Archive | November 24th, 2020

Joe Biden’s love affair with Israel will pick up where it left off

Ali Abunimah 

Two men smile and embrace
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has every reason to expect Joe Biden will deliver for Israel, just as the Obama administration did. (US Embassy Jerusalem)      

With Donald Trump still disputing his loss of the US presidential election, there has been a lot of attention to which foreign leaders congratulated the winners after the race was called on Saturday.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took his time, waiting until well after other world leaders had recognized Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the victors.

But finally, on Sunday, Netanyahu joined the club.

“Joe, we’ve had a long and warm personal relationship for nearly 40 years, and I know you as a great friend of Israel,” Netanyahu wrote in a tweet addressing President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris.

“I look forward to working with both of you to further strengthen the special alliance between the US and Israel.”


Benjamin Netanyahu@netanyahu
Congratulations @JoeBiden and @KamalaHarris. Joe, we’ve had a long & warm personal relationship for nearly 40 years, and I know you as a great friend of Israel. I look forward to working with both of you to further strengthen the special alliance between the U.S. and Israel.

5:03 AM · Nov 8, 2020

It was undoubtedly another awkward moment for Netanyahu, whose close identification with Trump’s ultra-nationalist, white supremacist populism has been a hallmark of the last few years.

But Netanyahu is right about Biden’s unconditional, career-long commitment to Israel.

Back in 1986, Biden told the Senate that Israel is “the best $3 billion investment we make.”

“Were there not an Israel, the United States of America would have to invent an Israel to protect our interests in the region,” Biden asserted.

It’s a theme he returns to time and again.

“Israel is the single greatest strength America has in the Middle East,” Biden told an interviewer in 2007.

“When I was a young senator, I’d say, ‘If I were a Jew I’d be a Zionist,’” Biden added. “I am a Zionist, you don’t have to be a Jew to be a Zionist.”

Lovers’ quarrel

Biden’s love for Israel has survived everything that has been thrown at it. This includes the public humiliation Netanyahu’s government inflicted on Biden in 2010, when he was vice president.

Israel apparently timed the announcement of a new colony in occupied East Jerusalem specifically to embarrass Biden, who was visiting Israel in an effort to advance the Obama administration’s “peace” efforts.

Obama had been urging Israel to pause settlement construction to give the initiative a chance.

Yet the lovers’ quarrel was quickly forgotten.

Israel went on to build almost as many settlement homes on occupied Palestinian land during the Obama years as it did during the George W. Bush administration.

Not only that, but as Israel killed an average of 11 children per day during its summer 2014 assault on Gaza, the Obama-Biden administration resupplied Israel with munitions.

True friends don’t let friends run out of missiles when they are bombing an impoverished, defenseless refugee population caged in a ghetto.

During its 51-day assault, Israel killed more than 2,200 Palestinians.

The Obama-Biden administration sprung into action to thwart Palestinians from seeking justice for Israeli war crimes at the International Criminal Court.

Anyone hoping for something different this time around should prepare for quick disappointment.

Biden adopts Trump policies

Biden has already endorsed some of Trump’s signature pro-Israel policies.

He has welcomed the normalization deals the Trump administration brokered between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

Biden has pledged not to move the US embassy from Jerusalem back to Tel Aviv.


Benjamin Netanyahu@netanyahu
Today I met with Senator @KamalaHarris of California. We discussed the potential for deepening cooperation in water management, agriculture, cyber security, and more. I expressed my deep appreciation for America’s commitment to Israel’s security.

Image

Harris also has her own long history of support for Israel.

Yet there is a slight shift in tone.

In a pre-election interview, Kamala Harris pledged that the Biden administration would restore humanitarian aid for Palestinians cut by Trump, and re-open the US consulate in East Jerusalem.

Restoring aid to East Jerusalem’s hospitals or the refugee agency UNRWA would be welcome – to the extent that it actually helps Palestinians in need.

But at best it would mark a return to a status quo where Palestinians are kept on life support while Israel continues to aggressively steal their land and violate their rights with impunity.

“Joe and I also believe in the worth and value of every Palestinian and every Israeli, and we will work to ensure that Palestinians and Israelis enjoy equal measures of freedom, security, prosperity and democracy,” Harris said.

“We are committed to a two-state solution, and we will oppose any unilateral steps that undermine that goal. We will also oppose annexation and settlement expansion,” she added.

Leaving aside that the two-state solution is dead and buried, there’s no reason to take even these minimal commitments at face value.

Democrats always say they oppose settlements and want to see a two-state solution, but as eight years of the Obama-Biden administration demonstrated, that never translates into action.

In his 2018 memoir, Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser under the Obama-Biden administration, staunchly defends his boss against accusations that he was too supportive of Palestinians.

Rhodes writes that the critics who accused Obama of being not sufficiently pro-Israel “ignored the fact that he [Obama] wasn’t doing anything tangible for the Palestinians.”

Record aid package

Indeed, one of the Obama-Biden administration’s final acts was to reward Israel’s settlement spree and massacres with the biggest military aid package in history – a minimum of $38 billion over 10 years.

Now, according to The Jerusalem Post, “Israel plans to reach out to US President-elect Joe Biden’s administration in the coming months to begin discussing the formulation of a new long-term military aid plan.”

“We will want to talk about a new package and program,” a senior Israeli official told the newspaper. “The new plan will need to take into account the changing threats and challenges we face in the Middle East.”

In other words, Israel plans to increase its demands on US taxpayers.

The Jerusalem Post@Jerusalem_Post#Israel plans to reach out to the @JoeBiden administration in the coming months to begin discussing the formulation of a new long-term #military aid plan for the @IDF. Report by @yaakovkatz

Whenever a new administration comes in, there is a flurry of speculation and misplaced optimism about who it will appoint and what it will do to revive the “peace process.”

No one should be distracted by these parlor games.

Netanyahu’s words of welcome for Biden are sincere, because he knows the incoming American president will do all he can to deliver for Israel, just like every Democrat and every Republican before him.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, USA, ZIO-NAZIComments Off on Joe Biden’s love affair with Israel will pick up where it left off

Robert Fisk – Death Of A ‘Controversial’ Journalist

Robert Fisk, the Independent’s Middle East correspondent, died on 30 October aged 74. In reviewing his life and career, the newspaper for which he worked for more than two decades wrote of their star reporter:

‘Much of what Fisk wrote was controversial…’

As John Pilger noted, in describing Fisk’s journalism as ‘controversial’ the Independent was using a ‘weasel word’.

The Washington Post published a piece titled:

‘Robert Fisk, daring but controversial British war correspondent and author, dies at 74’

Al Jazeera’s piece was subtitled:

‘The Independent newspaper confirms its acclaimed and controversial journalist died following a short illness.’

piece in Le Monde was titled:

‘La mort de Robert Fisk, grand reporter au Moyen-Orient et personnage controversé’ (Christophe Ayad, Le Monde, 4 November 2020)

The trend is clear. When The Times subjected Fisk to one of its full-on hit pieces in April 2018, it wrote: ‘Fisk is no stranger to controversy.’

So why do ‘mainstream’ commentators feel obliged to red-flag Fisk’s journalism with ‘controversial’ in this way, and why is it a ‘weasel word’?

