Archive | February, 2014

I$raHell and Germany Launch “The Africa Initiative”


By: Pedro Ali Alves

Ed-Note I$raHell and Germany Launch “The Africa Initiative”

Both gov known for their role in plundering,colonizing,and proxy wars in Africa,now will continue under the climate change figth guise. MASHAV.

Remember executive outcomes? this new initiative wil probably have both countries deathsquads and commandoes posing for public relations media propaganda in park ranger attires, something like wwf or 1001 club,while dispatching mercenaries to steal and secure the most valuable resources in these countries..all in name of conservation MASHAV.

The Africa Initiative is part of the effort to deepen the relations between the two nations and arises from the partnership the two countries have established over the last few years to work together for the benefit of developing countries, mainly in Africa.
Signing the Cooperation Agreement (from left to right): Ambassador Daniel Carmon, Head of MASHAV; Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin; Germany’s Economic Cooperation and Development Minister Gerd Müller; Dr. Elke Lobel, BMZ


Signing the Cooperation Agreement (from left to right): Ambassador Daniel Carmon, Head of MASHAV; Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin; Germany’s Economic Cooperation and Development Minister Gerd Müller; Dr. Elke Lobel, BMZ

Copyright: MFA
During the Israel-Germany Government Consultations held today and as part of the growing strategic bilateral relationship between the two countries, the two governments have officially launched the “Israel-Germany Africa Initiative.”
The new dimension in the bilateral relationship is of particular interest and importance in the context of the history and relations between the two nations. Moreover, the unique relationship existing between Germany and Israel reflect Germany’s awareness of its historic responsibility towards Israel. Both Israel and Germany have embarked on a path of working towards a better world, with a focus on developing countries and raising the standard of living of those who live in poverty.
The “Israel-Germany Africa Initiative” encompasses measures to contribute to efforts to mitigate pressing global challenges, such as the eradication of poverty and hunger, food security, climate change, sustainable development and other global challenges.
The initiative, which was originally decided by the two heads of state in 2012, is currently being implemented in cooperation with three African countries:
  • Kenya: In the field of aquaculture around Lake Victoria. This activity is focused on enhancing sustainable ways of protecting Lake Victoria’s environment and ecosystem by reducing the stress on the lake and improving the ecosystem of aquaculture around the lake. The next stage of this partnership is the expansion to the area of water treatment and management.
  • Ethiopia: In the field of strengthening livelihoods for pastoral and agro-pastoral communities. The German – Israel Partnership is part of a larger program of adaptation to climate change. The partnership will be entering a second phase in June 2014 and will focus on drought resilience and dryland agriculture for nomadic communities, in the Afar region.
  • Ghana: In the field of citrus production. This ongoing activity is focused on improving the value chain and productivity of citrus fruit, to meet the relevant needs and demands.
Within the context of “The Africa Initiative,” Germany and Israel will work together to extend their existing cooperation in areas of mutual interest, drawing on their respective comparative advantages to create synergies.
The partners implementing the Africa initiative are the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany (BMZ) and MASHAV, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation at Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The expanded cooperation activities will be planned and implemented in partnership with the following countries and in accordance with the principles of aid effectiveness as outlined in the Paris Declaration, Accra Agenda for Action and The Busan Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation.
  • Burkina Faso: A partnership will be established to build the capacity of the local population in the southwest of Burkina Faso to adapt to the impacts of climate change and to address the severe degradation of the agricultural land.
  • Burundi: MASHAV will join as a partner to the German-Burundi project to support climate change adaptation which aims to implement strategies and tools to reduce the vulnerability of the rural population to climate change impacts in selected, particularly in vulnerable regions of Burundi.
  • Cameroon: Based on the existing project on reforestation and research and development of measures to reverse soil degradation in the Far North of Cameroon Israel and Germany will evaluate various options for a new trilateral cooperation.
Israel and Germany decided to mark 2015 as a Year of Jubilee, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two nations. Within this framework, the two governments launched a joint commemorative logo to mark the occasion.

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Yarmuk Refugee Camp and the Syrian Uprising: A View from Within


Yarmuk Refugee Camp

With all of Syria engulfed since spring 2011 in spiraling destruction, the fate of thecountry’s small Palestinian population receives scant attention. This report focuses on that community through the lens of Damascus’s Yarmuk camp, the largest Palestinian concentration in the country. Starting with the 2011 Nakba and Naksa Day demonstrations, the report provides a detailed account of how the camp has lived the turmoil, highlighting in particular its determined efforts to preserve its neutrality and the factors that ultimately led to the fatal entry of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) into Yarmuk in December 2012. The ethnographic portrait of Syria’s Palestinians before the uprising, their life in the camp (including the role of the factions), their privileges and unique integration, makes what the author sees as the destruction of the community even more tragic.

Yarmuk Camp, at the southern edge of Damascus, is the largest of the twelve Palestinian refugee camps in Syria, housing about one hundred fifty thousand refugees, almost one-third of those registered in the country. Syria’s total Palestinian refugee population reached five hundred twenty-nine thousand before the uprising began, including those who arrived after 1948 and therefore are not registered. Yarmuk is also Syria’s most important camp, a bustling commercial center with a huge market, and the place where all the Palestinian factions in the country have their headquarters. The other camps are quite small. Three of the twelve are technically “unofficial,” meaning they were established not by UNWRA in the wake of the 1948 Nakba but by the Syrian government later. Yarmuk is one of those, having been established in 1957. The three “unofficial” camps receive the same UNRWA services as the other nine, minus some municipal services provided by the Syrian government.

Click here to read the rest of this report:

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PA plans airport in West Bank, seaport and railway in Gaza



The Palestinian Authority Ministry of Transport has been working with Egypt to prepare plans for an airport in the occupied West Bank and a seaport and railway line in the Gaza Strip, a minister said Sunday.

Nabil Dmeidi, PA minister of transport and chairman of Palestinian Airlines, told Ma’an that the transport ministry has signed a protocol of cooperation with Egypt’s civil aviation authority in order to benefit from Egyptian expertise.

The airport is planned to be built east of Jericho and Egyptian experts are due to visit the West Bank to explore possible locations for a second smaller airport on land currently designated as Area C, under full Israeli security and administrative control.

Dmeidi, who is currently visiting Cairo, added that a plan is being discussed to build a railway line between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, with the nearest Egyptian railway station 70 kilometers away in Beer al-Abed.

Plans are also being discussed to build a seaport in the Gaza Strip, he added.

The Yasser Arafat International Airport in Gaza was destroyed by Israel’s military during the Second Intifada and now lies in ruins.

Inaugurated in 1998, it was able to handle 700,000 passengers per year and was visited by US President Bill Clinton as a guest.

The Oslo Accords granted Israel full control over Gaza’s airspace but allowed for the construction of an airport.

Israel maintains exclusive control of Gaza’s airspace and the territorial waters and has done since the military occupation of 1967.

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Children of the occupation: growing up in Palestine


Beaten by Jewish Nazi settlers


The rough track is an unmarked turning across a primeval landscape of rock and sand under a vast cobalt sky. Our Jeep bounces between boulders and dust-covered gorse bushes before beginning a bone-jolting descent from the high ridge into a deep valley. An Israeli army camp comes into view, then the tiny village of Jinba: two buildings, a few tents, a scattering of animal pens. A pair of military helicopters clatter overhead. The air smells of sheep.

At the end of this track in the southern West Bank, 12-year-old Nawal Jabarin lives in a cave. She was born in the gloom beneath its low, jagged roof, as were two of her brothers, and her father a generation earlier. Along the rock-strewn track that connects Jinba to the nearest paved road, Nawal’s mother gave birth to another baby, unable to reach hospital in time; on the same stretch of flattened earth, Nawal’s father was beaten by Israeli settlers in front of the terrified child.

The cave and an adjacent tent are home to 18 people: Nawal’s father, his two wives and 15 children. The family’s 200 sheep are penned outside. An ancient generator that runs on costly diesel provides power for a maximum of three hours a day. Water is fetched from village wells, or delivered by tractor at up to 20 times the cost of piped water. During the winter, bitter winds sweep across the desert landscape, slicing through the tent and forcing the whole family to crowd into the cave for warmth. “In winter, we are stacked on top of one another,” Nawal tells me.

She rarely leaves the village. “I used to ride in my father’s car. But the settlers stopped us. They beat my father before my eyes, cursing, using foul language. They took our things and threw them out of the car.”

Even home is not safe. “The soldiers come in [the cave] to search. I don’t know what they’re looking for,” she says. “Sometimes they open the pens and let the sheep out. In Ramadan, they came and took my brothers. I saw the soldiers beat them with the heel of their guns. They forced us to leave the cave.”

Despite the hardships of her life, Nawal is happy. “This is my homeland, this is where I want to be. It’s hard here, but I like my home and the land and the sheep.” But, she adds, “I will be even happier if we are allowed to stay.”

Nawal is one of a second generation of Palestinians to be born into occupation. Her birth came 34 years after Israel seized the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem during the six-day war. Military law was imposed on the Palestinian population, and soon afterwards Israel began to build colonies on occupied land under military protection. East Jerusalem was annexed in a move declared illegal under international law.

The first generation – Nawal’s parents and their peers – are now approaching middle age, their entire lives dominated by the daily grind and small humiliations of an occupied people. Around four million Palestinians have known nothing but an existence defined by checkpoints, demands for identity papers, night raids, detentions, house demolitions, displacement, verbal abuse, intimidation, physical attacks, imprisonment and violent death. It is a cruel mosaic: countless seemingly unrelated fragments that, when put together, build a picture of power and powerlessness. Yet, after 46 years, it has also become a kind of normality.

For the young, the impact of such an environment is often profound. Children are exposed to experiences that shape attitudes for a lifetime and, in some cases, have lasting psychological consequences. Frank Roni, a child protection specialist for Unicef, the United Nations’ agency for children, who works in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, speaks of the “inter-generational trauma” of living under occupation. “The ongoing conflict, the deterioration of the economy and social environment, the increase in violence – this all impacts heavily on children,” he says. “Psychological walls” mirror physical barriers and checkpoints. “Children form a ghetto mentality and lose hope for the future, which fuels a cycle of despair,” Roni says.

But their experiences are inevitably uneven. Many children living in the major Palestinian cities, under a degree of self-government, rarely come into contact with settlers or soldiers, while such encounters are part of daily life for those in the 62% of the West Bank under full Israeli control, known as Area C. Children in Gaza live in a blockaded strip of land, often growing up in extreme economic hardship, and with direct and shocking experience of intense warfare. In East Jerusalem, a high proportion of Palestinian children grow up in impoverished ghettoes, encroached upon by expanding Israeli settlements or with extremist settlers taking over properties in their midst.

