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To Times of Israel Writer, Apartheid is OK, Sympathy for Palestinians “Loathsome”

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 27/05/2022 - 3:20am in

JERUSALEM – Zionists like to admonish Palestinians by saying that they never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. But, according to Zionist talking points, Palestinians missed several opportunities when Israel was willing to graciously “give” them pieces of their own land. Moreover, it is alleged that Palestinians have missed so many of these great opportunities that they have no one to blame but themselves for their misfortunes.

 

Blaming the victims

A piece by Richard Cravatts published in the Times of Israel, and later republished in other publications, is a particularly asinine example of this admonition. In his piece, “An Open Letter to Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib and Your Fellow Travelers,” Cravatts writes: “Millions of Palestinian refugees [have been] created by your people’s repeated rejection of offers of statehood – in 1937, 1947, 1967, 2000, and other occasions….”

Blaming the Palestinians for the ongoing tragedy of the refugees is not only callous but as outrageous as blaming the victims of the Holocaust for the horrors of the Nazis. I can testify that I have heard more than one Zionist claim that the Jews whom the Nazis killed had it coming because they did not heed the call of the Zionists. Had the Jews of Europe come to Palestine to steal and live on other people’s land, the Nazis would have spared them, a theme found throughout Yoav Shamir’s 2009 documentary, “Defamation.”

The claim that Palestinians are prone to missing opportunities is one of the most common Zionist lines, and they still use it because it works – because unfortunately there exists such a lack of knowledge regarding the history of Palestine that Zionists can loudly proclaim that “The Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity!” and go unchallenged. Another iteration of this claim is, “If only the Palestinians had the foresight to accept Zionist offers, or at least offers that the Zionists were agreeable to, things would have been so much better for them.” “Them” being the Palestinians.

Anyone familiar with the Zionist talking points has heard the claim that the Palestinians “missed opportunities” so they have no one to blame for their lot but themselves. In a recent lecture I gave in southern California, a Palestinian student asked me how to reply to this argument. His question was specifically about the Zionist accusation that Palestinians rejected the Two-State Solution.

 

An outright lie

We will set aside the fact that this is an outright lie for a moment. We will not get into this issue in-depth, only to say that in fact, since the 1970s, the Palestine Liberation Organization (the PLO) has been the only party striving to achieve a Two-State Solution and that their willingness to make this enormous sacrifice cost them a great deal and made things worse for Palestinians the world over.

This argument typically comes from Zionists who live in the United States or the U.K. and who think it is OK that Israel has taken all of Palestine. They never admonish Israel for annexing the Syrian Golan Heights or East Jerusalem. They have no issue with Israel’s building entire cities on Palestinian land. This accusation comes from Zionists who believe Israel has a right to colonize all of historic Palestine.

Israel has a right to do this because, so they tell us, Jewish people around the world may (or may not) be related to a tribe that resided in Palestine some two or three thousand years ago. They tell us that this tribe, called the Hebrews, which may or may not have any historical connection to modern-day Israel and the Jewish people, is the reason it is OK for the modern State of Israel to commit unspeakable crimes against an entire nation.

 

Legitimizing the oppressor

What is implied in the admonitions by Zionists is that Zionism and the colonization of Palestine by Zionist Jews are legitimate and that the Palestinians refuse to accept this legitimacy. However, these admonitions present us with opportunities to raise a larger question. The question that ought to be asked is: Why in the world would Palestinians accept any offer by their colonizers? Why would any colonized nation accept anything but the total defeat of their colonizers and oppressors, especially considering that these “offers” fail to include the liberation of all of historic Palestine?

The answer is that there is no reason. The attempts at partitioning and slicing Palestine have all been part of a strategy meant to legitimize the violent Zionist takeover of Palestine and delegitimize the Palestinian rejection of it.

The aforementioned senseless, mindless Zionist propaganda piece starts by addressing Rep. Tlaib as follows:

On May 16th, you and some other members of The Squad, including Representatives Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, McCollum, and others, introduced a loathsome resolution, H. RES. 1123, which had as its purpose “Recognizing the Nakba and Palestinian refugees’ rights” and to “commemorate the Nakba,” the catastrophe you assign to Israel’s creation, “through official recognition and remembrance.” According to your baleful resolution, the Nakba not only took place at Israel’s founding “but [refers] to an ongoing process of Israel’s expropriation of Palestinian land and its dispossession of the Palestinian people that continues to this day.”

In this typical Zionist propaganda piece, Cravatts calls the proposed legislation to recognize the Nakba “loathsome.” Amnesty International recently published a report accusing Israel of committing the crime of apartheid — a crime so heinous it is designated as a “crime against humanity.” Interestingly, the writer does not find those who commit the crime of apartheid loathsome, only the legislation recognizing the victims of the crime.

What is loathsome, however, is that the United States is complicit in the crimes against the Palestinians. It is loathsome to live in the United States and to justify, explain and provide cover – thin as it may be – for the brutal regime that has been tearing Palestine apart for over seven decades. And it is loathsome to stand by and applaud as the state of Israel continues to brutalize an entire nation while the world, and Israeli society, look the other away.

Feature photo | Palestinians mourn during the funeral of Amjad al-Fayyed, 17, killed by Israeli troops in the West Bank refugee camp of Jenin, May 21, 2022. Majdi Mohammed | AP

Miko Peled is MintPress News contributing writer, published author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. His latest books are”The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”

The post To Times of Israel Writer, Apartheid is OK, Sympathy for Palestinians “Loathsome” appeared first on MintPress News.

Long Marginalized, the Right of Return is Once Again a Palestinian Priority

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 26/05/2022 - 6:23am in

The Nakba is back on the Palestinian agenda.

For nearly three decades, Palestinians were told that the Nakba – or Catastrophe – is a thing of the past. That real peace requires compromises and sacrifices, therefore, the original sin that has led to the destruction of their historic homeland should be entirely removed from any ‘pragmatic’ political discourse. They were urged to move on.

