“We may be victims of the Israeli regime, but we are just as proud of our choice to fight for our cause, despite the known cost. We knew where this path would lead us, but our identity, as a people and as individuals, is planted in the struggle, and draws its inspiration from there. Beyond the suffering and daily oppression of the prisoners, the wounded and the killed, we also know the tremendous power that comes from belonging to a resistance movement; the dedication, the love, the small sublime moments that come from the choice to shatter the invisible walls of passivity.
“I don’t want to be perceived as a victim, and I won’t give their actions the power to define who I am and what I’ll be. I choose to decide for myself how you will see me. We don’t want you to support us because of some photogenic tears, but because we chose the struggle and our struggle is just. This is the only way that we’ll be able to stop crying one day.” Ahed Tamimi (16 year old Palestinian Activist)
Table of Contents
Land Day and the Great March of Return
Palestinian Youth Activist Movement
Palestinian Youth Activists
Women Led Nonviolent Movements
Palestinian Activist Art
The Joint List Arab Coalition
Legal Resistance of the “Unrecognised” Bedouin Villages
Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS)
Anti-Zionism Equals Anti-Semitism Myth
Digital (Third) Intifada
Anti-Zionist Jewish Resistance
Israel New Historians
The State of Palestinians
Israel Detention and Torture of Palestinian Children
Arbitrary Arrests, Detentions and Torture
Freedom of Movement
Denial of Citizenship
Gaza Under the Blockade
Withholding of Tax Revenue
Israel Colonialism (Settler Colonialism, Apartheid, and Dehumanization)
Land Day and the Great March of Return
Today (Friday March 30, 2018) was the first day of the 6-week long Palestinian protest called, “Great March of Return” which happened to protest for the return of Palestinian refugees to their lands. 10,000s of Palestinians showed up to camp at 5 places along the Israel border wall to protest. The Israel army killed 16 protestors and wounded more than 1400 just in today. 758 protestors were wounded by live gunfire, while the others were wounded by rubber bullets. This is the first day of a 6-week long protest.
Today is also called “Land day” by Palestinians and was chosen to be the first day of this action. It commemorates the 1976 Palestinian general strike protesting a massive Palestinian land seizure by the Israel government to build Jewish settlements. The Israel government sent in the military and killed 6 protestors and wounded hundreds. The land was still taken and Jewish settlements were built with the strategic purpose of decreasing the Arab pollution in the area, a common Israel tactic in its literal (not figuratively speaking) settler colonialism/Apartheid policies to decrease Arab authority in their own land.
Land Day ended up becoming a rallying point for the next 2 generations of Palestinians activists who having been organizing a collective resistance for the last 40 years. Every year they memorialize this day to remember what happen, while organizing for next year’s actions.
Despite never making the news, Palestinians are collectively protesting in some places every week of the year, against their land being seized, their children being tortured and killed, their homes bulldozed, their access to water and healthcare denied, generations of their relatives living in refugee camps, and living the results of their family histories of the ethnic cleansing of 750,000 and generations of literal (not figuratively speaking) settler colonialism and a literal apartheid. All while their colonizers whitewashed their history to most of Western world.
Israeli forces have killed at least 15 Palestinians and wounded more than 1,000 others during a mass protest near the Gaza Strip’s eastern border. Thousands attended Friday’s protest, dubbed the Great March of Return, which was organised by several Palestinian civil society organisations and backed by all of political factions.
The protest marked the 42nd anniversary of Land Day – on March 30, 1976, six unarmed Palestinian citizens of Israel were killed by Israeli forces during protests against the Israeli government’s decision to expropriate massive tracts of Palestinian land.
Protesters said the main message of the march was to call for the right of return for Palestinian refugees. Tents were also set up on five different points along the border, a move kicking off six weeks of a sit-in demonstration leading up to the 70th anniversary of the Nakba on May 15.
AJ+ Palestinians Killed While Marching
If Americans Knew: Massacre in Gaza
Palestinian refugees attending mass protests near Gaza’s border with Israel call for a return to their lands
“East of Gaza City – In the early hours of Friday, 85-year-old Umm Khattab Dolah and her grandsons headed towards Gaza’s eastern border with Israel. Once there, they joined masses of Palestinians who set up tents along the border, looking out at the other side, where the Israeli army was deployed.
At least 70 percent of the two million people in the Gaza Strip live in refugee camps just a few kilometres away from their original homes and villages across the border, where Zionist armed groups forcibly displaced them seven decades earlier.
Dolah, who lives in Shati refugee camp along the northern coast of the Gaza Strip, said she was forced to flee along with her family from the city of Jaffa in 1948, during what Palestinians refer to as the Nakba, or “catastrophe”.
“I came here today to call for my right of return,” Dolah told Al Jazeera. “I want to return back to Jaffa. I was witness to when our lands were granted to Israelis by the British Mandate [1917-1948], and then I witnessed the Nakba in 1948 and experienced the ugliness of displacement.”
Right of Return
Thousands of men, women and children on Friday made their way to the makeshift tent camps erected 700 metres away from the border with Israel. Protesters gathered along different points of Gaza’s border, which included areas east of Khan Younis, Rafah and al-Breij, opposite the highly-fortified fence between Israel and Gaza.
Dolah said a sense of optimism pervaded the atmosphere, initially. Young girls were dressed in traditional embroidered dresses, while women sang Palestinian national songs and prepared lunch for their families and children.
The participants performed the Friday noon prayers, and then some played a football match amid a cheering crowd. The organisers of the demonstration, dubbed the Great Return March, affirmed that the movement is unarmed.
The Israeli army, however, responded with live ammunition, tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets, killing at least 15 Palestinians and injuring more than 1,400.
‘Why are we trapped here?’
The idea for the Great March of Return was floated around several months ago. The main goal was for refugees to demonstrate their Right of Return, based on United Nations Resolution 194 adopted in December 1948. The resolution states that Palestinian refugees “wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date”.
Ahmad Abu Artema, the main organiser behind the campaign, says he came up with the idea about the March of Return when he visited the border with Israel. “When I saw the beauty of our stolen lands, the trees and the picturesque nature of it all, I wondered: why are we trapped here in a coop?” he told Al Jazeera.
Abu Artema then posted a message on his Facebook page asking people whether they would be interested in a peaceful border protest. The majority of responses applauded the idea, which quickly gained traction and received the backing of Palestinian political parties in the Strip, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Fatah and leftist parties.
Asad Abu Sharekh, spokesperson for the campaign, told Al Jazeera that the march is meant to send a message to the international community to actively support the right of Palestinians to return to their lands.
“The international community has approved many resolutions, and it is time to approve the rights of the Palestinian people,” Abu Sharekh said. “Palestinian intellectuals, academics, civil society organisations, students and women all embraced the concept of the march as a peaceful movement, similar to Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement,” he continued.
‘The path is clear’
Friday’s protest initiates the first day of a six-week sit-in demonstration along the border, leading up to the commemoration of the 70th year since the Nakba on May 15. The march was also planned to coincide with Land Day. On March 30, 1976, six unarmed Palestinian citizens of Israel were killed by the Israeli army while protesting against the confiscation of massive tracts of Palestinian land.
“I live in a 70-metre apartment with my wife, children and my grandsons in poverty,” Abu Ezzat al-Burai, a 58-year-old protester who lives in Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza, told Al Jazeera. “We don’t have a future in Gaza – our future is in our original lands.”
The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli land, sea and air blockade for more than a decade. Some 80 percent of the population is dependent on humanitarian assistance, while the Strip experiences regular power outages and high unemployment. It has been dubbed as the largest open-air prison, with Palestinians needing Israeli army permits to enter and exit the Strip.
“We do not need negotiations or aid from the UN. The path is clear. We want to return back peacefully to our lands without bloodshed, tanks or bombs,” al-Burai said. “Today I determined the right path. It is there,” he said, pointing towards the border with Israel.”
IMEU: By the Numbers: Refugees in Gaza
On Land Day, Palestinians demand once and for all that the international community pick the right side of history
“Forty-two years ago today, Israeli police shot and killed six Palestinian citizens of Israel as they were protesting the Israeli government’s expropriation of thousands of donums of Palestinian land. Since then, March 30 has been known as Land Day. It has become a major commemorative date in the Palestinian political calendar and an important event in the Palestinian collective narrative – one that emphasises Palestinian resistance to Israeli colonisation and sumud (steadfastness).
The 1976 protests were a result of mass collective action across historic Palestine, which saw Palestinian communities resisting not only the theft of land but also overall settler colonial policies of erasure. Although there were also protests in the Naqab and Wadi Ara, most of the action took place in six villages in the Galilee that had been placed under curfew: Sakhnin, Arraba, Deir Hanna, Tur’an, Tamra, and Kabul. The demonstrations were met with serious aggression and violence; in addition to the six demonstrators killed, hundreds were injured.
This year, the commemoration of Land Day remains as important as ever because in addition to remembering Palestinian resistance, it reminds us how the domination of space is an integral aspect of the Zionist settler-colonial project. Indeed, settler colonial states the world over are in a constant process of colonising more and more indigenous land while squeezing indigenous peoples into as little space as possible. In Palestine, the colonisation and appropriation of land has been continuous since the establishment of Israel and today it is accelerating at an astonishing speed.
For Palestinians, Land Day presents an opportunity not only to mark a past event, but also to think about creative and resilient ways to further resist Israeli land theft.
Recently this has been highlighted by Israeli political maneuverings in Jerusalem, including the postponed Greater Jerusalem Bill, through which the Israeli government would annex illegal settlements in the West Bank and exclude Palestinian neighbourhoods. Another postponed bill, the Sovereignty Bill, would extend Israeli law to the settlements in the West Bank. Although the votes on both these pieces of legislation have been postponed, they demonstrate an audacious boldness of de facto and de jure annexation. Undoubtedly, the Israeli government is capitalising on the Trump administration’s brazen disregard for international law and international consensus with regards to Jerusalem and Palestine in general.
However, though the current Israeli government is incredibly right-wing with a particularly fascist discourse, it is important to remember that no Israeli government since the state’s establishment has halted settlement building in the West Bank. Settlement building has come hand in hand with the displacement of thousands of Palestinians and the theft of their land. At the same time, across the “Green Line”, no Israeli government has ever approved the building of new towns or communities for its Palestinian citizens and they too continue to have their ancestral lands stolen from them. The aim to occupy more space for the exclusive use of Jewish citizens, while simultaneously shrinking the space in which Palestinians exist has always been the name of the game from the river to the sea.
All the while, the international community has failed to implement the mechanisms that could prevent the colonisation of the West Bank and destruction of Gaza. These include (but are not limited to) implementing sanctions on Israel and supporting Palestinian attempts to take Israel to the International Criminal Court. Yet international players have remained impotent in the face of Israeli colonisation, which has consistently been backed by its ally and fellow settler colony: the US. The West Bank is now an archipelago of non-sovereign Palestinian areas, with all Palestinians facing a system of apartheid.
In spite of this international impotence, Palestinians have not been a passive population and have demonstrated many times their resistance to the settler colonial project and its theft of their land. One prominent example is that of the ongoing fight and resilience of the “unrecognised” Bedouin villages in the Naqab who face near constant home demolition and displacement yet who continue to seek legal recourse and to rebuild. Other resistance strategies include grassroots initiatives such as the Palestinian-erected “protest communities” of Bab el Shams and Ein Hijleh, which were established in an effort to reclaim and re-Palestinianise the land. Overall, Palestinian existence, steadfastness and determination to create space when it is increasingly shrinking parallels many other indigenous peoples’ resolve to resist erasure.
Today around historic Palestine, many protests and initiatives are taking place to mark this important date. Indeed, for Palestinians, Land Day presents an opportunity not only to mark a past event, but also to think about creative and resilient ways to further resist Israeli land theft and to demand once and for all that the international community pick the right side of history. The first steps are simple: states must fulfill their third state responsibilities to hold Israel to account for its war crimes and theft of land. To do this, they must sanction Israel until it withdraws from the territories occupied in 1967, ends its apartheid regime within Israel and complies with the internationally recognised right of return for the Palestinian refugees.
Wikipedia: Land Day
Land Day, March 30, is an annual day of commemoration for Palestinians of the events of that date in 1976. In response to the Israeli government’s announcement of a plan to expropriate thousands of dunams of land for settlement purposes, a general strike and marches were organized in Arab towns from the Galilee to the Negev. In the ensuing confrontations with the Israeli army and police, six unarmed Arab citizens were killed, about one hundred were wounded, and hundreds of others arrested.