In the South Hebron Hills, the shepherds who have roamed the area for generations now live alongside ideologically and religiously driven Jews who claim an ancient biblical connection to the land and see the Palestinians as interlopers. They have built gated settlements on the hilltops, serviced with paved roads, electricity and running water, and protected by the army. The settlers and soldiers have brought fear to the cave-dwellers: violent attacks on the local Palestinian population are frequent, along with military raids and the constant threat of forcible removal from their land.

Nawal’s village is inside an area designated in the 1980s by the Israeli army as “Firing Zone 918” for military training. The army wants to clear out eight Palestinian communities on the grounds that it is unsafe for them to remain within a military training zone; they are not “permanent residents”. A legal battle over the fate of the villages, launched before Nawal was born, is still unresolved.

Her school, a basic three-room structure, is under a demolition order, as is the only other building in the village, the mosque, which is used as an overspill classroom. Both were constructed without official Israeli permits, which are hardly ever granted. Haytham Abu Sabha, Nawal’s teacher, says his pupils’ lives are “very hard. The children have no recreation. They lack the basic things in life: there is no electricity, high malnutrition, no playgrounds. When they get sick or are hurt, it’s hard getting them to hospital. We are forced to be primitive.”

The children are also forced to be brave. Nawal insists she is not afraid of the soldiers. But when I ask if she has cried during the raids on her home, she hesitates before nodding almost imperceptibly, unwilling to admit to her fears. Psychologists and counsellors working with Palestinian children say this reluctance to acknowledge and vocalise frightening experiences compounds the damage caused by the event itself. “Children say they are not afraid of soldiers, but their body language tells you something different,” says Mona Zaghrout, head of counselling at the YMCA in Beit Sahour, near Bethlehem. “They feel ashamed to say they are afraid.”

Like Nawal, 12-year-old Ahed Tamimi boldly asserts that she, too, has no fear of soldiers, before quietly admitting that sometimes she is afraid. Ahed’s apparent fearlessness catapulted her to a brief fame a year ago when a video of her angrily confronting Israeli soldiers was posted online. The girl was invited to Turkey, where she was hailed as a child hero.

Amid tree-covered hills almost three hours’ drive north of Jinba, Nabi Saleh is a village of around 500 people, most of whom share the family name of Tamimi. From Ahed’s home, the Israeli settlement of Halamish is visible across a valley. Founded in 1977, it is built partly on land confiscated from local Palestinian families. An Israeli army base is situated next to the settlement.

When settlers appropriated the village spring five years ago, the people of Nabi Saleh began weekly protests. Ahed’s parents, Bassem and Nariman, have been at the forefront of the demonstrations, which are largely nonviolent, although they often involve some stone-throwing. The Israeli military routinely respond with tear gas, stun grenades, rubber bullets, jets of foul-smelling fluid known as “skunk”, and sometimes live ammunition.

Two villagers have been killed, and around 350 – including large numbers of children – injured. Ahed was shot in the wrist by a rubber bullet. At least 140 people from Nabi Saleh have been detained or imprisoned as a result of protest activity, including 40 minors. Bassem has been jailed nine times – four times since his daughter’s birth – and was named a “prisoner of conscience” by Amnesty International; Nariman has been detained five times since the protests began; and Ahed’s older brother, Waed, was arrested. Her uncle, Rushdie Tamimi, died two days after being shot by soldiers in November 2012. An Israel Defense Forces investigation later found that soldiers fired 80 bullets without justification; they also prevented villagers giving medical aid to the injured man.

Ahed, a slight, elfin-faced girl, is a discomforting mix of worldliness and naivety. For a child, she knows far too much about tear gas and rubber bullets, demolition orders and military raids. Her home, scarred by repeated army assaults, is one of 13 in the village that are threatened with being bulldozed. When I ask how often she has experienced the effects of tear gas, she laughs, saying she cannot count the times. I ask her to describe it. “I can’t breathe, my eyes hurt, it feels like I’m suffocating. Sometimes it’s 10 minutes until I can see again,” she says.

Like Nawal, Ahed is familiar with military raids on her home. One, while her father was in prison, began at 3am with the sound of assault rifles being battered against the front door. “I woke up, there were soldiers in my bedroom. My mum was screaming at the soldiers. They turned everything upside down, searching. They took our laptop and cameras and phones.”

According to Bassem, his daughter “sometimes wakes up at night, shouting and afraid. Most of the time, the children are nervous and stressed, and this affects their education. Their priorities change, they don’t see the point in learning.”

Those working with Palestinian children say this is a common reaction. “When you live under constant threat or fear of danger, your coping mechanisms deteriorate. Children are nearly always under stress, afraid to go to school, unable to concentrate,” Frank Roni says.

Mona Zaghrout of the YMCA lists typical responses to trauma among children: “Nightmares, lack of concentration, reluctance to go to school, clinginess, unwillingness to sleep alone, insomnia, aggressive behaviour, regressive behaviour, bed-wetting. Psychosomatic symptoms, such as a high fever without a biological reason, or a rash over the body. These are the most common things we see.”

The flip side of Ahed’s life is one of poignant prosaicness. She plays hopscotch and football with her schoolfriends, likes movies about mermaids, teases her brothers, skips with a rope in the sitting room. But she shrinks from the suggestion that we photograph her near the army watchtower at the entrance to the village, only reluctantly agreeing to a few minutes within sight of the soldier behind the concrete.

Her answers to questions about what the protests are over and the role of the army seem practised, the result of living in a highly politicised community. “We want to liberate Palestine, we want to live as free people, the soldiers are here to protect the settlers and prevent us reaching our land.” With her brothers, she watches a DVD of edited footage showing her parents being arrested, their faces contorted in anger and pain, her own confrontation with Israeli soldiers, a night-time raid on the house, her uncle writhing on the ground after being shot. On top of witnessing these events first-hand, she relives them over and over again on screen.

The settlers across the valley appear to her as completely alien. She has never had direct contact with any of them. No soldier, she says, has ever spoken a civil word to her.

It’s the same for 13-year-old Waleed Abu Aishe. Israeli soldiers are stationed at the end of his street in the volatile city of Hebron 24 hours a day, yet none has ever acknowledged the skinny, bespectacled boy by name as he makes his way home from school. “They make out they don’t know us, but of course they do,” he says. “They just want to make things difficult. They know my name, but they never use it.”

Nowhere in the West Bank do Israeli settlers and Palestinians live in closer proximity or with greater animosity than in Hebron. A few hundred biblically inspired Jews reside in the heart of the ancient city, protected by around 4,000 soldiers, amid a Palestinian population of 170,000. In 1997 the city was divided into H1, administered by the Palestinian Authority, and H2, a much smaller area around the old market, under the control of the Israeli military. H2 is now a near-ghost town: shuttered shops, empty houses, deserted streets, packs of wild dogs, and armed soldiers on most street corners. Here, the remaining Palestinian families endure an uneasy existence with their settler neighbours.

In Tel Rumeida, Waleed’s neighbourhood, almost all the Palestinian residents have left. Only the Abu Aishes and another family remain on his street, alongside new settler apartment blocks and portable buildings. Waleed lives much closer to his settler and soldier neighbours than either Ahed Tamimi or Nawal Jabarin: from his front window, you can see directly into settler homes a few metres away. Next door to his home is an army base housing around 400 soldiers.

Following violent attacks, stone-throwing, smashed windows and repeated harassment from settlers, the Abu Aishes erected a steel mesh cage and video cameras over the front of the three-storey house where the family has lived for 55 years. When not at school, Waleed spends almost all his time inside this cage. “For me, this is normal,” he says. “I got used to it. But it’s like living in a prison. No one can visit us. The soldiers stop people at the bottom of the street, and if they are not from our family, it’s forbidden for them to visit. There is only one way to our house, and the soldiers are there day and night. I don’t remember anything else: they have been here since I was born.” Despite his “normality”, he wishes his friends could come to the house, or that he and his brother could play football on the street.

The cage, and public condemnation that erupted in Israel following the broadcast on television of a Jewish woman hissing “whore” in Arabic through the mesh at female members of the Abu Aishe family, have reduced settler attacks and abuse. But Waleed still gets called “donkey” or “dog”, and is sometimes chased by settler children.

His mother, Ibtasan, says the soldiers take no action to protect her children. “They have got used to this way of life, but it’s very exhausting. Always I am worried,” she says as images from the street below flicker on a television monitor in the corner of the living room. “It was easier when they were little, although they had bad dreams. They would sleep one next to me, one next to my husband and one between us.”

A 2010 report by the children’s rights organisation Defence for Children International (DCI) said Palestinian children in Hebron were “frequently the targets of settler attacks in the form of physical assaults and stone-throwing that injure them” and were “especially vulnerable to settler attacks”.

I ask Waleed if he’s ever tempted to retaliate. He looks uncomfortable. “Some of my friends throw stones at the soldiers,” he says. “Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t, because the soldiers know me.”

Stone-throwing by Palestinian children at settlers and security forces is common, sometimes causing injuries and even deaths. Bassem Tamimi neither advocates nor condemns it: “If we throw stones, the soldiers shoot. But if we don’t throw stones, they shoot anyway. Stone-throwing is a reaction. You can’t be a victim all the time,” he says.

Another father, whose adolescent son has been detained by the Israeli police 16 times since the age of nine, concurs. “We have the right to defend ourselves, but what do we have to defend ourselves with? Do we have tanks, or jet fighters?” asks Mousa Odeh.

His son, Muslim, now 14, is well known to the Israeli security forces in the East Jerusalem district of Silwan. A few minutes’ drive from the five-star hotels around the ancient walls of Jerusalem’s Old City, Silwan is wedged in a gulley, a dense jumble of houses along steep and narrow streets lined with car repair workshops and tired grocery stores.

It has always been a tough neighbourhood, but an influx of hardline settlers has created acute tensions, exacerbated by the aggression of their private armed security guards and demolition orders against more than 80 Palestinian homes. The area’s youths throw stones and rocks at the settlers’ reinforced vehicles, risking arrest by the ever-present police.

“Every minute you see the police – up and down, up and down,” Muslim says. “They stop us, search us, bug us. When I’m bored, I bug them, too. Why should I be frightened of them?” The boy insists he is not among the stone-throwers, an assertion that stretches credulity. “The police accuse me of making trouble, but I don’t throw stones, ever. Some of my friends, maybe.”

Hyam, Muslim’s mother, says her son, the youngest of five children, has changed since the arrests began. “They have destroyed him psychologically. He’s more aggressive and nervous, hyper, always wanting to be out in the streets.”