The consequences of that shift in narrative were dire. Disowning the Nakba, the single most important event that shaped modern Palestinian history, has resulted in more than political division between the so-called radicals and the supposedly peace-loving pragmatists, the likes of Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority. It also divided Palestinian communities in Palestine and across the world around political, ideological and class lines.

Following the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, it became clear that the Palestinian struggle for freedom was being entirely redefined and reframed. It was no longer a Palestinian fight against Zionism and Israeli settler colonialism that goes back to the start of the 20th century, but a ‘conflict’ between two equal parties, with equally legitimate territorial claims that can only be resolved through ‘painful concessions’.

The first of such concessions was relegating the core issue of the ‘Right of Return’ for Palestinian refugees who were driven out of their villages and cities in 1947-48. That Palestinian Nakba paved the way for Israel’s ‘independence’, which was declared atop the rubble and smoke of nearly 500 destroyed and burnt Palestinian villages and towns.

At the start of the ‘peace process’, Israel was asked to honor the Right of Return for Palestinians, although symbolically. Israel refused. Palestinians were then pushed to relegate that fundamental issue to a ‘final status negotiations’, which never took place. This meant that millions of Palestinian refugees – many of whom are still living in refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, as well as the occupied Palestinian territories – were dropped from the political conversation altogether.

If it were not for the continued social and cultural activities of the refugees themselves, insisting on their rights and teaching their children to do the same, such terms as the Nakba and Right of Return would have been completely dropped out of the Palestinian political lexicon.

Palestinian refugee

A family warms themselves by a fire during cold weather in a slum on the outskirts of a Gaza refugee camp, Jan. 19, 2022. Khalil Hamra | AP

While some Palestinians rejected the marginalization of the refugees, insisting that the subject is a political not merely a humanitarian one, others were willing to move on as if this right was of no consequence. Various Palestinian officials affiliated with the now-defunct ‘peace process’ have made it clear that the Right of Return was no longer a Palestinian priority. But none came even close to the way that PA President Abbas, himself, framed the Palestinian position in a 2012 interview with Israeli Channel 2.

“Palestine now for me is the ’67 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. This is now and forever … This is Palestine for me. I am [a] refugee, but I am living in Ramallah,” he said.

Abbas had it completely wrong, of course. Whether he wished to exercise his right of return or not, that right, according to United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194, is simply “inalienable”, meaning that neither Israel nor the Palestinians themselves, can deny or forfeit it.

Let alone the lack of intellectual integrity of separating the tragic reality of the present from its main root cause, Abbas lacked political wisdom as well. With his ‘peace process’ floundering, and with the lack of any tangible political solution, he simply decided to abandon millions of refugees, denying them the very hope of having their homes, land or dignity restored.

Since then, Israel, along with the United States, has fought Palestinians on two different fronts: one, by denying them any political horizon and, the other, by attempting to dismantle their historically enshrined rights, mainly their Right of Return. Washington’s war on the Palestinian refugees’ agency, UNRWA, falls under the latter category as the aim was – and remains – the destruction of the very legal and humanitarian infrastructures that allow Palestinian refugees to see themselves as a collective of people seeking repatriation, reparations and justice.

Yet, all such efforts continue to fail. Far more important than Abbas’ personal concessions to Israel, UNRWA’s ever-shrinking budget or the failure of the international community to restore Palestinian rights, is the fact that the Palestinian people are, once again, unifying around the Nakba anniversary, thus insisting on the Right of Return for the seven million refugees in Palestine and the shattat – Diaspora.

Ironically, it was Israel that has unwittingly re-unified Palestinians around the Nakba. By refusing to concede an inch of Palestine, let alone allow Palestinians to claim any victory, a State of their own – demilitarized or otherwise – or allow a single refugee to go home, Palestinians were forced to abandon Oslo and its numerous illusions. The once-popular argument that the Right of Return was simply ‘impractical’ no longer matters, neither to ordinary Palestinians nor to their intellectual or political elites.

In political logic, for something to be impossible, an alternative would have to be attainable. However, with Palestinian reality worsening under the deepening system of Israeli settler colonialism and apartheid, Palestinians now understand that they have no possible alternative but their unity, their resistance and the return to the fundamentals of their struggle. The Unity Intifada of last May was a culmination of this new realization. Moreover, the Nakba anniversary commemoration rallies and events throughout historic Palestine and the world on May 15 have further helped crystallize the new discourse that the Nakba is no longer symbolic and the Right of Return is the collective, core demand of most Palestinians.

Israel is now an apartheid state in the real meaning of the word. Israeli apartheid, like any such system of racial separation, aims at protecting the gains of nearly 74 years of unhinged colonialism, land theft and military dominance. Palestinians, whether in Haifa, Gaza or Jerusalem, now fully understand this, and are increasingly fighting back as one nation.

And since the Nakba and the subsequent ethnic cleansing of Palestinian refugees are the common denominators behind all Palestinian suffering, the term and its underpinnings are back at the center stage of any meaningful conversation on Palestine, as should have always been the case.

Feature photo | An elderly Palestinian man sits outside his home in the Jabaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza, June 20, 2020, on World Refugee Day. Khalil Hamra | AP

Dr. Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of six books. His latest book, co-edited with Ilan Pappé, is “Our Vision for Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders and Intellectuals Speak out”. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net

The post Long Marginalized, the Right of Return is Once Again a Palestinian Priority appeared first on MintPress News.

Shireen Abu Akleh and Israel’s War on Journalism, with Lina Abu Akleh

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 25/05/2022 - 1:23am in

 
The MintPress podcast “The Watchdog,” hosted by British-Iraqi hip hop artist Lowkey, closely examines organizations about which it is in the public interest to know – including intelligence, lobby, and special interest groups influencing policies that infringe on free speech and target dissent. The Watchdog goes against the grain by casting a light on stories largely ignored by the mainstream, corporate media.

The cold-blooded killing of Shireen Abu Akleh earlier this month has made headlines around the world. An Israeli sniper shot the veteran Al Jazeera journalist in the head while she was reporting on their raid on a refugee camp in the West Bank city of Jenin.

