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I have a parallel blog in French at http://anniebannie.net

Miko Peled : It’s Personal.

Miko Peled

As thousands of Palestinian political prisoners jailed by Israel are going through a hunger strike, we would do well to delve into the deeper, more personal and historical aspects of Palestine.  Though the politics and violence of settler colonialism have determined its fate for almost one hundred years, Palestine is not just a “case” or an “issue,” it’s personal. My dear, dear friend Nader Elbanna said to me a long time ago, “The Palestinian tragedy is more than just losing the house and the land.”  None of us will ever fully understand Palestine, none of us who are not Palestinian, that is, because it is personal. But there are ways to learn. Visiting Palestine is a good start. Living in Palestine is good too and learning Arabic affords a glimpse. Reading Ghassan Kanafani’s stories is moving and enlightening.

 

Ghassan Kanafani, in his short stories presents an intensely personal narrative and paints a picture that is painfully detailed. In one of his short stories, a young man asks, “would you like to hear about my life?” and he proceeds to describe a mother who died under the ruins of a house in Safed, the house that was built for her by her husband. He describes the father, now working in another part of the Arab World and unable to see his children, and a brother “learning humiliation” in an UNRWA school. In another short story Kanafani describes a father who is standing in the rain leaning on a broken shovel, taking a break from the back- breaking work of digging a ditch in the rain. He is digging in an effort to stop the rain water from flooding a tent where his family, now refugees, must live. He is cold, tired and hungry but avoids going inside the tent, not wanting to see his wife’s glare, knowing she blames him for the inevitable state of being unemployed and unable to provide for his family. Seeing his child wear a torn, old shirt he contemplates taking part in a scam operation, stealing bags of rice from the UNRWA storage facility and selling them on the black market. “The guard is in on it and for a small fee he will look the other way,” he is told by a man of whose morals he does not approve, and whose very presence makes him uneasy.

The occupation of Palestine is not only about the brutality that is inherent in settler colonialism but the daily, painful existence of a nation that is denied the right to live in the land to which it belongs. A nation forced to live in abject poverty in camps that are unfit for humans and which exist just hours away from the land and the homes from which they were kicked out. A land for which they have the deeds, and homes for which they still hold the keys now inhabited by Jewish settlers. “For us, to liberate our country is as essential as life itself” Kanafani says to an Australian reporter in a rare interview in English. He is fierce and forthright, sitting in his office, with photos of Che Guevara and Ho Chi Minh behind him.

But Palestinians are permitted only to be victims or terrorists, never freedom fighters or heroes. If Palestinians wrote “Live Free or Die” on a license plate they will be accused of terrorism and locked up, deported or simply killed, though in New Hampshire it is the official motto. Ironically, Israeli children learn about a legendary Jewish hero who, having been killed in battle in Palestine said, “it is good to die for one’s country” though clearly, he was fighting to take the country of others. Kanafani was brutally murdered, along with his young niece Lamees who was only seventeen, for saying and doing just that – fighting to liberate his country. Since his assassination by Israel almost half a century ago, countless Palestinians were killed by Israel, some fighting, most while sleeping in their beds or trying to flee.

Kanafani talks about “them,” the “Yahud” the Zionists who colonized Palestine and exiled his people, turning them into “people with no rights, with no voice.” “They have put enormous efforts into trying to melt me,” he writes, “Like a sugar cube in cup of tea.” And he talks about “You” the Arab authorities under whom Palestinians are now forced to live. “You had managed to melt millions of people and lump them into one lump, into a single thing you can now call ‘a case.’” And, he continues, “now that we are all ‘a case’” there is no personal attachment to any single person or story. How convenient. That is what allows for the ease with which the world treats the Palestinian tragedy. That is how the West can sell Israel the weapons and technology with which it slaughters Palestinians by the thousands and maintains the oppression.

One wonders what Kanafani would say about the horrific, large scale massacres endured by the people in Gaza since 2008. What would he say if he knew that since his death things have become worse now that Israel’s army of terror has access to more “modern” weapons that allow it to murder and maim thousands in a single “operation.” How would Kanafani react if he heard about entire families that were wiped out by mortars and missiles fired at them and others, incinerated by millions of tons of bombs dropped from war planes? One wonders what stories he might write about children burned and mutilated with such ease in the twenty first century? “We are a small, brave nation” Kanafani said in 1970, “who will fight to last drop of blood.”

Israel – the name that was given to the Zionist state which occupies Palestine – is indignant at the very mention of Palestine and at the idea that as a state it should respect the rights of Palestinians. People who support Israel are offended when they hear accusations of racism, indiscriminate violence and genocide. But these same people have no problem with the actual ongoing campaigns of genocide, ethnic cleansing and the reality of racist apartheid perpetuated by Israel. Because for them Palestine is not personal, it is just a “case,” just a “problem.” But Palestine is not a problem, it is personal, it has a beating heat, and that is why the fight for justice in Palestine is gaining momentum all over the world. As the Palestinian leader and political prisoner Marwan Barghouthi wrote recently from a cell in an Israeli jail, “The chains that bind us will break before our captors can break our resilience.”