Muslim’s detentions have followed a typical, well-documented pattern. Between 500 and 700 Palestinian children are arrested by Israeli security forces each year, most accused of throwing stones. They are often arrested at night, taken away from home without a parent or adult accompanying them, questioned without lawyers, held in cells before an appearance in court. Some are blindfolded or have their hands bound with plastic ties. Many report physical and verbal abuse, and say they make false confessions. According to DCI, which has taken hundreds of affidavits from minors in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, these children are often pumped for information on relatives and neighbours by their interrogators. Muslim has been held for periods varying from a few hours to a week.

For Muslim, his repeated detentions are a rite of passage. “People respect me because I’ve been arrested so many times,” he tells me. Child psychologists see it rather differently. They say young boys are often feted as heroes when they return from detention, which denies them the scope to process their traumatic experiences and express common feelings of acute anxiety. According to Zaghrout, boys are expected to act tough. “In our culture, it’s easier for girls to show fear and cry. Boys are told they shouldn’t cry. It’s hard for boys to say they are frightened to go to the toilet alone or that they want to sleep with their parents. But they still have these feelings, they just come out differently – in nightmares, bed-wetting, aggression.”

Mousa, Muslim’s father and the imam of the local mosque, says that, despite his son’s bravado, he is an unhappy and insecure boy. “When the army comes, he clings to me. Since the beginning of the arrests, he sleeps with me.” While Mousa is talking, Muslim suddenly leaves the house carrying a knife, intent on puncturing a football being kicked against the front wall by local children. “This is disturbed, irrational behaviour,” Mousa says. “This is because of the arrests. They have destroyed his childhood. He saw his father, his brother, his sister being arrested. There is a demolition order on the house. Most of our neighbours have been arrested. This is the childhood of this boy. He is not growing up in Disneyland.”

Mousa describes his own detention while trying to prevent the police arresting his son. “They carried me in my underwear from here to the Russian Compound [a cell and court complex in central Jerusalem]. Can you imagine more humiliation than this? We are religious people – we don’t even let our children see us without clothes. If you gave me a million dollars, I would not go outside in my underwear.”

The moment when children realise their parents, especially their fathers, cannot protect them is psychologically significant, according to experts. “For children, their fathers are the protectors of the family. But often these men reach a point where they cannot protect their children. Sometimes soldiers humiliate fathers in front of children. This is very difficult for children who naturally see their father as a hero,” Zaghrout says.

According to Roni at Unicef, “Children can lose faith and respect when they see their father beaten in front of them. These children sometimes develop a resistance to respecting people in authority. We hear parents saying, ‘I can’t control my child any more – they won’t listen to me.’ This creates great stresses within a family.”

Muslim now skips school regularly, saying it bores him, and instead spends his days roaming the streets. According to Mousa, the boy’s teachers say he is hard to control, aggressive and uncooperative. At the end of our visit, the restless teenager accompanies us back to our car. He bounces along the road, leaning in open car windows to twist a steering wheel or honk a horn. As we prepare to leave, he gives us a word of warning: “Be careful. Some kid might throw rocks at you.”

Despite their difficult lives, each of these four children has a touchstone of normality in their life. For Nawal, it is the sheep that she tends. Ahed likes football and playing with dolls. Waleed is passionate about drawing. Muslim looks after horses in his neighbourhood. And each has an ambition for the future: Nawal hopes to be a doctor, to care for the cave-dwellers and shepherds of the South Hebron Hills; Ahed wants to become a lawyer, to fight for Palestinian rights; Waleed aspires to be an architect, to design houses without cages; and Muslim enjoys fixing things and would like to be a car mechanic.

But growing up under occupation is shaping another generation of Palestinians. The professionals who work with these children say many traumatised youngsters become angry and hopeless adults, contributing to a cycle of despair and violence. “What we face in our childhood, and how we deal with it, forms us as adults,” Zaghrout says.

“There is a cycle of trauma imprinted on Palestinian consciousness, passed down from generation to generation,” Rita Giacaman, professor of public health at Birzeit university, says. “Despair is also handed down. It’s hard for children to see a future. The past not only informs the present, but also the future.”

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CIA Rat Thomas Friedman occupies BDS


CIA Agent Thomas Friedman

Thomas Friedman is in Ramallah on a mission. Apparently he has to sell the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement to the Palestinian National Authority. On repeated occasions the PA had announced it does not support the BDS campaign launched in 2005 by Palestinian civil society including labor unions, NGOs and student groups. The efforts of so many Palestinian volunteers and their international supporters are currently snowballing at a worrying rate, a much faster rate than the boycott against Apartheid South Africa did at a comparable time. It has become a veritable popular movement across the world. But Friedman ignores all of that and announces in his piece:


But this Third Intifada isn’t really led by Palestinians in Ramallah. It’s led by the European Union in Brussels and other opponents of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank across the globe. Regardless of origin, though, it’s becoming a real source of leverage for the Palestinians in their negotiations with Israel.

He thinks he can bribe all the BDSers by using the glorious name of “Third Intifada” and dumping it all in the lap of the PNA. What a low blow! What cleverness! He apparently doesn’t realize that a major worry of BDS activists that the PNA may undercut their achievements by signing some agreement that can serve as a fig leaf. Note that Freedman doesn’t mention BDS in his article, not once. He finds all kinds of culprits to blame it on, from Nelson Mandela to Ahmadinejad, but not Palestinians other than his hosts in Ramallah.

The man is a real con artist: Not only does he try to obfuscate the origin of the successful movement and the extent of its success but he tries to cut it down to acceptable proportions. Not only is BDS never mentioned by name but also it is pared down to one negotiable issue: the West Bank occupation and the fate of the settlements there. No right of return and no equality for the Palestinian citizens of Israel, the other two integral parts of the campaign that add further universality and international appeal to it. To Friedman the only Palestinians are the PNA and the only issue for them is the fate of the West Bank settlers. Pressure the PNA enough to scuttle that and all is well.

Let us hope Friedman’s readers have read Omar Barghouti’s piece in the New York Times from last Sunday.

The difference between real and imagined is clear.

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“Surviving anti-Semitism smear, Walt and Mearsheimer seem to have influence in high places”



When Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer published their paper on the Israel lobby eight years ago, one of its openings was that two scholars with prestige status signaled that they were willing to risk the anti-Semite smear. They surely knew the label might be applied to them; still they went ahead with their ideas, which now seem tame (the lobby has a stranglehold on Congress, the lobby pushed for a war); and they were duly tarred as anti-Semites, by some fairly august claimants. But one of the victories of the last year is that both political scientists are not only still on the case, but they seem to have a more respectable following than ever– with Obama reflecting their thinking on Syria. The lesson is that the anti-Semite smear, while a libel that can hurt career and reputation and scare jousters from the field, has lost its sting because it has been thrown around so meretriciously.

Here are two items involving the profs:  The neoconservative Lee Smith has anointed Walt the next George Kennan, saying that he is influencing Barack Obama in the same way that Kennan, a Cold War-horse, influenced John Kennedy. Smith wants to hurt Obama by advancing his claim; but Scott McConnell celebrates the synchronicity as a sign of Obama’s realism.

What is the evidence?

After Walt wrote a piece at Foreign Policy saying the U.S. should become an off-shore balancer in the Middle East– “Given this turbulent, complex, and poorly understood situation, the last thing the United States should do is try to play referee or try to impose its preferred political formula on these events”– Obama struck a similar line in his November interview with David Remnick, when he spoke of achieving “geopolitical equilibrium” in the Middle East:

conflicts and competition still exist in the region but… it is contained, it is expressed in ways that don’t exact such an enormous toll on the countries involved, and [it allows] us to work with functioning states to prevent extremists from emerging there.

As for Mearsheimer, the National Interest has published an important piece by the realist scholar that takes on elitist liberal-interventionist ideas more forcefully than any article I’ve read. Called “America Unhinged,” the piece argues that the U.S. has no dog in the Syria fight and no ability to affect the outcome, and– this will be echoed by the left– the price of liberal interventionism has been the loss of civil liberties at home to a national security state and the destruction of American example abroad by the murderous drone attacks.

Here’s some of Mearsheimer’s Syrian argument, in which he says that toppling Assad would make Iran more of a nuclear threat rather than less of a threat.

[T]here is no question that America’s disastrous war in Iraq strengthened Iran’s position in the Middle East, mainly by bringing a Shia-dominated government to power in Baghdad. But Iran is nowhere close to having the capability to become a hegemon in the Gulf. It does not have formidable conventional forces, and nobody worries much about it conquering any of its neighbors, especially because the United States would intervene to stop it.Nor is it clear that Tehran is pursuing nuclear weapons. The consensus opinion in the American intelligence community is that it is not. But even if that judgment proves wrong and Iran acquires a nuclear arsenal, it could not use that capability to dominate the Persian Gulf. Nuclear weapons provide states with little offensive capability and thus are ill suited for spreading Iran’s influence in its neighborhood. Furthermore, both Israel and the United States have nuclear weapons and would never tolerate Iran achieving regional hegemony….

no matter how powerful one thinks Iran is today, losing in Syria is not going to diminish its economic or military power in any meaningful way, although it will curtail its regional influence somewhat. But that outcome has two possible consequences for the United States, neither of which is good. One is that Tehran is likely to go to great lengths to keep Assad in power, complicating Washington’s efforts to depose the Syrian leader. However, if Iran does lose in Syria and thinks it is America’s next target for regime change, its incentive to acquire a nuclear deterrent will increase. Thus, toppling Assad is likely to make Iranian nuclear weapons more, not less, likely.

Obama in the New Yorker piece and Trita Parsi at Foreign Policy both have all but said that this is now foreign policy, that the U.S. is prepared to leave Assad in power. Obama:

[W]hen I hear people suggesting that somehow if we had just financed and armed the opposition earlier, that somehow Assad would be gone by now and we’d have a peaceful transition, it’s magical thinking…. [O]ur best chance of seeing a decent outcome at this point is to work the state actors who have invested so much in keeping Assad in power—mainly the Iranians and the Russians—as well as working with those who have been financing the opposition to make sure that they’re not creating the kind of extremist force that we saw emerge out of Afghanistan when we were financing the mujahideen.”

Walt also said the U.S. has no real interest in the Syria battle. “[W]e manage to convince ourselves that Iran is a Very Serious Threat to U.S. vital interests. Ditto the constant fretting about minor-league powers like Syria, North Korea, Muammar al-Qaddafi’s Libya, and other so-called ‘rogue states.’”

