemen, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan and many parts of the Arab and Muslim world, the dual tragedy of war and want is a scathing reminder of the price ordinary people pay for frivolous power struggles that yield nothing but more uncertainty and achieve nothing but more hatred.

Once more, the holy month of Ramadan visits the Muslim Ummah while its tragedies are still festering – new conflicts, unfinished wars, an ever-expanding death toll and a never-ending stream of refugees. Sadly, not even Ramadan, a month associated with peace, mercy and unity, is enough to bring about however fleeting moments of tranquility, or a respite from hunger and war for numerous Muslim communities around the world.

In Palestine, the Israeli occupation often takes even more sinister turns during this month, as if to intentionally compound the suffering felt by Palestinians. On April 14, Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and preacher of Al-Aqsa Mosque called on Arabs and Muslims to intervene so that Israel may cease its harassment of Palestinians at the holy shrines of Al Quds – occupied East Jerusalem.

Aside from the increased attacks by Jewish extremists, who are now storming Al-Aqsa Mosque at a significantly higher rate than ever before, the Israeli occupation authorities have “removed the doors of the Mosque’s minarets, cut the electrical wires of loudspeakers to prevent the Adhan (call to prayer) and seized (Ramadan) iftar meals, in addition to threatening to storm the Mosque on the final days of the holy month of Ramadan,” Sheikh Hussein said in a statement.

Israel fully comprehends the spiritual connection that Palestinians, whether Muslims or Christians, have to their religious symbols. For Muslims, this rapport is further accentuated during the holy month of Ramadan. Severing this connection is equal to breaking the collective spirit of the Palestinian people.

These are only a few examples of a multifaceted and deeply rooted tragedy felt by most Palestinians. Numerous similar stories, though of different political and spatial contexts, are communicated every day throughout the Muslim world. Yet, there is no meaningful discussion of a collective remedy, of a strategy, of a thoughtful answer.

Ramadan is intended to be a time when Muslims are united on the basis of a wholly different criterion: where political and ideological differences disappear in favor of spiritual unity which is expressed in fasting, prayer, charity and kindness. Unfortunately, what we are witnessing is not Ramadan as it was intended to be, but different manifestations of the holy month, each catering to a different class – a painful but true expression of the disunity and inequality that have afflicted the Muslim Ummah.

There is the Ramadan of boundless wealth, finely catered iftar meals, coupled with endless, cheap entertainment. In this Ramadan, platitudes are often offered about charity and the poor, but little is delivered.

There is also the Ramadan of Palestine, Sudan and Yemen, of the Syrian refugee camps and of little dinghies dotting the Mediterranean, carrying thousands of desperate families, holding little but their hope of a better future beyond some horizon. For them, Ramadan is a stream of prayers that the world, especially their Muslim brethren, may come to their rescue. For them, there is little entertainment because there is no electricity and there are no massive iftar feasts because there is no money.

“Dua” is Arabic for supplication. For the oppressed, dua is the last resort; at times, even a weapon against oppression in all of its forms. This is why we often see bereaved Muslims raising their open palms to the sky whenever tragedy has befallen them. Ramadan is the month where the poor, destitute and oppressed raise their hands to Heaven, beseeching God in various accents and languages to hear their prayers.

They are reassured by such hadiths – sayings of Prophet Mohammed – as this: “The supplications of three persons are never turned away: a fasting person until he breaks his fast, a just ruler and the supplication of the oppressed which is raised by Allah above the clouds, the gates of Heaven are opened for it, and the Lord says: By my might, I will help you in due time.”

There has never been a more critical time for the Ummah to work together, to heal its collective wound, to uplift its down-trodden, to care for its poor, to embrace its refugees and to fight for its oppressed. Many Muslim communities around the world are aching and their pain is unbearable. Perhaps this Ramadan can serve as the opportunity for social justice to be finally enacted and for the oppressed to be heard so that their hymn of torment and hope may rise above the clouds.

– 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

From His Solitary Confinement, Marwan Barghouti Holds the Key to Fatah’s Future

April 7, 2021

By Ramzy Baroud

If imprisoned Palestinian leader, Marwan Barghouti, becomes the President of the Palestinian Authority (PA), the status quo will change substantially. For Israel, as well as for the current PA President, Mahmoud Abbas, such a scenario is more dangerous than another strong Hamas showing in the upcoming Palestinian parliamentary elections.

