The War on Innocence: Palestinian Children in Israeli Military Court

Palestin Children feature photo

Since the start of the Second Intifada, the popular uprising of 2000, some 12,000 Palestinian children have been detained and interrogated by the Israeli army.

On July 29, 4-year-old Muhammad Rabi’ Elayyan was reportedly summoned for interrogation by the Israeli police in occupied Jerusalem.

The news, originally reported by the Palestinian News Agency (WAFA), was later denied by the Israeli police, likely to lessen the impact of the PR disaster that followed.

The Israelis are not denying the story in its entirety, but are rather arguing that it was not the boy, Muhammad, who was summoned, but his father, Rabi’, who was called into the Israeli police station in Salah Eddin Street in Jerusalem, to be questioned regarding his son’s actions.




The child was accused of hurling a stone at Israeli occupation soldiers in the Issawiyeh neighborhood, a constant target for Israeli violence. The neighborhood has also been the tragic site for house demolition under the pretext that Palestinians there are building without permits. Of course, the vast majority of Palestinian applications to build in Issawiyeh, or anywhere in Jerusalem, are denied, while Jewish settlers are allowed to build on Palestinian land, unhindered.

With this in mind, Issawiyeh is no stranger to the ridiculous and unlawful behavior of the Israeli army. On July 6, a mother from the beleaguered neighborhood was arrested as a means to put pressure on her teenage son, Mahmoud Ebeid, to turn himself in. The mother “was taken by Israeli police as a bargaining chip,” Mondoweiss reported, quoting the Jerusalem-based Wadi Hileh Information Center.

Israeli authorities are justified in feeling embarrassed by the whole episode concerning the 4-year-old boy, thus the attempt at poking holes in the story. The fact is WAFA’s correspondent in Jerusalem had, indeed, verified that the warrant was in Muhammad’s, not Rabi’s, name.

While some news sources bought into the Israeli ‘hasbara’, readily conveying the Israeli cries of ‘fake news’, one must bear in mind that this event is hardly a one-off incident. For Palestinians, such news of detaining, beating and killing children is one of the most consistent features of the Israeli occupation since 1967.

Just one day after the summoning of Muhammad, Israeli authorities also interrogated the father of a 6-year-old child, Qais Firas Obaid, from the same neighborhood of Issawiyeh, after accusing the boy of throwing a juice carton at Israeli soldiers.

“According to local sources in Issawiyeh the (Israeli) military sent Qais’ family an official summons to come to the interrogation center in Jerusalem on Wednesday (July 31) at 8 am,” reported the International Middle East Media Center (IMEMC). In one photo, the little boy is pictured while holding up to a camera the Israeli military order written in Hebrew.

The stories of Muhammad and Qais are the norm, not the exception. According to the prisoners’ advocacy group, Addameer, there are currently 250 children in Israeli prisons, with approximately 700 Palestinian children going through the Israeli military court system every single year. “The most common charge levied against children is throwing stones, a crime that is punishable under military law by up to 20 years,” Addameer reports.

Indeed, Israel has so much to be embarrassed about. Since the start of the Second Intifada, the popular uprising of 2000, some 12,000 Palestinian children have been detained and interrogated by the Israeli army.

But it is not only children and their families that are targeted by the Israeli military but also those who advocate on their behalf. On July 30, Palestinian lawyer, Tariq Barghouth, was sentenced to 13 years in prison by an Israeli military court for “firing at Israeli buses and at security forces on a number of occasions.”

As flimsy as the accusation of a well-known lawyer firing at ‘buses’ may sound, it is important to note that Barghouth is well-regarded for his defense of many Palestinian children in court. Barghouth was a constant source of headache for the Israeli military court system for his strong defense of the child, Ahmad Manasra.

Manasra, then 13-years of age, was tried and indicted in Israeli military court for allegedly stabbing and wounding two Israelis near the illegal Jewish settlement of Pisgat Ze’ev in Occupied Jerusalem. Manasra’s cousin, Hassan, 15 was killed on the spot, while wounded Ahmad was tried in court as an adult.

It was the lawyer, Barghouth, who challenged and denounced the Israeli court for the harsh interrogation and for secretly filming the wounded child as he was tied to his hospital bed.

On August 2, 2016, Israel passed a law that allows authorities to “imprison a minor convicted of serious crimes such as murder, attempted murder or manslaughter even if he or she is under the age of 14.” The law was conveniently crafted to deal with cases like that of Ahmad Manasra, who was sentenced on November 7, 2016 (three months after the law was approved) to 12 years in prison.

Manasra’s case, the leaked videos of his abuse by Israeli interrogators and his harsh sentence placed more international focus on the plight of Palestinian children in the Israeli military court system.

“Israeli interrogators are seen relying on verbal abuse, intimidation and threats to apparently inflict mental suffering for the purpose of obtaining a confession,” Brad Parker, attorney and international advocacy officer at Defense for Children- Palestine, said at the time.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, of which Israel, as of 1991, is a signatory, “prohibits torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” Yet, according to Parker, “ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children arrested by Israeli military and police is widespread and systematic.”

So systematic, in fact, that videos and reports of arresting very young Palestinian children are almost a staple on social media platforms concerned with Palestine and Palestinian rights.

The sad reality is that Muhammad Elayyan, 4, and Qais Obaid, 6, and many children like them, have become a target of Israeli soldiers and Jewish settlers throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

This horrendous reality must not be tolerated by the international community. Israeli crimes against Palestinian children must be effectively confronted as Israel, its inhumane laws and iniquitous military courts must not be allowed to continue their uncontested brutalization of Palestinian children.

Feature photo | Israeli police detain a Palestinian boy during the demolition of a Palestinian home in East Jerusalem, May 29, 2013. Mahmoud Illean | AP

Dr. Ramzy Baroud is a widely published and translated author, an internationally syndicated columnist and editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story (Pluto Press, 2018). He earned a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter (2015), and was a Non-Resident Scholar at Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, UCSB. Visit his website at  www.ramzybaroud.net.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect MintPress News editorial policy.

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Killing Tariq: Why We Must Rethink the Roots of Jewish Settlers Violence

85% of cases involving settler violence against Palestinians are never pursued by law. Of the remaining cases, only 1.9% led to a conviction.

Seven-year-old Tariq Zabania from Al-Khalil (Hebron) was killed on the spot when an Israeli Jewish settler ran his car over him on July 15. Little Tariq’s photograph, lying face down on the road, was circulated on social media. His untimely death is heartbreaking.

Tariq’s innocent blood must not go in vain. For this to happen, we are morally obliged to understand the nature of Jewish settler violence, which cannot be viewed in isolation from the inherent racism in Israeli society as a whole.

We are all often guilty of perpetuating the myth that militant Jewish settlers in the occupied Palestinian territories are a different and distinct category from other Israelis who live beyond the so-called “Green Line”.




Undoubtedly, the violent mentality that propels Israeli society, wherever it is located, is not governed by imaginary lines but by a racist ideology, of which disciples can be found everywhere in Israel, not just in the illegal Jewish colonies of the West Bank.

Israel is a sick society and its ailment is not confined to the 1967 Occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.

While Palestinians are imprisoned behind walls, fences and enclosed regions, Israelis are a different kind of prisoners, too. “A man who takes away another man’s freedom is a prisoner of hatred, he is locked behind the bars of prejudice and narrow-mindedness,” wrote the late anti-Apartheid hero and long-time prisoner, Nelson Mandela.

It is this racism and bigotry that makes Tariq invisible to most Israelis. For most Israelis, Palestinian children do not exist as real human beings, deserving of a dignified life of freedom. This callousness is a defining quality, common among all sectors of Israeli society – right, left and center.

Tariq Zabania

Tariq Zabania

An example is the terrorist attack carried out by Jewish settlers against the Palestinian Dawabshe family in the village of Duma, in the northern West Bank in July 2015, resulting in the death of Riham and Sa’ed, along with their 18-months old son, Ali. The only member of the family spared that horrific death was Ahmad, 4, who was severely burned.

This cruelty was further accentuated in the episodes that followed this criminal incident. Later that year, Israeli wedding guests were caught on tape while dancing with knives, chanting in celebration of the death of the Palestinian baby.

Three years later, as the Dawabshe family members were leaving an Israeli court, accompanied by Arab parliamentarians, they were greeted by a crowd of Israelis chanting “Where is Ali? Ali’s dead” and “Ali’s on the grill”.

The passing of time only cemented Israelis’ hatred of a little child whose only crime was his Palestinian identity.

The only survivor, Ahmad, was punished thrice: when he lost his whole family; with his severe burns and when he was denied compensation. The then Israeli Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, simply resolved that the boy was not a “terror victim.” Case closed.