Shireen’s niece Lina Abu Akleh first heard of the news from her father, who phoned her early in the morning to tell her Shireen was injured. Today, Watchdog host Lowkey speaks to Lina about her aunt’s work, legacy, and the ongoing war against the press.

“I never expected that she was in a critical condition, let alone have to hear from her colleague that ‘your aunt is a martyr now.’ Those five minutes were the most difficult of my entire life. I don’t think it will get worse than that,” she told Lowkey, recounting her ordeal. “But the support from everyone has been very comforting. The love and respect that everyone has shown her and us is something we will forever be thankful for.” A native of Jerusalem, Lina previously worked for the Palestinian Counselling Center and as a research assistant at the University of San Francisco.

Having reported on the Israeli occupation for two decades, Shireen was one of the most recognizable faces in the region. Her colleagues at Al Jazeera described her as a “trailblazer who gave voice to Palestinians,” and someone who became a “household name across the Arab world for her bold coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Lina enjoyed a very close relationship with her aunt, seeing her as a role model, her best friend and a second mother. “She always found the bright side of life, despite its tragedies,” she told Lowkey, revealing that the fame never got to her head. “She was very humble,” she added.

“My heart aches beyond words,” Lina wrote on the day of the murder, adding, “I will make sure that your legacy lives on. You are an icon, my hero, my Angel. Rest in power.”

Abu Akleh’s funeral became a national event attended by thousands. Israeli forces, who had raided her home hours after they shot her, stormed the funeral, beating mourners and pallbearers alike. This attack was whitewashed as a mere “clash” in much of the Western press – a fact that caused a storm of public outrage and considerable pushback. Thus in her life Abu Akleh exposed the reality of the Israeli occupation, and in her death she exposed the media’s complicity in Apartheid.

Lowkey was keen to note that Abu Akleh’s killing was far from a one-off event. “The crime that was carried out against Shireen is an extension of the wider war against journalism, which Israel pursues in many different ways,” he said, adding:

The same way that Shireen was killed (despite the fact that she was clearly identified as a journalist) is not dissimilar to the way that Yasser Murtaja was killed when Palestinians in Gaza were attempting to fulfill their right of return under UN resolution 194. Yasser was wearing the word “Press” across his chest when he was shot by an Israeli sniper.”

Lowkey also noted that Israel has killed 55 journalists since 2000 and injured at least 144 since 2018 alone. Between 10 and 15 Palestinian journalists are in Israeli jails or prisons at this moment. Thus, “This war against confrontational journalism has been long-running,” he said.

Lowkey is a British-Iraqi hip-hop artist, academic and political campaigner. As a musician, he has collaborated with the Arctic Monkeys, Wretch 32, Immortal Technique and Akala. He is a patron of Stop The War Coalition, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Racial Justice Network and The Peace and Justice Project, founded by Jeremy Corbyn. He has spoken and performed on platforms from the Oxford Union to the Royal Albert Hall and Glastonbury. His latest album, Soundtrack To The Struggle 2, featured Noam Chomsky and Frankie Boyle and has been streamed millions of times.

The post Shireen Abu Akleh and Israel’s War on Journalism, with Lina Abu Akleh appeared first on MintPress News.

The Assassination of Shireen Abu Akleh: Who Gave the Order?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 24/05/2022 - 3:30am in

JENIN, OCCUPIED PALESTINE – Israel’s announcement that it will not pursue an investigation into the killing of famed Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was not surprising. The specific reasons it gave to justify the decision make little difference. However, one thing is certain: It is highly unlikely that the killing of a journalist like Shireen Abu Akleh was the decision of a lone soldier or a commander on the ground.

Abu Akleh was well known and well respected. She was clearly identifiable as a non-combatant and a journalist who posed no threat to Israeli forces. She had been in similar situations before and knew how to take the necessary precautions, including wearing a helmet and a bulletproof vest. She had to be shot by a well-trained sniper, and their identity must be known to the Israeli authorities.

There had to have been an order or, at the minimum, approval given by the highest levels of the Israeli defense apparatus, as high as the minister of defense or even the prime minister, before the sniper could execute this assassination. Then, in a pretty transparent attempt to cover up the assassination, Israel pretended to want to conduct an investigation and demanded that the Palestinian Authority, which conducted the autopsy, hand over the bullet that killed Abu Akleh.

Quoting an Israeli military official, The Times of Israel reported that “[t]he Israeli military has identified a soldier’s rifle that may have killed Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.” However, it continues to claim that “it cannot be certain unless the Palestinians turn over the bullet for analysis.” The attempt to deceive is ever-so-obvious in this statement. Since it had to have been a sniper who aimed and then took the shot, there can be no doubt who pulled the trigger.

 

Palestinian militants?

The British paper The Guardian recently wrote, “Abu Aqleh [sic] was killed during an arrest raid by an Israeli commando unit on Palestinian militants.” Statements like this demonstrate the larger problem. The Israeli commando raids have no justification and are responsible for countless deaths of Palestinian civilians. Framing Palestinian fighters – defenders of their camp, their city and their people – as “militants,” and the Israeli invaders as “commandos,” immediately places the blame on the Palestinians and justifies the Israeli attack, thus justifying every Israeli raid.

Palestinian youth aim weapons

Palestinian youth aim weapons at occupying Israeli troops in Jenin, May 13, 2022. Majdi Mohammed | AP

This framing, typical in the media, allows the constant, never-ending killing of young Palestinians by Israel to go on uninterrupted. It begs the question: How many Palestinians need to die before the reporting is honest and Israel is forced to stop the killing?

Every so often, an event causes people to lift their heads and acknowledge that Israel went too far and that maybe something needs to be done. When Shireen Abu Akleh was murdered, there was a moment like that. When, a few days after the killing, her funeral procession was brutally attacked by Israeli forces, that was another such moment. But these moments are few and far between.

And these moments, even when they do come, do not last very long and yield no real results. Sometimes a letter is sent by a member of U.S. Congress; sometimes a few statements are made demanding an investigation into what took place. Then people move on and forget, and the flow of Palestinian blood – mostly young, promising men – continues unabated.