 

Democracy Now on Trump bombing Assad

click on image

It took Trump two days to do what Obama never would

Rime Allaf

Syrian residents of Khan Sheikhun hold placards and pictures on April 7, 2017 during a protest condemning a suspected chemical weapons attack on their town earlier this week that killed at least 86 people, among them 30 children, and left hundreds suffering symptoms including convulsions, vomiting or foaming at the mouth.
In the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhun, site of an alleged chemical weapons attack on April 4, residents still mourning their dead welcomed US strikes earlier today as a way to pressure Damascus. The strikes targeting a Syrian forces airfield, ordered by President Donald Trump, were the first direct US military action against Syria’s government since the conflict began six years ago. / AFP PHOTO / Omar haj kadour

Many Syrians would still be alive, safe and home today had there been a response to the Assad regime’s first massive chemical massacre in 2013
Everyone seems to have misread President Trump, or at least underestimated his capacity for decisive action, considering older statements to be proof of his positions.

Indeed, his tweets to Obama appealing that he abstain from striking Assad after the massive chemical massacre of 2013 were understood by most of us as a staunch position on the matter. But Trump was neither in power, nor even a politician then; inside the Oval Office, perspectives vary, information is precise, and the quality of advisors matters.

Whereas Obama was too arrogant to admit he was ever wrong, Trump’s own legendary ego nevertheless left room for what he described as flexibility, admitting that something changed his mind
For Syrians waiting for an end to the hell raining down on them, two elements positively distanced Trump from his predecessor. Whereas President Obama intended from day one for his legacy to be a nuclear deal with Iran, and intended to do – and more importantly not to do – everything it took to achieve it, President Trump doesn’t pretend to know yet what his own specific legacy will be, beyond generally making America great again. Apart from a solid opposition to the Iran deal, he has no claim to eventual fame in the tumultuous Middle East.

And whereas President Obama was too arrogant to admit he was ever wrong, even after his infamous red line inaction resulted in doubling the number of Syrian victims, unleashing a flood of refugees from Syria, and allowing the Islamic State (IS) to strengthen, Trump’s own legendary ego nevertheless left room for what he described as flexibility, admitting that something changed his mind. Whether it was really upon seeing new images of Syrian children choking to death, or whether purely upon consultation with his senior advisors, Trump did not hesitate to change course on Syria – even if it meant going back on his word.

Russia misread

President Trump did in two days what his predecessor failed to do in six years: he showed clarity of purpose when the occasion called for direct action, an action whose consequences have yet to be determined.

When push came to shove, Russia was impotent and immobile
An abundance of commentators had warned repeatedly that eventual US attacks against the Assad regime would bring great catastrophe, including direct conflict with Russia, a complication of the war, and more Syrian civilian deaths, a matter supposedly of great concern to the suddenly vocal “Hands Off Syria” crowd which remained silent when Russian bombs tore Syrians to shreds.

But if this doomsday scenario has not materialised, it is possibly because it is Russia which misread Trump and his advisors the most.

For all the experts waxing poetic about President Putin’s chess master qualities and his alleged cunning, Russia was left with no option but to stand aside while the US carried out its punitive strike on Assad’s assets. Usually well-spoken and calm Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, could only give a disjointed, moot statement suspending cooperation with the US in Syrian airspace.

And Russia’s strange, rather lame sudden recognition of West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on Thursday took even Netanyahu by surprise. When push came to shove, Russia was impotent and immobile; the presence of a smiling Chinese President Xi at Trump’s dinner table when the strike was announced merely added to the humiliation.

Five factors to consider

None of this means that Russia remains without options next time, nor indeed that there may be a next time. But this week’s developments have exposed a number of factors which can’t be brushed aside again. They are on the table.

First, Assad’s blatant renewed use of chemical weapons demonstrates that Russia is either unable or unwilling – or both – to rein him in. As Secretary of State Rex Tillerson bluntly stated: “Clearly Russia has failed in its responsibility. Either Russia has been complicit or either Russia has been simply incompetent in its ability to deliver on its end of that agreement.”

It is the presence of General McMaster, and that of General Mattis at the head of the Pentagon, which is likely to have shaped President Trump’s swift action
Second, the fact that the Assad regime did not hand over all of its chemical arsenal means that someone still has to rid him of it. According to National Security Advisor General HR McMaster, the US strike was targeted to avoid a storage unit that was stockpiling the nerve agent in order to protect civilians.

Third, in contrast to the Obama administration’s attempts to minimise the strike that never was, the Trump administration is neither shy nor apologetic about its actions: “This was not a small strike,” McMaster said.

Fourth, while the strike was a response to the specific use of chemicals, it is hard to envisage that the Trump administration will retreat from condemning, and possibly acting on mass killings by other means in Syria. Statements from various cabinet members have indicated a much stronger involvement that initially planned.

Finally, the surprise reshuffle in the National Security Council and the removal of Steve Bannon from it, days before the US took action against Assad, seems to have finally placed the right advisors at their rightful places, giving studied and measured assessments.

It is the presence of McMaster, and that of General James Mattis at the head of the Pentagon, which is likely to have shaped President Trump’s swift action. Both these senior military advisors happen to have remarkable acumen and experience in Middle East matters in particular; while their personal positions on Syria are not yet public, their history in the region implies an understanding that fighting IS while ignoring the Assad regime would be counterproductive, especially when Islamist extremists use Western inaction as rallying cries.

The right signals

In one fell swoop, President Trump’s strike on Assad has exposed the limits of Russian bravado and revived the notion of a coalition to change the status quo.

While he did not repeat the empty “Assad has to go” mantra, Trump’s address to the nation, calling “on all civilised nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria” seems to be a sign that the US is, finally, reclaiming a leadership position under the careful guidance of able and experienced military advisors.

Many Syrians would still be alive, safe and home today had there been a response to the Assad regime’s first massive chemical massacre in 2013. While Trump cannot undo the damage, his administration has now signalled it is both able and ready to solve the conflict.