Although the Dawabshes were killed by Jewish settlers, the Israeli court, army and political system all conspired to ensure the protection of the killers from any accountability.

This was no different in the case of Israeli soldier Elor Azaria, who, on March 24, 2016, killed an unconscious Palestinian man in Hebron. In his defense, Azaria insisted that he was following army manual instructions in dealing with alleged attackers, while top Israeli government officials came out in droves to support him.

When Azaria was triumphantly released following only nine months in jail, he was hailed by many Israelis as a hero. Possibly, he will have a successful career in politics should he decide to pursue that route. In fact, he was courted by Israeli politicians to help them garner more votes in April’s general elections.

Condemning solely Jewish settlers while sparing the rest of Israeli society is equivalent to political whitewashing, one that presents Israel as a healthy society prior to the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. This view presents Jewish settlements as a cancerous disease that is eating up at the otherwise proud and noble achievements of early Zionists.

It is convenient to classify Jewish settlers as rightwing extremists and to link them with Israel’s ruling right-wing political parties. But history proves otherwise.

Ahmad Dawabsheh, the sole survivor of an Israeli settler arson attack in Duma is dressed at Tel HaShomer Hospital, July 22, 2016. Tsafrir Abayov | AP

It was Israel’s Labor Party that created the settlement projects originally, soon after the colonization of the West Bank. Some of Israel’s largest, and most militant colonial enterprises, in occupied East Jerusalem – Ramat Eshkol, Gilo, Ramot and Armon Hanatziv – are all the creation of the Labor Party, not the Likud.

Neither is the ‘settler’ a new phenomenon. Historically, the early settlers who preceded the establishment of Israel in 1948 were idealized as true Zionists, celebrated as “cultural heroes” – the Jewish redeemers, who eventually ethnically cleansed historic Palestine from its native inhabitants.

“The original Labor movement,” wrote Amotz Asa-El in The Jerusalem Post, “never thought settling beyond the Green Line was illegal, much less immoral.” If there was any debate in Israel regarding settlements, it was never truly concerned with the issue of legitimacy or legality, but practicality: whether these colonial projects can be sustained or defended.

Protecting the settlements is now the overriding task of the Israeli occupation army.  The Israeli human rights organization, B’Tselem, which monitors the conduct of the Israeli army and Jewish settlers in the West Bank, explained the nature of this relationship in a report published in November 2017.

“Israeli security forces not only allow settlers to harm Palestinians and their property as a matter of course – they often provide the perpetrators escort and back-up. In some cases, they even join in on the attack,” B’Tselem wrote.

Another Israeli organization, Yesh Din, concluded in a report published earlier that 85% of cases involving settler violence against Palestinians are never pursued by law. Of the remaining cases, only 1.9% led to a conviction, which is likely to be inconsequential

Jewish settler violence should not be analyzed separately from the violence meted out by the Israeli army but seen within the larger context of the violent Zionist ideology that governs Israeli society entirely.

This violence can only end with the end of the racist ideology that rationalizes murder, like that of little Tariq Zabania.

Feature photo | Jewish settlers point their guns at unarmed Palestinians protesting the confiscation of their land by the Jewish settlers in the West Bank village Burin, near Nablus, Aug. 7, 2009. Majdi Mohammed | AP

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His last book is ‘The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story’ (Pluto Press, London). Baroud has a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter and was a Non-Resident Scholar at Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, University of California Santa Barbara. His website is www.ramzybaroud.net

Stories published in our Daily Digests section are chosen based on the interest of our readers. They are republished from a number of sources, and are not produced by MintPress News. The views expressed in these articles are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect MintPress News editorial policy.

In Israel the Push to Destroy Jerusalem’s Iconic Al-Aqsa Mosque Goes Mainstream

Al-Aqsa Feature photo

TWO CENTURIES IN THE CROSS-HAIRS

In Israel the Push to Destroy Jerusalem’s Iconic Al-Aqsa Mosque Goes Mainstream

This ancient site that dates back to the year 705 C.E. is being targeted for destruction by extremist groups that seek to erase Jerusalem’s Muslim heritage in pursuit of colonial ambitions and the fulfillment of end-times prophecy.

The iconic golden dome of the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosque, located on the Temple Mount or Haram el-Sharif, is the third holiest site in Islam and is recognized throughout the world as a symbol of the city of Jerusalem. Yet, this ancient site that dates back to the year 705 C.E. is being targeted for destruction by increasingly influential extremist groups that seek to erase Jerusalem’s Muslim heritage in pursuit of colonial ambitions and the fulfillment of end-times prophecy.

Some observers may have noticed the growing effort by some Israeli government and religious officials to remove the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosque from the Jerusalem skyline, not only erasing the holy site in official posters, banners and educational material but also physically removing the building itself. For instance, current Knesset member of the ruling Likud Party, American-born Yehuda Glick, was also the director of the government-funded Temple Institute, which has created relics and detailed architectural plans for a temple that they hope will soon replace Al-Aqsa. Glick is also close friends with Yehuda Etzion, who was part of a failed plot in 1984 to blow up Al-Aqsa mosque and served prison time as a result.

“In the end we’ll build the temple and it will be a house of prayer for all nations,” Glick toldIsraeli newspaper Maariv in 2012. A year later, Israel’s Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel stated that “[w]e’ve built many little, little temples…but we need to build a real Temple on the Temple Mount.” Ariel stated that the new Jewish Temple must be built on the site where Al-Aqsa currently sits “as it is at the forefront of Jewish salvation.” Since then, prominent Israeli politicians have become more and more overt in their support for the end of Jordanian-Palestinian sovereignty over the mosque compound, leading many prominent Palestinians to warn in recent years of plans to destroy the mosque.




In recent years, a centuries-old effort by what was once a small group of extremists has gone increasingly mainstream in Israel, with prominent politicians, religious figures and political parties advocating for the destruction of the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosque in order to fulfill a specific interpretation of an end-times prophecy that was once considered fringe among practitioners of Judaism.

As Miko Peled, Israeli author and human-rights activist, told MintPress, the movement to destroy Al-Aqsa and replace it with a reimagined Temple “became notable after the 1967 war,” and has since grown into “a massive colonial project that uses religious, biblical mythology and symbols to justify its actions” — a project now garnering support from both religious and secular Israelis.

While the push to destroy Al-Aqsa and replace it with a physical Third Temple has gained traction in Israel in recent years, this effort has advanced at a remarkably fast pace in just the past few weeks, owing to a confluence of factors. These factors, as this report will show, include the upcoming revelation of the so-called “Deal of the Century,” the push for a war with Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and the Trump administration’s dramatic lenience in regards to the activity of Jewish extremist groups and extremist settlements in Israel.

These factors correlate with a quickening of efforts to destroy Al-Aqsa and the very real danger the centuries-old holy site faces. While the U.S. press has occasionally mentioned the role of religious extremism in dictating the foreign policy of prominent U.S. politicians like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, it has rarely shone a light on the role of Jewish extremism in directing Israel’s foreign policy — foreign policy that, in turn, is well-known to influence American policies.

When taken together, the threats to Al-Aqsa are clearly revealed to be much greater than the loss of a physical building, though that itself would be a grave loss for the world’s Muslim community, which includes over 1.8 billion people. In addition, the site’s destruction would very likely result in a regional and perhaps even global war with clear religious dimensions.

To prevent such an outcome, it is essential to highlight the role that extremist, apocalyptic interpretations of both the Jewish and Christian faiths are playing in trends that, if left unchecked, could have truly terrifying consequences. Both of these extremist groups are heavily influenced by colonial ambitions that often supersede their religious underpinning.

In Part I of this two-part series, MintPress examines the growth of extremist movements in Israel that openly promote the destruction of Al-Aqsa, from a relatively isolated fringe movement within Zionism to mainstream prominence in Israel today; as well as how threats to the historic mosque have grown precipitously in just the past month. MintPress interviewed Israeli author and activist Miko Peled; Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss of Neturei Karta in New York; Imam and scholar of Shia Islam, Sayed Hassan Al-Qazwini, of the Islamic Institute of America; and Palestinian journalist and academic Ramzy Baroud for their perspectives on these extremist groups, their growing popularity, and the increasing threats to the current status quo at Haram El-Sharif/Temple Mount.

The second part of this series will detail the influence of this extremist movement in Israeli politics as well as American politics, particularly among Christian Zionist politicians in the United States. The ways in which this movement’s goal have also influenced Israeli and U.S. policy — particularly in relation to the so-called “Deal of the Century,” President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and the push for war against Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah — will also be examined.

