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Israel Kills Child as Gaza Marks 100 Days of Protests

World  (tags: Great March of Return, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, collective punishment, death, IDF live fire, Uthman Rami Halas, siege of Gaza, human rights, Gaza siege, European Union, UNRWA, Chris Gunness, media, middle-east, news, world, usa, Refugees&Relief )

- 73 days ago -
Israeli snipers killed a child on Friday as Palestinians marked more than 100 days of Great March of Return protests in Gaza


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fly bird (26)
Friday July 13, 2018, 8:25 pm
Israeli snipers killed a child on Friday as Palestinians marked more than 100 days of Great March of Return protests in Gaza.

Uthman Rami Halas, 14, was killed by live fire, according to the human rights group Al Mezan.

Halas, from the neighborhood of Shujaiya, was shot in the back by Israeli forces stationed across the boundary east of Gaza City, the group stated.

More than more 100 people across Gaza were injured, 65 with live ammunition.

Palestinian media circulated this photo of Halas following news of his death.

Media also shared images of Halas being carried on a stretcher after he was shot:

Video showed distressing scenes as relatives mourned over Halas’ body at the morgue of al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City.

Before Halas’ death on Friday, the UN humanitarian monitoring agency OCHA reported that 21 children were among the nearly 150 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in Gaza since 30 March, the vast majority of them during protests. More than 4,000 others have been wounded by live fire.

During the same period, four Israelis have been injured.

Standing with Khan al-Ahmar

For the 16th Friday in a row thousands of Palestinians headed towards Gaza’s eastern boundary.

Since 30 March, Palestinians have been mounting protests against Israel’s 11-year siege of Gaza and to call for the right of refugees to return to lands from which they were expelled and are excluded by Israel because they are not Jews.

Israel has responded by deploying snipers with orders to shoot unarmed civilians including children – killings and maimings the International Criminal Court prosecutor has warned could lead to Israeli leaders being tried for war crimes.

The theme of this Friday’s protest was solidarity with Khan al-Ahmar, a Bedouin village near Jerusalem which faces imminent demolition by Israel – a war crime – to make way for more Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Many Palestinians in Gaza addressed messages to the people of Khan al-Ahmar through local media.

“We are here today in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Khan al-Ahmar,” one man said. “All of Gaza is with you.”

This image shows a Palestinian waving the Irish flag in honor of the Irish senate’s passage earlier this week of a bill to ban the import of goods from Israeli settlements.

Israel tightens siege

As Palestinians in Gaza sustain their revolt against the siege despite the devastating cost, Israel is responding by tightening the blockade even further.

On Monday, Israel announced the closing of Gaza’s only commercial goods crossing.

Israel is also reducing the distance Gaza fishers are allowed out to sea from nine to six nautical miles.

The steps are collective punishment against Gaza’s two million people for incendiary kites and balloons that Palestinians have launched, setting fire to fields on the Israeli side of the boundary.

Israel’s technologically advanced military has proven unable to counter the kites and balloons.

So once again, occupation authorities are inflicting more of the suffering that has spurred revolt against a situation in which the population in Gaza – half of them children – can only choose between dying by Israel’s bullets and bombs, or being reduced quietly to desperation and death by the siege.

Israel says it will allow in “humanitarian” supplies such as food and medicine, but UN officials are warning that the closure of the commercial crossing will make the situation in Gaza much worse.

The closure “can be expected to have profound and far reaching consequences for already desperate civilians,” Chris Gunness, spokesperson for UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees, stated on Thursday.

Gunness pointed out that among the imports banned by Israel were building materials for UN education, health, water, sanitation and hygiene projects.

Gaza’s water and sanitation systems are already near collapse following years of Israeli blockade and military attacks.

Inflicting suffering

Gisha, an Israeli human rights group that monitors the blockade of Gaza, said that Israel is banning all building materials, not just those destined for UN projects – which will quickly bring all construction in Gaza to a halt.

Already struggling businesses will also suffer huge losses.

Farmer Suleiman Zurub was waiting to ship 2,000 crates of sweet potatoes out through the crossing. That crop will now likely spoil. “Farmers are the big losers from this decision,” Zurub said, according to Gisha.

Hasan Shehadeh, who owns a clothing company, also faces huge losses as he is unable to ship goods to customers in Israel, the occupied West Bank and China.

“If things stay this way, I’ll suffer huge financial losses, because in my contracts I’ve signed a commitment to pay for every item left in my factory,” Shehadeh said, according to Gisha.

Shehadeh is also worried about the 200 people he employs. “Israel’s decision will affect them too, of course,” he said.