– Rime Allaf is a Syrian-born writer and political analyst. She was an Associate Fellow at Chatham House from 2004 to 2012, in the Middle East and North Africa Programme. She has published numerous analyses and articles on the region, with Syria being the focus of her area of expertise, and continues to write, speak and advise on Syrian affairs. She is on the Board of Directors of The Day After, a renowned Syrian-led civil society organisation working to support a democratic transition in Syria, with grants from several Western institutes and governments. She is also on the Board of Directors of the Syrian Economic Forum, a think tank working on building a strong economy to support a free, pluralistic and independent state.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

 

http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/it-took-trump-two-days-do-what-obama-never-would-1009440608

 

 

 

Assad’s Militias Turn to Schoolchildren to Fill Manpower Void


Mar 29th, 2017 by Alsouria Net (opposition website)

Opposition outlet claims loyalist paramilitary groups are routinely exploiting Syrians’ needs for a stable income by recruiting children into their ranks for up to $200 a month, with many of them being sent to battlefronts without proper training

Conscripted from schools or places of work to fight in the ranks of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, children walk through areas of Damascus and its countryside in full military gear, only to end up dead or stationed on battlefronts to await their fate.

Amid a dire economic climate and widespread financial stress for many families, celebrations for the conscription of schoolchildren under 18 years old have become a normal affair, as the regime exploits people’s need for an income against a backdrop of skyrocketing prices.

Damascus and its countryside have seen the conscription of children from the ages of 13 to 17 in various areas. One such area is Adra al-Amaliyeh, close to the city of Douma in the Damascus countryside, where a number of secondary and preparatory schools have witnessed the presence of recruiters from the Baath Brigades militia, while a party was held for about 40 children signing up to fight with the loyalist Fifth Corps, according to what sources told Alsouria Net, requesting anonymity out of fear for their safety.

The sources said there were no regulations for recruiting children, whereby the Baath Brigades accepted any child to fight in its ranks in exchange for $200 a month. Other incentives include the recording of their attendance in school and securing opportunities to succeed in academic courses.

In the Rukneddine area in the capital Damascus, children appear in their military gear alongside the National Defense Forces group and a number of other Shiite militias. Many of the children enter into fighting without having taken training courses to prepare them for the battle, increasing the likelihood of them being fatally wounded during clashes.

Among the children who told their stories to Alsouria Net was the child Shihab, 16, who lives in the Kashkool area near Jaramana and fights alongside the NDF militia for 35,000 Syrian pounds ($160) a month. He told his relatives that he had left school because his family was unable to secure a living and that he benefits from the salary he receives and from looting, which regime forces carry out in the areas they enter.
Although the most recent constitution, authored by the Assad regime in 2012, includes compulsory schooling for all children, it seems ensuring the education of those who drop out of school is not considered a priority in the areas under regime control.

The NDF militia, the popular committees and the Baath Brigades are the most prominent parties into which children are conscripted for the benefit of the Assad regime — something the regime has repeatedly denied. From time to time loyalist pages on social media will publish images of bases for conscripting children, while the NDF militia in the Hama countryside has previously published images of children who were receiving training, some of them wearing military uniform, overseen by fighters from the regime forces.

This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.

http://syrianobserver.com/EN/Features/32538/Assad_Militias_Turn_Schoolchildren_Fill_Manpower_Void

AIPAC speakers say the enemy is BDS, while ‘biggest Jewish-led protest’ surges outside

Young Jewish demonstrators from IfNotNow outside AIPAC conference yesterday

Young Jewish demonstrators from IfNotNow outside AIPAC conference yesterday

This morning, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke by video to the Israel lobby group AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee) in Washington. He bragged about his warm relationship with President Trump to great applause, and said that many states in his region were turning to Israel in the fight of modernism against medievalism. He said it was time for Palestinian Authority to “above all, once and for all, recognize the Jewish state.”

Netanyahu also addressed the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or BDS, movement aimed at Israel, saying Israel will defend itself on the “moral battlefield… We’ll defend ourselves against slander and boycotts.”

Last night Vice President Mike Pence was introduced as an enemy of BDS. He told the AIPAC conference, “The president of the United States is giving serious consideration to moving the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv,” to huge applause. He then called on the next ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, a supporter of settlements, to stand. He also got a warm reception.

Martin Indyk took a jaundiced view of Pence’s promise, saying that George W. Bush had seriously considered the move for eight years, and Trump will still be seriously considering in another four years. “We’re freiers [suckers] to think otherwise.”

Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog called on AIPAC’s followers to opposed the BDS movement. While former Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper said that BDS was the most serious threat to Israel and merely the latest form of classical anti-Semitism.

“The third threat to Israel is the one we actually need to take the most seriously as Canadians and Americans, and that is the BDS movement… One can disagree with the Israeli government’s policies in this aspect or that, but the BDS is not about that. The BDS movement is about translating the old ideology of anti-Semitism into something acceptable to a new generation.”

The theme was echoed by AIPAC officials.

Democratic political consultant Paul Begala said this morning on the AIPAC stage that he was thinking of making “aliyah” to Israel because of political developments in Washington but affirmed: “I have never worked for someone who is anti-Israel and I never will… How could I and be true to my progressive values?”

As for progressive values: there was a large demonstration yesterday outside the Washington convention center by the “Jewish resistance,” led by IfNotNow. A few demonstrators from IfNotNow managed to get inside the hall and drop a banner protesting the occupation. While hundreds of others in the resistance group led a march to the convention center in an effort to stop the conference. Ben Norton said it’s the “biggest-ever Jewish-led protest” of AIPAC. Bigger than Neturei Karta.

