‘Oslo sold us out’: Young Palestinians on the moment that shaped their generation – By Yumna Patel -MONDOWEISS

Israel/Palestine

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In September 1993 the world celebrated what it thought was the beginning of the end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Oslo Accords was supposed to lead to a “comprehensive peace agreement” by 1999, and eventually, a Palestinian state, with the then newly-founded Palestinian Authority (PA) serving as an interim self-government.

Twenty-five years after Oslo, the PA remains in power, and a fair and just peace agreement for the Palestinians remains far out of reach. The dream of an independent Palestinian state even further.

Mondoweiss spoke with two young Palestinians, from the so-called “Oslo generation,” as they looked back at the fateful day 25 years ago that has shaped their lives in more ways than could have been imagined.

‘The people had no say’

“What does Oslo mean to me? For me, Oslo means that the Palestinian people did not get to decide their fate as a whole.”

The words of Yasmin Abu Shakdim, a 22-year-old Sociology student from the city of Hebron, are expressive of a sentiment held by many Palestinian youth.

The Oslo Accords signified, as Abu Shakdim put it, “a decision made by a few members of the Palestinian elite” that did not represent the desires of the Palestinian people.

“The whole idea of Oslo is giving the elite Palestinians the power to control a few areas in the West Bank,” she said, “it was created to have shared benefits between the Israelis and a few Palestinians. A few Palestinians got positions of power, and Israel consolidated its control over us.”

Meras al-Azza, a 25-year-old Palestinian refugee living in the Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem, expressed similar sentiments to Mondoweiss as he sat in his family’s modest courtyard.

“They sold out the Palestinian people,” he said matter of factly, when asked what he thought of the Accords. “Oslo was a great deal for Israel, and Israel alone.”

“Oslo signified the Palestinians giving up the rights to all the lands of pre-1948 Palestine to Israel. That’s two-thirds of our historic lands,” al-Azza, a third generation refugee, said.

One of the biggest faults of Oslo for both al-Azza and Abu Shakdim was the premise on which the Accords were signed.

“Oslo did not change anything except for the worse,” Abu Shakdim told Mondoweiss.

“The negotiators, the few that they were, they did not negotiate on the basis that Israel is an occupier or colonizer,” she continued. “They negotiated as if it was just there and we have to accept it, that Israel is a reality that we cannot change. It normalized the occupation in every way.”

“It was only Fatah that went to the negotiations, and they did not represent all the people,” al-Azza said. “It was shameful for the Palestinians to take this deal.”

“They gave up all of our land against the will of the Palestinian people.”

Under the Oslo Accords, the West Bank and East Jerusalem remained occupied, swaths of land — more than 60% of the West Bank — were transferred into full Israeli control as “Area C”, and within a few years, the Second Intifada broke out, and Gaza was put under Israeli land, air, and sea blockade.

Today, the 26-foot-tall separation wall continues to be built, and military watchtowers continue to spring up across the territory.

Since the signing of the Oslo Accords, Israeli settlement activity has continued unhampered, with the number of settlers increasing from 110,000 on the eve of the Accords in 1993 to an estimated 550-600,000 settlers living in the occupied territory today.

Both al-Azza and Abu Shakdim criticized the decision makers of Oslo, many of whom, remain in power today.

“Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) had started to rise to the center of power in Fatah around the time of Oslo, and he was one of the major decision makers in the negotiations,” al-Azza said.

“As a result of Oslo, we were given these leaders controlling us, leaders that we did not choose,” Abu Shakdim said. “They didn’t ask the Palestinian people if we should negotiate or not, or what points should we negotiate on.”

She continued: “The Palestinian people had no rights in those accords, but they are still deciding our fate today. Legally, these accords should be null and void.”

‘We have two occupations’

Over the past few years, resentment among Palestinians, particularly youth, towards the PA has grown significantly.

What was supposed to be a temporary government according to the Oslo Accords, has developed into despotic regime, focused more on quashing dissent and policing free speech than achieving liberation and statehood.

The government has become increasingly authoritarian, putting forward controversial decrees like the Cyber Crimes Law, which calls for the imprisonment of anyone found posting things online that disturb “social harmony.”

Earlier this summer, PA forces violently suppressed youth-led protests that criticized the government’s policies in Gaza and its security coordination with Israel.

“We have two occupations, the Israeli occupation and the Palestinian Authority,” al-Azza said. “Anyone that tries to resist or get involved in politics will be arrested by either the PA or by Israeli security forces as part of their coordination. This is a result of Oslo.”

“The PA has not really given Palestinians any authority,” Abu Shakdim said. “we just have these other people controlling things for us.”

“Oslo created a whole new level in Palestinian society — that is a new elite, the people in power — that is benefiting from the existence of Israel,” she continued.

In their conversations with Mondoweiss, both al-Azza and Abu Shakdim pointed to the current form of the PA as one of the worst outcomes of Oslo.

One of the arguments they made, was that as a result of Oslo and the PA, the Palestinian people have been subconsciously forced into a dependency on the government in every aspect of life, making it nearly impossible for people to rise up against the regime.

“Before Oslo, it was popular to do everything you can to go out and fight and resist,” Abu Shakdim said, as she discussed the PA’s role in creating a culture of complacency amongst the population.

“As young people, when we discuss these things we always mention how we are so sick of our leaders and so sick of our Palestinian decision makers,” she said. “But we also know the Authority is responsible for the survival of so many Palestinian families.”

“So many people, young and old, are employed by this Authority. In ministries, as security forces, etc. So do we expect them to go against the government?” she asked.

“The way I see it, is that this PA is planting their seeds. They are basically paying people to not revolt against them. So everything stays the way they planned it from 25 years ago.”

Al-Azza says he has been offered on multiple occasions to work with the PA, but has refused.

“I refuse to have any part in the PA. People that are in the PA now only care about protecting the position they hold, and have stopped caring about Palestinian liberation,” he said.

“The PA is part of this control over peoples minds. By giving us this fake government, and making us feel like we had power, Oslo made many Palestinians forget about their morals and their beliefs about the Palestinian cause,” al-Azza continued.

“People used to care about the land and the resistance before Oslo,” he said, as he recounted stories told to him by his father, a former political prisoner in Israel.

“Now, everyone is worried about their next paycheck, how they can put food on the table, how they can educate or provide healthcare for their kids.”

An impossible future

When posed with the question “What do you envision for the future?” both al-Azza and Abu Shakdim couldn’t help but laugh.

They have been asked this question, or some variation of it, countless times before. Yet when faced with it again, they remained unhopeful.

“What I see, with the current situation that we’re living in, there is no future,” al-Azza said.

“For 25 years, the Israelis, with the help of the PA, have made people feel that they have lost their rights and their traditions that they used to live for once upon a time. In my point of view, I see there is no future if we continue on the past we have been on for the past quarter century.”

Abu Shakdim’s sentiments echoed those of al-Azza. “As young people, even if we want to set our own path, or create new opportunities, we are blocked at every turn, controlled by the Israeli occupation,” she said.

“How can we take charge of our own lives when Israel continues to control all of our resources?”

For Abu Shakdim, a Two-State solution is totally out of the question.

“How can two states be possible if one state is controlling the authority of the other state?” she asked.

“I don’t know if it’s realistic but what I hope to happen, what I think the best solution is, is a One-State solution. A single, democratic, secular state for all people who do not support zionism and Jewish supremacy, or the supremacy of any one group over another.”

For al-Azza, before any solution or so-called peace negotiations are put into place, there is hard work that needs to be done within his generation, and the new generation of Palestinian children.

“If I want to make a new plan for the future, we have to work with the new generation to instill in  them their culture and traditions, and a desire for liberation, for freedom, and for returning to their lands of 1948,” he said.

“If I were to put forward a strategy, I say we should help build and shape a new generation of Palestinians that think the way people did before Oslo: That we are a people that want freedom. Nothing less.”

yumnapatel
About Yumna Patel

Yumna Patel is a multimedia journalist based in Bethlehem, Palestine. Follow her on Twitter at @yumna_patel

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The Deal that Lurks Behind the Calm: US, Israel Seek to Exploit Palestinian Divisions and Create More of Them – By Hisham H. Ahmed, Ph.D – MINT PRESS

Trump Kushner Netanyahu
“Deal of the Century”

Trump’s “deal of the century,” which lurks behind the calm, is a deal with and for everybody except the Palestinian people themselves, who are most directly affected and concerned.

OCCUPIED PALESTINE — (Analysis) This article is not written to support one Palestinian group and/or to criticize another. The writer does not condone Palestinian partisanship and factionalism. The writer strongly believes that this is the time for true open-mindedness and objectivity. The problem at hand is bigger and greater than all Palestinian groups when dealt with separately: the new calm agreement under discussion impacts the Palestinian problem and threatens the Palestinian people in their entirety.

It is no exaggeration to say that concepts such as calm, reconciliation and division have become very burdensome for the Palestinian psyche and that they have started to cause tremendous anxiety and fear. This is because these words carry so much significance for Palestinian life and destiny.

It is also no exaggeration to say that the Palestinian people have become fed up with the repeated back-and-forth discussions about reconciliation and division between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. For the Palestinian people, it seems that priorities other than the Palestinian national interest and the public good have risen to the surface in the past few years, despite the fact that ending the seemingly chronic state of division has been the main demand by the Palestinian people of their leaders all along.

 

With time, this demand has become a dream. However, now it seems to have been turned into a fantasy, as the credibility of Palestinian factions to end the state of division and arrive at reconciliation has been crushed.

Most Palestinias feel that even in the most difficult times for them, there was always hope for liberation and independence. With the split among Palestinians at the present stage, this goal seems almost impossible, as no real fundamental transformation can be brought about.

Division — be it caused by internal, external, or a mix of reasons — cannot but bring about more Israeli control of, and hegemony over, the Palestinian people. Although it is difficult to speak of rigid fixed rules for how the world of politics operates, one of the absolute basics is that a house united is always stronger, more immune, and a lot more resistant in the face of the many challenges and storms. At the same time, a leaky house does not protect even those who hide in one corner or another.

As every Palestinian continued to be hopeful that the state of division would end and that reconciliation would be achieved, even in the midst of the darkest moments and the most difficult circumstances, the Palestinian problem faces today something more detrimental than even division and the absence of reconciliation: this lies in the legitimization of the state of division and the burial of the idea of reconciliation, once and for all. This may be caused by the looming, deadly, supposed calm on the horizon between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

 

Renewed Oslo

There is near consensus that the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip is quite catastrophic. All bases for human survival — water, food, fresh air and electricity — have reached record low levels. The United Nations and a number of non-governmental organizations have reported that the current humanitarian situation may cause untold consequences, as it is neither livable nor sustainable.

The whole Gaza Strip has been turned into the largest human prison on earth. This has made the process of teaching and learning, work, acquiring health care, and travel unattainable. It is no exaggeration to say that all human rights in the Gaza Strip have been violated. Friends and foes alike of the Palestinian people recognize that the current state of affairs cannot endure under any circumstances. There is a widespread perception in the world that the Gaza Strip stands at a critical threshold: either all bases for human life collapse completely; or alternatively, the world pretends that it is doing something to ameliorate the humanitarian situation, albeit by using deceptive, twisted political and economic tools that could in fact lead to a worse humanitarian situation in the Strip than the one that exists today.