Early warnings

UNRWA’s Gunness predicted that the latest closure would lead to an increase in demand for UNRWA services.

This would come at a time when the agency, which provides emergency rations, health and education to hundreds of thousands of people in Gaza, faces an unprecedented financial crisis following the freezing of US contributions earlier this year.

Nearly 80 percent of Gaza’s population is already forced to rely on humanitarian assistance and the unemployment rate is close to 50 percent.

In June, UNRWA warned that it may have to make deep cuts to its already stretched services.

Even before the latest Israeli restrictions, UN officials pointed to signs of a sharply deteriorating situation.

From January 2017 to June this year, the percentage of essential drugs at a zero stock level in Gaza has risen steadily from one-third to one-half, according to OCHA – meaning there is less than a one-month supply for those medicines.

In June, the average number of hours of electricity per day was 4.5 hours, close to an all-time low since January 2017.

Meanwhile, over the past year, the number of people who have had to borrow money or food from family or friends rose from about one in three to nearly half.

International complicity

The European Union, which rarely criticizes Israel and has failed to condemn its massacres of civilians in Gaza, said on Friday that it “expects Israel to reverse” the decision to close the commercial crossing.

The statement from Brussels made no reference to Israel’s obligations as an occupying power to abide by international law, including the prohibition on collective punishment.

The EU even tacitly justified Israel’s action by including a demand that “Hamas and other actors in Gaza must cease and refrain from violent actions and provocations against Israel, including the launching of incendiary kites and balloons.”

By contrast, Gisha has called Israel’s resort to “collectively punishing nearly two million people in Gaza” by closing the goods crossing “both illegal and morally depraved.”

The Palestinian human rights group Al Mezan deplored “the international community’s continued tolerance of the collective punishment of the population of Gaza in violation of its legal obligations under international humanitarian law.”

Al Mezan warned that Gaza is witnessing “a social and economic collapse” and is heading towards an “explosion.”

fly bird (26)
Friday July 13, 2018, 8:25 pm
UN: 1,400 Palestinian Protesters May Suffer Long-Term Disability.

fly bird (26)
Friday July 13, 2018, 8:43 pm
Israel wants to break Gaza once and for all.

nation ranked the eighth most powerful in the world has tightened the medieval siege it has imposed on a population of mainly refugees, half of them children, for more than a decade.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Monday that his government would close Gaza’s sole commercial crossing, preventing all exports from and imports to the territory, with the exception, at Israel’s discretion, of food and medicine.

Gaza fishermen, who already contend with Israeli navy fire while earning their bread, are now confined to sailing six nautical miles out to sea, rather than the nine that were permitted by Israel for the season.

The stated reason for the Israeli move is the ongoing rebellion among the two million Palestinians it has effectively imprisoned, in partnership with Egypt, in a densely populated strip of land roughly the size of Chicago.

Israel, a nuclear power outfitted with the world’s most sophisticated fighter jets and weaponry, is increasingly frustrated that it has been unable to stop the flaming kites and balloons that have been launched by Palestinians in Gaza.

The low-tech balloons and kites, costing mere pennies to manufacture, have caused, Israel claims, hundreds of fires in southern Israel, burning hundreds of acres of land and incurring millions in damages.

With the balloons and kites, Palestinians in impoverished and isolated Gaza have managed to disrupt normal life on the other side of the boundary, reminding Israel that it cannot make their lives absolutely miserable and bear no consequence for it.

The tactic emerged during the Great March of Return protests now entering their fourth month. The protests are aimed at breaking the blockade imposed by Israel after Hamas won parliamentary elections in the West Bank and Gaza in 2006 and then took full control of the Strip in 2007 following an attempted US-backed putsch aimed at forcing it out of power.

Israeli control

The siege is an intensification of Israel’s policy of closure on Gaza dating back to the beginning of the occupation in 1967.

Israel already has full control over and tightly restricts all goods that come in and out of Gaza, including materials used to rebuild homes and other infrastructure destroyed by its military in multiple assaults over the past decade.

Two-thirds of Gaza’s population are refugees, primarily from areas in southern Israel where those fires now rage. The Great March of Return is also a demand by refugees to exercise their right to return to the lands from which their families were expelled before, during and after the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.

Israel refuses to allow Palestinian refugees to return to their lands on the grounds that they are not Jews.

Israel’s tightening of its chokehold on Gaza is a blatant act of collective punishment, a violation of article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and thus a war crime.

Israel blames Hamas for the kites and balloons, but by suspending exports and imports the state is taking aim at Gaza’s economy and the whole of its population.

