Archive | May 24th, 2020

Facing Down Bigotry—and a Pandemic

Against harassment and bigotry, Asian-American officials are finding ways to care for their communities through this crisis.

byJanice LiSvante Myrick

As members of the nonprofit Young Elected Officials Network, which is predominantly made up of people of color, we take the fight against racism to heart. (Photo: Shutterstock)

As members of the nonprofit Young Elected Officials Network, which is predominantly made up of people of color, we take the fight against racism to heart. (Photo: Shutterstock)

A random pedestrian spit on a 26-year-old woman on her way to the gym in her San Francisco neighborhood. In New York, a stranger chased and struck down a woman who appeared to be of Asian descent. And in Texas, a man stabbed a family of three at a store because he thought they were Chinese Americans spreading the coronavirus.

Donald Trump fanned the flames of this anti-Asian hostility by repeatedly calling COVID-19 the “Chinese virus.”

Donald Trump fanned the flames of this anti-Asian hostility by repeatedly calling COVID-19 the “Chinese virus.” And we can expect more racist rhetoric. According to reports, the National Republican Senatorial Committee advised candidates to “attack China” as a mainstay of their campaign messaging.

As members of the nonprofit Young Elected Officials Network, which is predominantly made up of people of color, we take the fight against racism to heart. Our millennial generation grew up believing deeply in social justice. We also believe that when the challenge is unprecedented, as this pandemic is, it helps not to be wedded to the status quo.

Our own cities have experienced disturbing incidents.

One of us, Janice, a first-generation Chinese American woman living in San Francisco, was harassed and shoved at a bus stop. Across the city, people have broken into and vandalized Chinese-owned businesses.

As mayor of Ithaca, New York, Svante is confronting verbal attacks on Asian Americans and situations in which people were physically menaced.

Talk to our young network, and one word emerges as we talk about our role in this crisis: education, in which cultural awareness is a vital ingredient.

As Ohio state senator Tina Maharath said, “There is no cultural heritage for any virus.” Marahath is the first Asian-American woman elected to the Ohio state Senate. Most Asian residents in her district are South Asian, as she is, and many have been bullied.

Some immigrants fear they will be targeted for deportation, and a lack of multilingual resources leaves people in fear of the unknown. Maharath is speaking out, informing her constituents in a newsletter and online.

Georgia State Representative Bee Nguyen says she and her colleagues are pushing the governor’s office to ensure that Asian communities in her state have the information they need to be healthy and safe.

“A lot of the information out there is very hodge-podge,” she says. People need multilingual information about the virus and how to mitigate its economic impact, including how to access benefits or what to do if your utilities are shut off.

Beyond these immediate adjustments, more action is needed to defeat all forms of embedded racism. We want everyone to stand in solidarity with communities of color as disproportionate impacts of the crisis strike us.

Even as we confront the ugliness of this crisis, we see great possibility. The pandemic has laid bare racism against Asian communities that some might have thought was a thing of the past. That awareness will inform our policymaking in the future.

Our network is in constant communication about what works best for cities, for schools, for deploying police and firefighters, for offering economic relief to residents — and yes, for combating bigotry.

When we emerge from the war on this virus, we will extend what we are learning to all the other “wars” we have — on poverty, addiction, and injustice — in a new way.

Meanwhile, in the states, cities, and towns our young officials lead, we are proud to celebrate the rich contributions of Asian Americans in this Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. This year, it is more important than ever.

Posted in USAComments Off on Facing Down Bigotry—and a Pandemic

Take Action: Mark 72 years since the Nakba with #KeyToJustice

By: Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) /

On May 15th, join a collective action marking the Nakba and joint global struggles for rights by posting a photo holding a key of return with #KeyToJustice.

Nakba KeyToJustice Key Action 5.15.2020 (1).png

On May 15 Palestinians will mark the Nakba (catastrophe), the ethnic cleansing and forcible displacement of a majority of the indigenous Palestinian population by the Zionist movement for the establishment of Israeli apartheid on the ruins of Palestinian society. Seventy two years later the Nakba continues, as Israel has become a full-fleged regime of apartheid with the support of complicit states, corporations and institutions. Israel’s continuing siege and attacks on the Gaza Strip and the far-right Israeli government’s plans to illegally annex parts of the occupied West Bank call for vigorous global mobilisation in support of Palestinian rights

This May 15th, we invite you to join in a collective action marking the Nakba and our joint global struggles for rights. Take a photo of yourself holding a key of return. Share the photo on social media using the hashtag #KeyToJustice. We will share some of these posts on social media.

As Israel’s apartheid regime uses the cover of the COVID-19 crisis to further discriminate against and oppress the Palestinian people, hundreds of thousands of people continue to die worldwide due to the virus which disproportionately affects the poor, the homeless, migrants, refugees, and those living under militarization and occupation.

Many Palestinian families still have the keys to the homes they were forced to leave in the Nakba of 1948. The key symbolises the inalienable right of Palestinians to return to their homes. We will take it further, holding the key as a symbol for all those left without homes, facing brutalities and resisting erasure, and as a symbol for the connectedness of our struggles for equality, dignity and freedom. Our collective mobilisations will help turn the key to justice.

Learn how to make a key at home with this do-it-yourself video in English.

The do-it-yourself video is also in Arabic and English.

We are staying at home during the lockdown, but our solidarity will not be confined. 

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Human RightsComments Off on Take Action: Mark 72 years since the Nakba with #KeyToJustice

Oxfam Report Details ‘Catastrophic Failure’ of Efforts to Coordinate Global Ceasefire During Covid-19 Crisis

“Managing coronavirus is hard enough when a country is at peace but fueling conflict on top of a pandemic is reprehensible.”

byJessica Corbett,

 A woman named Mary at the Mangaten IDP Camp in South Sudan holds up her hands, which bear the message, "Peace will give us our home back."

A woman named Mary at the Mangaten IDP Camp in South Sudan holds up her hands, which bear the message, “Peace will give us our home back.” (Photo: Robert Fogarty/Oxfam)

Despite efforts from diplomats and world leaders—including United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres—the international community has failed to establish a global ceasefire during the coronavirus pandemic, which advocates argue is essential to help protect two billion people from Covid-19, according to Oxfam International.

Conflict in the Time of Coronavirus, an Oxfam report released Tuesday, explains that “at the very moment where we need all of our resources to overcome the virus, wars continue to increase food insecurity, destroy healthcare systems, drive displacement, and deny people their livelihoods.”