Consider that the likes of the BBC’s Andrew Marr, the Guardian’s Martin Chulov and The Times’ David Aaronovitch, and numerous others, will never be described as ‘controversial’, despite their highly controversial, in fact outrageous, warmongering bias.

Marr is not labelled ‘controversial’ for supporting a ground invasion of Serbia in 1999:

‘I want to put the Macbeth option: which is that we’re so steeped in blood we should go further. If we really believe Milosevic is this bad, dangerous and destabilising figure we must ratchet this up much further. We should now be saying that we intend to put in ground troops.’ (Marr, ‘Do we give war a chance?’, The Observer, 18 April 1999)

Was that ‘controversial’? How about this?

Was it ‘controversial’ for the Guardian to write this of the country that has relentlessly waged war and supported tyranny around the world since 1945:

‘Joe Biden looks to have done enough to win the White House… He will have to reassert America’s role as the global problem-solver.’ (Our emphasis)?

Was it ‘controversial’ for the supposedly impartial global news agency, Associated Press, to write this of the United States:

‘For decades, the U.S. has been an advocate for democracy abroad, using diplomatic pressure and even direct military intervention in the name of spreading the principles of a pluralistic system with a free and fair vote for political leaders’?

An awesome level of gullibility is required to believe that the direct military ‘interventions’ (wars) in oil-rich Iraq and Libya were about spreading pluralistic principles. Whether or not Iraqis have had ‘a free and fair vote’ since 2003 is a matter of complete indifference to Western politics and journalism.

It turns out that the term ‘controversial’ is only applied in corporate media to political writers and leaders deemed ‘controversial’ by elite interests.

This was unwittingly made clear by the big brains at the BBC who noted that Fisk ‘drew controversy for his sharp criticism of the US and Israel, and of Western foreign policy’. If Fisk had drawn ‘controversy’ from China, Iran or North Korea, the ‘weasel word’ would not have appeared in the Beeb’s analysis.

A second piece in the Independent also allowed us to read between the letters that make up ‘controversial’:

‘Often writing and speaking of his pity for the people he saw being killed at the same time as becoming a forthright critic of the US and Israel. His writing could be controversial – such as his later reporting on Syria…’ (Our emphasis)

Fisk is not alone, of course. The BBC controversially echoed numerous other media in describing Hugo Chavez as ‘Venezuela’s… controversial president’.

If Chavez was ‘controversial’, which national leader is not? Should they all be described as ‘controversial’? By the way, Biden very controversially described Chavez’ successor Nicolas Maduro as a ‘tyrant’, adding:

‘I was among the first Democratic foreign policy voices to recognize Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate leader and to call for Maduro to resign.’ (See here for more on Biden’s grim record.)

As we have discussed, these were deeply embarrassing propaganda claims in pursuit of regime change. Even the BBC was eventually forced to give up the pretence that Guaidó was ‘interim leader’, reverting to the title ‘opposition leader’.

Although Obama bombed seven Muslim countries from 2009 to 2017, all but destroying Libya, the BBC would, of course, never refer to ‘America’s controversial president, Barack Obama’, or even to ‘America’s controversial president, George W. Bush’. Specific Bush policies might be described as ‘controversial’, but the term would never be applied as a broad brush description of who he is.

In corporate media newspeak, ‘controversial’ can actually be translated as ‘offensive to power’. The term is intended as a scare word to warn readers that the labelled person is ‘dodgy’, ‘suspect’: ‘Handle with care!’ The journalist is also signalling to his or her editors and other colleagues: ‘I’m not one of “them”!’

The same effect can be achieved by praising establishment figures. Peter Oborne did not cover himself in glory by tweeting:

‘Tony Blair has emerged as probably the most authoritative and persuasive voice during the Covid crisis.’

As we noted:

‘If it was some other leader of some other country who had waged an illegal war of aggression killing one million people, Oborne might not have sent this.’

Journalists and leaders who serve power, including ‘Teflon Tony’, somehow retain fundamental ‘respectability’, are welcomed by elite media and the powers that be. (For completists interested in this subliminal misuse of language, the same use is made of the term ‘narcissist’: Julian Assange, Russell Brand, George Galloway, Glenn Greenwald, Seumas Milne, John Pilger, Edward Snowden, Hugo Chavez, and – alas! – us at Media Lens, have all been repeatedly accused of ‘narcissism’. Recently, Andrew Rawnsley wrote of the almost comically humble and selfless Jeremy Corbyn:

‘Many things have been said about his character over the years, but one thing has not been said enough: he is a narcissist.’

An unwitting, backhanded compliment from the Observer’s great warmonger. (See our book ‘Propaganda Blitz’ for more discussion on ‘narcissism’, Pluto Press, 2018, pp.54-55) 

‘How Do They Get Away With These Lies?

In 2004, at a time when all of US-UK journalism was celebrating the ‘transfer of sovereignty’ from the forces still occupying Iraq and stealing its oil, Fisk was a rare voice mocking the charade:

‘Alice in Wonderland could not have improved on this. The looking-glass reflects all the way from Baghdad to Washington… Those of us who put quotation marks around “liberation” in 2003 should now put quotation marks around “sovereignty”.’ (Fisk, ‘The handover: Restoration of Iraqi sovereignty – or Alice in Wonderland?’ The Independent, 29 June 2004)

In 2014, after Tony Blair made one of his frequent attempts to exonerate himself in relation to Iraq while calling for more violence to bomb Syria better, the Guardian editors performed painful contortions in declaring Blair’s analysis ‘thoughtful’ if ‘wrong-headed’. Fisk’s response to Blair was different:

‘How do they get away with these lies?’

Fisk was also a virtual lone ‘mainstream’ voice contesting the US-UK’s audacious, well-funded attempts to re-run their Iraq ‘weapons of mass destruction’ scam in Syria:

‘Washington’s excuse for its new Middle East adventure – that it must arm Assad’s enemies because the Damascus regime has used sarin gas against them – convinces no-one in the Middle East. Final proof of the use of gas by either side in Syria remains almost as nebulous as President George W. Bush’s claim that Saddam’s Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.’

For this, as the obituaries make unsubtly clear, Fisk was never forgiven.

An obituary in The Times commented on Fisk:

‘While he was an outstandingly poetic writer, he developed an emotional obsession with the plight of the Palestinian people and a visceral dislike of the Israeli government and its allies, especially America. In the jargon of news reporting he “went native”, unable to provide a dispassionate account of events and their context.’ (‘Robert Fisk: Obituaries – Trenchant yet lyrical foreign correspondent who interviewed Osama bin Laden three times and was often accused of “going native”‘, The Times, 3 Nov 2020)

Given the appalling racism and ethnic cleansing faced by the Palestinian people, the reference to Fisk ‘going native’ was a grotesque observation.

The Times noted, of course, that Fisk ‘remained no stranger to controversy’. It asked us to believe that ‘critics poured cold water on Fisk’s writing’, although ‘awards committees did not’. In translation: Fisk was subjected to exactly the kind of ugly propaganda smears from ‘critics’ contained in The Times’ obituary.