“They are burning grasslands and fields on a daily babasis,” Israeli defense minister Avigdor Lieberman complained regarding the flaming kites and balloons.

“In agreement with the defense minister, we will act with a heavy hand against the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip,” Netanyahu stated.

Yet Israel has waged war on Gaza’s agricultural sector for years.

War on Gaza agriculture

According to Gaza’s agriculture ministry, some 2,000 acres of pasture land have been damaged this year alone by herbicides sprayed by the Israeli military.

Israel has been spraying Gaza farmland with herbicides since 2014, destroying livelihoods and exposing people and the environment to toxins. Some 3,500 acres have been damaged by spraying during that time, according to the ministry.

“The chemicals used for spraying stay in the soil for months and even years, and may have negative health consequences for people who consume contaminated crops and/or inhale the herbicide,” the International Committee of the Red Cross told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

Israel caused half a billion dollars of direct and indirect damage to the farming sector during its 2014 assault on Gaza by destroying infrastructure such as irrigation wells and greenhouses as well as killing livestock.

Agriculture is just one of Gaza’s productive sectors that has ground to a near halt over the past decade.

Gaza now has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world. Its population is largely reliant on humanitarian aid.

The dire economic situation has had a profound effect on society with rising numbers of suicides, rising divorce rates and rising abuse of drugs.

“The situation in Gaza is like that of a dying man who they now decide to just shoot straight in the head,” Dr. Maher al-Tabaa of the Palestinian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Gaza told Haaretz.

Nearly 150 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces during the Great March of Return protests that began on 30 March.

Thousands more were injured by live fire, imposing an acute crisis on Gaza’s chronically strained healthcare sector.

Israel has tried every means it has to stamp out the determination of Palestinians in Gaza to be free. No matter how novel its cruelty, and how powerful its military arsenal, it has never succeeded.

Great harm will be inflicted as Israel escalates its efforts to break Gaza into submission.

How much more suffering will Israel’s international allies tolerate before taking meaningful action to bring it to an end?

fly bird (26)
Friday July 13, 2018, 8:55 pm
PCHR: “Israeli Forces Kill Palestinian Civilian and Wound 95 Others, including 17 Children, 3 Women, 2 Paramedics, and 2 Journalists”.

In New Crime of Excessive Use of Lethal Force against Peaceful Demonstrators in Gaza Strip, Israeli Forces Kill Palestinian Civilian and Wound 95 Others, including 17 Children, 3 Women, 2 Paramedics, and 2 Journalists

The Palestinian Centre For Haman Rights (PCHR): On Friday, 13 July 2018, using excessive lethal force against the peaceful protesters in eastern Gaza Strip for the 16th Friday in a row, Israeli forces killed a Palestinian civilian and wounded 95 other civilians, including 17 children, 3 women, 2 paramedics and 2 journalists, in addition to dozens suffering tear gas inhalation.

Demonstrations organized today were in solidarity with residents of al-Khan al-Ahmar Bedouin Community and on the occasion of 100 days passed on Great March of Return. Upon a Decision by the highest political and military echelons, the Israeli forces continued to use excessive force against the peaceful protesters, who posed no threat to the life of the soldiers.

Table of Civilian Casualties due to the Israeli Suppression since the Beginning of the Great March of Return on 30 March

Notes Medical Crews Journalists Women Children Total Casualties
Among those Killed, there are 3 Persons with Disabilities and a female child 2 2 1 17 113 Killed
Among those wounded, 332 in serious condition and 57 had their lower or upper limbs amputated (Injuries among the medical personnel were due to bullets and gas canisters) 320 71 190 1004 6058 Wounded

•Investigations and observations by PCHR’s fieldworkers during this week emphasize the following:
•Dozens of Israeli Forces’ snipers continued to position on the hills, behind the sand barriers and in military jeeps along the border fence in front of the peaceful demonstrations in the eastern Gaza Strip.
•According to PCHR’s fieldworkers, the number of youth gatherings near the border fence augmented to reach dozens who set fire to tires and attempted to throw stones at the Israeli forces.
•The Israeli snipers deliberately and selectively opened fire at the participants in the peaceful demonstrations which included thousands of civilians in different areas in the eastern Gaza Strip.
•The Israeli forces continued to target the medical personnel directly and deliberately as they wounded and targeted 2 of them with tear gas canisters, east of al-Buriej Camp.
•The Israeli forces widely used bursts of tear gas canisters and from drones, military jeep and soldiers’ rifles, targeting the center of the demonstrations and near the demonstrators near the border fence. As a result, many civilians were directly targeted and hit with tear gas canisters, causing serious injuries, while the gas coming of them made dozens suffer tear gas inhalation, fainting and seizures. Some of them were transferred to hospitals, including few so far receive medical treatment.
•The demonstrations were as always fully peaceful, and PCHR’s fieldworkers did not witness weapons or armed persons even dressed in civilian clothes among the demonstrators, who were thousands of elderlies, women, children and entire families, demonstrating near the border fence and raising flags, chanting slogans and national songs, flying kites and burning tires.
•Journalists were again targeted with bullets and tear gas canisters, wounding 2 journalists in eastern Jabalia, north of the Gaza Strip.
•The Israeli unjustified and fallacious incitement against the peaceful demonstrations and encampments continues, perceiving the demonstration itself as danger. This hereby violates the right to peaceful assembly codified in all International instruments.