“To compound this, the global economic devastation caused by coronavirus is going to be felt most acutely by the people already living in the margins, including the two billion people living in fragile and conflict-affected states,” the report adds. “We simply cannot afford to waste the valuable resources needed to build back better on fueling wars.”

Oxfam declares in the report that “the international community needs to work collectively, channel appropriate funding to address the root causes of crisis and conflict resolution, and show the necessary political will to address the highly toxic and dangerous interplay between coronavirus and conflict.”

Guterres had demanded a global ceasefire in late March. “Our world faces a common enemy: Covid-19,” he said at the time. “The virus does not care about nationality or ethnicity, faction or faith. It attacks all, relentlessly. Meanwhile, armed conflict rages on around the world.”

Although fighters in at least a dozen nations had temporarily complied with Guterres’ call to “silence the guns; stop the artillery; end the airstrikes” by early May, the United States blocked a U.N. Security Council (UNSC) resolution last week that urged a global ceasefire during the current crisis.

The Oxfam report blasts UNSC members for failing to broker a deal and continuing to supply support and weapons to warring parties:

Instead of uniting to face the coronavirus crisis, the UNSC continues to be hamstrung by a crisis of power, relevance, and legitimacy. This inability to recognize the shared threat to peace and security is emblematic of the failure of UNSC members, particularly permanent members, to unite to address situations of global impact.

Oxfam interim executive director Jose Maria Vera said in a statement that “we expected leadership from the council as well as many of those countries who say they support a ceasefire, but who nevertheless remain active participants in conflicts around the world, conducting military operations, selling arms, and supporting third parties.”

“Arms exporting countries must stop fueling conflict and instead make every effort to pressure warring parties to agree to a global ceasefire and invest in peace efforts that can bring a meaningful end to conflict,” Vera continued.

“Decades of conflict have devastated the health systems and economies of war-torn countries, leaving two billion people vulnerable to diseases like coronavirus,” he added. “Managing coronavirus is hard enough when a country is at peace but fueling conflict on top of a pandemic is reprehensible.”

Oxfam International@Oxfam

Despite calls for a #GlobalCeasefire while the world faces #COVID19, international arms sales have continued, w/ many states either still licensing arms exports or actively sending arms to conflict-affected countries. This is wrong.

https://oxf.am/2LjlA0H #Doves4Peace

Embedded video

The report details current conditions in several countries impacted by violence, including Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Colombia, Myanmar, South Sudan, and Yemen. Although some ceasefires have been brokered, continued fighting impedes efforts to contain the virus and serves as a barrier to healthcare and other necessities.

Fatimata Gansonré, whom Oxfam helps support in Kaya, Burkina Faso, said Tuesday: “Since the onset of the Covid-19, everything has been blocked. We can no longer go out; we can no longer regroup; we have stopped our small activities. Life has become harder. I’m scared. There is a double fear: insecurity and the virus itself. Before Covid-19, we struggled to find something to eat. Now it’s worse.”

Oxfam proposes investing in peace via the U.N.’s $6.7 billion Covid-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan—designed to provide relief from the pandemic to people in the world’s poorest countries, particularly those in vulnerable communities—and promoting locally led action to secure a global ceasefire.

IMatter@IMatterCampaign

For the #GlobalCeasefire to yield long-lasting positive results for all, peace funding must invest in:
People, not projects
Local peace processes
Systems of local peacebuilders.

Read more of our new report here:http://oxf.am/2LjlA0H #Doves4Peace

View image on Twitter

Demands for a halt to fighting “will remain of little value for people trapped in conflict zones if the ceasefires that follow are just elite bargains negotiated between those who are otherwise spoilers of peace,” the report says. “A global ceasefire has the potential to stop the immediate hostilities and protect populations affected by violence, but only if it is implemented locally. Grounded in local realities, it could create space for national and local dialogue.”

Germany and Estonia on Tuesday submitted a UNSC resolution to replace the one drafted by France and Tunisia that was blocked by the U.S. delegation. Agence France-Presse reported the five-point resolution “demands a general and immediate cessation of hostilities in all situations on its agenda.”

Echoing the blocked resolution, the new one proposes a “humanitarian pause for at least 90 consecutive days” to allow for delivering aid to communities in need. Unlike the previous resolution, it makes no mention of the World Health Organization, which is essential for potentially securing U.S. support, due to President Donald Trump’s hostility toward the U.N. agency.

“We must find a way out from this deadlock,” Estonia’s ambassador to the U.N. Sven Jurgenson, told AFP. “It is [a] real shame that we, the Security Council, have not been able to fulfill our responsibility on this matter.”

Posted in Health, Human Rights, Politics, WorldComments Off on Oxfam Report Details ‘Catastrophic Failure’ of Efforts to Coordinate Global Ceasefire During Covid-19 Crisis

‘Manafort Released. But [Insert Name] Still Locked Up’: Special Treatment for Trump Crony Denounced

“I’m not upset Paul Manafort was released,” said one criminal justice reform advocate. “As always, I’m upset that people who aren’t rich, white, & connected (nearly everyone of the millions currently caged) aren’t treated with the same care, consideration, or humanity.”

byJon Queally,

Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort (R) arrives at the Albert V. Bryan U.S. Courthouse for an arraignment hearing as a protester holds up a sign March 8, 2018 in Alexandria, Virginia. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort (R) arrives at the Albert V. Bryan U.S. Courthouse for an arraignment hearing as a protester holds up a sign March 8, 2018 in Alexandria, Virginia. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The release of President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort from prison Wednesday morning spurred immediate denunciations of the unequal treatment of prisoners in the U.S. criminal justice system in which the wealthy and well-connected are spared while millions of others are forced to face the spreading coronavirus pandemic with little or no hope of release.

As the Daily Beast reports:

Manafort has been serving out his seven-and-a-half year sentence at FCI Loretto in central Pennsylvania on charges related to Special Sounsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. He was found guilty of tax fraud and conspiracy and was sentenced in March 2019. He wasn’t due to be released from prison until November 2024.

At the age of 71, Manafort is considered to be at particular risk from the disease, which hits harder among older people. His lawyer, Kevin Downing, requested Manafort’s early release from prison due to coronavirus-related health fears last month, saying that he’d been suffering health problems including high blood pressure, liver disease, and respiratory issues for years.

But whether Manafort was “at particular risk,” was an issue of debate for some.