The comments are no great surprise, given the honesty with which Fisk described his departure from The Times to join the Independent in 1989:

‘The end came for me when I flew to Dubai in 1988 after the USS Vincennes [a US Navy guided missile cruiser] had shot down an Iranian passenger airliner over the Gulf. Within 24 hours, I had spoken to the British air traffic controllers at Dubai, discovered that US ships had routinely been threatening British Airways airliners, and that the crew of the Vincennes appeared to have panicked. The foreign desk told me the report was up for the page-one splash. I warned them that American “leaks” that the IranAir pilot was trying to suicide-crash his aircraft on to the Vincennes were rubbish. They agreed.

‘Next day, my report appeared with all criticism of the Americans deleted, with all my sources ignored. The Times even carried an editorial suggesting the pilot was indeed a suicider. A subsequent US official report and accounts by US naval officers subsequently proved my dispatch correct. Except that Times readers were not allowed to see it.’

Fisk said that he believed Murdoch did not personally intervene. However:

‘He didn’t need to. He had turned The Times into a tame, pro-Tory, pro-Israeli paper shorn of all editorial independence.’

Echoing virtually every other obituary, the Guardian commented that Fisk ‘tended to absolve the Assad regime of some of the worst crimes credited to it’, which had ‘provoked a backlash, even among his anti-imperialist acolytes’.

It is ironic that the Guardian should highlight Fisk’s supposed tendency to ‘absolve’ Syria of ‘the worst crimes credited to it’. Whistleblowing revelations relating to OPCW and the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria, while almost completely ignored by the ‘mainstream’, have overwhelmingly vindicated Fisk and made a nonsense of official claims. See recent comments here from Noam Chomsky, and excellent in-depth analysis here.

The Guardian naturally deployed the ‘weasel word’ in noting ‘all the controversy generated by his later commentary on the evils of western, and specifically US, involvement in the Middle East’. This was followed by a distorted version of ‘balance’:

‘Some of Fisk’s most ardent admirers have suggested that to describe his journalism as controversial is a vulgar slight.’

Some people might think so, but only ‘ardent admirers’, ‘acolytes’ – themselves controversial narcissists.

Who knows where this unsubtle red-flagging of Fisk’s journalism as ‘controversial’ would have ended? The intent behind ‘mainstream’ propaganda, particularly on Fisk’s Syria reporting, has increasingly been to suggest that Fisk was morally tainted; that he got it badly, shamefully wrong. Flitting like barely-glimpsed bats at the back of the readers mind are supposed to be terms like ‘Assad apologist’, ‘genocide denial’. Not Holocaust denial exactly, but a shameful mutation of the same moral blindness.

Another rare, excellent ‘mainstream’ journalist, Patrick Cockburn, dispensed with the herdthink, copycat smears, and captured the truth of a journalist who was ‘a meticulous and highly-informed reporter, one who responded sceptically – and rigorously investigated – the partisan claims of all parties, be they gunmen, army officers or government officials’. Cockburn added:

‘He took nothing for granted and was often openly contemptuous of those who did. He did not invent the old journalist saying “never believe anything until it is officially denied” but he was inclined to agree with its sceptical message. He was suspicious of journalists who cultivated diplomats and “official sources” that could not be named and whose veracity we are invited to take on trust.’

This explains exactly why Fisk was and is viewed as ‘controversial’; a word that did not appear in Cockburn’s summing up.

The Invisible Tweets

A storm had been made to brew around Fisk’s reputation in recent years. But it had not yet reached the Category 5 propaganda hurricane that engulfed Jeremy Corbyn who, like Fisk, ‘drew controversy for his sharp criticism of the US and Israel, and of Western foreign policy’.

Corbyn was not just accused of anti-semitism and Holocaust denial; he was accused of being a de facto Nazi who ‘wants to reopen Auschwitz’. These claims were baseless and insane, but not ‘controversial’.

By contrast, we discovered what is deemed ‘controversial’ on Twitter on November 3. That day, we tried three times to tweet a link to a Red Pepper article by Lynne Segal as she ‘looks back on her experience of 40 years as a party member in [Corbyn’s] constituency’. We tweeted a screenshot of this important passage from Segal’s excellent piece:

‘Right now, along with the many other Jewish activists I know in Islington North, I am simply devastated that this process has climaxed in the suspension of our cherished MP, and former leader. It’s so hard to accept that I must repeat again what every Jewish member I know in Islington North has frequently confirmed and it is we who actually know and regularly meet with Jeremy Corbyn – unlike most of critics. What we can confirm is that as Jews in North Islington we have always felt more than safe, more than welcome, unfailingly supported, in everything we do in the borough, and the Party. As it happens, we often feel this all the more strongly as Jews, knowing that ­– unlike Corbyn – so many who choose to speak in our name completely disrespect our commitment to antisemitism and racism of all kinds in struggles for a better world, including the vital struggle for Palestinian rights.’

We also tweeted a screenshot of this passage:

‘So, let me provide a few pertinent facts. Over the years, Corbyn has had mutually supportive relations with the practising Jewish community in Islington, attending Shabbat dinners with the orthodox Chabad Rabbi, Mendy Korer, and attending numerous other official Jewish events in North London. Against some local resistance, Corbyn promoted the installation of a plaque on a demolished synagogue site in 2015 to celebrate Jewish life in the borough. Unlike most of his critics in Westminster, Corbyn unfailingly turned up to vote for motions addressing anti-Semitism in Parliament, just as he worked tirelessly against racism on every front.’

This is extremely powerful, credible evidence exposing the claims against Corbyn, not just as a sham, but as a monstrous reversal of the truth.

We know what our readers like and we know how they will likely react to our tweets, so we were surprised that the two tweeted screenshots did not immediately pick up a few likes and retweets. In fact, after four hours, they had not been liked or retweeted by anyone. We tried tweeting the screenshots again, and again they received no likes or retweets. We checked with friends and it became clear that while these tweets were visible to us, they had been secretly rendered invisible to everyone else by Twitter without us knowing. Unlike the smears unleashed on Corbyn for five years, our words had been banished because they were deemed ‘controversial’ by a giant, profit-maximising tech corporation. And we are not alone; we discovered that independent journalist Glenn Greenwald had earlier tweeted:

‘I posted this tweet 3 times and all 3 times it just won’t appear in my time-line, allowing nobody to see it. Genuinely confused. Is anyone else experiencing this problem?’

No surprise, Greenwald is also ‘controversial’, having, like Fisk, Corbyn and us, attracted ‘controversy’ ‘for his sharp criticism of the US and Israel, and of Western foreign policy’.

On Twitter, in response to corporate media censoring Donald Trump, science writer Marcus Chown commented:

‘This is what we DESPERATELY need in the UK. We need our media to interrupt speeches by Johnson and others and point out to viewers their lies. Retweet if you would like to seee [sic] this happen.’

If giant, profit-maximising, advertiser-dependent corporate media decide it is their job and right to censor political leaders like Trump and Johnson, they will have no qualms at all about censoring you, us, and everyone else. Is that what we want? What on earth qualifies Big Business as an arbiter of Truth?

DE

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Nazi regime wiped a Palestinian village off the map

Israeli army destroys Palestinian village in Jordan Valley | Arab News
Israel wiped a Palestinian village off the map

Israel quietly wiped an entire Palestinian Bedouin village off the map in the Israeli occupied West Bank. An immediate US action is needed to stop Israel from using US taxpayers’ money to demolish more Palestinian homes in the coming days.