The incidents today, 13 July 2018, were as follows:

At approximately 16:00, hundreds of civilians, including women, children and entire families, started swarming to 5 encampments established by the Supreme National Authority for the Great March of Return and Breaking Siege in eastern Rafah City; Khuza’ah in Khan Younis; al-Bureij in the Central Gaza Strip; Shija’eyah neighborhood in Gaza City; and eastern Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip.

The number of participants gradually increased, reaching a peak at approximately 16:30, in the five demonstration areas, and they were estimated at thousands of men, elderlies, women and children. They were inside and outside the encampment yards, raising flags, and chanting slogans and national songs in addition to flying kites and firing balloons, while hundreds of them, including children and women, approached the border fence, set fire to tires and attempted to throw stones at the Israeli forces.

Moreover, the protestors removed the barbed wire fence established by the Israeli forces inside the Palestinian territories around 30-50 meters away from the main border fence.

The Israeli shooting which continued until 20:00 resulted in the killing of ‘Othman Rami Hallas, 15, from Shija’eyah neighborhood in Gaza City. ‘Othman was with a live bullet to back while participating in the protests in eastern Gaza City.

Moreover, 95 civilians, including 17 children, 3 women, 2 paramedics and 2 journalists, were wounded. In addition, hundreds suffered tear gas inhalation and seizures, including PCHR’s fieldworkers while covering the suppression of demonstrations, after Israeli forces fired tear gas canisters.

PCHR condemns this new crime committed by the Israeli forces, believing it is as a result of Israel’s enjoying impunity thanks to the U.S. and so encouraging the Israeli forces to commit further crimes upon an official decision by the highest military and political echelons.

PCHR emphasizes that continuously inflicting casualties, either killed or wounded, is unjustified and targeting and killing civilians, who exercise their right to peaceful assembly or while carrying out their humanitarian duty, using lethal force is a serious violation of the rules of intentional law and international humanitarian law.

PCHR emphasizes that ongoing attacks against the Palestinian medical personnel, especially those working in the field, constitute a serious violation of the international human rights and humanitarian laws and the international standards regulating the protection rules of medical personnel, including paramedics, their vehicles and medical facilities.

The serious violations and deliberate attacks against the medical personnel amount to war crimes according to the 1949 fourth Geneva Convention, particularly the scope of protection provided to them.

PCHR believes that continuously targeting journalists while on duty with bullets and tear gas canisters proves that there is an Israeli policy to target journalists in order to prevent them from covering the Israeli suppression of the peaceful protestors, in violation of the rule of international humanitarian law.

PCHR emphasizes that the demonstrations are fully peaceful and civilians have the right to raise their voices against the Israeli forces and closure and enjoy their right to return. Thus, PCHR stresses that Israel shall be held accountable and prosecuted through investigating with it into these crimes.

PCHR also stresses that this ongoing policy by Israel violates the Rome STATUTE OF THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT (ICC) and Fourth Geneva Convention, and its practices qualify to war crimes. Thus, PCHR calls upon the ICC Prosecutor to open an official investigation into these crimes in addition to prosecuting and holding accountable all of those involved in issuing decisions and orders in the Israeli forces at the political and security level and those applying the orders.

PCHR asks for the presence of international observers from the United Nations (UN) bodies in the Gaza Strip to make sure that these demonstrations are totally peaceful and even if the Israeli authorities denied their access to Gaza, they can observe from the Israeli side of the borders.

PCHR calls for the prompt formation of an international commission of inquiry according to the UN Human Rights Council’s Resolution to investigate the crimes committed by the Israeli forces against unarmed civilians in the Return March activities.