Enemies of the Palestinian people calculate that the cost of maintaining the current situation seems to exceed, by far, the benefits they might reap by pretending to end the misery. The proposed humanitarian solutions to rescue the Strip from its dilemma are meant to lead the Palestinian people, particularly those who might participate in crafting an agreement in this regard, into a vicious circle.

Palestinian Gaza power cut

Sure, those on the frontline need, and certainly deserve, some rest. However, the timing, place for, and the circumstances surrounding any desired rest are of prime importance. Under the current conditions and circumstances — and in light of regional and international pressures, as work on implementing Donald Trump’s “deal of the century” intensifies, even without any formal declaration — a Palestinian-Israeli Agreement for “calm” does not amount to providing the necessary rest, but rather, to falling in the trap of an attempt at marginalizing all forms of resistance to the occupation.

Using the worsening humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip as grounds to justify the arrival at a new calm cannot be separated from the overall context of diabolically trying to put the “deal of the century” into effect. This is no different from using the awful humanitarian situation in the occupied territories as a justification for signing the Oslo Agreement in 1993.

Many Palestinians feel that the regurgitation of a bad experience is worse than trying it again from the start. Failure to learn the lessons of the wasteful and aimless Palestinian-Israeli negotiations that have hurt the Palestinian cause is not just a mistake: rather, it is sinful. The Palestinian problem, in its entirety, is targeted now by some of the most senseless minds. Therefore, caution and precision, in dealing with any political bait in the form of proposed solutions, are in order and required. Caution and precision are national necessities for Palestinians that, if eschewed, can only result in catastrophic consequences exceeding in their magnitude the humanitarian catastrophe in the Gaza Strip today.

Critics of an Israeli-Palestinian agreement for calm that might be arrived unilaterally by Hamas remind everyone of the seriously impending dangers surrounding the Palestinian problem on the eve of signing the Oslo agreement. Various different details notwithstanding, the situation then for all Palestinians was not better than the one that exists in Gaza today. The nights and days of Israeli imposed curfews in the occupied Palestinian territories in 1967 still live in Palestinian memory. No Palestinian can forget the impact of the continued clashes with the Israeli occupation army during the Intifada (uprising) of the Stones, as it is called, in 1987.

The suffering of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees in the diaspora due to siege, bombardment and isolation cannot be overlooked. Many Palestinian refugees, especially in Lebanon, were reduced to eating dogs, cats and rats in order to stay alive. Scenes of the waves of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian employees working in the Gulf being expelled with their families following the Gulf Crisis of 1990-91 cannot be erased. This is on top of all the massacres Palestinians have been subjected to since the conflict with the Israeli occupation started.

Critics further argue that if the Oslo agreement had brought the Palestinian people calamity, the new looming agreement for calm on the horizon can be even more dangerous, causing more harm to the steadfast Palestinian people.

Palestinian refugee Lebanon

The new proposed calm seems to be no more than a renewed Oslo. With renewal, it is expected that the producer will pay more attention to earlier flaws in order to perfect control and oppression of the Palestinian people. The Gaza Strip, which was to come first in the Oslo accords, had witnessed a relative relaxation of tensions in the first couple of years of Oslo: it had a small airport and work was to begin for establishing a port for people to travel in and out of the Strip.

This means that it is not entirely strange for the Israeli occupation to make a promise of lifting the siege off the Strip, allow reconstruction, establish a sea pathway between Gaza and Cyprus, and even to turn Gaza into Singapore of the Arabs today, and then break its promises tomorrow, depending on how Israeli institutions interpret their national interest at a given point in time. There is no deterrent power to prevent the Israeli occupation from breaking its promises. The occupation aims at getting rid of the Palestinians who live in Gaza: the former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin once said unequivocally that his wish was to wake up one morning and find Gaza sunk in the sea.

Those who embrace the new calm may say that they will retaliate by withdrawing from any new agreement if the Israelis break their promises or violate the agreement. However, this is not convincing for most Palestinians, as they consider such a retaliation, if it were to take place, a reactive rather than a proactive measure. The effectiveness of any given action is often measured by its timing. Israelis might find it beneficial to make promises at this stage and to break them at another. It all depends on what their plans are at any given time.

For example, Oslo was an Israeli need at one point, while its abrogation seems to be a necessity now. Israelis needed Oslo to buy more time to help them confiscate more Palestinian land and build more Israeli settlements under the cover of the erroneous peace. In other words, what might seem to be useful today might be harmful tomorrow. Critics warn that no Palestinians should deceive themselves that they can withdraw from the calm whenever they like and when the Israelis decide to sidetrack it. Palestinians have been engulfed in the Oslo swamp for many years and unable to get out of its grip until now.

 

Why is Israel gasping behind the calm now?

Those who follow the Israeli media closely have no doubt noticed that a number of outlets have tirelessly tried to release some information that made it look like an agreement for calm has been practically reached with Hamas. About two weeks ago some outlets even confirmed that the agreement had become effective. Although there had been no confirmation from the other side, it seems that the Israeli media was interested in preparing Israeli public opinion for what might be coming, in fulfillment of the desires of Israeli leaders, especially in the mini-security cabinet. Never mind all the talk about tense discussions within the mini-security cabinet regarding the viability, utility and content of the calm agreement.

Over the past few months, especially since the start of the weekly Great Marches of Return in the Gaza Strip, one cannot help but detect serious anxiety within Israeli institutions, as they have been trying to repeatedly demonstrate Israeli strength through some airstrikes on Gaza, on the one hand, and to enter into a number of ceasefire understandings, on the other. The bombing in Gaza and entry into ceasefire agreements have been pursued almost in parallel. One could go to sleep with the news of airstrikes on Gaza, and wake up with an announcement for a ceasefire.

This signifies that the Israelis seem to be more interested in arriving at an agreement for calm with Gaza at this stage, rather than in a military confrontation. Assuming this hypothesis is valid, why then would Israel pant for an agreement for calm in the Gaza Strip, specifically at this stage? Ten reasons seem to stand behind Israeli thinking:

 

1 | Using the suggested agreement for calm as a natural prelude for Trump’s “deal of the century.”

Here, the objective is to use humanitarian and economic considerations to achieve political and legal ends. More specifically, the plan is to promise Palestinians in Gaza some humanitarian relief in exchange for some political concessions. As the saying goes, there is no free lunch.

The Trump administration has blessed the ongoing talks in Cairo between Hamas and Egyptian officials, as well as other Palestinian factions, to broker some deal. The Trump administration is convinced that an agreement for calm is consistent with, and supports its scheme to deal with the Palestinian problem in fragments. It further believes — as has been expressed in statements by Jared Kushner, Trump’s advisor to the president on the Middle East — that some humanitarian cover will have to be used, ostensibly to end the conversation around the future of Palestine by removing all viable options for a future Palestinian state through the deal of the century.

Observers can easily detect the profound paradox in recent U.S. moves: on the one hand, the Trump administration has cut its annual financial contributions to UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, a clearly humanitarian organization; and on the other, the administration has declared that it supports efforts that could lead to the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip.

Cutting support to UNRWA has been most detrimental, as it led this UN organization to freeze a good number of its projects, and in the process terminate the employment of hundreds very needy Palestinian workers and staff in the Gaza Strip. As such, imagining a separation between an agreement for calm and the deal of the century is an exercise in daydreaming. All aspects are suspicious: he parallel timing, the content, and the dynamics.

UNRWA school in Beirut

 

2 | To serve Benjamin Netanyahu personally.

Some might wonder why Netanyahu has succeeded in becoming the longest-serving Israeli prime minister. It is attributable neither to the fact that Netanyahu is a pathological liar nor to any advantage in intelligence compared to others who were in his position before. Certainly, his hostility towards the peace process from the start has boosted his position among radical Israeli rightists. However, it is doubtful that this would be the determining factor that enabled Netanyahu to last so long in office and manage to stand in the way of a viable contender against him, despite the fact that he has been bombarded with allegations of financial and political corruption.

The secret behind Netanyahu’s success, compared to his political foes, can be primarily found in his ability to provide Israelis with more security relative to that provided by other prime ministers, especially since the signing of the Oslo Agreement. In a society where security is paramount, the Israeli voter does not seem to be able to find a more effective leader than Netanyahu, in spite of all his shortcomings.

Accordingly, an agreement for calm in the Gaza Strip very directly serves Netanyahu’s secret of success. It sends a strong message to Israeli society, especially to radical rightist groups. At a time when Netanyahu is quite self-centered on his political and personal ambitions, elevating them over other considerations, and is quite concerned that a military confrontation with the Gaza Strip might have some negative ramifications for his political future, he tries to sound and act tough, while deep inside he wishes for calm. No one would believe that Netanyahu might embark on an agreement for calm out of a good heart towards Palestinians. Certainly, an improved humanitarian life for Palestinians in Gaza is not high on his agenda. Nevertheless, pursuing an agreement for calm with Hamas seems to be his choice at this stage.

 

3 | Improving Israel’s image in the world.

It is worth remembering here that one of Israel’s main goals for entangling the PLO, and subsequently the Palestinian Authority, in the dark alleys of Oslo was exactly to brighten Israel’s worsening image in the world — especially in the West, where it has many friends — an image deteriorating particularly as a result of Israel’s gruesome crimes against unarmed Palestinian children, men and women during the 1987 Intifada of the Stones.

Scenes of heavily armed Israeli soldiers brutally beating unarmed Palestinians, and breaking their bones had immensely affected the image of the Israeli army as the most disciplined in the world. Mounting official criticism and increasing public protests against Israeli brutality and oppression of the Palestinian people around the world had compelled Israeli occupation institutions to search for an effective, extensive and organized public-relations campaign to show that Israel was peace-loving, and not aggressive or hostile.

In this context, Israel continued to market itself as a power searching for peace and negotiations through Oslo, while at the same time, it continued unabated confiscation of more Palestinian land; building more settlements; and, in every way possible, strengthening the occupation regime throughout all the occupied Palestinian territories.

What mattered to Israel was that it appeared as a power involved in negotiations and peace talks with the Palestinians, so as to alter world public opinion. Of course, most experts know that this marketed picture of Israel was quite deceptive because the negotiations were used only to further solidify the occupation regime. However, Israel succeeded in ending a great deal of the isolation it was experiencing as a result of its practices: once it entered into the Oslo talks, a number of countries in the region and in the world renewed their relations with Tel Aviv.

The timing could not be better now for another, more intensified public-relations campaign to revitalize Israel’s tarnished world image, and most specifically after BDS — boycott, divestment and sanctions — efforts have taken their toll on Israeli products and reputation. Even in countries where Israel has strong friends, BDS has been quite effective. There have been increasing expressions and moves of solidarity with the besieged Gaza Strip over the past few years. Israel has found itself with a dire need to undo its negative image, especially in Western societies.