As the world watched the US election on November 3rd, the Israeli army demolished the Palestinian Bedouin hamlet of Khirebet Humsa leaving 80 Palestinians homeless. including 41 children, just as winter storms spread through the West Bank. AFP news reported that the Israeli army gave people 10 minutes to evacuate their homes.

So far in 2020, Israel demolished over 680 Palestinian structures incl. +160 houses throughout the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Israel has a protected status and it is unlikely for anyone to speak out against “the only democracy” from either the US or the EU.

To speak out against Israel’s crimes and human rights violations would be met with loud accusations of “anti-Semitism.”This action by the Israeli Occupation Forces is just pure evil.

This crime was committed by the same people who claim that were ethnically cleansed from Europe. So, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine continues slowly but surely unabated. I’m sure Israel wouldn’t be happy until there are no Palestinians in Palestine. It is mind-boggling that Israelis have no memories of what the Nazis did to them.

Mahmoud El-Yousseph

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Why does everything have to be kosher?

Kosher Food Cartoons and Comics - funny pictures from CartoonStock


Dear editor,

CNN’s chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour was forced to apologize this week for comparing President Trump’s term in office to the Nazi era. The Israeli government, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, and House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany viciously attacked Amanpour, a highly respected international journalist.
The way these groups ganged up against Amanpour reminds me of the movie “The Lion King” when a clan of hungry hyenas encircled cub Simba and wanted to make a cub sandwich out of him. How could she be anti-Semitic if she was married to a Jew and had a Jewish child? Was she then being targeted because she has a Muslim father and a Catholic mother? Inquiring mind wants to know!

The day before Amanpour’s remarks, an Israeli man working for Israel’s national emergency service was caught on security camera spitting at a picture of Jesus Christ. According to the Israeli daily Haaretz, the employee justified his disrespect to Christian beliefs by saying the Torah teaches that Christianity is idol worship.

After a quick search online, I could not find one single Western media outlet that carried this story with the exception of the Palestine Chronicle, which is an online news magazine. It looks like when it comes to free speech, the Israeli daily Haaretz, which was the first to publish the story, makes other Western news publications look sad. 

It is rather ironic that President Trump will allow his Press Secretary to join the chorus of attacking one of the best-known foreign journalists yet he looks the other way when an Israeli Jew insults the best-known religious symbol of Christianity and the 2.5 billion Christians.
I don’t want to piss anyone off but the two aforementioned stories make me hopping mad. Sometimes I wonder why does everything have to be kosher?

Mahmoud El-Yousseph

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Nazi Independence at the Expense of Palestinians

Israeli Independence at the Expense of Palestinians

Palestine Center Brief No. 339 

By Mohamed Mohamed

On April 29, Israel celebrated its 72nd Independence Day. Under the specter of the COVID-19 virus pandemic, much of the ceremonies were pre-recorded and were not attended by a live audience.

But for Palestinians, this occasion is no cause for celebration, because Israel’s independence as a state came at their full expense.

In 1948, more than 750,000 Palestinians were expelled or forced to flee from their homeland in historic Palestine thanks to the violence and terrorism of invading Zionist forces. In the Palestinian village of Deir Yassin alone, Zionist terrorists massacred between 100 and 250 people, including men, women, children, and the elderly. It is very telling about Israel’s founding that many of these terrorists later became prominent political leaders, including prime ministers, and the Haganah terrorist group is the precursor to the Israeli army.

Most of the Palestinians who fled in 1948, along with their descendants, were never able to return to their homes. The Palestinians who were able to stay are now treated as second-class citizens, and they face extensive discrimination.

In 1967, Israel initiated a war and invaded the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza (and parts of Egypt and Syria). This created another wave of Palestinian displacement and refugees, and many of them remain refugees to this day.

All of them live either under a sadistic Israeli military occupation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, or under a merciless siege in Gaza. More than 600,000 Israeli settlers have also illegally colonized Palestinian land since then.

Whether under Israeli military occupation or siege, or living in refugee camps in neighboring countries, Palestinians are in these predicaments because of Israel’s oppression, with its arrogant disregard for international law and the blind, unconditional support of successive US administrations.

During the independence day ceremonies, Knesset speaker Benny Gantz called for a society “where we, the leaders, take responsibility, act for you, citizens of the state, worry for the nation’s unity and maintain democracy and individual rights.”

This statement is laughable. If Israel was truly concerned with its society’s unity, democracy, and individual rights, it would address the systemic “institutional, legal, and societal discrimination” against its Palestinian citizens (according to the US State Department), who make up 20 percent of its population.

If Israel was genuinely worried about its (fraudulent) status as a democracy, it would not have more than five million stateless Palestinians living under its ruthless control, either under military occupation or under siege. Not even one of these people enjoy the same “individual rights” that Israelis do. They do not have the right to vote, the freedom of movement, equitable access to healthcare and resources, or an endless list of other basic human rights.

Despite what Israeli propaganda wants the world to believe, the fact is that Israel is an oppressive state that is not even remotely close to being a democracy. It is a discriminatory, apartheid state, and it should be treated as such. Only Israeli Jews are entitled to full rights, and even then, people like the Jews of Africa are treated poorly. In fact, one of the chief rabbis of Israel labeled black people as “monkeys” in 2018, and he said that non-Jews “are in Israel only to serve Jews.”

In the 21st century, where else can one find a state-sanctioned religious leader who refers to certain ethnic and minority groups as “monkeys” or animals? Where else will one find segregated roads like the ones that exist in the occupied Palestinian lands of the West Bank? Where else can one find a country that allows its towns to pick and choose which ethnic and religious groups can live in their communities? It would be very difficult to find any other state besides Israel.

The entire world is currently distracted with the COVID-19 virus epidemic, and this is good for Israel. But Israel’s severe transgressions against Palestinians will not be forgotten or ignored. Eventually, Israel will have to answer for its crimes.

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Sexual Harassment and Violence against Palestinian Women in Nazi camp’s

Sexual Harassment and Violence against Palestinian Women in Israeli Prisons

By Dylann N

Sexual Harassment and Violence against Palestinian Women in Israeli Prisons

Sexual harassment and sexual violence have long been tactics used by Israeli soldiers against imprisoned Palestinians. While men and children are subjected to such treatments, women generally face the brunt of this systematic mistreatment. Khitam Saafin, the leader of the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees, who spent three months in administrative detention without ever being charged, and who accused Israeli soldiers of taking photos of her on their cell phones and strip-searching her, said “It’s not something that’s done by an individual soldier who decided to humiliate or mistreat [the prisoners], it’s part of the process, part of the policy, in order to affect the entire society and put it under pressure… because they are aware that [gender] is a sensitive subject in Palestinian society.” As Saafin suggests, the practice of sexual harassment and violence specifically targets gender as a means to destabilize and break down the entire Palestinian society. We see this in the systematic and pervasive oppression and violence against women that occurs at every level of life, suggesting that hindering the  well being of the next generation of Palestinians is imperative to the Israeli project. This sexual harassment and violence against Palestinian women is tactically used as institutionalized maltreatment by the Israeli regime. Although women face the brunt of this systematic treatment, Palestinian men are similarly humiliated in a sexualized way in efforts to break up and traumatize families. While their humiliation and torture may not always be of a sexual nature, it always serves as a component in practices of domination, interrogation, and torture.