PCHR also reiterates its call upon the High Contracting Parties to the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention to fulfill their obligations under Article 1; i.e., to respect and ensure respect for the Convention in all circumstances and their obligations under Article 146 to prosecute persons alleged to commit grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

PCHR calls upon Switzerland, in its capacity as the Depository State for the Convention, to demand the High Contracting Parties to convene a meeting and ensure Israel’s respect for this Convention, noting that these grave breaches constitute war crimes under Article 147 of the same Convention and Protocol (I) Additional to the Geneva Conventions regarding the guarantee of Palestinian civilians’ right to protection in the occupied territories.

Public Document


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fly bird (26)
Saturday July 14, 2018, 8:36 am
Why Palestine Matters.

June 29, 2018
Why does Palestine matter? It’s a question I ask myself nearly every day. Another way to put it is, “Is the devotion of major attention to the plight of the Palestinians an obsession worthy of suspicion or an appropriate response to a grave historic and continuing injustice?

No one will be surprised when I reply that major attention is an appropriate response. Palestine matters and should matter. I will try to explain why.

First, perhaps most basically, the sheer cruelty — the scope of the violation of human, i.e., natural individual, rights — of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians warrants the concern of all who favor freedom and other (classical) liberal values: justice, social cooperation, free exchange, and peace.

Let’s start with the Occupied Palestinian Territories. As B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, says front and center on its website: “Israel’s regime of occupation is inextricably bound up in human rights violations.” No one who sheds the blinders of the Official Narrative can help but feel pain over the institutional barriers to normal life, not to mention the literal destruction of life, that are regular features of Israel’s rule in the West Bank (with nearly 3 million Palestinians), East Jerusalem (over 300,000), and Gaza Strip (nearly 2 million). It is no exaggeration to describe the system as an instance of apartheid, which is the word used by Israeli human-rights organizations and former government officials. (Then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin used the word in a warning as far back is 1976. So did Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, when he was out of office after the 1967 war.)

The West Bank and East Jerusalem

The Palestinians in the first two places have lived under harsh military rule for over half a century. This rule consists of “low-level” repression such as checkpoints (even for ambulances), travel permits, and Jewish-only roads that subject Palestinians to daily humiliation, disruption, and the arbitrary whim of soldiers charged with the task of controlling an occupied population.

Imagine trying to live a normal life — making a living, caring for your children — when you don’t know how long you will be delayed en route from Point A to Point B because you are stopped, questioned, and searched by unaccountable, heavily armed government officers who don’t like you because of your race, ethnicity, or religion or who are suspicious of people who naturally resent being dominated. Imagine, further, a life of poverty in which water (in the arid Middle East!), electricity, and education are scarce and unreliable simply because the government providers of those services favor subsidized, comfortable Jewish settlers (many from America) living nearby. The juxtaposition of water shortages for Palestinians with swimming pools for Jews is too obvious an outrage to require comment.

This daily mistreatment is frequently accentuated by outright violence at the hands of the military rulers: bone-breaking beatings, torture, killings, house demolitions for reasons of collective punishment and ethnic cleansing, indefinite detention without charge or trial, and the like. These measures are intensified whenever Palestinians stage largely nonviolent intifadas (uprisings) and mass civil disobedience. Any of this would be regarded (one hopes) as intolerable in America or anywhere else in the West.

Add to this Israel’s continuing de facto annexation of the West Bank (East Jerusalem has been annexed de jure) through the expansion of illegal (by international law) Jewish-only settlements and a wall that snakes through the West Bank, isolating Palestinian towns, separating communities from each other and their farmland, and making a mockery of the “two-state solution.” (Not that Israel’s leaders ever intended to vacate the lands conquered in 1967 during an expansionist war of choice against four Arab nations during which the Israeli air force also attacked the US intelligence ship USS Liberty, killing 34 sailors and wounding more than 170.)

The Gaza Strip

But that horror doesn’t begin to describe how the nearly two million people, more than half of them children, in the densely populated Gaza Strip live every day. Their territory has been described — even by Israelis — as an open-air prison. Israel’s defenders claim that the Jewish State “withdrew” from Gaza more than a decade ago without any resulting peace dividend, but this is misleading. Yes, the military left, and the settlers went with them. But that is like cheering guards for withdrawing from a prison to positions just outside the walls. Under the decade-old blockade the state determines who and what can enter and leave Gaza. As Norman Finkelstein points out in his exhaustive research on Gaza, even toys, chocolate, and potato chips are barred. Drinking water is contaminated because of the blockade on items needed to repair facilities destroyed by the Israeli military.

Palestinians who get too close to the fence along the Gaza-Israel border risk being shot by soldiers. Peaceful demonstrators far from the fence face the same risk. Israel controls Gaza’s Mediterranean coast as well, including the crucial ability to fish beyond a certain point. Closer in the fish are likely to be contaminated by sewage for the reason noted above.