What follow are extended excerpts of that Mearsheimer piece. Taking sides in Syria only fuels extremism:

The claim that the United States should treat Syria as a core strategic interest because it is a hotbed for terrorism also suffers from a number of flaws. For one thing, terrorism is not a serious enough threat to justify intervening in Syria, especially with military force. Moreover, intervening in countries like Syria is precisely what helps trigger the terrorism problem. Remember that the United States faced no terrorism problem from Syria before the Obama administration threw its weight behind the effort to oust Assad from power. Indeed, Syria helped the United States deal with its terrorism problem after September 11. It gave Washington valuable intelligence about Al Qaeda—information that helped stymie attacks on American targets in Bahrain and Canada—and it was deeply involved in the Bush administration’s program of extraordinary rendition…

By backing the campaign against Assad, the Obama administration has helped turn Syria into a haven for terrorist groups. In fact, groups that loathe the United States dominate the armed opposition to Assad. Moreover, many Western governments now worry because their citizens are flocking to Syria and joining the rebels. The apprehension is that they will become radicalized and return home as full-blown terrorists. Intervening in Syria will just make the terrorism problem there worse, unless, of course, Washington helps Assad defeat the rebels and return to the status quo ante. That is unlikely to happen, however, because Obama is committed to arming the rebels.

But backing the rebels certainly does not solve the terrorism problem, as the most powerful groups are comprised of jihadists who hate America. Furthermore, if the United States gets more deeply involved in the conflict, the actors supporting Assad—Hezbollah, Iran and Russia—are likely to up the ante themselves, increasing the prospect the war will drag on for the foreseeable future. And the longer the civil war lasts, the stronger the jihadists will become within the opposition forces.

Mearsheimer also argues that we can’t end the suffering in Syria by taking sides there:

Another moral argument says the United States should intervene in the Syrian civil war because it is a humanitarian disaster. Many thousands of civilians have died, and the Assad regime has gone so far as to murder people with poison gas. It is deeply regrettable that civilians are dying in Syria, but intervention still makes little sense. There is no compelling rationale for entering the war and no viable strategy for ending it. If anything, American entry into the conflict is likely to prolong the war and increase the suffering.

Syria is in the midst of a brutal civil war, and such conflicts invariably involve large numbers of civilian casualties. That is especially true in cases like Syria, where there are sharp ethnic and religious differences, and where the fighting often takes place in urban areas, increasing the prospects of collateral damage…

IT IS WIDELY BELIEVED in the American national-security establishment that Washington has the capacity to fix the problems that plague countries like Egypt and Syria and that the key to success is to turn those countries into democracies.

This is certainly not true in Syria. The United States has no viable strategy for ending the conflict there, much less turning Syria into a democracy. Indeed, it seems clear that the Obama administration made a fundamental mistake when it opted to try to remove Assad. Washington should have stayed out of Syria’s business and let the Syrian people determine their own political fate, whatever the result….

I found his article most moving on the human costs of the disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq:

The fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq has exacted a huge price from the U.S. military—especially the army and the Marines. More than 6,700 soldiers have been killed so far in those two conflicts, and over fifty thousand have been wounded in action, about 22 percent with traumatic brain injuries. Furthermore, as always happens in war, many of the combatants are psychological casualties, as they return home with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression. The Department of Veterans Affairs reported in the fall of 2012 that more than 247,000 veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars have been diagnosed with PTSD. Many of those soldiers have served multiple combat tours.

It is hardly surprising that the suicide rate in the U.S. military increased by 80 percent from 2002 to 2009, while the civilian rate increased only 15 percent. And in 2009, veterans of Iraq were twice as likely to be unemployed as the typical American. On top of all that, returning war veterans are roughly four times more likely to face family-related problems like divorce, domestic violence and child abuse than those who stayed out of harm’s way. In short, the small segment of U.S. society that has fought in these recent wars has paid a huge price for its service, while the vast majority of Americans have stayed out of uniform and paid no price at all.

Proponents of the Iraq War like to claim that these human costs are deeply regrettable, but that it is a price that the United States had to pay in the wake of September 11. But Iraq was an unnecessary war:…

He says, Get out of Afghanistan now.

[B]oth of these wars are lost causes. The Iraq that the U.S. military left behind after a decade of occupation is teetering on the brink of civil war, and anger at the United States runs deep among its people as well as its leaders. In Afghanistan, a corrupt and incompetent leader has consistently undermined American efforts to pacify and stabilize that country. There is little doubt that when U.S. troops finally leave, there will be fighting across Afghanistan and the Taliban will emerge as the most powerful force in the land. The herculean efforts of the American military in both Afghanistan and Iraq have been in vain….

The ability to conduct these wars doesn’t merely affect foreign countries. It chills our country too. Notice Mearsheimer’s praise for Snowden and Manning:

An unchecked executive, however, does not simply accumulate great power. It also engages in behavior that involves breaking the law or operating in secrecy, largely to avoid public scrutiny and judicial or congressional review. In this regard, the checks and balances built into the U.S. system encourage executives to act in secret, because that may be the only way to get things done quickly. Leaders do not act this way because they are evil, but because they believe the country’s security demands it. In the tradeoff between security and civil liberties, they almost always come down on the side of security. After all, a country’s highest goal has to be its survival, because if it does not continue it cannot pursue its other goals. Given the exaggerated fear of foreign threats that permeates the American national-security establishment, it is unsurprising that Presidents Bush and Obama have pursued policies that endanger liberal democracy at home.

This tendency toward law breaking and the violation of individual rights explains in part why the executive has a deep affection for secrecy. Both the Bush and Obama administrations engaged in illegal or at least questionable surveillance of American citizens, which they wanted to hide from the public, Congress and the judiciary. This is one reason Obama has seemed so determined to severely punish Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning and Edward Snowden, and more generally why he has gone to war against reporters and whistle-blowers with unprecedented fervor. The president boasts that he leads “the most transparent administration in history.” If true, it is because of the reporters and whistle-blowers, not Obama, who is deeply committed to government secrecy.

And a policy of assassination overseas makes us criminals and hypocrites in the eyes of the world, except for Afghanistan and Israel.

LET US CONSIDER in more detail how the national-security state threatens America’s liberal political order…

Because it has been impossible for the Obama administration either to prosecute or release the detainees, it appears to have little interest in capturing new prisoners and bringing them to Guantánamo, where they would be subjected to indefinite detention. So instead, Obama apparently decided to assassinate suspected enemy combatants, virtually anywhere they are found. While it may be easier to kill them rather than hold them forever and be criticized for adding to the mess at Guantánamo, the ramifications of this new policy may be even more poisonous.

Drones, of course, play a central role in this assassination strategy. Obama has a kill list known as the “disposition matrix,” and there is a meeting every Tuesday in the White House—it is called “Terror Tuesday”—where the next round of victims is selected. The extent to which the Obama administration has bought into this strategy is reflected in the increased frequency of drone strikes since November 2002, when they first began. Micah Zenko wrote in the Financial Times in May 2013 that there have been “approximately 425 non-battlefield targeted killings (more than 95 per cent by drones). Roughly 50 took place during Mr. Bush’s tenure, and 375 (and counting) under Mr. Obama’s.”

This assassination strategy leaves hardly any room for due process. Indeed, the CIA is authorized to kill young males who are not known to be terrorists, but are merely exhibiting suspicious behavior, whatever that might be…

A comment by former CIA director Michael Hayden in 2012 captures just how misguided Obama’s assassination strategy is: “Right now, there isn’t a government on the planet that agrees with our legal rationale for these operations, except for Afghanistan and maybe Israel.”

What makes these policies even more alarming is that the national-security elites who execute and support them fervently believe in “American exceptionalism.” They are convinced that the United States is morally superior to every other country on earth. It is, so the story goes, the “light of the world,” a shining city on a hill. Americans stand tall and see further than other peoples, as Madeleine Albright put it. These elites obviously do not look in the mirror. But, if they did, they would understand why people all around the world think hypocrites of the first order run American foreign policy…

This line sums up the populist political values of the piece.

Hopefully, the backlash over Syria is a harbinger of things to come, and the public will increasingly put limits on the elites’ penchant for pursuing imperial missions.

P.S. Jeffrey Goldberg once smeared Walt and Mearsheimer as anti-Semites, because he felt that about them, then said later that the Jewish community responded to the scholars in “a defensive crouch.” He has gone into a similar crouch when it comes to boycotting Israel. But he defers to his gut: “I suddenly felt queasy”… and “I find the idea… viscerally offensive.” Defensive crouching, gutchecking– it’s emotional blackmail.

Posted in ZIO-NAZI, LiteratureComments Off on “Surviving anti-Semitism smear, Walt and Mearsheimer seem to have influence in high places”

How ‘historic’ I$raHell-Jordan water deal leaves Palestinians high and dry”


World media recently lauded a new project, backed by the World Bank, that will allegedly “save” the Dead Sea and prove that peace is possible through cooperation to manage natural resources. But the scheme only threatens to make an already disastrous situation worse, as well as robbing Palestinians of their right to water.

The Dead Sea, the fabled salt lake bordered by Jordan, present-day Israel and the occupied West Bank, is shrinking at an alarming rate of around 1.5 meters per year. As a result, hotels built right at the shoreline just a few years ago are now dozens of meters from the water’s edge.

Environmental assessment studies show that some of the damage done — for instance to the Eastern Aquifer Basin — is already irreversible. To slow and reverse this catastrophe, Israel and Jordan proposed in 2002 to build a 180-kilometer canal to replenish the Dead Sea with water from the Red Sea. They claimed — falsely — that the project would prevent the destruction of the Dead Sea, but the plan never addressed the most obvious and direct cause: the diversion of the upstream waters of the Jordan River, which feed the salty lake, mainly by Israel.

As a consequence the natural flow of the Jordan River — the body of water in which Christian tradition holds that Jesus was baptized — has dropped from 1,350 million cubic meters (mcm) per year of fresh water to the Dead Sea, to a mere 20 mcm.

That is just two percent of its original flow. And even this sad remainder is mostly made up of raw sewage and brine — salty water — injected by Israel south of Lake Tiberias. Additionally, Israel’s Dead Sea industries — and on a smaller scale Jordan’s — extract potash (used for fertilizer) and other minerals from the southern end of the lake. This large-scale mining operation is greatly accelerating the disappearance of the Dead Sea. Palestinians, meanwhile — although they share the Dead Sea’s shore — have never been allowed to share in the region’s mineral wealth, nor to draw fresh water from the Jordan.

Devastating environmental consequences

On 12 December 2013, Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority signed a memorandum of understanding in Washington. This deal should not be confused with the plans long floated by the World Bank for a Red Sea-Dead Sea mega-project.