Scholarship on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict recognizes Land Day as a pivotal event in the struggle over land and in the relationship of Arab citizens to the Israeli state and body politic. It is significant in that it was the first time since 1948 that Arabs in Israel organized a response to Israeli policies as a Palestinian national collective. An important annual day of commemoration in the Palestinian national political calendar ever since, it is marked not only by Arab citizens of Israel, but also by Palestinians all over the world.
The Arabs of Palestine were a largely agrarian people, 75% of whom made their living off the land before the establishment of the Israeli state. After the Palestinian exodus and the effects of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, land continued to play an important role in the lives of the 156,000 Palestinian Arabs who remained inside what became the state of Israel, serving as the source of communal identity, honor, and purpose.
The Israeli government adopted in 1950 the Law of Return to facilitate Jewish immigration to Israel and the absorption of Jewish refugees. Israel’s Absentees’ Property Law of March 1950 transferred the property rights of absentee owners to a government-appointed Custodian of Absentee Property. It was also used to confiscate the lands of Arab citizens of Israel who “are present inside the state, yet classified in law as ‘absent’.” The number of “present-absentees” or internally displaced Palestinians from among the 1.2 million Arab citizens of Israel is estimated (in 2001) to be 200,000, or some 20% of the total Palestinian Arab population in Israel. Salman Abu-Sitta estimates that between 1948 and 2003 more than 1,000 square kilometers (390 sq mi) of land was expropriated from Arab citizens of Israel (present-absentees and otherwise).
According to Oren Yiftachel, public protest against state policies and practices from among the Palestinian Arabs in Israel was rare prior to the mid-1970s, owing to a combination of factors including military rule over their localities, poverty, isolation, fragmentation, and their peripheral position in the new Israeli state. Those protests that did take place against land expropriations and the restrictions Arab citizens were subject to under military rule (1948–1966) are described by Shany Payes as “sporadic” and “limited”, due to restrictions on rights to freedom of movement, expression and assembly characteristic of that period. While the political movement Al-Ard (“The Land”) was active for about a decade, it was declared illegal in 1964, and the most notable antigovernment occasions otherwise were the May Day protests staged annually by the Communist party.
The government of Israel declared its intention to expropriate lands in the Galilee for official use, affecting some 20,000 dunams of land between the Arab villages of Sakhnin and Arraba, of which 6,300 dunams was Arab-owned. On March 11, 1976, the government published the expropriation plan.
Yiftachel writes that the land confiscations and expansion of Jewish settlements in the northern Galilee formed part of the government’s continuing strategy aimed at the Judaization of the Galilee which itself constituted both a response to and catalyst for Palestinian resistance, culminating in the events of Land Day. According to Nayef Hawatmeh, leader of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), the land was to be used to construct “[…] eight Jewish industrial villages, in implementation of the so-called Galilee Development Plan of 1975. In hailing this plan, the Ministry of Agriculture openly declared that its primary purpose was to alter the demographic nature of Galilee in order to create a Jewish majority in the area.” Orly Halpern of The Jerusalem Post writes that the lands were confiscated by the government for security purposes, and that they were subsequently used to build a military training camp, as well as new Jewish settlements.
Yifat Holzman-Gazit places the 1976 announcement within the framework of a larger plan devised in 1975. Some 1900 dunams of privately owned Arab land were to be expropriated to expand the Jewish town of Carmiel. Additionally, the plan envisaged the establishment between 1977 and 1981 of 50 new Jewish settlements known as mitzpim (singular: mitzpe) which would consist of fewer than 20 families each. The plan called for these to be located between clusters of Arab villages in the central Galilee affecting some 20,000 dunams (30% of which were to be expropriated from Arabs, 15% from Jews, with the remainder constituting state-owned land). David McDowall identifies the resumption of land seizures in the Galilee and the acceleration of land expropriations in the West Bank in the mid-1970s as the immediate catalyst for both the Land Day demonstration and similar demonstrations that were taking place contemporaneously in the West Bank. He writes: “Nothing served to bring the two Palestinian communities together politically more than the question of land.”
Protest of 1976
The government decision to confiscate the land was accompanied by the declaration of a curfew to be imposed on the villages of Sakhnin, Arraba, Deir Hanna, Tur’an, Tamra, and Kabul, effective from 5 p.m. on March 29, 1976. Local Arab leaders from the Rakah party, such as Tawfiq Ziad, who also served as the mayor of Nazareth, responded by calling for a day of general strikes and protests against the confiscation of lands to be held on March 30. On March 18 the heads of the local Arab councils, members of the Labour Party, met in Shefa-‘Amr and voted against supporting the day of action. When news of the decision became public a demonstration developed outside the municipal buildings and was dispersed with tear gas. The government declared all demonstrations illegal and threatened to fire ‘agitators’, such as schoolteachers who encouraged their students to participate, from their jobs. The threats were not effective, however, and many teachers led their students out of the classrooms to join the general strike and marches that took place throughout the Arab towns in Israel, from the Galilee in the north to the Negev in south. Solidarity strikes were also held almost simultaneously in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and in most of the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.
The events of the day were unprecedented. According to the International Jewish Peace Union, “To preempt incidents inside Israel on Land Day, about 4,000 policemen, including a helicopter-borne tactical unit and army units, were deployed in the Galilee […]” During the protests, four unarmed demonstrators were shot dead by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and two more by police. Nahla Abdo and Ronit Lentin write that three of the dead were women, and that, “the army was allowed to drive armoured vehicles and tanks along the unpaved roads of various villages of the Galilee.” About 100 Arabs were wounded and hundreds of others were arrested…
…During the Land Day events, a new sense of national pride, together with anger toward the state and police and sorrow over the dead protesters, developed among the Arab community in Israel. A split erupted between the Arab political parties of Rakah and Abnaa al-Balad. Committed to a two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, Rakah held major reservations about the involvement of Palestinians from the West Bank. Conversely, Abnaa al-Balad’s commitment to the establishment a single democratic Palestine saw the issues of land, equality, the refugees and the occupation as “a comprehensive, integral and indivisible whole.” While Rakah remained committed to a two-state solution, it charted a delicate balance, expressing a Palestinian identity more clearly so as to be more in tune with community sentiment. For example, shortly after Land Day, Tawfiq Ziad declared that, “From now on there will be no communities and religious groups but only a single Arab minority, part of the Palestinian nation.”
Land Day also resulted in the Arabs gaining a presence in Israeli politics in that they could no longer be ignored. Arab civil society in Israel began coordinating with one another more and protests against government policies became more frequent with a focus on three major issues: land and planning policies, socioeconomic conditions, and Palestinian national rights.
The protest did little to stop the 1975 land expropriation plan. The number of mitzpim established reached 26 in 1981 and 52 in 1988. These mitzpim and the “development towns” of Upper Nazareth, Ma’alot, Migdal Ha’emeq and Carmiel significantly altered the demographic composition of the Galilee. While Arabs had comprised 92% of the population of the Galilee in the years following Israel’s establishment, by 1994, that number was reduced to 72% out of a regional population of 680,000, with Jews making up the remaining 28%. Large-scale expropriations of land in the Galilee have generally been avoided by Israeli governments since the 1980s…
…For Palestinians, Land Day has since become a day of commemoration and tribute to those who have fallen in the struggle to hold onto their land and identity. Often serving as a day for the expression of political discontent for Arab citizens of Israel, particularly surrounding issues of equal land and citizenship rights, in 1988, they declared that Land Day should serve as “a Palestinian-Israeli civil national day of commemoration and a day of identification with Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza, to be marked by yearly demonstrations and general strikes.”
Not only did Land Day work to forge political solidarity among Arab citizens of Israel, but it also worked “[…] in cementing the acceptance of the “1948 Arabs” back into the larger Palestinian world and into the heart of mainstream Palestinian nationalism.” The day is commemorated annually by Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, and further afield in refugee camps and among the Palestinian diaspora worldwide. In 2007, the Press Center of the Palestinian National Authority described it “…as a remarkable day in the history of the Palestinian people’s struggle, as the Palestinians in such a particular day embrace the land of their ancestors, their identity and their existence.” However, in recent years, many observers have noted that the Arab population inside Israel seems less enthusiastic about the protests, despite the organizers’ efforts to promote hype. Many see this as a sign of growing reconciliation on the grass-roots level…
Annual commemoration and protests
…In the Land Day demonstrations of 2002, Arab citizens of Israel expressed their solidarity with Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, speaking out against the “Israeli siege of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat‘s headquarters.” The 2005 Land Day commemorations were dedicated to the plight of the unrecognized villages in the Negev, where organizers said 80,000 Arab citizens live without access to basic amenities and 30,000 homes have received demolition orders. Marches in 2008 included one organized in Jaffa where 1,000 Arab citizens used the Land Day commemorations to bring attention what they described as an acceleration in land confiscations in the city, with many complaining that they were facing evictions and demolition orders designed to force them out of their homes in order to settle Jews from abroad in their place.
Calls to launch non-violent resistance actions to protest against ongoing land confiscations regularly occur on Land Day. For example, the BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights issued a press release for Land Day 2006, calling for “boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel” and an end to “racial discrimination, occupation, and colonization.” During the commemorations for Land Day in 2009, a group of 50 Palestinian women singing Palestinian nationalist songs by Marcel Khleifi and some internationals gathered at the Damascus Gate of the Old City of Jerusalem, to hand out posters and T-shirts calling for a boycott of Israeli products.
Also in 2009, thousands of Arab citizens, some carrying Palestinian flags, marched through the towns of Arrabe and Sakhnin, under the banner, “We are all united under Israeli fascism and racism.” Arab Knesset member Talab el-Sana called upon the government, “to put a stop to the racist plans of Judaizing the Galilee and Negev and adopt development policies for all the Galilee and Negev’s residents”. Ynet reported that protests by Palestinians were planned in locations worldwide, including the US, Canada, Germany, Finland, France and Belgium, and that the World Social Forum (WSF) announced the launching of a campaign calling on all of its affiliates to excommunicate Israel. Land Day was also commemorated in Sabra and the Shatila refugee camp via an art exhibition and musical event, and in the Palestinian territories, where Palestinians demonstrated and threw stones near the Israeli West Bank barrier in Naalin and Jayyous.[
In anticipation of Land Day protests of 2012, Israel sealed off the West Bank (but the restrictions did not apply to Israeli settlers). The protests were held in Gaza Strip and the West Bank. In the Gaza Strip, Israeli forces fired at protestors who tried to cross the security fence, resulting in one man killed and 37 injured. At the Qalandia checkpoint, rock-throwing Palestinian youths clashed with Israeli soldiers firing rubber bullets and stun grenades, resulting in 39 Palestinians being injured. In Jordan, 15,000 people, including Palestinians joined in a peaceful sit-in. Palestinian refugees also held demonstrations near Beaufort Castle, Lebanon.
During the 2018 Land Day protests, 17 Palestinians were killed and more than 1,400 were injured in shootings by the Israeli army during a march calling for the Palestinian right of return at the borders with Gaza.”
Palestinian Youth Activist Movement
“To most Jewish Israelis they don’t have names or faces — they are at worst rioters and stone-throwers waving Palestinian flags; at best they are a discriminated-against minority.
Their new activism is partly the result of generational divides and new technologies that have connected them to the rest of the Arab world that had been shut off since the birth of the State of Israel. In part it is the result of recent Israeli attacks against their relatives in the West Bank and Gaza, discriminatory police violence and a long history of political repression.
No small number of factors has helped shape this new generation of Palestinian activists in Israel. They go by different names, define different identities for themselves and have different political tactics and goals. They fight for Palestinian national liberation and Israeli civil rights, prioritizing each based on strategic and tactical considerations, and have varying approaches to mainstream politics.
Most of the young activists describe themselves as Palestinian, and when they take to the streets they wave the Palestinian flag, something that was almost unheard of in previous generations inside Israel. Their national identity and its expression, however, are greatly influenced by living in the Jewish state.
“The first time my father saw me carrying the Palestinian flag, he lost his mind,” says Abed Abu Shhadeh, 26, from Jaffa. “Before Oslo it was illegal to do that, and Palestinians would have been extremely afraid of the flag. Today, we have dozens of them.”