Some of Tel Aviv’s diplomatic relations have been affected. Israel has also suffered serious economic losses from Palestinian use of fiery paper kites and incendiary balloons against settlements around the Gaza Strip. Netanyahu wants to revive Israeli settler confidence in him as an effective provider of security, especially around the Gaza Strip. Israel’s improving relations with some Arab countries have not compensated for its worsening image in and relations with friendly Western countries.

Boycott Israel France

Therefore, Israel believes that pretending that it is trying hard for calm with the Gaza Strip might lessen the extent of sharp criticism it is facing from the world community, although it is widely known that Israeli leaders do not usually give much weight to protests against them in the world. They do consider themselves to be above international law. For them — whether the calm is arrived at or not, whether it succeeds or not, and regardless of how long it may last — what matters is that Israel appears as its initiator, supporter and keeper, even though it might in reality assault every semblance of human life in the Gaza Strip, as it has always done since the start of the conflict. Israel adheres to agreements only when violating them become more costly — politically, militarily, diplomatically, economically, and, above all, in terms of security.

While Palestinians in the Gaza Strip might be facing a dire humanitarian situation today due to the prolonged siege and continued bombardment, Israelis, especially in settlements around the Gaza Strip, are not reaping the fruit of security, particularly after the start of the Great Marches for return and the launching of kites and balloons.

 

4 | Subjecting Palestinians to more divisions and splits.

Colonial powers have not stopped using the traditional tactic for control, which is based on the idea of “divide and conquer.” One of the most detrimental aspects of the Oslo Agreement has been its fragmentation of Palestinians in a number of ways, politically, demographically and geographically: between returnees and insiders; West Bankers, Gazans, Jerusalemites; 1948 Palestinians and those in the diaspora; those in areas A, B and C; and those focused on varying issues subject respectively to transitional phase negotiations and permanent resolution. All these layers of division seem to have helped the Israeli occupation tighten its noose around the neck of the Palestinian people and plant more seeds of fragmentation.

Segregated Palestine Map

The calm under discussion is not the culmination of a full-fledged military confrontation: its timing and place of execution is consistent with the terms of the deal of the century that have come to the surface thus far. It is doubtful that it will bring about any real meaningful change in Palestinian life that goes beyond the symbolic and short-lived; and — because it does not have the support of most Palestinian political forces, factions and partie — it becomes then a dense recipe for more Palestinian divisions. Such a state of affairs will inevitably help the Israeli occupation regime boost its power and control, and contribute to saving its institutions at a most critical moment.

At a time when the Palestinian Authority has rejected the deal of the century, as have all other Palestinian factions, going along with one of the deals most dubious components — giving it a humanitarian face and claiming that it will bring about development, reconstruction and modernization for the Gaza Strip — is quite risky and dangerous. Among other things, this will further fragment the already divided Palestinian society. Equally true, paying lip service to the recently resurfacing confederacy option between the West and East Bank of the Jordan River is meant to disguise the assault on the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their historic homeland, Palestine, and thus threatens the Palestinian national interest.

The Trump administration, which seems to live in the past when proposing this option, hastens to unmask the true objective of its policy by attempting to liquidate the Palestinian refugee question, once and for all, by completely cutting off the U.S.’ annual financial contributions to UNRWA.

 

5 | Legitimizing and boosting the split and, as a result, declaring the death and burial of reconciliation.

Division among Palestinians has already happened. Political, geographic and social division has become a part of Palestinian life. It is no secret that all attempts at ending it have failed thus far. The last thing Palestinians need is another cause to make that existing division deeper.

Each time an attempt at reconciliation fails, trust and credibility between the parties in dispute are further shattered. To be sure, no Palestinian side has come out to publicly announce that it is not concerned with ending the division and achieving reconciliation. All sides compete with each other to assert their adherence to reconciliation efforts and terms, and each works diligently to blame the other for the impending failures. Despite the fact that most statements and expressions of progress towards reconciliation have not been able to put an end to the state of division, still hope has not completely dissipated. Palestinians remain hopeful that the clouds of split overshadowing the Palestinian people will eventually pass and that the sun of reconciliation will rise again.

However, for one party to embrace the calm alone, in the midst of the most complicated regional and international circumstances surrounding the Palestinian problem, becomes a situation that legitimizes Palestinian division in all of its aspects, even if the embracing party does not accept and/or recognize this fact.

It is certainly true that the Gaza Strip has been suffering immensely under one of the most unfair sieges human history has ever recorded. It is also true that the Strip has been subjected to enormous, unprecedented bombardment in the course of three wars between 2008 and 2014. It is even more valid to suggest that the Strip has been left practically alone since the start of the siege. But it is also sound to maintain that wisdom is most needed not during times of comfort and relaxation but rather during times of crises and hardships.

Reacting to the worsening situation in Gaza because of the siege, without consensus among Palestinians and in the midst of deepening divisions, does sustain the split and makes it chronic. In effect, this could totally destroy any semblance for reconciliation thereafter, at least for an extended period of time. In addition to the already-existing reasons for the split, a single Palestinian faction unilaterally entering into an agreement for calm will add insult to injury, and thus make the potential for a true solution almost nonexistent. One major danger lies in the possibility of managing the split by Palestinians themselves, rather than in ending it. Regional and international financial tools can be used to further pull Palestinians away from each other. After all, there are a number of powerful forces of disintegration that have not wished the Palestinians well over the years.

 

6 | Provoking the Palestinian Authority, which has hitherto rejected the deal of the century, to search for a role for itself to play in dealing with new developments.

It is no secret that enemies of the Palestinian people always try to set one side against another. They always attempt to trigger unhealthy, rather destructive competition over limited opportunities and narrow benefits. Promise of the so-called peace dividends to various competing parties is a way to achieve this goal. The prevalence of relative deprivation in a society like that of the Palestinians enhances the likelihood of embracing and furthering individual and small group interests and benefits at the expense of the public good and/or the national interest. It is no surprise that Palestinian society already suffers from the widespread focus on the “I” more than the ”we.” Acceptance of the other becomes rare, especially as the primacy of the faction, family, and/or the small locality takes over.

Israeli and American planners apparently believe that by making Hamas think that some positive change will take place in Palestinian life if they enter in an agreement for calm with Israel that the Palestinian Authority might be sufficiently provoked, and hence led to follow suit. The belief even goes further to assume that the Authority might want to intensely compete with Hamas, so as to become the power In charge of any possible deal. Such planners calculate that only by further dividing Palestinian society they can get Hamas and the Palestinian Authority to become more competitive. This is the most timely moment to instill more division, so as to pave the way for the implementation of the deal of the century.

Indeed, there are some striking implications and ironies in some relevant political moves. If one reviews the record of political statements by Netanyahu and other Israeli officials before talk about the deal of the century started, one would certainly see that one of the recurring conditions for Israel to resume the political process was for the Palestinian Authority to terminate its ties with Hamas. In almost every talk or statement he gave, Netanyahu would demand of the President of the Authority, Mahmud Abbas, to choose between peace and Hamas. However, all of a sudden after the Authority declared its rejection of the deal of the century, Netanyahu finds it appropriate to work on striking a deal for calm with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, even in the absence of the Authority.

It is also interesting to note in this regard that the UN special envoy to the Middle East, Nickolay Mladenov, stated that he would be content with dealing with Hamas alone regarding life in Gaza, in the event the Authority does not catch up with the move towards the calm. We can surmise that Mladenov would not have made his statements without prior coordination with the United States, which has given its approval for efforts to arrive at an agreement. Such statements can only serve one purpose: to pressure and provoke the Authority to accept its role before it is too late to do so.

Even more important was what one of Israel’s foremost strategists — former head of the Israeli National Security Council, Reserve General Giora Eiland — said. In an article he wrote in Yedioth Ahronoth on August 19, Eiland was direct and quite unequivocal, as he called upon Netanyahu to drop the Palestinian Authority and its president, and to continue working on striking a long-term agreement for calm with Hamas. Again, in a dramatic shift of direction, Eiland reconstructs the discourse in a manner that serves his perspective, as he justifies his call by saying that Hamas was democratically elected in 2006. So Israel brands Hamas as a terrorist organization when such charges serve its interests, then embraces the same group as democratic and opens avenues of negotiations with it when this path seems to promise more benefits.

In any case, no one would believe that Mladenov’s statements and Eiland’s perspective aim to brighten Hamas’s picture and/or to lend legitimacy to Hamas in the world. Rather, they are meant to foment more factional discord in Palestinian society, and to exert pressure on the Palestinian Authority to eventually accept the deal of the century. In so doing, Israel wants to keep Palestinian factions preoccupied with each other, so as to divert attention from the ongoing and intensifying oppressive measures by the occupation against Palestinians, particularly in Jerusalem, and more specifically in the Aqsa Mosque. Apparently this is, in part, what John Bolton, Director of the National Security Council in the U.S., wanted to achieve during his latest visit to Israel in late August.

 

7 | Extracting a Palestinian approval to abrogate the ceasefire understanding between Israel and Hamas that followed the 2014 agression on the Gaza Strip.

This understanding was not the first that Israel signed, nor will it be the last. As usual, it should have come as no surprise that Israel has repeatedly violated the terms of that understanding. However, Israeli planners often resort to legitimizing their violations of a given agreement by arriving at a new agreement. By definition, a new agreement supersedes any prior agreements on related issues. By signing a new agreement for calm, Israeli planners believe that the world will no longer view Israel as the violator of the 2014 ceasefire understanding.

 

8 | Instilling divisions within the axis of resistance — made up of some Palestinian resistance groups, like Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah in Lebanon, Syria and Iran — by neutralizing Hamas in preparation for a new upcoming great war.

The possibility for a U.S.-supported and/or -led big war in the Middle East is greater than any time in the recent past. Notwithstanding the fact that the U.S. and Israel have failed in a number of wars they waged in the region, lessons of earlier experiences do not seem to be heeded. The fact that such a war has not been waged yet does not mean doing away with the idea, but rather, engaging in more preparations while buying more time.

Especially at a time when the U.S. lives one of its most difficult moments domestically because of the ongoing investigations surrounding Trump’s violations and possible collusion with Russia during the last presidential elections, the possibility of resorting to exporting the crisis externally by creating the conditions for war is not to be underestimated. Certainly, Netanyahu would not object to this kind of development: for a long time, he has been trying to drag the U.S. into a calamitous war against Iran and its allies in the region. Measured by the extraordinarily close relation between the two of them, Trump will certainly be ready to act at the right moment.

Therefore, splitting the axis of resistance from within is high on the agenda of the Israelis and the United States. Israel continues to worry about the formation of a united front by all members in the axis of resistance against it in the event of a war. Hence, fragmentation of the axis of resistance is not a matter of luxury, but rather a matter of strategic necessity.