Interrogations are considered one of the most violent parts of detention for many women as sexual harassment and torture are often used as a means of intimidation and coercion to confess. Physical/psychological torture tactics include stress positions, sleep deprivation, beatings, shouting sexual words, insults, and questions about her husband. Sexual violence occurs to most women, and may include beatings, threats, sexually explicit harassment, threats of rape (including threats of rape of family members), and body searches. These routine body searches include almost all clothing being forcibly ripped off, sometimes including undergarments. The women are often asked to squat while naked and are frequently subjected to intrusive internal body searches. Strip searches generally occur to/from court hearings, where younger women are generally targeted, but may occur during night as a punitive measure, and often times may escalate to torture. In spite of its latter occurrence, strip searches violate obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law, including the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, as well as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Sexual harassment and violence against Palestinian women are a common/systematic form of racial and gender based state violence and a fundamental aspect of their prison experience.

During interrogations of women, a female Israeli officer must be present. However, she often acts as both mask for and proof of  unlawful illicit behavior. Female officers are no less violent than their male counterparts, using violent methods of control against both men and women to gain respect and recognition from male soldiers or superiors. The leaked clips of young Palestinian Activist Ahed Tamimi’s interrogations revealed some scenarios of sexual harassment. Tamimi, who was 16 at the time of her arrest and now 17, was arrested during a night raid for kicking and slapping an Israeli soldier on film who critically injured her cousin on their property. In Tamimi’s trial, a female interrogator was not present, allowing her to be illegally interrogated by two men. One of the men is on film using verbal sexual harassment and physical intimidation. Sadly, Ahed Tamimi’s story is not unique, as many Palestinian women, especially younger ones, are subjected to various forms of sexual harassment and violence while being detained under Israeli control.

The violence and harassment that these women are forced to endure is deemed acceptable under Israeli national security, as it is justified  as a vital method of protection for the state. The insecurities and abuses that Palestinian women face are intrinsically connected to the Palestinian national discourse that claims their bodies as an imagined national body, thus leaving their bodies vulnerable to weaponization. This term “weaponization” refers to the use of women’s bodies as weapons under patriarchal forces in their conflicts. The term isqat, which translates directly as downfall, clarifies how women’s bodies have been used as weapons against the Palestinian national struggle, done so by attacking particular women victims and targeting gender relations in Palestinian society.  Isqat encompasses sexual abuse of Palestinian women as a means to collect “security information.”  The term does not acknowledge the human rights or experience of these victimized women, but rather is meant to reveal how military powers use patriarchal perceptions of sexuality and honor to breakdown individual women and their families personally, socially, and politically. Thus, Palestinian women’s bodies are used as a weapon against them, positioning them against the struggle for nationhood and resistance.  

The weaponization of Palestinian women’s bodies strengthens patriarchal views of isqat. The sexual assault of these women has been viewed as a national security threat, making it difficult for them to discuss their attack and seek post-assault support. There were countless rapes in the 1948 Nakba by IDF soldiers, however this entire history has been suppressed by victims themselves due to the terrible stigma rape has in Palestinian society. Speaking up about these issues is seen as going against the national struggle and accepting the intent of outside forces seeking to destroy Palestine. Given this narrative, a woman’s body becomes not only her own, but preserves authentic Palestinian culture, thus belonging to the nation, and the national narrative. Consequently, not only are imprisoned women subjected to gender discriminatory treatment, but they also carry the burden of weaponizing their own bodies as a means of protecting themselves, and their national narrative. Sexual harassment and violence in Israeli prisons are only a portion of the gender discriminatory treatment that Palestinian women face. The struggle endured by these women is continually sexualized by the Israeli project in order to degrade them and to destroy their familial relations and connections to the land. This sexualized immorality adds a new layer of trauma imposed on these Palestinian bodies and its society living in the occupied Palestinian Territories and within the borders of historic Palestine.

References

Benoist, Chloé. “Palestinian Women Haunted by Abuse in Israeli Jails.” Middle East Eye,

8 Feb. 2018.

D’Amato, Paul. “Israel and the Nakba.” International Socialist Review.

MEE Staff. “Ahed Tamimi Was Sexually Harassed by Israeli Interrogator, Says Lawyer.”

Middle East Eye, 2018.

Pratt, Nicole. “Palestinian Women and the Right to Rights.” Warwick, Cambridge

University Press, 2009.

Murphy, Maureen Clare. “Israeli Soldiers, Settlers Violate Palestinian Women’s Rights.”

The Electronic Intifada, 12 Feb. 2017.

Murphy, Maureen Clare. “Israel’s Systematic Violence against Palestinian Women.” The

Electronic Intifada, 28 Apr. 2018.

“New Study Details Sexual Torture of Palestinian Prisoners by Israeli

Authorities.” Middle East Monitor, Middle East Monitor, 12 Jan. 2016.

“Women.” Addameer, 1 Feb. 2018.

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Cornered into a Cave: The Callousness of Israeli Occupation

Palestine Center Brief No. 342 (August 19, 2020)

By Mohamed Mohamed

Ahmad Amarneh is a 30-year-old Palestinian civil engineer who lives with his pregnant wife and daughter in the West Bank village of Farasin, west of Jenin.

Farasin happens to be in “Area C” of the Palestinian West Bank, which constitutes around 60 percent of the territory, and is where the Israeli occupation maintains full control of security and land management (in contrast to Area A and Area B, where Palestinians have some control of these affairs).

In Area C, Israel bans virtually all Palestinian construction and development, while encouraging and assisting Israelis to build settlements on stolen Palestinian land.

Palestinians must obtain permits to build homes in Area C, but Israel denies almost all these requests. In fact, between 2016 and 2018, Israel rejected more than 98 percent of Palestinian building permit requests. Even worse, since 2006, Israel demolished at least 1,584 Palestinian homes that it deemed “illegally” built, causing 6,880 Palestinians, including 3,456 minors to become homeless.

How does this tie into Ahmad Amarneh? He received a demolition notice from Israeli authorities. This is obviously nothing new for Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation.

What is unique about this situation is that the Amarneh family lives in a cave. Yes, as absurd as it sounds, they literally live in a cave, and the Israelis want to demolish it.

One might wonder why anyone in the 21st century would live in a cave, where there is no proper infrastructure for electricity, water, sewage, or any other basic utility for that matter. The answer is very simple. Israel gave this man and his family no choice.

Amarneh told the AFP news agency that he tried to build a house in his village of Farasin two times, but Israeli authorities denied the permit requests. Knowing the harsh realities of Israeli occupation, he believed he would never receive a permit from Israel to build.

Amarneh decided to improvise with a cave in the hills near his village. He presumed that since the cave is a natural formation, the Israelis could not argue that it was built illegally. As a civil engineer by training, he had no problem sealing the cave with a stone wall and installing a door. He also transformed the inside of the cave to include a kitchen, living room, and bedrooms.