The long-delayed elections, now scheduled for May 22 and July 31 respectively, will not only represent a watershed moment for the fractured Palestinian body politic, but also for the Fatah Movement which has dominated the PA since its inception in 1994. The once-revolutionary Movement has become a shell of its former self under the leadership of Abbas, whose only claim to legitimacy was a poorly contested election in January 2005, following the death of former Fatah leader and PA President, Yasser Arafat.

Though his mandate expired in January 2009, Abbas continued to ‘lead’ Palestinians. Corruption and nepotism increased significantly during his tenure and, not only did he fail to secure an independent Palestinian State, but the Israeli military occupation and illegal settlements have deepened and grown exponentially.

Abbas’ rivals from within the Fatah Movement were sidelined, imprisoned or exiled. A far more popular Fatah leader, Marwan Barghouti, was silenced by Israel as he was thrown into an Israeli prison in April 2002, after a military court found him guilty of involvement in Palestinian resistance operations during the uprising of 2000. This arrangement suited Abbas, for he continued to doubly benefit: from Barghouti’s popularity, on the one hand, and his absence, on the other.

When, in January, Abbas declared that he would hold three successive rounds of elections – legislative elections on May 22, presidential elections on July 31 and Palestinian National Council (PNC) elections on August 31 – he could not have anticipated that his decree, which followed intense Fatah-Hamas talks, could potentially trigger the implosion of his own party.

Fatah-Hamas rivalry has been decades-long but intensified in January 2006 when the latter won the legislative elections in the Occupied Territories. Hamas’s victory was partly attributed to Fatah’s own corruption, but internal rivalry also splintered Fatah’s vote.

Although it was Fatah’s structural weaknesses that partly boosted Hamas’ popularity, it was, oddly, the subsequent rivalry with Hamas that kept Fatah somehow limping forward. Indeed, the anti-Hamas sentiment served as a point of unity among the various Fatah branches. With money pouring in from donor countries, Fatah used its largesse to keep dissent at a minimum and, when necessary, to punish those who refused to toe the pro-Abbas line. This strategy was successfully put to the test in 2010 when Mohammed Dahlan, Fatah’s ‘strong man’ in Gaza prior to 2006, was dismissed from Fatah’s central committee and banished from the West Bank, as he was banished from Gaza four years earlier.

But that convenient paradigm could not be sustained. Israel is entrenching its military occupation, increasing its illegal settlement activities and is rapidly annexing Palestinian land in the West Bank and Jerusalem. The Gaza siege, though deadly and tragic, has become routine and no longer an international priority. A new Palestinian generation in the Occupied Territories cannot relate to Abbas and his old guard, and is openly dissatisfied with the tribal, regional politics through which the PA, under Abbas, continues to govern occupied and oppressed Palestinians.

Possessing no strategies or answers, Abbas is now left with no more political lifelines and few allies.

With dwindling financial resources and faced by the inescapable fact that 85-year-old Abbas must engineer a transition within the movement to prevent its collapse in case of his death, Fatah was forced to contend with an unpleasant reality: without new elections the PA would lose the little political legitimacy with which it ruled over Palestinians.

Abbas was not worried about another setback, like that of 2006, when Hamas won majority of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC)’s seats. Until recently, most opinion polls indicated that the pro-Abbas Fatah list would lead by a comfortable margin in May and that Abbas would be re-elected President in July. With his powers intact, Abbas could then expand his legitimacy by allowing Hamas and others into the PLO’s Palestinian National Council – Palestine’s parliament in the Diaspora. Not only would Abbas renew faith in his Authority, but he could also go down in history as the man who united Palestinians.

But things didn’t go as planned and the problem, this time, did not come from Hamas, but from Fatah itself – although Abbas did anticipate internal challenges. However, the removal of Dahlan, the repeated purges of the party’s influential committees and the marginalization of any dissenting Fatah members throughout the years must have infused Abbas with confidence to advance with his plans.

