Archive for the ‘Palestine’ Category
For years, Palestinian detainees and prisoners have complained about sleep deprivation, painful and prolonged handcuffing, humiliation, beatings and medical neglect. By international standards, this is torture.
By Amira Hass | Feb.25, 2013 | 1:30 AM | 12
Arafat Jaradat, 30, died while under interrogation by the Shin Bet security service. Every week dozens if not hundreds of Palestinians start down the road he began on February 18.An Israeli actor is seen demonstrating one of several standard torture techniques reportedly used by the Shin Bet. Photo by AP
Dozens of Israelis whose names are unknown are on a parallel track: the soldiers who make the arrest in the dead of night, the military doctor who examines the new detainee, Shin Bet interrogators in their changing shifts; Israel Prison Service guards, workers at the prison clinic, and the judge who extends the remand.
True, thousands of others take this road or sometimes a longer and harder one – and stay alive. This is probably what the Shin Bet and the prison service will say in their defense. But from the Palestinian perspective, every stop on the road of detention and interrogation involves enormous physical and psychological pain that the army, the police, the Shin Bet and the prison service inflict intentionally.
This goes well beyond the suffering that should be caused by taking away a person’s liberty and issuing an indictment. For years, Palestinian detainees and prisoners have complained about sleep deprivation, painful and prolonged handcuffing, humiliation, beatings and medical neglect. By international standards, this is torture.
Jaradat was not a ticking bomb. He was arrested on suspicion of throwing stones and an incendiary device at Israeli targets. After three days of interrogation the police asked the court (in the name of the Shin Bet) to extend his remand for another 15 days for questioning. The remand hearing took place on Thursday, February 21, at the Shin Bet’s Kishon interrogation facility, in front of a military judge, Maj. David Kadosh. The judge ordered the remand for 12 days.
Kamil Sabbagh, an attorney for the Palestinian Authority’s Prisoner Affairs Ministry, asked the police investigator at the hearing whether there were other suspicions against his client; he was told there were not. He asked whether Jaradat had confessed, and the police investigator answered: “partially.” Sabbagh concluded that Jaradat had confessed to throwing stones.
Experience shows that the additional days of interrogation – many, considering the minor nature of the offenses – were not intended merely to extract more confessions, but to get Jaradat to implicate others or to gather personal information, even of an embarrassing nature, to use in the future. From reports by detainees to their attorneys, it’s clear that sleep deprivation combined with painful and prolonged handcuffing is very common. As we learn at military court and elsewhere, people confess to things they haven’t done or implicate others falsely, only to be allowed to sleep.
In the short time Jaradat and his attorney had before the remand hearing, Jaradat, who was suffering from a herniated disc, was able to tell Sabbagh that he was in pain from prolonged sitting. Judge Kadosh knew about the pain from a secret report he had been shown.While the judge was writing his decision, Jaradat told Sabbagh that conditions were difficult for him in isolation and he wanted to be moved to another cell. Sabbagh had the impression that Jaradat was under severe psychological stress, and told the judge this.
The judge then added to his decision: “The defense attorney requests the court’s permission to present the matter of the suspect’s mental health while in a cell alone, and his concerns about psychological damage. He requests that the suspect be examined and properly attended to.”
The role of informants
The remand hearing took place at 10 A.M. Thursday. As of Sunday, Sabbagh did not know when Jaradat had been moved to Megiddo Prison, where he died. Palestinian organizations representing prisoners say one possibility is that he was placed in a cell with informants at Megiddo.
Unlike Shin Bet interrogations, which are documented in memos, the existence of informants is not officially acknowledged by the authorities. Informants use various means to extract information, whether true or false. They boast about their exploits as members of Palestinian organizations, they suggest that the detainee is a collaborator because he does not discuss his actions with them, and they threaten him.
The investigation of Jaradat’s death must go through all phases of his detention and interrogation – and those of thousands of others. But any interrogation will be flawed from the outset because, by authorization of the High Court of Justice, Shin Bet interrogations are not filmed.