The roll of names of young Palestinians killed by Israel is too long to list; and, besides, by the time you try to write it down, more are added. The ages vary, but many are under 21. The images of weeping parents and siblings – sometimes a wife and a child, if they were old enough to marry – continue to flow as though this were some unavoidable, unpreventable curse.

In an open and frank interview I recently conducted with veteran Israeli journalist Gideon Levy, he speaks of his frustration with the Israeli media and the Israeli audiences that consume it. “The media doesn’t want to report, and the consumers don’t want to know,” Levy passionately exclaimed.

 

Toeing the line

When the Israeli press report on a killing, they never fail to toe the government line, so the Palestinian is always a terrorist or part of a violent riot. He or they, as the case may be, had to be dealt with, and the courageous Israeli fighters did so. From time to time, to demonstrate just how professional the Israeli forces are, they are shown in action. Images are shown of these forces entering a refugee camp, which, as of late, they have often been doing, particularly in the northern part of the West Bank.

Israel brings in several battalions of commando units, Shabak secret-police units, or anti-terrorist forces, all heavily armed and wearing the best communication and protection equipment in the world, and equipped with unlimited amounts of ammunition. Israeli forces also have the best-trained medics, the finest first-aid capabilities, and helicopters ready to evacuate an injured soldier speedily. Once evacuated, an injured Israeli soldier receives the finest medical care in modern, well-equipped facilities.

Israeli raid

Israeli forces raid a home in Jenin, May 13, 2022, the day of Abu Akleh’s funeral. Majdi Mohammed | AP

All of this to face a few young Palestinians armed with little more than M-16s. The Palestinians have no helmets, no bulletproof vests, possess limited amounts of ammunition, and risk a very high possibility of getting injured or killed. A Palestinian wounded in battle does not have access to the same level of emergency medical care as the Israeli forces. Not even remotely. Palestinian ambulances, if they can even make it to the scene, are poorly equipped, and medical facilities are far and are rarely equipped well enough to deal with severe injuries.

 

Life goes on

On the Israeli side, life goes on as though nothing significant happened. Watching the news makes Israeli society numb. Clashes, Palestinians killed, the coalition government facing yet another crisis, Netanyahu may or may not be close to returning to the prime minister’s chair; who knows. From time to time, an Israeli settler or an officer is killed, their name is mentioned in the news, and people cry for a few days and forget. Settlements are being built – so many thousands in the Naqab, thousands more in east Jerusalem – and people of Msafer Yota in the South Hebron Hills are being forced off of their lands, but this is all normal, nothing to worry about. Israelis travel overseas for vacation and go out to cafes and restaurants — new ones open daily. One has to try them all.

Feature photo | Mourners carry the casket of slain Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh during her funeral in Jerusalem’s Old City, May 13, 2022. Mahmoud Illean | AP

Miko Peled is MintPress News contributing writer, published author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. His latest books are”The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”

The post The Assassination of Shireen Abu Akleh: Who Gave the Order? appeared first on MintPress News.

Anointing the Dead

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 23/05/2022 - 11:28pm in

Is there room for handbags in an obituary?

New documentary trailer: Gaza Fights Back

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 19/05/2022 - 2:21am in

 

Filmed during the attack and in the days following the ceasefire, the documentary tells the story of how Gaza’s armed resistance groups outwitted the vastly superior Israeli military and established their ability to intervene against Israeli ethnic cleansing of neighborhoods like Sheikh Jarrah and provocations at the al-Aqsa compound in occupied East Jerusalem.

“The Palestinian military capabilities are not highly sophisticated and destructive, but it becomes so effective when it’s used by Palestinian smart youths who believe in their rights and freedom,” a masked al-Qassam commander says.

The documentary features intimate interviews with survivors, many of whom lost family members in the Israeli bombardment.

Among them is Omar Abu al-Ouf, who lost 22 family members in the bombing of his family’s house in al-Remal, Gaza’s main thoroughfare.

“The first missile came down on us in the street with no prior warning or call,” he recounted.

Among those killed was Omar’s father, Dr. Ayman Abu al-Ouf, one of the most senior physicians in all of Gaza.

Others, like 11-year-old Amal Ramzi Muhammed Nasir, fled amid the bombardment to take shelter in United Nations-run schools.

“We were trying to sleep. At exactly 1 a.m., there were sounds of explosions and airstrikes nearby. The house was shaking due to the intensity of the explosions.”

Gaza 2021

Men carry a child killed when Israeli airstrikes targeted an apartment complex in Gaza on May 16, 2021. Photo | AP

Having escaped to a school, Nasir and her family returned after the ceasefire to find their homes in ruin.

“We arrived and saw that our neighborhood that housed us our entire lives, our shelter, completely leveled to the ground,” she recalled. “Every single house was damaged and bombed.”

Jawad Mahdi, owner of the al-Jalaa tower, described Israel destroying the place he and his family lived for 25 years:

The building collapsed, and it took 25 years’ worth of memories, a place we lived in for 25 years, with my children, grandchildren, neighbors, and friends. Imagine building a house brick by brick, piece by piece, living in your home with your knowledge and dreams. Suddenly, you find yourself out of this house. An indescribable tragedy – being kicked out of your own home in an instant, a matter of seconds, even a minute, under nonexistent, illogical, and unethical reasons.”

As for future confrontations with the Israeli military, the al-Qassam commander sees them as inevitable as long as the occupation remains: “The Israeli occupation experienced our military capabilities in the last aggression on the Gaza Strip and the whole world saw it. And we still have more important capabilities in the shadow.”

He believes that armed resistance presents a viable path to liberation:

The lessons learned from the last aggression on the Gaza Strip is that Israel is an occupation state that could be defeated. It’s not a firm state that has been depicted by the Israeli Zionist propaganda machine. Palestinians can get their liberation and retrieve their rights and freedom.”