The new deal outlines much smaller initiatives to develop a desalination plant located in Aqaba, Jordan’s port on the Red Sea. This would produce fresh water which would be sold to the adjacent city of Eilat in present-day Israel.

The agreement also includes a general suggestion for the construction of a pipeline to transport the desalination brine, a byproduct of the process, from Aqaba to the ever-diminishing Dead Sea. This component is as of yet only an option. The alternative would be to dump the brine into the Gulf of Aqaba whose fragile coral reefs could suffer devastating damage as a result.

In “exchange” for the Aqaba-Eilat deal, Israel would export more water to Jordan in the Lake Tiberias area, in the north, although the source of this extra water is as of yet unclear and it may require further treatment in Jordan.

The cost for the Aqaba desalination project is conservatively estimated at $400 million, while the World Bank’s notorious Red Sea-Dead Sea Canal project was estimated to cost well over $10 billion.

The World Bank’s scheme — officially known as the Red Sea-Dead Sea Conveyance Project (RSDSCP) — would, Palestinian groups and water experts warn, do irreversible environmental damage and help Israel further dispossess Palestinians of their water rights. However, Israel, and especially Jordan and the World Bank advertise the Aqaba desalination and water swap deal as a “pilot scheme,” or even as a first stage to test the environmental impact of adding the mix of Red Sea water and desalination byproducts to the Dead Sea.

It is clearly an effort to attract funding for their old RSDSCP.

Palestinians excluded

It should be emphasized that Palestinians are excluded from both the Aqaba and the Tiberias deals. Palestinian requests to be included in the northern supply scheme were brushed off by Israel. Hence, this project is purely a bilateral deal between Israel and Jordan. A side deal, however, involves potentially selling additional water to the Palestinians.

This water would come from as yet undisclosed sources out of the “Israeli system” — most probably not fresh water, but prohibitively expensive desalinated water from the Mediterranean Sea. Thus the riparian rights of Palestinians — the right to use the water because their territory borders on the banks of the Jordan and the shores of the Dead Sea — are exchanged for the opportunity to subsidize Israel’s mushrooming desalination industry.

Ironically, the Israeli chemical and petroleum conglomerates heavily involved in this industry include the Israeli Dead Sea works responsible for much of the environmental destruction in the region.

Falling short
The planned Aqaba plant would provide only moderate amounts of desalinated water (30-40 mcm per year) to Jordan, which is suffering from acute water shortages. Meanwhile, neighboring Eilat, which already has twice the domestic water consumption rates of the rest of Israel, would get a similar amount.

On the other hand, the Aqaba plant would only channel some 200 mcm per year to the Dead Sea, falling far short of reversing or even stopping the drastic declines in the lake’s water levels — while risking further damage to the region’s unique ecology.

Today, instead of international pressure to reverse the decades-long diversion and mismanagement of the Jordan River — which caused the unfolding environmental catastrophe — both Jordan and the Palestinian Authority are signing deals to make this untenable situation permanent. Their scheme also ignores the concerns — and rights — of the other riparians, Lebanon and Syria.

Neither the governments making the agreements, nor media lauding their plan, have seriously examined its consequences or the alternatives.

Nor do they question the conventional wisdom that more water is needed in a desperately parched region with a rapidly growing population.

Israel’s water surplus

The modest amount of water Jordan would gain from Israel in the north would be scarcely enough to meet the needs of the growing population, especially when there is an influx such as the hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria currently in the country. As noted, Palestinians, would likely only get access to Israeli desalinated water at very high cost.

Neither Jordan nor the Palestinians would gain any increase in their share of Jordan River waters under this deal, only cementing a grossly unfair status quo in which Israel diverts the lion’s share.

Indeed the structure of the deal is very revealing: during the past decade, Israel has developed into a regional water power with a large water surplus. This is due to its large-scale desalination and waste water re-use, in addition to its long-standing total control over all freshwater resources in historic Palestine.

Israel therefore does not “need” water, let alone more water: it now has a reverse interest of exporting and selling water. It will, in effect, be selling to the Palestinians and Jordanians water supplies that ought to be theirs by right.

No wonder Israel’s energy and water minister Silvan Shalom hailed the deal as an ”historic agreement that realizes a dream of many years and the dream of [Zionism founder Theodore] Herzl.”

No gain for Palestinians
There are many contradictions in the different press releases and statements on the December deal. It would appear that all the parties have an interest in keeping the terms of this memorandum a secret.

Israel has good reason to celebrate this scam as an historic breakthrough — for their interests, however, rather than for peace. So do the Americans who have little else to show for their “peace process” efforts.

Cash-strapped, water-poor Jordan is desperate for any additional water and banks on the hope that the “peace and cooperation” packaging will attract international donors to pay the enormous infrastructure costs.

The Palestinians, however, have nothing to gain, which makes it even more baffling why the Palestinian Authority presents it in a positive light.

Why would Palestinians need to lend legitimacy to the false promise that this was a regional water deal, when it is simply deepening their dependency on the occupier under unfavorable terms and risks that continue to strip them of their historic water rights? Of course, under the occupation, Palestinian leaders have little or no access to badly needed additional water sources.

But why is this deal not disclosed and discussed in public? Why does the PA so mistrust the people it is supposed to represent? Instead, once again the PA is placing Palestinian fate into the hands of Israel, the United States and the World Bank?

Palestinian authorities ignore Palestinians

In October 2013, Palestinian organizations from the water sector voiced their fervent opposition to the World Bank’s Red Sea-Dead Sea canal mega-project. They urged the PA and the Palestine Liberation Organization to condemn and halt all forms of cooperation with the World Bank scheme and its partners.

In return, the Palestinian Authority, represented by the Palestinian Water Authority, ignored and completely excluded them from consultations and decisions and surprised them with the new Aqaba-Tiberias agreement.

Finally, why did the PA feel compelled to sign a deal where none of its demands, let alone strategic “historic” interests were even remotely addressed or met? Could it be that, once again, as so often before, the PA was coerced into signing?

With Israel and Jordan’s king strongly backing the deal, PA leader Mahmoud Abbas would have felt himself under intense pressure not to spoil the desalination exchange.

The Israel-Jordan-Palestinian Authority water deal exemplifies the features common to all the other agreements signed during the “peace process”: it sacrifices Palestinian rights on the altar of Israeli and foreign interests, accommodates the unjust status quo and repackages further dispossession and discrimination as steps toward “peace.”

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, JordanComments Off on How ‘historic’ I$raHell-Jordan water deal leaves Palestinians high and dry”

47 years a slave: A new perspective on the occupation


Open Haaretz on any given day. Half or three quarters of its news items will invariably revolve around the same two topics: people struggling to protect the good name of Israel, and people struggling against its violence and injustices.

An almost random example: On December 17, 2013, one could read, on a single Haaretz page, Chemi Shalev reporting on the decision of the American Studies Association to boycott Israeli academic institutions in order to “honor the call of Palestinian civil society.” In response, former Harvard University President Lawrence Summers dubbed the decision “anti-Semitic in effect, if not in intent.”

On the same page, MK Naftali Bennett called the bill to prevent outside funding of left-wing NGOs in Israel “too soft.” The proposed law was meant to protect Israel and Israeli soldiers from “foreign forces” which, in his view, work against the national interest of Israel through those left-wing nonprofits (for Bennett and many others in Israel, to defend human rights is to be left-wing).The Haaretz editorial, backed by an article by regular columnist Sefi Rachlevsky, referred to the treatment of illegal immigrants by the Israeli government as shameful, with Rachlevsky calling the current political regime “radical rightist-racist-capitalist,” because “it tramples democracy and replaces it with fascism.” The day after, it was the turn of Alan Dershowitz to call the American Studies Association vote to boycott Israel shameful, “for singling out the Jew among nations. Shame on them for applying a double standard to Jewish universities” (December 18).

This mudslinging has become a normal spectacle to the bemused eyes of ordinary Israelis and Jews around the world. But what’s astonishing is that this mud is being thrown by Jews at Jews. Indeed, the valiant combatants for the good name of Israel miss an important point: the critiques of Israel in the United States are increasingly waged by Jews, not anti-Semites. The initiators and leaders of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement are such respected academics as Judith Butler, Jacqueline Rose, Noam Chomsky, Hilary Rose and Larry Gross, all Jews.

If Israel is indeed singled out among the many nations that have a bad record in human rights, it is because of the personal sense of shame and embarrassment that a large number of Jews in the Western world feel toward a state that, by its policies and ethos, does not represent them anymore. As Peter Beinart has been cogently arguing for some time now, the Jewish people seems to have split into two distinct factions: One that is dominated by such imperatives as “Israeli security,” “Jewish identity” and by the condemnation of “the world’s double standards” and “Arabs’ unreliability”; and a second group of Jews, inside and outside Israel, for whom human rights, freedom, and the rule of law are as visceral and fundamental to their identity as membership to Judaism is for the first group. Supreme irony of history: Israel has splintered the Jewish people around two radically different moral visions of Jews and humanity.

If we are to find an appropriate analogy to understand the rift inside the Jewish people, let us agree that the debate between the two groups is neither ethnic (we belong to the same ethnic group) nor religious (the Judith Butlers of the world are not trying to push a new or different religious dogma, although the rift has a certain, but imperfect, overlap with the religious-secular positions). Nor is the debate a political or ideological one, as Israel is in fact still a democracy. Rather, the poignancy, acrimony and intensity of the debate are about two competing and ultimately incompatible conceptions of morality. This statement is less trivial than it sounds.

For a long time, the debate between different factions of Jews was framed as an ideological, strategic or political one (“when, how and what to negotiate with Palestinians”). But with time, in the face of the systematic colonization of the land, the pervasive exclusion of Arabs from the body collective, the Judaization of Israel, the tone of the debate has changed and been replaced by a question about the moral nature of Zionism. Moral evaluations – whether we think people are “good” or “bad,” “just” or “unjust,” “worthy” or “unworthy” – are more fundamental to judgment than political opinion or aesthetic taste. In that sense, moral evaluations are far less negotiable than any other form of evaluation.

I will call one group the “security as morality” group. For this group, Israel is twice morally beyond reproach. First, because Jews were the super victim of history and because of Israel’s inherently vulnerable state amidst a sea of enemies. The status of victim – whether potential or actual – disculpates Israel from the crimes of the strong. Second, because its weakness commits it to the forceful defense of its military security, its land and its identity.

Surveying history, the “security as morality” group observes that might has regularly been right, and that Israel is no less entitled to its violent policies than America or other countries have been to their own. For this group, then, Israel is exonerated by the fact that it’s at once a victim and doesn’t have a worse historical record than the strong nations of the world. Israel’s morality becomes defined by the outrages of its enemies, Nazis or Hamas, and by the worst deeds of the enlightened nations.

