Palestine

Why Israel’s So-Called “Occupation” of “Palestinian Territories” is a Farce

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 16/01/2020 - 2:25am in

The occupation. A phrase commonly used when speaking about the injustices taking place in Palestine. It is a phrase that limits the discussion to a small part of Palestine and to only a portion of the Palestinian people. The occupation only exists in the two small areas that we are permitted to state that human rights abuses take place. There are checkpoints and road-blocks and a dual system of justice, one for Jews and another for Palestinians. The Jewish residents in the “Occupied Territories” are called “settlers,” and unlike other Israeli Jews, they are “illegal” and the places in which they live are known as “illegal settlements.”

The phrases, “the occupation” and “Occupied Palestinian Territories,” refer generally to the West Bank, Gaza Strip and sometimes parts of East Jerusalem, depending on who is speaking. These are, of course, the territories which Israel seized in 1967, and which comprise only 22 percent of Palestine as a whole. “The occupation” and the “Occupied Palestinian Territories,” have become the focus of those who claim to seek justice for Palestinians and peace in the Middle East, yet that claim misses the mark. 

The lion’s share of Palestine has been occupied since 1948, only it is not called “occupied.” Millions of refugees in and around Palestine live in squalor because of the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestine. Two million Palestinians live in other parts of Palestine and while the oppression and violence that Palestinians of 1948 suffer is slightly different than that which the 1967 Palestinians experience, it still includes a great deal of violence and systems of oppression. Israeli settlers have been living on stolen Palestinian land since 1948, but they are not called “settlers” and for reasons beyond understanding they are deemed legal.

 

It’s not only the Occupation

The root cause of oppression and violence that Palestinians experience is not “the occupation” of 1967 as many people claim, but Zionism and Zionist institutions that have been active long before that time. The Zionist onslaught which brought about the displacement, massacres and destruction of cities, towns and villages has been going on for over a century. Even before the State of Israel was established, Zionist organizations around the world have been responsible for the fate of Palestine and its people. 

The World Zionist Organization, for example, openly states among other things that: “For the purpose of establishing a legally assured home in Eretz Yisrael for the Jewish people, it shall engage in, “Promoting the settlement of Jewish farmers, artisans, and tradesmen in Palestine.”

Aliyah, the Jewish Agency for Israel, claims: “We founded and built the State of Israel, and we continue creating links globally—bringing Jews to Israel and Israel to Jews.” Aliyah also states that “All Jews, no matter where they were born, are Israeli citizens by right.”

Israel Palestinians Occupation

Israeli Jewish settlers taunt Palestinians protesting a plan to remove Bedouins from their villages in the Naqab Desert. Majdi Mohammed | AP

The Jewish National Fund (JNF), which has been involved in displacing Palestinians and destroying the Palestinian landscape, admits on its website: “We plant trees, build houses and parks, source water solutions, support Aliyah, promote Zionist education and engagement.” Of course, they leave out the fact that this is all done on Palestinian land, at the expense of Palestinians and excludes the native people of Palestine, the Palestinian people.

In other words, major organizations that are all well-funded and well-established have been directly responsible for the destruction of Palestine and the dispossession of its people long before 1967. When we limit the conversation to the “Occupied Palestinian Territories,” which refers only to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, we are letting these organizations off the hook. 

 

A Fight Against Zionism

Describing the oppression, dispossession, mass arrests and killing of Palestinians by Israel without pointing a finger at the root cause of these injustices is almost as criminal as the actions themselves. Discussing the situation in which Palestinians have to live without discussing who is responsible all but ensures things will not change. Using the term “occupation” lets Israel off the hook for colonizing the vast majority of Palestine and it all but legitimizes the conquests and the ethnic cleansing of 1948.

Palestinian refugees languish in camps, not because of the “occupation” but because of Zionism. Two million Palestinians who possess the dubious status of quasi-Israeli citizenship live without rights, not because of the “occupation.” Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Bedouin live in poverty and are denied services by the State of Israel right next to Israelis who live in beautiful colonies built for Jews only in the Naqab desert. This is not a result of the “occupation” but of Zionism and the Zionist institutions which perpetuate these injustices.

 

The Zionist Left

Zionist left is, in fact, an oxymoron. One can either believe in and support a racist ideology like Zionism or believe and support the ideals of Left-wing politics, politics which exclude racism and settler colonialism. There are, however, a substantial group of people, including Israelis, Americans and others, who refer to themselves as the “Zionist Left.” These so-called “Leftists” claim they are opposed to the “occupation,” yet they refuse to accept that the root causes of injustice in Palestine are Israel and Zionism. Any person, group or ideology that claims to be Zionist accepts, almost by default, the legitimacy of Israel. This ensures that the injustices and atrocities perpetrated by Israel will continue. 

The Zionist Left is beholden to Israel, accepts Israel’s legitimacy, and insists that the injustices and atrocities are a result of Israeli policies and not rooted in Zionism and the existence of the State of Israel. In fact, they refuse to reject Zionism. However, there are those who believe in justice, freedom and equality. Three values without which no country can exist in peace. People who care about this issue must take off the kid gloves. Opposing Zionism is not anti-semitism and if we do not tackle this issue head on, Palestine and its people will forever suffer.

Feature photo | Armed Israeli soldiers watch people pass through a Palestinian-only Israeli checkpoint at Qalandia, West Bank. Nasser Shiyoukhi | 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.”

The post Why Israel’s So-Called “Occupation” of “Palestinian Territories” is a Farce appeared first on MintPress News.

The day Gaza becomes uninhabitable

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 14/01/2020 - 4:52pm in

by Anna Majavu, New Frame, January 13, 2020 In 2012, the United Nations published research suggesting that by 2016, the main aquifer supplying water to about two million Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip would be “unusable” and that by 2020, the aquifer would have been damaged irreversibly. This would make Gaza uninhabitable by 2020. …

Reclaiming the Narrative: How to Combat Israel’s Misuse of “Antisemitism”

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 11/01/2020 - 6:21am in

At a talk I delivered in Northern England in March 2018, I proposed that the best response to falsified accusations of antisemitism, which are often lobbed against pro-Palestinian communities and intellectuals everywhere, is to draw even closer to the Palestinian narrative.

In fact, my proposal was not meant to be a sentimental response in any way.

“Reclaiming the Palestinian narrative” has been the main theme in most of my public speeches and writings in recent years. All of my books and much of my academic studies and research have largely focused on positioning the Palestinian people – their rights, history, culture, and political aspirations – at the very core of any genuine understanding of the Palestinian struggle against Israeli colonialism and apartheid. 

True, there was nothing particularly special about my talk in Northern England. I had already delivered a version of that speech in other parts of the UK, Europe and elsewhere. But what made that event memorable is a conversation I had with a passionate activist, who introduced himself as an advisor to the office of the head of the British Labor Party, Jeremy Corbyn.

Although the activist agreed with me regarding the need to embrace the Palestinian narrative, he insisted that the best way for Corbyn to deflect anti-Semitic accusations, which have dogged his leadership since day one, is for Labor to issue a sweeping and decisive condemnation of antisemitism, so that Corbyn may silence his critics and he is finally able to focus on the pressing subject of Palestinian rights. 