Law professor and MSNBC contributor Joyce Vance was among those asserting that Manafort’s premature release “raises real fairness concerns,” especially as hundreds of thousands of other prisoners in the U.S—including those with arguably much more dire circumstances—have not been released.

“Manafort doesn’t qualify for compassionate release,” Vance tweeted. “Did he get special treatment ahead of others who do? People in facilities with outbreaks or closer to the end of their sentence? Did Trump’s friend get preferential treatment under the guise of appropriate releases to protect BOP inmates? Releases make sense but there must be a process based on objective criteria. Michael Cohen, much closer to the end of his sentence, was denied release after news he would be was made public.”

In addition to the perception that Manafort was the clear recipient of special treatment due to his political connections to Trump, the larger issue for many remained the glaring example of inequality endemic to the U.S. criminal justice system.

Eddie S. Glaude Jr.@esglaude

Thinking about Tiffany Mofield who died of Covid-19 in a New Jersey prison and many who are in jails and prisons around the country who remain in danger. | Paul Manafort granted home confinement due to coronavirus fears – The Washington Post https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/paul-manafort-granted-home-confinement-due-to-coronavirus-fears/2020/05/13/7746835c-8320-11ea-ae26-989cfce1c7c7_story.html …

Referenced by Professor Eddie Glaude Jr. of Princeton University, Tiffany Mofield was a 43-year-old woman who died of coronavirus complications in a New Jersey prison on April 29. As reporting by The Intercept‘s Alice Speri details, “Mofield’s death underscores the devastating impact the coronavirus is having as it spreads through prisons and jails, where the health of incarcerated people was often neglected before the current crisis.”

In a thread on Twitter posted in response to Wednesday’s developments, defense attorney and prison reform advocate Scott Hechinger detailed the cases of many inmates who—unlike Manafort—continued to languish in prison even as the virus threatens.

Scott Hechinger@ScottHech

Manafort released. But Yusef still locked up. He’s served 25 years. Been in since he was 16. He’s 41 now. Should have been resentenced 5 years ago. Lost 4 friends already to COVID, now running rampant in Michigan prisons. Highest death toll in country. Why is he still in prison?

Scott Hechinger@ScottHech

This is Yusef. 16 (left) when condemned to life w/o parole. 41 now (right w/ his dad). The Supreme Court ruled his sentence unconstitutional. He’s been waiting in Michigan prison for last 5 years for resentencing. Prosecutor delay. Now friends dying around him. “I might be next.”

View image on Twitter

Listing the names of individual inmates—including Anthony Swain, Sue Farrell, Charles Hobbs, Jody Hill, and Andrew Pete—Hechinger wrote: “I’m not upset Paul Manafort was released. As always, I’m upset that people who aren’t rich, white, & connected (nearly everyone of the millions currently caged) aren’t treated with the same care, consideration, or humanity.”

With no nationwide urgency showed by prison officials or lawmakers for the release of most inmates, despire the growing risks to them, Hechinger said the Manafort case only highlights deep and grave injustices that have long existed.

“Right now, imagine how scared you are about contracting this virus. The precautions you take,” he wrote. “Then think about how, right now, ​millions are trapped in close quarters. No ability to distance. To protect themselves. People are terrified and upset. And we should be too.”

Since the Covid-19 pandemic touched off earlier this year, criminal justice reform advocates have been raising the alarm over just how vulnerable prison and jail populations are to the spread of the virus.

“This peril is immediate and pressing,” wrote veteran civil rights leader Jesse Jackson in an op-ed in March. “There are 2.2 million Americans locked up at any one time, but over 11 million go through prison or jail gates in any one year.”

Writing on the subject again last month, Jackson warned that “if the pandemic continues to spread through prisons, the toll in lives will soar.”

Posted in USAComments Off on ‘Manafort Released. But [Insert Name] Still Locked Up’: Special Treatment for Trump Crony Denounced

Boris Johnson will not face criminal action over links to US businesswoman Jennifer Arcuri

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Picture: Kirsty Wigglesworth/African News Agency (ANA)

By By Michael Holden 

London – British prime minister Boris Johnson will not face criminal action following allegations of misconduct over his relationship with a US tech entrepreneur, but he might have had an intimate relationship with her, the police watchdog said on Thursday.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) launched an investigation last September following a newspaper report that Johnson, when mayor of London, had failed to disclose his personal links to Jennifer Arcuri, who received thousands of pounds in public funding and places on official trade trips.

Johnson denied any wrongdoing, saying everything was done with full propriety and there was no interest to declare.

The IOPC’s director General Michael Lockwood said there was no evidence to indicate Johnson influenced any payments to Arcuri or influenced her participation in trade missions.

But Lockwood said “there was evidence to suggest that those officers making decisions about sponsorship monies and attendance on trade missions thought that there was a close relationship between Mr Johnson and Ms Arcuri, and this influenced their decision-making”.

Johnson’s spokesman welcomed the fact that “this politically motivated complaint had been thrown out”, saying it was a waste of police time.

“Such vexatious claims of impropriety in office were untrue and unfounded,” the spokesman said.

The matter was referred to the watchdog because Johnson was head of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, a role equivalent to a police commissioner, during his 2008-2016 term as mayor.

Jennifer Arcuri calls relationship with PM ‘very special’

Jennifer Arcuri has said she had a “very special relationship” with PM.

The Greater London Authority said it had alerted the IOPC because Innotech, Arcuri’s then company, had received 11 500 pounds from London & Partners, the mayor’s promotional agency, for two events in 2013 and 2014.

She attended a trade mission to Singapore and Malaysia in 2014 through Playbox, one of her companies, even though an initial application through Innotech had been declined.

Last October, the government’s Internal Audit Agency ruled a decision to award a 100 000 pound grant to a company run by Arcuri was appropriate.

Arcuri gave a number of TV interviews after the allegations came to light, saying she and Johnson had enjoyed a “very special relationship”, having bonded over classical literature, but said he had never shown her any favouritism.

She repeatedly refused to say whether she had had an affair with Johnson but said he had cast her aside like “some gremlin” after the reports surfaced.

“Our review established there was a close association between Mr Johnson and Ms Arcuri and there may have been an intimate relationship,” the IOPC said.

It said it would have been wise for Johnson to have declared this as a conflict of interest and might be a breach of the GLA’s Code of Conduct.

The London Assembly said it would continue its investigation into Johnson’s conduct.