Technically, the flag of the Palestinian Liberation Organization is illegal to display in Israel, and the PLO is still listed as a terrorist organization. In practice, that prohibition hasn’t been enforced since Israel began dealing directly with the Yasser Arafat and the PLO in the 1990s. Much has changed.
This is the third generation of Palestinian citizens of Israel. The first generation experienced the Nakba, the displacement and expulsion of the majority of Palestinians from the borders of present-day Israel in 1948, along with the destruction of nearly all of their villages. The second generation was raised in fear: they were raised by survivors of the Nakba, lived under Israel’s military government and were constantly threatened and controlled by the State, Rawan Bisharat explains.
“The third generation, especially since the Intifada of 2000, is the generation that is rebelling. They are characterized by strength,” she continues. But often times their parents tried to reel them back in. Because of the oppression faced by the previous generation, they are scared by their children’s political expression and its consequences. “They don’t want us to discuss Palestinian national identity with their children, out of fear.”
Rawan, 32, originally from Nazareth, has been living in Jaffa for the past five years, where she is active in political and social movements. She is the Palestinian coordinator of the youth program at Sedaka-Reut, a non-profit focusing on educating Palestinian and Jewish youth to be politically and socially active and on creating bi-national partnerships for social change. She has volunteered with an organization called “Women Against Violence” in Nazareth for over a decade, and works with a group preparing Arab high school students for higher education. “As a Palestinian minority, education is our weapon,” she declares.
Arab-Israeli or Palestinian-Arab: A struggle for identity
While all of the activists I spoke to define themselves as Arab, all of them also put great importance on their Palestinian identity — something that is not self-evident, and which most feel the need to demonstrate and declare.
“Palestinians in Ramallah can say they’re Palestinian and khalas – nobody questions it. But for Palestinians in Israel, we have to stress that component,” Rawan says, adding that when she speaks to Israelis, “I like to say that I’m a ‘48 Palestinian, or a Palestinian with Israeli citizenship, to clarify that there are Palestinians here [in Israel]. There was never a Palestinian state, but Palestinians lived here. My grandmother was Palestinian, and so I am clearly Palestinian.”
Palestinian identity is the fulcrum of this generation’s struggle, explains Hanin Majadli, 25, from Baqa al-Gharbiyye, who has built a sizable Jewish-Israeli fan-base of sorts on Facebook, where she publishes daily Arabic lessons. “We are Palestinians; we are Palestinians who are prevented from self-identifying as such. It’s important for me that Israelis know that I’m not only an ‘Arab-Israeli’ but an Arab-Palestinian. This is a nationality they are trying to obscure.”
In many ways, the growing expression of Palestinian national identity among Arab citizens of Israel is a reaction to contemporary Zionism. As Israeli politics and society shift rightward, Palestinian citizens grasp onto their Palestinian heritage and nationality ever more tightly. According to Abed, far-right nationalist politicians like Avigdor Liberman and Naftali Bennett actually help boost the Palestinian national minority in Israel.
“The crazy laws being passed in the last few years affect people and the way they identify themselves. It’s amazing how a very small group in Israeli society managed to pull everyone to the extreme right,” Abed says, explaining that by everyone, he is also referring to Palestinians.
Even those who wouldn’t otherwise be drawn to Palestinian nationalism embrace it as a defense against the parallel radicalization and intensification of Zionist nationalism, Hanin explains. “I experience the need to hold onto who I am. Palestinians today feel a greater need to stress that they are Palestinian.”
“Just like Hamas, extreme-right religious Jews really believe this is a religious struggle, and in a short period of time they have managed to pull everyone toward the extreme right. Society has come to a point where you can’t even think of an Arab-Jewish coalition. We’ve been pulled so far apart from each other that we can’t even cooperate,” Abed stipulates.
Activism as a product of failed politics
Those same cleavages between Jews and Arabs and the resultant cohesion among them also play out in politics, most recently evidenced by the formation of the Joint List of Arab parties running together in Israel’s upcoming elections. Along with whatever hope the Joint List brings, however, it must deal with a legacy disappointment.
The political organizing and the existence of Arab political parties in Israel is important, Rawan says, but they are unrepresentative of the younger generation and its worldview. “The politicians need to be replaced. Thank you for your hard work, but it’s time to give others a chance.”
To some of these young Palestinians, Arab Knesset members might as well be ornaments on the shelf displayed alongside the Palestinian flag; their presence is merely symbolic.
“Their role is more declarative, rather than as agents for actual change,” explains Majd Kayyal, 23, a journalist and activist from Haifa. The presence of Arab representatives in the Knesset strengthens the existence of political parties and maps out the Palestinian political reality, which is important. “It grants them access to vital information that we are in need of. The transformation that they go through in the Knesset is also important. When they are suddenly silenced, or forced down the podium, it’s a reflection of what’s going on in Israeli society as a whole.”
Despite the festive atmosphere surrounding the Joint List, the younger generation is not compromising; it has high expectations. “There are issues substantial to Palestinians: the return of refugees to their villages, Zionism as a racist, colonial movement, and the inherently racist definition of the state. If the Joint List ignores these and other critical issues, it will become nothing more than a technical channel with access to the Knesset,” Majd adds.
Hanin reaffirms Majd premise: “I generally don’t believe that any change will come out of the Knesset. I don’t believe that the Arab members of parliament are in a position to really change our situation.”
Without a dominant personality taking the lead, these young activists have learned to rely on nobody but themselves to bring about the change they believe they deserve, which primarily bolsters their faith in power of the people. However, not having a dominant, effective leadership has its consequences. Without a central power base, much of their activism takes place without proper coordination or specific demands.
“I do not think there is an organized goal for the future and this is where the problem lies. As Palestinians, we’re not organizing ourselves,” Rawan laments. “These are problems that we have to work on internally.”
The Joint List
The announcement of the Joint List brought winds of hope, and softened many of the younger generation’s sharp stances towards their political leaders. Many view this as an historic moment. Calls to boycott the elections have been replaced with the potential for change promised by the Joint List.
“Before the Joint List was announced, I was against the elections. I was personally going to boycott, even though individual acts of boycott don’t really affect a change,” Rawan reflects in a follow-up interview following the announcement of the Joint List.
“I am going to vote for the List, not only because their decision to unite is encouraging, but also because I honestly fear that our interests won’t make it past the [election] threshold,” explains Hanin. “For me voting is just another tool for fighting the repressive Israeli regime. I might not get much through voting, but I could make their lives harder and expose this fake democracy, which is actually based on religious supremacy,” adds Abed.
By no means does unity conceal some of the very basic and inherent internal differences among the parties, but what Palestinians in Israel understand is that a united front is necessary if any progress is to be made on issues concerning them. “While the Arab world is being divided into religious groups and tribes, we are uniting,” Abed says with pride.
This new political unity, like the new generation of activists witnessing it, is undoubtedly a product of changing times.
Most of those with whom I spoke pointed to the past 15 years as a point of departure for Palestinian citizens of Israel, a markedly new era — both in the way the State views and treats them, and how their generation began standing up to those challenges.
October 2000, Intifada and the Arab world
But something changed in the year 2000. The Oslo peace process of the 1990s gave people hope for a better future, a future of Palestinian national self-determination and for Palestinian citizens of Israel, a future of equal rights and opportunity.
In early October of 2000, coinciding with the failure of the peace process and the start of the Second Intifada, Israeli police killed 13 Arab citizens while breaking up protests in Nazareth and throughout the Galilee.
The killings verified the Palestinian minority’s worst fears: no matter what they did, or how much they were willing to compromise, they would always be treated as second class citizens, simply because they are Arabs.
“The Intifada of 2000 is when everyone experienced a change,” Rawan says. “The political awareness was very evident, and it was clear that we [Palestinians] are all related to one another. On the one hand we have a rise in political awareness, and on the other hand we have a loss of hope in Israeli institutions.”
“Every war and intifada, when people in Jaffa watch the news, they don’t see random people in the streets of Ramallah, they see their relatives in the West Bank or Gaza,” Abed adds. These young activists feel inseparably part of the entire Palestinian people, and that their fates are intertwined.
The year 2000 is also cited as an imperative point in the history of Palestinians in Israel for other reasons. Being largely cut off from the rest of the Arab world up until then, technological progress allowed Palestinians in Israel to reconnect with other Arabs in the region.
“With the introduction of satellite television and the internet as new channels of communication, there was an increase in awareness, in knowledge,” explains Majd Kayyal. “This brought about greater opportunities for sharing information, as well as greater activism. Something began to move since October 2000. People became more impudent, in a positive sense. Several movements became less idle, less afraid.”
Last year, Majd was arrested and held incommunicado for five days upon his return from Beirut where he attended a journalism conference. His visit to Lebanon and his subsequent arrest, was a flag of resurgent pan-Arab Palestinian identity, waved by many Palestinian citizens of Israel.
“Our identity is defined according to our struggle. We are Arab Palestinians. We want to be free Palestinians in order to be Arabs. We want to be free Palestinians so that we can naturally integrate in the Arab world without being disgraced one way or another; so that I can have the opportunity to leave the city and easily live in Cairo, for example, without any headaches,” Majd continues. “The Palestinian identity is crucial for this, just as the Arab identity is needed in order to confront colonialism. The Arab identity, if it weren’t to resist Western, European colonialism, would also become fascist, very much like Saddam Hussein’s regime.”
But identity is neither binary nor a simple idea, whether in the realm of the personal or the political. While these young activists increasingly identify with the Palestinian national movement, they are also Israeli citizens and are struggling for civil rights inside the Jewish state. The idea and reality of being a non-Jew in the Jewish state is a major part of that struggle.
“We are not Israelis,” Hanin says. “We are not Israelis in the most basic sense: the Israeli is Jewish, and the Jew is Israeli. In my opinion the two are synonymous. Israeli is considered a nationality here, and not only a citizenship. Our nationality is Palestinian, and we are a part of the Palestinian people. Yes, I live in a Jewish state, but I’m not Jewish, so I’m not a normal citizen. I am an Arab citizen in an occupying state with a Jewish national identity.”
A struggle for civil rights or national liberation?
So what are young Palestinian Israelis demanding, exactly? Are they leading a civil rights movement or are they part of the Palestinian national struggle?
“I don’t separate between the two nor do I see how they differ from each other,” Rawan answers. “I live here, I want to be a part of this institution and I also want civil equality, but that doesn’t mean I have forgotten the Palestinian cause. I want the Jews to acknowledge the crimes they committed against my people. There is no contradiction: I want them to recognize their wrongs, take responsibility for their actions and make them right, and I also want them to grant me the equality I deserve.”
Hanin elaborates: “The end goal is total liberation from Zionism, but of course any temporary steps taken to improve our status as Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel are welcome. We shouldn’t forget that, despite our long-term goal, we are also citizens of this place, and we want to claim what we deserve as citizens as well.”
Zionism is perceived to be the primary obstacle, both for attaining civil rights, and for achieving freedom for the occupied and besieged Palestinians, Majd explains: “As long as the current political structure remains in place we cannot achieve our civil rights, national independence, or a state within 1967 borders — nothing. As long as there is something called a ‘Jewish state’ built on the foundation of racist, Zionist principles, there is no prospect for change of any kind. No matter how ‘small’ your demands may be, you won’t be able to achieve any progress for Palestinians if that matter remains unaddressed.”
The end game
“When people talk about the conflict, it’s as if they are talking about a conflict between two equal parties,” Abed says. “In reality, one party is significantly stronger than the other, not to mention occupying them and confining them without any space to maneuver political.” Part of protesting and taking to the streets, he adds, is getting Jewish Israelis to “rethink their views about Palestinian citizens, and start to understand that more power won’t get them anywhere.”
While the majority of these activists aspire to change the regime entirely, they operate on an ad hoc basis, and their struggle has no clear vision for the future. “Our ambition is to live in one state where citizenship grants equal to Jews and Arabs, and which doesn’t prefer one over the other or distinguish between Arab and Jew. It might sound a little insane, but if the Berlin Wall was destroyed, and the Ottoman Empire fell after 700 years, then there is hope. Either we do nothing, because nothing is going to change. Or we do something, and believe that it might change things even slightly,” says Hanin.
Rawan even suggests structural ethnic separation as a possible solution: “I think that we as a Palestinian minority in Israel have to start establishing our own organizations and institutions to serve us. We’re still not ready to take on a project like this, and perhaps we don’t have the skills or resources yet, but we at least have to start thinking in this direction.”