I was doubtful. I explained to the animated and self-assured activist that Zionist manipulation and misuse of antisemitism is a phenomenon that has preceded Corbyn by many decades, and will always be there as long as the Israeli government finds the need to distract from its war crimes against Palestinians and to crush pro-Palestinian solidarity worldwide. 

I explained to him that while anti-Jewish racism is a real phenomenon that must be confronted, “antisemitism”, as defined by Israel and its Zionist allies, is not a moral question that is meant to be solved by a press release, no matter how strongly-worded. Rather, it is a smokescreen, with the ultimate aim of distracting from the real conversation, that being the crimes of military occupation, racism, and apartheid in Palestine.

In other words, no amount of talking, debating or defending oneself can possibly convince the Zionists that demanding an end to the Israeli military occupation in Palestine or the dismantling of the Israeli apartheid regime, or any genuine criticism of the policies of Israel’s right-wing government are not, in fact, acts of antisemitism. 

Alas, the activist insisted that a strong statement that would clarify Labor’s position on antisemitism would finally absolve Corbyn and protect his legacy against the undeserved smearing.

The rest is history. Labor went into a witch-hunt, to catch the “true” anti-Semites among its members. The unprecedented purge has reached many good people who have dedicated years to serving their communities and defending human rights in Palestine and elsewhere. 

The statement to end all statements was followed by many others. Numerous articles and arguments were written and made in defense of Corbyn – to no avail. Only a few days before Labor lost the general election in December, the Simon Wiesenthal Center named Corbyn, one of Britain’s most sincere and well-intentioned leaders in the modern era, the “top anti-Semite of 2019.” So much for engaging the Zionists.

It doesn’t matter whether Corbyn’s party lost the elections in part because of Zionist smearing and unfounded anti-Semitic accusations. What truly matter for me as a Palestinian intellectual who has hoped that Corbyn’s leadership will constitute a paradigm shift regarding the country’s attitude towards Israel and Palestine, is the fact that the Zionists have indeed succeeded in keeping the conversation focused on Israeli priorities and Zionist sensibilities. It saddens me that while Palestine should have occupied the center stage, at least during Corbyn’s leadership years, it was still marginalized signifying once again that solidarity with Palestine has become a political liability to anyone hoping to win an election – in the UK and anywhere in the West as well. 

Britain Labour Party Conference

Corbyn sits on stage while audience members wave Palestinian flags during the Labour’s 2018 Party conference. Stefan Rousseau | PA via AP

I find it puzzling, indeed disturbing, that Israel, directly or otherwise, is able to determine the nature of any discussion on Palestine in the West, not only within typical mainstream platforms but within pro-Palestinian circles as well. For example, I have heard activists repeatedly questioning whether the one-state solution is at all possible because “Israel simply would never accept it”. 

I often challenge my audiences to base their solidarity with Palestine on real love, support, and admiration for the Palestinian people, for their history, their anti-colonial struggle, and the thousands of heroes and heroines who have sacrificed their own lives so that their people may live in freedom. 

How many of us can name Palestine’s top poets, artists, feminists, football players, singers, and historians? How familiar are we really, with Palestinian geography, the intricacies of its politics, and the richness of its culture?

Even in platforms that are sympathetic to the Palestinian struggle, there is an inherent fear that such sympathy could be misconstrued as antisemitism to the extent that Palestinian voices are often neglected, if not completely supplanted with anti-Zionist Jewish voices. I see this happening quite often even in Middle Eastern media that supposedly champion the Palestinian cause. 

This phenomenon is largely linked to Palestine and Palestine only. While the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa and the civil rights struggle in the United States – as was the case of many genuine anti-colonial liberation movements around the world – have strategically used intersectionality to link with other groups, locally, nationally or internationally, the movements themselves relied on black voices as true representatives of their peoples’ struggles.

Historically, Palestinians have not always been marginalized within their own discourse. Once upon a time, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), despite its many shortcomings, provided unified Palestinian political discourse which served as a litmus test for any individual, group or government regarding their position on Palestinian rights and freedom.

The Oslo accords ended all of that – it fragmented the Palestinian discourse just as it has divided the Palestinian people. Since then, the message emanating from Palestine has become muddled, factionalized and often self-defeating. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) has done a tremendous job in bringing about some clarity by attempting to articulate a universal Palestinian discourse. 

However, BDS is yet to yield a centralized political strategy that is communicated through a democratically-elected Palestinian body. As long as the PLO persists in its inertia and without a truly democratic alternative, the crisis of the Palestinian political discourse is likely to continue. 

Concurrently, the Zionists must not be allowed to determine the nature of our solidarity with the Palestinian people. While true Palestinian solidarity requires the complete rejection of all forms of racism, including antisemitism, the pro-Israel camp must be sidelined entirely from any conversation pertaining to the values and morality of what it means to be “pro-Palestine”. 

To be anti-Zionist is not always the same as being pro-Palestine, the former emanating from the rejection of racist, Zionist ideas and the latter indicating a real connection and bond with Palestine and her people.

To be pro-Palestine is also to respect the centrality of the Palestinian voice, because without the Palestinian narrative there can be no real or meaningful solidarity, and also because, ultimately it will be the Palestinian people who will liberate themselves. 

“I am not a liberator,” said the iconic South American revolutionary Ernesto Che Guevara. “Liberators do not exist. The people liberate themselves”.

For the Palestinians to “liberate themselves”, they have to claim their centrality in the struggle for Palestinian rights everywhere, to articulate their own discourse and to be the champions of their own freedom. Nothing else will suffice.

Feature photo | Members of the Jewish anti-Zionist Neturei Karta group demonstrate against the Israeli General Elections outside a polling station in Jerusalem. Sebastian Scheiner | AP

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press, Atlanta). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA), Istanbul Zaim University (IZU). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net 

The post Reclaiming the Narrative: How to Combat Israel’s Misuse of “Antisemitism” appeared first on MintPress News.

Justice at Last? Panic in Israel as the ICC Takes Momentous Step in the Right Direction

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 09/01/2020 - 1:20am in

At long last, Fatou Bensouda, the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has uttered the long-anticipated conclusion that “all the statutory criteria under the Rome statute for the opening of an investigation (into alleged war crimes in the Occupied Palestinian Territories) have been met”.

Bensouda’s verdict has been in the making for a long time and should, frankly, have arrived much earlier. The ICC preliminary investigations into Israeli war crimes began back in 2015. Since then, many more such war crimes have been committed, while the international community persisted in its moral inertia.

The ICC statement, issued on December 20, asserted that the court saw “no substantial reasons to believe that an investigation would not serve the interests of justice”. 

But can the “interest of justice” be served while the United States government continues to wield a massive stick, using its diplomatic, political and financial clout to ensure Israel emerges unscathed from its latest legal scuffle?

There is little doubt that Michael Lynk, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory, is absolutely right: A formal ICC criminal investigation into war crimes in Palestine is a “momentous step forward in the quest for accountability”.

He is also correct in his assessment, published in the United Nations Human Rights Officer of the High Commissioner website, that “accountability has, until now, been largely missing in action throughout the 52-year-old occupation.”