Hamas Palestine Gaza

Israel and the U.S. did not succeed in achieving this goal through the steadfast Hezbollah: the Lebanese group was given a number of offers by the United States to attract it to drop Iran — as the Secretary-General of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, confirmed in one of his speeches — but to no avail. Hamas is believed to be a more amenable target to fall for this ploy: through promises of reconstruction and prosperity projects for the Gaza Strip, it is believed that Hamas will go along with an extended agreement for calm, and hence with staying away from the axis of resistance. Israeli planners believe they can capitalize on a precedent in this regard: the stand Hamas took at the beginning of the Syrian Crisis in opposition to the Syrian government and in support of some armed opposition groups, in a manner that stood in total contradiction to and conflict with that taken by Hezbollah and Iran.

Therefore, the least that can be achieved, Israel calculates, is to neutralize Hamas and free a whole front with the Gaza Strip in the event of a war with Hezbollah in Lebanon, or even with Iran. The Israeli thinking is that Hamas itself becomes interested in holding onto the state of calm once it sees the money pouring in for reconstructing the Gaza Strip.

 

9 | Planting seeds of conflict within the Gaza Strip between supporters and opponents of the calm.

It is an established fact now that there is no Palestinian consensus over an agreement for calm with Israel at this critical stage because of the tricky surrounding international and regional circumstances. Therefore, it is expected that the Gaza Strip will witness intense interaction between supporters and opponents. It is also no secret that those who count on Hamas’s failure cannot be overlooked. There are some who do not wish Hamas well, and as such, will do everything they can to topple any attempt towards calm. At the same time, Israel is not just sitting idly by watching what’s happening: as it has done numerous times in the past, Israel will do everything at its disposal, through its intelligence services, to heighten the level of tensions in the Gaza Strip. This would be one of the most effective ways to keep Hamas occupied with internal matters.

As Oslo created a fertile ground for lasting internal fueds and frictions among Palestinians, the calm under discussion is bound to trigger unavoidable confrontations within the Gaza Strip. At best, Hamas will inevitably find itself compelled to take harsh and necessary security measures against any disrupters of the calm. This may position Hamas to fight against other resistance groups in the Gaza Strip. Israel will surely not shed any tear over such possible developments.

 

10 | Tainting the image of Hamas as a movement for resistance in Palestinian society.

Many observers and analysts suggest that Hamas did not acquire its popularity and legitimacy in Palestinian society due to its political and ideological positions, as much as by virtue of its resistance against the Israeli occupation. In Palestinian society, the effectiveness of any movement, faction or party is usually measured by the extent to which it is involved in the national struggle and in resistance against the occupation. The popularity of political forces goes up or down depending on the size, magnitude and effect of their role in resistance efforts.

In this regard, aside from political positions, friends and foes of Hamas recognize that Hamas has played a pivotal role in resistance activities, not the least of which being its ability to withstand and remain steadfast in the face of three subsequent Israeli agressions in the last decade.

However, in spite of this recognition, many consider the timing and the context of the calm suspicious at this stage, and such considerations may alter this image of Hamas among many Palestinians. Palestinian critics argue that Gazans have been sacrificing, not so as to get a loaf of bread, so to speak, as important as it may be for human survival, but rather to achieve political and national objectives — i.e., freedom and independence. Critics also suggest that such a path has been tested before and failed: Israel does not abide by agreements it signs.

They say that the alternative is not for Hamas to go to war against Israel, but rather to cooperate with other Palestinian parties to capitalize on international solidarity with the Gaza Strip so as to end the state of siege, once and for all, without having to make detrimental political concessions.

In addition, there does not seem to be uniformity of opinion within Hamas itself regarding the calm. Some Hamas leaders, cadres, members and supporters oppose the calm under the current conditions and circumstances. Some have expressed profound disenchantment with the regurgitation of failing experiences. Arguments by the defenders of the calm from within Hamas have not been all that convincing for many rank and file members. Therefore, it is widely expected that pursuing the calm in the midst of internal disagreements can also lead to splits within Hamas itself.

 

The calm would bring anything but calm

Accordingly, the imminent dangers of the would-be calm for Palestinians are enormous, and may exceed by far the detrimental effects of the Oslo Agreement. Regional and international circumstances are less conducive for Palestinians, particularly with the burning desire of the Trump administration to put its deal of the century into effect. Even those Palestinians who have been heavily and staunchly involved in negotiations with the Israelis have come out sharply criticizing the timing and the context of the calm now.

Even in the event there is a symbolic temporary lifting of the siege off the Gaza Strip, the main beneficiary remains the Israeli occupation itself, as it controls the flow and prices of entering goods and commodities, and as it exercises total control over all entry points, from land, air and sea.

Palestinian police officers sit in a small boat as they pass near an Israeli naval vessel

It doesn’t seem to be the case that the calm under discussion will bring about much calm. Any unilateral agreement by one Palestinian party is bound to fail and take Palestinians into a more difficult situation than the one lived in the Gaza Strip today. The timing and overall context of an agreement for calm now are quite questionable, especially in light of the ongoing efforts by the Trump administration to liquidate the question of Palestine through its so-called deal of the century: it is a deal with and for everybody except the Palestinian people themselves, who are most directly affected and concerned.

The key to the way out does not lie in more partisanship and factional bickering: it is this deterioration in Palestinian cohesion that made it possible for Trump to gin up a solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict without the Palestinian people.

The solution lies in real unity among Palestinians, dictated by interest, necessity and circumstance. This can prove to be beneficial not only for Palestinians but, as surprising as this may sound, for all other players involved in this conflict, including the Israelis themselves.

While Israel and the United States may plan to instill more division and fragmentation among Palestinians to achieve short-term objectives, the state of chaos, and perhaps anarchy that may ensue can have far-reaching destabilizing effects for Israel. Geography is not on their side. Their schemes have not always succeeded in the past. Indeed they have been wrestling with one strategic failure after another. They should not be captivated by a sense of instantaneous gratification. The Palestinian people have persevered all along and, in spite of the impending heavy cost, they are expected to survive again, and emerge much stronger. No one can argue that the current state of affairs, or one that is worse, is sustainable.

The Palestinian people are the party that needs a genuine calm the most. The occupation has turned their life into total misery, day-in and day-out. All aspects of their life have been severely affected because the occupation is after them 24/7. At the same time, Palestinians have become quite wary of deceptive, misleading agreements for calm, which give the occupation more time to become more entrenched under the cover of peace.

The would-be agreement for calm does not promise to be any different. Actually, it more directly threatens Palestinian well-being and existence, as it is linked to the deal of the century, which aims to dissolve the question of Palestine.

What is needed is an agreement that ends the Israeli occupation of Palestine once and for all, and grants the Palestinian people their rights to real, full statehood, freedom, independence and self-determination, as dictated by international law. Any other way is bound to deepen and intensify the conflict. No one should be misled by fake cosmetic political moves here or there. Genuine calm requires genuine intentions, not a recycling of the occupation.

Top Photo | Left to right, US President Donald Trump , Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs | Flickr

Hisham H. Ahmed, Ph.D. was Chair of the Academic Senate and Chair of the Politics Department at Saint Mary’s College of California, he was a Fulbright scholar in Palestine, where he wrote his book: From Religious Salvation to political transformation: the rise of Hamas in Palestinian Society. Ahmed is the author of numerous studies dealing with the Middle East. Ahmed is frequently called upon by the local and international media for analyses of various political issues pertaining to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

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The families of Khan Al-Ahmar insist on their right to remain and defend their village Israel/Palestine By Jamal Jaheleen – MONDOWEISS

One night towards the end of 1986, with the harsh December cold hovering over the hills of Jerusalem, my mother decided, after nine long months of suffering, to bring me into the world. I was a rascal, she later told me, the moment I plopped into the nurses’ waiting hands I began my battle with life. If I had known that earlier, I would have chosen to remain calm in my mother’s womb.

The village of Khan Al-Ahmar, east of Jerusalem, was the first land my feet touched. I spent my childhood chasing after my mother as she walked two kilometers to the nearby spring to collect water, or staying at my grandmother’s house watching her weave cloths and tent coverings from lamb’s wool and goatskin. Sometimes, I would stay at our neighbor’s house when there was no one home to watch me.

My father was busy tending the herd with my grandfather. We only had a few heads of sheep and goats to provide our daily sustenance; my grandfather lost his crops and half his riches in the war of 1948 when he was displaced from Beersheba in the south of Palestine. He wasn’t the only one who had to leave everything behind; all of my family shared the same fate. Some of them settled in Khan Al-Ahmar and others fled to Jordan and resided there. My grandmother’s eyes would silently convey the struggles they faced and their yearning for Beersheba. Injustice and tyranny became our inheritance, like a 2000-year-old Roman statue that must be preserved and held onto.

After my grandfather suffered through displacement and the pain of occupation he died, leaving us to continue the struggle. Many of the Jahalin tribe lived in Khan Al-Ahmar for many years and continue to live there today without the most basic needs; no electricity, no water, without education or healthcare or services, without anything. The best way to describe it, is that Khan Al-Ahmar passed through the twenty-first century as if it were the last century BC. Yet, it remained steadfast and strong in the face of the occupation and the flocks of settlers, and it will remain, refusing to give up or to succumb to another nakba.

When I turned six, I joined the rest of my young family members in line at the side of the main street connecting Jerusalem to Jericho. There, we waited for transportation in order to attend a school in Jericho, 30 kilometers from Khan Al-Ahmar. I clearly remember the trucks, laden with oranges, rumbling by at six in the morning on their way from Gaza to Jordan, always stopping to take a passenger or two. I also remember the daily newspaper car, heading towards Jericho each day. Those were difficult times; winter was a heavy burden on students, and the summer heat was also a lure to leave school and think about taking a job that would contribute to the household expenses. Most students didn’t even complete elementary school because of these difficulties.

In 2009, the citizens of Khan Al-Ahmar decided to build a school aided by Italian and local organizations. Modestly built, with classrooms formed by car tires and planks of wood, it was hoped that the school would provide a safe, accessible, educational environment.

But when the school opened its doors, no sooner had the 200 students settled at their desks than the desert foxes and highwaymen issued orders to have the school demolished. As if that wasn’t enough, they also issued orders to demolish residential buildings, herd shelters, and young couples’ homes. They even issued orders to demolish the mosque that had been simply built with wooden planks covered with goatskin to block the sun.

In the nine years from the day the school was built in Khan Al-Ahmar until today, the village lived through a many forms of economic, social, and psychological harassment. The army blocked any type of building materials from entering into Khan Al-Ahmar. They forbade entry to energy sources such as solar panels and electric generators, as well as medical equipment. In summary, anything that would improve Khan Al-Ahmar’s chance of survival was forbidden. But that wasn’t all. Large sections of Khan Al-Ahmar’s desert were closed off to prevent grazing, water wells were destroyed and the desert was declared a military zone. They barricaded animals, people and land and I did not realize that it was all due to building a small school. I imagine if anyone asked me the reason for this blockade and I answered that it was due to building a school, they would shake their heads at me and move onto another subject telling themselves that I was surely lying, because what power in the world would destroy a school? They would think that we must be a threat to Israel’s national security or plotting to build a nuclear reactor. When in reality, our dreams have fallen by the wayside, our hopes have been lost in the orange trucks and our talents have been smashed on the rocks of siege and the gates of oppression.