“Things might get worse or better. This is something we Palestinians tend to forget – national struggles tend to take hundreds of years. I don’t see a solution in the next 10 years, but as long as there is a will, there is a way,” Abed says. “As long as refugees still want to come back and fight, it is only a matter of time until they do.”
Middle East Monitor: Ahed Tamimi: The symbol of the new defiant Palestinian generation
“The occupation did not take into account the fact that the smart phone would be invented and would be added to the Palestinian trenches during clashes and confrontations in Palestinian cities, villages and refugee camps. Today, after the Palestinian people are winning the battle of image by exposing their reality exactly the way it is, the Israeli propaganda is busy trying to distract the world from this reality and whitewash the military occupation and illegal settlements. The Israeli propaganda machine also tries to justify the construction of walls and imposing a new system of isolation on the Palestinians. While, the Palestinians know that their struggle on the ground will not be decided or won by the camera, they are aware of its impact, at least in depriving the occupation’s propaganda from winning the hearts and minds of the world…
…Ahed (Tamimi) is one of the symbols of a Palestinian generation full of boldness which refuses to keep their anger bottled up. It is a generation that announces its defiance and does not care about the resulting beatings, arrests and even field executions that the occupation forces have increasingly committed against Palestinian minors since October 2015. It has become easy for the soldiers to open fire on these minors in cold blood.
Ahed Tamimi is an example of the development of a new generation of the successive Palestinian intifada generations. This generation that declares its rebellion against the reality of apartheid and systematic intimidation practiced against them by the occupation forces, this includes the arrest campaigns occurring at dawn every morning, accompanied by military attacks on villages and raiding of homes at bedtime. Thousands of Palestinian children have several experiences etched into their memories of being awoken by heavily armed soldiers in their bedrooms, some of whom are masked, and Ahed is one of these children. She had witnessed the arrest of her family members, including her father, Bassem Tamimi, who has been arrested nine times so far, and still seems more determined than ever to challenge the occupation.”
Aljazeera: Palestinian youth: New movement, new borders
“Reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah may present the first victory of a nascent Palestinian youth movement, which earned its moniker, the March 15th movement, from the first day of its mass protests in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Only one day after the launch of their movement demanding an end to the four-year internecine conflict that also divided the West Bank and Gaza, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas announced his willingness to travel to Gaza to engage in unity talks, while other leading Fatah members, aware of the youths’ potential force, opened twitter accounts just to follow the pulse of the movement.
Arguably, the unity government is a preemptive tactic to thwart rising Palestinian discontent, and the increasing relevance of youth protests, in a broader Arab Spring. In fact, on the day of its announcement, Hamas security forces violently dispersed nearly 100 jubilant youth celebrating in Unknown Soldier Square in Gaza for failure to obtain prior approval to congregate. Ibrahim Shikaki, a recent UC Berkeley graduate and Ramallah-based youth organiser comments that Hamas and Fatah have tried to undermine the organisers’ efforts by inhibiting media coverage, accusing its leaders of receiving foreign funding and shifting the focus of the protests to the factional division for fear of “losing grip over power and authority”. In that case, thawed relations alone will not suffice to quell the budding movement.
According to youth leaders, reconciliation is only the first of many demands. The movement which transcends borders, and in some cases, the bounds of qualifying youth age, has its eyes set on rehabilitating the scattered Palestinian national body by holding Palestinian National Council elections that include all Palestinians, regardless of geographic location and circumstance. Its ultimate goal: to reconstruct a Palestinian national programme based upon a comprehensive resistance platform.
Palestinian youth’s Arab Spring
The movement’s horizon may render existing political parties meaningless as invigorated youth activists search for creative ways to shatter the stagnation of their domestic condition in an effort to buttress their ongoing struggle against Israeli colonisation. As put by Khaled Entabwe, a Palestinian-Israeli youth leader in Haifa and a coordinator with Baladna, the Association for Arab Youth: “Our new modes of organising include a direct challenge to entrenched institutional power. We do not want to just memorialise the past, but also to demand a new future.”
Well before the call for the March 15th day of action, Palestinian youth, inspired by revolutionary protests in North Africa, had begun to organise themselves in the global diaspora. In late January, Palestinian students in the UK staged a sit-in in the Palestinian embassy in London and demanded that they, along with all Palestinians wherever they live, “in the homeland, the shatat, in the prisons, and the camps of refuge” be included in an election of a resuscitated Palestinian National Council (PNC).
The students deliberately organised themselves as the General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS) in order to evoke a bygone era of national cohesiveness and, more importantly perhaps, transnational membership in a representative body.
According to Rafeef Ziadah, a doctoral candidate and one of the leading organizers of the UK action:
|Where in the past, Palestinian students would belong to Palestinian political factions and organise within the structures of the General Union of Palestinian Students, these structures are nothing but empty shells today. That is why when we did hold the sit-in at the Palestinian embassy in the UK we insisted on using the name GUPS to take back those institutions meant to represent us.|
Ziadah explains that the protesters’ demands for the inclusion of a global Palestinian national body in an accountable PNC reflects an inevitable moment catalysed by the revelation of the Palestine Papers, coupled with the revolutionary fervour of an Arab Spring. She comments that for several years, Palestinian activists in diaspora had been “wondering what our role is in Palestinian politics beyond solidarity actions”.
Across the Atlantic, similar discussions instigated the formation of the US Palestinian Community Network in 2006. Established with the aim of empowering the US-based Palestinian community, unifying its voice, and affirming “the right of Palestinians in the Shatat (exile) to participate fully in shaping of [their] joint destiny,” the loose national network comprised of nearly a dozen local chapters and an inclusive and fluid leadership, has organised two national popular conferences to date. In its most recent conference in October 2010, the USPCN explicitly encouraged the formation of popular associations, reflecting an effort to revive long-defunct models that had once been the organisational cornerstone of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO).
Factional discord vs unity
In late February, the USPCN’s DC Chapter staged a protest in front of the PLO General Delegation Office – not just to demand inclusion in a revived PNC election, but for the annulment of Oslo and the termination of the Palestinian Authority (PA), among a longer list of pointed demands. The protesters presented the PA with a pink slip for “failure to uphold its duties as a governing body” and for “acting without proper delegation” in the course of its negotiations with Israel.
Reem El-Khatib, a leading member of the USPCN-DC and a communications specialist, acknowledges that while the US-based call is more radical than its counterparts in the OPT and elsewhere, demands for unity and termination of the PA are not in conflict because, “so long as there is corruption in a political representative body, there cannot be a unified stance. Once those who are not truly working for the Palestinian people are dismissed, unity among those who are sincerely working for progress can happen”.
Organisers from Gaza and the West Bank do not agree – or at least they cannot for localised and pragmatic considerations. Mohammed Majdalawi, an aspiring filmmaker and youth activist from Gaza City notes that factional discord has impeded his group’s ability to make more radical demands.
|Our roof is the occupation and our floor, the political factions. In Gaza, nearly all political demands have been associated with one party or the other. If you demand elections you are accused of supporting Fatah and if you support ending Oslo you appear to be supporting Hamas. So, in order to maintain neutrality and establish a popular position, we have demanded an end to the division.|
In the West Bank, Huwaida Arraf, co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement and leading member of the Free Gaza Movement, agrees that factional strife has politicised nearly all demands beyond those for unity. She adds that in the West Bank, where the termination of the PA would impact the source of income for thousands of Palestinian families, limiting the movement’s demands is a tactical decision. Arraf explains, “in order to generate unity and to rehabilitate trust amongst Palestinians, it makes more sense to forcefully challenge the Israeli occupation to heighten your representative status. So rather than say ‘screw you, PA’ you are saying ‘you’ve tried, thank you, now follow us’.”
Youth activists within Israel are doing precisely that. Entabwe points out that within Israel, the annual commemoration of Land Day had become like a wedding ceremony where demonstrators “come to see and be seen, to offer gifts, and go home”. This year youth organisers insisted on different tactics and urged responsible political parties to hold the demonstrations in Lydd or the Negev, where Jewish colonial settlement is ongoing, as opposed to its traditional site in Sakhnin. The group could not reach consensus and the idea was scrapped.
The youth organised their protest anyway and did so on March 29th so as to avoid overlap with traditional Land Day events on March 30th. Entabwe explains that the independent youth organisers successfully drew thousands of people forcing the resistant Palestinian political parties to join them but that, “not a single political party gave a speech that day which created quite a buzz among political circles”.
‘Between continents and countries’
For Entabwe and his counterparts, limiting the role of traditional political parties is the first of their three agreements, as the youth group has yet to agree on a set of demands. Entabwe elaborates: “We have a new conviction that, this time more than any other, that our work should not be based on party lines – and even if parties are involved, their agendas should be taken out of the meetings and everyone present will participate as an individual. Therefore, all decisions can and will be made at the meetings. We are ending the practice of taking positions ‘back to the party’.”
In Lebanon, Palestinian youth are building a movement that similarly responds to their local context as much as it does to their international condition. Rabih Salah, a youth leader and athletics coach who grew up between Ein El Hilweh, Beirut and Yarmouk, describes a four-pronged political program that predominantly responds to local conditions: 1) an end to the siege of the camps; 2) greater civil and political rights, primarily the right to work; 3) more representative Palestinian leaders of unions, parties, and institutions within Lebanon; and 4) the right to return. Salah explains: “We would like to create a national movement in Lebanon so that we can establish more representative bodies. Within Lebanon, we need to be able to elect local representatives that can represent us internationally. If we don’t have locals making the demands for us we won’t be able to make any demands at all.”
While demands and tactics vary between continents and countries, the nascent and global Palestinian youth movement agrees on one thing thus far. As articulated by Shikaki, they seek to hold PNC elections to establish “a body that represents all 10 million Palestinians around the world, and [can] create a national Palestinian strategy”.
In the immediate short-term, youth organisers globally are preparing for Nakba commemorations on May 15th. In the medium short-term, youth are preparing to respond to the proclamation of a Palestinian state. While those plans are not determined yet, most organisers, such as Arraf – who fear that the two-state frame may confine broader calls for human rights, are skeptical of the statehood strategy all together. In the long-term, the scattered youth groupings seek to meet one another and to build a collective vision.
In the words of Entabwe: “I refuse to become a piece of Israeli society with a different path…I am part of the Palestinian solution and my fate is part of a collective fate. We need a representative government to represent all of us.”
Palestinian Youth Activists
“Ahed Tamimi was 11 when I met her, a little blond slip of a thing, her hair almost bigger than she was. I remember her grimacing as her mother combed out the knots each morning in their living room. The second time I went to a demonstration in Nabi Saleh, the West Bank village where she lives, Ahed and her cousin Marah ended up leading the march. Not because they wanted to, but because Israeli Border Police were chasing everyone, and shouting and throwing stun grenades, and she and Marah ran ahead of the crowd. That’s how it’s been ever since. The Israeli military keeps pushing—into the village, into the yard, into the house, beneath the flesh and into the skulls and tissue and bones of her family and her friends—and Ahed ends up out in front, where everyone can see her. She was there again last week after a video of her slapping an Israeli soldier went viral. I can assure you it’s not where she wants to be. She would rather be with her friends, on their phones, doing the things that teenagers do. She would rather be a kid than a hero.
Ahed’s image flew around the world for the first time not long after I met her. In that photo, she was raising her bare skinny arm to shake her fist in the face of an Israeli soldier twice her size. His comrades had just arrested her brother. Overnight she became something no child should ever be: a symbol.
The demonstrations in Nabi Saleh were then in their third year. Israeli settlers had confiscated a spring in the valley between the village and the settlement of Halamish, and Nabi Saleh had joined a handful of other villages that chose the path of unarmed resistance, marching to protest the occupation every Friday, week after week. Ahed’s cousin, Mustafa Tamimi, had already been killed, shot in the face with a tear-gas canister fired out of the back of an Israeli army jeep. Her mother’s brother, Rushdie Tamimi, would not be killed for another few months. In November of 2012, he was shot in the back by an Israeli soldier just down the hill from her house. There was nothing unusual about any of it really, only that the tiny village didn’t stop. They kept racking up losses, and kept marching, every Friday, to the spring. They almost never got close. Most Fridays, before they reached the bend in the road, soldiers stopped them with tear gas and sundry other projectiles. The army came during the week too, usually before dawn, making arrests, searching houses, spreading fear, delivering a message that got clearer each time: your lives, your homes, your land, even your own and your children’s bodies—none of it belongs to you.
