Palestinians on high alert as Israel prepares to hand over East Jerusalem nature reserve and Muslim cemetery to settlers – By Yumna Patel and Saleh Zghari on July 12, 2018 (MONDOWEISS)

Just outside the walls of the Old City in occupied East Jerusalem, a years long demographic battle between the Israeli state and Palestinian residents of the city has found new life in recent weeks.

Right-wing settler NGO Elad, also known as the City of David Foundation, celebrated a win last week when the Interior and Environment Committee of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, advanced a bill that would allow for the construction of Jewish settlement housing to be built inside areas zoned for national parks within municipal boundaries.

The bill, which was introduced last year, proposed that settlement construction be allowed inside the boundaries of archaeological national parks where a “neighborhood” had existed before the park was declared, referring to conglomerates of Jewish settlers living on Palestinian land.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz noted that the Elad-managed City of David national park, built on lands of the Palestinian town of Silwan, “seems to be the only park in all of Israel that meets these criteria for residential construction.”

Palestinian activists have condemned the bill’s hypocrisy, pointing to the fact that the nearly 4,000 Palestinian residents of the Wadi Hilweh neighborhood of Silwan, where the City of David site is located, have been prevented for years by the Israeli government from any type of building or construction work under the pretext of preserving the national park.

Jawad Siyam of the Wadi Hilweh Information Center spoke to Mondoweiss, and criticized Israeli attempts to further entrench its settlement enterprise in East Jerusalem, specifically Silwan, and its “Judaization” of the city.

“This is all done with the intention of emptying Jerusalem of Palestinians and part of the plans to make Jerusalem a Jewish-majority city,” he said.

Aviv Tatarsky, a researcher at left-wing Israeli NGO Ir Amim, echoed Siyam’s sentiments in a statement to Mondoweiss.

“National Parks have been hugely misused by Israel in East Jerusalem as a one of the means to severely limit Palestinian residential areas in order to realize the Israeli demographic policy of ensuring a Jewish majority in Jerusalem,” Tatarsky said, adding that the policy creates pressures that “encourage” East Jerusalemites to leave the city.

One of the starkest examples of such policies, Tatarsky noted, is the City of David national park, which is run by Elad.

According to Tatarsky, the Israeli government’s restrictions on Palestinian construction in Wadi Hilweh has resulted in it being “one of the most neglected neighborhoods of the city.”

“In reality through the national park, Israel is trying to put the [Jewish] past over the neighborhood’s Palestinian present, it tries to put the touristic park over the reality of a Palestinian neighborhood,” he said.

‘Dubious means’

While the approval of the Elad-backed construction bill marked an effort by the organization to receive official government approval for its plans in Wadi Hilweh, Tatarsky told Mondoweiss that the organization has been illegally settling Israelis in Silwan with the government’s knowledge and approval for the better part of 30 years.

“Over the last 30 years Elad has gotten control – many times through dubious means and with the backing of Israeli authorities – of Palestinian homes in the neighborhoods,” Tatarsky said.

“Many times the families who lived in the homes lost title to it because of Israeli legislation which made it possible to take their property away from them. Today Elad controls some 70 housing units in the neighborhood which is home to over 4,000 Palestinians,” he added.

According to Tatarsky, the proposed bill is designed specifically to help Elad circumvent restrictions on construction in national parks, in order to expand its settlement compounds in the neighborhood.

He noted that one of the supporters of the bill is the Israeli Nature and Parks Authority (INPA), whose director for the Jerusalem district was a former high ranking member of Elad.

Haaretz quoted the INPA as saying it “attaches great importance to advancing the bill that will legally regulate the integration of residential buildings within a national park area around the walls of Jerusalem and the City of David.”

Tatarsky raised the point that while in theory the bill’s passing could enable the Palestinian residents of Wadi Hilweh to finally build on their land, in reality, it remains highly unlikely.

“Whoever is familiar with the realities of the planning policy in the city knows that whereas Elad will be able to swiftly promote its construction plans, Palestinian efforts will have to face many hurdles (political hurdles disguised as bureaucratic ones) and it is very doubtful that they will benefit from the legislation,” he said. Then he went on, “Expanding the settlement in Silwan will have direct consequences disrupting the lives of the local Palestinian population. In the long run it will further solidify Israel’s hold around the Old City making it ever more difficult to arrive at a future agreement which will allow for a Palestinian capital in the city without which we can not arrive at an end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Disrupting the dead

Though the bill will still need to pass through three Knesset readings before going into final preparations, the consequences of Elad’s new settlement plans around the Old City are already being felt by local Palestinians. This time, by the deceased.

In recent weeks, the INPA has resumed digging at the Palestinian Bab al-Rahma cemetery, part of which sits in Silwan just beyond the wall of the Old City, adjacent to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

The Bab al-Rahma, or “Gate of Mercy,” cemetery is the final resting place to generations of Palestinians and others from the Arab world, its origins dating back more than 1,000 years. As one of the most important Muslim cemeteries in Jerusalem, Palestinians from Silwan and other parts of East Jerusalem have long buried their dead there.

Locals told Mondoweiss that INPA staff began digging up graves and empty land in the cemetery, and that in May, authorities placed metal fences around the parts of the cemetery that it intends on confiscating in order to create a trail for tourists in the City of David national park.

Mustafa Abu Zahra, Head of the Committee for the Preservation of Islamic Cemeteries in Jerusalem, told Mondoweiss that Israeli attacks on the cemetery began as early as the 1970’s, and have resurfaced over the years.

According to Abu Zahra, at least one quarter of an acre of the cemetery — where several hundred Egyptian soldiers who fought in historic Palestine are buried —  has been confiscated by the INPA, preventing Palestinians from accessing the area.

“Many times they have destroyed parts of the cemetery, especially in the Egyptian part. Any time we try to build new graves in the cemetery, the Israeli Nature Parks Authority comes to destroy them,” Abu Zahra said, adding that he fears the cemetery will eventually be completely confiscated and closed off to Palestinian use.

“The Israelis want most of the cemetery to be destroyed and made part of the park. The main corridor of the cemetery will be used as a main pathway through the park, connecting the City of David to the Masjid Al-Aqsa compound,” he said.

Abu Zahra, who sees himself as one of the most vital protectors of the cemetery, says that the cemetery acts as a barrier that “protects” Al-Aqsa. He fears its confiscation would highly endanger Muslim claims to the holy site.

“This cemetery sits right under the wall of Al-Aqsa. So if they take this cemetery, the whole area surrounding Al-Aqsa will be under Israeli control,” he told Mondoweiss.

“Bab al-Rahma is one of the most important parts of Jerusalem history,” Abu Zahra said, “Israel is trying to kill any part of Muslim or Palestinian culture in Jerusalem.”

“This is a violation of international law, and part of Israel’s ongoing Judaization of Jerusalem. This cemetery represents our culture, our life, our history, and Israel is trying to erase all of this,” he said. 

About Yumna Patel

Yumna Patel is a multimedia freelance journalist based in Bethlehem, Palestine. You can find her on twitter @yumna_patel.

Other posts by .

About Saleh Zghari

Saleh Zghari is a Palestinian filmmaker and freelance videographer based in Jerusalem

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Legitimizing The Occupation: An Occupied Palestine is a Land Without Hope – By Miko Peled (MINT PRESS)

Israeli border police drag an activist by the next to Israel's apartheid wall during a protest in the occupied West Bank village of Bil'in, west of Ramallah, March 2, 2018. Palestinian protesters and foreign activists marched to commemorate the 13th anniversary of the ongoing weekly protests against the Israeli apartheid wall and Jewish-only settlements in Bil'in. (AP/Nasser Nasser)Israeli border police drag an activist by the next to Israel's apartheid wall during a protest in the occupied West Bank village of Bil'in, west of Ramallah, March 2, 2018. Palestinian protesters and foreign activists marched to commemorate the 13th anniversary of the ongoing weekly protests against the Israeli apartheid wall and Jewish-only settlements in Bil'in. (AP/Nasser Nasser)

Many in the community of Palestinian citizens would like to see themselves as an integral part of Israeli society that has its own Arab and Muslim culture and roots. The problem is that Israel has never seen them as such.

JERUSALEM, PALESTINE — (Analysis) Khaled and I sat and chatted one evening at his family’s home in Qalansawe. “They look at us as though we are completely Israeli,” he said, speaking of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, “and we call them ‘Dafawi’ if they are from the West Bank and ‘Ghazzawi’ if they are from Gaza.” Khaled is a successful man, one of the few Palestinian citizens of Israel who became an executive in an important Israeli company.

When he talks about himself and the community of the Palestinian citizens of Israel, he uses the Israeli terms “Arviyey Israel,” which means the Arabs of Israel, or “The Arab Sector.” Qalansawe is a Palestinian town of 23,000 in the “Muthalath” or Triangle area, an area just west of the West Bank town of Tul-Karem. There is a relatively large concentration of Palestinian towns in that area, which became a part of Israel when the borders were drawn after 1948. It is called the Triangle because of the three main cities of Taybe, Tire and Qalansawe.

Municipal elections are due to take place in Qalansawe in October 2018. Ma’aruf is considered one of the leading candidates for the post of mayor. He is a retired high school principal with a reputation of a guy that gets things done.

If he is elected, he faces problems that characterize all Palestinian towns that became a part of Israel: water and electricity shortages; no urban planning; no infrastructure; never-ending land confiscations by the state, which are then diverted to build primarily for Jews; no enforcement of city ordinances or the law in general; high crime rates and poverty rates; and, even though there is no shortage of college graduates, high unemployment.