The thieving hunters’ eyes never stray from the prey, and yet we dream of finding justice one day.

However, despite nine years of legal battles to defend the right of our school’s existence, to protect our ancestors’ homes, our clansmen’s homes, the shelters of our herds and our goatskin-covered mosque. Despite our efforts to protect our children’s future, our Bedouin heritage and identity, the fabric of our society and our familial connections. In spite of our attempts to remain in the place where we were raised, among our childhood memories with ancestors and families. Despite all the resistance, all the patience and all the hard work, it was no use. In 2018, the judge’s gavel in the Israeli Supreme Court slammed down on the dreams of the rightful owners, shattering any trace of humanity, ruling in everything but justice. The Court issued a decision to demolish and vacate Khan Al-Ahmar, and I wondered to myself, “How can there be hope, for how can a grain of wheat complain about a chicken?” After the demolition order was issued, the occupation’s wolves hurried to carve roads between the houses and close all the pathways into the village. They announced that Khan Al-Ahmar was now a closed military area.

The very next day, bulldozers came into Khan Al-Ahmar to demolish the village and all that the citizens could do was to stand bare in the face of the criminal monsters and their heavy machinery. Youths, children and women were all attacked that day. Thirty people were injured and six arrested, including a 19-year-old girl who was assaulted by press cameras, her hijab ripped off, her dignity violated. After the battle, the criminal authorities ordered a curfew within the village and blocked anyone from entering or exiting, including the press corps and medical personnel. A suffocating siege ensued. After that cursed day and after another petition by the people of Khan Al-Ahmar to the ‘Chicken Supreme Court’, a temporary stay of demolition orders was granted – until the occupation could find another excuse to displace the residents. It is expected, that after many court sessions, after the people of Khan Al-Ahmar refuse all offers from the occupying forces, and insist on their right to remain and defend their village, the bulldozers will come to crush the lingering dream of survival, of preserving the heritage and the very fabric of their identity.

Translated by Lama Khouri

Editor’s Note: After a long and courageous struggle, the people of Khan Al-Ahmar lost their battle when the high court in Israel declared that the demolition can go ahead.

About Jamal Jaheleen

Jamal Jaheleen is a 30-year old Palestinian writer and poet. Jamal lives with his wife, Khawlah, in the village of Khan Al-Ahmar.

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Trump’s UNRWA Funding Cuts Part of a New Formula to Erase Most Palestinians -By MIKO PELED – MINT PRESS

UNRWA Schools Gaza budget

It is puzzling that the state of Israel claims its own legitimacy derives from the right of Jewish people to “return” to their biblical homeland after 2,000 years of exile — but demands that Palestinian refugees drop their claim to return after 70 years and forget their homeland.

WASHINGTON — (Analysis) U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to severely cut funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) is another step in what seems to be an attempt by the U.S. and Israel to erase the Palestinian refugee issue. Festering for seven decades, the Palestinian refugee crisis has been an open wound affecting Palestine and the countries around it, and now Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claim they have found a solution: deny the existence of the refugees.

However, as much as Trump and Netanyahu may try to deny they exist, and even if the U.S. government decides to “reduce” their number by declaring that there are far fewer refugees than there really are, the fact remains that over 5 million Palestinians live in camps in extreme poverty, neglect and abuse. The reason for this: Israel has banned the refugees and their descendants from returning to their land so that it could maintain a Jewish majority.

 

 

U.S. policy

If the U.S.-Israeli “solution” goes through, as it seems it will, UNRWA will serve only the original surviving refugees, whose number naturally decreases each year. According to a report in Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network:

A bill in Congress attempts to codify this [Trump’s] new formulation. HR 6451 stipulates that only the surviving refugees qualify for resettlement and UNRWA services. The rest of the aid would be channelled to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which is bound by the 2018 Taylor Force Act, prohibiting U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority until certain conditions are met. The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.”

 UNRWA classroom Gaza

Also according to the Al-Shabaka report: “In January 2018 the administration slashed the first $125 million installment of its annual payment to UNRWA by more than half.” Then, when  the U.S. announced that it will no longer contribute to UNRWA at all, the announcement sent “shockwaves around the Arab world.”

Clearly, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria — all countries where Palestinian refugee camps are situated, realize that the result of this will be that millions of Palestinian refugees would be left without even the little education, work, food, and healthcare they currently have. In other words, this will result in an even worse crisis, not a resolution.

 

Double standard

One of the more puzzling aspects of this issue is that the state of Israel claims its own legitimacy derives from the right of Jewish people to “return” to their biblical homeland after 2,000 years of exile. Zionists argue that, owing to connections to an ancient tribe that resided in Palestine some 2,000 years ago, they have a claim to Palestine. Now, the same state of Israel demands that Palestinian refugees drop their claim to return after 70 years and forget their homeland.

The absurdity of the 2,000 year claim to “return” needs hardly be explained, but the fact is that not a single Jewish person can point out where his or her family lived 2,000 years ago. Palestinians however, in many if not most cases, still have the keys to their homes and the deeds to their land. Many of the first generation refugees are still alive and — when given a chance, as shown in this video, — will, even in places where a village or town was totaled by the Israelis, find the exact spot where their home stood, where the well used to be, and where the school, mosque or church stood.

 

UNRWA

A report published by the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) says that,

The humanitarian aid and assistance that UNRWA provides to the Palestine refugees can never be enough. But it will be required as long as the issues of statelessness, prolonged military occupation, economic marginalization and vulnerability characteristic of the Palestinian refugee crisis are not addressed.”

It goes on to say:

Because of the prolonged nature of the Palestine refugee problem, the [UNRWA] agency’s efforts to provide education and health care have been pivotal in developing the refugees’ full human potential. Indeed, education is the largest of UNRWA’s main programmes, accounting for approximately 54 percent of its General Fund Budget.”

Clearly, the host countries of Palestinian refugees have a good reason to be concerned now that funding has decreased so substantially.

UNRWA school in Beirut

“The U.S. support for UNRWA was not an act of generosity,” historian Ilan Pappe recently posted. Back in 1950, the U.S. supported the establishment of the agency, with a promise that its creation would lead to the implementation of Resolution 194, passed on December 11, 1948. While in the so-called peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority the refugee issue was designated as a “final status” issue to be discussed at an unknown date in the distant future, the UN resolution predates that and therefore should be implemented without such interminable delays. Resolution 194 states that the UN:

Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible;

Instructs the Conciliation Commission to facilitate the repatriation, resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation of the refugees and the payment of compensation, and to maintain close relations with the Director of the United Nations Relief for Palestine Refugees and, through him, with the appropriate organs and agencies of the United Nations …”

In his book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Pappe says the following:

UNRWA was not committed to the return of the refugees as UN General Assembly Resolution 194, from 11 December 1948, had stipulated, but was set up simply to provide employment and subsidies to the approximately one million Palestinian refugees who had ended up in the camps. It was also entrusted with building more permanent camps for them, constructing schools and opening medical centres. In other words, UNRWA was intended, in general, to look after the refugees’ daily concerns.”

Recently, Pappe stated that ““UNRWA can only be dismantled if that resolution [194] would be respected.” In other words, dismantling UNRWA is fine as long as the refugees are permitted to return to their homes and their land in Palestine, as stipulated in the resolution, and be paid reparations for seven decades of dispossession.

 

Teaching humiliation

The Israeli government says it welcomes the U.S. decision to stop funding UNRWA. According to Israel, the UN agency — which in 1950 was tasked was caring for the Palestinian refugees that Zionist forces drove out of what was, until then, Palestine — is perpetuating the refugee problem.

Palestinian writer Ghassan Kanafani has written many short stories that reflect the lives of the Palestinian refugees in the camps. These are stories about the poverty, the humiliation and the desperation of a people who were thrown out of their land and forgotten by the world. He offers honest, heart wrenching descriptions of children “learning humiliation in the Agency schools” (Agency meaning UNRWA) and fathers who are helpless and must compromise their own integrity and dignity in order to provide for their families meager existence — and all of this because Israel has convinced the world that a “Jewish majority” is more important than humanity, people’s lives and dignity, not to mention people’s right to live free on their land.

As things stand today, the U.S. will stop funding the agency that is tasked with caring for millions of refugees — whom Israel created and is refusing to allow to return — while continuing to give Israel billions of dollars each year. Clearly, working the other way around would be more cost-effective. Stop sending Israel foreign aid, allow the refugees to return, and use the billions of dollars of foreign-aid money to facilitate their return, pay reparations, and rehabilitate the communities in Palestine that have been subjected to settler colonialism and apartheid since 1948.

Top Photo | Children wait outside an UNRWA school before attending the first day of class in Gaza City, Aug. 29, 2018. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian children are starting their school year in Gaza amid major budget cuts that threaten to close United Nations schools. Felipe Dana | 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.”

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Trump’s Drastic Cuts to UNRWA Spell More Poverty, Hopelessness, and Radicalization in Palestine – By Hisham H. Ahmed, Ph.D (MINT PRESS)

In an attempt to pressure the Palestinian people to accept his “deal of the century,” Trump decided to drastically cut the annual U.S. contribution to UNRWA from abut $350 million to $65 million and pressured other countries, including Britain and Australia, to reduce their contributions as well.

UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees, was established in December 1949 by United Nations General Assembly Resolution 302 to address the basic humanitarian needs of the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who became refugees in the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948.

As its name reveals, UNRWA’s mission was centered on providing relief rations, basic healthcare, education and employment opportunities for the refugees who lost all of their livelihood. Underlying UNRWA’s establishment was the goal to integrate refugees into the neighboring Arab host countries, so as to diffuse tensions and promote regional peace and stability.

Motivated by political objectives, the United States and Britain have been the biggest contributors to UNRWA’s budget. This has remained the case until recently when U.S. President Donald Trump announced in February of this year his decision to drastically cut U.S. contributions to UNRWA. Over the years, these two big powers saw in this humanitarian agency an effective vehicle for containing frustration and despair among the refugees.

 

Indeed, in spite of some of its shortcomings, UNRWA has been able to provide badly needed services, particularly for destitute refugee families. UNRWA became an important apparatus of employment for many skilled refugees.

Until it began in the past few years to introduce reductions in its services, UNRWA’s schools once provided the best education to be had in their communities, employing the most talented Palestinian teachers and graduating very successful students who excelled in various fields of knowledge and expertise.

School girls listen to Mr. Pierre Krähenbühl, Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, during the launch of a global campaign to support UNRWA, at the UNRWA Rimal Girls Preparatory School in Gaza. Adel Hana | AP

In an attempt to pressure the Palestinian people to accept his “deal of the century,” Trump decided to drastically cut the annual U.S. contribution to UNRWA from about $350 million to $65 million and, against all advice from his former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis, he pressured some other countries, including Britain and Australia, to reduce their contributions as well.