Here’s Ahmed Shihab-Eldin’s thorough video coverage of the demonstration for AJ+.

One organizer says what makes this anti-AIPAC demonstration different is that it’s the 50th year of occupation, and these young people are not going to let AIPAC speak for the Jewish community anymore. Others emphasized the crisis inside the Jewish community. Among the soundbites:

Fifty years is too long. It’s a moral crisis for the Palestinians, it’s eroding our community. AIPAC does not speak for American Jews.

The Trump administration is forcing the American Jewish community to pick.

AIPAC stands for endless occupation. We are the Jewish Resistance.

I’m here fighting for freedom and dignity for all Israelis and Palestinians, and a Jewish community that stands up for those things.

Jews can’t have liberation if Palestinians don’t.

We refuse as Jews and humans to be part of the American Jewish establishment…. I feel heartbroken that it’s taken our community so much to move…. We have a long way to go.

At Minute 20 you can see a dozen demonstrators forming a human chain outside the convention doors.

Shortly after, a group said to be part of the Jewish Defense League attacked the demonstration.

Some shouted at IfNotNow, “sharmouta,” Arabic for prostitute.

Shihab-Eldin asked why no one from JDL was arrested.

Thanks to Annie Robbins. 

 

The Inside Story on Our UN Report Calling Israel an Apartheid State

A Palestinian woman argues with Israeli soldiers at a West Bank checkpoint south of Hebron on August 16, 2016. (Reuters / Mussa Qawasma)

A Palestinian woman argues with Israeli soldiers at a West Bank checkpoint south of Hebron on August 16, 2016. (Reuters / Mussa Qawasma)

A people cannot be permanently repressed in all these ways without viewing the structure that has emerged as an apartheid regime.

Six months ago, the UN’s Economic and Social Commission for West Asia (ESCWA) asked Virginia Tilley and me to write a study examining the applicability of the international criminal law concept of apartheid to Israel’s policies and practices toward the Palestinian people. We were glad to accept the assignment, and conceived of our role as engaging in an academic undertaking. ESCWA, one of several UN regional commissions, requested the study as a result of an uncontested motion adopted by its 18 Arab member governments.

Almost within hours of its release on March 15, our report was greeted by what can only be described as hysteria. The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, denounced it and demanded that the UN repudiate it. The newly elected secretary general, António Guterres, quickly and publicly called for ESCWA to withdraw the report from its website, and when Rima Khalaf, the head of the commission, resisted, Guterres insisted. Rather than comply, Khalaf resigned. Soon thereafter, the report was withdrawn from the commission’s website, despite its having been published with a disclaimer noting that it represents the views of its authors and not necessarily that of ESCWA or the UN.

What is striking about this response, which resembles in many respects the US government response to the Goldstone Report (the UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict of 2008-9), is the degree to which Israel’s supporters, in response to criticism, have sought to discredit the messenger rather than address the message.

We had hoped that our analysis would prompt debate, dialogue, and consideration of our recommendations.

Tilley, a professor of political science at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, and I, as well as ESCWA, would welcome substantive discussion of and critical feedback on our report, and we had hoped that our analysis and conclusions would provide the basis for dialogue and further consideration of the recommendations appended at the end. ESCWA, for its part, took steps to ensure that the report lived up to scholarly standards, submitting the draft text to three prominent international jurists, who anonymously submitted strong positive appraisals along with some suggestions for revision, which we gratefully incorporated before the final text was released. For government officials and others to dismiss our report as a biased polemic is irresponsible, with respect both to the authority of the UN and to international law.

During my tenure as the UN’s Special Rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories (2008-14), I saw how defenders of Israel attempt to discredit critics. My reports in that post often contained sharp criticisms of Israel and other actors, ranging from defiance of international law, unlawful expansion of settlements, excessive use of force, and complicity of international corporations and banks that do business for profit with the settlements. To my surprise, I never received substantive pushback regarding my allegations, but I did have the unpleasant experience of having my words on unrelated issues torn out of context. Among my harshest critics were not only the usual ultra-Zionist NGOs, but also Barack Obama’s diplomats at the UN, including Susan Rice and Samantha Power, as well as then-Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. I mention this personal experience only to note that it falls into a longstanding pattern of rebuttal that prefers to smear rather than engage in reasoned debate about important issues of law and justice.

The international crime of apartheid was set forth in the 1973 Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. The main elements of the crime consist in deliberate and systematic acts of racial discrimination with the purpose of maintaining unlawful structures of domination by one race over another. Our report also considered whether, in the context of inquiring into the presence of apartheid, it was appropriate to consider Jews and Palestinians as distinct races; we found that there was abundant grounding to do so. As our report shows, “race” in this context is treated as a socially and politically constructed category defining a distinct people. It has no necessary correlation with biogenetic realities, which in this case show an overlap between Jews and Palestinians.

Even Palestinian citizens of Israel, who can vote and form political parties, are subject to many discriminatory laws.

The report also proceeds from the proposition that whether apartheid exists or not depends on the overall treatment of the Palestinian people as a whole. Adopting what we believed to be innovative methodology, we approached this challenge by dividing the Palestinians into four domains that correspond to the manner in which Israel has exercised its authority over the course of many decades, although specific tactics of control have varied through time. In the past, a thorough study by international law scholars found that Israel’s practices in the occupied Palestinian territories are consistent with apartheid. It called attention to the discriminatory treatment of Palestinians, who are subject to military administration as compared to the Jewish settler population, which enjoys the full benefit of the rule of law as it is observed in Israel in relation to Jewish nationals. That study found that such features as “settler-only roads,” dual legal systems, and the draconian separation of the two populations into regions on the basis of race are the hallmark of apartheid. Repressive practices that have made the lives of ordinary Palestinians a daily ordeal are part of this system, as international law establishes that penalizing resistance to apartheid is itself a crime of apartheid.