An Israeli Arab woman walks in the Arab town of Taybeh, central Israel wants to move large chunks of Israeli Arabs into Palestine, reminding Arabs of their second-class status in the Jewish state. Ariel Schalit | AP

“In the office by six in the morning and the last one to leave,” Khaled said about Ma’aruf in admiration, “which is why I will support his candidacy.” Ma’aruf and I drove together one day across Highway 6 south towards Tel-Aviv. He laughed when I told him that I understand why people want him to run, “but what’s in it for you?”

Unlike in the U.S., where each city has its own police force, Israeli police are a national police force and reluctant to intervene in crime in Palestinian towns. This means that the mayor has no means of enforcement, and because of a complex bureaucratic reality, which he explained to me and I was unable to comprehend, in Qalansawe the mayor cannot even hire inspectors to enforce city ordinances. So it’s chaos and, since weapons are easily accessible, the strongest prevail.

Water and electricity are cut off for several hours each day — most likely by Mekorot, Israel’s water authority, and by the Israeli electricity authority. So the homes in Palestinian towns must have a reserve tank on the roof in which to store water. Khaled has one too on the roof of his beautiful home. He told me that he needed to buy a floating device like the ones used in a toilet tank to indicate when the water reaches a certain level. He went to a hardware store in an Israeli Jewish town and asked for one. “What kind of place do you live in that you need that sort of thing?” the man at the store asked. “The difference between Jews and Arabs,” Khaled concluded: Jews have no need for this sort of thing because in their homes the water never stops running.

Khaled and I talked about the upcoming municipal elections and about the Palestinian members of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset. He said what many people in this community say: “they should stick to domestic issues like housing and crime and stay away from foreign affairs — particularly the Palestinian-Israeli issue.” Many in the community of Palestinian citizens would like to see themselves as an integral part of Israeli society that has its own Arab and Muslim culture and roots. The problem is that Israel has never seen them as such. Their existence is a testament to the failure of the campaign of ethnic cleansing that began in 1948.

“The Palestinian issue is a domestic issue to Palestinians,” I said to Khaled; “it is at the heart of their existence. The root cause of the problems that exist in Gaza and the problems that exist in Qalansawe is the same. You are no less occupied than the Dafawi and the Ghazzawi Palestinians.” He gave me a disappointed look and I could sense that deep down he knows this is true but wished I would prove him wrong.

 

A string of commemorated catastrophes

In Palestine there is no shortage of days and events to commemorate. Begin with the Nakba — the catastrophe that befell Palestine in 1948 — with the massacre at Deir Yassin that was a part of that campaign, and the massacre at Kafr Qassem that was an extension of that campaign intended to bring about a mass exodus of Palestinians from Palestine from the “Triangle” area into Jordan. Then the war of 1967, or the Naksa, which is often referred to as the war that changed the face of the Middle East but in fact solidified and legitimized Israel’s 1948 conquests. These are merely for starters. There are many, many more days and events filled with horror for Palestinians to commemorate and it seems like new ones come up every day. So much so that it is almost impossible to dwell on one event, to thoroughly discuss and understand it because there is a new one, a more current one taking place.

In Israel and in much of the world, the war of 1967 is still seen as a justified response by Israel to an existential threat, even though all the evidence shows that it was a well-planned attack on three Arab countries in order to conquer land and impose Israel’s will on the region. The war of 1967 achieved a goal that was declared very early on, which was that the eastern border of the state of Israel must be the Jordan River, in other words, complete the conquest that was left incomplete in 1948. Though Israel had never officially defined the borders of the state, in his memoirs, Israel’s first foreign minister, Moshe Sharet, mentions a speech given by my father Matti Peled on October 26, 1953 in front of Jewish leaders, who included then-Prime Minister David Ben Gurion and Sharet himself. My father, then a young Lt. Colonel, said that “the existing border with Jordan is unacceptable […] and the army is prepared for war in order to capture the remaining parts of the land of Israel.”

Palestinian refugees carry their belongings as they prepare to cross the wrecked Allenby Bridge over the Jordan River from the Israeli-occupied section of Jordan, June 22, 1967. Many of the refugees said they were forced to leave by the Israelis. (AP Photo/Bernard Frye)

It has also been recorded that the Israeli army had made plans to occupy the West Bank as early as 1958 and then again in 1964 and to extend the Israeli military rule that was in place already in other parts of Palestine to the West Bank, (Ilan Pappe, The Forgotten Palestinians). The conquest of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip were not the “spoils of war” but the result of a premeditated campaign. Then, once these areas were taken by the army, the Israeli government went in very rapidly and began to push out the Palestinian population, and make life unlivable for those who remained. And they built massively for Jews only, making these territories an inseparable part of Israel.

After the war, my father, Matti Peled — who was a general by then and a member of the Israeli army high command during the war, retiring a year later — Uri Avneri, and several other staunch Zionists began talking about a revised version of the 1947 UN Partition Plan, which called for the creation of two states in Palestine. Their version, however, was far more favorable to Israel and would legitimize the otherwise illegitimate conquests of 1947- 48. It was the idea of the Two States where the Palestinians would recognize the state of Israel in the post-1948 boundaries and accept a small, weak state for themselves in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Israeli establishment, both military and political, viewed this idea with disdain. The people who were behind this idea, who were all staunch Zionists with impeccable records, were pushed aside and marginalized for suggesting that any recognition should be granted to the rights of Palestinians to the land.

One of the most important achievements of the war of 1967 was making the conquests of 1948 legitimate, and now it was about post-1948 Israel “giving back” or not “giving back” the territories it occupied in 1967. One clear example of that is the well known and totally ignored UN resolution 242, which was passed in November of 1967. It mentions “withdrawal of Israel Armed Forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict;” in other words, the territories captured in 1948, in violation of prior UN resolutions regarding Palestine and regarding the status of Jerusalem, became irrelevant as a result of the 1967 conquests.

 

Israel’s long-term strategy: Forced transfer, slow genocide  

“They say we are a strategic threat, a fifth column,” Khaled admitted with regret; “some people even call for the transfer of the entire community out of the country.” According to a poll conducted in Israel in 2008 and published in the Israeli daily Ma’ariv, 75 percent of Israelis believe that Palestinian citizens of Israel should be forcefully transferred out of the country.

Israeli riot police officers scuffle with Arab men in Arab village of Ara, northern Israel, Monday, Sept. 19, 2016. About 50 right wing activists protested in Ara outside the home of Nashhat Milhem, who killed three people in a shooting rampage in Tel Aviv in January 2016 before police killed him in a shootout. The demonstrators demanded Israel deport Milhem's family and shouted "There is no Palestine." They arrived under heavy police escort to the village, where locals held a counterdemonstration.

In a statement he made in the spring of 2017, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman stated that “the only way to reach a sustainable solution is land swaps and population transfers as part of a general regional agreement,” thus giving the government’s seal of approval to the already prevalent idea that the community of close to two million Palestinian citizens of Israel can be placed on trucks and removed.

No matter how hard Palestinians try, as long as Palestine is occupied things will not change for the better. The finest people can run for mayor and the cities will continue to be in disarray; the most talented youth can get degrees in education and they will not be given teaching jobs in Israeli Jewish schools.

People in Gaza can protest or remain at home but, as the last seven decades have shown, they will be killed either way. They may be shot or they may just die from thirst or other causes that are easily preventable. Whatever differences exist among Palestinians, it is crucial that the line that connects all of Palestine is not broken and must be strengthened. In order for Palestine and its people to be free, we must all stand united against the seven-decade-long occupation.

Top Photo | Israeli border police drag an activist by the hair next to Israel’s apartheid wall during a protest in the occupied West Bank village of Bil’in, March 2, 2018. Palestinian protesters and foreign activists marched to commemorate the 13th anniversary of the ongoing weekly protests against the Israeli apartheid wall and Jewish-only settlements in Bil’in. Nasser Nasser | AP

Miko Peled is an author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. He is the author of “The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”

Republish our stories! MintPress News is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 International License.

Israel’s secret assassinations – By Rod Such (The Electronic Intifada)

Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations by Ronen Bergman, Random House (2018)

Israeli television recently aired a video of two Israeli soldiers filming themselves in the act of shooting a Palestinian protester at the Gaza boundary while cheering. Filming one’s own crimes against humanity – shooting Palestinians for sport – suggests a sense of security in never being held accountable.

Even more evidence of this impunity is apparent in Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations by veteran Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman, staff writer for The New York Times Magazine.

Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court might want to consider this book Exhibit A if Israeli government and military officials are ever indicted for war crimes. It contains open admissions of guilt in plotting and executing extralegal assassinations in violation of international law.

“Since World War II, Israel has assassinated more people than any other country in the Western world,” Bergman writes. In many cases, these so-called targeted killings over the last two decades also involved the deaths of nearly a thousand bystanders, according to Bergman’s calculations – those numbers, however, fail to include the tens of thousands killed in overt acts of war and collective punishment that mostly go unmentioned in this book.

That Israeli officials were willing to be quoted and identify others by name implies a certainty of never being held accountable in a court of law. Consider, for example, the instruction given by former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to Avi Dichter, at that time Shin Bet’s director, in reference to Hamas. Sharon, in an open admission of intent to commit genocide, stated: “Go for it. Kill them all.”

It was not just assassinations. Bergman writes, “‘state security’ was used to justify a large number of actions and operations that, in the visible world, would have been subject to criminal prosecution and long prison terms: constant surveillance of citizens because of their ethnic or political affiliations; interrogation methods that included prolonged detention without judicial sanction, and torture; perjury in the courts and concealment of the truth from counsel and judges.”

Rise and Kill First details the lengthy history of Israeli political assassination, dating back to British Mandate Palestine. It includes the period of the so-called Border Wars (a term used by historian Benny Morris in his book Israel’s Border Wars, 1949-1956), the formation of the Palestine Liberation Organization in the 1960s, the Israeli invasion and occupation of Lebanon in the 1970s, the first and second intifadas in the occupied territories beginning in the 1980s and the ongoing military campaigns against Hizballah, Syria and Iran (the so-called Radical Front) that continue today.