Only two weeks ago, on February 6, justices Asher Grunis, Hanan Melcer and Noam Sohlberg turned down a petition by four human rights groups demanding the annulment of a 2003 law letting the police forgo the filming or audiotaping of security suspects’ interrogations. The organizations also asked the court to require the Shin Bet to visually document the questioning of suspects. The justices said that because the law was now under scrutiny, “the time has not yet come to examine the petitioners’ arguments themselves.”
The Palestinians do not need an Israeli investigation. For them, Jaradat’s death is much bigger than the tragedy he and his family have suffered. From their experience, Jaradat’s death isn’t proof that others haven’t died, it’s proof that the Israeli system routinely uses torture. From their experience, the goal of torture is not only to convict someone, but mainly to deter and subjugate an entire people.
Now you demonstrate? After all, we’ve already told you we no longer care what happens to you.
By Gideon Levy | Feb.24, 2013 | 4:39 AM | 9
My Palestinian brothers (for your information, everyone’s a “brother” around here these days ), aren’t you ashamed? How dare you protest and throw stones? How dare you disturb the peace; build “illegal” outposts on your own private land; go on hunger strikes; demonstrate solidarity with prisoners; protest the closing of Shuhada Street in Hebron and the rearrest of freed prisoners; sneak into Israel to find work; oppose the eviction of people from their homes; protest that you are not allowed to reach your farmlands; protest against the fence that was built in your area; threaten a third intifada? Are you out of your minds? Where do you get such chutzpah?
Now you demonstrate? After all, we’ve already told you we no longer care what happens to you. Right and left, they all told you loud and clear. Even that warrior for social justice, MK Shelly Yacimovich, told you that Israelis don’t care about you, and you just don’t understand. Can’t you see that we’re busy? We have momentous questions before us – sharing the military burden; the number of ministers; Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu’s pistachio ice cream; Yesh Atid MK Ruth Calderon’s inaugural Knesset speech; and Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar’s alleged love life.
So who can think about you? Israel is trying to put together a coalition. It is still not clear whether the eternal alliance between Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid and Habayit Hayehudi’s Naftali Bennett will last, and you dare to bother us with your foolishness? Lapid doesn’t want the “Hanin Zuabis”; Bennett doesn’t want “Abu”; and you just don’t get it. You don’t see they are so worried about the people of Israel that they have no time for you, so how dare you remind them of your existence.
Occupation-shmoccupation; human and civil rights; expulsion and stealing; self-determination; two states for two peoples; the separation fence; 5,000 prisoners – you buzz around like bothersome mosquitoes. Leave us alone, you’re boring us.
How much longer are you going to keep bothering us with your little problems? How much longer are you going to keep bothering the world? Can’t you see that U.S. President Barack Obama is coming on another emotional-blackmail visit, to prostrate himself on the graves of Yitzhak Rabin and Theodor Herzl and at Yad Vashem, so why should you bother him, either? Sit tight, my brothers: in Syria, things are worse.
Sit tight: the occupation is only 46 years old. Be happy with what you have. You’re in good hands – the hands of the only democracy in the Middle East. Don’t bother it and don’t stop it from continuing to flourish. Its old politics didn’t take an interest in you and its new politics – even less. Just ask the harbingers of the new politics, Lapid and Bennett, over whom Israel is so enthusiastic right now. Neither of them probably ever met a (living ) Palestinian in their life, nor do they want to. You’ll miss Netanyahu yet, you’ll miss Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak, from the old guard. They at least talked to you. So be happy with what you have.
Think ahead. It won’t be that long before you are the majority here. And even before that, the world will not stand for you to live without rights. Guilt feelings over the Holocaust will subside. The Jewish lobby – yes, it’s Jewish – might lose some of its strength. And besides, natural justice is with you, history is on your side.