Of course, this made no difference to Israeli occupation authorities. After living in the cave for about a year and a half, Amarneh and 20 other Palestinian families in Farasin received demolition notices from Israel.

The irony of demolition orders against Amarneh’s cave home, along with the thousands of other Palestinian homes, is that Israel considers them to be illegal. In reality, Israel is the one in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which it ratified in 1951. Specifically, Article 53 prohibits an occupying power from destroying property belonging to private individuals.

Ahmad Amarneh’s dilemma shows just how callous and merciless Israeli military occupation is toward Palestinians. Where else in the world can one be evicted from a cave?

As Amarneh wonders himself:

“I don’t understand how they can prevent me from living in a cave. Animals live in caves and are not thrown out. So, let them treat me like an animal and let me live in the cave.”

The fact that any human being would prefer to be treated like an animal speaks volumes, and it is truly demoralizing. Israel does not care about human rights, international law, or justice. It is a rogue, apartheid, racist state that will never change its behavior unless it is held accountable. If the treatment of Ahmad Amarneh, and the many other outrageous Israeli actions do not awaken American policy makers, it is unknown what will.

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From Palestine to Turtle Island: When All Else Fails Oppressors Blame the Victim

Israeli soldiers handcuff Palestinian protester Khairy Hannoun from Tulkarem, West Bank, during a peaceful protest.(Photo: via Twitter)

By Benay Blend

Reflecting on the 2020 election, Onyesonwu Chatoyer wrote: “One thing I’ve been reflecting on today is how much election discourse is just poor and working-class people” blaming each other “for not participating in the right way.” An organizer for the All African People’s Revolutionary Party—New Mexico, Chatoyer understands that “the people who get the most blame have the least to do with how this whole process goes.”

While on the other hand, it is “the people who control it all—and who create the ideological, material, and political conditions that drive how poor people participate—” who get virtually no reproach at all.

After the finale of the never-ending election on November 7, voters who cast their ballots for Joe Biden—and probably some who didn’t vote or voted for a third party—celebrated in the streets of major cities. It was a well-deserved reprieve after four years of being gaslighted by Donald Trump.

There was also a break from the endless analyzing of why people voted for which candidate or perhaps didn’t vote at all. In doing so, as Chatoyer notes, blame almost always gets placed on the most vulnerable who have the least stake in the mainstream political system.

After all, it’s much easier to blame people for not voting and/or not voting in the “correct” way than to look at the real root of why people behave the way they do. It is also perhaps more satisfying because it doesn’t destroy the myth we are now on the road to progress.

For example, rather than relying on standard analyses regarding the “mystery of the Black Male/Black Woman voting gap,” Chatoyer looks to Lawrence Grandpre for some answers. More black men than women are disenfranchised due to “felony disenfranchisement,” notes Grandpre, while what he doesn’t say is that those black men under 50 know that Biden’s 1994 crime bill is partly responsible for their incarceration.

“Why doesn’t mainstream media report this?” asks Grandpre. Because mainstream media and the Democratic party, he replies, in answer to his own question, “would rather vote shame and stoke gender divides based on bad stats” than do the hard work of investing in communities that then might respond with a larger voter turn-out. Moreover, he continues, “they are also afraid that an agenda built [to] address these issues would alienate white suburban women, many of whom work at the nonprofits built off managing this suffering which Black voters are demanding they get the resources to address themselves.”

Structural change is much harder in the end, and it won’t come about through merely voting. It requires grassroots organizing along with convincing enough people that neo-liberalism is not an effective means to fight fascism. Moreover, as long as both Biden and Harris give unqualified support to the fascist state of Israel, saying good-bye to Trump, which will bring a measure of well-deserved relief, is not enough to declare the triumph of anti-fascism in America.

While all eyes were on the battleground states that eventually turned the tide, Israel escalated its demolition of Palestinian homes. Moreover, all of this is done within a legal framework, as Ramzy Baroud explains:

“Israeli racism is not random and cannot be simply classified as yet another human rights violation. It is the core of a sophisticated plan that aims at the political marginalization and economic strangulation of Israel’s Palestinian Arab minority within a constitutional, thus ‘legal’, framework.”

“Without fully appreciating the end goal of this Israeli strategy,” Baroud concludes, “Palestinians and their allies will not have the chance to properly combat it, as they certainly should.”

Fascism does not always rise to power on the shoulders of brown-shirted troops. It can go undetected. Indeed, its success in Israel is often aided by the same victim-blaming strategy that was deployed against various populations in the recent US elections.

For example, under pressure from Palestine solidarity activists, Joe Biden’s campaign back in May 2020 removed language from its platform that was deemed racist and insulting to Palestinians. Originally, Biden’s statement said that his administration would “firmly reject the BDS movement, which singles out Israel – home to millions of Jews – and too often veers into antisemitism while letting Palestinians off the hook for their choices.”

A few days later, that victim-blaming line disappeared, only to be replaced with a pledge to “firmly reject the BDS movement – which singles out Israel and too often veers into anti-Semitism – and fight other efforts to delegitimize Israel on the global stage.”

In the end, life will go on like before, but so will resistance. To the joy of the international community, hunger-striking Palestinian detainee in Israeli jails, Maher al-Akhras, negotiated an agreement with the Israeli government to release him on November 26th, thus ending his ordeal which lasted for 103 days.

In the words of Ramzy Baroud, introducing this article on Facebook:

“Freedom requires sacrifice. This man represents the Palestinian people in their strength, courage and fearlessness. And if Maher Al-Akhras can achieve his freedom – however relative the term is in this particular context – the Palestinian people surely can; and will.”

Quoting Kali AkunoBlack Alliance for Peace organizer Mawusi Ture posted the following good advice:

“Folks have invested a lot of faith in elections and bourgeois politics in general, and have not seriously interrogated the material and political nature of white supremacy within this settler-colonial project in the midst of serious capital decline and decay. Nor built alternatives (cause in truth most don’t see the need yet, and this is coming from being knee deep in a municipal effort to construct one).”

“We are going to have to break with Liberalism and all of its trappings,” concludes Akuno. “Capitalism cannot be reformed or tamed, and continuing to ally with those pursuing that path will continue to lead to dead ends. At some point another road must be taken by those wanting to see a better world.”

As Baroud, too, concluded, freedom requires some sacrifice. In this case, it means letting go of the idea that merely voting every four years will bring about that better world. It also requires, as Chatoyer suggests, letting go of attempts to “shut down or shame analysis of the present moment coming from the left.” Now is the right time to do this, not some utopic moment in the future.

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It’s time to rethink the structure of Palestinian aid

Alaa Tartir , Jeremy Wildeman

More money can lead to more harm when spent improperly; technical solutions will fall short if they avoid challenging central political realities of the conflict

Palestinian children at a refugee camp in southern Gaza in 2018 (AFP)

Since the Oslo I Accord was signed in 1993, more than $40bn has been spent by international donors as foreign aid for Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. 

As long-time analysts, we have grown tired of adding this (ever-growing) number to the beginning of so many of our journal articles, op-eds and reports. Yet, we find we cannot avoid this, because of how clearly it underlines the failure of the western donor-driven development model, the moribund Oslo “peace process” it is meant to support, and the significant sums of aid funding that end up going into Israel’s economy.