As the decades went on, assassinations became increasingly frequent, in part due to improved surveillance through drones and computer technology, enabling intelligence agencies to carry out hundreds of operations per year as opposed to only a few previously.

“Collateral damage”

The book’s title derives from the Talmudic command that a person has the right to “rise and kill first” as a preemptive measure.

This concept formed both the moral and legal basis for the policy, which many human rights groups consider invalid under international law because execution without trial makes a mockery of due process and erases the distinction between combatants and civilians. Many of the victims were political and even religious figures who were most likely not involved in planning attacks against Israel, Bergman asserts.

The Haganah – the paramilitary precursor to the Israeli army – defined assassinations as “personal terror operations,” targeting leaders of the Palestinian national movement. After 1948 all of Israel’s intelligence agencies, including the military intelligence department Aman, the Mossad and Shin Bet, became involved in extralegal killings.

The assassination policy allowed for the murders of Palestinians and other Arabs simply because they were part of the resistance against Israeli settler colonialism.

The people killed to avenge the holding of hostages and deaths of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympic Games in Munich, for example, indicate that Israeli intelligence simply picked out leaders or representatives of the Palestine Liberation Organization, not those directly involved in the Black September group that planned the abduction. Palestinian Wael Zuaiter, who was translating One Thousand and One Nights from Arabic to Italian while living in Rome and serving as a local PLO representative, was one of the murder victims, as was a misidentified Moroccan waiter living in Lillehammer, Norway.

That a racist code existed is undeniable, particularly given the distinction Israeli intelligence officials often made between “collateral damage” involving Arabs and non-Arabs: If Arab bystanders or family members might be killed, the operation was still likely to be given the go-ahead; if non-Arab bystanders might die, it was to be avoided. As Bergman notes, “as long as the targets were located in enemy countries, and as long as the innocent civilians were Arabs, the finger on the trigger became quicker.”

Israeli government and intelligence officials even planned the downing of commercial airliners in the hope of assassinating leading PLO officials. Although the plan was never implemented, Israeli officials developed an elaborate scheme to shoot down such aircraft in radar-free zones over the Mediterranean Sea so that discovery of the wreckage would be more difficult and the crime conceivably concealed.

News accounts seized on a separate incident detailed by Bergman in which the planned downing of an aircraft believed to be carrying PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat was narrowly averted in 1982. The plane was carrying wounded Palestinian children, and Arafat was not aboard.

Missing the point

Many of Bergman’s revelations are so shocking that one wonders why an apparently loyal Israeli journalist would expose them. But he is hardly the first reporter to venture into the realm of exposing the secrets of intelligence agencies, even if they tarnish the state’s carefully cultivated image.

The rationale is usually that the documented crimes represent “mistakes” that the exposé hopefully corrects without fundamentally challenging the nature of the state that carries them out. This journalistic genre largely misses the point. Intelligence agencies are not gatherers of information to protect state security, but are rather covert actors engaged in implementing the state’s hegemonic ambitions by any means necessary.

Intelligence agencies protect their secrets. It’s the rare journalist who can ferret them out by diligent investigation.

Most often, intelligence or government officials themselves leak secrets because of policy disagreements, splits within ruling factions or political ambitions. Bergman acknowledges this fact and makes it obvious that his principal source was the late Meir Dagan, an army general who became head of the Mossad under Israeli prime ministers Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert and Benjamin Netanyahu.

Unfortunately, Bergman is little more than a transcriber, bringing minimal analysis or historical background. For example, Dagan’s covert program to assassinate Iranian nuclear scientists is cited as a better method than overt military action to halt Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program. The diplomatic negotiations that resulted in an international agreement and a rigorous inspections regime for Iran’s nuclear program are simply ignored.

The book has numerous other failings as well, including giving short shrift to the efforts of Israeli human rights organizations to halt extrajudicial killings and framing the Israeli narrative in a way that omits the numerous acts of collective punishment carried out against the Palestinian people since 1948. The words “collective punishment” appear only once in its 784 pages in reference to a home demolition.

Omitted are references to Deir Yassin and the dozens of other massacres that occurred during the Nakba of 1948-49, the massacre at Khan Younis in 1956, the numerous military provocations Israel carried out in Syria’s Golan Heights prior to the 1967 war and Israel’s flagrant violations of the ceasefires with Hamas in Gaza in 2008, 2012 and 2014 that resulted in the deaths of thousands, including children.

Rendition and torture

To his credit, however, Bergman does delineate the similarities between the Israeli and US intelligence agencies, including recruiting journalists as spies, setting up false-front organizations to interfere in other countries, working with ex-Nazis and helping identify left-wing political activists under authoritarian regimes for the purpose of having them tortured or murdered.

Aman’s Unit 504, which engaged in kidnappings, anticipated the CIA’s rendition and torture program following the 11 September 2001 attacks. And Bergman makes it clear that both former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley under President George W. Bush approved and supported the Israeli assassination policy.

Ultimately, the belief in the effectiveness of extrajudicial executions rests on the idea that individuals, not social forces, make history: Eliminate a single person and history is changed. Following the killing of a Hizballah leader, Bergman reports that some in Israeli intelligence came to recognize that “Hizballah wasn’t one-man’s guerrilla force – it was a movement … a legitimate grassroots social movement.”

Bergman makes the dramatic claim that Israel’s intelligence agencies, having come to realize the futility of an assassination policy against Palestinian resistance, embrace the two-state solution, leaving them at odds (though “quietly”) with the current Netanyahu government. Dagan, in particular, appeared to have been motivated to leak some of Israel’s most damaging secrets due to a rift with Netanyahu over his opposition to a Palestinian state.

The likelihood of an eventual binational state if the two-state solution failed was an outcome that Dagan feared more than anything. In one of his last remarks at an Israeli political rally, Dagan explained his worries: “I do not want a binational state. I do not want an apartheid state. I do not want to rule over three million Arabs. I do not want us to be hostages of fear, despair and deadlock.”

After reading Rise and Kill First, one wonders: Had Dagan lived, would he have ordered the assassinations of those advocating a binational democratic state?

Rod Such is a former editor for World Book and Encarta encyclopedias. He lives in Portland, Oregon, and is active with the Occupation-Free Portland campaign.

 

In Deepest Ways, Entirety of the US Mirrors Israel’s Attack on the USS Liberty—in Slow Motion – By VT Senior Editors (VT)

4
1168


by Rand Clifford for Veterans Today

 
Actions trump lies. Evidence does not lie…so how has the American public been so brainwashed by lies, in light of so much evidence? Are Zionists that intelligent, or is the American public that unintelligent—and how did even that obvious question become a “third-rail issue”?
 
Totally uncool, our tradition of being outsmarted by Zionists even to the point of “Rothschilding” our descendants’ future.
 
Is it possible for the American public to think their way out of Zionist enslavement…or is Gaza a preview of our future?
 
There certainly is genius behind creation of the terms, “conspiracy theory”, and, “anti-Semitism”. Mere concepts, these two rank among the highest human inventions in terms of neutralizing independent thought. Both terms are amazingly popular and effective; a function, perhaps, of both being technically meaningless—a reliable Zionist mind-control touch, confusion.
 
— “conspiracy theory” was born to describe anything that questions official, establishment positions. Problem is, in the realm of establishment positioning, by definition, everything is conspiracy, putting the term conspiracy theory in the same league as “wet water”
 
— “anti-Semitism” refers to Semites, “A member of any of a number of peoples including Akkadians, Phoenicians, Hebrews, and Arabs” (Merriam-Webster). “Anti-Zionist” is a meaningful substitute for anti-Semitic—but watch that “third rail”!
 
9/11 was trademark Zionist false-flag testing of what they might get away with, a pushing of boundaries that, somehow, stayed in bounds. Zionists third-rail magicians still brag about 9/11 from their Rothschild neocolony, Israel.
 
Merriam-Webster defines “third rail” as:
 
1 : a metal rail through which electric current is led to the motors of an electric vehicle (as a subway car) 2 : a controversial issue usually avoided by politicians
Touching that third rail supplying power to trains means electrocution. Politically, third-rail issues are just as not-to-be-touched; same thing socially…regarding “politically-correct” conversation, third rail issues beg for the spouting of, “conspiracy theory” or “anti-Semitism”, often both.
 
Sweet Success, Utter Hubris
 
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s early reaction to 9/11 success was: “It’s very good!”—that was before he corralled his hubris, adjusted his face, and said, “Well, it’s not actually good, but it will generate immediate sympathy for Israel.”
 
Zionist complicity in, if not masterminding of 9/11…if you wonder about that, check out this celebration of “Purim”. Don’t miss recent winners in the amateur costume parade—twins dressed up as the Twin Towers being blasted by “airliners”. [1]
 
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said to Israeli foreign minister Shimon Peres on October 3, 2001 (twenty-two days after 9/11 success): “We, the Jewish people, control America, and the Americans know it.” [2]
 
Two problems with Sharon’s hubris:
 
— Historically, above all the Jewish people are  Zionist tools.
 
— Little evidence suggests that the American public has any idea who is in control, or how far politicos they vote for are removed from actual power. Still, Sharon actually told some truth.
 
Senator J. William Fulbright, Chair of Senate Foreign Relations Committee said on CBS’ Face the Nation, October 7, 1973: “The Israelis control the policy in the Congress and the Senate.” [3]
 
Senator Fulbright’s candor got him unseated by a candidate laundered in by the American Israeli Political Action Committee (AIPAC—currently veiled as the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee). AIPAC defeated a senator courageous enough tell the truth—a US senator, not a Zionist drone. We used to have a handful of our own senators.
 
While money taught Fulbright a lesson, with Zionist domination of American mainstream media (ZioMedia), America’s public brain has been washed, spun….
 