The second group of Jews derives its positions from universal standards of justice, and from the observation that Israel is fast moving away from the pluralistic, multiethnic, pacific democracies of the world. Israel stopped being a valid source of identification for these Jews not because they are self-hating, but because many of them have been actively involved, in deed or thought, in the liberalization of their respective societies – that is, in the extension of human, economic and social rights to a wider variety of groups.

From the standpoint of that struggle, successfully waged in most Western countries, Israel makes an unacceptable demand: it requests from Jews loyalty to its policies, claims to have a moral and political status superior to that of its neighbors, yet consistently violates the human rights of Palestinians, Arabs, and liberal Judaism; uses violence; violates international law; and practices state-sanctioned discrimination toward non-Jews. For liberal Jews, Israel bullies like a Goliath, yet persists in wanting to be admired as a David.

Interestingly enough, there are not many episodes in history where groups have fought over moral issues. Most struggles in history are usually connected to belief and dogmas (e.g., religious wars), economic interests (class struggles) or to political power (nationalist liberation movements). Very few struggles have been about a moral debate on how a group or nation should treat a third group of people.

There is, however, one well-known episode of history in which a single group divided itself in two sides around the moral question of how a third group of people should be treated, and this episode was the American antislavery movement.

In using this example as a soundboard to think about the moral debate that is dividing the Jewish people, I do not claim that slavery and the occupation are equivalent. They differ significantly. But there are some analogies, in that the Jewish world has become splintered around two intractable moral claims about the treatment of Palestinians. An analogy is nothing more than a tool to probe thinking. Suppose someone didn’t know what a tiger was. If I had to explain what a tiger is, I’d say: “It is like a lion, only with stripes.” In giving this answer, I remain fully aware that a tiger is not a lion, but only like a “lion,” and this is because a tiger is closer to a lion than it is to a fish, a bird or a horse. An analogy helps us imagine and think about something we do not fully grasp, even when that analogy is an imperfect one.

The debate about the occupation is not equivalent to the debate about slavery, but it bears, here and there, some resemblance to it. And it is for this reason that I use it as a strategy for thinking.


The United States was established as a British colony in the 17th and 18th centuries. Slavery was a crucial part of the violent colonization of the American territory. Great Britain then allowed the slave trade with the Caribbean, the Americas and Brazil, thus enabling the wide use of slaves in the vast and powerful plantation system in the South and in cities such as New York. Both the North and South enjoyed the benefits of labor produced by slaves in houses, farms, land and small workshops. At the beginning of the 19th century, however, Britain – who had a vast and brutal Empire – forbade the transatlantic commerce of slaves. This was because Britain, like much of Europe, was caught in its own contradictions: it became aware that the violent use of other people went against the value of “progress” and “enlightenment” it otherwise used to justify its own superiority over world populations.

Arguments against slavery were advanced in the 18th century, but only in the 19th century did the argument against slavery gain momentum and become widespread, especially among city dwellers. Many reasons were offered for the striking change of attitude, the most obvious being the circulation of enlightenment ideas about the basic rights of human beings; the emergence of mass circulated newspapers and novels that depicted stories of suffering and made empathy into a civilized emotion; the increasing recognition that distant strangers were human beings equal and similar in rights. The eminent historian of slavery, David Brion Davis, claims that, ultimately, it was a moral argument that compelled England to claim the Transatlantic Commerce of Slaves illegal, and it was a moral argument that gave rise to what historians have called “humanitarian sensibility” in Britain and in the United States – that is, a new awareness for the suffering of strangers and for the sacredness of the human person.

In the United States, once the American Constitution was written, many started to question the flagrant contradiction between the ideals it endorsed and the brutal domination of an entire group of people that slavery represented. Christians (Quakers and Methodists mostly) joined in this struggle as well, because some slaves were converted to Christianity – and as Christians, they had a soul, and if they had a soul, they could not be animals and were by definition free. (As early as 1772, James Somersett, a black man who had escaped from his master, was freed by the judge because the slave had been baptized.)

In the United States, abolishing slavery proved to be a difficult task, as the internal slave system was very lucrative (slaves being sold within the American territory rather than imported) and so much of the plantation economy relied on slave labor. But the most significant obstacle was the proslavery ideology that was everywhere: in schoolbooks, political speeches, Church sermons, laws and fictional literature. As is always the case in history, once a group of people controls economic, human or territorial resources, it justifies its domination over a group with an ideology.

What is ideology? The set of beliefs and stories a group that dominates another tells to itself in order to make its domination seem natural, deserved and necessary (for example, if Jews are both powerful and dangerous, it is easy to justify their persecution; or if Mizrahim are stupid and uneducated, they naturally deserve to live in the periphery). When the ideology is pervasive, present in different arenas (school textbooks, politics, newspapers) and when it is sustained by concrete economic and political interests, ideology becomes an automatic way of thinking, an irresistible way of explaining reality and acting – or not acting – in it.

In order to defend and justify their domination over Africans, the proslavery camp used a number of arguments and diffused them widely: the first argument was a hierarchical view of human beings. Whites were unquestioningly superior to Africans, who were compared to animals, and as animals they were dangerous, to be domesticated and controlled. It is interesting to note that here, as in other and subsequent forms of racism, blacks were viewed both as weak (inferior) and strong (dangerous).

Proslavery people in Britain and the United States further argued that Africa itself practiced slavery, and that Britain and America in fact were contributing to the cultural development of the slaves – because African societies were unskilled and primitive, they stood to benefit by being exposed to the “advanced” European civilization. The domination of a people is not only caused by the belief that a people is inherently inferior and dangerous, but the very act of domination makes these beliefs seem true: the proof of the racist was in the pudding of the plantation owner.

Proslavers also argued that the land itself was crucial for the nation and for economic prosperity. Owners of farms and plantations viewed the land as something to fight for and cherish, a source of national pride and moral identity. In England and America, the proslavery lobby despised industrial and wage capitalism, which they viewed as creating a society of selfish strangers. They, the plantation owners, defended a less selfish view of society and the nation. Slaves were a part of the household and could help maintain a society of large units who cared for each other.

But perhaps the strongest element justifying the proslavery outlook was the use of the Bible. For the many Christian believers who made up the South, control over human beings was based on, and justified by, the famous Bible passage (Genesis 9:18-27) in which Noah curses Ham (presumably of dark color) and dooms him to be subjugated by Japheth (presumably of lighter color). This biblical narrative played a crucial role in justifying slavery because it made God and the holy scriptures give it a seal of sanctity and inevitability (it was later shown by Christians themselves that this interpretation had no basis in the actual biblical text). Any domination of human beings is far more powerful if it uses grand historical and collective narratives that lend to it an aura of historical mission.

Slavery provoked one of the greatest moral wars of modern times and, for a while, threatened to divide the nascent American nation into two distinct national entities. The two camps went to war and although the reasons for the war were not only connected to slavery, both parties saw slavery as the essential moral cause to oppose or defend.


Roman law defined human beings as either slaves or as free, and history has inherited this dichotomous division. Because of this legal division, we conventionally think that slavery has disappeared from the modern world. But slavery has not disappeared. It is more accurate to think of slavery on a continuum, as one of the most extreme forms of human domination, characterized by the fact that a human being is treated as the property of another person, and can be sold and bought like an object or animal.

But slavery is not only that. If a person or group creates mechanisms to alienate the freedom and life of another, that person is not technically speaking a slave, but s/he is subject to conditions of slavery. If an immigrant worker’s passport has been taken away from them by their employers and made to work 12 hours a day without legal rights and protection, they live in conditions of slavery. If women are trafficked for sex purposes and held in conditions of quasi-captivity by their pimps, they live in conditions of slavery. Slavery, then, is not only the fact of being turned into a tradable property. It is a set of social conditions that make someone’s existence closely determined by someone else’s decision, will and power.

Harvard sociologist Orlando Patterson, a specialist in the history and sociology of slavery, defines slavery thus: “The permanent, violent and personal domination of natally alienated and generally dishonored persons” (quoted in Brion Davis’ “Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World”). Note that this definition does not assume that a slave is necessarily a tradable property. Rather, as Patterson defines it, a slave is someone who is born in a condition in which his life at birth is dependent on the will of a master; it is someone who is born in a condition of dishonor. From this definition, we can describe a condition of slavery as having a number of characteristics.

Slavery is a state where one does not have access to citizenship. In that sense, slaves are by definition deprived of the security that membership to a sovereign political community provides. It also means that they don’t develop the skills that come with the exercise of rights and duties toward a political community. This is what Patterson means when he speaks of general “dishonor”: a slave is deprived of the possibility of being recognized by a sovereign cultural or political community.

Another characteristic follows: a slave is submitted to a different legal system than the one by which the ordinary, free population is regulated (in many cases in the American South, the law was changed so as to be applied specifically to African-Americans). Hence, in a slave society, the law is naturally made to fit the needs of the ruling group, to exonerate them when needed, and to be especially harsh on the slaves.

Third, slaves are used to maintain and extend the property of a master but are denied the right to acquire or extend their own property, through various legal and forceful means. The capacity of slaves to own or increase land and property is very limited or nonexistent.

A fourth characteristic is that slaves are the object of arbitrary physical punishment, and their life and death are often the master’s decision. Slaves live in fear, because they know that they can be physically punished, beaten, lashed, killed at any time.

Fifth, slaves have very limited social space to move in and out of. In the 19th century, seeing an unknown African-American somewhere was enough to raise suspicion that he had run away. Sixth, the personal life – sexuality and marriage – of slaves is controlled by the master – such as the fact that slaves could marry only with the permission of the master (in the Roman world, masters had almost unlimited rights to rape slaves).


Ideology is made of stories and powerful metaphors that define how we perceive and understand reality. Thus, when Israelis cast their relationship to Palestinians as a purely military one, the label of “military conflict” has a number of logical, moral and political consequences. Palestinians are “soldiers,” not civilians; they are enemies to be subdued, not ordinary civilians; they threaten Israelis, are not helpless; they must be subjugated by force, in a zero-sum game – if one loses, the other wins.

But the military metaphor with which Israelis have made sense of their relationship to Palestinians hides a disturbing fact: what started as a national and military conflict has morphed into a form of domination of Palestinians that now increasingly borders on conditions of slavery. If we understand slavery as a condition of existence and not as ownership and trade of human bodies, the domination that Israel has exercised over Palestinians turns out to have created the matrix of domination that I call a “condition of slavery.”