 

Two centuries in the cross-hairs

Though efforts to wrest the contested holy site from Jordanian and Palestinian control have picked up dramatically in recent weeks, the Al-Aqsa mosque compound had long been targeted prior to Israel’s founding and even prior to the formation of the modern Zionist movement.

For instance, Rabbi Zvi Hirsh Kalisher — who promoted the European Jewish colonization of Palestine from a religious perspective well before Zionism became a movement — expounded on an early form of what would later be labeled “religious Zionism” and was particularly interested in the acquisition of Haram el-Sharif (i.e., the Temple Mount) as a means of fulfilling prophecy.

As noted in the essay “Proto-Zionism and its Proto-Herzl: The Philosophy and Efforts of Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalisher” by Sam Lehman-Wilzig, Professor of Israeli Politics and Judaic Studies at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, Kalisher sought to court wealthy European Jews to finance the purchase of Israel for the purpose of resettlement, particularly the Temple Mount. In an 1836 letter to Baron Amschel Rothschild, Kalisher suggested that the eldest brother of the wealthy banker family use his abundant funds to bring Jewish sovereignty to Palestine, specifically Jerusalem and the Temple Mount:

[E]specially at a time like this, when the Land of Israel is under the dominion of the Pasha… perhaps if his most noble Excellency pays him a handsome sum and purchases for him some other country (in Africa) in exchange for the Holy Land, which is presently small in quantity but great in quality… this money would certainly not be wasted… for when the leaders of Israel are gathered from every corner of the world… and transform it into an inhabited country, the many G-d-fearing and charitable Jews will travel there to take up their residency in the Holy Land under Jewish sovereignty… and be worthy to take up their portion in the offering upon the altar. And if the master (Ibrahim Pasha) does not desire to sell the entire land, then at least he should sell Jerusalem and its environs… or at least the Temple Mount and surrounding areas.” (emphasis added)

Kalisher’s request was met with a noncommittal response from Baron Rothschild, leading Kalisher to pursue other wealthy European Jewish families, like the Montefiores, with the same goal in mind. And, though Kalisher was initially unsuccessful in winning the support of the Rothschild family, other notable members of the wealthy European banking dynasty eventually did become enthusiastic supporters of Zionism in the decades that followed.

Kalisher was also influential in another way, as he was arguably the first modern Rabbi to reject the idea of patiently waiting for God to fulfill prophecy and proposed instead that man should take concrete steps that would lead to the fulfillment of such prophecies, a belief that Kalisher described as “self help.” For Kalisher, settling European Jews in Palestine was but the first step, to be followed by other steps that would form an active as opposed to a passive approach towards Jewish Messianism. These subsequent steps included the construction of a Third Temple, to replace the Second Temple destroyed by the Romans around the year 70 C.E., and the reinitiation of ritual animal sacrifices in that Temple, which Kalisher believed could only be placed on the Temple Mount, where Al-Aqsa then sat and still sits.

Kalisher wasn’t alone in his views, as his contemporary, Rabbi Judah Alkalai, wrote the following in his book Shalom Yerushalayim:

It is obvious that the Mashiach ben David [Messiah of the House of David] will not appear out of thin air in a fiery chariot with fiery horses, but will come if the Children of Israel bend to the task of preparing themselves for him.”

Though Kalisher wasn’t the lone voice promoting these ideas, his beliefs — aside from promoting the physical settlement of European Jews in Palestine — remained relatively fringe for decades, if not more than a century, as secular Jews were hugely influential in the Zionist movement after its official formation. However, prominent religious Zionists did influence the Zionist movement in key ways prior to Israel’s founding. One such figure was Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, who sought to reconcile Zionism and Orthodox Judaism as the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Palestine, a position he assumed in 1924.

Yet, Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss of Neturei Karta, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish group based in New York that opposes Zionism, told MintPress that many religious Zionists have since latched onto Kalisher’s ideas, which were widely rejected during his lifetime, in order to justify neocolonial actions sought by secular Zionists. “This rabbi, at the time, other rabbis ‘roared’ against him and his beliefs weren’t accepted,” Rabbi Weiss stated, “But now, the ones who are talking about building this Third Temple….these are Zionists and they have found some rabbi whose ideas benefit them that they have been using to justify Zionist acts” that are not aligned with Judaism “and make them kosher.”

Al-Aqsa and temple mount 1974

The famous Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount, at center, and the dome of Al-Aqsa Mosque pictured on May 15, 1976. Horst Faas | AP

Weiss further expanded on this point, noting that the participants of the modern religious Zionism movement that seek to build a new Jewish temple where Al-Aqsa currently stands are, at their core, Zionists who have used religious imagery and specific interpretations of religious texts as cover for neo-colonial acts, such as the complete re-making of the Temple Mount.

“It’s like a wolf in a sheepskin…These people who want to incorporate the teachings of this rabbi [Rabbi Kalisher] are proudly saying that they are Jewish, but are doing things Jews are forbidden from doing,” such as ascending to and standing upon the Temple Mount, which Rabbi Weiss stated was “a breach of Jewish law,” long forbidden by that law according to a consensus among Jewish scholars and rabbis around the world that continued well beyond the formation of the Zionist movement in the 19th century.

Weiss also told MintPress:

There are only a few sins in Judaism — which has many, many laws, that lead to a Jew being cut off from God — and to go up to the Temple Mount is one of them…This is because you need a certain level of holiness to ascend and… the process to attain that level of holiness and purity cannot be done today, because [aspects of and the items required by] the necessary purity rituals no longer exist today.”

Rabbi Weiss noted that, for this reason, the Muslim community that has historically governed the area where Al-Aqsa mosque stands never had any problems with the Jewish community in relation to the Temple Mount, as it has been known for centuries that Jews cannot ascend to the area where the mosque currently sits and instead prayed only at the Western Wall. He also stated that the prophetic idea of a Third Temple was, prior to Zionism, understood as indicating not a change in physical structures on the Temple Mount, but a metaphysical, spiritual change that would unite all of mankind to worship and serve God in unison.

Rabbi Weiss asserted that the conflict regarding Al-Aqsa mosque started only with the advent of Zionism and the associated neo-colonial ambition to fundamentally alter the status quo and structures present at the site as a means of erasing key parts (i.e., Palestinian parts) of its heritage. “This [the use of religion to justify ascending to and taking control of the Temple Mount] is a trap for conning other people into supporting them,” concluded the Rabbi.

Nonetheless, Kalisher’s impact can be seen in today’s Israel more than ever, thanks to the rise and mainstream acceptance within Israel of once-fringe elements of religious Zionism, which were deeply influenced by the ideas of rabbis like Kalisher and have served in recent decades as an incubator for some of Israel’s most radical political elements.

Meanwhile, as the debate within Judaism over the Temple Mount has changed dramatically since the 19th century, its significance in Islam has remained steadfast. According to Imam Sayed Hassan Al-Qazwini, “Al-Aqsa is the third holiest mosque in Islam…it is considered to be the place where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven and has been mentioned in the Qoran, which glorifies that mosque and identifies it as a blessed mosque. All Muslims, whether they are Sunni or Shia, revere that mosque” — a fact that has remained unchanged for over a millennium and continues to today.

 

Religious Zionism gains political force

The modern rise of the religious Zionist movements that promote the destruction of Al-Aqsa mosque and its replacement with a Third Jewish Temple is most often traced back to the Six Day War of 1967. According to Miko Peled, who recently wrote a piece for MintPress Newsregarding the threats facing Al-Aqsa, “religious Zionism” as a political force became more noticeable following the 1967 war. Peled told MintPress:

After the ‘heartland’ of Biblical Israel came under Israeli control, the religious Zionists, who before then were marginalized, saw it as their mission to settle those newly conquered lands, and to be the new pioneers, so to speak. They took on the job that the socialist Zionist ideologues had in settling Palestine and ridding it of its native Arab population in the years leading up to Israel’s establishment and up to the early 1950s. They saw the “return” of Hebron, Bethlehem, Nablus, or Shchem and, of course, the Old City of Jerusalem as divine intervention and now it was their turn to make their mark.

It began with a small group of Messianic fanatics who forced the government – who at that point, after 1967, was still secular Zionist – to accept their existence in the highly populated areas within the West Bank. That was how the city of Kiryat Arba [illegal settlement in the occupied West Bank] was established. The government, it is worth noting, was happy to be forced into this. From a small group that people thought were fringe lunatics to a Jewish city in the heart of Hebron region.”