Rotten tyrannies like the Israeli occupation have never lasted forever. So sit tight, my brothers, and wait for the future. If it doesn’t happen in your lifetime, perhaps it will in your grandchildren’s. True, you have suffered enough, but a human being is like a tree in a field; when you get whipped, bend your head submissively. After all, you have tried everything: negotiations and terror; recognition and compromise; the first intifada; the second intifada.
Nothing much came out of it all. The settlers have tripled, the Knesset is full of their representatives, and Israel has completely stopped dealing with you. True, if you sit tight you will be forgotten; if you protest, they will say you are terrorists. But the most important thing is: not now. Not when Israel is busy, not when Israel has had it with you, with your wailing, your sobbing and your demands.
It’s hard to be a Palestinian but, remember, it’s even harder to be a Jew. A Jew, after all, is always the victim; the only victim around
These lyrics are taken from a poem written in 1966 by Tawfiq Ziad (توفيق زيّاد), who was a Palestinian poet and later went on to become mayor of Nazareth and finally a member of the Knesset after his return from the Soviet Union in 1973 as a member of the Israeli communist party Rakah.
|Ahmed Kaabour – I’m Calling YouI’m calling you (the you in this song is the plural you or y’all if you prefer)
I shake your hands
I kiss the ground beneath your feet (literally, ‘soles’)
And say, “I’d die for you/I will redeem you” (the word fada “فدى” is a verb that means to “redeem”, but in this context it has the meaning that he would die for them, because this word has the connotation of sacrificing yourself for someone else. Jesus Christ “the Redeemer” is sometimes call فادي in English, for example
I dedicated to you the light of my eyes (also kind of like giving your life to someone)
And I give you the warmth of my heart
And the tragedy that I live is that my fate is the same of yours
I have not become worthless in my country
Nor have I shrunk in fear
I stood in the face of my oppressors
A naked, barefoot orphan
I’ve carried my blood on my hands and never half-masted my flags
And I’ve preserved the green grass on the graves of my ancestors
أشد على أياديكم..
أبوس الأرض تحت نعالكم
وأقول: أفديكموأهديكم ضيا عيني
ودفء القلب أعطيكم
فمأساتي التي أحيا
نصيبي من مآسيكمأناديكم
أشد على أياديكم..أنا ما هنت في وطني ولا صغرت أكتافي
وقفت بوجه ظلامي
يتيما، عاريا، حافي
حملت دمي على كفي
وما نكست أعلامي
وصنت العشب أخضر فوق قبور أسلافي
January 27, 2013
by William A. Cook
“We are outraged and shocked at these offensive comments (made by MP David Ward last week) about Jewish victims of the Holocaust and the suggestion that Jews should have learned a lesson from the experience” — Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, 1/25/2013.
I must apologize for not responding to the lashing given to Lib Dem MP David Ward a week ago as my wife’s Mother, 88 years of age, was moved into Hospice care readying her for leaving this vale of tears. Her life, as is true of my own, suffered the horrors of WWII and the Nazi devastation of prisoners including, from 1933, Communists, Socialists, Social Democrats, Roma (Gypsies), Jehovah Witnesses, homosexuals, (and) persons accused of “asocial” or socially deviant behavior, and Jews, between 1938 and 1945 (Holocaust Encyclopedia). Our lives are bookended between depressions and wars. So what have we learned, as David Ward so tellingly asks to the chagrin of many including Mr. Benjamin quoted above. Curiously I found Mr. Ward’s comment incomplete. This is what he said:
Having visited Auschwitz twice – once with my family and once with local schools – I am saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust, could within a few years of liberation from the death camps be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new State of Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis in the West Bank and Gaza.
If truth be told, it did not take “a few years” for the Jews to inflict “unbelievable levels of persecution” on the indigenous people of Mandate Palestine; the persecution began in earnest in 1939 against the British, the British Mandate Government established in 1922 by the League of Nations to maintain order and peace in Palestine. The Zionists undertook “a war against the British Mandate Government, its Police and Soldiers” while it lobbied and subverted the MP’s in Westminster with propaganda and money. Here are the words Weizmann and Ben-Gurion promised the Mandate Government:
“if further action was taken against them (by the British Mandate Government) to destroy Zionism, then there would be a blood bath. Nothing could prevent it. Nobody would be safe in Palestine (July 12, 1946, Rhodes Archive Documents). If need be, we shall take the country by force. If Palestine proves too small, her frontiers will have to be extended” (Ben Gurion, Appendix LVc).