I would go even further and expand the timeline of the missing accountability to include the two decades prior to the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Otherwise, how is one to account for the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1947-48, the numerous massacres and other wanton killings that accompanied and followed those defining years, or the fact that Israel was never held accountable for its violations of international and humanitarian laws between 1948 and 1967?

That issue notwithstanding, the Palestinian Authority and all political parties in Palestine should exploit this unprecedented opportunity of holding Israel accountable.

As soon as the ICC issued its statement, news reports surfaced conveying a sense of “panic” in Israel. The Times of Israel reported that an Israeli government meeting to discuss the ICC decision was held shortly after, with the aim of considering a proper response, including the possibility of preventing ICC investigators from reaching Israel. 

This is eerily familiar. Israel has denied entry to – or refused to cooperate with – international investigators and observers on many occasions in the past. 

Following a UN planned investigation into alleged Israeli war crimes in the Palestinian refugee camp of Jenin in 2002, the Israeli government quickly moved, and, sadly, succeeded in blocking the investigation altogether. 

It has done so time and again, often demonizing the very individuals entrusted with the mission of examining the illegality of Israel’s behavior in the context of international law. Well-respected judges and international law experts, such as Richard Goldstone, Richard Falk, and John Dugard, were vehemently attacked by Israeli officials and media and, by extension, by the US government and media as well.

Israel ICC Invesitgation

UN investigator Richard Goldstone visits a family home destroyed by Israeli artillery in Gaza, June 3, 2009. Ashraf Amra | AP

Israel has managed to survive dozens of United Nations Resolutions and countless legal reports and indictments by the UN and all UN-affiliated organizations, largely because of blind and unequivocal American support, which has shielded Israeli war criminals from ever answering to their horrific actions in Palestine.

“Remember, it was (then-Secretary of State) Hillary Clinton who took pride in the fact that she personally killed the Goldstone Report,” said US author, Norman Finkelstein, in a recent interview with the news website ‘Mondoweiss’. 

The Goldstone report was issued in the wake of the Israeli war on Gaza in 2009, dubbed ‘Operation Cast Lead’. The campaign of intimidation and pressure on Goldstone, personally, forced the once-respected judge to retract his accusations of Israeli war crimes and the deliberate targeting of civilians.

While Clinton did her part in torpedoing the Goldstone Report, former US President, Barack Obama, according to Finkelstein, went to great lengths to “neutralize international law against settlements and other Israeli crimes in the occupied territories”.

Worse still, on September 14, 2016, Obama handed Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, himself accused of carrying out numerous war crimes against Palestinians, the largest US aid package to a foreign country in modern history, a whopping $38 billion over the course of ten years. 

This is not a new phenomenon, where the US enables Israeli crimes and simultaneously shields Tel Aviv from any accountability for these crimes before the international community. All US administrations, whether Republican or Democrat, have honored the same sinister maxim, thus ensuring Israel, literally, gets away with murder.

A particular case in point was in 2001, when 28 Palestinian and Lebanese survivors of the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre attempted to try, in a Belgian court, late Israeli leader and accused war criminal, Ariel Sharon. Intense American pressures and a brazen intimidation campaign, targeting the Belgian government and the judicial system, resulted in the dismissal of the case in 2003. To deny Israel’s victims the opportunity to seek justice everywhere in the country, Belgium revised its very law, to the satisfaction of Israel and the United States. 

The high level of the ICC investigations places the legal push against Israel at a whole new level. This is uncharted territory for Israel, the United States, Palestine, the ICC and the international community as a whole. There is little doubt that some joint Israeli-American effort is already underway to develop strategies aimed at countering, if not altogether dismissing, the ICC investigation.

It is clear that justice for Palestinians in the face of Israeli aggression, itself fueled by unconditional American support, is not at all possible if it is not accompanied by regional and international unity, and a clear and decisive decision by all parties concerned that Israel, once and for all, must pay for its military occupation, racist apartheid laws, protracted siege on Gaza, and the many massacres in between. 

Without this kind of international will, the ICC investigation could become another sad case of justice denied, a non-acceptable option for any justice-seeking individual, organization, and government anywhere in the world.

Feature photo | Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in the courtroom of the International Criminal Court (ICC) during a trial in The Hague, Netherlands, August 28, 2018. Bas Czerwinski | Pool via AP

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press, Atlanta). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA), Istanbul Zaim University (IZU). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net 

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Archbishop Atallah Hanna: The Palestinian Christian Leader Israel Loves to Hate

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 03/01/2020 - 2:16am in

They will run and not grow weary, is a quote from the Bible (Isaiah, 40:41) that adorns the homepage of Kairos Palestine. This important document, which parallels a similar initiative emanating from South Africa during the anti-apartheid struggle years, has come to represent the unified voice of the Palestinian Christian community everywhere. One of the main advocates of Kairos Palestine is Archbishop Atallah Hanna.

Hanna has served as the Head of the Sebastia Diocese of the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem since 2005. Since then, he has used his leadership position to advocate for Palestinian unity in all of its manifestations. Expectedly, Hanna has been on Israel’s radar for many years, as this kind of leadership is problematic from the viewpoint of a hegemonic political and military power that requires utter and absolute submission. 

So when Archbishop Hanna was hospitalized on December 18 as a result of what was reported to be Israeli “poisoning,” Palestinians were very concerned. A few days later, Hanna was found to be at a Jordanian hospital receiving urgent medical treatment for what was described, by Hanna himself, as “poisoning by chemical substance.” Whatever that substance may have been, it was reportedly discharged from an Israeli army gas canister, lobbed at Hanna’s Church in Jerusalem. 

“The Christians of Palestine are one family of Jordanians and Palestinians,” he told journalists from his hospital bed, where he also said that “Israeli occupation may have attempted to assassinate him or keep him sick all his life, indicating that the substance has very serious effects, especially on the nervous system”. 

Those familiar with Hanna’s discourse would know precisely what the rebellious Christian leader was aiming at when he spoke about the oneness of Palestinian Christians in Jordan and Palestine: a unity which, sadly, has eluded Palestinians for a long time. Indeed, wherever the man may be, standing tall at a rally in Jerusalem in defense of Palestinian rights or from a hospital bed, he advocates unity among Palestinians and for the sake of Palestine. 

The Kairos document is itself an act of unity among Palestinian Christian churches and organizations. “This means for us, here and now, in this land in particular, that God created us not so that we might engage in strife and conflict but rather that we might come and know and love one another, and together build up the land in love and mutual respect,” the document, championed by Hanna and many others, states

Even before claiming his current leadership position, Hanna was a target of Israel. During the Second Intifada, the uprising of 2005, Hanna emerged on the scene as an advocate, not of Palestinian Christian rights but the rights of all Palestinians. He actively pursued the World Council of Churches to use its credibility and outreach to speak out against the Israeli occupation of Palestine and for an independent Palestinian state. 

In August 2002, Hanna was detained by the Israeli police in front of his home in Jerusalem’s Old City. On the orders of the Israeli Attorney General, he was charged with ‘suspicion of relations with terrorist organizations’, a concocted charge that allowed the Israeli government to confiscate the Palestinian leader’s Israeli and Vatican passports.