Peled further noted that this model, employed by the religious extremist groups that founded illegal West Bank settlements like Kiryat Arba, “has been used successfully since then and it is now used by the groups that are promoting the new Temple in place of Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.” He continued, pointing out that “whereas 20-30 years ago they were considered a fringe group, this year they expect more than 50,000 people to enter the compound to support the group and their goals. Religious Israeli youth who opt out of military service and choose national service instead may work with the [Third] Temple building organizations.”

Extremist settlers storm Al-Aqsa

Extremist settlers escorted by Israeli after they stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on July 22, 2018. Mostafa Alkharouf | Anadolu

Dr. Ramzy Baroud — journalist, academic and founder of The Palestine Chronicle — agreed with Peled’s sense that the Third Temple movement or Temple Activist movement has grown dramatically in recent years and has become increasingly mainstream in Israel. Baroud told MintPress: 

There has been a massive increase in the number of Israeli Jews who force their way into the Al-Aqsa mosque compound to pray and practice various rituals…In 2017 alone, over 25,000 Jews who visited the compound — accompanied by thousands of soldiers and police officers and provoking many clashes that resulted in the death and wounding of many Palestinians. Since 2017, the increase in Jews visiting the compound has been very significant if compared to the previous year when around 14,000 Jews made that same journey.”

Baroud also noted:

[The Temple Activist movement] has achieved a great deal in appealing to mainstream Israeli Jewish society in recent years. At one point, it was a marginal movement, but with the rise of the far right in Israel, their ideas and ideologies and religious aspirations have also become part of the Israeli mainstream.”

As a result, Baroud asserted:

[There is] an increasing degree of enthusiasm among Israeli Jews that is definitely not happening at the margins [of society], but is very much a part of the mainstream, more so than at any time in the past, to take over the Al-Aqsa mosque, demolish the mosque in order to rebuild the so-called Third Temple.”

However, Rabbi Weiss disagreed with Peled and Baroud that this faction presents a real threat to the mosque, given that the mosque’s destruction is widely rejected by Diaspora Jewry (i.e., Jews living outside of Israel) and that destroying it would not only cause conflicts with the global Muslim community but also numerous Jewish communities outside of Israel.

As Rabbi Weiss told MintPress:

Some of the largest and most religious [i.e. ultra-orthodox] Jewish communities outside of Israel, like the second largest community of religious [ultra-orthodox] Jews in Williamsburg, Brooklyn [in New York], and also in Israel … are opposed to this concept of taking over the Temple Mount and other related ideas.”

Weiss argued that many of these religious Zionists in Israel that are pushing for a new Temple “do not follow Jewish law to the letter and don’t come from the very religious communities, including the settlers…They don’t go to expressly religious schools, they go to Zionist schools. Their whole view is built on Zionism and [secondarily] incorporates the religion,” as opposed to the reverse. As a result, the destruction of the Al-Aqsa mosque, in Weiss’ view, could greatly alienate the state of Israel from these more religious and ultra-orthodox communities.

In addition, Rabbi Weiss felt that many Jewish and secular Israelis would also reject such a move because it would create even more conflicts, which many Israelis do not want. He described the Temple Activists as “a vocal minority” that represented a “fringe” among adherents to Judaism and a group within Zionism that has tried to use the Temple Mount “in order to be able to excuse their occupation and to try to portray this [the occupation of Palestine] as a religious conflict,” with the conflict surrounding the Temple Mount being an extension of that.

An Israeli police officer raises his baton on Palestinians worshipers near the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem's Old City, July 27, 2017 (AP/Mahmoud Illean)

An Israeli police officer raises his baton on Palestinians worshipers near the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City, July 27, 2017. Mahmoud Illean | AP

Weiss believed that the push to take over the Temple Mount was a “scare tactic” aimed at securing the indefinite nature of the occupation, and noted that many Israelis did not want a spike in or renewal of conflict that would inevitably result if the mosque were to be destroyed. He also added that he did not think there was a “real threat” of the mosque being targeted because international rabbinical authorities have stood fast in their opposition to the project promoted by the Temple Activists.

 

“Tomorrow might be too late”

It is hardly a coincidence that the growth of Temple Activism and associated movements like “neo-Zionism” have paralleled the growth in threats to the Al-Aqsa mosque itself. Many of these threats can be understood through the doctrine developed by Rabbi Kalisher and others in the mid-19th century — the idea that “active” steps must be taken to bring about the reconstruction of a Jewish Temple at Haram El-Sharif in order to bring about the Messianic Age.

Indeed, during the 1967 war, General Shlomo Goren, the chief rabbi of the IDF, had told Chief of Central Command Uzi Narkiss that, shortly after Israel’s conquest of Jerusalem’s Old City, the moment had come to blow up the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock. “Do this and you will go down in history,” Goren told Narkiss. According to Tom Segev’s book 1967, Goren felt that the site’s destruction could only be done under the cover of war: “Tomorrow might be too late.”

Goren was among the first Israelis to arrive at the then-recently conquered Old City in Jerusalem and was joined at the newly “liberated” Al-Aqsa compound by a young Yisrael Ariel, who now is a major leader in the Temple Activist movement and head of the Temple Institute, which is dedicated to constructing a Third Temple where Al-Asqa mosque currently stands.

Narkiss rejected Goren’s request, but did approve the razing of Jerusalem’s Moroccan quarter. According to Mondoweiss, the destruction of the nearly seven centuries old Jerusalem neighborhood was done for the “holy purpose” of making the Western Wall more accessible to Jewish Israelis. Some 135 homes were flattened, along with several mosques, and over 700 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed as part of that operation.

Following the occupation of East Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa has come under increasing threat, just as extremist movements who seek to destroy the site have grown. In 1969, a Christian extremist from Australia, Daniel Rohan, set fire to the mosque. Rohan had been studying in Israel and, prior to committing arson, had told American theology student Arthur Jones, who was studying with Rohan, that he had become convinced that a new temple had to be built where Al-Aqsa stood.

Then, in 1984, a group of messianic extremists known as the Jewish Underground was arrested for plotting to use explosives to destroy Al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock. Ehud Yatom, who was a security official and commander of the operation that foiled the plot, told Israel’s Channel 2 in 2004 that the planned destruction of the site would have been “horrible, terrible,” adding that it could provoke “the entire Muslim world [into a war] against the state of Israel and against the Western world, a war of religions.”

One of those arrested in 1984 in connection with the bomb plot, former Jewish Underground member Yehuda Etzion, subsequently wrote from prison that his group’s mistake was not in targeting the historic mosque, which he called an “abomination,” but in acting before Israeli society would accept such an act. “The generation was not ready,” Etzion wrote, adding that those sympathetic to the Jewish Underground movement “must build a new force that grows very slowly, moving its educational and social activity into a new leadership.”

“Of course I cannot predict whether the Dome of the Rock will be removed from the Mount while the new body is developing or after it actually leads the people,” Etzion stated, “but the clear fact is that the Mount will be purified [from Islamic shrines] with certainty…”

Upon his release from prison, Etzion founded the Chai Vekayam (Alive and Existing) movement, a group that Al Jazeera’s Mersiha Gadzo described as aimed at “shaping public opinion as a prerequisite for building a Third Temple in the religious complex in Jerusalem’s Old City where Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock are located.” Gadzo also notes that “according to messianic belief, building the Third Temple at the Al Aqsa compound — where the First and Second Temples stood some 2,000 years ago — would usher the coming of the Messiah.”

Six years later, another group called the Temple Mount Faithful, which is dedicated to building the Third Temple, provoked what became known as the Al-Aqsa massacre in 1990 after its members attempted to place a cornerstone for the Third Temple on the Temple Mount / Haram El-Sharif, leading to riots that saw Israeli police shoot and kill over 20 Palestinians and wound an estimated 150 more.

Al-Aqsa 1996 massacre

Blood-stained footmarks mark the entrance to Al Aqsa Mosque after Israeli police opened fire on Palestinian worshipers in 1996. Khaled Zighari | AP

This was followed by the riots in 1996 after Israel opened up a series of tunnels that had been dug under Al-Aqsa mosque that many Palestinians worried would be used to damage or destroy the mosque. Those concerns may have been well-founded, given the involvement of then- and current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Third Temple activist groups in creating the tunnels and in subsequent excavations near the holy site, which were and continue to be officially described as “archaeological” in nature. During the 1996 incident, 80 Palestinians and 14 Israeli police officers were killed.

Some Israeli archaeologists have argued that these tunnels have not been built for archaeological or scientific purposes and are highly unlikely to result in any new discoveries. One such Israeli archaeologist, Yoram Tseverir, told Middle East Monitor in 2014 that “the claims that these excavations aim at finding scientific information are marginal” and called the still-ongoing government-sponsored excavations under Al-Aqsa “wrong.” When those “archaeological” excavations at Al-Aqsa resulted in damage to the Western Wall near Al-Aqsa last year, a chorus of prominent Palestinians, including the spokesman for the Fatah Party, claimed that Israel’s government had devised a plan to destroy the mosque.