 

The first impact of Trump’s drastic cuts

UNRWA, which had already been struggling financially to meet its increasing demands, owing to the influx of more Palestinian refugees as a result of the Syrian crisis, found its operations severely hampered at a most critical time for so many Palestinian refugees. Supposedly compelled by the financial constraints, UNRWA recently decided to further shrink most of its modest services. Then, more worrisome for the refugees, it dismissed more than 1,000 Palestinian refugee employees from work in the Gaza, which has been lingering under siege for about 12 years.

Gaza, where unemployment has exceeded 80 percent, is considered one of the most troubled places on earth for human survival. Due to the tight siege, clean water is very scarce; Gazans get fewer than four hours of electricity per day; and the healthcare system has practically crumbled, as medical supplies are not coming in. On the whole, people are tormented by, on the one hand,  the ongoing contest of powers between Hamas, which has unilaterally controlled the strip since 2007, and the Palestinian Authority, and, on the other, the Israeli occupation that dominates the airspace and sea as well as all entry points by land.

A Palestinian employee sits during a protest at the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) headquarters in Gaza City, July 25, 2018. UNWRA staff are protesting the agency's decision to fire dozens of Palestinian staff in Gaza in the Gaza Strip. Khalil Hamra | AP

UNRWA’s decision, which seems to be the product of financial considerations, is nonetheless interpreted by many Palestinians as a politically-motivated move, owing to its timing and place of execution. Palestinians maintain that of all places where UNRWA operates, Gaza cannot be the first where such severe austerity measures should be introduced. The agony in the Gaza Strip is incalculable, especially as people have endured three wars with Israel in the past decade alone.

The new measures by UNRWA fell like a thunderbolt on refugee employees who have been dismissed, as no other opportunities for employment are available. Such measures led one of the dismissed employees, caught in despair and anguish, to try to set himself on fire in protest. Employees whose jobs were terminated have carried out an open-ended hunger strike with their families inside UNRWA headquarters.

 

Hopelessness and frustration: the breeding ground for extremism

Especially in a troubled area like the Middle East, the many crises that have developed over the years have contributed to the deepening of extremist tendencies among some groups and organizations.

By all accounts, the displacement of many refugees in the most recent conflicts during the past few years has widened the base of radicalization in the region. Radicalization becomes inevitable during times of total despair and profound frustration unless alternative creative, innovative solutions are introduced — i.e., unless some robust, systematic international programs of aid to alleviate the suffering of the refugees and to replace despair with hope are instituted.

In essence, radicalization of individuals can be viewed as a factor that leads to abnormalizing the behavior of those who fall victims to this tendency. More broadly, when radicalization spreads in a group or community, it can deform the social structure and lead to behavior that lacks balance — this may be called “the imbalancing” of communities. Creative and innovative policies are required to tackle the underlying root causes of radicalization.

Palestinian children sit next to hanged clothes, on the First day of Eid al-Fitr in a United Nations school where dozens of families have sought refuge after fleeing their homes in fear of Israeli airstrikes, in the Jabaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza Strip. A U.N. inquiry has found that at least 44 Palestinians were killed and at least 227 injured by "Israeli actions" while sheltering at U.N. locations during last year's Gaza war. Secretary Ban Ki-moon said Monday, April 27, 2015, he deplores the deaths and calls U.N. locations "inviolable."

UNRWA’s measures of cutting its services and dismissing close to 10 percent of its Palestinian workforce in Gaza are bound to hamper the educational process for hundreds of thousands of students, especially as other Palestinian employees in other locations feel quite vulnerable and may, as a result, resort to protesting such measures. In effect, the learning process of Palestinian students will be impacted and their educational rights violated.

The implications of violating the educational rights of refugees cannot be overlooked. Radicalization usually finds its way among disgruntled and frustrated young people, those who believe that their future offers them nothing more than despair and anguish. The Gaza Strip has been in a state of war and under total siege for many years — thus, to begin with, services are limited if provided at all. Dismissing of employees in the thousands by the organization in whose name and for whom it was created adds insult to injury, as it threatens the very livelihood of tens of thousands of people, when accounting for the members of the families of those who are dismissed and whom they support.

 

An impact that rolls on into a darkened future

Wars, especially when compounded by chronic despair and frustration, usually affect societies both in the present and the future: while present effects might be measurable, those that might occur in the future are often accompanied by surprise. With the continuation of such measures by UNRWA, entire generations may be expected to be kept without formal education. These may be easily subjected to some kind of informal, unstructured education — i.e., indoctrination and radicalized mobilization by a number of organizations that generally thrive in an environment of chaos and anarchy.

Some scholars have studied the interplay between radicalization and feelings of deprivation. For example, Fathali M. Moghaddam (2005) has stressed the need for education to nurture feelings of tolerance and equality among different groups. Ervin Staub (2007) has focused on preventive measures against radicalization, mainly through teaching, learning and education. More recently, however, Kartika Bhatia and Hafez Ghanem (2017) drew the link between the decline in education, rise of unemployment and empowerment of radicalization.

By writing this article, the author hopes to shed light on such an important underlying problem faced by Palestinian refugees. Coming to terms with this problem now, policy-makers and strategists can avert crucial problems in the future, mainly the deepening of frustration and the potential rise of radicalization in the region.

School girls look while pass the house morning of Mohammed Ayyoub, 14, who was killed by Israeli soldiers during a protest on Gaza's border with Israel, east of Jebaliya,, April 21, 2018. Adel Hana | AP

The recent waves of hundreds of thousands of refugees flooding a number of European countries could have been averted with sound, foresighted policies. In writing this article, the author is motivated by the sense of urgency to highlight the ramifications of the ferocious assault of displacement on the rights of the refugees, particularly those pertaining to education. At the same time, the author is also motivated by his own background as a Palestinian refugee who was born and grew up in a refugee camp, Dheisheh near Bethlehem: every time I read about the plight and the agony of new refugees, I cannot help reflecting on my own upbringing and observation of the effect of deprivation on the lives of so many people around me.

Palestinian refugees have been subjected to serious injustice everywhere they went. UNRWA’s recent measures of reducing the already modest services it provides to the refugees, and its termination of thousands of jobs solely for Palestinian employees, raise a number of compelling moral and legal questions. The international community is responsible for the catastrophe endured by Palestinians. Thus, even if the United States under Trump resorts to punitive financial measures to achieve political ends, the world community should not allow UNRWA to crumble. Cutting services and dismissing Palestinian employees from their jobs is not the answer, nor is it the solution to the worsening financial problem.

 

Constructive reforms, not drastic and destructive cuts, are needed

A comprehensive assessment of UNRWA’s structure needs to be carried out, as its bureaucracy has massively expanded. It is a well-documented fact that the average salary of a foreign employee in UNRWA is about 10 times that of a Palestinian employee. UNRWA was created to serve Palestinian refugees and to employ them, as its mandate stipulates.

Attempts by the U.S. Congress to redefine the refugee status for Palestinians — i.e., to exclude all descendants from the current UNRWA definition of Palestinian refugees — aim at liquidating the problem of those refugees in time by dissolving UNRWA. The specific goal is to limit the definition to fewer than 40,000 Palestinian refugees, rather than the current 5.3 million. The calculation is that even the new limited number will further shrink, as elderly refugees will die and the definition will not apply to their descendants.

This can only exacerbate the already fragile security environment in the Middle East. Such attempts stem from many concerted efforts by Israel and its lobbying groups in the U.S. to influence American decision-makers. For example, in its annual conference in the last week of July, CUFI, Christians United For Israel in the United States, an organization that has become synonymous with AIPAC, lobbied members of Congress for redefining the status of Palestinian refugees. This is quite short-sighted, as it completely evades the political, legal and humanitarian consequences of this action. From a cost-benefit analysis, securing the necessary funds for UNRWA to maintain its operations, and actually to enhance them, is less costly than having to deal with increasing instability, deepening frustration and the resultant growing radicalization.

The High Commissioner of UNRWA, Pierre Krahenbuhl, has reflected an excellent understanding of the potential ramifications of cutting services and terminating jobs for Palestinian refugees. In a number of interviews he gave to the media, especially after Trump announced that he will be reducing U.S. contributions to UNRWA’s budget, Krahenbuhl clearly spoke of the impending radicalization among young refugees. Therefore, it is inconceivable to allow the dissolution of UNRWA to happen under his supervision. This stands in total contradiction with the reputable record he has.

With a comprehensive assessment, serious reform, and reliance on more skilled Palestinian expertise, UNRWA can be enabled to cross this threshold and continue to fulfill its humanitarian mission. Sadly, the Palestinian problem is not over, and no just settlement for the refugees has been achieved. Therefore, the outcry of Palestinian refugees should be heard at the highest level of decision-making in the UN, including that of the office of the Secretary-General himself, Antonio Guterres.

This is the time to heed the call for human justice and dignity for Palestine’s refugees. This is the time when perspicacity should override narrow political considerations. This is the time to prevent more seeds of radicalization from being planted.

Top Photo | A wall painting made by Palestinian employees is seen at the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) headquarters in Gaza City. July 25,2018. UNWRA staff were protesting the agency’s decision to fire dozens of Palestinian staff in Gaza in the Gaza Strip. Khalil Hamra | AP

Hisham H. Ahmed, Ph.D. was Chair of the Academic Senate and Chair of the Politics Department at Saint Mary’s College of California, he was a Fulbright scholar in Palestine, where he wrote his book: From Religious Salvation to political transformation: the rise of Hamas in Palestinian Society. Ahmed is the author of numerous studies dealing with the Middle East. Ahmed is frequently called upon by the local and international media for analyses of various political issues pertaining to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

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Israeli air force pound Gaza, kill pregnant Palestinian woman and 18-month-old daughter, destroy city infrastructure – By Yumna Patel Mondoweiss (SOTT)

Israel pregnant mother toddler house

© Ashraf Amra
Palestinians inspect a house that was damaged in an Israeli airstrike on Dair al Balah in the center of Gaza Strip on August 9, 2018.

Three Palestinians were killed during pre dawn Israeli airstrikes on the besieged Gaza Strip Thursday. Among the dead were a woman, who was nine months pregnant, and her 18-month-old daughter.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza identified the pregnant woman as 23-year-old Inas Khamash, and her 18-month-old daughter as Bayan Khamash.

The two were killed when an Israeli airstrike hit their home in the Jaafari area of central Gaza. Khamash’s husband, Muhammad, was severely injured during the strike.

While some local media outlets were reporting that Muhammad succumbed to his wounds early Thursday afternoon, the Gaza Ministry of Health has maintained that he is still in critical condition and being treated in the ICU.

funeral toddler killed gaza

© Ashram Amra/ APA
Mourners carry the bodies of Palestinian Enas Khammash 23, and her 18-month-daughter Bayan, during their funeral in Deir Al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip on August 9, 2018.

The third slain Palestinian, reportedly a Hamas fighter, was killed in an airstrike in northern Gaza. He was identified as 30-year-old Ali al-Ghandour.