This daily hardship (to use a grossly mild noun) is underscored by periodic massacres — indistinguishable from terrorism according to international law — committed by Israeli warplanes, drones, and ground troops, incredibly brutal assaults that have left many civilians (including children) dead and maimed, tens of thousands of homes destroyed, and ton and tons of rubble in their wake. These regular violent onslaughts against the people of Gaza — a level of brutality that shocks even people who have been in the worst war zones — serve two purposes: to demonstrate Israel’s deterrent power to others (after humiliating defeats by Hezbollah in southern Lebanon) and to “mow the lawn,” that is, to maintain the people at a certain low level of nutrition and morale, thereby limiting in their ability to resist even nonviolently. “Israel’s evolving modus operandi for restoring its deterrence capacity,” Finkelstein writes, “described a curve steadily regressing into barbarism.” With many experts predicting that Gaza will soon be “unliveable,” this is a campaign of genocidal proportions.

“But Hamas…” is no counterargument to the foregoing. Israel helped nurture Muslim Hamas in the 1980s in a divide-and-conquer move, that is, as a rival to the secular Fatah and PLO, which had already recognized Israel as a state, thereby conceding 78 percent of historic Palestine to the Zionists. Hamas’s influence is a direct result of Israel’s refusal to talk to the moderate Palestinian leadership in good faith. In other words, Hamas is a “threat” of Israel’s own making.

Moreover, Israel on several occasions violated ceasefires that Hamas had been honoring. When Hamas responded with what are misleadingly called “rockets,” Israel has responded with monstrous force, killing many noncombatants, including children and leaving Gaza buried in rubble.

Further, the Palestinians in Gaza, sick of the West Bank Palestinian leadership’s corruption and fecklessness, elected Hamas in a monitored and fair election during the George W. Bush years (2006), for which the Gazans were punished with harsh US and European Union sanctions and a US-backed failed coup attempt by the Palestinian Authority, Israel’s subcontractor for internal security in the Occupied Territories. (The bankrupt PLO leadership took on that lucrative quisling assignment under the deceptive Oslo Accord.)

Bush officials had demanded an election in Gaza, then regretted it when they saw the results. Indeed, Bush critic Sen. Hillary Clinton commented after the balloting, “I do not think we should have pushed for an election in the Palestinian territories. I think that was a big mistake. And if we were going to push for an election, then we should have made sure that we did something to determine who was going to win.” (Emphasis added. What’s that she now says about alleged Russian meddling to keep her from winning presidency?)

But most crucial, Hamas has changed its inflammatory charter to accept, unlike successive Israeli governments, Israel’s 1967 borders, i.e., the two-state solution, which entails a complete Israeli withdrawal — settlements and separation wall — from the West Bank and Gaza in accordance with international law. But no matter. Hamas has been too convenient an excuse for Israel to claim it has no unified partner for peace. But when Hamas has joined with the West Bank Palestinian administration, Israel then claims it can’t talk to anyone who would partner with Hamas — even though the partner has conceded 78 percent of Palestine to Israel, as the PLO did 30 years ago. (Israel has built settlements for 600,000 Jews on and otherwise directly controls more than half of the remaining 22 percent the Palestinians were willing to settle for.)

At any rate, Hamas must be judged against the larger context: namely, the Israeli occupation and de facto annexation of Palestinian property and the total subjugation of the Palestinian people. Killing noncombatants is of course immoral, but Israel, which routinely targets civilian neighborhoods in Gaza and the West Bank, hardly has clean hands in that regard.

Inside Israel

The 1.5 million Palestinian “citizens” inside Israel (20 percent of the citizen population) have it better than their counterparts in the Occupied Territories, but only somewhat. After being under military rule from 1948 to 1966, the Palestinians inside Israel settled into second- or rather third-class citizenship. As the self-proclaimed State of the Jewish People (everywhere in the world), Israel does not treat non-Jewish citizens the way it treats Jewish citizens. (This is an ethno-national, rather than a religious, designation, although there is no Jewish ethnicity or race.) Although Palestinians (i.e., those who managed to survive the ethnic cleansing of 1947-48) can vote, form political parties, and hold office, they nevertheless may not change Israel into a democratic republic for all its citizens.

A recent attempt in the Knesset to do that was quashed without debate or vote. Nor can they end the systemic discrimination against Palestinians in access to land (most land is off limits to non-Jews) and in the allocation of government-provided services like utilities and schooling. In addition, Palestinians driven from their homes in 1947-48, the Nakba, may not return, yet anyone born anywhere and living anywhere who has a Jewish mother or who was converted by an approved rabbi can become an Israeli citizen automatically no matter where he was born or is now living.