This war set the British Government against its own soldiers and police, yea against the nations of the world that had authorized Britain to manage Palestine, and its own Balfour Declaration wording, to appease the Zionists that made this period one of the most destructive and humiliating experienced by the British people through their elected representatives. When in 1948, May of 1948, the Mandate soldiers and police returned home they were virtually shunned by the MPs as Robert Fisk notes in his piece, “The Forgotten Holocaust.”
Let’s move beyond the “outrage and shock” experienced by Mr. Benjamin to understand why he avoids telling the truth. Should he care to find it, he need only travel a few miles to Oxford, specifically seek in the Rhodes House Archives the “Top Secret” files of Sir Richard C. Catling lodged in a long card board box tied with a shoestring. Catling was Assistant Head Deputy of the Criminal Investigation Division of the Mandate Police. His file contains almost 500 pages of evidence detailing the subterfuge of the Jewish Agency that ostensibly cooperated with the British Government as Jewish immigrants came to Palestine. The documents were seized by the Mandate authorities from the Jewish Agency and its affiliated terror groups, the Haganah, Stern and Irgun “gangs.”
Two reports are included, one from High Commissioner Hugh MacMichael written in 1941 and sent to the British Secretary of State’s office and the second Catling’s report from 1947. The contents of these documents and the commentary of the reports were published by myself as Editor of The Plight of the Palestinians: a Long History of Destruction. That volume was published in 2010 by Macmillan Company with offices in London and New York. More than 20 renowned writers from around the world contributed to this work that describes the original intent of the Zionists as they terrorized the British authorities and the Palestinians from 1939 to May 14, 1948 and never stopped to this day. It is a book about genocide in Palestine.
How do you say that kindly? How do you make people, Jews and gentiles alike, feel comfortable talking about such behavior? How do you atone for the massacres of innocents as the Jewish armies raped, pillaged, slaughtered or drove out the residents of 418 towns and villages in Palestine while the British forces there had to stand by and watch because their fellow British politicians in Westminster called the shots?
Seven to eight hundred thousand Palestinians were driven from their homes and lands, into exile in foreign countries or into Gaza. They are a people without a homeland, contrary to the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. No passports, no recognized rights to employment or medical care or support of any kind—in Beirut and other cities in Lebanon, in Syria, in Jordan. To this day they live in refugee camps, thousands imprisoned with no place to go, no right of return, yet any Jew living anywhere in the world, who never stepped foot in Palestine, who has no Semitic blood in his/her veins, has a “right of return.” How can this be? Where is the justice?
Where is the cry of lamentation by the British MPs for allowing these conditions to persist? Why a cry of “Outrage and Shock”? What hypocritical nonsense from the “Good” people of Britain who walk around in pin striped suits and glittering pearls asking for “decency” and “respect” and “kindness” toward those who suffered the holocaust because they would be appalled at such “words” as David Ward uttered. I’m sorry, I don’t believe the Jews of the concentration camps would be “shocked and outraged” by such words; I think they would be “shocked and outraged” if the MPs and the Deputies of British Jews did not speak against the horrors the Zionist government of Israel has perpetrated on the Jews in the name of Judaism. Perhaps they can speak through me:
THE GHOSTS OF TEREZIN
I saw the pictures children drew at Terezin
As they clustered in the attic’s closing darkness, –
Pictures of the sun beyond the rain,
Of Mothers muffled in scarves and solemn dress,
Of Fathers proud beneath their yarmulkas, –
All waiting patiently the promised day
When they would board the silver train
And flee to the Holy City.