A second domain investigated in the report involves Palestinians who are residents of Jerusalem. Here the apartheid character of Israeli rule is exhibited in the way the government undermines the security of those Palestinians, manipulating their rights of residence as well as imposing a variety of discriminatory practices, ranging from fiscal measures to the issuance of building permits. The third domain concerns the Palestinian minority living in Israel, perhaps the most problematic component in terms of establishing a definition of apartheid that encompasses the entire Palestinian population. In this category are some 1.7 million citizens of Israel, who are allowed to form political parties and vote in elections. But this minority, which makes up about 20 percent of the overall Israeli population, is prohibited by law from challenging the proclaimed Jewish character of the state and is subject to a wide range of discriminatory nationality laws as well as administrative practices that severely restrict their rights, with effects on land acquisition, property, immigration, family reunification, and marital freedom.

International law has detached apartheid from its South African origins; it’s now a stand-alone crime against humanity.

A fourth domain, and the one affecting the largest demographic segment, is made up of Palestinians registered as refugees by UN procedures or living under conditions of involuntary exile. In the background is the non-implementation of UN General Assembly Resolution 194 (1948), which confirms the right of return enjoyed by Palestinians dispossessed or displaced by Israel in 1948. This right of return is declared in General Assembly Resolution 3236 to be an “inalienable right,” which thus presumably incorporates those additional several hundred thousand Palestinians displaced by the 1967 war. As far as is known, no Palestinian displaced since the establishment of Israel in 1948 has been granted the right of return to resume residence.

From the perspective of international law, the crime of apartheid has been detached from its historical origins in South Africa. Neither the 1973 Convention nor the 1998 Rome Statute underlying the International Criminal Court ties apartheid to South Africa, but rather treats its practice as a stand-alone crime against humanity. Thus, there are important differences between the way apartheid operated in South Africa and the way it is currently being imposed on the Palestinians, but these differences are not relevant to the question of whether it fairly and accurately applies to Israel. One notable difference is that in South Africa the Afrikaner leadership forthrightly proclaimed apartheid as a reflection of its ideological belief in the separation of races, whereas for Israel such a structure of separation on the basis of race is denied and repudiated. There are other differences as well, relating to degrees of labor dependence and the demographic ratio.

This quasi-permanent structure of domination cannot be justified convincingly by reference to Israeli security needs.

Our report concludes that Israel has deliberately fragmented the Palestinian people in relation to these four demographic domains, relying on systematic discrimination, including “inhuman acts,” to maintain its control, while continuing to expand territorially at the expense of the Palestinian people. On the basis of these findings—backed up by detailed presentations of empirical data, including reliance on Israeli official sources—we conclude that the allegation of apartheid as applied to the Palestinian people is well founded.

We realize that our report is the work of academic investigators and is not an authoritative finding by a formal judicial or governmental institution. At this point it has not—contrary to media reports and diplomatic denunciations—even been endorsed or accepted by the UN, or even ESCWA. We do recommend such an endorsement, and we urge the UN, national governments, and civil society to take measures designed to encourage Israel to dismantle its apartheid regime and treat the Palestinian people in accord with the dictates of international law and human rights, as well as elementary morality.

The broader setting associated with our contention that Israel has become an apartheid state draws on the reality that there is no peaceful resolution to the conflict on the diplomatic horizon, and thus no foreseeable prospect for ending the discriminatory regime. This quasi-permanent structure of domination cannot be justified convincingly by reference to Israeli security needs. A people cannot be permanently repressed in these various ways without viewing the structure that has emerged as an apartheid regime. Indeed, part of the reason for not awaiting a more formal assessment of these charges is our sense of urgency in ending a set of arrangements that have for so long been responsible for so much suffering and denial of basic rights, above all the right of self-determination.

It remains our central hope, one shared by ESCWA, that the widespread availability of the report will lead to a clearer understanding of the Palestinian plight and encourage more effective responses by the UN, by governments, and by civil society. Beyond this, it is our continuing wish that people of good will throughout the world, especially within Israel, will work toward a political solution that will finally allow Jews and Palestinians to live together in peace, with justice.

 

Actor Richard Gere in Hebron: ‘it’s exactly like what the what the Old South was in America’

Israel/Palestine

on March 24, 2017 25 Comments

While Richard Gere was in Israel and the occupied West Bank promoting his film “Norman,” he was recorded in an unguarded moment wandering the desolate streets of Hebron’s Old City. A dumbfounded Gere is near at a loss for words in the clip, which aired on Israel’s Channel 2 network.

Not a Palestinian in sight. Soldiers and settlers roam comparatively carefree. The roads are too quiet. All of the shops are shuttered. Gere is stunned:

“This is the thing that’s flipping me out right now,” Gere stammers to his Hebron guides, activists with the Israeli human rights group Breaking the Silence, former soldiers that now advocate against Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territory, “Of everything we’ve seen for two days, the people we’ve talked to, it’s…I mean…I’m…I’m touched by that, I know that story. But this is really bizarre.”

“This is genuinely strange,” Gere adds, before telling his guides, Hebron is like the Jim Crow South:

“It’s the dead city, but who owns the city? And their [the settlers] feeling of ‘I’m protected, I can do whatever I want,’ and that sense of where the boundaries are. I mean it’s like…it’s exactly like what the what the Old South was in America. Blacks knew where they could go, they could drink from that fountain, they couldn’t go over there, they couldn’t eat in that place. It was well understood. You didn’t cross it or you’d get your head beat in or lynched,” Gere said.