In light of all this, note the significance of the recent Israeli demand that the Palestinians on the West Bank and in Gaza recognize Israel not just as a legitimate state, but as a Jewish State. Such a concession would betray the non-Jewish citizens of Israel.

America the Enabler

The second reason why Palestine matters is that American taxpayers are forced to underwrite this system of injustice and repression. The US government gives Israel, the Middle East’s only nuclear state, over $3 billion a year in military aid on the most favorable terms. Even the allegedly anti-Israel Obama administration set records in giving military aid to Israel, which violates US law (and international law) by using the weapons to repress the Palestinians and to wage offensive war against civilians. Obama never once penalized Israel for expanding West Bank and East Jerusalem settlements even though the US government has always officially regarded them as in violation of international law.

Some justify this unstinting and unique support for Israel on grounds that Israel is an American “strategic asset,” and Israeli leaders cynically talk in those terms. But this makes no sense. For one thing, as many American political and military leaders have acknowledged since 9/11, rather than being an asset, Israel has been a liability. A big reason for the Muslim terrorism directed at Americans is precisely the unconditional US assistance to, not to mention diplomatic support of, Israel. What goes a long way toward explaining the huge sums given to Israel each year — over $10 million a day — is the influential Israel Lobby, which brags about its power over US politicians. (See this article by former American Israel Public Affairs Committee staffer M. J. Rosenberg.) AIPAC and other organizations have created an environment in which criticism of Israel or Zionism is smeared as anti-Semitism, although this baseless association has finally begun to wear thin. It’s worth pointing out that the first most and incisive anti-Zionists were Jewish.

Would things change drastically if US aid ended? It’s hard to say; ending the aid would be a big blow to the pocketbook, but the ideological commitment to keeping the Palestinians down is strong. Nevertheless, Americans’ forced complicity in the injustice must end.

A Wider War

The third reason I want to point to is the threat of a wider war, one that could reach beyond Palestine and Israel and even beyond the Middle East. Analysts have long warned that the region could be a flashpoint for a war involving Iran, a long-standing regional power, and Russia. We need only look at Syria, where Russian and Iran have intervened on behalf of their ally President Bashar Assad, and the US and Israel are trying to undermine Assad — and necessarily assisting groups related to al-Qaeda, the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks. It is not far-fetched to envision a clash between US and Russian forces in that country. Moreover, the US and Israel have conducted covert warfare and sponsored terrorist acts against Iran, which Israeli politicians have found useful for distracting attention from their oppression of the Palestinians. A US war against Iran, which would be virtually inevitable should Israel attack the Islamic Republic, would be a regional if not larger catastrophe.

The Trump administration’s so-called peace initiative, led by his patently unqualified and biased son-in-law Jared Kushner and other unabashedly pro-Israel figures, has shaped up as nothing more than an effort to unite Israel and the Arab countries (especially the illiberal regimes in Saudi Arabia and Egypt) against Iran — with the Palestinians being sacrificed in the process. The Saudis are expected to “deliver the Palestinians,” a phrase that drips with condescension, for a deal that essentially enshrines Israel’s domination and crushes Palestinian hopes for self-determination. (See details here, here, and here.)

The attempt to subordinate the Palestinians’ grievances to the reckless anti-Iran campaign will only make things worse, both by provoking Iran, which is surrounded by US military facilities, and dashing any remaining hope that the Palestinians will at last see some justice. Even on pragmatic grounds, why leave it to Iran alone to champion the long-suffering Palestinians.

Not So Complicated

In light of my personal background, it has not been easy for me to write this; it’s been enervating and even painful. But as Finkelstein shows in heavily documented books and YouTube lectures (e.g., this one), the Palestine-Israel “conflict” is really not complicated. Contrary to those solemn pundits who, seeking to discourage people from looking at the matter closely, write about the “clash of civilizations,” the ancient religious feud, and other such rubbish, widespread agreement exists among historians (including Israelis) that Palestinian enmity toward Zionists was based on a justified fear of land theft and that Israel was founded through ethnic cleansing — what can the establishment of a Jewish (majority) State entail if not the removal of the majority non-Jews? Before the rise of Zionism, Arabs got along reasonably well with Jews, far better than the European Christians did.