Standard Zionist chutzpah regarding ZioMedia orbits the idea, “We tell Americans what to think. If we change our minds, we’ll change their minds.”
 
Check out this piece of Zionist control of, ZioMedia.  [4]
 
Blaming the Jewish people for Zionism seems similar to blaming Americans for being under Zionist control. Zionists have proven over centuries that Jews are, in the name of “Greater Israel” expendable. Zionist sacrifice of Jews, with public perceptions managed Zionistically, offers stellar opportunities for concoction of history in Zionist favor. [5]
 
Americans resist thinking for themselves—at least publicly, wary of being pecked by the flock for being “different” (chickens excel at that). Regarding Americans courageous enough for intelligent inquiry and analysis into evidence bleeding under the wall of ZioMedia…you are being watched as the Internet is being Zionized.
 
Wikipedia is now recognized by Zionist Israel as “…THE major source of information in the world.” It’s even advertised with standard Zionist chutzpah that Wikipedia is “…under constant, paid review of Zionist assets.” [6]
 
By Way of Deception Thou Shalt Do War
 
In addition to being the motto for Mossad (Israel’s “CIA”), “By Way Of Deception Thou Shalt Do War” expresses their style of committing false-flag atrocities and blaming them on scapegoats, enemies they want the US to destroy. The Israeli attack on the USS Liberty, June 8, 1967, is a vivid display of Zionist style.
 
It was the fourth day of Israel’s Six-Day War of expansionist aggression against Egypt, Syria and Lebanon. A long-planned war to invade and annex Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Golan Heights and the Sinai Peninsula.
 
A calm and clear June morning in the Eastern Mediterranean, where the USS Liberty patrolled international waters fourteen miles from the coast of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Liberty was the world’s most sophisticated intelligence ship, a $40,000,000 signals intelligence platform (SIGNIT) with a crew of 294.
 
About 6 am local time, an Israeli reconnaissance plane spotted the USS Liberty just outside of Israeli coastal radar.
 
Israeli planes flew out and repeatedly circled the ship on eight different sequences over the next eight hours…and then—
 
Unmarked fighter jets attacked the Liberty at 2 pm, initially targeting the command bridge, communications antennas, and four .50 caliber machine guns placed to repel boarders.
 
After the first wave spent their ordnance, consecutive new waves of fighters added napalm to the rocket and 30 mm cannon fire. Liberty was able to contact The Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean about nine minutes into the attack. The aircraft carrier USS Saratoga launched fighters to aid the Liberty…but before making visual contact, the fighters were ordered to return to the Saratoga. Fighters were also launched by the USS America, and were also ordered—again by the White House—to stand down!
 
Never before or since in US history have planes been launched to aid an American ship being attacked, and ordered back before reaching fellow service-members under fire. On June 8, 1967, it happened twice.
 
Any refusal to help fellow service-members under attack is a criminal matter.
 
President Lyndon Johnson was noted as saying: “I don’t give a damn if every man drowns and the ship sinks. I don’t want to embarrass our allies.”
 
Forty minutes into the attack, fighter jets disengaged and three unmarked torpedo boats closed in. Five torpedoes were launched—one blasting the Liberty’s research spaces, killing another twenty-five crew. Torpedo boats then raked the Liberty port and starboard with cannon and machine-gun fire, targeting anyone who came above decks, firefighters and their equipment especially.
 
The Liberty was ablaze and listing when her seriously-wounded captain, Commander William McGonagle, gave the order to abandon ship.
 
Torpedo boats machine-gunned Liberty’s lifeboats, sinking two before Israelis realized that news of their treachery had gotten out of control. The torpedo boats suddenly broke off their attack and started radioing the Liberty—“Do you need assistance?”
 
An Israeli naval officer notified the US Naval Attache’ at the embassy in Tel Aviv that Israeli forces had mistakenly attacked an American ship: “Forgive us….”
 
Israel’s attack on the USS Liberty is an American monument to shame fifty-one years old. Even Zionist-fantasy screenplays cannot sink the evidence. President Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara may have had no problem sacrificing the USS Liberty and her crew to the cause of Greater Israel, but virtually everyone else high in the US command chain considered Israel’s “mistaken identity” claims to be lies.
 
Johnson ordered that all inquiry into the matter conclude: mistaken identity. And the Liberty sacrifice remains the only serious naval episode never to be investigated by Congress. The only one—even though evidence is explicit that, with full knowledge and intent of targeting an American ship, Israel attacked the USS Liberty with unmarked (camouflaged) planes and boats, fourteen miles off the coast of Egypt. Exactly what happened has never really been an issue; it’s all about how much the US will allow Zionists to get away with.
 
Liberty’s damage included 861 holes the size of a man’s hand and larger, thousands of .50 caliber machine gun holes, the torpedo wound, fire damage…. But, instead of sending the Liberty and all of its gathered intelligence to the bottom, along with 294 Americans, Zionists had to settle for only 34 dead crewmen, 171 wounded, and a nightmare of evidence and witnesses.
 
Israel clings to the fantasy of mistaking the Liberty for the Egyptian El Quiser, a rusted-out old horse transport. Some immediate problems with that were:
 
— lead pilot of the first wave of Israeli fighters argued with headquarters about the Liberty flying three American flags. Ordered to ignore the flags and attack, the pilot refused—so did another pilot; both flew back to headquarters as the attack commenced, both were arrested after landing, and jailed for years
 
— radio arguments between Israeli command and the disobeying pilots were heard by radio monitors at the US embassy in Lebanon. Israeli commanders ordering pilots to attack an American ship—and the pilots’ refusals—were also picked up by radio operators in Germany, Spain…many places
 
— Richard S. Sturman, a surviving USS Liberty radioman, said: “Two Israeli pilots, commencing their strafing-run, reported to their headquarters that the USS LIBERTY was an American ship. They were ordered to attack nonetheless! Those two pilots, refusing to attack, returned to their base, were arrested, court marshaled and given harsh jail sentences.”
 
In 2001 it was revealed that a US Navy EC-121 surveillance aircraft, with top intelligence-gathering sophistication, electronically recorded from high altitude the entire attack on the Liberty. Immaculate evidence didn’t seem to matter, same as regarding the 9/11 false flag attack.
 
And Israel did chip in $6 million, apparently the market price for 34 Americans killed, 171 wounded, plus the material damage—the $40,000,000 SIGNIT platform called the USS Liberty was sold as scrap for $102, 666.66.
 
The Home Front
 
Congress is so fouled by dual citizens (All Israeli/US, in that order of allegiance)—a seminal reason perhaps that recent polls reflect 11% of American adults believing Congress to be a good reflection of the views of the American people. Basically, a 90% disapproval rating for Congress.
 
Are people waking up? All these dual citizens so high in all federal government—but only Israeli duals….
 
Another poll revealed a 10% favorable view of America’s “political media”,  another 90% disapproval.
 
Polls showing a mere 29% of American consumers of Zionist Mainstream Media (ZMM) trusting Zionist perception management called “news”might also sound encouraging, unless one considers that 99% of Americans polled think Iran is a threat to the vital interests of the United States. Iran is “our” enemy, despite Americans knowing almost nothing about Iran, and Iranians—it’s all ZMM propaganda. Ever seen the movie, “Argo”? [7]
 
So how was a population with 29% trust of ZMM essentially 100% programmed by what they don’t trust into believing lies about something they know virtually nothing about? [8] Perhaps the same way Americans have been programmed to accept the “Federal Reserve System” for 100 years, even recent renewal of its charter for another 100 years.
 
Before 9/11 birthed the “Global War on Terror” (GWOT) to aim American blood and treasure at Israel’s enemies, 189 of Earth’s 196 recognized “sovereign” nations had a Rothschild-controlled central bank. Afghanistan, Libya, Sudan, Iran, Cuba, Iraq, and North Korea were those last seven nations resisting Rothschild debt currency conjured from thin air.
 
Now…only Cuba, North Korea, and Iran remain free of the Rothschild Debt Spider. Notice how high Iran and North Korea are on our list of mortal enemies? Notice how North Korea seems so happy after just signing what will likely lead them into the Libya “freedom and democracy” death spiral. At least China has their back.
 
Please see “The Incredible Debt Spider” for more information regarding the fed, and Rothschild-controlled central banking. [9]
 
Debt, Forever
 
Debt that can never be paid off, only grow. Power of creating money from nothing and loaning it to nations at compounding interest…the “magick” of Rothschild-controlled central banking.
 
America’s infection is called the “Federal Reserve System”, a private, for-profit corporation independent of the federal government. The fed has no reserves, is simply a system for transferring wealth from the people to the elite via national debt, GWOT, “benign global hegemony” (Partnership for the New American Century), bank bailouts…whatever it takes for, as George H.W. Bush  stated:
 
“The continuous consolidation of wealth and power into higher, tighter, and righter hands.”
 
The whole Rothschild Usury Mill (RUM) offers only one denouement, only one horizon: Rothschilds will own the entire planet. They are already closer to global foreclosure than few people other than the elite might imagine. The US has a potentially-fatal RUM infection. On the horizon we see imminence of bank “bail-ins”… austerity, raiding of personal bank accounts, pension funds, “entitlements”—whatever “low-hanging fruit” might keep the RUM con-of-all-time going all the way.
 
Are there any flashes of hope on the Rothschild-controlled horizon?
 
Yes.
 
The Real Enemy
 
How’s this for a textbook Zionist mind-control twist? Our “best friend” that has given us more ever-accelerating grief and extracted from us more blood and treasure than all of our “enemies” combined has as a number-one enemy called Iran. Zionists are willing to spill American blood, divert American social expenditure to fund war crimes, and exhaust American treasure not already plundered by the GWOT, TARP, the fed—all those classic symptoms of runaway RUM infection…building up to their ultimate usury coup de grâce, WWIII.
 