And I wept at their plight,
The silent, unknown, gnawing fright
That burned within their Ghetto of sin,
And then before my eyes there came
Another scene, so strange, as if incarnate in the first
That burst untimely before my weeping heart;
A scene more ravaged than Terezin,
Of streets and alleys swamped in sewage and despair
Where children breathed the fetid air of hate
That smoldered like steaming ashes there.
Suddenly appeared above the graves, the ghosts of Terezin,
Arising like mist around the crematorium;
Fathers and Mothers, in their promised land at last,
Grasping children to their breasts.
Silent as sentinels they stood,
And there they wept as they watched in vain
The wardens wander through the camps
Like Gestapo agents of old,
Stark, cold, indifferent to the pain
Of those who huddled beneath the tin roofs,
Encased like the dead in cement boxes
As the acrid stench of lingering sewage
Flowed through the alleys and the homes.
They saw the tanks rattle through the streets
With ranks of soldiers scurrying behind,
Seeking the vermin that infested this place, –
Homeless, nameless, without a face, –
Sneaking through this ghetto in the dark of night
To drive the children from this transport town,
This resurrected refugee camp, this new Terezin,
Where the new Jew wanders the world
Like the Jews of Terezin,
Joined in their loneliness and despair
As they watch their children there
Become the walls of Terezin!
The “despatch” sent by MacMichael to the Secretary of State resulted from an investigation into the funding practices and use of those funds by various Jewish organizations.
The memorandum illustrates … the fact that the Mandatory is faced potentially with as grave a danger in Palestine from Jewish violence as it has ever faced from Arab violence, a danger infinitely less easy to meet by the methods of repression which have been employed against Arabs. In the first place, the Jews … have the moral and political support … of considerable sections of public opinion both in the United Kingdom and the United States of America. … all the influence and political ability of the Zionists would be brought to bear to show that the Jews in Palestine were the victims of aggression, and that a substantial body of opinion abroad would be persuaded of the truth of the contention.[i]
Quite obviously, MacMichael understands that the Mandatory has little power at home over the zealous actions of the Zionists as they manipulate public and political opinion even as they expand their terrorism against the British Mandate government in Palestine. This is an untenable position to be in, responsible for government control and security of those under its authority, i.e. Palestinians as well as Jews, knowing that the Jews are set on driving the British out of Palestine, and knowing that the home government can offer little help.
To bolster his points, MacMichael offers the following:
… the Jews in Palestine are by no means untrained in the use of arms … large numbers have received training in the Palestine Police… or in His Majesty’s Forces. At the present time, in addition to approximately 10,000 Jews in His Majesty’s Forces, there are 5,800 in various units of the police force and 15,400 special policemen (31,000) … When to those men … are added the illicit ‘defence’ organizations of the Jews (Haganah alone had an estimated 60-70,000 men by 1945, see Mss, Med. S20 Appendix XXI), it will be evident that the Jewish people in arms would numerically and in calibre be a very formidable adversary.[ii]
This is in 1941before the full deployment of Jewish terrorism against the legitimate Palestine government got under way.
MacMichael and Catling found themselves missing one of Catling’s primary supports for the waging of “irregular warfare” drawn from his image of the 3-legged stool that required the support of the people, the commander and his army and the government, an image, no doubt, from his childhood in Suffolk where his family were butchers and farmers. But the situation only got worse as the end of WWII loomed. The Haganah carried out anti-British military operations, including the kidnapping, killing and booby trapping of soldiers’ bodies, conducted against the Mandate Government while the home government remained silent under the pall of Israeli Zionist propaganda.[iii]
But recording the acts of terrorism does not do justice to the conditions the Mandate government faced. MacMichael describes the reality of the forces aligned against the police in Palestine.