Feature photo  | A Palestinian child sits atop the rubble of homes destroyed by Israeli airstrikes in the town of Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, May 21, 2021. Khalil Hamra | AP

Dan Cohen is the Washington DC correspondent for Behind The Headlines. He has produced widely distributed video reports and print dispatches from across Israel-Palestine. He tweets at @DanCohen3000.

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Censoring Palestine: Swarms of Israeli Bots Are Crippling Pro-Palestinian Twitter Accounts

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 18/05/2022 - 5:48am in

OCCUPIED EAST JERUSALEM — On April 29, Inès Abdel Razek woke up to 80 new Twitter followers.

“These accounts were following the exact same people that were tweeting about Palestine, but from France or Francophone accounts that work on Palestine,” Razek said of her new followers.

The advocacy director of Rābet, the Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy’s digital platform, became wary of the issue after Abier Khateb, a grants manager at Open Society Foundations, reported mass followings as well.

Razek told MintPress News that she began individually reporting each account as fake but kept her own account open — lest she let the alleged bots win. But after a few days, Razek made her profile private. At the peak of the mass following, Razek had accumulated 400 fake followers.

From the end of April through the first few weeks of May, more than 40 pro-Palestine Twitter accounts reported mass followings. Digital-rights experts say acquiring huge amounts of fake followers triggers Twitter’s algorithm and can lead to the tech giant suspending an account, effectively censoring users by forcing them to make their accounts private.

These accounts included those belonging to human rights and activist organizations Adalah, Combatants for Peace, Breaking the Silence, and Al Mezan Center for Human Rights. They also included news publications and journalists, like The Palestine Chronicle, Ali Abunimah and Hind Al-Eryani; and politicians, such as Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian ambassador to the United Kingdom. Twitter did not respond to MintPress inquiries on the source of the suspicious accounts.

Dr. Marc Owen Jones, an assistant professor at Hamad bin Khalifa University, conducted an analysis that found more than 1,150 fake accounts. Twitter deleted approximately 1,090 of these accounts, according to Jones. His analysis determined that the average account-creation time was one to three per minute, suggesting these accounts were created using an automated process.

The profiles were in various languages, including French, Spanish, English and German, but usually had Arabic bios. They often had strange names — like Noble Betty Thomas — and zero followers.

“They had clearly made-up names,” Sarah Leah Whitson, who also experienced a large influx of new followers, told MintPress. “The vast majority of them had Israeli names and Israeli addresses. Some of them had made-up Arab names, which were mangled. It’s clear that they’re [using] stolen images of people.”

In response to the bulk followings, software developer Daniel Easterman created a free script to automatically report and block hundreds of these bots for users.

Easterman said the spamming problem has a censorship effect by forcing users to make their accounts private. “This means they won’t be able to distribute their messages widely as they would normally,” Easterman told MintPress News.

Another area of particular concern is how a flood of fake followers may cause Twitter to shut down an account. “When you see such a dramatic increase in followers, it’s usually somebody manipulating the system for commercial gain,” Easterman said. “So that could trigger Twitter to automatically flag that as suspicious activity and suspend the activist’s account.”

Using Twitter to target human rights defenders and journalists isn’t unusual. In 2017, journalist Iona Craig and others who report on Yemen were spammed with thousands of fake followers. Many speculated the culprits were state entities belonging to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The reason behind this particular mass following campaign remains unknown. Jones hypothesized it’s acting as a form of social media suppression, writing on Twitter:

Some suggest it’s a means to degrade the algorithmic quality of a Twitter account so that it possibly gets suspended; some suggest it’s others trying to boost popularity of an account. When it’s unsolicited, as in this case, I tend to think it’s more of a targeting operation. I am naturally cynical, but most people who get a sudden influx of fake followers feel unnerved and uncomfortable. If that fact is widely known, it functions as a tool of surveillance and potentially intimidation (e.g., you are being watched). It also makes many people mute their accounts for a bit which has a censorship effect.”

Razek, Whitson, and others told MintPress that the flood of fake followers appears to be diminishing for them. However, a new operation has emerged.

In the past week, Jones found around 2,800 fake accounts following pro-Palestinian and anti-Zionist accounts who have recently been tweeting on the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu-Akleh.

“This network is likely the same as the one found at [the] end of April, although now it is active,” Jones wrote on Twitter.

The accounts have between 0 to 20 followers, with the majority of bios written in English and simply stating the account location, which is Israel. Most accounts don’t have a banner picture and the profile pictures have purportedly been swiped from real people.

According to Jones, the accounts have begun liking and retweeting posts, without any real partisan regularity: they like both pro- and anti-Palestinian subject matter and follow both pro-Zionist and pro-Palestinian accounts but appear to target the pro-Palestinian side more. Accounts targeted include The Jerusalem Post; the government of Israel’s official state account; activist organization Jewish Voice for Peace; the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement; Israeli journalist Ilan Pappe; and former Palestinian Liberation Organization executive committee member Dr. Hanan Ashrawi.

Again, the reason for the bulk followers remains unclear. “Those who get followed understandably find it intimidating, as if a form of surveillance or a technique to try and degrade [the] quality of an account with low-quality follows,” Jones wrote on Twitter. “The fact remains, these are clearly fake accounts and ruin the experience of Twitter.”

 

censorship of Palestine, an ongoing problem

Palestinian digital-rights experts have long decried the increasing censorship of Palestinian content online. During Israel’s assault on Gaza and the upticks in Israeli attacks at Al-Aqsa Compound and in Sheikh Jarrah in May 2021, Palestinian activists reported social media companies were removing their content on Israeli violence and ethnic cleansing for violating community guidelines.

The social media censorship didn’t stop when tensions died down over the summer, though. Last month, social media users in Jordan said their posts related to Israeli violence at Al-Aqsa were taken down and their accounts blocked. Additionally, accounts belonging to Palestinian news publications covering the violence in occupied East Jerusalem and at Al-Aqsa were deactivated by Facebook.

In their recent monthly report on social media violations, Palestinian NGO Sada Social stated the deletion of Palestinian content “is in line with and in response to Israeli requests to tighten the screws on Palestinians and their media.”