Elusive development

That sum ($40bn+) has also consistently made Palestinians one of the highest per capita recipients of non-military aid in the world (though it is far less than the overall sum of aid Israelis receive). And yet, both peace and development remain elusive, as this aid has failed to achieve progress on three main objectives: a lasting peace between Palestinians and Israelis; effective, accountable and democratic Palestinian institutions; and sustainable social and economic development.

Instead, Palestinians have been forced to live in an aid-development paradox. While large amounts of donor aid have entered the economy of the occupied territories, there has been a downward spiral in Palestinian economic and human development indicators. That has been accompanied by a hollowing out and de-development of the Palestinian economy. 

There also seems to be little chance of Palestinians escaping from the pandemic-driven crisis without an infusion of aid into their de-developed, captured and colonised economy

Between 1994 and 2018, Palestinian manufacturing collapsed from 20 percent to 11 percent of GDP, and fishing and agriculture from more than 12 percent to less than three percent. This left Palestinians dependent on foreign aid to pay for imported goods entering through Israel into their de-developed economy, and to fund critical social programming and economic growth – generally non-sustainable service sector-driven growth. 

The chances that Palestinian national self-determination will ever be realised grow dimmer by the year. Due to rapid Israeli colonisation, the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem are now covered by more than 620,000 settlers on more than 200 settlements. Far from integrating with Palestinians, the settlements dispossess them from their land, an action considered illegal under international law.

Foreign aid dwindling

Last year, more than a quarter-century into the donor aid programme, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development concluded that prospects for the Palestinian economy were grim as foreign aid disappeared, with donor budget support falling from 32 percent of GDP in 2008 to 3.5 percent in 2019.

Covid-19 is accelerating the decline. Already prior to the pandemic, the performance of the economy was weak and the overall environment unfavourable, as “the productive base had been hollowed out by recurrent hostilities, geographical and economic fragmentation, technological regression, restrictions on imported inputs and technology, the loss of land and natural resources, settlement expansion, the leakage of fiscal resources and the near collapse of the economy of the Gaza Strip”. 

Why cutting US aid will help Palestinians – and peaceRead More »

Gaza is being hit hardest. It was effectively turned into an open-air prison not long after Israel decided to withdraw its settlements in 2005. Now, 80 percent of the population relies on unstable international assistance while lacking food security, hygiene resources, healthcare, electricity and safe drinking water. 

Estimates on the costs of the Covid-19 pandemic suggest economic losses in the range of seven to 35 percent of GDP in the occupied territories. We do not know what impact it will have on donors, who are facing enormous budget deficits and economic crises of their own. There also seems to be little chance of Palestinians escaping from the pandemic-driven crisis without an infusion of aid into their de-developed, captured and colonised economy. 

Donors may see more aid as the only way to ensure short-term stability and to avoid desperation-driven conflict. This includes donors wanting to reinforce the recent peace deals between Israel and Gulf states, offering Palestinians funding as a “peace dividend”. As such, there is a high probability that donors will be an important factor again in 2021. But what will such aid look like?

Long-term decline

Whatever resources donors commit, given the de-developed nature of the economy in the occupied Palestinian territories, the aid package will almost certainly need to continue to include development funding and immediate humanitarian aid to keep the economy going, political institutions solvent and people alive. 

It is likely that the aid will be structured to offer Palestinians short-term relief while contributing further to long-term decline, structural capture and the dismemberment of Palestinian territory. Four approaches – instrumentalism, critical instrumentalism, critics and neo-colonialism – can help to explain what we can expect in future Palestinian aid.

Palestinians receive UN food aid in Gaza’s Khan Younis camp on 7 March (AFP)
Palestinians receive UN food aid in Gaza’s Khan Younis camp on 7 March (AFP)

The dominant instrumentalist approach is economically neoliberal. Formed out of the Washington Consensus, it argues that Palestinian aid must be delivered in a non-political and technocratic manner, and supports the Oslo economic and aid framework. It is a top-down approach that tends to decontextualise the Israeli military occupation by downplaying or eliminating key terminology describing the occupation. 

In general, it avoids challenging Israel’s policies in the occupied territories, and lays disproportionate blame on the Palestinian Authority (PA) for any failures in aid to achieve its anticipated goals. When not blaming Palestinians, it blames outside political events, such as the Second Intifada, and argues that the existing aid model needs only to be applied better. Lead practitioners of this approach tend to include the US and Canada, and often the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

Critical approaches

The second approach to Palestinian aid is what we refer to as critical instrumentalism. In contrast to the instrumentalists, they argue that the Israeli occupation is the main obstacle to peace and development, and consider aid and politics to be intrinsically linked. While overall being much more critical of Israeli rule, they share with instrumentalists a specific faith in the ability of good policy to bring about positive change. 

Critical instrumentalists claim to support the development of democratic Palestinian institutions, yet do nothing to prevent the PA’s slide into unpopular rule-by-decree. This approach frames Israeli rule as a military occupation that might be temporary (even after 50 years of occupation and settlement-building). While they tend to use more accurate language to criticise Israeli policies directly, they do so without any concrete action, such as withholding funding or withdrawing trade privileges from Israel to force change. This tends to be the approach adopted by European donors.

The aid flow will never be effective for Palestinians or for a just and stable peace, if it continues to be poured into these skewed and distorted political and economic frameworks

The third approach is what we call the critics. They argue that aid policy is a rationalising technical discourse that conceals a hidden bureaucratic power or dominance, maintaining control over and containing Palestinians – and that this hidden reality is the true political intention behind the development process. 

The critics argue that economic integration with Israel, advocated by instrumentalists, benefits the occupier at the expense of the occupied economy. Some have gone so far as to argue that aid has in itself become an instrument for counterinsurgency, used to disempower Palestinian aspirations for self-determination. This group tends to have a solid scholarly and activist base, especially among Palestinians, but to be the least influential on policy.

Neo-colonialist view

Finally, the neo-colonialist approach can consider aspects of Palestinian aid to have been successful, with aid seen as a tool to combat terrorism against Israel and to encourage Palestinian peaceful acquiescence to Israeli rule. Neo-colonialists believe there is a need to develop the right Palestinian institutions for self-governance, particularly in the security sector, and to meet humanitarian needs to prevent further destabilisation. 

This is an openly top-down approach, viewing aid as an economic instrument to offer to Palestinians in return for their surrendering political rights and accepting unwanted outcomes. This perspective has long been advocated by US think-tanks and various security forces. It is adopted by donors simply seeking calm through containment, which can include Arab state donors, who are otherwise acutely aware of the actual context and Palestinian aspirations.

Aid has been used as a tool to cripple the Palestinians – it’s time we took back controlRead More »

The anticipated approaches do not portend well. It is evident by now that the aid flow will never be effective for Palestinians or for a just and stable peace if it continues to be poured into these skewed and distorted political and economic frameworks. More money can lead to more harm when spent in an improper intervention, and technical solutions alone will always fall short of addressing the real problems Palestinians face if they avoid challenging the central political realities of “the conflict”. 