A second matter which deeply impressed me is the almost Nazi control exercised by the official Jewish organizations over the Jewish community, willy nilly, through the administration of funds from abroad, the issue of labor certificates in connection with the immigration quota…. The Royal Commission were, in my view, fundamentally at error in describing the Jewish community in Palestine as “intensely democratic”. … The Zionist organization, the whole social structure which it has created in Palestine, has the trappings but none of the essentials of democracy. The community is under the closed oligarchy of the Jewish official organizations which control Zionist policy and circumscribe the lives of the Jewish community in all directions…. The reality of power is in the Agency, with the Haganah, the illegal military organization, always in the background.[iv]
And so the authorities in Palestine, the legal authorities, have no power to enforce measures that would curtail terrorism against their own police. “The use of force cannot be contemplated at present as any such action would have to be on a very large scale.” MacMichael understands that he can get no help from the Jewish community, even from those who find themselves at odds with the Agency’s methods or morality. The consequences to the individual Jew for disobedience is horrendous as the second document seized from the Zionists in 1947 attests.
But we’ll stop here; David Ward’s comment was nothing to condemn. He didn’t know of the years before the end of WWII when the Zionists were destroying Mandate Palestine and the indigenous people there. Yet he knew enough to ask a discerning question. Did the Jewish people learn anything from their experience under Hitler’s rule? The Zionists did quite obviously and they used it and continue to use it to decimate and destroy the Palestinian people, to disarm truth with distortion, to steal land and subjugate the innocent, and to verbally assault with deafening, righteous indignation, to avoid the reality and truth that could be discovered if their actions were brought before the International Courts.
Should anyone care to extend their interest in this deception you might read “Deception as Truth: the Myth of Mid-East Peace,” “The Birth Date of Fratricide: May 14, 1948,” “A Miscarriage of Birth: a Miscarriage of Justice,” and the Introduction to the book, The Plight of the Palestinians.
[i] MacMichael, Harold. (1947). “Memorandum on the Participation of the Jewish National Institutions in Palestine in Acts of Lawlessness and Violence” The Palestine Police, Jerusalem, 7-31-1947 in Catling file.
[ii] MacMichael. “dispatch.” 1.
[iii] Ibid., “Despatch.” 2.
[iv] Ibid., “Despatch.” 2.
by Allison Deger and Annie Robbins on January 11, 2013 25
First new Palestinian village since 1967 in the E1 area between East Jerusalem and the West Bank, established January 11, 2013. (Photo: ActiveStills)
Today in a show of defiance against Israel’s occupation and announced settlement expansion in the E1 area between East Jerusalem and the West Bank, 250 Palestinians erected tents near the village of Za’I'm and announced the establishment of a new Palestinian village named Bab al-Shams (Gate of the Sun).
“Because this is our land and it is our right to inhabit it,” said a statement by the Popular Struggle Coordinating Committee (PSCC) who spearheaded the action, “we will not remain silent as settlement expansion and confiscation of our land continues.”
“We have set up 20 tents, and have enough equipment to stay here for a long time,” said PSCC spokesperson Abir Kopty (a frequent contributor to this site) to the Agence France-Presse. Following the construction, the Israeli military promptly ordered the villagers to evacuate the camp and delivered an eviction notice. The Israeli military then returned several hours later to issue a second set of eviction documents, according to Tweets from activists present on the groud. However, Israel’s High Court has already decided that the village cannot be evicted for the next six days, according to Bab al-Shams villagers.
Earlier today the PSCC released the following statement, clarifying that Bab al-Shams is not a symbolic action and the group intends to maintain the new village as a permanent establishment:
We, the sons and daughters of Palestine from all throughout the land, announce the establishment of Bab al-Shams Village (Gate of the Sun). We the people, without permits from the occupation, without permission from anyone, sit here today because this is our land and it is our right to inhabit it.
A few months ago the Israeli government announced its intention to build about 4000 settlement housing units in the area Israel refers to as E1. E1 block is an area of about 13 square km that falls on confiscated Palestinian land East of Jerusalem between Ma’ale Adumim settlement, which lies on occupied West Bank Palestinian land, and Jerusalem. We will not remain silent as settlement expansion and confiscation of our land continues. Therefore we hereby establish the village of Bab al-Shams to proclaim our faith in direct action and popular resistance. We declare that the village will stand steadfast until the owners of this land will get their right to build on their land.