 

Since 2000, Al-Aqsa mosque has been the site of incidents that have resulted in new state crackdowns by Israel against Palestinians both within and well outside of Jerusalem. Indeed, the Second Intifada was largely provoked by the visit of the then-Likud candidate for prime minister, Ariel Sharon, who entered Al-Aqsa mosque under heavy guard. Then-spokesman for Likud, Ofir Akounis, was later quoted by CNN as saying that the reason for Sharon’s visit was “to show that under a Likud government it [the Temple Mount] will remain under Israeli sovereignty.”

That single visit by Sharon led to five years of heightened tensions, more than three thousand dead Palestinians and an estimated thousand dead Israelis, as well as a massive and still continuing crackdown on Palestinians living under Israeli occupation and in the blockaded Gaza Strip.

Dr. Ramzy Baroud told MintPress that Sharon’s provocation in particular, and subsequent provocations, are often planned and used by Israeli politicians in order to justify crackdowns and restrictions on Palestinians. He argued:

[Some powerful Israeli politicians] use these regular provocations at Al Aqsa to create the kind of tensions that increase violence in the West Bank and to [then] carry out whatever policies they have in mind. They know exaclty how to provoke Palestinians and there is no other issue that is as sensitive and unifying in the Palestinian psyche as Al-Aqsa mosque.

Not only do we need to be aware of the fact that [provocations at] Al-Aqsa mosque are being used to implement archaic, destructive plans [i.e., destruction of Al-Aqsa and construction of a Third Temple] by certain elements that are now very much at the core of Israeli politics, but also the fact that this type of provocation is also used to implement broader policies pertaining to Palestinians elsewhere.”

 

Drums beating loud

While there have long been efforts to destroy the historic Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock, recent weeks have seen a disturbing and dramatic uptick in incidents that suggest that the influential groups in Israel that have long pushed for the mosque’ s destruction may soon get their way. This reflects what Ramzy Baroud described to MintPress as how support for the construction of the Third Temple where Al-Aqsa currently sits is now “greater than at any time in the past” within Israeli society.

Earlier this month on June 2, a religious adviser to the Palestinian Authority (PA), Mahmoud Al-Habbash, took to social media to warn of an “Israeli plot against the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” adding that “If the Muslims don’t act now [to save the site]… the entire world will pay dearly.”

Al-Habbash’s statement was likely influenced by a disturbing event that occurred that same day at the revered compound when Israeli police provided cover for extremist Israeli settlers who illegally entered the compound during the final days of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Israeli police used pepper spray and rubber bullets to disperse Palestinian worshippers who had gathered at the mosque during one of Islam’s most important holidays while allowing over a thousand Israeli Jews to enter the compound. Forty-five Palestinians were wounded and several were arrested.

Though such provocative visits by Jewish Israelis to Al-Aqsa have occurred with increasing frequency in recent years, this event was different because it up-ended a long-standing agreement between Jordan’s government, which manages the site, and Israel that no such visits take place during important Islamic holidays. As a consequence, Jordan accused Israel’s government of “flagrant violations” of that agreement by allowing visits from religious nationalists, which Jordan described as “provocative intrusions by extremists.”

Less than a week after the incident, Israel’s Culture and Sports Minister, Miri Regev, a member of the Netanyahu-led Likud Party, called for more settler extremists to storm the compound, stating: “We should do everything to keep ascending to the Temple Mount … And hopefully, soon we will pray in the Temple Mount, our sacred place.” In addition, Regev also thanked Israel’s Interior Security Minister, Gilad Erdan, and Jerusalem’s police chief for guarding the settler extremists who had entered the compound.

In 2013, then-member of the Likud Party Moshe Feiglin told the Knesset that allowing Jewish Israelis to enter the compound is “not about prayer.” “Arabs don’t mind that Jews pray to God. Why should they care? We all believe in God,” Feiglin — who now heads the Zehut, or Identity, Party — stated, adding, “The struggle is about sovereignty. That’s the true story here. The story is about one thing only: sovereignty.”

In other words, Likud and its ideological allies view granting Jewish Israelis entrance to “pray” at the site of the mosque as a strategy aimed at reducing Palestinian-Jordanian control over the site. Feiglin’s past comments give credibility to Rabbi Weiss’ claim, referenced earlier on in this report, that the religious underpinnings and religious appeals of the Temple Activists are secondary to the settler-colonial (i.e., Zionist) aspect of the movement, which seeks to remove Palestinian and Muslim heritage from the Temple Mount as part of the ongoing Zionist project.

Feiglin, earlier this year in April, called for the immediate construction of the Third Temple, telling a Tel Aviv conference, “I don’t want to build a [Third] Temple in one or two years, I want to build it now.” The Times of Israel, reporting on Feiglin’s comments, noted that the Israeli politician is “enjoying growing popularity.”

Earlier this month, and not long after Miri Regev’s controversial comments, an event attended by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli mayor of Jerusalem, Moshe Leon, used a banner that depicted the Jerusalem skyline with the Dome of the Rock noticeably absent. Though some may write off such creative photo editing as a fluke, it is but the latest in a series of similar incidents where official events or materials have edited out the iconic building and, in some cases, have replaced it with a reconstructed Jewish temple.

al-Aqsa third temple

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman poses with a picture of the ‘Third Temple,’ May 22, 2018. Israel Cohen | Kikar Hashabat

The day before that event, Israeli police had arrested three members of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound’s Reconstruction Committee, which is overseen by the government of Jordan. Those arrested included the committee’s head and its deputy head, and the three men were arrested while performing minor restoration work in an Al-Aqsa courtyard. The Jordan-run authority condemned the arrests, for which no official reason was given, and called the move by Israeli police “an intervention in their [the men’s] reconstruction work.” According to Palestinian news agency Safa, Israeli police have also prevented the entry of tools necessary for restoration work to the site and have restricted members of the authority from performing critical maintenance work.

In addition, another important figure at Al-Aqsa, Hanadi Al-Halawani, who teaches at the mosque school and has long watched over the site to prevent its occupation by Israeli forces, was arrested late last month.

Arrests of other key Al-Aqsa personnel have continued in recent days, such as the arrest of seven Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, including guards of the mosque, and their subsequent ban from entering the site. The Palestinians were arrested at their homes last Sunday night in early morning raids and the official reason for their arrest remains unclear. So many arrests in such a short period have raised concerns that, should the spate of arrests of important Al-Aqsa personnel continue, future incidents at the site, such as the mysterious firethat broke out last April at Al-Aqsa while France’s Notre Dame was also ablaze, may not be handled as effectively owing to staff shortages.

Soon after those arrests, 60 members of a settler extremist group entered the al-Aqsa compound under heavy guard from Israeli police. Safa news agency reported that these settlers have recently been accompanied by Israeli intelligence officials in their incursions at the site.

All of these recent provocations and arrests in connection with the mosque come soon after the King of Jordan, Abdullah II, publicly stated in late March that he had recently come under great pressure to relinquish Jordan’s custodianship of the mosque and the contested holy site upon which it is built. Abdullah II vowed to continue custodianship over Christian and Muslim sites in Jerusalem, including Al-Aqsa, and declined to say who was pressuring him over the site. However, his comments about this pressure to cede control over the mosque came just days after he had visited the U.S. and met with American Vice President Mike Pence, a Christian Zionist who believes that a Jewish Temple must replace Al-Aqsa to fulfill an end times prophecy.

In May, an Israeli government-linked research institute, the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, wrote that Abdullah II had nearly been toppled in mid-April, just weeks after publicly discussing external pressure to relinquish control over Al-Aqsa. The report stated that Abdullah II had been a target of a “plot undermining his rule,” which led him to replace several senior members of his government. That report further claimed that the plot had been aimed at removing obstacles to the Trump administration’s “Deal of the Century,” which is supported by Israel’s government.

Last year, some Israeli politicians sought to push for a transfer of the site’s custodianship to Saudi Arabia, sparking concern that this could be connected to plans by some Third Temple activists to remove Al-Aqsa from Jerusalem and transfer it piece-by-piece to the Saudi city of Mecca. On Thursday, the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs published an article asserting that “tectonic shifts” were taking place in relation to who controls Al-Aqsa, with a Saudi-funded political group making dramatic inroads that could soon alter which country controls the historic mosque compound.