The health ministry added that around 12 Palestinians were injured, two critically, and were transferred to the hospital for treatment.

Israeli air forces pounded the Gaza Strip overnight, targeting over 100 sites in the besieged coastal enclave. The Israeli army said in a statement that forces struck 150 “terror targets.”

In a statement on Twitter, the army said the strikes were “conducted in response to the rockets launched from Gaza at Israel throughout the night,” adding that 180 rockets – at least 30 of which were intercepted by Israel’s “Iron Dome” defense system – were fired from the Gaza Strip.

air strike gaza 2018

© Dawoud Abo Alkas/ APA
A picture taken on August 8, 2018 shows a fireball exploding during Israeli air strikes in Gaza City.

Israeli media outlets reported that 11 Israelis were injured in the town of Sderot. One woman was reported to be in serious condition, while nine others were taken to the hospital. Thirteen other Israelis were reportedly treated for “shock.”

An Israeli army spokesperson told Mondoweiss that they could not confirm the number of Israelis reportedly injured.

The Israeli army said they held Hamas “fully responsible” for the escalation in violence, and that it was “determined to secure the safety of Israelis, is on high alert, & prepared for a variety of scenarios.”

“Hamas is responsible & bears the consequences for the ongoing events,” the army said on Twitter.

The army’s rhetoric has been echoed by Israeli politicians and government bodies over the course of Thursday, with the Foreign Ministry saying that Israel was “defending itself from from Hamas’ aggression.”

The US envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt released the following statement on Twitter: “Hamas regime again is launching rockets at Israeli communities. Another night of terror & families huddling in fear as Israel defends itself. This is the Hamas regime’s choice. Hamas is subjecting people to the terrifying conditions of war again.”

Neither Greenblatt, the foreign ministry, nor the army made any mention of the killing of Inas Khimash and her daughter Bayan.

The family’s neighbor told RT that he heard “a huge explosion” and then rushed onto the street. He saw “big huge smoke” coming from the Khammash’s house. When he entered the house, he said he saw the bodies. “We found the woman’s body shattered into pieces, her little daughter too,” he said, adding that the woman’s husband was injured in the leg, stomach, and head.
Hamas official Fawzi Barhoum said in a statement that it was Israel who was responsible for the violence, and that “in the event of continued aggression, shelling and killing of the Palestinian people in Gaza, the resistance will not be silent. It’s duty to respond and break the occupation.”

On Twitter, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri echoed similar sentiments, and called on the international community to “shoulder its responsibilities towards Israel’s aggression and siege.”

Thursday’s events are the latest in a series of severe flare ups over the past few months in Gaza, leading many local and international officials to speculate that another large-scale Israeli offensive on the Palestinian territory could be imminent.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz quoted an unnamed senior Israeli commander as saying that the military is “nearing launching an operation in the Gaza Strip” if the current situation persists.

The official told Haaretz that Hamas “will pay the price for its violations in the last four months,” seemingly referring to the ongoing Great March of Return protests that began on March 30th, over which time Israeli forces have killed at least 160 Palestinians and injured 17,000 more.

“Hamas must go back to the understandings after the [2014 Gaza war], and if it doesn’t, it will understand the hard way,” Haaretz quoted the officer as saying.

gaza water plant destroyed

© Mohamed Mosleh/Facebook
Retaliation: Gaza’s Water & Sanitation Plant of al-Mughraqa city in central Gaza. The plant was completely destroyed by several Israeli air strikes.

With fears of a new Israeli onslaught on the horizon, reports have emerged of the UN scrambling to negotiate a ceasefire.

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nikolay Mladenov, said in a statement issued on early Thursday that he was “deeply alarmed by the recent escalation of violence.”

“For months I have been warning that the humanitarian, security and political crisis in Gaza risk a devastating conflict that nobody wants. The UN has engaged with Egypt and all concerned parties in an unprecedented effort to avoid such a development,” he said.

Mladenov added that “if the current escalation however is not contained immediately, the situation can rapidly deteriorate with devastating consequences for all people.”

The Gaza Strip is home to more than 2 million Palestinians, over 70% of which are refugees who were forcibly expelled from their homes in present-day Israel when the state was established in 1948.

A more than decade-long Israeli air, land, and sea blockade has crippled Gaza’s economy, which boasts one of the highest unemployment rates in the world at 44 percent, leaving an estimated 80 percent of the territory’s population dependent on humanitarian assistance.

Gaza has often been compared to an “open air prison,” and in 2015, the UN warned that the it could become “unlivable” by 2020 if nothing was done to improve the situation.

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

Comment:

Israel’s policies in Gaza are genocidal – By Haidar Eid. (MONDOWEISS)

The 1948 Genocide Convention clearly states that one instance of genocide is “the deliberate infliction of conditions of life calculated to bring about the physical destruction of a people in whole or in part.” No matter whether this happens at a fast rate, or in “slow motion.” That is what has been done to Gaza since the imposition of the blockade by Israel, and the subsequent massacres which led to the death of more than 4000 Palestinians in three successive genocidal wars.

Palestinians of Gaza live an ongoing, illegal, crippling Israeli siege that has shattered all spheres of life, prompting the former UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights, Richard Falk, to describe it as “a prelude to genocide”. In 2009, the UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, headed by the highly respected South African judge, Richard Goldstone, found Israel guilty of “war crimes and possible crimes against humanity,” as did major international human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. The Goldstone report, for example, concludes that Israel’s war on Gaza was “designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and to provide for itself, and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability.”

The same scenario was repeated in 2012, and a worse one in 2014 only because Israel feels that it can carry on its war crimes with full impunity. And last week Israel has decided to tighten the siege by closing the only commercial crossing, even to increase its attacks by targeting peaceful protesters demanding the implementation of UN resolutions, and an end to this deadly, hermetic siege.

In her visit to Gaza, Professor Sara Roy, an expert on Gaza, describes the Strip as “a land ripped apart and scarred, the lives of its people blighted. Gaza is decaying under the weight of continued devastation, unable to function normally…” Professor Roy concludes that “[T]he decline and disablement of Gaza’s economy and society have been deliberate, the result of state policy–consciously planned, implemented and enforced… And just as Gaza’s demise has been consciously orchestrated, so have the obstacles preventing its recovery.” In addition to Israel’s daily attacks and air strikes, Gazans also suffer from the contamination of water, air and soil, since the sewage system is unable to function due to power cuts necessitated by lack of fuel to the main generators of the Gaza power grid. Medical conditions due to injuries from internationally prohibited butterfly bullets and other illegal Israeli weapons as well as from water contamination cannot be treated because of the siege. In addition to the ban on building materials, Israel also prevents many other necessities from being imported: lights bulbs, candles, matches, books, refrigerators, shoes, clothing, mattresses, sheets, blankets, tea, coffee, sausages, flour, cows, pasta, cigarettes, fuel, pencils, pens, paper… etc. In Gaza, people are wondering whether the current Israeli government, the most fascist in the county’s history, might even discuss a ban on Oxygen! Add to this the punitive measure taken by the PA, and the drastic cuts endorsed by UNRWA, not to mention the constant closure of the Rafah crossing–the only exit Gaza has to the external world– leading to one of the highest unemployment rates and poverty on the face of earth.

In fact, the conclusion Gazans have reached is that Israel is intent on destroying Gaza because world official bodies and leaders choose to say and do absolutely nothing. The brazen refusal of Israel to cooperate with the decision of the International Community to re-construct Gaza, for which several billions of dollars were pledged in Sharm El-Sheikh, should not be tolerated. Israel’s attacks have damaged or completely destroyed many public buildings and have according to the UN’s own Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports severely damaged or completely destroyed some thousands of family dwellings, schools, universities and factories. Many other Palestinians who have spent the past several winters and summers in tents and caravans have also been promised the means to rebuild homes and schools, though to date nothing has been done to alleviate their suffering.

The practice of wanton willful killing of civilians exemplified in the extra-judicial sniping of non-violent protesters at the eastern fence of the Gaza Strip is not an isolated incident. It is part and parcel of an ongoing, comprehensive policy targeting the civilian Palestinians of the Gaza strip and systematically denying them their rights to movement, work, medical care, study, livelihood and increasingly life itself. But it is also a reflection of the nature of the state of Israel.i. e., a settler-colony. Israel’s leading, anti-Zionist historian, Ilan Pappe,  sheds light  on the driving ideology behind this genocidal policy:

Zionism is, in essence, a settler colonial movement, which was interested in having as much of the land of Palestine with as few Palestinians on it as possible. As the late scholar of settler colonialism, Patrick Wolfe, has put it; the encounter between the settlers and the indigenous population triggered ‘the logic of the elimination of the native’. In some places, such as North America, annihilation was literally a genocide of the native; in Palestine it was a different kind of elimination, obtained through segregation, ethnic cleansing and enclavement

In spite of Israel’s alleged unilateral withdrawal from the Strip in 2005, it still maintains a permanent military presence in Gaza’s territorial waters and controls the movement of people and goods onto the strip by land and water in addition to movement within the strip through targeting anyone entering the “no go” zone designated by the Israeli military. Israel also continues to control Gaza’s population registry. Yet, Israel claims that it is no longer the occupying power in the Gaza strip and uses this excuse, in addition to the results of 2006 democratic elections, to intensify its policy of siege and lethal attacks on Gaza’s civilians.

And now, Israel has decided to become openly an apartheid state by legalizing racial discrimination. I have tried very hard to find out whether there are constitutions or laws in the world similar to Israel’s “new” Nation-State Basic Law which aims to establish a legal basis for Jewish supremacy and racism against indigenous Palestinians, including those living in what has become the largest open-air prison on earth; only South Africa under apartheid and America in the eras of slavery and segregation.

So, what to do?!

In a piece published in MEE, Gideon Levy asks “Israel, where is your outrage at the legislation of Apartheid?” Actually, we are not expecting a settler-colonial community to act against its own racism. The outside world has to intervene. Hence our call for #BDS. But, in Palestine, we are in urgent need of serious discussions about a program of radical political transformation, what with the disastrous failure of the existing programs, right and left, a program that divorces itself from the racist two-state solution, one that endorses a more inclusive program that guarantees the rights of all segments of the Palestinian people.

About Haidar Eid

Haidar Eid is Associate Professor of Postcolonial and Postmodern Literature at Gaza’s al-Aqsa University. He has written widely on the Arab-Israeli conflict, including articles published at Znet, Electronic Intifada, Palestine Chronicle, and Open Democracy. He has published papers on cultural Studies and literature in a number of journals, including Nebula, Journal of American Studies in Turkey, Cultural Logic, and the Journal of Comparative Literature.

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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.

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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.”

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Why Israel’s Expansionist and Ethnic-Cleansing Ambitions Will Fail – ByAndrés Perezalonso – (SOTT)

Israeli soldiers Palestinian boy Jerusalem

Israeli soldiers arrest Palestinian teen Fawzi Muhammad Al-Juneidi in Jerusalem, Dec. 8, 2017. You need an army to get a stone-throwing boy – yet stone throwers keep coming. What to do?