The village’s name is taken from the novel, ‘Bab al-Shams,’ by Lebanese writer Elias Khoury. The book depicts the history of Palestine through a love story between a Palestinian man, Younis, and his wife Nahila. Younis leaves his wife to join the Palestinian resistance in Lebanon while Nahila remains steadfast in what remains of their village in the Galilee. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Younis smuggles through Lebanon and back to the Galilee to meet his wife in the ‘Bab Alshams’ cave, where she gives birth to their children. Younis returns to the resistance in Lebanon as his wife remains in Bab Al Shams.
Bab al-Shams is the gate to our freedom and steadfastness. Bab al-Shams is our gate to Jerusalem. Bab al-Shams is the gate to our to our return.
For decades, Israel has established facts on the ground as the International community remained silent in response to these violations. The time has come now to change the rules of the game, for us to establish facts on the ground – our own land. This action involving women and men from the north to the south is a form of popular resistance. In the coming days we will hold various discussion groups, educational and artistic presentations, as well as film screenings on the lands of this village. The residents of Bab al-Shams invite all the sons and daughters of our people to participate and join the village in supporting our resilience.
A police contingency has blocked entry to the site, and there is still no decision on what is to be done with those already there.
Abdallah Abu Rahma, a leading Palestinian activist, said that the decision to build the new village sends the message that “Palestinians are no longer content with policies of occupation and settlement.”
According to Abu Rahma, the project was started roughly a month ago, mainly by Palestinian residents of villages in danger of having their lands “frozen” to accommodate settlement expansions. The activists are from A-Tur, Isawiyah, Abu Dis, al-Eizariya, and Anata, among other places. Abu Rahma that the activists will reside at the location until their outpost is recognized.
On Friday morning, 25 tents were erected for residents, as well as one to be used as a health clinic. Activists stated that they will hold daily events to discuss Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s settlement policies.
Throughout the day Palestinian activists used social media to photograph and provide updates of the status of their new village and run-in with the Israeli Border Police. They also made a live-stream account where viewers can log in to watch in real time.
The dawn of a Palestinian state has been a long time coming. After 65 years of dispossession, 45 years of occupation, and 20 years of failed peace attempts, on Thursday Palestine took one step closer to joining the community of nations. With a final vote of 138 to 9, an overwhelming majority of nations at the UN General Assembly voted to recognise Palestine as a non-member state. This upgrade puts Palestine on par with the Vatican, and also could allow Palestinian claims to be filed in the International Criminal Court. This recognition came just days after another in the long line of catastrophes Palestinians have faced. Under a brutal Israeli bombardment of Gaza, nearly 200 Palestinians were killed and hundreds more were wounded. Empire asks: Must the Palestinian dream of a state be Israel’s nightmare? And what does the path to a just solution look like?
The U.S. vote against raising the status of Palestine at the United Nations was a deeply cynical move. It was cynical because there is not a chance that President Obama believes that he did the right thing. It is also cynical because, in the name of friendship for Israel, Obama led Israel closer to the cliff.
The last thing a true friend of Israel would have done would be to stand by as Israel demonstrated its almost complete international isolation. Just eight countries backed the Israeli position – the US, Panama, Palau, Canada, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Czech Republic and Micronesia – while 138 voted with the Palestinians. Was this display helpful to Israel?
But Obama was not trying to be helpful. The administration enabled this “disaster” (from Israel’s point of view) because Obama seems to truly not care about Israelis or Palestinians.
Take the two most recent examples. The first was his absolute refusal to express a word of sympathy for the Palestinians killed in the Gaza war. Under previous administrations, certainly under every Democratic administration, sympathy was expressed for the dead and injured on both sides along with a call for an end to the fighting. But Obama would not do that. Even when asked directly his spokesperson at the State Department would only speak of Israel’s pain. (To her credit, Secretary of State Clinton did say that she felt for both sides.)