Despite the fact that Palestinian Christians undergo the same experience of military occupation, oppression, and ethnic cleansing as their Muslim brethren, Israel has labored to propagate an erroneous narrative that presents the “conflict” as one between Israel and Muslim fundamentalists. Hanna is particularly troubling for Israel because his political language demolishes Israeli hasbara at its very foundations. 

“We intend to conduct special prayers inside the Church of the Nativity for the sake of our martyrs,” he declared on October 10, 2001, when he joined Christian and Muslim leaders in their march from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, to challenge Israel’s targeting of Palestinian religious sites. 

In an interview with ‘Russia Today’ on January 30, 2015, Hanna refused to even concede the language battle to those who ignorantly – or purposely – ascribe Muslim terminology to terrorism. “Allahu Akbar” – God is great in Arabic – is as much Christian as it is a Muslim phrase, he argued.

“We Christians also say, Allahu Akbar. This is an expression of our understanding that the Creator is great. We don’t want this phrase to be related to terrorism and crimes,” he said.

“We speak against using this phrase in this context. Those who do, they insult our religion and our religious values,” he added, again, thoughtfully linking all religious values through faith, not politics. 

“The city of Jerusalem is the city of the three Abrahamic religions,” Hanna recently said at Istanbul’s “First Global Conference on Israeli Apartheid”. Tirelessly and consistently, the Archbishop announced that “Christian and Muslim Palestinians living in Jerusalem suffer from the occupation, suffer from repression, tyranny, and oppression.”

Although born in Ramah in Palestine’s upper Galilee region, Hanna’s true love was, and remains Jerusalem. It was there that his spirituality deepened and his political ideas formulated. His advocacy for the Palestinian Arab Muslim and Christian identity of the city stands at the core of all of his activities.

“Everything Palestinian in Jerusalem is targeted by Israeli occupation,” Hanna said last January during a meeting with a Doctors without Borders delegation. “The Islamic and Christian holy sites and endowments are targeted in order to change our city, hide its identity and marginalize our Arabic and Palestinian existence,” the Archbishop lamented.

In fact, Israel has been doing exactly that, efforts that have accelerated since Donald Trump’s advent to the White House, and the US’ subsequent recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. 

Archbishop Hanna is one of the strongest and most articulate Palestinian Christian voices in Jerusalem. His relentless work and leadership have irked Israeli authorities for many years. Now that Israel is finalizing its takeover of the illegally occupied city, Hanna, and like-minded Christian and Muslim leaders, are becoming more than mere irritants but real hurdles in the face of the Israeli military machine. 

I met Abouna – Father – Hanna at a California Conference a few years ago. I heard him speak, his thunderous voice is that of a proud Palestinian Arab. He urged unity, as he always does. I chatted with him later, in the hotel lobby, as he was ready to go out for a walk with his close friend, the Mufti of Jerusalem. He was gentle and polite, and extremely funny. 

As I watched them both walk outside, I felt hopeful that unity for the sake of Palestine is very much possible.

Feature photo | Palestinian Greek Orthodox Archbishop Atallah Hanna during a protest against Israel’s bombing of Gaza in Glasgow, Scotland, July 19, 2014. Photo | Glasgow Palestine Human Rights Campaign

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press, Atlanta). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA), Istanbul Zaim University (IZU). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net 

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Will the ICC’s Investigation into Israeli War Crimes Finally Bring Justice to Palestine?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 28/12/2019 - 2:48am in

Fatou Bensouda, the International Criminal Court’s Chief Prosecutor, said in a statement regarding “alleged crimes” committed in the occupied Palestinian territories that “all the statutory criteria under the Rome Statute for the opening of an investigation have been met.” The territories in question include the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. These territories constitute the state of Palestine, as it is recognized by the United Nations.

The decision flies in the face of anyone who still believes the Israeli claim that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) is the “most moral army in the world,” or that Israel does not commit war crimes.

 

Issues of Jurisdiction

Under the Rome Statute, the founding document that established the International Criminal Court, it is determined that cases can be heard by the court only if one of the affected parties is a signatory. The state of Palestine has been a signatory since 2015. 

Israel, which like the United States never signed the Rome Statute, claims that Palestine is not a sovereign state and therefore the International Criminal Court has no jurisdiction to investigate issues related to it. Yet according to UN General Assembly resolution 67/19, adopted on November 29, 2012, Palestine assumed the status of a UN “non-member observer state,” affording it the ability to accede to international treaties like the Rome Statute, and indeed it didn’t take long for Palestine to become the 123rd state party to the statute giving the ICC the legal right to exercise jurisdiction on its territory. 

Clearly anticipating that the ICC jurisdiction over Palestine would be called into questions by Israel, Prosecutor Bensouda said in her statement, the full version of which can be found on the ICC website, that she had filed a request for a jurisdictional ruling on the issue. 

“Specifically, I have sought confirmation that the ‘territory’ over which the court may exercise its jurisdiction, and which I may subject to investigation, comprises the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza,” Bensouda said. 

She went on to say that she recognizes that “Palestine does not have full control over the Occupied Palestinian Territory and its borders are disputed.” The West Bank and the Gaza Strip are heavily controlled by the Israeli government and East Jerusalem has been effectively annexed by Israel.

Bensouda quite oddly adds that “The Palestinian Authority does not govern Gaza.” Hamas, however, is the party that currently governs Gaza, in as much as Israeli permits it to do so, as it is the party that won the 2006 Palestinian Authority parliamentary elections.”

Bensouda says that although she is of the view that “the Court may exercise its jurisdiction notwithstanding these matters,” she is aware of contrary views, and therefore “requests that a Pre-Trial Chamber I (“the Chamber”) rule on the scope of the Court’s territorial jurisdiction in the situation in Palestine.” 

Specifically, Bensouda affirmed, she is seeking confirmation that the “territory” over which the ICC may exercise jurisdiction comprises the “Occupied Palestinian Territory, that is the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.”

She also made it clear that she wants the issue determined before she begins an investigation instead of being settled later by judges after her investigations are completed. It is not clear when a decision will be made on this, but Bensouda said she had asked the court to “rule expeditiously” and to allow potential victims to participate in proceedings.

 

Israel Responds

Notwithstanding the legal challenges, the decision of the prosecutor is encouraging. In Israel, the reactions to her decision were predictably fast, and not surprisingly, fierce. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s response to Bensouda’s decision was that it is “baseless and outrageous.” As expected, he said that “the court has no jurisdiction” because only sovereign states can petition the court, and “there has never been a sovereign Palestinian state.” He added that the ICC’s decision means that Jews living in their historic homeland, the land of the Bible, is a war crime. 

National Union chairman and Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich tweeted his response to the ICC prosecutor’s decision saying that that the Prime Minister should give the Palestinian Authority 48-hours to pull its petition to the ICC or else face being “torn down.” He added that this should have been done long ago when the Palestinians first petitioned the UN for statehood.

Yair Lapid, a co-founder of Israel’s Blue and White party, tweeted, “The ICC prosecutor has caved in to Palestinian lies and hatred. As a former member of the Security Cabinet and a member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, I can testify that the IDF does more than any army in history to prevent civilian casualties.” Despite the evidence, this is a claim often repeated by Israeli politicians.