Sayyed Hassan Al-Qazwini told MintPress that, in his view, the current custodianship involving Jordan’s government is not ideal, as control over the Al-Aqsa mosque “should in the hands of its people, [and] Al-Aqsa mosque belongs Palestine;” if not, at the very least, a committee of Muslim majority nations should be formed to govern the holy site because of its importance. As for Saudi Arabia potentially receiving control over the site, Al-Qazwini told MintPress that “the Saudis are not qualified as they are not even capable of running the holy sites in Saudi Arabia itself. Every year, there has been a tragedy and many pilgrims have died during hajj time [annual Islamic pilgrimage].”

 

Once fringe, now approaching consensus

The threat to Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock compound, the third holiest site in Islam and of key importance to three major world religions, is the result of the dramatic growth of what was once a fringe movement of extremists. After the Six Day War, these fringe elements have fought to become more mainstream within Israel and have sought to gain international support for their religious-colonialist vision, particularly in the United States. As this article has shown, the threats to Al-Aqsa have grown significantly in the past decades, spiking in just the past few weeks.

As former Jewish Underground member Yehuda Etzion had called for decades ago, an educational and social movement aimed at gaining influence with Israeli government leadership has been hugely successful in its goal of engineering consent for a Third Temple among many religious and secular Israelis. So successful has this movement been that numerous powerful and influential Israeli politicians, particularly since the 1990s, have not only openly promoted these beliefs, and the destruction of Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock, but have also diverted significant amounts of government funding to organizations dedicated to replacing the historic mosque with a new temple.

As the second and final installment of this series will show, this movement has gained powerful allies, not just in Israel’s government, but among many evangelical Christians in the United States, including top figures in the Trump administration who also feel that the destruction of Al-Aqsa and the reconstruction of a Jewish Temple are prerequisites for the fulfillment of prophecy, albeit a different one. Furthermore, given the influence of such movements on the Israeli and U.S. governments, these beliefs of active Messianism are also informing key policies of these same governments and, in doing so, are pushing the world towards a dangerous war.

Feature photo | Israeli police stand next to the Dome of the Rock mosque at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, July 27, 2017. Mahmoud Illean | AP

Whitney Webb is a MintPress News journalist based in Chile. She has contributed to several independent media outlets including Global Research, EcoWatch, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has made several radio and television appearances and is the 2019 winner of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism

The Day After: What Happens If Israel Annexes the West Bank?

The Day After: What Happens If Israel Annexes the West Bank?

Annexing the West Bank, along with millions of Palestinians, will multiply the very ‘demographic threat’ Israel has been dreading for years.

Calls for the annexation of the Occupied West Bank are gaining momentum in both Tel Aviv and Washington. But Israel and its American allies should be careful what they wish for. Annexing the Occupied Palestinian Territories will only reinforce the current rethink of the Palestinian strategy, as opposed to solving Israel’s self-induced problems.

Encouraged by the Donald Trump administration’s decision to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Israeli government officials feel that the time for annexing the entirety of the West Bank is now.

In fact, “there is no better time than now” was the exact phrase used by former Israeli Justice Minister, Ayelet Shaked, as she promoted annexation at a recent New York conference. 

Certainly, it is election season in Israel again, as Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, failed to form a government following the last elections in April. So much saber-rattling happens during such political campaigns, as candidates talk tough in the name of ‘security’, fighting terrorism, and so on.

But Shaked’s comments cannot be dismissed as fleeting election kerfuffle. They represent so much more if understood within the larger political context.

Indeed, since Trump’s advent to the White House, Israel has never – and I mean, never – had it so easy. It is as if the rightwing government’s most radical agenda became a wish list for Israel’s allies in Washington. This list includes the US recognition of Israel’s illegal annexation of Occupied Palestinian East Jerusalem, of the Occupied Syrian Golan Heights, and the dismissalof the Palestinian refugees’ right of return altogether.

But that is not all. Statements made by influential US officials indicate an initial interest in the outright annexation of the Occupied West Bank or, at least, large parts of it. The latest of such calls were made by US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman.

“Israel has the right to retain some  … of the West Bank,” Friedman said in an interview, cited in the New York Times on June 8.

US Israel Pompeo Friedman West Bank Annexation

Pompeo and Friedman next to the dedication plaque at the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, March 21, 2019. Jim Young | AP

Friedman is deeply involved in the so-called ‘Deal of the Century’, a political gambit championed mostly by Trump’s top advisor and son-in-law, Jared Kushner. The apparent idea behind this ‘deal’ is to dismiss the core demands of the Palestinians while reassuring Israel regarding its quest for a demographic majority and ‘security’ concerns.

Other US officials behind Washington’s efforts on behalf of Israel include US Special Envoy to the Middle East, Jason Greenblatt, and former US Ambassador to the UN, Nicki Haley. In a recent interview with the Israeli rightwing newspaper, Israel Hayom, Haley said that the Israeli government “should not be worried” regarding the yet-to-be fully revealed details of the ‘Deal of the Century.’

Knowing Haley’s love-affair with – and brazen defense of – Israel at the United Nations, it should not be too difficult to fathom the subtle and obvious meaning of her words.

This is why Shaked’s call for the annexation of the West Bank cannot be dismissed as typical election season talk.

But can Israel annex the West Bank?

 

More than a pipedream?

Practically speaking, yes, it can. True, it would be a flagrant violation of international law, but such a notion has never irked Israel, nor stopped it from annexing Palestinian or Arab territories. For example, it occupied East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights in 1980 and 1981 respectively.

Moreover, the political mood in Israel is increasingly receptive to such a step. A poll conducted by the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, last March revealed that 42% of Israelis back West Bank annexation. This number is expected to rise in the following months as Israel continues to move to the right.

West Bank Annexation Poll

Credit | Haaretz

It is also important to note that several steps have already been taken in that direction, including the Israeli Knesset’s (parliament) decision to apply the same civil laws to illegal Jewish settlers in the West Bank as to those living in Israel.

But that is where Israel faces its greatest dilemma.

According to a joint poll conducted by Tel Aviv University and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in August 2018, over 50% of Palestinians realize that a so-called two-state solution is no longer tenable. Moreover, a growing number of Palestinians also believe that co-existence in a single state, where Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs (Muslims and Christians, alike) live side by side, is the only possible formula for a better future.

The dichotomy for Israeli officials, who are keen on maintaining Jewish demographic majority and the marginalization of Palestinian rights, is that they no longer have good options.

First, they understand that the indefinite occupation of Palestinian territories cannot be sustained. Ongoing Palestinian resistance at home, and the rise of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement abroad is challenging Israel’s very political legitimacy across the world.

Second, they must also be aware of the fact that, from an Israeli Jewish leaders’ point of view, annexing the West Bank, along with millions of Palestinians, will multiply the very ‘demographic threat’ that they have been dreading for many years.

Third, the ethnic cleansing of whole Palestinian communities – the so-called ‘transfer’ option – as Israel has done upon its founding in 1948, and again, in 1967, is no longer possible. Neither will Arab countries open their borders for Israel’s convenient genocides, nor will Palestinians leave, however high the price. The fact that Gazans remained put, despite years of siege and brutal wars, is a case in point.

Political grandstanding aside, Israeli leaders understand that they are no longer in the driver’s seat and, despite their military and political advantage over Palestinians, it is becoming clear that firepower and Washington’s blind support are no longer enough to determine the future of the Palestinian people.

It is also clear that the Palestinian people are not, and never were, passive actors in their own fate. If Israel maintains its 52-year old Occupation, Palestinians will continue to resist. That resistance will not be weakened, or quelled, by any decision to annex the West Bank, in part or in full, the same way that Palestinian resistance in Jerusalem did not cease since its illegal annexation by Tel Aviv four decades ago.

Finally, the illegal annexation of the West Bank can only contribute to the irreversible awareness among Palestinians that their fight for freedom, human rights, justice and equality can be better served through a civil rights struggle within the borders of one single democratic state.

In her blind arrogance, Shaked and her rightwing ilk are only accelerating the demise of Israel as an ethnic, racist state, while opening up the stage for better possibilities than perpetual violence and apartheid.

Feature photo | US National Security Advisor John Bolton (L) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) guided by Israeli army Major General Nadav Padan (L) at the Qasr al-Yahud baptism site at the Jordan Valley near the Palestinian city of Jericho, West Bank, June 23, 2019. Abir Sultan | EPA via AP

Dr. Ramzy Baroud is a widely published and translated author, an internationally syndicated columnist and editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story (Pluto Press, 2018). He earned a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter (2015), and was a Non-Resident Scholar at Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, UCSB. Visit his website at  www.ramzybaroud.net.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect MintPress News editorial policy.

israel (apartheid state) is Afraid of Khalida Jarrar because She Shatters Its False Democratic Image

Israel is Afraid of Khalida Jarrar because She Shatters Its False Democratic Image

Israel renewed administrative detention of Khalida Jarrar. (Photo: via MEMO)

By Ramzy Baroud

When Israeli troops stormed the house of Palestinian parliamentarian and lawyer Khalida Jarrar on April 2, 2015, she was engrossed in her research. For months, she had been leading a Palestinian effort to take Israel to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Her research on that very evening was related directly to the kind of behavior that allows a group of soldiers to handcuff a respected Palestinian intellectual, throw her in jail with no trial and have no accountability for their action.