Last week, the soldiers came for Ahed. It’s hard for me to understand this now, but I didn’t think it would happen to her. I thought she might be spared this, that she might be allowed to finish school and go on to university and without this interruption become the bold and brilliant woman she will surely one day be. I assumed that her brothers and her male cousins would all at some point go to jail—most of them already have—and that some of them would be injured or worse. Every time I visit Nabi Saleh and look in the children’s faces I try not to wonder who it will be, and how bad. Two Fridays ago, one week before Ahed chased the soldiers from her yard, it was her cousin Mohammad, one of her little brother’s closest friends. A soldier shot him in the face. The bullet—rubber-coated but a bullet nonetheless—lodged in his skull. A week later, he was still in a medically-induced coma.
If you’ve seen the video that led to her arrest, you might have wondered why Ahed was so angry at the soldiers who entered her yard, why she yelled at them to leave, why she slapped them. That’s why. That and a thousand other reasons. Her uncle and her cousin killed. Her mother shot in the leg and on crutches for most of a year. Her parents and her brother taken from her for months at a time. And never a night’s rest without the possibility that she might wake, as she did early Tuesday morning, as she had so many times before, to soldiers at the door, in her house, in her room, there to take someone away.
I didn’t count on the astonishing fearfulness of the Israeli public, or that a video of Ahed, unafraid, slapping a soldier to force him out of her yard, would strike such a hideous nerve. Ahed Tamimi was not jailed for breaking the law—Israel, in its governance of the land it occupies, shows little regard for legality. She was arrested because she was all over the news, and the public and the politicians were demanding that she be punished. They used words like “castrated” and “impotent” to describe how they felt when they looked at that soldier with his helmet and his body armor and his gun and at the kid in the pink T-shirt and blue windbreaker who put him to shame. For all their strength, power, wealth, and arrogance, she had put them all to shame.
The gulf between the two opposing fantasies that define Israel’s self-image has only grown with the years: a country that still imagines itself to be David to the Arab Goliath—noble, outnumbered, and brave—while taking pride in the unrivaled lethality and sophistication of its military. Ahed made both those convictions crumble. Before the world, she had again revealed Israel to be the bully. And watching that video, they knew that their guns are worthless, their strength a sham. For revealing those secrets, for showing the world how weak and fearful they know themselves to be, Ahed had to be punished. And so the defense minister of the country with the most technologically advanced military in the world stooped from his throne to personally promise that not just Ahed and her parents but “everyone around them” would get “what they deserve.” The minister of education was more specific: Ahed should be locked up for life, he said, so serious was her crime.
So far they have arrested Ahed, her mother, Nariman, and her cousin Nour, who were also in the video. They arrested Nariman when she went to the police station to see her daughter and they came back for Nour the next day. The propagandists have been hard at work spreading lies—that Ahed is not a child or is not Palestinian, that the Tamimis are not a family at all, or are every last one of them terrorists, that none of this is real, that the occupation is not an occupation and what you think you see on video is theater staged for foreigners to make Israel look bad. Anything is easier to accept than the truth—that Ahed showed them who they are, and how 50 years of occupation has hollowed them out as a nation, how it makes them weaker and more frightened every day.”
Ahed Tamimi: Living Resistance Tour
Middle East Monitor: Ahed Tamimi: The symbol of the new defiant Palestinian generation
“A girl has defied the occupation with unrivalled courage. Over the past years, the media has broadcasted videos of her daringly confronting the heavily armed occupation soldiers, face to face, and demanding that they leave the territories they are forcibly occupying, indifferent to their threats and attacks. This blond Palestinian girl is 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi who grew up in the village of Nabi Saleh in the West Bank. This village is experienced in the art of popular resistance and mass confrontations with armed occupation soldiers and settlers.
The entire Tamimi family is involved in this tradition, after realising the impact the use of a phone camera has in cornering the occupation soldiers and curbing their usual aggressive behaviour. The soldiers cannot confront a camera that exposes their harassment of the Palestinians across the world and openly reveals their faces.
The occupation did not take into account the fact that the smart phone would be invented and would be added to the Palestinian trenches during clashes and confrontations in Palestinian cities, villages and refugee camps. Today, after the Palestinian people are winning the battle of image by exposing their reality exactly the way it is, the Israeli propaganda is busy trying to distract the world from this reality and whitewash the military occupation and illegal settlements. The Israeli propaganda machine also tries to justify the construction of walls and imposing a new system of isolation on the Palestinians. While, the Palestinians know that their struggle on the ground will not be decided or won by the camera, they are aware of its impact, at least in depriving the occupation’s propaganda from winning the hearts and minds of the world.
Ahed Tamimi was arrested on 19 December 2017. Her mother was then arrested after visiting her at the Israeli army’s detention centre a few hours later. The arrest occurred after Ahed gave the occupation soldiers a dose of admonishment after they gathered around her family’s home in order to attack the young Palestinians in the village. The courageous young girl demanded that they leave immediately, and once they tried to beat her, she, along with her sister, delivered blows and kicks, forcing them to flee. Millions on social networking sites witnessed this, thanks to the smart phone camera.
Ahed is one of the symbols of a Palestinian generation full of boldness which refuses to keep their anger bottled up. It is a generation that announces its defiance and does not care about the resulting beatings, arrests and even field executions that the occupation forces have increasingly committed against Palestinian minors since October 2015. It has become easy for the soldiers to open fire on these minors in cold blood.
Ahed Tamimi is an example of the development of a new generation of the successive Palestinian intifada generations. This generation that declares its rebellion against the reality of apartheid and systematic intimidation practiced against them by the occupation forces, this includes the arrest campaigns occurring at dawn every morning, accompanied by military attacks on villages and raiding of homes at bedtime. Thousands of Palestinian children have several experiences etched into their memories of being awoken by heavily armed soldiers in their bedrooms, some of whom are masked, and Ahed is one of these children. She had witnessed the arrest of her family members, including her father, Bassem Tamimi, who has been arrested nine times so far, and still seems more determined than ever to challenge the occupation.
This Palestinian generation, which is full of anger and rage caused by the reality of the military occupation, does not know the meaning of fear. A reckless American president giving Jerusalem to the Israeli military occupation was enough to ignite the mass popular Palestinian anger that lurks beneath the surface. This seems to be a new wave of anger that has begun to take on the characteristics of an intifada, with the use of stones and smart phones.
The Israeli leadership may believe that it has finally conquered Jerusalem, has cut the path to the establishment of a Palestinian statement, and ensured its control over the land. However, this arrogant logic leads it to a serious predicament, it itself created. The army forces, with their weapons and ammunition, have to chase children in their villages everyday and engage in daily clashes with angry youths at various crossroads and checkpoints. These disturbing incidents are seen by the world, such as the incident when 15 armed soldiers beat a young helpless unarmed Palestinian boy as old as their children. This boy is Fawzi Al-Junaidi, who was subjected to their big fists while he continued to unflinchingly hold his head up high. He is also another symbol of a Palestinian generation the Israeli occupation will not be able to claim domination over.”
Brave Palestinian Girl Ahed Tamimi vs Soldier
“The military said in a statement that the officer (who was slapped by Ahed Tamimi) “acted professionally” but right-wing Israeli politicians described his behavior as humiliating.
Three days after a video clip of the confrontation was broadcast on Israeli television, Tamimi – who can be heard on the video clip shouting at the soldiers to leave – was arrested.
At Thursday’s hearing, in a military courtroom in Ofer prison near the Palestinian city of Ramallah, prosecutors said they intended to indict the teenager on charges that include aggravated assault and insulting a soldier. Prosecutors asked the court to extend her detention for several days to give them time to prepare the charge sheet”
“My feelings are a bit more complex these days. That narrative of Jewish liberation in Israel was and is being challenged for me each day, especially living here again. But the thing that breaks my heart most about this place is that I do still believe in Jewish liberation and resilience.
And yet I see the abuse and dehumanization of Palestinians by the State of Israel. I see the full-on assault on democratic principles. I see the constriction of the minds and hearts of so much of the Jewish public — in Israel and the Diaspora — that reduces all Palestinians to terrorists who deserve to be occupied, jailed, and executed, and reduces those of us who defend them to traitors. It feels like an affront to my history, our history, that I hold so dear. It feels like betrayal.
This week, in the middle of the night, Israeli soldiers burst into Tamimi family home in the West Bank village of Nabi Salah, and arrested 16-year-old Ahed. When her mom went to check on her at an Israeli police station, she too was arrested. Ahed is currently facing at least five more days of detention. Her 21-year-old cousin was also arrested, and her father is being investigated. All because she confronted Israeli soldiers outside her house.
Ahed has lived her entire life under occupation. Her entire life she has watched Jewish settlements expand around her village, encroaching on her community’s land. She has watched soldiers raid her home and harass her family, she has seen members of her village shot, including Mustafa, who was killed after being shot in the face with a tear gas canister, and Mohammed, who this week was shot in the face with a rubber bullet and was in a coma for several days. He is younger than Ahed.
Ahed has been resisting her entire life, fighting for her family and her home against a state and an army that want to crush their will and their power. I am sure much of her daily life also includes the simple joys and trivialities that I enjoyed when I was 16. I do not want to reduce her to a one-dimensional victim of her conditions, or a one-dimensional hero. But she also is both of those things. She is certainly a hero.
If I had a foreign occupier standing on my doorstep, I too would want to push them off. Had my friends and family been hurt by soldiers, they would see no compassion from me. If resisting a foreign military was my regular Friday activity at 16, getting some badass warrior princess action photos in the process would be essential. I also wanted to look hot and badass in my photos when I was 16. And I got to take those photos sitting on my driveway with no soldiers around to bother me.
I think back to my life when I was 16, and the power and freedom I felt from this place. Then I look at Ahed, the freedom and power this place wants to destroy, and I want to weep.
Looking at the images of Ahed in Ofer Military Court, I know we can never truly be free as long as we deny another people their freedom. I wonder what freedom actually means if it takes locking up people like Ahed to secure it.”
Living Under Occupation in Palestine with Janna Jihad
“Nabi Saleh, occupied West Bank – Palestinian Janna Jihad Ayyad, who turned 10 this month, counts herself among the youngest journalists in the world.
A resident of the village of Nabi Saleh in the occupied West Bank, Janna, along with many other local children, regularly participates in demonstrations against the Israeli occupation. She began making videos of what was happening in her village when she was only seven.
“Not a lot of journalists are sending our message from Palestine to the world, so I thought, ‘why not send my message … and show them what is happening in my village’,” Janna told Al Jazeera…
…The deaths of two men in her village – her cousin, Mustafa Tamimi, and another uncle, Rushdie Tamimi – served as a trigger for her to begin documenting everything that was happening in Nabi Saleh. Mustafa was killed by a gas canister and Rushdie was fatally shot in his kidney.
Since then, Janna has expanded her work, travelling with her family and using her mother’s iPhone to shoot videos in Jerusalem, Hebron, Nablus and Jordan. Her videos show everything from people being detained at checkpoints, protest marches and violence against Palestinian children. As a child, she feels she has an advantage over adult reporters: “The soldiers catch the big journalists and take their cameras.”
On Facebook, Janna describes herself as a news personality, and has attracted more than 22,000 followers. Her page includes several videos of her participating in demonstrations and confronting Israeli soldiers. Her reports are delivered in both Arabic and English. “My camera is my gun,” Janna explains. “The camera is stronger than the gun … I can send my message to small people, and they can send it to others.”
Her mother, Nawal Tamimi, says she is both scared for and proud of her young daughter. “I am proud of my daughter because as a child, she tells her message to the world. She shares her fears, what she feels, and the problems of attending school,” Nawal told Al Jazeera.
“But I am scared for her, when the army comes in the middle of the night and tear-gases our house, and we wake up in smoke … They attack our people who demonstrate against the settlers and the Israeli occupation.”
Janna’s uncle, Bilal, says it has been difficult to accept Janna’s work. “She should be playing and studying, but in our life it’s not a choice,” he told Al Jazeera, noting that the family has a history of activism dating back to 1948. “We must teach our children to not accept humiliation and not be cowards. We are under occupation. We cannot teach our children silence; they must fight for their freedom.”
When she gets older, Janna says she would like to work for CNN or Fox News because “they do not talk about Palestine, and I want to make reports on Palestine”.