But not Obama. He is determined not only to demonstrate that there is “no daylight” separating the two countries but that no amount of darkness separates us either.
The argument that he has to behave this way because of the power of the lobby doesn’t hold up. I would be the last person in the world to deny that the lobby is a powerful force in the making of U.S. Middle East policy. But, unless there is some mysterious element to the lobby’s power that I am missing, its ability to intimidate ends when a president is re-elected.
Believing that Obama is worried about Congressional Democrats being punished in 2014 is just as inaccurate. One: that is two years away. Two: Obama has rarely demonstrated (like almost all presidents before him) much concern for the Congressional wing of his party. And, three: the November 6th election demonstrated yet again that Jewish voters do not cast their ballots (or make campaign contributions) based on Israel. Nor do Israel’s fundamentalist Christian backers. Jews are overwhelmingly liberal Democrats and Christian Zionists are conservative Republicans. Those facts seem never to change.
Besides, does Obama really believe that he would lose votes or campaign contributions from Jews and other pro-Israel Americans if he expressed sympathy for dead Palestinian children? Or called on both sides to stop the violence. I hold no brief for the lobby but Obama could have said what he no doubt felt without losing anyone’s support. Even the lobby does not demand that politicians withhold human sympathy.
As for the United Nations vote, Obama could have prevented the huge embarrassment inflicted on both Israel and the United States by telling Israel to “chill.” I am glad he didn’t because I think the vote will be seen by history as a significant step toward Palestinian statehood. But it also delegitimized Israel in the eyes of the world which is a terrible defeat for those of us who care about Israel ultimately achieving peace and security alongside the Palestinians.
And it could easily have been averted if Obama had told Israel that the United States would vote for the resolution and that Israel should, too. In that case, the vote for Palestine’s elevated status would have been unanimous which would have rendered the Palestinian victory meaningless. Unanimous backing for any measure almost always demonstrates the measure’s insignificance. Instead, Israel’s hysteria and America’s arm-twisting against the resolution gave the Palestinians a big victory, a victory that the United States and Israel both elevated to historic proportions.
So why did Obama behave the way he did? I am afraid it is because he does not think Israelis or Palestinians are worth the hassle. If he can avoid dealing with Netanyahu and his vocal backers here, he will. He has more important fish to fry – like the domestic economy and preserving the social safety net.
I understand that but nonetheless ignoring the Israeli-Palestinian issue – by simply parroting the Israeli line – has done terrible damage to America’s standing in the world. Look at the UN vote which was neatly summed up by the front-page New York Times headline: “UN Assembly, In Blow To U.S., Elevates Status of Palestine.” Perhaps it is of no concern of Obama’s that Israel appears utterly isolated, but so does the United States. To put it in crude terms: we look like Israel’s tool.
I will not conclude by expressing the hope that Obama will now do the right thing for Israel, Palestine and, most importantly, the United States by convening negotiations and acting as an “honest broker.” I doubt he can do that anymore both because he has entirely lost the trust of the Arab world and because events have demonstrated, in large part due to this administration, that history can move on without us. But primarily because I do not think President Obama cares enough to invest any time or energy in Middle East peacemaking. He seems not to care that resolving conflict in a vital region of the world is not just some favor we do for people 6000 miles away; it is something we do to defend America’s interests. It’s sad. But above all, it is just cynical.
Postscript: Prime Minister Netanyahu reciprocated President Obama’s misplaced kindness today when he announced that he will build 3000 new settler housing units in the E-1 corridor of the West Bank. This housing, designed to permanently separate the southern West Bank from the northern part and to separate both from Jerusalem would destroy any chance of achieving the two-state solution. It also breaks a specific promise Netanyahu made to Obama.
Additionally, AIPAC is rushing to get Congress to “punish” Palestinians for going to the UN by blocking aid. Netanyahu and his lobby now believe (probably correctly) that Obama will permit them to do whatever they want. This is what the United States gets for its “no daylight” policy and what we taxpayers get for $3.5 billion a year in aid.