The Palestinian Prisoner Affairs Ministry has documented that between 1967 and 2012, Israeli authorities arrested some 800,000 Palestinians by power of the “military code.” (A more conservative assessment from Israeli sources documented that 700,000 Palestinians were detained between 1967 and 2008.) This number is astounding, especially in light of the fact that this represents as much as 40 percent of the entire male population. When a large part of the adult male population is arrested, it means that the lives of a large number of breadwinners, the heads of a family, are disrupted, alienated and made into the object of the arbitrary power of the army. In fact, which nation would create a Prisoner Affairs Ministry if imprisonment was not such a basic aspect of its life?

These facts also mean that a significant portion of the non-incarcerated population lives under the constant fear and threat of imprisonment. The Israeli NGO Public Committee against Torture in Israel (PCATI) has established that, once arrested, hundreds are categorized as “ticking bombs” or “serious threats.” Once labeled as such, they are treated with a violence prohibited by international law: prisoners are bound to their chairs in painful positions for hours, held in isolation, beaten, shaken, prevented from sleeping, verbally abused, cursed and psychologically humiliated.

The violence exercised by the military does not stop there. During Operation Cast Lead in 2008-09, the IDF used Gazan civilians as “human shields,” a practice prohibited by Israeli and international law and conventionally viewed as barbarian. Using others as human shields consists of taking civilians as hostages, using them for Israeli military purposes, threatening their families with injury if they don’t cooperate with the Israel Defense Forces’ attempt to obtain information.

Palestinian boys, from age 13-17, are frequently arrested by the IDF. Military Court Watch, an Israeli NGO, has found that 50 percent of these children are arrested in night raids, and that 80 percent  are blindfolded. In a widely publicized news story, PCATI found that children are also the object of treatment that is equivalent to torture, and that the IDF engages in such practices as putting Palestinian children guilty of minor crimes in cages (for two days), exposed to the cold in the deep of winter.

To the military violence, we must add the fact that Palestinians are regularly exposed to acts of violence by civilians. The settlers known as “hilltop youth” and “price tag” attacks aim to hurt Palestinians in various ways, in their lands, property or body. These acts are only sporadically prosecuted by Israel, and when they are, more often than not it ends with no conviction.

Indeed, Palestinians are subject to a legal system that is different from the one in Israel. As the Calcalist blogger Yossi Gurvitz writes: “[R]esidents of one street in Hebron are judged according to one legal system, and residents [of a] nearby street under a different legal system. If a Palestinian child is suspected of throwing stones at soldiers, IDF gunmen break into his home at night, take him, blindfolded, to interrogation, accompanied by torture at times, and he will be put in custody. If a settler is suspected of throwing a stone at a soldier, it is likely nothing will happen to him. Naturally, no one would think of breaking into his house during the night.”

Another example of the stringency of the laws existing in the territories is that there’s no possibility for a Palestinian to get a verdict of “non-conviction” in relation to petty crime. Or a Haaretz editorial titled “An apartheid legal system just got worse,” which addresses the new military order issued by the GOC Central Command, Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon, prohibiting Palestinians from appealing military court decisions to confiscate their property.  As the article argues, the order “embodies the essence of the story of the occupation and demonstrates the different law applied to Israelis and Palestinians in the occupied territories. This order violates the rights of the Palestinians, and allows arbitrary damage to them, contrary to international law and the laws of basic justice. The military can make decisions of this nature – contrary to justice – due to the existence of two different legal systems in a given geographical area: one for Jews and one for Arabs.”

These facts mean, de facto, that Palestinians live not only with a legal system different from the one used in Israel, but without serious legal protection as well. Moreover, since the 1990s, Israel has imposed severe restrictions on Palestinian movement in the West Bank. During the second intifada, Israel placed dozens of checkpoints in the West Bank that impede the movement of Palestinians within the area itself. To the Israeli, this seems only a problem of wasted hours, but the hindrance of movement touches on the very essence of freedom. It creates a wide-reaching feeling of imprisonment. (As prime minister, Ariel Sharon cut Gaza City from Ramallah, for no other reason, probably, than to create such constraints on movement.)

This feeling of spatial imprisonment is accompanied by economic strangulation. An essential part of Israeli domination is achieved by making Palestinian livelihoods depend on Israel, and monitoring permits of entry to Israel. By making entry to work in Israel conditional upon good behavior, Israeli powers create fear and extreme psychological dependency. Moreover, because Israel restricts Palestinians’ capacity to build new industries, they force them to work in the very settlements that take their own land, thus increasing their sense of humiliation and expropriation.

As for the capacity to own property, Israel has long practiced land expropriation, and made it impossible for Palestinians to extend their property. The NGO Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) established that, in 2013 alone, 634 Palestinian buildings were demolished, 1,033 people displaced and 3,688 injured by the IDF. From these figures, it can be inferred that a basic condition of life – to have a shelter and home – has been systematically and widely undermined by the policy of house demolition.

Finally, when it comes to marriage, here, too, the occupation has torn families apart. According to a report by B’Tselem – the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, Israeli restrictions on the passage from and to Gaza Strip split families and force on couples – where one of them is from Gaza, and the other the West Bank or Israel – a series of bureaucratic restrictions, with no possibility of conducting a reasonable routine. The simplest thing – raising a family, living with spouse and children, and maintaining contact with families of origin of both partners – become unachievable.

In traditional Palestinian society, the custom is that the women will move in with the husband’s family, so the procedures established by the Israeli offensive affect mainly women: Married Gazans living in the West Bank are forced to leave their family and familiar surroundings, without any possibility to visit the Gaza Strip, except for the most exceptional cases. Those who failed to update their address are in constant danger of expulsion from their homes.

We can say conservatively and impressionistically that 70 percent of the Palestinian population live with a permanent sense of dishonor, conduct their lives without predictability and continuity, live in fear of Jewish terror and of the violence of the Israeli military power, and are afraid to have no work, shelter or family. When we put these numbers under a single coherent picture and ask sociologically what kind of life this is, we are compelled to observe that a large quantity of Palestinians live in conditions in which their freedom, honor, physical integrity, capacity to work, acquire property, marry and, more generally, plan for the future are alienated to the will and power of their Israeli masters. These conditions can only be named by their proper name: conditions of slavery.

It should be clear, however, that the occupation is a condition of slavery, but not slavery: a striped lion is like a tiger, but isn’t a tiger. The occupation started as a military conflict and, unbeknown to itself, became a generalized condition of domination, dehumanizing Palestinians, and ultimately dehumanizing Israelis themselves. This magnificent people – which distinguished itself historically by its love of God, its love of texts and its love of morality – has become the manager of a vast enterprise of brutal military domination.


Without ever intending to, Israelis have become the Lords and Masters of a people, and the only interesting question about this is not how we got there (domination has its own internal incremental and implacable dynamic), but why so many Jews outside and inside of Israel are not more disturbed by this.

The reason for this is that Israel has its own proslavery lobby, which is now in the corridors of power, shapes Israel’s policy and has successfully managed to make the occupation appear to be a containable casualty of war and nation-building. The settlers’ discourse – which only 20 years ago was marginal in Israeli society –has become mainstream, and one can only be struck by its resemblance to the 19th-century American proslavery ideology.


The idea that Jews are inherently superior to Arabs is so widespread, deep and unquestioned, that it is hardly worth my time dwelling on it here. The idea of Jewish superiority exists everywhere in Israel, but is most blatant in the territories. Like the whites in the American South, Jews view themselves as obviously more moral, superior, civilized, technologically and economically far more accomplished than the inferior Arabs (Arab nations are indeed politically and economically backward, but this in no way makes Arabs inferior). In the same way that it was entirely obvious to proslavers that Africans were primitive and animal-like, Arabs are viewed as unreliable, liars, stupid and dangerous. These views dictate official policy. And in the same way that the whites in the South claimed to be civilizing the primitive Africans, one can frequently hear that Arabs have benefited from the technological and political enlightenment of Israel.

An example of Jewish supremacy can be seen in the book “The King’s Torah” (“Torat Hamelech”), written by the head rabbi of Yeshivat Od Yosef Chai (which was located in Nablus and then moved to the Yitzhar settlement). According to the book, Jews are superior to non-Jews, with Gentiles being close to animals because they did not accept the Seven Laws of Noah. In an amended world, killing a non-Jew who does not accept the commandments of Noah will become necessary. The book also suggests that because Jews are now at war, it is permissible – based on traditional sources – to kill Gentiles, including children, because of the fear that they will grow and become dangerous adults. In a review of the book, the highly respected historian Yehuda Bauer suggests that the book is not a marginal phenomenon of a handful of extremists. According to him, the book was endorsed by famous rabbis, such as Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburg (the former head of Yeshivat Od Yosef Chai) and the well-known Hebron Rabbi Dov Lior. Yeshivas teach this book or at least contents that are very similar to it, and Yeshiva students are recruited into the IDF in increasing numbers. Some of these young people become an important nucleus of hilltop youth and price-tag launchers who reject the laws of the state, illegally take possession of the land, and attack Palestinians. Even the Hebrew University Hillel hosted an official event to discuss the book with its author, thus putting it on a par with academic books.

Prof. Bauer concludes that the book should be taken seriously because it indicates the direction of a growing part of the settlers’ movement. One hopes that the price tag attacks, which have grown at a staggering rate in the last few years, create an atmosphere of (Jewish) terror among Palestinians and have remained unpunished by the state, do not end up resembling the Ku Klux Klan in the American South.

Like their 19th-century counterparts, the settlers hold in contempt the “individualism” and “egoism” of the city dwellers of Tel Aviv, the city most likely to oppose the occupation – much like the white farmers held in contempt the abolitionists of America’s urban east coast. They view the “state” of Tel Aviv as a place in which raw economic forces and crass materialism destroy the idealism of the land.

Israel Harel, the first chairman of the Yesha Council of settlements, claimed in a Haaretz article that the environment in Tel Aviv projects an atmosphere that encourages evading military service, and that Tel Aviv conveys a degree of detachment from Israel’s survival needs. In his book on the settlement movement (“The Settlers and the Struggle over the Meaning of Zionism”), Gadi Taub quotes Harel as saying that the Israelis have lost their identity and spine, and are a metastasis of the West. Using fears of decadence familiar to the European right, Harel claims that the West has observed a steady deterioration in values, materialism and Nihilism.

Finally, and most strikingly, exactly like their southern 19th-century counterparts the settlers have abundantly sanctified the land through Bible narratives and see themselves, like the proslavery owners, as executing God’s will. Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, the son of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, claimed that the “Lord of the universe has its own politics, according to which the politics of Earth is managed … part of this redemption is the conquest of the land and settlement in it. No earthly politics can stand against this assertion of divine politics.” Hanan Porat, one of the leaders of the settlement movement, argued that the “commandment to settle the land increases the lifetime value of the individual.” The Bible has been used both as a way to sanctify the land and justify its conquest.