“My message to the prime minister is that this issue isn’t going away just yet,” Assembly member Len Duvall said. 

Posted in UKComments Off on Boris Johnson will not face criminal action over links to US businesswoman Jennifer Arcuri

Zionist, drop your denial and recognize the Nakba

Israelis, drop your denial and recognize the Nakba

Israeli recognition of its role in the Palestinian catastrophe is essential for both communities to survive. Other societies in conflict already figured that out.

ByDahlia Scheindlin

Palestine refugees initially displaced to Beach camp in Gaza board boats to Lebanon or Egypt during the first Arab-Israeli war, 1949 (UN Archives Photo/Hrant Nakashian)

Palestine refugees initially displaced to Beach Camp in Gaza board boats to Lebanon or Egypt during the first Arab-Israeli war, 1949 (UN Archives Photo/Hrant Nakashian)

No country wants to accept the blood of the “others” it shed to be born. In 1945 — three years before Palestinians were scattered and exiled from their land — George Orwell wrote in his essay, “Notes on Nationalism,” that “There is no crime, absolutely none, that cannot be condoned when ‘our’ side commits it. Even if one does not deny that the crime has happened, even if one admits in an intellectual sense that it is unjustified — still one cannot feel that it is wrong.”

So, what do we do when one denies that the crime has been committed?

As an American and a Canadian, it seemed obvious to me why the destruction of indigenous populations required acknowledgment, remembrance, and redress. Perhaps for these reasons, I used to think that Israel’s denial of its own dark past would come to a natural end.Get Our Weekly NewsletterSign up

Israelis, I believed, would develop a sense of national, multi-generational, collective security. After we had passed through the stages of grief over historic Jewish destruction, and generations of Jews would be born into a nation-state of their own, we would be strong enough to lower our defenses. Then Israel could confront what it had done.

I believed this must happen for both Israelis and Palestinians to survive. Recognizing the Nakba — the expulsion and flight of Palestinians in 1948, and the formative trauma of modern Palestinian national identity — is essential for reaching any future agreement to end the conflict, which I view as a matter of survival.

Acknowledging Israel’s role in the Nakba is also essential for historic truth, as some Israeli historians and archivists know. The importance of recognition is not only about making peace with Palestinians outside the borders of the state; Israel must know the experiences of its own Palestinian citizens, who make up a fifth of the state’s population, if relations are to ever deepen into equals.

Palestinian refugee children seen in a makeshift school in Nablus, West Bank, 1948. (Hanini/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Palestinian refugee children seen in a makeshift school in Nablus, West Bank, 1948. (Hanini/CC BY-SA 3.0)

But over the years, Israel did not move away from denial and toward recognition. Instead, Israeli denialism went from forgetting and erasing the Nakba in the early decades of its existence, to an open and public crusade against any mention of it during the 2000s.

Right-wing thought-warriors such as Im Tirzu unceremoniously labeled the Nakba “bullshit” in an aggressive public campaign. In 2011, the Knesset passed the so-called “Nakba Law,” which stipulates that state-funded institutions could lose their support if they allow the commemoration of the Nakba on Israeli Independence Day. The legislation was based on the ill-conceived notion that the Palestinian people — or any national group for that matter — can be intimidated into forgetting their national history.

Some thought that the Nakba Law could have sparked a backlash in the form of an accelerated national revival among Palestinian citizens of Israel. The double attack on free speech and Palestinian identity also angered activist left-wing Jews and created a clear means to test Israel’s will. Simply observing the Nakba on Israeli Independence Day at any public institution would trigger the law — a classic demonstration of civil disobedience.

None of this truly happened. For Palestinian citizens of Israel, the decade got worse. Israel passed legislation designed to bar them from living in Jewish-only communities; upheld and extended an amendment to its citizenship law that made it hard for Palestinian families to live together; and eventually passed the Jewish Nation-State Law, which constitutionally designated them second-class citizens. All the while, incitement against Palestinian citizens from the political leadership reached a fever pitch.

Responding to these assaults became a higher priority for Israel’s Palestinian community than asking Israelis to recognize the Nakba. Those Jewish citizens committed to acknowledging history of 1948 remained radical and few.

Israeli right wing activists protest next to the annual Nakba Day ceremony in Tel Aviv University, May 14, 2018. of the Jewish state. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

Israeli right wing activists protest next to the annual Nakba Day ceremony, Tel Aviv University, May 14, 2018. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

Still, perhaps the passage of time and committed historians had their own impact. A few polls I reviewed in 2013 made it seem as if the facts might be sinking in, indicating that more Israelis seemed prepared to accept Israel’s role in the historical events of the Nakba.

But in fact, Israelis remained steadfastly opposed to the political ramifications of accepting responsibility. This was evident in polls before and after the right-wing denialist crusades of the 2010s. In a poll for the peace group One Voice, 60 percent of Israeli Jews rejected even acknowledging the suffering of Palestinian refugees.

When I last tested a question about Palestinian refugees among Israelis, rejection of the standard two-state negotiation proposals was as high as ever. In July 2018, 70 percent of Jews rejected a proposed right of return to a new state of Palestine that included allowing around 100,000 returnees to settle in Israel as part of a family unification program (or otherwise given compensation). The Trump plan released in January, meanwhile, does not allow a single refugee back to Israel, and even to a future Palestinian state there are no guarantees.

The wall of rejection had developed into an elaborate argument by this time. One starting point is to deny the historic facts of the Nakba, including Israel’s planning and responsibility for the flight of Palestinians in 1948. The next part of the argument is rejection of return, arguing that there is no basis for such a right in international law, and even if there is, it does not apply to Palestinians.

A Palestinian man sits outside the UN offices near Dheisheh Refugee Camp in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, August 30, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

A Palestinian man sits outside the UN offices near Dheisheh Refugee Camp in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, August 30, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

These points aim to justify the claim that Palestinians invented the right of return in order to destroy Israel. This widespread narrative implicitly depends on the idea that in any other relevant or comparable conflict, refugees either do not demand return, do not claim the right for future generations, have no right if they are a minority in the home country, or in any case, do not return in practice.

However, having confronted equally wrenching and emotional refugee claims in my extensive work on other conflict regions, including in Cyprus and the Balkans — and having heard the stories of Palestinian friends whose families have been scattered to the winds — I could not accept the falsehood that Palestinians are somehow unique (or uniquely evil) because they long to return.