Palestinian-American model Bella Hadid also accused Instagram of shadow-banning (having content viewership limited) her pro-Palestinian content during Ramadan.

Razek suggested the swarm of fake followers on Twitter may be an extension of Instagram’s alleged shadow-banning. “The purpose is to pollute our algorithms and make our accounts less visible. So in the way that Instagram is shadow-banning some content, this could be a way that Twitter shadow-bans our content,” she said.

While the identities behind the fake followers haven’t been revealed, many have pointed to Israel. The Israeli government’s targeting of Palestinian digital content is well-documented. According to 7amleh – The Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media, the Israeli Ministry of Justice Cyber Unit sends content-removal requests aimed at Palestinian content to social media companies such as Facebook, Google, and YouTube. The Justice Ministry has boasted these corporations comply with 95% of their requests. And Israeli governmental organizations and NGOs also encourage their citizens to flag Palestinian content for removal.

 

Attacking free speech

Tech billionaire Elon Musk’s pending purchase of Twitter came with a promise of securing free speech on the digital platform. “Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated,” the self-declared free-speech advocate said in a statement about his Twitter deal.

While digital-rights experts like Jones are wary of Musk’s potential Twitter takeover, Whitson, who’s experienced targeted attacks, harassment, and censorship threats for decades for speaking out against Israeli abuses, views the buyout positively.  For the executive director of nonprofit Democracy for the Arab World (DAWN), the risk of corporate censorship is a bigger issue than online hate speech. Whitson said:

I’m hopeful that Elon Musk will be true to his word to protect and promote free speech and to end concerted efforts to target and cancel speech that we don’t like. Seeing how Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have launched systematic efforts to silence pro-Palestine activist voices, I’m very wary of corporate moderators deciding what speech is and isn’t acceptable.”

Whitson doesn’t agree the bots are a form of censorship, but she does see them as an assault on free speech. “It’s a form of targeted harassment and bullying,” she said. “It’s a targeted attack on people who are speaking freely, including journalists and human rights activists.”

Feature photo | MintPress News | AP

Jessica Buxbaum is a Jerusalem-based journalist for MintPress News covering Palestine, Israel, and Syria. Her work has been featured in Middle East Eye, The New Arab and Gulf News.

The post Censoring Palestine: Swarms of Israeli Bots Are Crippling Pro-Palestinian Twitter Accounts appeared first on MintPress News.

Will Shireen Abu Akleh’s Murder Mark a Turning Point in the Liberation of Palestine?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 15/05/2022 - 2:17am in

JERUSALEM – As I write these words, the world is trying to make sense of the brutal assassination of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was targeted by Israeli forces while covering yet another Israeli assault on Jenin. Furthermore, Israeli forces have now attacked the funeral procession leading Shireen to her final resting place. One wonders why is anyone surprised.

How often have we seen innocent lives taken? How often have we seen the Israeli military attack funeral processions? And yet, for reasons that perhaps cannot be explained, awe, sadness, and despair have descended upon the world with this particular killing. This particular targeted killing of a journalist – not the first and sadly, probably not the last – touched us all. And the response of the Zionist establishment in occupied Jerusalem, as well as in Washington, is cold and full of excuses.

Shireen Abu Akleh funeral

Israeli police attacks mourners carrying the casket of Shireen Abu Akleh during her funeral, May 13, 2022. Maya Levin | AP

On the same day the funeral procession of Shireen was taking place in Jerusalem, a memorial procession was taking place in the ancient city of Lyd. This procession was to commemorate the murder of Musa Hassuna.  It was a year ago in Lyd, as settler gangs were assaulting Palestinians in Lyd, that Musa Hassuna was murdered. This procession, besides being a memorial to the killing, was also a reminder that the Israeli authorities decided to close the case against the only suspects who were on the scene and who fired their weapons at the same place and the same time as Musa was killed. Sources in Lyd say that the Israeli minister of interior called the local DA to demand that they close the case on grounds of self-defense.

Of course, we are all well aware that Musa and Shireen, who were murdered one year apart, were not the only victims of Zionist violence. They are joined by countless others who, without cause or trial, were taken from their loved ones, from their people, and turned into martyrs for the cause. Sure enough, once again we are forced to look at reality in the face and accept that no one will save Palestine but us. No one else can free Palestine, no one can save Palestinians from the long, violent, heartless arm of the Zionist apartheid regime. Only a unity of purpose and an uncompromising pro-Palestinian, pro-justice, pro-liberation agenda can save Palestine and its people from bloodshed and destruction.

As it happens, I had just witnessed precisely such unity, albeit on a small scale. Anyone looking for an agenda on Palestine that is both progressive and unifying should have been in New York City in early May of 2022. Al-Awda New York held its “Rising to Return” conference at the People’s Forum in New York City on Mother’s Day weekend this year. The energy, the speakers, the volunteers, and even the vendors all provided an atmosphere of unity of purpose and unity of cause – the cause being the liberation of Palestine as well as the total rejection of Zionism and the Zionist apartheid state.

 

Signs of unity

Sitting side by side under posters displaying Che Guevara and T-shirts displaying the image of Thomas Sankara, as well as other fighters for justice, were Palestinians, American Jews, communists, secular and religious people, women wearing hijab, and ultra-orthodox rabbis. All were there to speak and listen but mostly to demonstrate support for the liberation of Palestine and the end to the apartheid regime in Palestine.

Shireen Abu Akleh

Mourners gather at the hospital where the body Shireen Abu Akleh was taken to her final resting place, May 13, 2022. Mahmoud Illean | AP

Contrary to the common misconception regarding the pro-Palestinian camp, a clear and uncompromising message regarding Palestine does have the capacity to unite people of different backgrounds, faiths, and even political affiliations. One is hard-pressed to think of any other issue on which all of these groups could find common ground. Yet Al-Awda New York – with its message of a free, decolonized Palestine – managed to do just that.