But….
 
After years of saber rattling, and employing vast and comprehensive perception-management devices to convince Americans that the one nation that might actually save us from Zionism is enemy number-one, Zionists are yet to attack Iran.
 
What’s in the way?
 
Even the classic “Hey, let’s you and them fight” divide and conquer tool is offering little succor. Are Zionists potentially at the mercy of their obvious, ultimate nemesis, humanity?
 
More specifically, are Zionists being thwarted by human invention for the good of humanity? Nikola Tesla kinds of humanity versus the accelerating globalist elite all-out program of “arrested human development” ?
 
J.P. Morgan and his Rothschild masters did a masterful job of scrubbing Tesla from public consciousness. But now, is “another Tesla” threatening the Zionist fouling of humanity—a genius from Iran no less?
 
His name is Mehran Tavakoli Keshe. [10]
 
The longer Iran goes without being attacked militarily, the more likely it seems that, through the genius of Keshe and other brilliant minds, Iran is developing technology to render all modes of modern warfare obsolete. Could there be a greater gift to humanity than immunity against Zionist aggression—or a more obvious reason for Iran to be Zionist enemy number one?
 
Could Keshe be the most important person on Earth to protect from Mossad?
 
Please consider the destruction of an Israeli/Facebook satellite on the launch pad. [11] [12]
 

Humanity free of Zionism…try to imagine the horizon, the potential for positive growth and decency and, dignity—instead of arrested human development. The sheer humanity of disarming the globalist elite!

 
Imagine the elite global war/genocide machine dead in its tracks….
 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Rand Clifford lives in Spokane, Washington. His novels, CASTLING, TIMING, and Priest Lake Cathedral are published by StarChief Press. Contact for Rand Clifford: randtruth@gmail.com

PHOTO ESSAY : GAZA BURIES MEDIC RAZAN ASHRAF AL NAJJAR, 21,KILLED BY ISRAEL SNIPER By Mohammed Zaanoun – (MONDOWEISS)

Today, Palestinians mourned the funeral of 21-year-old Rawan al-Najjar, carrying her body with on top her medic vest soaked in blood, in the city of Khan Yunis, Gaza Strip.

Razan al-Najjar was a medic who was shot the day before by an Israeli sniper as she was attempted to reach the injured during the protest at the Gaza fence, near Khuza’a.

According to health ministry spokesman, Najjar was a volunteer with the ministry, wearing the white uniform of a medic when she was shot in the chest.

Thousands of Palestinians protested at several locations along the Gaza fence on Friday, calling for their right of return and the end of the siege on Gaza. Since the beginning of the Great Return March, a wave of protests started on Land Day and officially finished on Nakba Day, but continued afterwards, 123 protesters were killed by the Israeli army, and thousands were injured by live ammunition.

About Mohammed Zaanoun

Mohammed Zaanoun is a photojournalist with Activestills.

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Israel’s high court blesses killing and maiming of Gaza protesters – By Maureen Clare-Murphy Rights and Accountability (Electronic Intifada)

The backs of two standing youth are seen in foreground of photo with Israeli military installation behind barbed wire and fencing in background
Israeli forces aim towards Palestinian protesters east of Gaza City on 25 May.

Atia Darwish APA images

Israel’s high court rejected two petitions from human rights groups challenging the military’s open-fire regulations this week as several more Palestinians died from wounds sustained during Gaza’s ongoing Great March of Return protests.

It was the second ruling made by the court on Thursday rubber-stamping war crimes.

The high court ruling may be viewed by the International Criminal Court as an indication that Israel’s judicial authorities are unwilling to carry out genuine proceedings concerning crimes against Palestinian civilians.

Between 19 and 25 May, Gaza’s health ministry announced the deaths of seven Palestinians from injuries inflicted during protests along the eastern perimeter of the territory beginning 30 March.

The deceased were identified as Hussein Salem Abu Oweida, 41, Ahmad al-Abed Abu Samra, 21, Muhammad Mazen Alayan, 20, Muin Abd al-Hamid al-Saee, 58, Muhannad Abu Tahoun, 21, Ahmad Qatoush, 23 and Yasir Sami Saad al-Din Habib, 24.

Also this week a 15-year-old in the occupied West Bank, Oday Akram Abu Khalil, died from wounds sustained when he was shot in the stomach by Israeli forces during protests on 15 May, the annual commemoration of the 1948 Nakba or catastrophe.

More than 115 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip since 30 March, the vast majority of them during Great March of Return protests – including 14 children, two journalists and a paramedic.

Some 3,600 people were injured by live fire during the protests.

A lightly wounded soldier was the only reported Israeli casualty resulting from the protests in Gaza.

Court sides with state – again

The Israeli high court ruled in favor of the state’s argument that protesters constituted a danger to Israeli soldiers and civilians, thus justifying the use of lethal force.

The judges sided with the government’s contention that the protests take place in the context of a long-running armed conflict between Israel and Hamas. The state argues that the legal framework that regulates the use of fire during the protests is international humanitarian law, or the laws of war.

Human rights groups say that irrespective of the political affiliation of any of the organizers or participants, the demonstrations along Gaza’s eastern perimeter are a civilian matter of law enforcement governed by the framework of international human rights law, which allows for the use of deadly force only to stop an imminent lethal threat.

“Some of the rioters have tried to trample or break through the border fence, creating a clear and present danger that terrorists will penetrate into the state’s territory, and this is happening in areas near towns on the Israeli side,” wrote Hanan Melcer, one of the three judges who reviewed the petitions.

“Among the rioters were some who threw rocks and fire bombs at Israeli troops. Therefore, it seems that gunfire was employed to achieve a legal purpose – defending citizens of the state and Israeli soldiers,” Melcer added.

The court ruling gives the military “a green light to its continued use of snipers and live fire against Palestinian protesters in the Gaza Strip,” stated Al Mezan and Adalah, two of the groups that had petitioned the court.

The two groups stated that the court had “refused to watch video clips documenting Israeli shootings of demonstrators and, rather than actually examining the case, fully accepted the claims presented to it by the state.”

Al Mezan and Adalah published a video montage of such clips:

“The extreme nature of the ruling is also highlighted by the striking absence of any mention of the casualty figures that had been presented to the court,” the human rights groups added.

The Israeli high court said it could not move forward with an inquiry into the military’s rules of engagement because petitioning organizations rejected a request by the state to present the judges secret intelligence without the petitioners being allowed to review it.

“We have no concrete information about the identity of the key activists and inciters, the nature of their acts, their organizational affiliation, their involvement in terrorist activity or other forbidden hostile activity, or whether and in what manner they constituted a clear and present danger,” Melcer stated.

The justices accepted the state’s description of the Gaza protests as “violent disturbances” which were “organized, coordinated and directed by Hamas, which is a terrorist organization in a state of armed conflict with Israel.”

No imminent threat

Adalah and Al Mezan stated that the court ruling “contradicts the conclusions and preliminary results of international human rights organizations and United Nations bodies documenting and evaluating the events in Gaza.”

During a special session of the UN Human Rights Council concerning the events in Gaza last week, the body’s High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein stated:

“Although some of the demonstrators threw Molotov cocktails, used slingshots to throw stones, flew burning kites into Israel, and attempted to use wire-cutters against the two fences between Gaza and Israel, these actions alone do not appear to constitute the imminent threat to life or deadly injury which could justify the use of lethal force.”

The Human Rights Council voted to establish a commission of inquiry into mass civilian casualties during the demonstrations with a final report due next March.

Tania Hary, executive director of Gisha, an Israeli human rights group which challenged the open-fire regulations, said she was “disappointed but not surprised to see the court again sanction Israel’s grave violations of human rights and international law in Gaza.”

Young man with a metal splint on his legs lies across a bench as two other youths look on
A Palestinian injured during Great March of Return protests rests outside Gaza City’s al-Shifa hospital after being discharged, 19 May.

Mohammed Zaanoun ActiveStills

Israel’s high court has long championed policies towards Palestinians that violate international law.

Gisha has previously faulted Israel’s judiciary, and principally the high court, for accepting “the state’s legal positions almost unquestioningly” regarding the 11-year blockade of Gaza.

Palestinian human rights groups have urged the International Criminal Court to investigate the unprecedented closure of Gaza as a crime of persecution.

The Palestinian Authority’s foreign minister made a referral to the International Criminal Court on Tuesday, calling for an immediate investigation into Israeli crimes.

In 2015, the court launched a preliminary examination into potential war crimes in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Preliminary examination by ICC

A preliminary examination is the first step in the court’s process to determine whether to open a formal investigation, which can then lead to indictments and trials.

But while a preliminary examination is carried out whenever a referral is made, it is open-ended and can carry on for years, at the discretion of the chief prosecutor.

In 2006, the prosecutor began a preliminary examination of alleged crimes committed in Afghanistan from 2002.

Eleven years after the examination was opened, and up to 15 years after the commission of the first alleged crimes, the prosecutor concluded that there was enough evidence to proceed with a formal investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity by the Taliban, the Afghan government and the United States.

A preliminary examination into alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes in Colombia, opened in 2004, is still pending, according to the Coalition for the International Criminal Court.

In her response to the Palestinian complaint, chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda signaled that she does not intend to expedite the process, stating that the “preliminary examination has seen important progress and will continue to follow its normal course.”

Israel’s foreign ministry lashed out against the Palestinian move, calling it an effort “to politicize the court and to derail it from its mandate.”

Over the past several weeks Bensouda’s office has expressed “grave concern” over the situation in Gaza and warned Israeli leaders that they may face prosecution for the killing of unarmed Palestinian protesters.

Earlier this month the press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders formally requested that the International Criminal Court prosecutor investigate the targeting of journalists in Gaza as war crimes.