My contribution to the discussion around the Nakba this year, therefore, is my last resort: a report that takes a deep dive into four different conflicts that span five decades and three continents (with Israel-Palestine representing Asia), and overlap with the historic era of the Palestinian refugee claims.

While no two situations are identical, there can be uncanny similarities. Perhaps, I thought, Israeli minds can be opened by a confrontation with the suffering of others displaced by conflict and their deep desire to be allowed to return. Perhaps realizing that at least some form of return was accepted as part of the processes to end these other conflicts — and not denied by the opposing community — could defuse the defensiveness and lead the way.

My starting point was affirmed by the research: Palestinian claims to return are not unique. But the study turned up further observations about aspects Israelis believe are unique to the Palestinian case: the inherited status of refugees or displaced people is not unique. Neither is minority return, although it was only anchored in formal policy in the 1990s. Before then, no international law or norm indicated any limitation on return for refugees, minority group or not.

There is at least one finding that is difficult for Palestinians: the right of return for multiple generations of minority communities in their home countries has been offered before, but not been fully implemented anywhere except Rwanda. Bosnia and Kosovo formally granted that right (Bosnia through the Dayton Agreement, and Kosovo in its 2008 Constitution), and in both cases, return was meaningfully encouraged. But in practice, refugees from the minority groups only trickled back.

Rwandan children at a refugee camp in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, during the Rwandan Genocide. (UNAMIR)

Rwandan children at a refugee camp in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, during the Rwandan Genocide. (UNAMIR)

In Rwanda, the right is encouraged and largely implemented — but at the cost of suppressing the ethnic identity of all citizens into a single Rwandan nation. Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders have negotiated partial-return solutions in detail, but never managed to pass a peace agreement at all. The issue remains unresolved.

I have received a wide range of responses to the report in the weeks since it was published. Some criticized the effort at comparison entirely. Some criticized my choice of cases, which they thought favored the Palestinian argument. Others criticized the attempt to document and empathize with the Israeli national consciousness and fears. I also suggest that a political mechanism acknowledging the separate national identities of both sides is the more politically realistic approach.

I have been collecting and thinking about all the new angles to emerge from this discussion. Because while the mainstream Israeli narrative insists that Palestinians must drop the right of return, I believe Israelis must drop their resistance.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Human RightsComments Off on Zionist, drop your denial and recognize the Nakba

Annexation is not just about stealing land — it’s about expelling Palestinians

What the international community views as an illegal move under occupation is in fact another stage in Israel’s century-long settler colonial project.

By Ahmad Al-Bazz 

Jewish men celebrate Jerusalem Day in Jerusalem, marking the 52nd anniversary of Israel's capture of Arab East Jerusalem in the Six Day War of 1967. June 2, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Jewish men celebrate Jerusalem Day, marking the 52nd anniversary of Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967 war. June 2, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

To many readers of mainstream news sites in recent weeks, it may seem as if Israel is preparing to implement a drastic plan to annex the occupied West Bank, following the new Israeli government’s coalition agreement and the United States’ so-called “Deal of the Century.”

But Palestinians know full well that there is nothing dramatic about Israeli annexation. If anything, they are angered that the international community is acting so surprised at the move.

To understand the gap between the media headlines and the facts on the ground, put yourself in the shoes of an ordinary Israeli citizen who decides to take a trip from their apartment in Tel Aviv to the Dead Sea, much of which lies within the occupied West Bank.Get Our Weekly NewsletterSign up

All that citizen needs to do is take a single highway eastward, and in less than an hour and a half, they have arrived near the bank of the Jordan River. There are no checkpoints and no route changes on that short journey — no indicator that one has entered the West Bank. Hebrew-language road signs extend along the entire route, Israeli police enforce traffic laws throughout, and the Israeli National Parks Authority welcomes visitors to its nearby sites.

The Israeli driver will be careful not to mistakenly enter the areas where Palestinian residents of the West Bank live. This is not difficult, since in the wake of the Oslo Accords the army put up large red signs at the entrances of Palestinian towns warning Israelis that entering those areas was “dangerous.” A Palestinian on the other side of those signs, of course, can neither take the road back into Israel nor visit the same Dead Sea resorts as the Israeli driver.

The entrance of the Palestinian village of Dier 'Ammar as it appears from Israeli highway No. 463, West Bank. January 18, 2019. (Ahmad Al-Bazz / Activestills)

The entrance of the Palestinian village of Dier ‘Ammar as it appears from Israeli highway No. 463, West Bank. January 18, 2019. (Ahmad Al-Bazz / Activestills)

Despite the land’s seemingly complex political structures, the physical map of Palestine-Israel in 2020 is actually very simple: even with a few, semi-autonomous Palestinian enclaves in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, everything from north to south, east to west, is ruled by Israel.

This reality has existed for decades. And yet the world is somehow alarmed by the fact that Israel now wants to make this reality “official” through formal annexation. What the international community views as an illegal move by a military occupier, or as a territorial dispute over borders between two governments, Palestinians understand as another stage in Israel’s century-long settler colonial project.

The demographic ‘mistake’

Exclusion and control, which have always been essential features of Zionism, are the building blocks of the land’s geography. The goal of creating a Jewish-only country in which other people reside has caused an endless reality of oppression for Palestinians. Zionism gave Palestinians two choices: expulsion and exile, or Israeli rule without rights. All Palestinians, no matter where they are in the world, are subjected to either of those fates.

After the state’s establishment in 1948, many Israelis were disappointed that they did not capture cities such as Hebron, Nablus, and Jerusalem’s Old City, which are considered holy Jewish sites, as part of the newly established state. That hope was eventually fulfilled in 1967, when Israel took control of the entirety of Mandatory Palestine. But apart from East Jerusalem, the state never annexed those territories under Israeli law.

To this day, Israel has been eager to avoid repeating the demographic mistake it made by granting some Palestinians Israeli citizenship in 1948. Placed under military rule until 1966 and discriminated against ever since, the very existence of Palestinian citizens has thwarted Israel’s plans to create a purely Jewish state. As such, Palestinians in Israel are constantly reminded that they are unwanted: Netanyahu said clearly last year that “Israel is not a state for all its citizens,” and even the Deal of the Century proposed transferring their communities to a future Palestinian entity.