The misconception is that in order to present the Palestinian case, in order to achieve the goals of those of seek to free Palestine, we must go slow. “We must first crawl before we walk and run,” we are told. In other words, in order to achieve the liberation of Palestine, we must tread lightly so as not to upset anyone. This was never true and it is not true today.

 

Who is a Jew?

Too many people think that Jewish people who are orthodox and dress as ultra-orthodox are associated with settlers and right-wing Israeli politics. However, at the Al-Awda conference and in many, many other pro-Palestinian spaces we see ultra-orthodox Jewish people carrying Palestinian flags and calling for the “peaceful dismantlement of the Zionist state.” So the question that needs to be asked is which one of these groups – the racist, violent Settlers or the peace- and tolerance-promoting Jews – represents Judaism?

Revered rabbis from Jerusalem, London and New York have for decades demanded an end to the Zionist state and the liberation of Palestine and the Palestinian people. Young Yeshiva students in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Me’a Sha’arim, as well as in cities around the world, proudly carry the Palestinian flag as they march side by side with Palestinians.

So, clearly, the Zionist Jewish settlers may dress as orthodox Jews but in fact, they are violating the most sacred tenets of the Jewish faith.

 

Opposition

The opposition to the cause of justice has always been fierce and, in the case of Palestine, the Zionists have learned from other oppressors and refined their methods. This means that the struggle for justice and liberation in Palestine is challenging and demanding, and we who stand on the side of justice and liberation have to work harder and smarter than those who had to fight in other arenas.

We need to reclaim Palestine by teaching the world that what they wrongly refer to as Israel is Occupied Palestine. And that a glorious history was cut out from the curriculum and therefore they don’t know about the long impressive history of this land, which sits at a crucial crossroads uniting Asia, Africa, and Europe.

 Shireen Abu Akleh

Palestinians carry pictures of Shireen Abu Akleh in the West Bank city of Ramallah, May 11, 2022. Nasser Nasser | AP

We need to teach the world that whatever the Zionists had told them was a lie, and then we must be there and in no uncertain terms provide the truth. I was asked once in an interview what I miss about Israel. “This is not Israel,” I replied, “It is Palestine.” The interviewer was astonished: “How can you say that?” he asked me. “It was Palestine, it is Palestine and it will always be Palestine,” I responded. If we act without compromise it will be liberated.

Feature photo | Protesters hold candles and a photo of slain Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in Haifa, Israel, May 11, 2022. Ariel Schalit | AP

Miko Peled is MintPress News contributing writer, published author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. His latest books are”The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”

The post Will Shireen Abu Akleh’s Murder Mark a Turning Point in the Liberation of Palestine? appeared first on MintPress News.

Israel’s PR Problem, And Other Notes From The Edge Of The Narrative Matrix

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 14/05/2022 - 10:21pm in

Tags 

Israel, News, Palestine, War

Listen to a reading of this article:

https://medium.com/media/ee0712c922b1f7de816d71568573b6ae/href

Israel’s mounting PR crisis boils down to the fact that its violence and oppression isn’t happening in some far off land as in the case with US wars, it’s happening right at home surrounded by video cameras and enforced by police and soldiers who are not adept PR spinmeisters.

Israeli apartheid is imposed not by trained propagandists but by armed thugs who’ve been told their whole lives that the people they’re responsible for keeping in check are inferior. They don’t think how it’s going to look when they, for example, assault mourners at the funeral of a Palestinian American journalist who was slain by IDF sniper fire. If the whole thing was being upheld by spinmeisters like Jen Psaki, Michael McFaul and Jake Tapper it would unfold in a much more media-friendly way, but it’s being largely upheld by people who’ve been indoctrinated with an apartheid mindframe their entire lives instead.

Combine that element with the dramatic uptick in recent years of video cameras and internet access, and you’ve got a surefire recipe for the defeat of a generations-long perception management campaign that had until that point been very successful.

I mean, whatever your opinion on Israel/Palestine in general and this latest episode in particular, you really can’t dispute that the caption in this tweet is just objectively true:

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Public approval of the Israeli apartheid regime, like approval of the US police, has plummeted in direct proportion to the ubiquitousness of video cameras. In much the same way DNA testing vindicated prisoners who’d insisted on their innocence for years, a new technological development proved true what a marginalized population had been saying all along.

So in that sense the increasingly mainstream opposition to the Israeli status quo has been a rare victory for alternative media and citizen journalism: ordinary people recording and spreading the truth without the permission of establishment narrative managers.

I think it’s basically accurate to say that the human adventure is mostly about becoming more and more conscious, of both our inner and outer worlds. And it doesn’t get much more conscious than raw video footage circulating on a global mind network.

That’s why the Israeli regime kills journalists, and that’s why the US-centralized empire is working to legalize and normalize extraditing and imprisoning them. In a weird way it really is kind of a fight between the forces within humanity who want to switch the lights on versus the forces who wish to keep the lights off.

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There is no “The Squad”. There’s the US congress which is responsible for facilitating the continued domination of a globe-spanning empire, and running alongside that there are a few social media accounts who periodically make progressive-sounding noises on the internet.

“The Squad” isn’t a political faction, it’s a soundtrack to an empire. It’s soothing noises people can listen to while the US hegemon destroys the world.

They used to call you crazy if you warned that we’re being propagandized to support a war with Russia. Now they call you crazy if you don’t support the war with Russia.

Obviously the only logical response to a war that was caused by NATO expansionism is to dramatically expand NATO.

NATO is a “defensive alliance” like Hiroshima and Nagasaki were defensive nuclear strikes.

I guess you can call anything a “defensive alliance” if you categorize everything it does as “defense”, up to and including wars of aggression to topple foreign governments. I mean I suppose if you assume it’s your God-given right to control everything that happens in the world then anyone who disobeys your will can be construed as an aggressor against your imperial divine right, and therefore anything you do in response to them is defensive in nature.

It’s just amazing how quickly and effectively the spectrum of debate was limited to “We should engage in tons of nuclear brinkmanship” versus “We should only engage in a fair bit of nuclear brinkmanship”. No space is allowed in the Overton window for “No nuclear brinkmanship, please”; that was transformed into a “Russian talking point” and therefore taboo.