The Palestinian rights groups Al-Haq, Al Mezan and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights stated this week that they “have submitted five comprehensive communications to the prosecutor” as part of the court’s preliminary examination.

“These communications have related to the 2014 offensive against the Gaza Strip, the Israeli-imposed Gaza closure, the use of the Hannibal Directive in Rafah, and crimes committed in the West Bank including Jerusalem,” the groups stated, adding that they “have also provided information on the lack of domestic investigations and prosecutions.”

The prosecutor “has sufficient evidence” to open a full investigation, according to the rights groups.

“The ICC acting as a court of last resort must provide redress to Palestinian victims,” they added.

 

“50 Hamas members” claim does not justify Gaza massacre – By Maureen Clare Murphy-Rights and Accountability (Electronic Intifada)

Palestinian women cheer next to the Gaza-Israel boundary fence east of Gaza City on 14 May. Mohammed Zaanoun ActiveStills

Israel has generated global outrage by picking off demonstrators – holding flags, slingshots, stones and incendiary kites, using burning tires, mounds of sand and improvised gas masks as defenses against heavily fortified soldiers armed with US-made Remington M24 sniper rifles – during weeks of protest in Gaza.

Now Israel is trying to spin away the damage by claiming that many of those killed were members of Hamas, and therefore deserved to die.

But as international law experts and international officials have stressed, the political affiliation of those killed on Monday is irrelevant when it comes to the legality of Israel’s actions.

More than 100 Palestinians have been killed and thousands more injured during the Great March of Return protests. Only one Israeli, a soldier, has reportedly suffered an injury, a minor one, in the context of the protests.

The disparity in casualties – and the photos and videos showing Israeli forces firing on protesters, medics and journalists who pose no conceivable danger – speak for themselves.

As Amnesty International documented in recent weeks, “Eyewitness testimonies, video and photographic evidence suggest that many were deliberately killed or injured while posing no immediate threat to the Israeli soldiers.”

In most of the fatal cases analyzed by Amnesty International prior to last Monday’s massacre, “victims were shot in the upper body, including the head and the chest, some from behind.”

Canadian emergency doctor Tarek Loubani told The Electronic Intifada Podcast he was shot in the leg when everything was quiet around him: “No burning tires, no smoke, no tear gas, nobody messing around in front of the buffer zone. Just a clearly marked medical team well away from everybody else.”

An hour later, a paramedic who was part of his team, and who had rescued Loubani, was himself shot and killed.

Gaza’s medical system – already on the brink of collapse before the influx of thousands of injuries comparable to that of a war situationurgently requires millions of dollars worth of drugs and medical supplies, as well as additional emergency personnel, as a result of this new crisis.

“For many, especially those who lost a loved one, who will now suffer a permanent disability or who will need intensive rehabilitation, the impacts of recent violence will be felt for months and years to come,” United Nations humanitarian coordinator Jamie McGoldrick stated on Thursday.

Israel has meanwhile been triaging the damage done to its international standing. It too may feel the impact of the violence for years to come.

A top Israeli military spokesperson acknowledged its public relations disaster during a briefing with the Jewish Federations of North America this week.

The spokesperson granted that the crisis was borne of the deadly violence that Israel warned it was prepared and planning to use both before the launch of the Great March of Return on 30 March and before Monday’s protests.

Both the bloodshed and the global backlash against Israel were preventable and predictable.

Seeking to deflect calls for accountability, Israel’s professional spin doctors have been pushing a video clip in which Hamas official Salah Albardaweel claims 50 of those killed on Monday belonged to the Islamist group.

The video has proven a major PR coup for Israel.

Israel’s military and political leadership have sought from the beginning to portray the Great March of Return as a Hamas stunt exploiting civilian protests as a cover for “terror” activities which pose an existential threat to Israeli communities near the Gaza boundary.

Israel seeks to obscure the reality that the Great March of Return is a popular mobilization that includes the participation and leadership of Palestinians of all political stripes who seek an end to the siege and to exercise their right to return to lands just over Gaza’s boundary from which their families were expelled 70 years ago.

Seven of Monday’s fatalities were children.

Several of those killed on Monday were buried in Hamas’ green flag, but not all. Fadi Abu Salmi, a double amputee, was shrouded with the flag of Islamic Jihad. Ahmad al-Adaini was buried in the flag of the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

This was a point made by veteran French-Israeli journalist Charles Enderlin.

“On the Palestinian side, Hamas is presenting itself as victorious, that is to say it has annexed the dead, who most probably overwhelmingly did not belong to Hamas,” Enderlin told French television on Thursday. “Moreover, we did not see many Hamas flags during these demonstrations.”

“Doesn’t change the rules”

Whether or not Albardaweel sought to inflate Hamas’ role in the protests, the political affiliation of those killed on Monday is irrelevant when it comes to the legality of Israel’s actions.

“It doesn’t matter whether the victims were members of Hamas or not,” Human Rights Watch director Kenneth Roth stated on Thursday.

“Israeli snipers, entrenched behind two substantial fences, had no right to use lethal force … against anyone unless as a last resort to stop an imminent lethal threat.”

Calling the dead “ ‘terrorists’ doesn’t change the rules,” Roth added.

“This wasn’t a war where combatants were shooting at each other. It was a protest, where law enforcement rules apply.”

This is a central claim by human rights groups regarding Israel’s conduct more generally: that irrespective of the political affiliation of any of the organizers or participants, the demonstrations along Gaza’s eastern perimeter are a civilian matter of law enforcement governed by the framework of international human rights law.

Israel claims the Gaza protests and its crackdown on them are “part of the armed conflict between the Hamas terrorist organization and Israel.”

It prepared for the demonstrations “as it would for a military operation,” according to Al Mezan and Adalah, two Palestinian rights groups petitioning the Israeli high court over the use of lethal force against Gaza protesters.

Israel “invents” law

In response to the challenge from the two Palestinian organizations, as well as another petition submitted by several other human rights groups, the Israeli government told the high court: “Hamas has been leading a new tactic of terrorist activity under the cover of ‘national commemoration events’ and ‘popular protests.’”

The Israeli government claims, as summarized by Al Mezan and Adalah, “that the careful planning of the events included the use of tire-burning allegedly to conceal attempts to infiltrate Israel, and the use of Molotov cocktails to damage the border fence and the Israeli military.”

The state argues that the makeup of the protests “were unusual in their size and in the intensity of their threat,” “occasionally” posing a threat to Israeli civilians.

Israel says that its forces were prepared for a massive breach of the boundary fence and “execution of attacks by terrorist cells,” and that the threat “may be caused by a single person or a crowd.”

Thus Israel argues that “the legal framework that regulates the opening of fire is the laws of warfare,” or international humanitarian law.

It claims to be operating from a hybrid of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, stating: “The complex nature of the events require, within the laws of warfare, distinction between the opening of fire within a paradigm of hostilities … and the opening of fire within a paradigm of law enforcement.”

Adalah and Al Mezan counter that such a paradigm “does not exist as an established body of law and has been invented by Israel in an attempt to justify greater leeway to use lethal fire than provided for in the regular paradigm of law enforcement.”

Eliav Lieblich of the Tel Aviv University law school has written that “the international legal source” for this paradigm put forth by the state “is unclear,” adding that “the very few sources cited by the government do not support its existence.”

One apparent source, the International Committee of the Red Cross, has slammed Israel for distorting a Red Cross legal report in order to justify its open-fire policy.

On Monday, the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz reported that the ICRC “strongly disagreed” with Israel’s interpretation of its legal analysis and had “forwarded its reservations to the Israeli authorities.”

“Completely baseless”

Israeli human rights lawyer Michael Sfard told Haaretz that “the huge number of casualties we have seen in recent weeks is a direct result of [Israel’s] legal thesis, which is completely baseless.”

He added: “It contradicts the most fundamental principles of laws governing the use of force, which adhere to the formula that endangering the lives of civilians can only be done to defend life – and nothing else.”

Sfard is among the lawyers representing human rights groups petitioning the high court, the first major review of the Israeli military’s classified open-fire regulations in decades.

“Diplomacy, external pressure and internal moral backbone have all failed here, and I hope the judiciary will not,” Sfard said.

But Israel’s high court has long championed policies towards Palestinians that violate international law.

Tel Aviv University’s Lieblich points out that “The court refrained from making any decision before the tragic events of 14 May, and a final decision might be rendered only after this particular episode of violence ends.”

UN votes for international investigation

Israel’s ambassador stated during a special session of the United Nations Human Rights Council on Friday that “The loss of life could have been avoided had Hamas refrained from sending terrorists to attack Israel under the cover of the riots, while exploiting its own civilian population as human shields.”

“It is Israel, certainly not Hamas, which makes a real effort to minimize casualties among Palestinian civilians,” Aviva Raz Shechter stated.

Israel’s argument failed to persuade the Human Rights Council against adopting a resolution to establish an international commission of inquiry into recent events in Gaza.

Only two countries – the US and Australia – voted against the measure. Fourteen others abstained, including countries like the UK which have called for independent inquiries into the killing of unarmed demonstrators in Gaza. Twenty-nine states voted in favor.

Dozens of human rights groups and civil society organizations had urged the Human Rights Council to launch an inquiry ahead of the special session.

“The Israeli judicial system has demonstrated that it is unable and unwilling to ensure accountability for such serious crimes according to international standards,” nearly 100 groups stated earlier in the week.

Meanwhile the office of the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court expressed “grave concern” over the deteriorating situation in Gaza on Wednesday.

The court launched a preliminary examination into potential war crimes in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip in 2015.

“Any new alleged crime committed in the context of the situation in Palestine may be subjected to the office’s legal scrutiny,” the prosecutor stated. “This applies to the events of 14 May 2018 and to any future incident.”