Palestinians salvage what they can from the rubble of a home destroyed by an overnight Israeli airstrike in Gaza, July 8, 2014. Khalil Hamra | AP

Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz also attacked the court’s decision. Having served as the IDF Chief of Staff, he is likely to be a major target of any investigation into war crimes. In his response to the decision, he mentioned his decades of military service, including “serving as the IDF’s 20th Chief of Staff.” He stated that “the IDF is one of the most moral armies in the world,” and asserted that “The IDF and the State of Israel do not commit war crimes.” Gantz oversaw more than one Israeli assault on the besieged Gaza strip, assaults that saw scores of civilian casualties.

 

Israeli Fears

Israel has good reason to fear the International Criminal Court’s decision. Moving forward with an investigation into crimes committed in the Palestinian territories will expose both current and former government officials and military personnel to prosecution when they travel abroad. That fear is not entirely irrational and not without precedent. 

In 2011, it was reported that retired Israeli General Danny Rothschild was forced to cut a scheduled visit to London short and cancel two planned lectures there. This after the Israeli Embassy warned him he was in danger of being arrested if he stayed in the country. The event came a day after Knesset member and former Defense Minister Amir Peretz was forced to cut short a London visit for the same reason.

Trial International, an NGO that fights impunity for international crimes and supports victims in their quest for justice, reports that on June 30, 2016, former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was in London for a conference and was summoned to the police regarding allegations of war crimes committed between 2008 and 2009. Livni was ultimately granted diplomatic immunity. Then, on January 23, 2017, Livni was invited to attend a conference at the European Parliament in Brussels when the Belgium prosecutor’s office announced its intention to arrest and question her regarding her alleged involvement in Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s bloody 22-day military assault on the Gaza Strip in 2008. Livini decided to cancel her trip to Belgium.

Israel ICC War Crimes

Demonstrators stand on top of London Bus during a protest near the Israeli embassy over its bombing of Gaza, July 11, 2014. Alastair Grant | AP

Matan Kahana is a member of the Israeli “New Right” party. Kahana is a retired colonel in the IDF who served both as a soldier in Israel’s notorious murder squad “Sayeret Matkal” and as a fighter pilot and officer in the Israeli Airforce. He participated in countless “operations” in which Palestinian civilians were killed. As an airforce pilot, he would have been directly involved in bombing and killing countless defenseless citizens in the Gaza Strip. Kahana made a statement on Twitter following the ICC’s announcement that “if only people knew how careful the IDF soldiers try not to harm “uninvolved persons.” 

Yet these “efforts” Kahana and other Israeli officials speak of seem to fail time and time again. The number of civilian casualties from Israeli attacks is staggering and has reached the point where one must question the intent of the IDF and those who send it on these so-called missions. While a thorough investigation will no doubt precede any decision by the International Criminal Court, it doesn’t take a great legal scholar to understand that dropping tons of bombs from fighter jets on a defenseless civilian population constitutes a war crime. 

The full report of the prosecutor states that the scope of any formal proceedings is also likely to include an investigation into the “use by members of the IDF of non-lethal and lethal means against persons participating in demonstrations beginning in March 2018.” The demonstrations the ICC is referring to are the protests known as “The Great Return March.” This means that the enormous efforts Israel makes to justify its attacks on Palestinians — and to claim that they are carried out in self-defense only — may finally be beginning to fail.

Feature photo | Palestinian children look for their belongings after their homes were destroyed in Israeli strikes in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip. Israel sealed off the Rafah area and began shelling on Aug. 1, 2014. By the end of the next day, 190 Palestinians were dead. Hatem Ali | 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.”

The post Will the ICC’s Investigation into Israeli War Crimes Finally Bring Justice to Palestine? appeared first on MintPress News.

The Freedom Flotilla Will Make its 35th Attempt to Sail to Gaza in 2020

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 26/12/2019 - 12:50am in

What is Gaza to us but an Israeli missile, a rudimentary rocket, a demolished home, an injured child being whisked away by his peers under a hail of bullets? On a daily basis, Gaza is conveyed to us as a bloody image or a dramatic video, none of which can truly capture the everyday reality of the Strip – its formidable steadfastness, the everyday acts of resistance, and the type of suffering that can never be really understood through a customary glance at a social media post.

At long last, the chief prosecutor of the International Court of Justice (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, has declared her ‘satisfaction’ that “war crimes have been – or are being –  committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.” As soon as the ICC statement was made on December 20, pro-Palestinian groups felt a rare moment of relief. Finally, Israel will stand accused, potentially paying for its recurring bloodbath in the isolated and besieged Gaza Strip, its military occupation and apartheid in the West Bank, and much more.

However, it could take years for the ICC to initiate its legal proceedings and render its verdict. Moreover, there are no political guarantees that an ICC decision indicting Israel would ever be respected, let alone implemented.

Meanwhile, the siege on Gaza persists, only to be interrupted by a massive war, like the one of 2014, or a less destructive one, similar to the latest Israeli onslaught in November. And with every war, more dismal statistics are produced, more lives shattered, and more painful stories are told and retold.

For years, civil society groups across the world labored to destabilize this horrific status quo. They organized, held vigils, wrote letters to their political representatives and so on. To no avail. Frustrated by government inaction, a small group of activists sailed to Gaza in a small boat in August 2008, succeeding in doing what the United Nations has failed to do: they broke, however fleetingly, the Israeli siege on the impoverished Strip.

This symbolic action of the Free Gaza movement had a tremendous impact. It sent a clear message to Palestinians in occupied Palestine, that their fate is not only determined by the Israeli government and military machine; that there are other actors who are capable of challenging the dreadful silence of the international community; that not all Westerners are as complicit as their governments in the prolonged suffering of the Palestinian people.


Protesters gather outside the ICC urging the court to prosecute Israel in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla case. Peter Dejong | AP

Since then, many more solidarity missions have attempted to follow suit, coming across the sea atop flotillas or in large caravans through the Sinai desert. Some have successfully reached Gaza, delivering medical aid and other supplies. The majority, however, were sent back or had their boats hijacked in international waters by the Israeli navy.

The outcome of all of this has been the writing of a new chapter of solidarity with the Palestinian people that went beyond the occasional demonstration and the typical signing of a petition.

The second Palestinian Intifada, the uprising of 2002, had already redefined the role of the “activist” in Palestine. The formation of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) allowed thousands of international activists from around the world to participate in “direct action” in Palestine – thus fulfilling, however symbolically, a role that is typically played by a United Nations protective force.

ISM activists, however, employed non-violent means of registering civil society’s rejection of the Israeli occupation. Expectedly, Israel did not honor the fact that many of these activists came from countries deemed “friendly” by Tel Aviv’s standards. The killing of US and British nationals Rachel Corrie and Tom Hurndall in Gaza in 2003 and 2004 respectively, was just the precursor of Israeli violence that was to follow.

In May 2010, the Israeli navy attacked the Freedom Flotilla consisting of the Turkish-owned ship ‘MV Mavi Marmara’ and others, killing ten unarmed humanitarian workers and wounding at least 50 more. As was the case with the murder of Rachel and Tom, there was no real accountability for the Israeli attack on the solidarity boats. 