Residents of the ‘unrecognized’ village of Al-Araqib hold Activestills photos documenting their struggle during a protest against the demolition of their homes, 2010. Israeli authorities have since demolished the village over 100 times. (Activestills.org)

Residents of the ‘unrecognized’ village of Al-Araqib hold Activestills photos documenting their struggle during a protest against the demolition of their homes, 2010. Israeli authorities have since demolished the village over 100 times. (Activestills.org)

Haunted by its mistake, Israel decided to pursue a policy of “permanent temporariness” in the West Bank and Gaza: de facto annexation, rather than de jure, would be their escape. It created new categories for the unwanted population: red “permanent residencies” for East Jerusalemites (thousands of which have been revoked since 1967), and orange or green ID cards for those in Gaza and the West Bank, administered by the Israeli Defense Ministry.

The state simultaneously encouraged its Jewish population to settle in the occupied territories. As the settlements blossomed, Israel built bypass roads, walls, and fences to ensure not only that the settlements remained connected to each other and to Israel, but served as a tool to control and limit the movement of the Palestinian population.

So why, after more than fifty years of this “permanent temporariness,” is Israel deciding to make this reality official? And what should the response from Palestinians be?

The Palestinian response

The answer lies in what Israel may be preparing to announce: not only the absorption of the settlements and surrounding land, which are already under its control, but also the final cleansing of the Palestinians who remain in those areas. That plan has been unfolding for years in places like the Jordan Valley, E1, and the South Hebron Hills, but it could be pursued more swiftly once formal annexation is declared.

Given the impunity with which Israel has violated international law in the occupied territories, there is no better opportunity for Palestinians to finally abandon the legalistic discourse of “occupation.” Palestinians have long given this international framework a chance to aid their struggle, despite all its limitation and misrepresentations of their cause — but to no avail.

A section of the Israeli separation wall that annexes lands of Bethlehem and Jerusalem districts, Beit Jala, West Bank. April 6, 2019. (Anne Paq/Activestills )

A section of the Israeli separation wall that annexes lands of Bethlehem and Jerusalem districts, Beit Jala, West Bank. April 6, 2019. (Anne Paq/Activestills )

Palestinian leaders have been part of this failure. Until the late 1980s, the Palestinian national leadership viewed Israel as a settler colony that was usurping Palestinian land, demanding the return of refugees, and calling for a single democratic state for all. But since then, the Palestine Liberation Organization has formally recognized Israel and adopted the two-state solution, in great part to satisfy the international community’s perspective, which operates on the false premise of a “conflict” between two equal sides.

This framework replaced the Palestinian demand for decolonization of Mandatory Palestine, and accepted the Green Line as the border within which to cage Palestinians in a quasi-state. Nearly 30 years after the Oslo Accords, Israel’s settler-colonial policies continue to treat Palestinians as the same, unwanted, colonized group — whether they are citizens of Israel, occupied subjects, or expelled refugees.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas claims to recognize this fact by repeatedly threatening to dismantle the Palestinian Authority or to withdraw from so-called security agreements with Israel. But Abbas has never been brave enough to follow through. If the PA does nothing to correct its mistakes, it will simply maintain Israel’s plans to have the Palestinian leadership run the shrunken enclaves on the state’s behalf.

Thus, as Israel polishes the next phase of its settler colonial project, it is time for Palestinians to return to their original demands of full decolonization and one democratic state where all human beings have equal rights on this land, and to develop new strategies to achieve that goal. Until then, the international community has no right to express regret about upcoming annexation. It is simply the fruit of Israel’s colonial labors, which the international community itself never took action to stop.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZIComments Off on Annexation is not just about stealing land — it’s about expelling Palestinians

A very dangerous government

The Netanyahu-Gantz coalition threatens to harm the poorest Israelis, maintain the occupation, and ignore gender violence and climate disaster.

ByHaggai Matar

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu walks in the Israeli parliament after presenting the 35th government of Israel to the Knesset, May 17, 2020. (Alex Kolomoisky/Pool)

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu walks in the Israeli parliament after presenting the 35th government of Israel to the Knesset, May 17, 2020. (Alex Kolomoisky/Pool)

Israel’s 35th government will be a dangerous one. It is a government that most likely will cast aside the central problems plaguing Israeli society. In some cases, it may even exacerbate them.

The severe economic crisis that has grown in the wake of the coronavirus lockdowns is taking its toll. Over a million unemployed Israeli citizens have no idea whether or when they will be able to return to work, and the designated time period to apply for unemployment benefits — which are nowhere near enough to cover the cost of living — is slowly ticking away. Large businesses are closing up shop, independent workers are drowning in debt, and asylum seekers and foreign workers are ineligible for government support.

When the new government was sworn in on Sunday, Prime Minister Netanyahu promised that bringing an end to the economic crisis would be at the top of his priority list. But those promises ring empty when considering the direction we are already heading in. Netanyahu has pledged to “do as much as possible to bring the economy back to where it was.” That means going back to a situation in which one in three children live in poverty, with citizens forgoing purchasing medicine to ensure they have enough money to pay their water and electricity bills. It means going back to tens of thousands of families facing food insecurity and thousands waiting in line for public housing.Get Our Weekly NewsletterSign up

But with the current government, the possibility of going back to the previous, awful situation also seems like a distant dream. According to Adva Center, an Israeli progressive think tank, the government bailout packages are expected to help corporations rather than average citizens. In recent months, we have witnessed how the government has essentially ignored people with disabilities who have lost a major source of income after the factories they were employed in shut down. We saw the cold-hearted refusal to guarantee a minimal and stable income for beneficiaries of welfare stipends who have been forced into unemployment. We have seen discrimination between Jewish and Arab municipalities when it comes to local authorities handing out unemployment benefits. And the list goes on.

Israelis protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, outside the Prime Minister's Residence, Jerusalem, May 17, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Israelis protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, outside the Prime Minister’s Residence, Jerusalem, May 17, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

On the other hand, the new government has diverted quite a bit of funds to its record-setting 34 ministerial portfolios — to the tune of NIS 238 million. The creation of arbitrary and confounding new portfolios not only means that similar responsibilities will be shared among various ministers, but that chaos will likely reign well into a year and a half from now, when the rotation and swapping of government portfolios is to come into effect, as per the coalition agreement signed between Netanyahu and Benny Gantz.

Beyond the inordinate amount waste, the main concern is that the confusion could make it difficult to advance any policies, and that the significant decisions that shape our lives — particularly in light of the economic crisis — will be made exclusively by the Finance Ministry. This is the same ministry that doesn’t believe that single mothers and the elderly should receive benefits to help them survive the crisis.