 

Painting “The Return” — Hopes and History on the Gaza Border – By Ramona Wadi (MINT PRESS)

Original art by Amna Alsalmi. (Photo: Karim Naser)

“Everyone resists in their own way — the revolutionary youth with slingshots and stones, the photographer with the camera, and the artists with their pencils. All of us are delivering the same message to the world: we have the right to get our homeland back.” – Artist Amna Alsalmi

GAZA — As Palestinians marked the 70th anniversary of the Nakba — or theft of their land by the creation of Israel in 1948 — the U.S. celebrated the transfer of its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, in another victory for Israeli colonialism.

Palestinians participating in the March of Great Return have been organizing since May 14 in Gaza to demand the right for exiled Palestinians to return to their ancestral lands, but have faced Israeli snipers that have killed 62 and injured 2771 thus far, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. During a White House press briefing, Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah dismissed the killings of Palestinians at the border as an “unfortunate propaganda attempt,” which he blamed on Hamas.

Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs Gilad Erdan also blamed Hamas for the killings. According to Erdan, “with Nazi anger, [Hamas] endlessly shed blood to erase from people’s memories their own failures in the management of the Gaza Strip.” The death toll, he said, “didn’t indicate anything.”

The international community remained tethered to its usual condemnations while ignoring the existence of UN Resolution 194.

Between the stipulated right of return as enshrined in UN Resolution 194, and the outcomes inflicted upon Palestinians by Israel and the international community, there is a vacuum that is inhabited by dreams and legacies. Art provides the medium for communication when words alone seem insufficient.

On May 5, the Palestinian Conceptual Art Forum organized an event on the Gaza borders at the return encampments in Malacca, east of Gaza City, which brought together Palestinian artists expressing their right of return through art. Thaer al-Tawil, the principal of the organization, spoke to MintPress about the origins of the Forum and its initiative to participate in the Great Return March through what he terms “art protest.”

Artists work on original pieces in the art protest tent near the Great Return March protests on the Gaza border. (Photo: Karim Naser)

The artistic project organized by the Forum is reminiscent of a perpetual struggle. Themed “For the Return, we draw,” Al-Tawil explains the inspiration behind the event is rooted in a right that has sustained itself through generations since 1948:

The idea of this artistic project was formed when Palestinian artists wanted to participate in the Great Return March by organizing a big event that reflected the shedding of Palestinian blood on the Gaza borders.”

Al-Tawil expounds upon the link between art, resistance and return:

The art protest is also about sending a message to the Zionist occupation. The rifle, the painting and the artists’ pencil are all symbols of Palestinian unity. The Palestinian artist is humane in the fullest sense of the word. The artist is like the bird of peace that paints to impart the suffering of Palestinians over the years, to emphasize our right to return despite the persecution imposed on us by the Zionist occupation.”

Al-Tawil explains that the Forum has aims and ambitions — in terms of both psychological and artistic empowerment, as well as to enable Gaza’s artists’ recognition abroad. Sharing experiences and narratives through art is one of the main aims. The Forum provides courses for artist-students up to university. It also seeks to establish a union for artists, to safeguard their rights as well as provide protection for their creative expression. Al-Tawil continued:

The Forum was founded due to the political vacuum caused by the Palestinian political divisions between Hamas and Fatah and the absence of anybody, or party, that cares for the artists or supports them. A number of artists came up with the idea of founding a platform through which the young artists’ creativity can be channeled. That is how the Palestinian Conceptual Art Forum started.”

Communication through art is key for Al-Tawil. Despite the blockade, which has prevented Palestinians in Gaza from traveling freely, one of the Forum’s aims is to connect with artists abroad:

The Forum aims to bridge between artists inside and outside of Palestine and strengthen their relations. It also aims to have an existence abroad through artistic expeditions, traveling abroad and participating in artistic exhibitions.”

 

“For the return, we draw”

On March 30, which marks the commemoration of Land Day among Palestinians, the Great Return March protests started in Gaza. Israeli snipers targeted and murdered 19-year-old Palestinian artist Mohamed Abu Amr. Well known for his sand sculptures on Gaza’s shores, his last depiction, created and posted on his Facebook page on the eve of the protests, read “I will return.”

Al-Tawil remembers Abu Amr’s legacy and unfinished dreams. One of these was to sculpt a massive map of Palestine on Gaza’s shores:

The Palestinian artistic movement lost the martyr Mohamed Abu Amr – the sculptor who, a few days before being murdered by Israeli sniper fire, sculpted the words ‘we are returning.’ To remember his legacy, we artists collaborated to sculpt the Palestine map he had planned. We fulfilled what he had wanted to do. The largest map of Palestine ever sculpted.”

Al-Tawil explains that Palestinian collective memory has found an expressive avenue through art.  Referencing the Nakba of 1948, when Palestinians were massacred, ethnically cleansed, and forcibly displaced from their lands by Zionist paramilitaries to pave the way for the establishment of colonial Israel, Al-Tawil says it became an artistic duty “to portray and depict all of this collective memory through paintings and artwork.”

He mentions Ismael Shamoot, Ismael Ashoor, Bashir Sinwar and Fathi Ghabn as being among the first to utilize art as a form of resistance, and whose influence has lasted throughout the decades. Palestinian artists, he says, have been routinely persecuted by Israel, with methods ranging from restricting their freedom of movement to being targeted for assassination, like Palestinian cartoonist Naji al-Ali.  

 

Art, resistance, and return

Palestinian artists Somaia Shaheen and Wae Ziada discussed their participation in the art protest in terms of their art and the ongoing colonization of Palestine.

For Shaheen, her presence affirmed a message to the international community, as well as a constant yearning to return to places of which she has been deprived by Israel. Lifting the siege on Gaza and praying at Al-Aqsa constitute Shaheen’s main thoughts about the right of return. Her art, she says, conveys her feelings:

It’s a harsh feeling — knowing you would love to visit the mosque and pray there, but you find yourself unable to do so due to the occupation and the political situation that prevent us from reaching a place so close to our hearts.”

Ziada echoes al-Tawil’s musings:

I was motivated to come to the Eastern borders in order to prove to the whole world that the art, the rifle and the stone are together in the same vein.”

A view inside in the art protest tent near the Great Return March protests on the Gaza border. (Photo: Karim Naser)

Artist Amna Alsalmi shared her inspiration with MintPress. She learned about the Forum through events organized for artists and describes her experience in the art protest as “so different.”

Her art depicts a revolutionary young man with a slingshot:

As you see, the man is standing bravely in front of the occupation. I painted the background to mirror our reality — see the smoke coming out of the burned tires. The painting seeks to portray bravery and strength, in spite of the difference between our home-made weapons and the Israeli military’s latest technology.”

Alsalmi adds:

Everyone resists in their own way — the revolutionary youth with slingshots and stones, the photographer with the camera, and the artists with their pencils. All of us are delivering the same message to the world: we have the right to get our homeland back.”

Basel el-Maqosui, whose art depicts a man wearing a keffiyeh against a Palestinian background, explains his use of monochrome:

The painting is done in black acrylic. It is an expression of strength and challenge. The man masked with a keffiyeh is a Palestinian symbol that is known by all the world’s free people — it symbolizes good morals and values, and a behavior that is derived from these qualities.”

Basel el-Maqosui stands in front of his one of his paintings. (Photo: Shareef Sarhan)

Of the artist’s role in resistance, el-Maqosui states:

The artists is always the first to resist and the last to be beaten. As a conceptual artist, I work on spreading my message to the whole world — we are a nation that deserves to live. In Gaza, there is an abundance of artists, actors, authors, poets and people from every artistic field, who are conveying our message internationally. Our art is a means of resisting the occupation until return and freedom.”

 

Metaphor of the phoenix

Ismaeel Y Dahlan discussed his participation and artwork in profound detail, evoking discourse steeped in inspiration, resistance and metaphors. His painting depicted an abstract background that, at the fore, is dominated by a brightly colored phoenix.

He describes his participation in the art protest as having two distinct messages, a critical commentary that highlights the discrepancy between alienation and human rights with regard to the Palestinian right of return:

There are two messages in my participation – one to the usurper entity that we are the owners of rights and owners of this land.”

Dahlan’s emphasis on the right of return for all generations of Palestinians, encompassing the entire social structure, is the premise for his next point:

The other message is to the international community, which is not immune to this issue. Palestinian refugees have been under siege and oppression, deprived of their basic rights and forced to die, just so that the world’s attention can be drawn to their just cause.”

Ismaeel Dahlan paints his phoenix, inspired the Great Return protests in Gaza. (Photo: Karim Naser)

His painting, he says, was inspired by the Great Return March and its mobilization of Palestinians:

The movement was a source of inspiration for this painting. The youth were heading to the border — to the area of death — in order to identify their lives through the connection with the land and the history of their ancestors. The Canaanites’ symbol was the phoenix, which, according to myth, burst into flames to regenerate.

The new approach of these young Palestinians is reminiscent of this — they are pushing themselves towards the fire. Their options are returning with an injury or an amputation of one of their limbs, and a wheelchair or a crutch will accompany them for the rest of their lives. Otherwise, they return on the shoulders of Palestinians, to heaven to live a new life, just like the phoenix.”

Of his art, he speaks of continuity — both in terms of artistic expression as well as memory — that is crippled by the blockade on Gaza. The artist faces the same challenges as the rest of society and no privilege is associated with art:

I was hoping that this work would become a sculpture made out of the remnants of war and located at the return encampments to eternalize this movement. However, I couldn’t achieve this because the artist is not a separate component; he is part of the society under siege. The Great Return March protests may provide the opportunity to achieve this aim.”

Ultimately, Dahlan concludes: “We are fighting the culture of force with the culture of power.”

Bisan El-Yazuri from Gaza assisted with translating interviews in this article from Arabic to English.