Jarrar was released in June 2016 after spending more than a year in jail, only to be arrested once more, on 2 July last year. She remains in an Israeli prison to this day. On 28 October, her “administrative detention” was renewed for the fourth time.

There are thousands of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, most of them held outside the militarily-occupied Palestinian territories, in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Nearly 500 of these Palestinians are held with neither charge nor trial and detained for six-month periods that are renewed, sometimes indefinitely, by Israeli military courts with no legal justification whatsoever. Jarrar is one of those “administrative detainees”.

The parliamentarian is not pleading with her jailers for her freedom. Instead, she is keeping herself busy, educating her fellow prisoners about international law, offering classes and issuing statements to the outside world that reflect not only her refined intellect but also her resolve and strength of character.

Jarrar is relentless. Despite her failing health — she suffers from multiple ischemic infarctions and hypercholesterolemia, and was hospitalized due to severe bleeding resulting from epistaxis — her commitment to the cause of her people has not, in any way, weakened or faltered.

The 55-year-old lawyer has championed a political discourse that is largely missing amid the ongoing feud between the Palestinian Authority’s largest faction, Fatah, in the occupied West Bank, and Hamas in besieged Gaza. As a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) and an active member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Jarrar has advocated the kind of politics that is not disconnected from the people and, especially, from the women who she strongly and uncompromisingly represents.

According to Jarrar, no Palestinian official should engage in any form of dialogue with Israel, because such engagement helps to legitimize a state that is founded on genocide and ethnic cleansing; a state that is currently carrying out various types of war crimes, the very crimes that Jarrar tried to expose before the ICC. As such, she rejects the so-called “peace process”, a futile exercise that has no intention or mechanism aimed at “implementing international resolutions related to the Palestinian cause and recognizing the fundamental rights of the Palestinians.”

It goes without saying that a woman with such an astute, strong position vehemently rejects the “security coordination” between the PA and Israel. She sees such action as a betrayal of the struggle and sacrifices of the Palestinian people.

While PA officials continue to enjoy the perks of “leadership”, desperately breathing life into a dead political discourse called the “peace process” and the “two-state solution”, Jarrar, a female Palestinian leader with genuine vision, subsists in HaSharon Prison. There, along with dozens of other Palestinian women, she experiences daily humiliation, denial of rights and various other Israeli tactics intended to break her spirit.

Jarrar, though, is as experienced in resisting Israel as she is in her knowledge of law and human rights. In August 2014, as Israel was carrying out one of its most heinous acts of genocide in Gaza — killing and wounding thousands in its so-called “Operation Protective Edge” military offensive — Jarrar received an unwelcome visit by Israeli soldiers.

Fully aware of her work and credibility as a Palestinian lawyer with an international outreach — she is the Palestine representative in the Council of Europe — the Israeli government unleashed their campaign of harassment, which ended in her imprisonment. The soldiers delivered a military edict ordering her to leave her home in Al-Bireh, near Ramallah, and go to Jericho.

The Israelis failed to silence her, so she was arrested in April the following year. Thus began an episode of suffering, as well as resistance, which is yet to end.

When the Israeli army came for Jarrar, its soldiers surrounded her home in great numbers, as if the well-spoken Palestinian activist was Israel’s greatest security threat. The scene was surreal and revealed what Israel’s real fear is: Palestinians, like Khalida Jarrar, who are able to communicate an articulate message that exposes Israel and its crimes to the rest of the world.

Indeed, the whole set-up was reminiscent of the opening sentence of Franz Kafka’s novel, The Trial: “Somebody must have made a false accusation against Joseph K., for he was arrested one morning without having done anything wrong.”

Administrative detention in Israel is the recreation of that Kafkaesque scene over and over again. Joseph K. is Khalida Jarrar and thousands of other Palestinians who are paying a high price merely for calling for the legitimate rights and freedom of their people.

Under international pressure, Israel was forced to put Jarrar on trial, levying against her twelve charges that included visiting a released prisoner and participating in a book fair. Her other arrest and the four renewals of her detention is a testament not just to Israel’s lack of any real evidence against her, but also to its moral bankruptcy.

Why is Israel afraid of Khalida Jarrar? The truth is that Jarrar, like many other Palestinian women, represents the antidote to the fabricated narrative which promotes Israel relentlessly as an oasis of freedom, democracy, and human rights, juxtaposed with a Palestinian society that purportedly represents the opposite of what Israel stands for.

As a lawyer, human rights activist, prominent politician, and advocate for women, Jarrar and her eloquence, courage and deep understanding of her rights and the rights of her people, demolish this Israeli house of lies. She is the quintessential feminist; her feminism, however, is not mere identity politics, a surface ideology, evoking empty rights meant to strike a chord with western audiences. Instead, Khalida Jarrar fights for Palestinian women, their freedom and their right to receive a proper education, to seek work opportunities and to better their lives, while facing tremendous obstacles like Israel’s military occupation, prison, and social pressures.

In Arabic, Khalida means “immortal”. It is a most fitting designation for a true fighter who represents the legacy of generations of strong Palestinian women whose “sumoud” — steadfastness — shall always inspire an entire nation.

– Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His forthcoming book is ‘The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story’ (Pluto Press, London). Baroud has a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter and is a Non-Resident Scholar at Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, University of California Santa Barbara. His website is www.ramzybaroud.net.

Why israel (apartheid state) Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide

Why Israel Demolishes

Ramzy Baroud on Khan Al-Ahmar and genocide

Like vultures, Israeli soldiers descended on Khan Al-Ahmar, on September 14, recreating a menacing scene with which the residents of this small Palestinian village, located East of Jerusalem, are all-too familiar.

The strategic location of Khan Al-Ahmar makes the story behind the imminent Israeli demolition of the peaceful village unique amid the ongoing destruction of Palestinian homes and lives throughout besieged Gaza and Occupied West Bank.

Throughout the years, Khan Al-Ahmar, once part of an uninterrupted Palestinian physical landscape has grown increasingly isolated. Decades of Israeli colonization of East Jerusalem and the West Bank left Khan Al-Ahmar trapped between massive and vastly expanding Israeli colonial projects: Ma’ale Adumim, Kfar Adumim among others.

The unfortunate village, its adjacent school and 173 residents are the last obstacle facing the E1 Zone project, an Israeli plan that aims to link illegal Jewish colonies in Occupied East Jerusalem with West Jerusalem, thus cutting off East Jerusalem completely from its Palestinian environs in the West Bank.

Like the Neqab (Negev) village of Al-Araqib, which has been demolished by Israel and rebuilt by its residents 133 times, Khan Al-Ahmar residents are facing armed soldiers and military bulldozers with their bare chests and whatever local and international solidarity they are able to obtain.

Despite the particular circumstances and unique historical context of Khan Al-Ahmar, however, the story of this village is but a chapter in a protracted narrative of a tragedy that has extended over the course of seventy years.

It would be a mistake to discuss the destruction of Khan Al-Ahmar, or any other Palestinian village outside the larger context of demolition that has stood at the heart of Israel’s particular breed of settler colonialism.

It is true that other colonial powers used destruction of homes and properties, and the exile of whole communities as a tactic to subdue rebellious populations. The British Mandate government in Palestine used the demolition of homes as a “deterrence” tactic against Palestinians who dared rebel against injustice throughout the 1920s, 30s and 40s, till Israel took over in 1948.

Yet the Israeli strategy is far more convoluted than a mere “deterrence”. It is now carved in the Israeli psyche that Palestine must be completely destroyed in order for Israel to exist. Therefore, Israel is engaging in a seemingly endless campaign of erasing everything Palestinian, because the latter, from an Israeli viewpoint represents an existential threat to the former.

This is precisely why Israel sees the natural demographic growth among Palestinians as an “existential threat” to Israel’s “Jewish identity”.

This can only be justified with an irrational degree of hate and fear that has accumulated throughout generations to the point that it now forms a collective Israeli psychosis for which Palestinians continue to pay a heavy price.

The repeated destruction of Gaza is symptomatic of this Israeli psychosis.