Annexation over climate change

So, what is at the top of this government’s priority list? Annexation. It could officially annex large swaths of the West Bank under Israeli law, a move that could ignite the region and worsen Israel’s relations with Jordan and the European Union. Or it could continue to annex the occupied territories quietly and gradually, without any official statements, as has been Israel’s practice for decades.

As Israel deals with both a health and economic crisis, it needs to be reminded that it still controls the lives of millions of Palestinians through a tyrannical military regime in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In these places, too, COVID-19 has taken a heavy toll on people’s livelihoods and brought many families to the brink of starvation.

The Israeli right has succeeded in turning the system of racial segregation and apartheid in the occupied territories — and the violence necessary to maintain it — into a non-issue for most Israelis. In fact, it has managed to consolidate a consensus around entrenching Jewish supremacy across Israel-Palestine. And there is no sign that the new government will reject such supremacy anytime soon.

Israeli security forces guard as settlers in the West Bank city of Hebron, May 16, 2020. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

Israeli security forces guard as settlers in the West Bank city of Hebron, May 16, 2020. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

The third problem is the climate crisis, whose threat to human existence far outweighs that of the coronavirus. While COVID-19 may have taught us the importance of preparedness for such dangers, there is no indication that the new government intends to reduce Israel’s share of responsibility for our warming climate or to deal with its consequences, which are expected to be particularly severe in our region. Miki Haimovich, the only woman in the new coalition who actually cares about the issue, was ignored by the leaders of the Blue and White party when the time came to hand out ministerial portfolios. There is nothing in the coalition agreement, or in Netanyahu’s and Gantz’s speeches, that suggests they understand the gravity of the threat.

Fourth, the government has been entirely indifferent to the issue of gender violence during the coronavirus crisis. Eight women have been murdered by their spouses since the beginning of the year, yet both Netanyahu and Gantz have chosen to remain silent on the issue. During the lockdown, the government offered little help or protection to women with abusive partners, nor did it come up with a plan to protect possible future victims of gender violence. Not a single one of the 34 new ministers has made the fight against gender violence a top priority for the next term.

Israelis protest gender-based violence following the killing of a 50-year-old woman by her husband, Bat Yam, May 4, 2020. (Tomer Neuberg/FLASH90)

Israelis protest gender-based violence following the killing of a 50-year-old woman by her husband, Bat Yam, May 4, 2020. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

These are only four examples. One could write about the significance of appointing Amir Ohana, who previously headed the gun lobby in the Knesset, to head the Public Security Ministry, which oversees gun ownership in Israel. One could talk endlessly about the migrant workers who will live under the fear of deportation by Interior Minister Aryeh Deri; or the fact that the Education Ministry will be headed by a former IDF commander; or that Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin has a skewed understanding of how democracy works.

Yes, this government will be a dangerous one, and will be supported by a number of Knesset members who reneged on their own principles, delivering a severe blow to the opposition. Yet the current crisis we are facing may change everything, should Netanyahu and Gantz decide to continue abandoning Israeli citizens. An opposition that has been crushed in the parliament can rebuild itself in the streets. This time, it is our job to ensure that we build a broad, Arab-Jewish opposition with a vision of equality and social justice for all inhabitants of this land. It is not as far-fetched as it might seem.

Posted in ZIO-NAZIComments Off on A very dangerous government

In isolation and exile, Ramadan still brings its blessings

Though I could not share an iftar with my Palestinian mother due to the pandemic, she made sure we could savor its pleasures, even from a distance.

By: Samer Badawi

Palestinians shop for food ahead of the fasting month of Ramadan, in Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip. April 20, 2020. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Palestinians shop for food ahead of the fasting month of Ramadan, in Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip. April 20, 2020. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

In my earliest memory of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, my younger brother and I are splitting chores during the daylight hours. Too young to fast, we convince ourselves this is essential work. There is the trash haul or the corner market run. Pinning clothes in the afternoon sun. The occasional sweeping. But the day’s most important job comes just before twilight, when our Palestinian mother summons us to her busy kitchen.

There, sworn off food and drink until sunset, she deputizes her boys as tasters. At her signal, we gauge the cumin in the lentil soup, pair sumac with lime in her bowl of fattoush, sweeten — if we must — the strained tamarind juice. My brother and I savor these tasks as we do the meal at sunset, for it is thanks to us that Mama’s iftar is, as it always must be, flawless.

Now, all the flavors are off. Among its more novel symptoms, the new coronavirus is said to block its host’s sense of taste. This is an especially cruel fate during Ramadan, when fasting, in the Muslim tradition, “is like a shield,” and the joy of breaking fast is second only to salvation. This teleological bargain — abstain now so that you may indulge later — is a familiar one in the Abrahamic tradition. But what use is it if we can no longer taste?Get Our Weekly NewsletterSign up

In our Palestinian home, the Arabic expression “ma ilha ta’ameh” (“it has no taste”) had nothing to do with food or the gustatory sense I thought my mother had perfected in me. Instead, my parents used the phrase to distance themselves from the world around them. Refugees from the 1967 Six-Day War, they had a habit of comparing most things in the United Arab Emirates, where my father had found work, to the Palestine that prefigured them. The sea at Dubai’s Jebel Ali, which was a serene port during my childhood, had nothing on Yaffa (Jaffa) and its Mediterranean breeze. The sunset, too, somehow fell short.

Palestinian women enjoy the Mediterranean Sea during the second day of the Eid al-Fitr holiday as the sun sets in Jaffa, July 18, 2015. Israeli authorities issued thousands of permits for Palestinians living in the West Bank, allowing them to visit Israel during the three-day holiday that marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan. (photo: Oren Ziv / Activestills.org)

Palestinian women enjoy the Mediterranean Sea during the second day of the Eid al-Fitr holiday as the sun sets in Jaffa, July 18, 2015. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

This dissociative state, now familiar to a world in lockdown, is the refugee’s underlying condition. For most of her adult life, my mother spoke of home in the future tense, a state of normalcy to which she would someday return. Eventually, as hope waned for a negotiated peace between Palestinians and Israelis, my mother’s expectation lapsed into a kind of earnest wish, kept alive through stories from her childhood, in a box of black-and-white stills, in the family kitchen.