Top Photo | Original art by Amna Alsalmi. (Photo: Karim Naser)

Ramona Wadi is an independent researcher, freelance journalist, book reviewer, and blogger. She writes about the struggle for memory in Palestine and Chile, historical legitimacy, the ramifications of settler-colonialism, the correlation between humanitarian aid and human rights abuses, the United Nations as an imperialist organisation, indigenous resistance, la nueva cancion Chilena and Latin American revolutionary philosophy with a particular focus on Fidel Castro, Jose Marti and Jose Carlos Mariategui. Her articles, book reviews, interviews, and blogs have been published in Middle East Monitor, Upside Down World, Truthout, Irish Left Review, Gramsci Oggi, Cubarte, Rabble.ca, Toward Freedom, History Today, Chileno and other outlets, including academic publications and translations into several languages.

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A short flight to Armageddon: Trump & Netanyahu bringing us closer to end of times – By George Galloway (RT)

George Galloway was a member of the British Parliament for nearly 30 years. He presents TV and radio shows (including on RT). He is a film-maker, writer and a renowned orator.
 
A short flight to Armageddon: Trump & Netanyahu bringing us closer to end of times
The biblical town of Armageddon is but a few miles as the bullets fly from the site of the latest Gaza massacre which has taken us further down the road to the end of times.

Its proximate cause was the latest Man-Child effort of Donald J Trump, this time to relocate the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv, with all the other embassies, to Jerusalem, half of which though annexed by Israel still constitutes Occupied Territory under international law.

It is a criminal offence to “make permanent changes” on “territory acquired by force” – which this territory was in 1967 when Israel seized it by force of arms.

Israel has made many such changes to Occupied Territories. For example, the Golan Heights still belongs to Syria despite the many illegal settlements built there, however much stolen oil is extracted there, or however many field hospitals for Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) and Al-Qaeda fighters Israel erects there. That like Jerusalem, the Golan has been illegally annexed makes no difference at all in law nor to every other government in the world. Except Trump’s government.

In fact every US president in the last 50 years has promised to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, at least whilst running for election. But campaigning is done in poetry, governing is done in prose and no president has followed through on this pledge. Except Donald Trump.

That his decision would entirely predictably lead to a bloodbath may not have occurred to Trump, but it certainly did to the professionals around him, from those aghast at the State Department to those salivating for the provocation, dripping from the moustache of the likes of John Bolton.

There have been many bloodbaths, of course, but there is reason to believe that this one may be of more lasting significance. It surely hastens the political passing of the Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas for whom time and circumstance have run their course. It makes it more likely that the Palestinian Mandela, the prisoner Marwan Barghouti, will enter the race –  from behind bars – to be his successor and make more likely his success.

It may – temporarily at least – complicate the all-but-consummated courtship between the Saudi Crown Prince MbS (Mohammad bin Salman) and Prime Minister Netanyahu, enjoined by their mutual antipathy towards Iran but now, inevitably, tempered by the Gaza massacre. The religious establishment in Saudi Arabia and the conservative forces are waiting for their excuse to strike back at the man who allegedly hung his relatives upside down in the Ritz-Carlton until their money fell out of their trouser pockets, and the massacre gives them a perfectly Kosher opportunity to do so. 

It makes more difficult any complicity by any Arab ruler with any Israeli provocation against Iran. Many Arabs may be hostile to Iran but, after this week, many have rediscovered their antipathy towards Netanyahu.

The already-vaulting opposition to Israeli crimes against the Palestinians in Western countries –  which has led to spectacular successes in the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement across several continents – will likely intensify too.

When I joined the movement in solidarity with the Palestinians back in 1975 you could have fitted the supporters of the PLO in Britain into a medium sized hall. Now you couldn’t fit them into Hyde Park or indeed all of Central London. Back then there was genuine affection for the State of Israel in all Western countries. Now nobody moves for Israel out of love, only out of interest. And interest too is waning.

The US is now defunct as a broker in the Middle East, that mantle surely passed smoothly to Russia this week.

For Trump and Netanyahu – on whom both their respective police forces may be closing fast –  there is no way back. That they are steeped in blood so far that none could tell whether it is bloodier to go on or to go o’er is self-evident. Trump tweeted on the morning of the massacre that “This is a big day for Israel, a big day.” For once he was quite accurate. Just not in the way he could possibly have imagined.

@georgegalloway

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

 
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Threat on Assad Shows ‘Israel Sees Inaction in Syria as Strategic Disaster’ – By Sputnik

An Israeli soldier stands on top of a Merkava tank near the border with Syria in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights, on November 28, 2016

© AFP 2018 / JACK GUEZ
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An Israeli minister’s warning that Tel Aviv would take out Bashar Assad if he continues to allow an Iranian military presence in Syria followed a similarly bellicose remark by another minister, who said that Israel would not differentiate Lebanon from Hezbollah in the event of war. Mideast expert Umer Karim shares his thoughts on the comments.

Sputnik: What are your thoughts about the Israeli education minister’s statement equating Hezbollah to Lebanon, and Israel’s treatment of Lebanon as such? What will it mean in practice?

Umer Karim: I think the confrontation [in the] relationship between Lebanon and Israel will further deteriorate. The statement is kind of a signal or sign of things coming in future; specifically after the resounding success of Hezbollah [in elections] in Lebanon.

I think it’s very much clear now how significant Hezbollah’s level of influence is over the Lebanese state. You can see it now coming from statements by the Israeli side. But even without these statements it was very clear that for the Lebanese state, it’s probably very difficult to do something against Hezbollah or Hezbollah’s interests.

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah is seen on a screen during election rallies a few days before the general election in Baalbeck, Lebanon, May 1, 2018
© REUTERS / Hasan Abdallah
Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah is seen on a screen during election rallies a few days before the general election in Baalbeck, Lebanon, May 1, 2018

Sputnik: Mr. Karim, how can you account for the support Hezbollah has in Lebanon? Why are Western-backed parties losing popularity?Umer Karim: I think we have to look at a number of things. There is the issue of governance by the ruling parties and by the government. It has reached a disastrous limit. So basically the government of Prime Minister Saad Hariri has not really done enough for its constituents.

Regardless of the election results, if you focus on voter turnout, it’s pathetically low. This means that from all sections of Lebanese society there has been an expression of distrust toward politicians of all stripes, and especially politicians backed by the West.

Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri walks off stage after a press conference held in Paris as part of a summit convened by France to bolster Lebanon's institutions, Friday Dec. 8, 2017. It is the first major gathering of key nations to discuss Lebanon's future since a crisis erupted following Hariri's shock resignation last month while in Saudi Arabia. Hariri has since rescinded his resignation.
© AP Photo / Thibault Camus
Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri walks off stage after a press conference held in Paris as part of a summit convened by France to bolster Lebanon’s institutions, Friday Dec. 8, 2017. It is the first major gathering of key nations to discuss Lebanon’s future since a crisis erupted following Hariri’s shock resignation last month while in Saudi Arabia. Hariri has since rescinded his resignation.

Sputnik: What about Syria? Israel has expressed its readiness to go after the country’s president Bashar Assad if the latter continues to allow Iran to operate from his country. How likely is such a scenario?

Umer Karim: The issue is that Israel now considers its inaction in the Syrian civil war as a strategic disaster, because it not only allowed the survival of the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad, but also the establishment of Iranian military efforts within Syria. 

But the thing [to remember] is that we are hearing different statements from different Israeli officials. This statement is from one official, but the deputy defense minister of Israel says that the country is not interested in any war with Iran in Syria or anywhere else. So what they are trying to is to give a signal, or try to communicate to Iran that ‘we have our options, and can hit you at this or that point’…But for now this is more or less posturing, because how can they do this without communicating or coordinating this with Russia? So this is more or less rhetoric, but not practical rhetoric. The signaling is toward Iran that ‘we have our options open, so don’t think about any strike inside Syria or using your presence in Syria to carry out any strike in Israel or target Israeli military efforts.’

Israeli soldiers walk next to mobile artillery units in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights near the border with Syria. (File)
© AP Photo / Ariel Schalit
Israeli soldiers walk next to mobile artillery units in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights near the border with Syria. (File)

Sputnik: Do you think that a full-blown confrontation between Iran and Israel is possible?

Umer Karim: It’s definitely not off the table, but both sides will think a lot before going to such an extent. 

We also have to consider: Will this confrontation be a full-blown one, or a limited one, with Iran or Iranian-sponsored militias attacking Israeli military targets in Israel, and then Israel responding with some limited airstrikes against these specific targets? Or will this develop into a bigger, full-blown war, with Israel targeting Iranian-sponsored militias all throughout Syria, and also targeting Hezbollah, with Hezbollah in Lebanon attacking Israel and Israel hitting back toward Hezbollah in Lebanon?

I don’t think that all of these actors want such a confrontation, but even on the ground they are following a very delicate path. The issue for Iran is its home constituency. If Israel is hitting it again and again, it puts a question in the minds of [Iranians] of ‘why are we not responding to Israel when they are attacking us?’ So for some sort of legitimacy, perhaps Iran will act.We still have to see how things develop, but I would say there is a grave danger of such a confrontation, if not a full-blown or grand-scale one then a limited one.

Syrian government supporters wave Syrian, Iranian and Russian flags as they chant slogans against U.S. President Trump during demonstrations following a wave of U.S., British and French military strikes to punish President Bashar Assad for suspected chemical attack against civilians, in Damascus, Syria, Saturday, April 14, 2018
© AP Photo / Hassan Ammar
Syrian government supporters wave Syrian, Iranian and Russian flags as they chant slogans against U.S. President Trump during demonstrations following a wave of U.S., British and French military strikes to punish President Bashar Assad for suspected chemical attack against civilians, in Damascus, Syria, Saturday, April 14, 2018

Umer Karim is a doctoral researcher focusing on Saudi foreign policy at the University of Birmingham. The views and opinions expressed by Mr. Karim are those of the observer and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.