At one point soldiers stopped Gere and asked for his passport. He didn’t have it on him. But he’s from New York, he told them. Once the soldiers realized he is the Richard Gere–“Richard Gere, wow,” one said–the mood softens. But Gere is still visibly unsettled.

A car driven by a settler zooms by. Gere catches on, “These guys driving through. It’s a really dark energy. Wow,” he says, “it was kind of Mad Max.”

The scene that Gere had entered for the first time includes Palestinians who are made to use alleyways as the main roads are for settlers only. Palestinians cannot drive in the Old City, settlers can. There is one notorious sidewalk with a rope to segregate Palestinian and Israeli pedestrian traffic. It’s a scene many are horrified by the first time they enter. Philip Weiss had a similar response back in 2006:

“Every now and then in life, and maybe just when you want it, god throws down a thunderbolt. It happened to me on Friday in Hebron, in the Occupied Territories. A group of seven Israelis and I were sitting in an Arab man’s house, discussing the harassment and denial of movement to Palestinians in the center of that city—the second largest city in the West Bank—when I wondered for the 100th or thousandth time how the conditions I was seeing for myself in the occupation compared to apartheid in South Africa, which Americans rose up against 20 years ago.”

Before Gere went to Hebron, he spoke with Haaretz in Jerusalem:

“Obviously this occupation is destroying everyone,” he says. “There’s no defense of this occupation. Settlements are such an absurd provocation and, certainly in the international sense, completely illegal – and they are certainly not part of the program of someone who wants a genuine peace process.” He pauses before adding, “Just to be clear about this: I denounce violence on all sides of this. And, of course, Israelis should feel secure. But Palestinians should not feel desperate.”

Later that same trip Gere met with Palestinian former Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. Following the meeting Gere was asked if he would ever act in a production by a Palestinian filmmaker (“Norman” writer and director, Joseph Cedar, is Israeli). “Why not,” Gere told the Arab News, continuing: 

“My only criteria are the quality of the script and the production. Naturally I’d have to be emotionally connected, but that isn’t enough. It has to be a quality film. I won’t discriminate if it’s a Palestinian film. In fact, I’d look closer if it was a Palestinian director.”

Gere added, “I have a special place in my heart for Palestinians, and I have a special empathy for their suffering.”

– See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2017/03/richard-exactly-america/?utm_source=Mondoweiss+List&utm_campaign=c8c689aa43-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b86bace129-c8c689aa43-309259350&mc_cid=c8c689aa43&mc_eid=39adaa9ab6#sthash.VPpHdxYv.dpuf

Trump To Critics: “I’m The President, And You’re Not”

UAE refuge is ‘something special’, say Syrians who fled civil war

One-page article

Having fled Syria’s civil war, about 120,000 Syrians have found a sanctuary in the UAE between 2011 and last year. Six of them tell of their yearning for their country’s peaceful past and their wish for a better life

Six years ago on March 15, fighting erupted in Syria that would change the face of the country forever.

In 2011, the regime of Bashar Al Assad clashed with anti-government forces in battles that would later involve ISIL, Al Nusra Front and the Free Syrian Army, leaving cities in ruins.

Consequently, about 5 million Syrians fled to neighbouring countries in what has become the largest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War.

More than 120,000 Syrians moved to the UAE and were given residency visas between 2011 and last year. That nearly doubled the Syrian population in the UAE to 240,000 as of last September.

Last summer, the Government said it would take in 15,000 refugees in the coming years.

The Syrian families that arrived here have found peace and employment. But most have lost their homes and are unable to return. Some have also struggled to find places for their children in schools and struggled with the costs of living. Here, six Syrians who fled tell their stories.

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snailMohammed Taha, 29, hails from Aleppo. Alex Atack for The National

Homeless and in search of dignity

Name: Mohammed Taha

Age: 29

From: Aleppo

Profession: He was a butcher and a chef. He is currently jobless.

Lives: On Dubai’s streets and in mosques

“I left my country to escape serving in Bashar Al Assad’s army or any party involved in destroying my country and killing my people. All we saw was bloodshed and I was terrified.

“I was supposed to serve in the army as part of the compulsory military service, but I fled Syria in 2014 when the war became severe.

“Both the regime and the extremist rebels were bombing the country with all kinds of weapons.

“My family’s home in Aleppo was levelled, bombed into the ground – just like many buildings and homes.

“My brother and I left Syria in search of a new life. We were lucky to have escaped the war in our country but our plight continues.

“My brother went to Turkey and I came to Dubai.

“I was lucky enough to find a job in a restaurant serving

Arabic cuisine in Satwa, where I rented a bed space in an apartment.

“The two owners of the restaurant, a Syrian and a Palestinian, had a fight and decided to close the restaurant. My residency visa was consequently cancelled.

“Afterwards, I worked in another restaurant. The owner said he had to test my culinary skills for a month. I accepted and worked with an invalid residency visa. After the test period,the restaurant owner refused to renew my residency visa and gave me half of my salary. That meant that I could no longer stay in Satwa, so I looked elsewhere for a cheaper place.

“I moved to an apartment in Hor Al Anz and lived with some Asians. The bed space cost Dh400. I kept looking for a job. But with my bad luck, the owners of the restaurants I sought employment at asked me to work for a period of time. But after the period passed, they refused to renew my residency visa or give me my pay.

“Many of them said that ‘we don’t renew residency visas for Syrians’.