This Ramadan, though, she has lost her appetite for nostalgia. Although she lives just two hours away, my mother is off-limits, her age and minor ailments leaving her especially vulnerable to the virus’s worst threats. So I call instead, trying to lighten her mood. When I complain that my own lentil soup lands flat, she counsels more salt, followed by a good squeeze of lemon.

“And make sure, ya mama, to drink it with a few green olives,” she reminds me.

I will remember, of course. We Palestinian children learned to heed our mothers’ wishes long before we understood the depths of their burdens, or the bitterness of their exile. Even though I could not share an iftar with her this year, I can still taste its pleasures. That, it turns out, is this Ramadan’s true blessing.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, Human RightsComments Off on In isolation and exile, Ramadan still brings its blessings

In Jerash refugee camp, lockdown means ‘living without eating’

Palestinian refugees in Jordan’s Jerash camp were already suffering from severe poverty and public health challenges. Then COVID-19 hit.

By Nooran Alhamdan 

Jerash camp

Jerash refugee camp, home to an estimated 30,000 Palestinians whose elders fled Gaza in 1967, after Israel occupied the territory, Jordan, October 11, 2011. (Omer Chatriwala/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The COVID-19 pandemic is compounding the already precarious situation that refugees around the world are in. Palestinian refugees in Jordan’s Jerash camp are especially vulnerable, given the existing public health challenges and severe poverty.

There are more than two million registered Palestinian refugees living in Jordan. Jerash camp is home to an estimated 30,000 Palestinians whose elders fled Gaza in 1967, after Israel occupied the territory. Unlike most Palestinian refugees in the Hashemite Kingdom, they never received Jordanian citizenship, which impacts their access to work prospects, educational opportunities, and healthcare, among other rights enjoyed by Palestinian-Jordanians.

Before the Jordanian government instituted a lockdown to contain the spread of the new coronavirus, the camp, known locally as Gaza Camp, was deemed by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the U.N. body that delivers vital aid to some 5.3 million Palestinian refugees across the Arab world, as the poorest of the 10 official Palestinian refugee camps in the country.Get Our Weekly NewsletterSign up

Based on a 2013 report by the Fafo Institute for Applied International Studies — the latest UNRWA study released on the socio-economic conditions of Palestinian refugees in Jordan — refugees who were displaced (either for the first or second time in 1967) from Gaza and their descendants are more than three times as likely to be among the most impoverished, living on less than $1.25 a day. Over half of the camp’s refugees have an income below the national poverty line of JD 814 ($1,148). Unemployment rates in the camp are close to 40 percent compared to 14 percent for Palestinian refugees in Jordan, according to a 2018 study by the Palestinian Return Centre.

The camp’s residents were also already facing a myriad of public health issues prior to the pandemic. More than 65 percent of the buildings contain asbestos and corrugated zinc, and have not been overhauled since their construction. There is limited access to clean water and a “reeking sewage system,” states the Palestinian Return Centre report. Garbage is strewn in the streets, as UNRWA had to reduce its trash collection after the United States slashed its funding to the relief agency in 2018.

Jerash camp has the highest number of Palestinian refugees in Jordan without any health insurance — a staggering 88 percent of the camp’s population. However, children under 6 years are eligible for public health insurance and are treated at government health facilities for free, like all Jordanians.

According to the Palestinian Return Centre report, Jerash camp refugees have access to free healthcare through local UNRWA-run clinics, “which offer very basic services.” If they venture outside to a government hospital, they must pay guest fees for medical services, as if they are foreign nationals seeking treatment abroad. UNRWA may partially subsidize these treatments depending on a refugee’s economic status, but many find the cost of treatment unaffordable still.

Palestinian children at a refugee camp in Gaza, November 1, 1956. (Pridan Moshe/GPO)

Palestinian children at a refugee camp in Gaza, November 1, 1956. (Pridan Moshe/GPO)

In 2019, I visited the camp as part of an academic research study. I spoke to around 15 camp residents who recounted how ambulances cannot reach many parts of the camp, or how they have to rely on using the national ID cards of sympathetic Jordanian citizens to access critical treatment in extreme cases.

Muhand Salem, 23, was born and raised in Jerash camp. He studied engineering but has been unemployed since graduating. I last saw Muhand in 2017, when I began volunteering with a nonprofit organization that operates there. We stayed in touch on social media, and following the coronavirus outbreak, I asked him how he is faring via Instagram messages.

Given Jordan’s economic crisis, life at the camp was already hard, he said. After years of exempting Gazans from having to apply for work permits, in January 2016, the Labor Ministry announced it as a requirement. Each work permit cost around $250 per person — a fee many Gazan refugees cannot afford on a yearly basis.

“Companies started to lay off many of their ex-Gazan workers or stopped employing them,” added Muhand. “By the end of the year, most employees faced problems — from being unable to obtain work permits, to pressures in being laid-off or being unable to find new jobs.”

Most breadwinners at the camp earn a daily wage, explained Muhand. During the summer, these kinds of work opportunities tend to increase, and people would save their earnings to help them get through the slower winter months.

But then COVID-19 hit. Since the coronavirus broke out in the early spring, most refugees had already spent their winter savings, he said. Now, “most families living in the camp are struggling to provide the very basics necessities for themselves and their families.”

“We are constantly losing the youth’s energy, even prior to COVID-19, because of the economic situation,” continued Muhand. “There is no goal for us to strive for.”

Directing people who are already struggling financially to shelter at home means “telling them not to work on that day, not to earn [a living], and to live that day without eating.”

Jerash camp in Jordan, on a visit by Noordan Alhamdan in 2017. (Courtesy of Nooran Alhamdan)

Jerash camp in Jordan, on a visit by Noordan Alhamdan in 2017. (Courtesy of Nooran Alhamdan)

Many organizations are working to ensure that Palestinian refugees, especially those in Jerash, are taken care of during this crisis. Grassroots organizations like One Love Sama Gaza are providing Palestinian refugees in Jordan with food packages during and after the COVID-19 crisis. American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA) recently announced a partnership with Medical Aid for Palestinians’ branch in Jordan to deliver vital medicines, including vitamin D supplements for women.

While the work of these organizations is important and vital, it is focused on short-term relief. The COVID-19 crisis is highlighting the need for long-term, structural solutions when it comes to the rights and needs of Palestinian refugees — ones that not only respond to their humanitarian and economic difficulties, but that also address the root of their problems: their initial displacement.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, Middle East, JordanComments Off on In Jerash refugee camp, lockdown means ‘living without eating’

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