The first challenge emerged on March 11, when Nasser al-Qidwa, a well-respected former diplomat and a nephew of Yasser Arafat, was expelled from the movement’s Central Committee for daring to challenge Abbas’ dominance. On March 4, Qidwa decided to lock horns with Abbas by running in the elections in a separate list.

The second and bigger surprise came on March 31, just one hour before the closing of the Central Election Commission’s registration deadline, when Qidwa’s list was expanded to include supporters of Marwan Barghouti, under the leadership of his wife, Fadwa.

Opinion polls are now suggesting that a Barghouti-Qidwa list, not only would divide the Fatah Movement but would actually win more seats, defeating both the traditional Fatah list and even Hamas. If this happens, Palestinian politics would turn on its head.

Moreover, the fact that Marwan Barghouti’s name was not on the list keeps alive the possibility that the imprisoned Fatah leader could still contest in the presidential elections in July. If that, too, transpires, Barghouti will effortlessly beat and oust Abbas.

The PA President is now in an unenviable position. Canceling the elections would lead to strife, if not violence. Moving forward means the imminent demise of Abbas and his small but powerful clique of Palestinians who benefited greatly from the cozy political arrangement they created for themselves.

As it stands, the key to the future of Fatah is now held by a Palestinian prisoner, Marwan Barghouti, who has been kept by Israel, largely in solitary confinement, since 2002.

– 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

How China Won the Middle East Without Firing a Single Bullet

China Middle East Feature photo

By Ramzy Baroud

Source

“If oil and influence were the prizes, then it seems China, not America, has ultimately won the Iraq war and its aftermath – without ever firing a shot.” — Jamil Anderlini

Amuch anticipated American foreign policy move under the Biden Administration on how to counter China’s unhindered economic growth and political ambitions came in the form of a virtual summit on March 12, linking, aside from the United States, India, Australia and Japan.

Although the so-called ‘Quad’ revealed nothing new in their joint statement, the leaders of these four countries spoke about the ‘historic’ meeting, described by ‘The Diplomat’ website as “a significant milestone in the evolution of the grouping”.

Actually, the joint statement has little substance and certainly nothing new by way of a blueprint on how to reverse – or even slow down – Beijing’s geopolitical successes, growing military confidence and increasing presence in or around strategic global waterways.

For years, the ‘Quad’ has been busy formulating a unified China strategy but it has failed to devise anything of practical significance. ‘Historic’ meetings aside, China is the world’s only major economy that is predicted to yield significant economic growth this year – and imminently. International Monetary Fund’s projections show that the Chinese economy is expected to expand by 8.1 percent in 2021 while, on the other hand, according to data from the US Bureau of Economic Analysis, the US’ GDP has declined by around 3.5 percent in 2020.

The ‘Quad’ – which stands for Quadrilateral Security Dialogue – began in 2007, and was revived in 2017, with the obvious aim of repulsing China’s advancement in all fields. Like most American alliances, the ‘Quad’ is the political manifestation of a military alliance, namely the Malabar Naval Exercises. The latter started in 1992 and soon expanded to include all four countries.

Since Washington’s ‘pivot to Asia’, i.e., the reversal of established US foreign policy that was predicated on placing greater focus on the Middle East, there is little evidence that Washington’s confrontational policies have weakened Beijing’s presence, trade or diplomacy throughout the continent. Aside from close encounters between the American and Chinese navies in the South China Sea, there is very little else to report.

While much media coverage has focused on the US’ pivot to Asia, little has been said about China’s pivot to the Middle East, which has been far more successful as an economic and political endeavor than the American geostrategic shift.

The US’ seismic change in its foreign policy priorities stemmed from its failure to translate the Iraq war and invasion of 2003 into a decipherable geo-economic success as a result of seizing control of Iraq’s oil largesse – the world’s second-largest proven oil reserves. The US strategy proved to be a complete blunder.

In an article published in the Financial Times in September 2020, Jamil Anderlini raises a fascinating point. “If oil and influence were the prizes, then it seems China, not America, has ultimately won the Iraq war and its aftermath – without ever firing a shot,” he wrote.