As the world is distracted with the Football World Cup, some observers of the situation in Palestine have been concerned about the possibility of Israel carrying out a major military operation in Gaza. Four years ago, towards the end of the World Cup in Brazil, Israel launched Operation Protective Edge, which according to UN figures resulted in the death of 2,256 Palestinians, of which 1,563 were civilians. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights specifies that this included 293 women and 556 children. The extremely high proportion of civilian deaths was a consequence of Israeli soldiers’ orders to fire at every person in sight, as the whistleblower organization Breaking the Silence revealed. It was also consistent with the old unspoken Israeli objective of ethnically cleansing Palestine.

Israeli media has recently disclosed that the country has plans for a full-scale invasion which would cut Gaza in half and occupy part of it. So confident are they on their ability to “create a considerable change on the situation” that the army “is already considering alternatives to the Hamas government”. Earlier on Thursday, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan told Army Radio: “I don’t want to launch an operation, but there is a good chance that we will have no other option but to go in so that we can create durable deterrence.” This was said in reference to the burning kites that Gazan demonstrators fly across the border, pointing out that those responsible should be shot, “age doesn’t matter, they’re terrorists and the danger they create must be prevented.” Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, also a member of the security cabinet, argued that “there is no difference between a burning kite and a Qassam rocket, and we should not tolerate the kites.” He has a point in that Qassam rockets are about as effective as the kites – both being largely symbolic gestures of defiance than credible weapons of war.

Mindless Genocide in Gaza?

Apart from the World Cup distraction, pro-Palestinian activist Robert Inlakesh thinks the following are also reasons for a possible Israeli offensive on Gaza in the near future:

  • Sara Netanyahu, Bibi’s wife, has been charged with fraud. She used public funds to pay for restaurant meals to the tune of 359,000 shekels ($100,000). This is on top of other more serious corruption charges faced by the Netahyahus. A ‘Wag the Dog‘-style PR operation is in order.
  • In April, the Knesset granted Netanyahu the power to declare war in extreme circumstances, requiring only the approval of Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman.- Although the Security Cabinet annulled the law within a month, the government plans to “promote anew” the original draft.
  • Israel privatized their weapons manufacturing.- Private company Elbit Systems acquired state-owned Israeli Military Industries for $522 million. Inlakesh speculates that this will eventually have an effect on the price of weapons and that Gaza may be used to ‘test’ them in order to sell them in global markets before the price spike.

Inlakesh also points out that the Israeli population will not tolerate anything less than a decisive blow on Hamas, but since Hamas operates through a network of underground tunnels, the only way to do so would be to blow up the civilian infrastructure above them, implying thousands of civilian casualties, and a massive ground invasion. This is an important point because a limited offensive could end up hurting Netanyahu’s popularity in Israel, while a commitment to the destruction of Hamas would be both extremely difficult to achieve and subject to widespread condemnation across the globe. The world is rightly upset with around 130 deaths in the context of the March of Return demonstrations near the border of Gaza. Would the Israeli government be prepared for the backlash that will come when they kill again, but this time in the thousands or tens of thousands?

The long-term goal of Zionism is to assimilate the whole of Palestine into Israel and expel (or kill) its Arab population. This is made clear when one studies the history of Israel – its foundation was only made possible by ethnic cleansing. A brief look at the change of Palestine into Israel confirms this:

Palestine loss of land

While the West Bank land-grab strategy has been largely based on illegal settlements to create ‘facts on the ground’, Israel has taken a different approach in Gaza. In 2005 it dismantled its settlements in the Strip, but rather than this resulting in genuine peace, Israel turned Gaza into an open-air prison, controlling its borders, including its access to the sea. Furthermore, without Jewish settlers in the area, Israel has been free to use the full force of its military periodically, only limited by international public opinion.

Non-viable Strategy in Syria

Despite the US State Department warning Syria of “firm and appropriate measures” if it moved to reclaim its southern province of Daraa from terrorist groups (which sits right next to the Golan Heights that Israel illegally occupies since 1967) and the repeated Israeli threats against Syria, the war-hardened Syrian Army is already making gains in the region. Around 400 km2 have been liberated in less than a week with Russian air support. Even Free Syrian Army units have switched sides and are fighting with the Syrian Army against Jabhat al-Nusra, aka Al-Qaeda in Syria. It seems that the US and Israel no longer command the respect they used to. In fact, the FSA’s sudden realization that they had been fighting for the wrong side all this time appears to have been motivated by a message from Washington, seen by Reuters, which made clear that “you should not base your decisions on the assumption or expectation of a military intervention by us”.

So far, Israel’s strategy against Syria has consisted of providing support to jihadist groups in the south of the country, and regularly harassing the country with missile strikes and shelling. The United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) has documented Israeli soldiers interacting with terrorists in the Golan Heights, as well as “the transportation of hundreds of injured militants to Israeli hospitals following confrontations between the militants and the Syrian army near the occupied Golan border.” According to local witnesses, the ‘militants’ include members of Al-Nusra/Al-Qaeda.

Israel Syria Golan IDF Nusra

A photo from the Israeli-Syrian border along the Golan Heights shows IDF soldiers conversing with al-Qaeda affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra fighters.

As for the bombing harassment, the latest Israeli attack was a double missile strike on Damascus airport. Some reports indicate that the target was an Iranian cargo plane, while others speak of a military installation. It is also not clear if the missiles were intercepted by Syrian air defenses. A few days earlier, Syrian state media outlet SANA informed that US-led coalition aircraft attacked Syrian military positions in Al Bukamal, Deir Ezzor. However, the US denied involvement and an American official went as far as to claim that Israel was behind the bombing. The aggressions intensified briefly in May with an exchange of missiles on the Golan Heights after Israel hit the Damascus suburbs and Baath City, but for the most part Israel has pursued hit-and-run tactics in Syria for years.

None of these actions have managed to stop the Syrian Army’s victory, so one wonders why Israel continues with a strategy that has proven unsuccessful so far. The answer is that there is nothing Israel – nor the US – can realistically do to topple Assad as long as Russia is watching his back, so periodic missile attacks is as much trouble as they can hope to cause. Still, with the Syrian Army closing in on the Golan Heights, we can expect Israel to increase its support for the remaining terrorists in the area, possibly in the form of more shelling and bombing (not to mention military and medical aid). As this happens simultaneously with Israel’s threats of a ground invasion of Gaza, is Israel ready to fight on two fronts simultaneously? Perhaps even three if Hezbollah reacts from Lebanon once things escalate? As always, another look at the map of Israel – a tiny nation – shows why it is not in its best interest to trigger a major war.

Clumsy US Political Defense of Israel

While almost all US administrations have been subservient to Israeli interests – largely due to the influence of the infamous Israel lobby – the Trump administration has been particularly outspoken and active in favour of the Zionist agenda. Trump withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal and moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as well as Nikki Haley’s obscene twisting of reality to protect Israel from criticism in the United Nations, are examples of efforts to keep the likes of Sheldon Adelson in Washington and Israel happy. Adelson is a Zionist billionaire casino tycoon who donated $82 million to Trump’s and other Republican campaigns during the 2016 elections. He is allegedly a member of a “shadow National Security Council” advising the hawkish neocon John Bolton, himself the national security adviser. Adelson also owns the largest newspaper in Israel, which shows unconditional support for Netanyahu, and he is committed to the “Greater Israel” political agenda. When he was once confronted with the idea that Palestinians living in annexed land would not have the same rights as Jewish Israelis, Adelson simply replied: “Israel isn’t going to be a democratic state. So what?”

Sheldon Adelson

© Sebastian Scheiner/AP
Sheldon Adelson attends the opening ceremony of the new US embassy in Jerusalem in May.

One problem with trying to please ideologically possessed people like Adelson is that their agenda is so contrary to what people recognize as fair and normal that vigorous attempts to defend it backfire spectacularly. For example, by quitting the UN Human Rights Council, citing an “anti-Israel bias”, the US, rather than winning hearts and minds for Israel, has simply isolated itself – further eroding American global leadership and not helping Israel’s cause in any way. Nikki Haley, Mike Pompeo and Benjamin Netanyahu – who spearheaded and celebrated the US exit – are stuck in the ‘indispensable nation’ mindset that was valid a couple of decades ago, and do not understand that the UN will carry on with its condemnation of Israel with or without US participation.

Israel’s Unlikely Plan

This is ultimately why Israel’s expansionist ambitions will fail. For Israel to be able to continue its slow-motion ethnic-cleansing program in the West Bank and Gaza, and for it to become the indisputable hegemon in the region – and perhaps even steal more territory from its neighbours – it needs the global superpower on its side. The US is still firmly on Israel’s side – the problem is that its political, military and economic influence is rapidly declining – faster than Israel can achieve its objectives.

Consider Gaza. Israel can and does make life a living hell for its population, and every few years it scales up the murder rate to the thousands rather than the dozens. Yet the total population of Gaza in 2018 is almost 2 million. By the year 2032 it 3.1 million people will live there, at current growth rates. How many Israeli offensives will be needed and how long will they take before Israel can ‘cleanse’ the land and claim it as part of the ‘Jewish state’?

Lets think of Syria. Israel helped terrorist groups in the hope that Assad would be replaced by a US and Israeli vassal, or by an extreme Islamic group that Israel could later bomb at will and ‘legitimately’ in order to ‘liberate’ a neighbouring country that was a threat to Israel itself. Instead, the Assad government and its Army have come out of their 7 year long ordeal stronger than ever and are forming an alliance with Iran, Iraq and Hezbollah – the so-called Shiia Crescent that Israel and Saudi Arabia fear the most. In theory, the US and its NATO allies could have finished the job of ‘regime change’ in Syria if the jihadi head-choppers could not. But in practice this was impossible because this would risk a direct confrontation with Russia. The ‘FUKUS’ largely ineffective bombing on Syrian alleged ‘chemical sites’ in April highlighted this fact. Under these circumstances, Syria eventually regaining control of the strategically valuable Golan Heights, whether by political or military means, is not unthinkable.

Israel appears to have passed the point where it could have come to its senses and negotiated a fair peace agreement with the Palestinians. To paraphrase Shakespere’s Macbeth (and much like its America protector), ‘it is in blood so far steeped, that to go back would be as tedious as to go on’. So Israel will double down on its delusional belief that it can find a ‘final solution’ to its Palestinian problem, all the while believing that the world will never turn its back on poor Israel in its existential fight against those who would destroy it and the Jewish people. Given the easily-provoked emotionality of the average human being and the rapidly changing global geostrategic chessboard, that’s a bet that only a fool would make.

Andrés Perezalonso (Profile)

Andrés Perezalonso has been a contributing editor for Signs of the Times in both its English and Spanish versions since 2007. He holds a PhD in Politics, an MA in International Studies, a first degree in Communication, and has a professional background in Media Analysis. He thinks that understanding world events is not unlike detective work – paying attention to often ignored details and connections, and thinking outside of the box. He was born and raised in Mexico and currently resides in Europe.

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