Israel and US Reactions to Youth Activists
“The discussion amongst Israelis became all about the humiliation suffered by heavily armed soldiers, from a fearless 16-year old girl (Ahed Tamimi) and her bare hands. Culture Minister Miri Regev said: “When I watched that, I felt humiliated, I felt crushed”. She called the incident “damaging to the honor of the military and the state of Israel.” She was echoing her own words from 2015, when Ahed also appeared in a viral video, wrestling a masked Israeli soldier, who was holding her little brother in a headlock and pressing him down on a rock, his broken arm in cast. Then Regev was “shocked to see the video this morning of Palestinians hitting an IDF soldier,” adding that, “It cannot be that our soldiers will be sent on missions with their hands tied behind their backs. It’s simply a disgrace!….We must immediately order that a soldier under attack be able to return fire. Period.”
There was a range of suggestions of what should happen with Ahed and the other girls. Education Minister Naftali Bennett suggested that they “spend the rest of their days in prison”.
But a prominent journalist had a somewhat more cunning suggestion:
“In the case of the girls, we should exact a price at some other opportunity, in the dark, without witnesses and cameras”,
…The IDF was unsatisfied with this image of ‘restraint’. It was too emasculating. The soldiers were repeatedly being called “gays” and “trannies”. Like when Elor Azarya wrote in July 2014, near the beginning of the onslaught on Gaza: “Bibi you transvestite what ceasefire? Penetrate their mother!!!” So when the IDF arrested Ahed on Monday, they filmed it and posted it publicly with official logo (a highly irregular practice in such cases) – to show everyone that the IDF is masculine, as it were. The IDF can arrest 16-year-old girls if it wants to, and we’ll film it ourselves, just watch us…”
“Sixteen-year-old Ahed Tamimi was back in court Thursday, with the judge ruling for the third time that her detention is extended, this time for another five days. Over the past week and a half, Ahed has been shuffled between numerous Israeli prisons and police stations. She has been held in cold isolation cells with cameras pointed at her 24 hours a day. Repeatedly, without a parent or lawyer present, they have attempted to interrogate her. The reasoning for the judge’s rulings to extend her detention is that she “poses a risk” to the military and the Israeli government’s case against her.
Israel is right that Ahed Tamimi poses a risk. But it isn’t a risk to one of the most heavily armed and advanced militaries in the world or to the legal case being built against her. The risk she poses is in her refusal to submit to the Israeli demand that Palestinians acquiesce to their own occupation. Israeli logic is that Palestinians should cooperate with their own oppression. They should move quietly through the checkpoints, open their bags, not look their occupiers in the eye and not challenge or protest the theft of their lands, resources and freedoms. Israeli logic is that if they don’t like it, they can leave. Actually, they would strongly prefer that Palestinians leave. The strategy is to make life so unbearable for Palestinians, that they leave willingly. This even has a name: “voluntary transfer.”
Since Ahed was a young child, she and her family have engaged in active resistance to Israel’s occupation. From 2013 up until the present, they have staged regular demonstrations against the military and the nearby settlers who have taken over their lands and water spring. The protests are met with tear gas, rubber bullets, skunk water and live ammunition.
In 2012, Ahed’s father was declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International. In 2013, her uncle was killed by a tear gas canister shot to the head. In 2014, her mother was almost permanently disabled when she was shot in the leg with a .22 caliber bullet. In 2015, a video of Ahed preventing her younger brother from being arrested went viral. Her cousins and her older brother have spent time in Israeli prisons.
On Friday, December 15, during a protest of President Trump’s announcement of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Ahed’s 14-year-old cousin Mohammed Tamimi was shot in the face with a rubber bullet. He was taken to the hospital where he required surgery and a was placed in a medically induced coma. A few hours later, when armed soldiers came to Ahed’s home demanding to enter, she pushed back. She slapped and kicked them, and screamed that they could not come in.
Shenila Khoja-Moolji wrote in Aljazeera yesterday about the the stark contrast between the support Malala Yousafzai received after being shot in the head by the Taliban and the silence on Ahed’s case by feminist and political leaders. Granted, there is a big difference between being shot on the way to school and arrested after slapping a soldier.
Malala was invited to meet with President Barack Obama. She was championed by Senator Hillary Clinton and listed as one of the 100 most influential people in Time magazine. In 2013 and 2014, Malala was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and in 2014, she won. In contrast, while Ahed’s story has received some coverage in the news, she has yet to find state actors or prominent influencers to champion her cause. While the West seems mostly indifferent to Ahed’s plight, Israel is hell-bent on hating the girl. Israeli Education Minister Neftali Bennett called for Ahed and her family to “spend the rest of their lives in prison.” Minister of Defense Avigdor Liberman said she and her family should “get what they deserve,” and prominent Israeli journalist Ben Caspit said that Israel should “exact a price at some other opportunity, in the dark, without witnesses and cameras.” Caspit afterwards tried to backpedal his threat, saying his words had been taken out of context. But as the #MeToo movement has made clear, denying one’s intentions does not undo or excuse them.
As the #MeToo movement continues to build and uplift more marginalized voices, Ahed’s voice is not recognized when she could be regarded as a pillar in the movement. Ahed is revoking her consent for Israel’s brutal occupation. She refuses to give her consent to Israeli forces that invade her family’s home in yet another vicious, meritless night raid. She confronts her aggressors and stands up to the violent system of power that keeps perpetuating this cycle of abuse against Palestinians. In the same way survivors of sexual assault and rape are silenced, doubted and blamed for the crimes committed against them, Ahed is facing the same backlash from her aggressors. Israel is working overtime to discredit her and erase her voice, with the hope that people will believe their fabrications over her truth. Now is the time for voices in the #MeToo to call for her release and help draw the parallels.
Shenila Khoja-Moolji explains the reasons for such lack of support for Ahed as being due to acceptance of state violence, Western society’s selective humanitarianism and the political, rather than individual nature of Ahed’s feminism. These are all valid and important explanations. But support for Ahed is also a condemnation of the state of Israel. It is a condemnation of Israel’s military court system which allows children to be held in isolation and denied access to their parents during interrogation. It is a condemnation of Israel’s settlement enterprise and continued presence on Palestinian land. To support Ahed is to rebuke Israel’s assertion that Palestinians must comply with their occupiers, that they must open the doors for the soldiers who enter their homes. Certainly their 16-year-old girls must not raise an arm to soldiers. It is one thing to support Malala for taking on the Taliban, but quite another to support Ahed as she takes on Israel’s strongest allies and the purported only democracy in the Middle East.
Not all feminist leaders are afraid to express support for Ahed. CodePink is hosting a petition to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, demanding Ahed’s release. We, along with others, like Jewish Voice for Peace, are asking Members of Congress to sign onto Representative Betty McCollum’s legislation to require that U.S. aid to Israel not go to the abuse and detention of Palestinian children.
Ahed is a threat to Israel’s entire system of power. She is not only aware of her own internal power, she is completely unafraid of her aggressors. This is the same bravery required for sexual assault survivors to tell their stories and hold their accusers responsible. It is the essence of the struggle for women’s rights and why feminism is so incompatible with militarism. For Ahed to be successful in her fight for the liberation of her people, we first need her to be released from jail. To make this happen, we need all people who call themselves feminists and human rights advocates to say #FreeAhed.”
“There has been a curious lack of support for Ahed from Western feminist groups, human rights advocates and state officials who otherwise present themselves as the purveyors of human rights and champions of girls’ empowerment.
Their campaigns on empowering girls in the global South are innumerable: Girl Up, Girl Rising, G(irls)20 Summit, Because I am a Girl, Let Girls Learn, Girl Declaration.
When 15-year-old Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by a member of Tehrik-e-Taliban, the reaction was starkly different. Gordon Brown, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, issued a petition entitled “I am Malala.” The UNESCO launched “Stand Up For Malala.”
Malala was invited to meet then President Barack Obama, as well as the then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and addressed the UN General Assembly. She received numerous accolades from being named one of the 100 Most Influential People by Time magazine and Woman of the Year by Glamour magazine to being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013, and again in 2014 when she won.
State representatives such as Hillary Clinton and Julia Gillard as well as prominent journalists such as Nicholas Kristof spoke up in support of her. There is even a Malala Day!
But we see no #IamAhed or #StandUpForAhed campaigns making headlines. None of the usual feminist and rights groups or political figures has issued statements supporting her or reprimanding the Israeli state. No one has declared an Ahed Day. In fact, the US in the past has even denied her a visa for a speaking tour.
Ahed, like Malala, has a substantial history of standing up against injustices. She has been protesting the theft of land and water by Israeli settlers. She has endured personal sacrifice, having lost an uncle and a cousin to the occupation. Her parents and brother have been arrested time and again. Her mother has been shot in the leg. Two years ago, another video featuring her went viral – this time she was trying to protect her little brother from being taken by a soldier.
Why isn’t Ahed a beneficiary of the same international outcry as Malala? Why has the reaction to Ahed been so different?
There are multiple reasons for this deafening silence. First among them is the widespread acceptance of state-sanctioned violence as legitimate. Whereas hostile actions of non-state actors such as the Taliban or Boko Haram fighters are viewed as unlawful, similar aggression by the state is often deemed appropriate.
This not only includes overt forms of violence such as drone attacks, unlawful arrests, and police brutality, but also less obvious assaults such as the allocation of resources, including land and water. The state justifies these actions by presenting the victims of its injustices as a threat to the functioning of the state.
Once declared a threat, the individual is easily reduced to bare life – a life without political value. Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben has described this as a time/place sanctioned by sovereign power where laws can be suspended; this individual can therefore now be made a target of sovereign violence. Terrorists often fall within this category. Thus, the execution of suspected terrorists through drone attacks without due judicial process ensues without much public uproar.
The Israeli police have deployed a similar strategy here. They have argued for extending Ahed’s detention because she “poses a danger” to soldiers (state representatives) and could obstruct the functioning of the state (the investigation).
Casting unarmed Palestinians like Ahed – who was simply exercising her right to protect her family’s wellbeing with all the might of her 16-year-old hand – in the same light as a terrorist is unfathomable. Such framings open the way for authorising excessive torture – Israel’s education minister Naftali Bennett, for instance, wants Ahed and her family to “finish their lives in prison.”
Ahed’s suffering also exposes the West’s selective humanitarianism, whereby only particular bodies and causes are deemed worthy of intervention.
Anthropologist Miriam Ticktin argues that while the language of morality to alleviate bodily suffering has become dominant in humanitarian agencies today, only particular kinds of suffering bodies are read as worthy of this care.This includes the exceptionally violated female body and the pathologically diseased body.
Such a notion of suffering normalises labouring and exploited bodies: “these are not the exception, but the rule, and hence are disqualified.”
Issues of unemployment, hunger, threat of violence, police brutality, and denigration of cultures are thus often not considered deserving of humanitarian intervention. Such forms of suffering are seen as necessary and even inevitable. Ahed, therefore, does not fit the ideal victim-subject for transnational advocacy.
Relatedly, girls like Ahed who critique settler colonialism and articulate visions of communal care are not the empowered femininity that the West wants to valourise. She seeks justice against oppression, rather than empowerment that benefits only herself.
Her feminism is political, rather than one centred on commodities and sex. Her girl power threatens to reveal the ugly face of settler-colonialism, and hence is marked as “dangerous”. Her courage and fearlessness vividly render all that is wrong with this occupation.
Ahed’s plight should prompt us to interrogate our selective humanitarianism. Individuals who are victims of state violence, whose activism unveils the viciousness of power, or whose rights advocacy centres communal care, deserve to be included in our vision of justice.
Even if we don’t launch campaigns for Ahed, it is impossible for us to escape her call to witness the mass debilitation, displacement and dispossession of her people. As Nelson Mandela said, “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”
The Intercept: Facebook Says It Is Deleting Accounts at the Direction of the U.S. and Israeli Governments
“In September of last year, we noted that Facebook representatives were meeting with the Israeli government to determine which Facebook accounts of Palestinians should be deleted on the ground that they constituted “incitement.” The meetings — called for and presided over by one of the most extremist and authoritarian Israeli officials, pro-settlement Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked — came after Israel threatened Facebook that its failure to voluntarily comply with Israeli deletion orders would result in the enactment of laws requiring Facebook to do so, upon pain of being severely fined or even blocked in the country.