“I ran out of money and I have been on the streets since last June. I sleep now in mosques in Muraqqabat. Sometimes I sleep in parks, and I ask the restaurants nearby for food and water.

“I have been to charity organisations and people there told me that they only give money to families, women and the elderly.

“I don’t know what to do. I feel like people have stopped helping one another. I go out looking for work daily but I hear the same excuses.

“I only want to work for Dh2,000 or even Dh1,500 a month and get a residency visa. I came here to live with dignity.”

* Nawal Al Ramahi

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snailNauran Al Chalati’s family members use Skype to communicate. Victor Besa for The National

A family separated by war finds togetherness online

Name: Nauran Al Chalati

Age: 27

From: Damascus

Profession: Formerly a student in Damascus, she is now a video editor at a production house in Dubai Media City.

Lives: In Dubai since 2013 with her eldest sister. Her brother and father remain in Damascus.

“Your home country is like your foundation. The moment you leave, especially in a panic, you lose equilibrium. This is exactly what happened to my family. We are all struggling, making our own little worlds far from one another.

“I don’t know when I will be able to have a meal with my siblings and my father that is cooked by my mother. It looks like a dream.

“I graduated from a private university in Damascus in 2013 at the age of 22. I was unable to start my career in Damascus because there was no job or security. Things were getting horrible and my mother realised that there was no future for her family in Syria. Since then, my family has been separated, living in different parts of the world.

“I moved to the UAE in April 2013 when my elder brother, who was working in Dubai at the time, sponsored a tourist visa. All of us, except one of my brothers, came here in 2013. My brother was not able to leave the country and did not want to leave my father alone.

“My family spends a few months together in Dubai. My father applied for jobs here but failed and had to return to Damascus. My mother decided to move to the United States as a refugee.

“She always believed that we would be in safe hands if we settled in the US. My brother in Dubai joined her after a few months. My sister and I still live in Dubai.

“But there are no more family dinners. We don’t celebrate festivals together. We can only see one another on Skype. This is the price my family has paid because of the conflict in Syria.

“I don’t believe that one day things will be OK in Syria. They won’t be, at least not in the near future. I want my family and I to be settled. I want to take my father and brother out of Damascus safely. A peaceful life is my dream but this peaceful life will not be in Syria.”

* Amna Ehtesham Khaishgi

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snailArtist Mohannad Orabi says Dubai has made him more open in his approach to people of different nationalities and cultures. Christopher Pike / The National

Daughter eases portraits of sorrow

Name: Mohannad Orabi

Age: 39

From: Damascus

Profession: An artist in Syria, he now paints in a studio adjacent to Ayyam Gallery in Alserkal Avenue

Lives: In Dubai with his wife and daughter.

“There are emotions that you feel for the things you leave behind. Each day we hear news from my country. I have had bad experiences, I lost people close to me in this war.

“I had visited Dubai three or four times as a tourist, but making my decision to stay was a completely different experience.

“The first impression was that Dubai was a little bit difficult. The lifestyle in Dubai is completely different to those in Damascus and Cairo. I had lived in Cairo for a year and a half before moving to Dubai in 2014.

“It’s very difficult to be outside my country, but it’s difficult to go back to Syria.

“My daughter is happy at school, she has a lot of friends. It has been faster for her to become part of a community than for my wife and I.

“I have two brothers in Syria and we call one another every day. I still have friends in Syria. I try to connect my family there with my daughter. We send pictures and communicate on social media.

“I have learnt from my wife, who is a graphic designer. She was working in Damascus for five or six years, but in Dubai it’s difficult to find a job even though she speaks good English and Arabic. She keeps trying, goes for interviews and sends her resume.

“I left my house, my studio, my car and my paintings. My brother tries to visit my house to check on my belongings.

“I remember a painting I started to draw but didn’t finish. I hope that I will go back to Syria and complete my painting.

“I could feel the sadness in my previous paintings because of what I have left in Syria and what has happened in my country.

“Now there is a little hope in my paintings. This hope perhaps comes from my daughter when I see her smile and being happy.

“Maybe when I see my daughter, this is the image I want to see of my country.

“I know that after all these dark days that we have endured, there is light. It’s coming soon.

“In Dubai, there is a different effect because there is an emotional influence of the place you move into. Dubai is the capital city of art in the Middle East. But the most important thing in Dubai is that I don’t feel strange because there are people from different nationalities and cultures. It’s a global city, it’s made me more open. For me, it’s very important to respect differences between one another. That influences my work.

“I was at a workshop in a university in Egypt and brought my family with me for one or two months. It is now almost five years since I left Syria.”

* Ramola Talwar Badam

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snailAsmaa Kftarou says non-discrimination between religions in Syria in the past is present in the UAE. Antonie Robertson / The National

Syria in their hearts, gratitude to UAE

Name: Asmaa Kftarou

Age: 44

From: Damascus

Profession: She was a civil servant at the ministry of religious affairs. She is currently unemployed

Lives: In Sharjah with her husband and five daughters.

“When I speak about Syria, despite the thousands of broken hearts, the unspeakable killings and the pain and suffering of millions who had no option but to flee in fear of their lives, I remain hopeful that the country will return to its former glory; that its soul is still intact; and that Syria will warmly embrace those people who are longing to return home.

“I’m from a well-known family in Damascus. My family come from a long line of Islamic educators and religious scholars in Damascus. My grandfather was the grand mufti for 41 years. He was known internationally and he spread Islam’s message of peace and love.

“Until 2010, I was working in the ministry of Islamic affairs in Damascus. I engaged in Islamic studies and taught Islam in schools in the capital. We had a stable and wonderful life in Syria.