It is thus inevitable that a shift should take place in prevailing development thought, from one that considers development as a technocratic, apolitical and neutral approach to one that recognises structures of power and relations of colonial dominance, rearticulating processes of development to be part of a struggle for basic rights, resistance to displacement, and true emancipation.

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Joe Biden ‘no saviour’ of the Palestinians

Palestinians eye restoration of US relations but scepticism abounds that Biden’s election win marks a strategic American policy change.

US President-elect Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have a personal friendship that goes back more than three decades [File: David Furst/AFP]
US President-elect Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have a personal friendship that goes back more than three decades [File: David Furst/AFP]

By Linah Alsaafin

In October 1973, newly elected Delaware Senator Joe Biden visited Israel on his first official overseas trip and met Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir.

The 30-year-old was visibly moved as Meir explained what she said was Israel’s militarily dangerous situation surrounded by “enemy states”, but he cheered up when the Israeli leader revealed what she said was Israel’s secret weapon: The Israelis have nowhere else to go.KEEP READINGA Biden presidency would not be good news for Palestine‘God help us’ if Trump wins re-election, Palestinian PM saysPalestinian President Abbas says accords with Israel, US are voidJoe Biden wins White House race: How the world reacted

Biden has retold this story countless times, describing the event as “one of the most consequential meetings I’ve ever had in my life”.

It marked the beginning of his unwavering support for Israel and close ties with many Israeli leaders since then.

Fast forward 13 years later when Biden delivered an impassioned speech to the US Senate, making it clear that American interests are closely tied to those of Israel.

“It’s about time we stop apologising for our support for Israel,” he told lawmakers in June 1986. “It is the best $3bn investment we make. If there weren’t an Israel, the United States of America would have to invent an Israel to protect her interests in the region.”

The following year marked the beginning of the annual $3bn of military aid Israel continues to receive from the US.

Biden, a self-avowed Zionist, has attended many pro-Israeli lobby group meetings, such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and J Street.

His victory on Saturday over Donald Trump in one of the closest US presidential elections has been received with a sigh of relief from Palestinian officials – not so much for his winning but more for Trump losing.

Trump and the Palestinian leadership

Under the Trump administration, the past four years have radically changed the political landscape for Israelis and Palestinians. While the US has always been a huge backer of Israel – peddling the two-state solution line over the years, even as Israel continued to expropriate Palestinian land and build more settlements – Trump took this policy to new heights.

He cut off US aid to the Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank, formally recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and moved the US embassy there from Tel Aviv. Trump refused to condemn settlement building and expansion as illegal – in defiance of international law. He also withdrew funding to the UN refugee agency, which millions of Palestinians depend on for education, food and livelihoods.

Trump also brokered “normalisation” deals with three Arab countries who recognised Israel without so much as demanding Palestinian gains in return, leaving the Palestinian leadership increasingly isolated.

Through his son-in-law Jared Kushner, Trump devised a Middle East plan that eschewed the two-state solution – which the Palestinian leadership heavily rejected.

Instead of a proposed Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with occupied East Jerusalem as its capital, Trump’s plan recognised Israeli sovereignty over major illegal settlement blocs in the occupied West Bank. The Palestinian state would consist of cantons of non-contiguous land, and a capital in a suburb of occupied East Jerusalem.

So, will Joe Biden revert back to the accepted Middle East policy of previous US administrations, or will he continue on the path of some of Trump’s undertakings?

No strategic change in US policy

Several Palestinian news agencies carried statements by Palestinian officials with their perspectives on what President-elect Biden’s victory would mean.

Nabil Shaath, the special representative of President Mahmoud Abbas, said the Palestinian leadership does not expect a strategic change in US policy towards the Palestinians, but getting rid of the era of Trump – which he described as “the worst” – is an advantage.

“From what we heard from Joe Biden and his deputy Kamala Harris, I think he will be more balanced and less submissive to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – thus less harmful to us than Trump,” he said.

Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s (PLO) Executive Committee, said while the first step is to “get rid of Trump and the danger he poses”, she stressed Biden will not be a saviour for the Palestinians.

“The restoration of the Palestinian Authority’s relations with the US after Biden’s victory is under discussion and evaluation,” she said.

“Matters do not happen automatically,” she added. “Rather, the list of demands, interests and positions must be determined, and there is a need for a change in many issues.”


Hanan Ashrawi@DrHananAshrawi

America Detrumped! The world also needs to be able to breathe. Trumpism must be carefully scrutinized & remedied to restore the human, moral & legal equilibrium within and beyond the US. Such phenomena do not emerge from a vacuum. Now is the time for holistic & bold therapeutics5:35 PM · Nov 7, 2020

Ashrawi said decades of pro-Israel US policy produced the Trump policies.

“What is required is to change what Trump has done by radically changing the racism and politics he represented, and building a relationship based on a new vision – justice, respect and clarity,” she said.

In the same context, the head of the political bureau of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, called on Biden to set “a historic correction of the course of the unjust US policies against our people, which has made the United States a partner in injustice and aggression, and damaged the stability in the region and the world”.

Haniyeh called on the elected administration to withdraw from Trump’s Middle East plan and cancel the decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Settlements, Jerusalem, financial aid and BDS

While former President Barack Obama had a notoriously frosty relationship with Netanyahu, Biden’s personal friendship with the Israeli prime minister stretches back more than three decades.


Benjamin Netanyahu@netanyahu
Congratulations @JoeBiden and @KamalaHarris. Joe, we’ve had a long & warm personal relationship for nearly 40 years, and I know you as a great friend of Israel. I look forward to working with both of you to further strengthen the special alliance between the U.S. and Israel.5:03 AM · Nov 8, 2020

While Biden is a strong proponent of the two-state solution, he refuses to leverage US aid to Israel in order to pressure it into abiding by international law.

“I strongly oppose Israel’s settlement policy on the West Bank,” Biden told PBS in an interview last year. “But the idea that we would cut off military aid to an ally, our only true, true ally in the entire region, is absolutely preposterous.”

Biden also initially opposed the US embassy move to Jerusalem, but has already stated he has no intention of moving it back to Tel Aviv.

His administration plans to reopen the US consulate in occupied East Jerusalem to serve Palestinians, as well as the PLO’s mission in Washington, DC, which was shut down by the Trump administration.

Biden said he will reverse the “destructive cut-off of diplomatic ties with the Palestinian Authority and cancellation of assistance programmes that support Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation, economic development, and humanitarian aid for the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza”.

But he has echoed the Trump administration by conditioning the restoration of financial aid to the PA only if it halts welfare payments to the families of Palestinian prisoners and alleged Palestinian attackers killed by Israelis.

‘Defeat BDS’

On the issue of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, Biden is a staunch opponent and characterised it as “wrong” in a speech at AIPAC in 2016.

Tony Blinken, a senior adviser to Biden, said last summer the president-elect will push back against the BDS movement as well as efforts to denounce Israel for its violations of international law at the United Nations.

“Will we stand up forcefully against it and try to prevent it, defuse it and defeat it? Absolutely,” Blinken said.

Regarding the normalisation of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Sudan, Biden has previously tried to claim credit for sowing the original seeds under Obama’s terms in office. Biden has urged “Arab states to move beyond quiet talks and take bolder steps toward normalisation with Israel”.

SOURCE : AL JAZEERA

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