The predictable results of those meetings are now clear and well-documented. Ever since, Facebook has been on a censorship rampage against Palestinian activists who protest the decades-long, illegal Israeli occupation, all directed and determined by Israeli officials. Indeed, Israeli officials have been publicly boasting about how obedient Facebook is when it comes to Israeli censorship orders:
Shortly after news broke earlier this month of the agreement between the Israeli government and Facebook, Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said Tel Aviv had submitted 158 requests to the social media giant over the previous four months asking it to remove content it deemed “incitement.” She said Facebook had granted 95 percent of the requests.
She’s right. The submission to Israeli dictates is hard to overstate: As the New York Times put it in December of last year, “Israeli security agencies monitor Facebook and send the company posts they consider incitement. Facebook has responded by removing most of them.”
What makes this censorship particularly consequential is that “96 percent of Palestinians said their primary use of Facebook was for following news.” That means that Israeli officials have virtually unfettered control over a key communications forum of Palestinians.
In the weeks following those Facebook-Israel meetings, reported The Independent, “the activist collective Palestinian Information Center reported that at least 10 of their administrators’ accounts for their Arabic and English Facebook pages — followed by more than 2 million people — have been suspended, seven of them permanently, which they say is a result of new measures put in place in the wake of Facebook’s meeting with Israel.” Last March, Facebook briefly shut down the Facebook page of the political party, Fatah, followed by millions, “because of an old photo posted of former leader Yasser Arafat holding a rifle.””
A 2016 report from the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms detailed how extensive the Facebook censorship was:
Pages and personal accounts that were filtered and blocked: Palestinian Dialogue Network (PALDF.net) Gaza now, Jerusalem News Network, Shihab agency, Radio Bethlehem 2000, Orient Radio Network, page Mesh Heck, Ramallah news, journalist Huzaifa Jamous from Abu Dis, activist Qassam Bedier, activist Mohammed Ghannam, journalist Kamel Jbeil, administrative accounts for Al Quds Page, administrative accounts Shihab agency, activist Abdel-Qader al-Titi, youth activist Hussein Shajaeih, Ramah Mubarak (account is activated), Ahmed Abdel Aal (account is activated), Mohammad Za’anin (still deleted), Amer Abu Arafa (still deleted), Abdulrahman al-Kahlout (still deleted).
Needless to say, Israelis have virtually free rein to post whatever they want about Palestinians. Calls by Israelis for the killing of Palestinians are commonplace on Facebook, and largely remain undisturbed.”
As Al Jazeera reported last year, “Inflammatory speech posted in the Hebrew language … has attracted much less attention from the Israeli authorities and Facebook.” One study found that “122,000 users directly called for violence with words like ‘murder,’ ‘kill,’ or ‘burn.’ Arabs were the No. 1 recipients of hateful comments. Yet there appears to be little effort by Facebook to censor any of that.”
Though some of the most inflammatory and explicit calls for murder are sometimes removed, Facebook continues to allow the most extremist calls for incitement against Palestinians to flourish. Indeed, Israel’s leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, has often used social media to post what is clearly incitement to violence against Palestinians generally. In contrast to Facebook’s active suppression against Palestinians, the very idea that Facebook would ever use its censorship power against Netanyahu or other prominent Israelis calling for violence and inciting attacks is unthinkable. Indeed, as Al Jazeera concisely put it, “Facebook hasn’t met Palestinian leaders to discuss their concern.””
AJ+: Why is Facebook taking some Palestinian accounts offline
“Twitter appears to have removed the account of imprisoned teenage Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi, according to RT. Activists quickly created a new account calling on the social media platform to reinstate the detained teenagers account…
…Although it remains unclear if Twitter actually removed Ahed Tamimi’s account, the social media platform has a history of collaborating with Israeli authorities. Last year, Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said Twitter removed content deemed “harmful”.
Women Led Nonviolent Movements
Julia Bacha: Pay attention to nonviolence
In 2003, the Palestinian village of Budrus mounted a 10-month-long nonviolent protest to stop a barrier being built across their olive groves. Did you hear about it? Didn’t think so. Brazilian filmmaker Julia Bacha asks why we only pay attention to violence in the Israel-Palestine conflict — and not to the nonviolent leaders who may one day bring peace.
Al-Jarzeera: Palestinian women lead resistance in Budrus
Fighting back against Israel’s incursions has become second nature for residents of the West Bank village.
“Ramallah, occupied West Bank – When Israeli military jeeps approached the village of Budrus last month, every resident was notified within minutes. Through the speakers of the village’s mosque, a warning was issued: Israeli forces had entered the area and were preparing to demolish a house.
Men, women and children rushed towards the site of the impending demolition. The village’s women were the first on the scene. “There was no organising meeting or discussion beforehand. We knew right when we arrived exactly what we had to do to stop them,” resident Najia Awad told Al Jazeera.
|Najia Awad says that residents immediately rush to resist whenever there are reports of Israeli forces on village lands [Jaclynn Ashly/Al Jazeera]|
Najia and several other women pushed past Israel‘s forces and inside the house slated for demolition, until Israeli soldiers and border police began to block other women doing the same. “We descended from the house and began screaming at the soldiers and trying to distract them,” she recalled.
At the same time, other women surrounded the Israelis and pulled women from their grip, allowing more women to rush inside the house. The women formed a line at the entrance and along the roof of the house, standing firm and silently. The Israeli soldiers, all strapped with M16s, quickly retreated.
This was not the first time that the women of Budrus have claimed victory against Israeli incursions on their lands. They led the village’s resistance movement against Israel’s separation barrier in 2003, and say that they have successfully defended 95 percent of their land from Israeli confiscations.
Today, more than a decade since their non-violent protests first gained headlines, resistance in the village has become second nature.
|When I hear about the Israeli forces on our land, I don’t run to collect my children and husband to prepare for the resistance. I know once I arrive at the site, I will see them there.|
“The first thing all of us do when we wake up in the morning is check the community Facebook page,” Najia said. The page includes posts about all activities in the village, including sightings of Israeli forces. Details of such incidents are then broadcasted to all residents via the local mosque.
“We don’t hold formal meetings or design a plan before an action any more,” Najia said. “When I hear about the Israeli forces on our land, I don’t run to collect my children and husband to prepare for the resistance. I know once I arrive at the site, I will see them there.”
Resident Nasser Morrar told Al Jazeera that unlike resistance movements in a few surrounding villages – heavily dependent on weekly marches, international support and media presence – the resistance in Budrus has evolved into spontaneous community action and self-defence.
“When the Israelis are not here constructing the barrier wall or detaining residents, then we don’t react or plan marches. But when they come, we force them to leave,” he said.
Muna Morrar, Nasser’s wife and a mother of four, said that the community’s resistance was a “natural response”, noting that their daughters and sons were literally born into the resistance. Muna’s daughter, now 15, was just 18 months old when she was first brought to the frontlines of resistance, strapped to her mother’s hip as Muna raced to confront Israeli soldiers with the rest of her village.
“Every resident in Budrus is involved in the resistance,” Muna told Al Jazeera. “I have to be with my community to help defend our lands. And if I were to leave my daughter at home when the Israelis come, there would be no one left in the village to watch her.”
|‘I have to be with my community to help defend our lands,’ says Muna Morrar [Jaclynn Ashly/Al Jazeera]|
Muna even participated in the resistance while pregnant with her son, now 12. During one incident, Israeli forces fired a significant amount of tear gas, and Muna was forced to give birth during her eighth month of pregnancy after undergoing surgery. Doctors said the premature birth was due to the effects of the tear gas.
The community has successfully prevented many residents from being detained by Israeli forces. Muna recalled one such incident several years ago, when Israeli soldiers raided her home and attempted to detain her cousin.
“They handcuffed him and began dragging him out to the Israeli military jeep,” she said. “I began to feel so angry, and without even thinking, I opened the back door of the jeep and started dragging him out.”
Although the soldiers beat her and attempted to pull her away from the jeep, she said, Muna refused to let go of her cousin. Her screams travelled throughout the village, until everyone had poured out of their homes and arrived at the scene.
“The soldiers were so overwhelmed by all these villagers confronting them that they took my cousin from the jeep, unlocked his handcuffs, and handed him back to us,” Muna said.
The women of Budrus note that resistance is more difficult at night, when Israeli forces typically stage raids as residents are sleeping, making it more difficult for news to spread.
“No mother in the world would accept soldiers coming to their home in the night to detain their sleeping son,” said Najia, whose 22-year-old son was recently detained during an overnight raid. “But, we still try to prevent the detentions, even if it’s just to delay the soldiers in time for our children to escape.”
Amira Awad, a soft-spoken mother of seven, experienced every mother’s nightmare when one of her children, 21-year-old Lafee, was fatally shot by Israeli forces during a non-violent protest in 2015.
|Amira Awad’s son, Lafee, was killed by Israeli forces during a non-violent protest in 2015 [Jaclynn Ashly/Al Jazeera]|
“Our resistance has always been non-violent,” Amira told Al Jazeera from her home in Budrus, where posters and framed portraits of Lafee decorate the walls and shelves. “But even though we are unarmed, they still kill us. They still made my son a martyr.”
According to Amira, Lafee had stayed behind after a protest against the separation barrier, when clashes broke out with Israeli forces. He was ambushed by a group of soldiers who attempted to detain him, but he resisted and wriggled out of their grasp.
As he began running towards his home, an Israeli sniper positioned nearby shot him with a live bullet in his back. He was pronounced dead shortly afterwards.
“They killed an innocent person,” Amira said, slowly shaking her head. “When something like this happens, you want revenge. But revenge for us is continuing our resistance, stopping this occupation, and forcing these soldiers back where they came from.”
The death of her son has strengthened Amira’s commitment to the resistance. “I used to be really afraid of these soldiers, but after they killed Lafee; I have no more fear,” she said. “Every time they come on our land, I face them with the rest of my community, and I remind them of how they killed my son.”
The women in Budrus encourage others throughout the occupied Palestinian territories to lead similar resistance efforts in their own communities.
“We want other communities to face these soldiers, because they can be stopped,” Najia said. “Whatever these Israelis do to you, when you stand up to them, [it] will not destroy you. You can beat them. And each time you win, your resistance will become stronger.””
How women wage conflict without violence | Julia Bacha
Are you setting out to change the world? Here’s a stat you should know: nonviolent campaigns are 100 percent more likely to succeed than violent ones. So why don’t more groups use nonviolence when faced with conflict? Filmmaker Julia Bacha shares stories of effective nonviolent resistance, including eye-opening research on the crucial leadership role that women play.
“As an eight-year-old child in 1969, Ayesh witnessed the aftermath of the demolition of her family home in Palestine by Israeli forces.
That particular event would ignite what she refers to as her “hostility” towards the military occupation, which she later channelled into her activism. As a result, Ayesh’s personal choices were irreversibly fused with her political aspirations.
“The political and the personal are one and the same to me,” Ayesh says. “In fact, daily life in Palestine is political for all Palestinians,” she says.
Ayesh was hooded and beaten, left out in the freezing cold and rain overnight, tied to a chair and dragged along the ground during her detention
“To be here and to talk about this story is not something that’s easy for me,” Ayesh told an audience at the Barbican during the annual Human Rights Watch Film Festival in London, which opened with Naila and the Uprising on International Women’s Day last week.
“It really takes me back to the pain I felt at that time, and after all that pain, until now, here we are, still under the occupation.”
The pain Ayesh speaks of is indeed bleak.
With a firm belief that she needed to arm herself with education, in the early 80s Ayesh secured a scholarship to complete her studies at the Academy of Science in Bulgaria.
While she was there, she met student activists from all over the Arab world who were committed to the Palestinian cause, among them, her husband-to-be, Jamal Zakout.
Galvanised by tragedy
After returning to Ramallah, under Israel’s watchful eye, Ayesh focused her attention on women’s issues and joined the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Although Israel had criminalised political organising by Palestinians, Ayesh persisted. By 1987, Israel had started closely monitoring the movements of both Ayesh and Zakout.
Ayesh concealed the pamphlets in loaves of bread and delivered them to families in Gaza’s refugee camps
One evening that year, while eating supper at home with her husband in Gaza, Ayesh, who had recently learned she was pregnant, was arrested by Israeli forces. Ayesh was taken to the Maskubia Prison in Jerusalem, where she was interrogated about her political activities for two weeks.
According to the documentary, Ayesh was hooded and beaten, left out in the freezing cold and rain overnight, tied to a chair and dragged along the ground during her detention. Her pleas to the prison guards for medical assistance fell on deaf ears and the torture culminated in a tragic miscarriage.