Israeli historians reported on the incriminating official documents more than 30 years ago. The leader in this effort was Benny Morris, who acknowledges and documents the wholesale removal and killing of Palestinians while approving of it. Indeed, he writes, “The fear of territorial displacement and dispossession was to be the chief motor of Arab antagonism to Zionism.” Morris also wrote that “transfer [of the Palestinians out of Palestine] was inevitable and inbuilt into Zionism — because it sought to transform a land which was ‘Arab’ into a ‘Jewish’ state and a Jewish state could not have arisen without a major displacement of Arab population….” This is from a defender of Israel’s founding, one who laments that the ethnic cleansing was incomplete.

The point is that the facts are not seriously disputed.

Further, unanimous agreement exists among all respected human-rights organizations (including Israeli organizations) that since the state’s founding, Israel has routinely treated the Palestinians brutally and discriminatorily, with the most egregious cases being the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, which were acquired by war contrary to international law. Still further, the International Court of Justice has ruled (14-1, with the one “dissenter,” (who did not call his opinion a dissent, agreeing with much of the majority position) that the separation wall in the West Bank is illegal because the occupation of and settlements in the West Bank are illegal.

So where is the controversy among people who bother to study the matter? On every major moral and legal question, it doesn’t exist. Contrary to what some Israel defenders suggest, the same moral and legal principles that identify the Nazi Holocaust as unspeakably evil also apply to Jews. (A few political controversies, such as whether the right of return for the Palestinian refugees is feasible, remain.)

The reasonable minimal steps toward a just remediation therefore follow: complete Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, including dismantling of the settlements, removal of the wall, and compensation for those whose property was damaged by its construction, and the liberation of Gaza, permitting the Palestinians full “self-government” (alas, libertarianism isn’t on the menu today), the right of return for Palestinian refugees driven from their homes 70 years ago (though monetary compensation may figure in lieu of this), and full rights for the Palestinian citizens of Israel.

This sounds like the famous two-state solution, but an alternative focusing on one democratic state with equal rights for all citizens has gained prominence. (This is what PLO chief Yasser Arafat called for in his UN General Assembly address 44 years ago.) It comes down to a debate over what is realistically achievable in the near term.

On one side are those who say it’s too late for two states because since 1967, a de facto single state has existed between the Mediterranean Sea and the River Jordan. Thus, the only remaining question, they argue, is what kind of state shall this be: democratic or apartheid?

After all, this side adds, when the UN General Assembly in 1947 recommended partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states — the UN never partitioned Palestine and did not have the power to do so — the Jews were assigned 56 percent of the territory, the Arabs 44 percent, even though the Arab Muslims and Christians were the overwhelming majority and Jewish land purchases amounted to only about less than 7 percent of Palestine (much of that of dubious legitimacy because of Ottoman feudalism). But after the ethnic-cleansing and after the neighboring Arab governments feebly attempted to defend the overrun Palestinians (the so-called War of Independence), Israel had expanded into nearly 80 percent. (The Palestinians had rejected the partition recommendation; from the time that Great Britain first contemplated ruling the Middle East and then conquered Palestine during World War I, the Palestinians were deemed unworthy of consultation about the fate of their own land.)

Then, when the Occupied Territories were acquired in 1967, Israel methodically established “facts on the grounds” — Jewish-only settlements, roads, the separation wall, etc. — precisely to guarantee that the Territories would never have to be given up. The Palestinian state thus shrunk from the original 44 percent to 11 percent, which consists of communities cut off from each other, plus Gaza miles away. What kind of state is that, ask the advocates of a single democratic state? Better, they say, to declare equal rights for all throughout Israel-Palestine and let reforms flow from the new democratic environment.

The two-state advocates respond that it will be much easier (however difficult) to persuade Israel to withdraw from the Territories than to persuade it to change from a Jewish state to a secular liberal democratic state in which Jews would soon be the minority. (In the whole of Israel-Palestine today the population split is roughly 50-50.)

As tempting as it is to weigh in on this debate, I think Norman Finkelstein put it best in 2014:

I don’t advocate anything. It’s not my place to advocate. First of all, I’m not a Palestinian. Second of all, I’m not Israeli…. I don’t live anywhere near the affected regions…. Anyone who’s involved in politics knows that politics is not about personal preferences. If you ask my personal preference, I would say that I don’t believe in two states; I don’t believe in one state; I happen not to believe in any states. I’m an old-fashioned leftist in that regard. But politics is not about what you prefer; it’s not about what I prefer. Politics is about a realistic assessment of the balances of forces in the world.

I would add, as Finkelstein has on many occasions, that the best we can do is to work to build broad public support for a solution rooted in justice, liberty, and peace for all, enlisting sound moral intuitions and established liberal legal principles in the service of reasonably achievable ends.
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