Not only is China now Iraq’s biggest trading partner, but Beijing’s massive economic and political influence in the Middle East is also a triumph. China is now, according to the Financial Times, the Middle East’s biggest foreign investor and a strategic partnership with all Gulf States – save Bahrain. Compare this with Washington’s confused foreign policy agenda in the region, its unprecedented indecisiveness, absence of a definable political doctrine and the systematic breakdown of its regional alliances.

This paradigm becomes clearer and more convincing when understood on a global scale. By the end of 2019, China became the world’s leader in terms of diplomacy, as it then boasted 276 diplomatic posts, many of which are consulates. Unlike embassies, consulates play a more significant role in terms of trade and economic exchanges. According to 2019 figures which were published in ‘Foreign Affairs’ magazine, China has 96 consulates compared with the US’ 88. Till 2012, Beijing lagged significantly behind Washington’s diplomatic representation, precisely by 23 posts.

Wherever China is diplomatically present, economic development follows. Unlike the US’ disjointed global strategy, China’s global ambitions are articulated through a massive network, known as the Belt and Road Initiative, estimated at trillions of dollars. When completed, BRI is set to unify more than sixty countries around Chinese-led economic strategies and trade routes. For this to materialize, China quickly moved to establish closer physical proximity to the world’s most strategic waterways, heavily investing in some and, as in the case of Bab al-Mandab Strait, establishing its first-ever overseas military base in Djibouti, located in the Horn of Africa.

At a time when the US economy is shrinking and its European allies are politically fractured, it is difficult to imagine that any American plan to counter China’s influence, whether in the Middle East, Asia or anywhere else, will have much success.

The biggest hindrance to Washington’s China strategy is that there can never be an outcome in which the US achieves a clear and precise victory. Economically, China is now driving global growth, thus balancing out the US-international crisis resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Hurting China economically would weaken the US as well as the global markets.

The same is true politically and strategically. In the case of the Middle East, the pivot to Asia has backfired on multiple fronts. On the one hand, it registered no palpable success in Asia while, on the other, it created a massive vacuum for China to refocus its own strategy in the Middle East.

Some wrongly argue that China’s entire political strategy is predicated on its desire to merely ‘do business’. While economic dominance is historically the main drive of all superpowers, Beijing’s quest for global supremacy is hardly confined to finance. On many fronts, China has either already taken the lead or is approaching there. For example, on March 9, China and Russia signed an agreement to construct the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS). Considering Russia’s long legacy in space exploration and China’s recent achievements in the field – including the first-ever spacecraft landing on the South Pole-Aitken Basin area of the moon – both countries are set to take the lead in the resurrected space race.

Certainly, the US-led ‘Quad’ meeting was neither historic nor a game-changer, as all indicators attest that China’s global leadership will continue unhindered, a consequential event that is already reordering the world’s geopolitical paradigms which have been in place for over a century.

From the Earth to the Moon: Biden’s China Policy Doomed from the Start

March 17, 2021

US President Biden and Vice President Harris Meet Virtually with their Counterparts in the ‘Quad’. (Photo: Video Grab)

By Ramzy Baroud

A much anticipated American foreign policy move under the Biden Administration on how to counter China’s unhindered economic growth and political ambitions came in the form of a virtual summit on March 12, linking, aside from the United States, India, Australia and Japan.

Although the so-called ‘Quad’ revealed nothing new in their joint statement, the leaders of these four countries spoke about the ‘historic’ meeting, described by ‘The Diplomat’ website as “a significant milestone in the evolution of the grouping”.

Actually, the joint statement has little substance and certainly nothing new by way of a blueprint on how to reverse – or even slow down – Beijing’s geopolitical successes, growing military confidence and increasing presence in or around strategic global waterways.

For years, the ‘Quad’ has been busy formulating a unified China strategy but it has failed to devise anything of practical significance. ‘Historic’ meetings aside, China is the world’s only major economy that is predicted to yield significant economic growth this year – and imminently. International Monetary Fund’s projections show that the Chinese economy is expected to expand by 8.1 percent in 2021 while, on the other hand, according to data from the US Bureau of Economic Analysis, the US’ GDP has declined by around 3.5 percent in 2020.