Given what precedes them, the positions of MKs such as Miri Regev, Yariv Levin, Danny Danon and Naftali Bennett seem to be a “vanilla” version of the worldview defended by settlers. If indeed the settlers and their representatives in the Knesset have “mainstreamed” views that are strangely reminiscent of those of slave owners, then this only begs further the question of why so many are unable or unwilling to grasp this.

I will venture one explanation. Jews around the world view themselves as a minority in need of protection. Israel itself, because of its inherent connection to the Jewish people, has kept alive the memory of persecutions. Jews around the world live their identity as a weak one, as belonging to a minority, as bound to a history of perennial struggle against Amalek. Such vision is bound to project its own existential anxieties and sense of vulnerability, even on a military superpower such as Israel and to view its justification of military violence as a simple strategy of (ancestral) survival.

Undoubtedly, there are major differences between Palestinians and black slaves: Some Palestinians are virulently anti-Semitic and are supported by even more violent anti-Semites in the surrounding Arab countries; Palestinians have their own police force; from time to time, they send suicide bombers or launch missiles on Israel.

But my point is precisely the following: The occupation is like a photomontage that superposes two different pictures of two different realities. I ask my reader to see two images at once: the occupation as a humanitarian disaster, superposed on the occupation as a military conflict. More than that, the enslavement of the life condition of Palestinians has prevented the possibility of making this conflict into a military one. Israel, the most security-conscious state on the planet, has failed to make its conflict with the Palestinians into a military one. Instead, it has been dragged into a humanitarian disaster that has provoked a moral war and unbridgeable rift within the Jewish people. The public relations strategies of the state will not silence this moral war.


What does it mean for a country to have created such conditions of slavery for a people, and yet fail to register it? The question here is not only about the (im)morality of the occupation, but, more fundamentally, about the increasing difficulty of articulating a moral language to grasp the very nature of the occupation – initially the result of a military conflict and now a humanitarian disaster. If 19th-century slavery was known as slavery to all involved, the occupation has not produced its own adequate moral label.

We do not know what the occupation is, and we do not know what it is because language itself has been colonized. By defining it in military terms, Israelis fail to see what the world sees. Israelis see terrorists and enemies, and the world sees weak, dispossessed and persecuted people. The world reacts with moral outrage at Israel’s continued domination of Palestinians, and Israel ridicules such moral outrage as an expression of double standards. The world sees Israeli tanks and military technology against Palestinian, homeless people, but Israel sees these denunciations as self-hatred or anti-Semitism. The world wants a just solution, and Israel sees the demand for justice as a threat to its existence.

In that sense, the debate dividing the Jewish people is more difficult than the debate about slavery, because there is no agreement even on how to properly name the vast enterprise of domination that has been created in the territories. If Britain at the beginning of the 19th century understood that it couldn’t keep claiming that it represented the enlightened values of freedom and humanity and engage in the barbaric commerce of slaves, Israel is more embarrassed, for in a way it doesn’t know that it’s engaged in an enterprise it cannot justify.

Israel is dangerously sailing away from the moral vocabulary of most countries of the civilized world. The fact that many readers will think that my sources are unreliable because they come from organizations that defend human rights proves this point. Israel no longer speaks the ordinary moral language of enlightened nations. But in refusing to speak that language, it is de facto dooming itself to isolation. Israel will not indefinitely have the cake of “democracy” and eat it in the occupation.

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Palestine in 3D: The state, politics, and international law



Many, including analysts of Palestinian affairs and onlookers alike, await the end of current negotiations with Israel. Some are skeptical, others are hopeful. But almost everyone agrees: the status quo is not durable.

Despite this, we continue to find a leadership incapable of making durable decisions, simply driven by the heat of momentary, so-called victories in three dimensions throughout its history: militant, political, and diplomatic.

A recent victory of the diplomatic kind is the new status accorded to the PLO at the United Nations General Assembly. Today, we are a non-member Observer State of the United Nations. Gaining the new status has also gained us a fair share of intricate legal debates, appropriately so.

Little was said from the Palestinian side, however, once this new status was achieved. After all, it seems that our leadership has confined the role of international law to a mere bargaining card for the negotiating table with Israel.

The scenario goes something like this: should Israel negotiate in bad faith, we will be able wave the threat of pursuing international jurisdiction over crimes committed on our soil.

But can we?

The answer is not a definite yes, nor is it a definite no. Noting the debate surrounding the issue is nonetheless worthwhile. Particularly because in April of this year our leadership reportedly decided to pursue international legal efforts should negotiations fail, albeit with rumors of possible delay surfacing recently.

Statehood vs. UN Membership

Any sovereign state can exist without being a UN member, as was the case with Switzerland prior to joining the organization. Being a UN member does not necessarily establish statehood. This distinction is because of different criteria concerning statehood and UN membership.

The UN membership criteria is summed up in Article 4(1) of the UN Charter: “Membership in the United Nations is open to all other peace-loving states which accept the obligations contained in the present Charter and, in the judgment of the Organization, are able and willing to carry out these obligations.”

Palestinian leadership has repeatedly stated that we are peace-loving and, in the heat of the moment, gave a misguiding impression of what really happened on Nov. 29, 2012.

Others suggest that to exist as a state, Article (1) of the Montevideo Convention must be fulfilled: “The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: a) a permanent population; b) a defined territory; c) government; and d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.”

A simple look at Palestinian affairs inevitably leads to the conclusion that our fulfillment of each of these criteria are at best debatable.

While there is a defined Palestinian population, most of it is considered stateless and is not governed by Palestinian state institutions; the borders of Palestinian territory remain undefined, pending a resolution with Israel according to previous PLO-Israeli agreements; those of us who reside in the relevant territories are governed by two regimes (Hamas and the PLO), neither of which truly constitute a government; and unless we consider the PLO a state, it can be said that, up to the point of acquiring the new status, no Palestinian State body has entered into relations with other states.

UN Resolution 67/19 and the PLO’s Role

Beyond the distinction between statehood and UN membership, the resolution according a new status to the PLO has an intriguing point that is worth highlighting.

The new status is given “without prejudice to the acquired rights, privileges and role of the Palestine Liberation Organization in the United Nations as the representative of the Palestinian people, in accordance with the relevant resolutions and practice.”

It is possible that preserving the role of the PLO can hinder Palestine’s legal standing. Are we the only people who exhibit symptoms of legal schizophrenia at the United Nations?

Because the PLO remains the sole actor representing us on the international stage, the new status provides little, if any, concrete legal grounds for the birth of a Palestinian state. Meanwhile, international law is not concerned with questions of internal affairs, including questions of legitimate representation or lack thereof.

It remains up to us to determine whether the PLO is indeed our sole and legitimate representative.

International Legal Jurisdiction and Retroactivity

It is evident that the recent activity of the PLO was merely political, filled with international legal question marks that remain unanswered. Is pursuing international legal jurisdiction the answer? Not necessarily.

In 2009, following the aftermath of Israeli aggression during Operation Cast Lead, our leadership recognized the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, inviting investigation and prosecution of crimes committed on Palestinian soil since July 1, 2002.

The Court’s answer then was clear: it is contingent upon the “relevant bodies at the United Nations or the Assembly of States Parties” to legally judge if Palestine qualifies as a state “for the purpose of acceding to the Rome Statute and thereby enabling the exercise of jurisdiction by the Court.”

Today, with a new acquired status, the case is not fully promising. Even if our statehood is confirmed through recognition from more states, international legal jurisdiction requires signing and ratifying relevant statutes that go both ways. Many Palestinians could be the subject of investigation.

Also, inviting jurisdiction over certain territories but not others could complicate the matter further on the political front. Over what territory exactly could a Palestinian authority invite international jurisdiction — the Gaza Strip, the West Bank (Area A, B, or C), or East Jerusalem?

Lastly, an issue that will certainly ignite contentious debates is that of retroactivity. Over what period is jurisdiction applicable —before or after the relevant statutes have been ratified?


The questions are intricate. The answers will rely on the international legal establishment, irrelevant of political circumstances. Subsequently, the decisions of either the International Criminal Court or the International Court of Justice will be legal, not political.

Acquiring a new status necessitates acquiring a deep understanding of its legal duties and rights beyond momentary decisions. More importantly, given the little success of the militant and political dimensions, we are better off arranging our home behind a single democratically elected leadership to enhance our standing.

Otherwise, once again, Palestinian efforts stand the risk of becoming the laughing stock of skeptics and enemies alike.

Posted in Palestine AffairsComments Off on Palestine in 3D: The state, politics, and international law

Zio-Nazi ministers discuss using lawyers and Mossad to fight BDS


Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu convened senior ministers Sunday to discuss ways of fighting boycott and divestment initiatives proliferating in Europe and worldwide. Present at the meeting were Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Economics Minister Naftali Bennett, and Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz.

The main proposal under discussion was prepared by Yossi Kuperwasser, Director of the Ministry for Strategic Affairs, and other participants in the meeting included representatives of the Mossad, Shin Bet and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT).

Israeli media has reported that “the discussion was held in secret”, with an imposed “media blackout” meaning that even the offices of participating ministers were “not even officially willing to confirm that the meeting took place”.

There is a difference of opinion between Steinitz and the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), with the former pushing for a more proactive and confrontational approach. Steintz’s proposal means “invest[ing] substanial resources” in a public campaign, to the tune of “100 million shekels”. This would pay for “PR materials and aggressive legal and media campaigns against pro-boycott organizations”.

The MFA, meanwhile, is said to prefer “quieter, diplomatic channels”, judging that “a public campaign against [BDS activists] will only play into their hands, bolstering them.” According to The Jerusalem Post, Lieberman promised last week “that within some 45 days the public would see the plan Israel has in place to fight the boycotts.”

Ideas apparently discussed by senior ministers included lawsuits “in European and North American courts against [pro-BDS] organizations” and “legal action against financial institutions that boycott settlements…[and complicit] Israeli companies”. There is also the possibility of “encouraging anti-boycott legislation in friendly capitals around the world, such as Washington, Ottawa and Canberra”, and “activat[ing] the pro-Israel lobby in the U.S.” for such a purpose.

Another topic was the question of “a lack of knowledge and inefficient tracking by Israeli intelligence of pro-BDS organizations”. Although Steinitz’s Strategic Affairs Ministry “has provided the Israel Defense Forces’ intelligence department a budget of several million shekels for the purpose of bolstering military surveillance of such organizations”, reports Haaretz, “the need for the prime minister to instruct the Shin Bet Security Service and the Mossad on the efforts is likely to come up.”


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