It must be understood that Israeli violence is not random nor is just a reflection of Israel’s notoriety and disregard of international and humanitarian law. With every violent episode, Israel hopes to dissuade outside actors from getting involved in “Israeli affairs”. Yet, time and again, the solidarity movement returns with a defiant message, insisting that no country, not even Israel, has the right to commit war crimes with impunity. 

Following a recent meeting in the Dutch city of Rotterdam, the International Coalition of the Freedom Flotilla, which consists of many international groups, has decided to, once more, sail to Gaza. The solidarity mission is scheduled for the summer of 2020, and, like most of the 35 previous attempts, the Flotilla is likely to be intercepted by the Israeli navy. Yet, another attempt will likely follow, and many more, until the Gaza siege is completely lifted. It has become clear that the purpose of these humanitarian missions is not to deliver a few medical supplies to the nearly two million besieged Gazans, but to challenge the Israeli narrative that has turned the occupation and isolation of Palestinians to a status quo ante, to an “Israeli affair”. 

According to the United Nations Office in Occupied Palestine, the poverty rate in Gaza seems to be increasing at an alarming speed of 2% per year. By the end of 2017, 53% of Gaza’s population lived in poverty, two-thirds of them living in “deep poverty”. This terrible number includes over 400,000 children.

An image, a video, a chart or a social media post can never convey the pain of 400,000 children, who experience real hunger every single day of their lives so that the Israeli government may achieve its military and political designs in Gaza. Indeed, Gaza is not just an Israeli missile, a demolished home, and an injured child. It is an entire nation that is suffering and resisting, in near-complete isolation from the rest of the world. 

True solidarity should aim at forcing Israel to end the protracted occupation and siege on the Palestinian people, sailing the high seas, if necessary. Thankfully, the good activists of the Freedom Flotilla are doing just that. 

Feature photo | Twitter | @GazaFFlotilla

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA), Zaim University. His website is www.ramzybaroud.net.

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From the Old City to Tel Rumeida Hill: Israel’s Takeover of Hebron Forges Ahead

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 20/12/2019 - 4:33am in

Hebron, Alkhalil, Palestine –  Israel’s Defense Minister Naftali Bennett recently announced the approval of a new Jewish only neighborhood in the old section of the Palestinian city of Hebron. This new neighborhood, which lies in the heart of the Palestinian city, will include as many as seventy residential units. The move is not Israel’s first attempt to colonize Hebron. In 2017, the Israeli government approved the building of 31 housing units in a new settlement in the Old City on the now infamous Shuhada Street. According to a statement from the Defense Ministry, the construction project will double the number of Jewish residents in the city.

It often seems that Israel’s actions in the West Bank are spurred by little more than a desire to compensate for lost opportunities and settle old scores. The ancient town of Amwas in the Latrun region was leveled immediately after 1967 as revenge for their fierce fighting against invading Zionist militias in 1948. Hebron is no expectation. At the end of 1948, when Zionist authorities occupying Palestine were discussing whether or not to continue their conquest and ethnic cleansing campaign, the southern portion of what is now the West Bank, and the ancient Palestinian city of Hebron specifically, were on the table.

It was ultimately decided to leave the city in Arab hands, specifically under the control of the Kingdom of Jordan. David Ben-Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel, saw the move as a missed opportunity and said that the decision would be regretted for generations to come. Ben-Gurion called it “a cry for generations to come,” a phrase used by Israelis to describe missed opportunities. 

Ben-Gurion was correct in his assessment. When Israel took Hebron only twenty years later, along with the rest of the West Bank, it was no longer possible to forcibly remove the population as it had done in other cities and towns conquered in 1948. Furthermore, unlike cities like Yafa, Nasra, Tabariya and other Palestinian cities that were taken in 1948, Israel’s sovereignty over the West Bank remains questionable to this day, a reality that forces in Israel are working hard to change.

 

The “cleansing” of Hebron

Hebron is one of the oldest and continuously inhabited cities in the world and even if one were to limit themselves to the last century, countless pages would be needed to recount its rich history. It is the largest of the Palestinian cities in the West Bank and an important economic center. The city has multiple markets, three universities and one academic institute (Hebron University, Palestine Polytechnic University, Al-Quds Open University and the Al-Aroub Institute).

The Old City of Hebron, aside from serving as a beautiful example of ancient Palestinian history, is rife with religious significance. According to both Jewish and Muslim traditions, the Patriarch Abraham and his wife Sarah are buried in Hebron in the Tomb of the Patriarch, known to Muslims as the Ibrahimi Mosque (Mosque of Abraham). 


The brick-lined winding alleys of Hebron’s Old City. Photo | Miko Peled

A short recounting of events from 1967 until today reveals a slow ethnic cleansing of Hebron’s Old City by Israeli authorities and its repopulation by Jewish settlers. This take over was carried out by allowing violent gangs of extremist Jewish settlers to invade the city and terrorize its native Palestinian population, all under the protection of the Israeli army. This is a tactic used by Israel throughout Palestine. Send in fanatic, armed settlers to terrorize Palestinians in a particular town or village, allow them to settle, call in the army to protect them and before you know it, you have another Israeli town or city in its place. 

In 1968, during the Jewish holiday of Passover, a group of Israeli settlers led by a fanatic Rabbi called Moshe Levinger rented a hotel room in Hebron claiming they wanted to celebrate the holiday there. When the festivities concluded, they refused to leave and declared that they were taking over the place. While the Israeli government initially showed some objection to the hostile takeover, Israeli cabinet ministers gave the settlers their full support, and of course, the settlers enjoyed the protection of the Israeli army. After a few months, the group agreed to leave the hotel in exchange for the establishment of a settlement on land confiscated by Israeli authorities on the outskirts of Hebron. Today, that settlement is the city of Kiryat Arba where close to 7,500 Israeli settlers reside. It is known as a hotbed of racist, violent gangs of settlers that regularly and freely terrorize neighboring Palestinians.

 

The Tel Rumeida takeover

For decades, violent settlers protected by the Israeli army have been invading the old city of Hebron in an attempt to force out Palestinians. The Beit Hadassah settlement, Beit Romano, Avraham Avinu, Ramat Yishai, and others, were all established by radical Israeli settlers with the full support of multiple Israeli governments. Ramat Yishai is the name given by settlers to Tel Rumeida, where approximately ten housing units were built under the pretense of fulfilling “security needs.” 

Tel Rumeida Hebron

A view of the Old City of Hebron by night from Tel Rumeida. Photo | Miko Peled

Standing at Tel Rumeida, a hill covered in ancient olive trees some distance away from the old city, the view is breathtaking at all hours of the day and night. Choice real estate as it is, this hill is constantly invaded by violent Israeli settlers under the protection of the Israeli military who harass local residents. The most notorious settler, Baruch Marzel, lives in a house on the hill guarded by a full-time army post manned by IDF soldiers. 