Israel is a “country that when you fire on its citizens it responds by going wild – and this is a good thing,” was the official explanation offered by Tzipi Livni, the Israeli foreign minister in January 2009 to justify its country’s war on the blockaded Gaza Strip. The Israel “going wild” strategy has led to the destruction of 22,000 homes, schools and other facilities during one of Israel’s deadliest wars on the Strip.

A few years later, in the summer of 2014, Israel went “wild” again, leading to an even greater destruction and loss of lives.

Israel’s mass demolition of Palestinian homes in Gaza, and everywhere else, preceded Hamas by decades. In fact, it has nothing to do with the method of resistance that Palestinians utilize in their struggle against Israel. Israel’s demolishing of Palestine – whether the actual physical structures or the idea, history, narrative, and even street names – is an Israeli decision through and through.

A quick scan of historical facts demonstrates that Israel demolished Palestinian homes and communities in diverse political and historical contexts, where Israel’s “security” was not in the least a factor.

Nearly 600 Palestinian towns, villages and localities were destroyed between 1947 and 1948, and nearly 800,000 Palestinians were exiled to make room for the establishment of Israel.

According to the Land Research Center (LRC), Israel had destroyed 5,000 Palestinian homes in Jerusalem alone since it occupied the city in 1967, leading to the permanent exile of nearly 70,000 people. Coupled with the fact that nearly 200,000 Jerusalemites were driven out during the Nakba, the Catastrophe of 1948, and the ongoing slow ethnic cleansing, the Holy City has been in a constant state of destruction since the establishment of Israel.

In fact, between 2000 and 2017, over 1,700 Palestinian homes were demolished, displacing nearly 10,000 people. This is not a policy of “deterrence” but of erasure – the eradication of the very Palestinian culture.

Gaza and Jerusalem are not unique examples either. According to the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions (ICAHD’s) report last December, since 1967 “nearly 50,000 Palestinian homes and structures have been demolished – displacing hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and affecting the livelihoods of thousands of others.”

Combined with the destruction of Palestinian villages upon the establishment of Israel, and the demolition of Palestinian homes inside Israel itself, ICAHD puts the total number of homes destroyed since 1948 at more than 100,000.

In fact, as the group itself acknowledges, the figure above is quite conservative. Indeed, it is. In Gaza alone, and in the last 10 years which witnessed three major Israeli wars, nearly 50,000 homes and structures were reportedly destroyed.

So why does Israel destroy with consistency, impunity and no remorse?

It is for the same reason that it passed laws to change historic street names from Arabic to Hebrew. For the same reason it recently passed the racist Nation-state law, elevating everything Jewish and completely ignoring and downgrading the existence of the indigenous Palestinians, their language and their culture that goes back millennia.

Israel demolishes, destroys and pulverizes because in the racist mindset of Israeli rulers, there can be no room between the Sea and the River but for Jews; where the Palestinians – oppressed, colonized and dehumanized – don’t factor in the least in Israel’s ruthless calculations.

This is not just a question of Khan Al-Ahmar. It is a question of the very survival of the Palestinian people, threatened by a racist state that has been allowed to “go wild” for 70 years, untamed and without repercussions.

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His latest book is The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story (Pluto Press, London). Baroud has a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter and is a Non-Resident Scholar at Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, University of California Santa Barbara. His website is www.ramzybaroud.net.

Common Enemy: Why Israel is Embracing Fascism in Europe

Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, visited Israel on July 19, where he met Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and other officials. Orban’s visit would have not required much pause except that the Hungarian leader has been repeatedly branded for his often racist, anti-Semitic remarks.

So why is Orban wining and dining with the leaders of the so-called ‘Jewish State’?

The answer does not pertain only to Orban and Hungary, but to Israel’s attitude towards the rapidly growing far-right movements in Europe, as a whole. Netanyahu and Zionist leaders everywhere, are not just aware of this massive political shift in European politics but are, in fact, working diligently to utilize it in Israel’s favor.

On his visit to Israel, Orban asserted that Hungarian Jewish citizens should feel safe in his country, an odd statement considering that it was Orban and his party that deprived many Jews and other members of minority groups of any feeling of safety.

Still, Netanyahu has welcomed Orban as a “true friend of Israel” and Orban called on his European counterparts to show more support for Israel. Mission accomplished.

Netanyahu had visited Budapest in July 2017, but that supposedly ‘historic’ visit did nothing to change Hungary’s official discourse, dotted with racism and anti-Semitism. In fact, in March 2018, Orban derided Jews, focusing his criticism mostly on Jewish financiers such as George Soros.

At an election rally campaign, Orban said, “We are fighting an enemy that is different from us. Not open but hiding; not straightforward but crafty; not honest but base; not national but international; does not believe in working but speculates with money; does not have its own homeland but feels it owns the whole world.”

It is well-known that Israel and Zionist leaders are quite selective in manipulating the definition of ‘anti-Semitism’ to serve their political agendas, but Israel’s attitude towards the racist far-right movements in Europe takes this truth to a whole new level.

Indeed, the ‘special relationship’ between Netanyahu and Orban is only the tip of the iceberg. For years, Netanyahu’s Israel has been ‘flirting’ with radical right movements in Europe.

The unmistakable Israeli strategy, of course has its own logic. Israeli leaders feel that Europe’s move to the far-right is irrevocable and are keen to benefit from the anti-Muslim sentiment that accompanies this shift as much as possible.

Moreover, the EU’s resolve to label illegal settlement products and refusal to heed calls for moving their embassies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is pushing Netanyahu to explore these new routes.

During his previous visit to Hungary, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, met with leaders from the so-called Visegrad-4, which includes Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

On that visit, Netanyahu hoped to find new channels of support within the EU, through exerting pressure by using his new-found allies in these countries. In an audio-recording obtained by Reuters, Netanyahu chastised Europe for daring to criticize Israel’s dismal human rights record, illegal settlement policies and military occupation.

“I think Europe has to decide whether it wants to live and thrive or it wants to shrivel and disappear,”he said.

Netanyahu’s arrogance is unbridled, especially as the censure is emanating from a leader who represents an ethno-nationalist state, which has just recently canceled any reference to ‘democracy’ in its newly-issued Jewish Nation-state Law.

The new ‘basic law’ defines Israel by an ethnic identity, not any democratic values. Netanyahu is now closer to Europe’s far-right racist groups than to any liberal democratic model, thus the ongoing flirting between Israel and these groups.

In fact, the term ‘flirting’ is itself an understatement considering that Israel’s ties with various far-right, neo-Nazi and fascist parties in Europe involve high-level political coordination and, in the case of the Ukraine in particular, the actual supplying of weapons.

Human rights groups recently petitioned the Israeli High Court to stop Israel’s export of weapons to neo-Nazi groups.

The Israeli-far-right embrace almost touches every single European country, including Italy and Germany, whose history of Nazism and Fascism has wrought death and misery to millions.

In Italy, the connection between Italian far-right parties and Israel goes back to the early 2000s, when post-Fascist leader, Gianfranco Fini, labored to rebrand his movement.

Initially, Fini was the leader of the Movimento Sociale Italiano (Italian Social Movement), which saw itself as the “heir to the Fascist Party”.

The rebranding of the party required a trip by Fini to Israel in 2003, after changing the name of his movement to the ‘National Alliance.’ Interestingly, in his highly-touted visit, Fini was accompanied by Amos Luzzatto, the head of the Italian Jewish community.

Unsurprisingly, far-right leader, Matteo Salvini, Italy’s current Interior Minister, went through the same political baptism by Zionist Israel – as Orban and Fini also did – by paying a visitto Tel Aviv in March 2016 to launch his political career and declaring his undying love for the Jewish State.

The same scenario is being repeated in Germany where the far-right party – Alternative for Germany (AfD) – has risen in ranks to the point that it nearly toppled a government coalition led by Chancellor Angela Merkel.

AfD has more in common with Israel than the common anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant views. The party which is “derided for anti-Semitic, xenophobic views redolent of the Nazis is also staunchly supportive of Israel,”reported the Times of Israel.

Last April, the anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic German party, enthusiastically began a campaign pushing for the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, despite Merkel’s views to the contrary.

The story, however, does not end there. What began as Israeli flirting with far-right racist movements is now Israel’s official policy towards Europe. The same story, with different actors and names can be found in Austria’s Freedom Party (FPOe), Belgium’s Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest) and virtually everywhere else.

It remains to be seen how Israel’s embrace of fascist Europe will bode, both for Israel and the European Union. Will the EU “shrivel and disappear”, or will Israel be finally exposed for what it truly is, an ethno-nationalist state with no interest in true democracy in the first place?

BY Ramzy Baroud
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