The US propaganda machine is the most powerful force on earth.

“We’re turning into China,” complained the citizen living under an empire that is vastly more tyrannical than China.

You’re only as free as you allow your world to be. The impulse to control and manipulate life is what gives rise to egoic consciousness, which is what chains us to the wheels of suffering. What presents as a path to security is really the path to insecurity.

In setting the world free, we set ourselves free. In setting ourselves free, the world becomes that much freer.

_______________

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My Nelson Mandela is Dead

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 07/05/2022 - 4:35am in

JERUSALEM, OCCUPIED PALESTINE – On the wall of the courtyard at “The Citadel” in Beit Sahour is a mural of great Palestinian figures, both women and men. Many of them are dead; those who still live spent time in prison and are prohibited from living in their homeland. And yet Palestinians are constantly demanded to answer the question, “Where is the Palestinian Nelson Mandela?”

“My Nelson Mandela is dead,” my long-time friend Baha Hilo answered, as this question was posed to him by visitors at the “Citadel.” The Palestinian Mandelas are dead and buried, or sometimes buried alive in Israeli prisons with long sentences that in some ways are like a death sentence.

The figures on the mural at the citadel include women who were part of the armed struggle, like Dalal Al-Mughrabi, Laila Khaled, Zakia Shamout. There are cartoonist Naji Al-Ali, who created Handala and was assassinated; the great writer Ghassan Kanafani, brutally murdered by Israel; the poet Ibrahim Touqan; the poet Abdel Raheem Mahmoud, who was also assassinated; Nizar El-Banat, who was murdered by the Palestinian Authority, an arm of the Zionist occupation; and Basel Al-Araj, a writer and fighter who was killed by Israeli forces. All Palestinians who are part of a long story of struggle.

If we insist on bringing up the South African struggle against aparthied, then we would be better to ask Israelis, and perhaps even some Jewish people around the world, “Where is your Ruth First?” Ruth First was a major figure in the fight to bring down the South African apartheid regime and on the 17th of August, 1982 she was killed by a letter bomb. Her assassination is believed to have been the work of the South African security agencies. 

One would also ask, “Where is the Israeli Albie Sachs?” His work to free South Africans from apartheid brought the South African security agents to place a bomb in his car on April 7, 1988. The explosion blew up his car and he lost an arm and the sight of one eye. After Nelson Mandela was elected president of South Africa, he appointed Sachs to serve on the newly established Constitutional Court. As a Constitutional Court judge, Justice Sachs was the chief architect of the post-apartheid constitution of 1996.

We should also ask, “Where is the Israeli Joe Slovo?” Slovo was chief of staff of uMkhonto we Sizwe, the military wing of the African National Congress (ANC). He served on the revolutionary council of the ANC and was the first white member of the ANC’s national executive. All three were Jewish and white and they paid heavily for their commitment to justice and their fight for a free South Africa. 

Still, people never ask this of Israelis and other Jewish Zionists, because it is much easier to demand an explanation from the victims than to hold the perpetrators accountable. 

 

A strategy

“What is your strategy for liberation?” is another question posed to Palestinians. This is a lot like asking the prisoners in a maximum-security prison what their strategy is for escape. One may assume that prisoners think of little else and strategize on ways to escape or at least get parole, but the question remains ridiculous because the power of the system that holds them is immense and its control over them and their actions is practically absolute. Palestinians live in a sophisticated prison called “Israel” and, like inmates in a prison, they dream of liberation, even as they do their best to live and exist under the brutal regime imposed upon them.

Rarely, if ever, do we hear people ask Israelis, “What is your strategy for peace, equality and justice?” If the question were posed, the answer would be: “There is none.” This is because Israel is interested in neither peace, justice nor equality. Destruction of Palestine was the strategy all along and from the very beginning, the rest of the world was either complicit or just standing by and allowing the destruction to take place.

Israel-Africa relations

A man hides his head from Israeli tear gas while holding a photo of Mandela during a protest Nabi Saleh. Nasser Nasser | AP

 

Keeping the hope

The way to liberate the Palestinians from Israel requires replacing the apartheid regime known as “Israel” with a free, democratic Palestine – and not expecting that Israel itself will allow Palestinians to be free. Israel isn’t just the perpetrator of the crime, it is, in and of itself, the crime. The existence of Apartheid Israel is the crime. So it is up to those of us on the outside, who are not bound by the rules of apartheid, to make every effort to dismantle this system of oppression known as “Israel.” The possibility of this taking place, however, is not something that necessarily inspires hope, because it demands a struggle against forces that seem to be invincible.

People like to “find hope” in the most absurd places. Representations of normalization, the “peace, and dialogue industry,” have been instrumental in creating the ridiculous sense of hope that is based not on a realistic understanding of what must be done, but on a myth of an Israel that will allow the Palestinian people to establish a state one day – a state that will be governed by “good Palestinians” who refrain from violence and “unrealistic demands” like the return of the refugees, full equality, and the dismantling of the Zionist colonialist system.

Israel and its allies know that they have to be vigilant and that even the slightest crack in their wall of lies and misinformation can lead to the collapse of the Zionist regime. This is why in the U.S. they have a presence in every town and city, in school boards and small city councils; they have a presence in the churches and they have a presence on college campuses. 

The Zionist campaign is vicious and relentless because the Zionists know that once a crack is made in their line of defense — a line that is made of deception, falsehoods, and fabrication – they will fall, never to rise again. Forcing that wall of deception to fall is the task that must be undertaken by people of conscience working for justice and peace. We must formulate a strategy to dismantle the wall and the system that built it.

Feature photo | People walk past a mural of former South African President Nelson Mandela in Katlehong, south of Johannesburg, South Africa. Themba Hadebe | AP

Miko Peled is MintPress News contributing writer, published author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. His latest books are”The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”

The post My Nelson Mandela is Dead appeared first on MintPress News.

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