Tel Rumeida Hebron

Israeli soldiers posted at the home of extremist settler leader Baruch Marzel in Tel Rumeida. Photo | Miko Peled

Marzel resides just behind a house used by Youth Against Settlements (YAS), a local, extremely effective, and well-organized grassroots organization. The house in which YAS operates was nearly taken over by settler gangs when, in an unprecedented move, Issa Amro, a local leader and the head of YAS, was able to stop them by renting the home from its Palestinian owner. It was on a Tel Rumeida street that Israeli soldier Elor Azaria shot and fatally wounded a Palestinian in the head as he lay on the ground. Azaria was celebrated as a hero in Israel.

Tel Rumeida Hebron

Miko Peled, left, with Issa Amro at YAS Center in Tel Rumeida, Hebron. Photo | Miko Peled

 

A byproduct of the Oslo Accords

The 1997 Hebron protocol, a byproduct of the Oslo Accords, divides Hebron into two parts, H1 and H2. H1 is the largest portion of the city and comprises the new city officially under the control of the Palestinian Authority. H2 includes the Old City, which has its own commercial center. Of the 220,000 Palestinians in Hebron, 35,000 live in H2 under full-time Israeli military control and under near-constant harassment and attack from H2’s 600-800 Jewish settlers. Palestinians residents of Hebron have to be registered and will not be let into the city without their registration number. 

In 1994, in what became known as the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre, an Israeli-American army doctor living in Kiryat Arba shot and killed 29 Palestinians, wounding more than 100 others. The massacre, and the protests which followed, led the Israeli army to shutter 1,800 Palestinian shops and more than 1,000 housing units. All the main markets were closed and Hebron’s Old City main street, Shuhada Street, which has connected the northern and southern parts of the city for generations, was closed to Palestinians. In other words, the very heart of Hebron’s Old City was now inaccessible to its own Palestinian residents.

Hebron Settler Map

A map showing the encroachment of Israeli settlements in Hebron. Source | B’Tselem

The Jewish-only settlements that dot Hebron’s rolling hills do not rely on local commerce for their resources, instead, they are all connected to the settlement of Kiryat Arba by a network of Jewish-only roads and infructure. Kiryat Arba serves as a sort of hub connecting Hebron’s various colonies. The plan is to connect the settlements in a line running through Shuhada Street, past the Ibrahimi Mosque, and up to Kiryat Arba. That settlement will then be connected to the settlement in Tel Rumeida, closing off the area to Palestinians and taking over all Hebron’s Old City, effectively expelling Palestinian residents.

Hebron is a microcosm of the rest of Palestine and unless people of conscience around the world act and adopt the call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against the Israeli government, the story of Hebron will soon be the story of all of  Jerusalem and the rest of historic Palestine.

Feature photo | Jewish settlers jump on a trampoline as an Israeli solider stands guard in a Jewish-only settlement in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron, March 7, 2019. Ariel Schalit | 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.”

The post From the Old City to Tel Rumeida Hill: Israel’s Takeover of Hebron Forges Ahead appeared first on MintPress News.

Elected by Donors: How the University of Cape Town Was Bullied into Embracing Israel

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 12/12/2019 - 2:46am in

It was a scandal of the highest caliber. On November 23, the Senate of the University of Cape Town (UCT) in South Africa was practically bullied to reverse an earlier decision that called for the academic boycott of Israel. While the story may only seem relevant in South Africa’s political and academic contexts, in reality, it exemplifies the nature of a brewing war between supporters of Palestinian rights and Israeli interests, worldwide. 

In fact, the UCT scandal began much earlier. 

Calls for South African universities to join the academic boycott of apartheid Israel were first answered by the University of Johannesburg on September 29, 2010. Decisive action taken by the Faculty Senate at the university sent a clear message to Israel’s academic institutions that South African academics would no longer accommodate Israeli crimes, including the crime of apartheid, in the name of scientific cooperation or “academic freedom”.

The severing of ties between the University of Johannesburg and Israel’s Ben Gurion University sounded the alarm among Israel’s supporters in South Africa, under the leadership of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), which fanned out throughout the country warning of the supposed rise of anti-Semitism.

However, the successful campaign in Johannesburg inspired other student groups across the country to carry on with their mission of holding the Israeli state accountable for its racism, apartheid and military occupation. In August 2012, the Student Representative Council at the University of Witwatersrand adopted a resolution that called for a full academic and cultural boycott of Israel.

Support for Palestine continued. In response to the deadly Israeli war on Gaza in the summer of 2014, more than 300 members of Rhodes University in Grahamstown, including the University’s Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Sizwe Maisel, condemned Israeli violence targeting the besieged Strip.

In August 2014, the University of Cape Town’s Student Representative Council (UCT SRC) began its campaign aimed at cutting ties between UCT and Israel in response to a memorandum introduced by the Palestine Solidarity Forum (PSF). The students had courageously and “unconditionally” declared Israel an apartheid state, calling for the boycott of Israeli products, and demanding the expulsion of Israel’s ambassador to the country.

Israel Apartheid Week - Africa

Photo | Israel Apartheid Week – Africa

UCT students have so much to be proud of, as their efforts, combined with a massive grassroots movement throughout South Africa, did, in fact, push the government to rethink its ties with Israel. In May 2018, Pretoria recalled its ambassador to Israel to protest the Israeli army killing of unarmed Palestinian protesters in Gaza.

The UCT student efforts began paying dividends on March 15, 2019, when the University Senate passed a resolution that called on the university not to engage with any Israeli academic institutions, whether those operating within the occupied Palestinian territories or any others that contribute to Israel’s gross human rights violations in Palestine.

Considering the importance of UCT as Africa’s top academic institution, and the democratic nature of its Senate, which includes 363 representatives, the pro-Palestine resolution was too much for Israel’s supporters to bear. 

On March 19, the SAJBD and the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) called on the UCT’S Council to reject the resolution. At the time, an influential SAJBD member told the right-wing Israeli newspaper, the Jerusalem Post, that the Senate had “shamefully caved in to pressure from radical anti-Israel lobby groups”.

Wary of outside pressures, yet careful not to lose all credibility within the Senate, the 30-member UCT’s Council, which includes representatives who have been “elected by donors”, attempted to exert pressure at the Senate without rejecting the resolution outright.  On March 30, the Council sent the resolution back to the Senate to “reconsider”.

Since then, a battle of wills ensued, involving, on the one hand, student groups and their supporters in the Senate and, on the other, the Council and the many pressure groups, leading among them SAJBD and SAZF. 

Weighing in on the matter, 65 distinguished Jewish scholars signed a letter addressed to UCT, “to preserve (its previous) resolution and safeguard the University’s academic freedom and autonomy.”

The March resolution, the letter argued, “establishes UCT as an adherent to international law and affirms the university as a partner in the struggle for human rights in Israel/Palestine.”

The following passage highlighted the nature of the ugly opposition that the resolution had inspired, which culminated in the unfortunate decision of the Senate in November to strike down its own previous commitment: 

Over the past six months, opponents of this resolution have used backdoor fear-mongering about the withdrawal of private funding to cripple the institution thereby undermining the academic freedom of the UCT Senate members.”

Sadly, even such a candid and passionate call failed to dissuade the Council from pressuring the Senate, which led to the November 23 vote and the reversal of the March resolution.