“In 2011, when the killings started and after my husband, a member of parliament, barely escaped an assassination attempt, we had to leave Damascus out of fear for our daughters’ safety.

“Since then, I have been suffering deeply because I miss my family in Damascus and my country. To see what has happened to Syria saddens me to the core.

“We never once in Syria differentiated between different religions. We are all the sons and daughters of God and there was never anything but love between us. We’ve always tried to be accepting and good to people despite our differences. We tried to look beyond that to live together, and that’s how we had always lived in Syria.

“We found in the UAE a home that promotes peace and love between people, be they Syrian or Danish. There is a unity here that is truly special.

“Nevertheless, I haven’t found work here. I am still waiting to return home and begin to rebuild.

“It has been very difficult. We have five daughters, four of whom are studying. We need to support them.

“My husband has just finished his contract as an academic at Abu Dhabi University. They haven’t renewed it.

“My husband was of great importance in Damascus as a parliamentarian and a teacher. For him to be out of a stable job that befits his status is difficult.

“It’s been a struggle of course, but we’ll always hope for the best. As we all carry Syria in our hearts, we maintain our gratitude to the country that has provided us with a warm adopted home.”

* Naser Al Wasmi

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snailRuba Musleh started a business here to make life better for herself and her family. Anna Nielsen for The National

Memories of a decent life … and a desire for stability

Name: Ruba Mousleh

Age: 33

From: Harasta

Profession: Currently an employee of Nokia in Dubai where she moved in 2012 after the company closed its office in Syria because of the rising instability. She now lives in the UAE with her brother and family.

“There were bombs going off in the area and access to my house was impossible when things started getting bad.

“Today, almost five years after the conflict erupted, no one is allowed to go to Harasta. We don’t even know what state our house is in.

“There was a lot of fighting between the Assad regime and the Free Syria Army. The situation was bad. There were bombings and fighting but people got used to it.

“I was lucky that I didn’t lose a family member. For those who lost their loved ones, they won’t ever be able to get used to it. I decided to leave because there’s no house to go back to. Our safety wasn’t guaranteed and I was given an opportunity to improve my life and my family’s.

“When I think about going back … I know that living there is extremely difficult. To find a job that can sustain you is close to impossible. Getting food, -water, and having a basic life are extremely difficult.

“Here it’s safe and we’re grateful, but it’s been difficult. I’ve tried to improve my life. I work and I’ve tried to get my family here. I was successful but I faced many complications. Also, I started a business, called Fruit Monsters, to try to make life better for my family and I.

“But my business is on its last legs and getting my parents to stay here is proving to be more difficult each month. We need to find a stable situation that can give us a feeling of permanent safety, not just a temporary solution.

“Life is difficult here. I pursued my master’s degree at Knowledge Village and it’s been two years since I tried to start a business. But the visa situation is difficult.

“Our life in Syria was very decent before the war. My parents were teachers and my brother a businessman. I had a job in an international company and we had our lives full of friends, social events, volunteering at NGOs, and it was safe.

“I don’t know how it is now. I don’t know if I can go back and deal with the level of danger, the corruption, the standard of living, which are definitely more difficult than when we left.

“When I think about going back, I don’t know what to do. I just want stability and safety for my family. I am beginning to lose hope.”

* Naser Al Wasmi

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snailF. Saad has been taking photos free in hopes of finding work. Vidhyaa for The National

Hardship of life through the lens

Name: F. Saad

Age: 42

From: Damascus

Profession: She was a photographer who ran her own studio. She is now jobless

Lives: In Abu Dhabi with her husband and daughter. Her two older children are students in Germany.

“My country has been destroyed. Sometimes we think that even if the war were to stop now, it would take 20 years for Syria to be a country that anyone can live in.

“After the war you need years of construction and to heal the psychology of people who saw the bombings, the blood, the deaths.

“It’s not only about the bombings, the gangs or the arms. No, there is something deeper that has affected the people and children who were brought up seeing that during the past six years.

“My father, stepmother, sister and family are in Syria. I have a sister and brothers here in the UAE. So half my family is there and half here.

“We have an apartment in Syria with three bedrooms and a very big yard. I lived in an area that is now under government control.

“Three years ago, gangs entered the town and destroyed my photo studio and bombed some houses.

“We were there when the armed gangs entered. We stayed in shelters for two weeks with no food, nothing. And more than 100 people.

“I came here with my husband and three children. My daughter and son are in Germany for studies. I cannot go back to Syria and there is no way they will give us visas to go to Germany.

“We came to Abu Dhabi in 2014 in the middle of the school year and it was not easy to get my youngest daughter in school. She was only five, so she stayed at home until the next year.

“Life is peaceful and everybody respects each other.

“We live respectful lives here, but you need money for rent. School fees are a struggle, daily life is a struggle and that is because we don’t have jobs.

“We live with my sister-in-law and depend on her. Without her support, we couldn’t survive.

“She is the only one with a permanent job.

“In Syria we lived well because our jobs brought us good money. My husband was the owner and manager of a garage. He got residency here through a company, but it shut down last month. “I had my own studio and took photographs of events and weddings.

“Here, I have taken photographs for conferences but they have been mostly for free as I try to get connections for work.

“My husband and I are struggling to find any kind of jobs.

“If you are in my situation, you will not think about the future. You think about now.

“I’m feeling numb, the feeling you get when you completely stop being scared of anything.

“We are fragile inside. We are partially broken emotionally because we lost a lot of people we loved. We had to leave our country and have no jobs.”

* Ramola Talwar Badam

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