The ‘Quad’ – which stands for Quadrilateral Security Dialogue – began in 2007, and was revived in 2017, with the obvious aim of repulsing China’s advancement in all fields. Like most American alliances, the ‘Quad’ is the political manifestation of a military alliance, namely the Malabar Naval Exercises. The latter started in 1992 and soon expanded to include all four countries.

Since Washington’s ‘pivot to Asia’, i.e., the reversal of established US foreign policy that was predicated on placing greater focus on the Middle East, there is little evidence that Washington’s confrontational policies have weakened Beijing’s presence, trade or diplomacy throughout the continent. Aside from close encounters between the American and Chinese navies in the South China Sea, there is very little else to report.

While much media coverage has focused on the US’ pivot to Asia, little has been said about China’s pivot to the Middle East, which has been far more successful as an economic and political endeavor than the American geostrategic shift.

The US’ seismic change in its foreign policy priorities stemmed from its failure to translate the Iraq war and invasion of 2003 into a decipherable geo-economic success as a result of seizing control of Iraq’s oil largesse – the world’s second-largest proven oil reserves. The US strategy proved to be a complete blunder.

In an article published in the Financial Times in September 2020, Jamil Anderlini raises a fascinating point. “If oil and influence were the prizes, then it seems China, not America, has ultimately won the Iraq war and its aftermath – without ever firing a shot,” he wrote.

Not only is China now Iraq’s biggest trading partner, Beijing’s massive economic and political influence in the Middle East is a triumph. China is now, according to the Financial Times, the Middle East’s biggest foreign investor and a strategic partnership with all Gulf States – save Bahrain. Compare this with Washington’s confused foreign policy agenda in the region, its unprecedented indecisiveness, absence of a definable political doctrine and the systematic breakdown of its regional alliances.

This paradigm becomes clearer and more convincing when understood on a global scale. By the end of 2019, China became the world’s leader in terms of diplomacy, as it then boasted 276 diplomatic posts, many of which are consulates. Unlike embassies, consulates play a more significant role in terms of trade and economic exchanges. According to 2019 figures which were published in ‘Foreign Affairs’ magazine, China has 96 consulates compared with the US’ 88. Till 2012, Beijing lagged significantly behind Washington’s diplomatic representation, precisely by 23 posts.

Wherever China is diplomatically present, economic development follows. Unlike the US’ disjointed global strategy, China’s global ambitions are articulated through a massive network, known as the Belt and Road Initiative, estimated at trillions of dollars. When completed, BRI is set to unify more than sixty countries around Chinese-led economic strategies and trade routes. For this to materialize, China quickly moved to establish closer physical proximity to the world’s most strategic waterways, heavily investing in some and, as in the case of Bab al-Mandab Strait, establishing its first-ever overseas military base in Djibouti, located in the Horn of Africa.

At a time when the US economy is shrinking and its European allies are politically fractured, it is difficult to imagine that any American plan to counter China’s influence, whether in the Middle East, Asia or anywhere else, will have much success.

The biggest hindrance to Washington’s China strategy is that there can never be an outcome in which the US achieves a clear and precise victory. Economically, China is now driving global growth, thus balancing out the US-international crisis resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Hurting China economically would weaken the US as well as the global markets.

The same is true politically and strategically. In the case of the Middle East, the pivot to Asia has backfired on multiple fronts. On the one hand, it registered no palpable success in Asia while, on the other, it created a massive vacuum for China to refocus its own strategy in the Middle East.

Some wrongly argue that China’s entire political strategy is predicated on its desire to merely ‘do business’. While economic dominance is historically the main drive of all superpowers, Beijing’s quest for global supremacy is hardly confined to finance. On many fronts, China has either already taken the lead or is approaching there. For example, on March 9, China and Russia signed an agreement to construct the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS). Considering Russia’s long legacy in space exploration and China’s recent achievements in the field – including the first-ever spacecraft landing on the South Pole-Aitken Basin area of the moon – both countries are set to take the lead in the resurrected space race.

Certainly, the US-led ‘Quad’ meeting was neither historic nor a game-changer, as all indicators attest that China’s global leadership will continue unhindered, a consequential event that is already reordering the world’s geopolitical paradigms which have been in place for over a century.

– 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

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.

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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)

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