Israel’s friends in South Africa are now gloating, welcoming the badly needed respite from Israel’s political misfortunes in the country. 

While, indeed, the UCT Senate decision is a regrettable setback, it is most likely to invigorate pro-Palestine campaigners in South Africa, so that they may take the academic boycott movement to every academic institution in the country that engages with and validates human rights violators in Israel, Palestine or anywhere else in the world. 

I visited South Africa for the third time in September. My speaking tour in that beautiful and ever-inspiring country has taken me to several universities, government and civil society offices, and other intellectual and community forums. Certainly, in all of my travels I have never experienced such harmony between politicians, academics, and civil society activists regarding the rights of the Palestinian people and the insistence on holding Israeli criminals to account.

The boycott of Israel, as championed by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, is hardly on the decline, as the recent decision by the US Brown University committee on corporate responsibility to divest from Israeli companies amply demonstrates. 

However, it behooves the University of Cape Town to rethink its priorities and to choose between its commitment to those “elected by donors” and the democratic ideals as championed by post-Apartheid South Africa.

Feature photo | An anti-apartheid display is shown in front of the University of Cape Town in South Africa. Twitter | @UCT_PSF

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of The Palestine Chronicle. His last book is The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story (Pluto Press, London) and his forthcoming book is These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons (Clarity Press, Atlanta). Baroud has a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter. His website is www.ramzybaroud.net.   

The post Elected by Donors: How the University of Cape Town Was Bullied into Embracing Israel appeared first on MintPress News.

European Haredi Jewish Organisation Condemns Chief Rabbi’s Attack on Corbyn and Labour

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 28/11/2019 - 4:49am in

Here’s a story from Mike’s blog that, as he points out, you won’t find in the mainstream press. A leading rabbi for the Haredi Jewish organisation, United European Jews, Mayer Weinberger, has written a letter on behalf of his organisation’s Executive Board condemning Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis’ attack on Jeremy Corbyn. Not only does Rabbi Weinberger defend Corbyn for his support of the British Jewish community, but actually thanks him.

Mike makes the point that this shouldn’t be too surprising, as the organisation comes from the True Torah Jews, which thoroughly rejects Zionism. True Torah and Haredi Jews believe that the Jewish people should stay in exile until – and only until – the coming of the Messiah. Only he has the divine right to restore the Jewish people to their ancient homeland. Until then they are to remain and, in the words of the Hebrew Bible, ‘pray for the health of the city’. That is, they are to live as members of the nations in which they live, working and praying for their common good.

R. Weinberger writes

I write to you on behalf of the Executive Board of the United European Jews organisation regarding an unusually disturbing declaration that was … reported in the media claiming that the overwhelming majority of British Jews are “gripped by anxiety” at the prospect of a Labour victory in the forthcoming general election.

Please not that we totally reject and condemn in no uncertain terms these remarks, which [do] not represent the views of the mainstream chareidi Jews that live in the UK.

We believe that such assertions are due to propaganda with a political and ideological agenda. An agenda which, I might add, is diametrically opposed to fundamental Jewish values as well as the opinions of tens of thousands of Jews in our community.

At this time, we also relay our gratefulness for your numerous acts of solidarity with the Jewish community over many years and also welcome your assurances that Labour will do everything necessary to defend the Jewish way of life and protect our rights to practise our religion.

For all this, we take this opportunity to say: Thank you! Mr Corbyn.

R. Weinberger is quite right when says that the Chief Rabbi’s remarks are propaganda based on a political and ideological agenda. The Chief Rabbi is a Zionist, as many Chief Rabbis before him have been. He is a friend of Netanyahu and Boris Johnson, and has made comments in the past supporting the bombing of Palestinians.

Mike reminds us in his post about the letter that this should show that R. Mirvis’ claims about the opinion of British Jews towards the Labour leader are not as conclusive as the Chief Rabbi claims.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/11/27/chief-rabbis-rant-condemned-as-political-and-ideological-propaganda/

Many Jews from all walks of life and all shades of religious opinion – from secular people to members of the clergy – have written or taken to social media to express their support for Jeremy Corbyn. Earlier today Mike put up a piece on his blog  about the messages of support for Corbyn and anger and condemnation Jewish Labour supporters had posted against Chief Rabbi Mirvis’ comments.

Unafraid: Jews respond to Chief Rabbi’s (and other) claims that they fear a Corbyn Labour government

And it is a mistake to assume that the Jews have a monolithic cultural or religious identity. The Talmud is full of the debates between the great rabbis of the past regarding the interpretation of Scripture and the Law. Even minority opinions are preserved, and many of these accounts end with no conclusion having been reached. The text simply says, ‘And so they disagreed’. And I think the Jewish people also see themselves as being particularly disputatious. There’s a Jewish saying, ‘Two Jews, three opinions’. I got the impression that debate is a vital part of the teaching at the yeshivas, the rabbinical colleges, so that the students can properly learn how to interpret scripture and form correct, reasonable opinions on its observance. The I stated in its coverage of Mirvis’ comments that he represents the United Synagogue, which they claimed was the largest Jewish denomination in Britain. That may be so, but the Jewish community also includes secular Jews, who obviously aren’t represented because they don’t attend synagogue, nor Orthodox Jews. And even within the United Synagogue you can wonder how many people he really speaks for. As Tony Greenstein and other Jewish critics have pointed out in their rebuttals to the Board of Deputies’ attacks on Corbyn, not all synagogues allow women to vote or stand for election as deputies, and some haven’t changed their deputies for years. Which means that even here, Mirvis may only be speaking for a Zionist, Tory clique.

However, the British media is determined not to show Jewish support for Corbyn and the Labour party. Some of the newspapers, including supposedly left-wing journals like the Observer, have refused to publish letters from Corbyn’s Jewish supporters. There is also a similar reluctance to cover anti-Zionist, or Israel-critical Jewish opinion generally. A few years ago I put up a video on this blog of a public meeting in New York of ultra-Orthodox, anti-Zionist Jews. I believe they were members of ‘True Torah’. The video claimed there were 30,000 people there. I don’t know if that’s true, but it was very clear that there were very many and the meeting was huge. But it received no press or media coverage, from what the video said.

I believe this also points to one of the underlying reasons why the British and American political and media establishments have been so keen to smear Corbyn on this side of the Atlantic as an anti-Semites, and left-wing Democrats, including supporters and staffers working for Bernie Sanders. Who is himself Jewish. It is not simply a profoundly Conservative establishment trying to discredit left-wing threats to its continued dominance. It is not only because of the power of the Israel lobby in our two countries. I think it is also because Israel has played a vital part in Western great power policy in the Middle East since the days of the British Mandate. Geopolitical considerations demand that Britain supports Israel in the Middle East as a way of maintaining power and influence in the region.

And to the supporters of this policy, Corbyn is a real threat. Not because he wants the destruction of Israel, but simply because he wants an end to Israeli apartheid and a just peace between Israel and the Palestinians. A policy supported by many Jews, who feel that to be Jewish means always identifying with the oppressed, never the oppressor.

And that means making sure that the Jewish voices supporting Labour must not be allowed real coverage by our Tory press and media.

 

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