Rather than breaking Ayesh’s spirits, that harrowing sequence of events galvanised her.
In 1988, Zakout was deported from Gaza to Cairo for his political activities, mere days before Ayesh gave birth to their first child Majd. She joined forces with women in Gaza whose spouses had also been sent into exile.
Together, they built parallel institutions to upend Israel’s military control of daily life. Israel responded harshly to the refusal of Palestinians to pay taxes, their boycotting of Israeli products and their political mobilisation by imposing curfews, conducting mass arrests, closing Palestinian schools and attacking demonstrators with force.
The fierce women responded by organising mass political strikes, teaching in underground classrooms when Israel shut down educational institutions, helping run makeshift clinics, and growing local produce to counter Israel’s agricultural control.
Months after her husband was deported, the Israeli authorities held Ayesh in administrative detention for six months over her “political activities”. Upon her release, Ayesh resumed her activism and secretly distributed bulletins with calls to action including demonstrations, general strikes, and the boycott of Israeli goods.
After all that pain, until now, here we are, still under the occupation
– Naila Ayesh
Ayesh concealed the pamphlets in loaves of bread and delivered them to families in Gaza’s refugee camps, whilst carrying her newborn in a sling over her back.
The major political factions each had their own women’s committees, which regularly took to the streets to air their grievances. The results of that pressure were tangible, putting a strain on the Israeli economy and ultimately forcing the international community to the negotiating table at the Madrid Peace Conference in 1991.
Disrupting the narrative
It is, perhaps, fitting that Naila and the Uprising looks back rather woefully upon the Oslo Accords, the 1993 agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) which was meant to result in a “two-state solution” within five years.
According to Bacha, the Oslo Accords marred the successes of the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference, which was the first time Israel and its Arab neighbours sat down at the negotiating table together.
“The Palestinians actually had quite a bit of power [in Madrid] because they had this wind of grassroots behind them,” she says. “Oslo was a coup against that. And it really was a removal of power from the grassroots.”
Women were excluded from the Oslo negotiations and from the subsequent formation of the Palestinian National Authority, despite being part of the Palestinian delegation in Madrid and having played such a critical role in the struggle for liberation.
Research has shown that political movements which include women, particularly at leadership levels, are more likely to adopt non-violent measures and achieve their goals.
The Palestinian women’s involvement in the First Intifada, according to Bacha, and the intensification of the occupation in their absence from the Palestinian political process after the Oslo Accords, is consistent with those findings.
Ayesh understandably looks back on the First Intifada with a palpable sense of nostalgia.
“The situation is different today. There are so many differences among the main political parties that have blocked the youth from mobilising in the same way that we did during the Intifada,” she says, noting the irony that technological advances including social media haven’t helped the younger generation move past these challenges.
“I say this with some bitterness. Look at all those who have suffered, who have lost their lives and their homes and who have endured so many hardships under the occupation. Despite all of that pain, we haven’t been able to come together and to rise up.”
Education as a weapon
The dire state of the Arab world combined with the continued expansion of Israeli settlements, the election of US President Donald Trump, and his decision to move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem begs the question: is there any room for hope?
“These are all signals to the Palestinians that we need to focus on being united,” Ayesh says. “I won’t tell you I’m very hopeful. But I will tell you that we should never give up hope.”
Education for a woman is like a weapon in her hands
– Naila Ayesh
When MEE asks Ayesh what she would tell a young girl facing war, terrorism, misogyny or tyranny anywhere in the Arab world or beyond today, whether in Palestine, Syria, Yemen, Egypt, or Iraq, she says one word repeatedly: “education”.
“Education for a woman is like a weapon in her hands,” she says, referring back to her time in Bulgaria. “After earning an education, a woman can choose to take whichever path she wishes to take. But education is crucial to empowerment.”
Ayesh, who is now based in Ramallah, remains committed to social work, the empowerment of women and the advancement of women’s leadership in political and public life.
She recently visited the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh to show her support to Ahed Tamimi in her hometown. Tamimi is the 17-year-old Palestinian activist who’s facing up to a decade in an Israeli military prison after being detained for an altercation with Israeli soldiers.
“There’s an important message in the film for this generation, conveyed through my son,” Ayesh says. “The older generation has played its part. Now it’s time for the youth to play an active role in the future.”
“I want to continue focusing on women, and the role we can play in bringing people back together. I want to see younger women playing an even bigger role in society,” she says. “Our struggle isn’t over, and we’re not going anywhere.””
Naila and the Uprising
5 Broken Cameras
An extraordinary work of both cinematic and political activism, 5 Broken Cameras is a deeply personal, firsthand account of non-violent resistance in Bil’in, a West Bank village threatened by encroaching Israeli settlements. Shot almost entirely by Palestinian farmer Emad Burnat, who bought his first camera in 2005 to record the birth of his youngest son, the footage was later given to Israeli co-director Guy Davidi to edit. Structured around the violent destruction of each one of Burnat’s cameras, the filmmakers’ collaboration follows one family’s evolution over five years of village turmoil. Burnat watches from behind the lens as olive trees are bulldozed, protests intensify, and lives are lost. “I feel like the camera protects me,” he says, “but it’s an illusion.”
Examples of Dispproving Israel False Narratives and Exposing Israel Brutality
Disproving Israel’s Self Defence Narrative at the Great March of Return
Israeli Soldier Throws Grenade at Couple With Baby
Viral Photo Exposing the brutality of the Israel soldier treatment of Palestinian boys. This boy was falsely accused of throwing Rocks and was detained and tortured
Palestinians Activist Art
Wikipedia: Israeli West Bank barrier: Art, books, film
“The wall has been used as a canvas for many paintings and writings. It has been called the “world’s largest protest graffiti”. Some of these (but not all) have been removed by the Israelis, and sometimes by people on the Palestinian side. Graffiti on the Palestinian side of the wall has been one of many forms of protest against its existence, demanding an end to the barrier, or criticizing its builders and its existence (“Welcome to the Ghetto-Abu Dis” and “Blessed are the Peacemakers”). In August 2005, U.K. graffiti artist Banksy painted nine images on the Palestinian side of the barrier.
In an expression of frustration, Palestinian artist “Trash”, glued the lower part of a leg on the wall that is appearing to kick through it.”
The wall in Bethlehem is lined with heart-wrenching Palestinian recollections of incidents of Israeli oppression. This particular poster is about a young Palestinian woman who miscarried as a result of tear gas attacks during the 2nd intifada. Soon after she had a check-up in Jerusalem and, right after, she saw a young Israeli boy precariously playing on a rail above a steep drop. She saw what was about to happen to him, hesitated for a split-second about whether to save him or not, all things considered, then her motherly instincts compelled her to run to his rescue. It’s tale after tale after tale of this nature.
Beware of Graffiti Tourist
Aljazeera: Palestinians hit back at graffiti tourists
We Teach Life, Sir
Mohammed al Hawajari, website
Naila and the Uprising
The Joint List Arab Coalition
“There’s just one day left before the Israeli public votes to decide who will lead their nation as the Middle East region continues to smolder. However, it’s still anyone’s guess as to whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party will continue the policies of the past six years of rightwing power, or the Zionist Union, a partnering of the Israeli Labor Party headed by Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni’s Hatnuah party, will move Israel to the left.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect is that the party who might well decide isn’t Jewish, Zionist, left, or right wing. It’s the Joint List, a ticket made up of four predominately Arab political parties ranging from Communist to Islamist, and it’s the first time that they’re in a position to be Israel’s kingmakers. But, if they have their way, they may end up killing the king.
“If it was our decision, it wouldn’t be Netanyahu, Livni, or Herzog as the next prime minister,” MK Hanin Zoabi, a Palestinian citizen of Israel and member of the Balad party, one of the four in the Joint List, told VICE News. Zoabi has always had a tumultuous relationship with the state of Israel. The lawmaker is frequently seen at demonstrations, and altercations between Zoabi and the Israeli police are common. Last year, she was banned from addressing the Knesset [Israeli parliament] for saying that those responsible for the kidnapping of three teenage Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank were not terrorists. The ban was later repealed by Israel’s high court.
Then, the electoral threshold for winning seats in the Knesset was raised from 2 percent to 3.25 percent in a move that many saw as a way to keep the smaller Arab political parties, which represent Israel’s 1.7 million Arab citizens, out. Instead, they decided to put aside their ideological differences and run together, ensuring that the Arab minority still had a voice. “The motive of raising the electoral threshold was to politically transfer Palestinians from the government, to have a clean Knesset without Arabs,” Zoabi continued. “The result has been the opposite.”
According to recent polls, Zionist Union, which has the expressed purpose of pre-empting a fourth term for Netanyahu, will win 26 seats, with Likud coming in second at 22. The Joint List will come third, with 13 seats. If the Joint List doesn’t throw its support behind the Zionist Union, a center-left coalition governing Israel becomes highly unlikely.
According to Zoabi, there is no possibility of the Joint List working with the Zionist Union or any other Zionist parties. Ayman Odeh, the head of the Joint List and member of the Jewish-Arab Israeli communist party was on the verge of making a vote sharing agreement with Meretz, a small Zionist-Leftist party, but the move was reportedly blocked by Zoabi’s Balad party.
This was “a decision taken by many within the Joint List,” she said.
However, the choice to refuse cooperation with all Zionist parties may not be final. VICE News spoke with Dr. Yousef Jabareen, the Joint List spokesman, about his party’s role in the next Israeli government.
“We will focus our efforts to block the return of Netanyahu leading the government,” he said, expanding this to stopping the return of “any sort of extreme right-wing government.”
When asked if that meant that the Joint List would be open to recommending that Herzog and the Zionist Union lead the next government, Jarabeen replied: “It’s too early to decide now about our plan after the election, but we hope to lead the opposition and gain seats in the Knesset’s committees.”
For Jabareen, the most important issue blocking cooperation with Herzog is what he sees as the unfair treatment of Palestinians. “We can’t be part of a government that is going to continue the occupation of West Bank, the siege and constant attacks on Gaza, or the discriminatory policies towards our constituency, mainly the Arab community,” he told VICE News.
According to Haifa-based Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, there are more than 50 discriminatory laws that disadvantage the Arab minority in the country. Jabareen hopes to challenge these measures by using the newfound power of the Arab parties to initiate reforms. He hopes to see Joint List candidates on Knesset committees that deal with education, economic, social, and legal issues. Jabareen said that over 50 percent of Arab citizens of Israel are living in poverty, and that this is a direct effect of the state’s discriminatory policies.
Certain Israeli politicians are not thrilled about working with Arab colleagues, such as Zoabi. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman recently said that “disloyal” Arabs should be beheaded with an axe.
Zoabi added that incitement against Palestinians is “part of Israeli political culture,” but rhetoric from the likes of Lieberman doesn’t intimidate her. While it doesn’t encourage her, either, Zoabi said she is determined to work past the current dichotomy of Israeli versus Palestinian, especially within the borders of present-day Israel.
“I cannot accept the choices of either to cooperate with your oppressor or to be isolated,” Zoabi said. “This is a defeatist attitude.”
And like any good campaigning politician, Zoabi is sure that her party holds the answer to the issues that dominate Israeli society, especially the question of coexistence. “We represent a vision of justice, equality. This is not only for the benefit of Palestinians, but the benefit of the Jewish people, too. [The Joint List] believes in universal values, and we believe in full equality,” she said. “We are the true test for Israeli democracy,” Zoabi concluded.”
“”We are the only party that talks about national and social rights for both Arabs and Jews,” Odeh (Ayman Odeh – the leader of the Joint List) told Al Jazeera. Although the Joint List estimates that the number of Jewish votes was only a few thousand, he nevertheless sees the alliance as representing a new era in Israeli politics – as a force that fights for the interests of all marginalised groups.
“In Israel, the right-wing call themselves the ‘nationalist camp’, and the left call themselves the ‘Zionist camp’,” Odeh said. “We want to be the base of the democratic camp, and we hope that more and more democratic people – Jews and Arabs – will join us.”
Four out of five Palestinian voters were estimated to have supported the Joint List, according to polling data from the Israeli research institute, Statnet.
The Joint List won 13 of 120 seats in the recent elections, becoming the third-largest bloc in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. This success was due in large part to its success in mobilising almost two-thirds of the Palestinian citizens of Israel to cast ballots – a rise of around 10 percentage points from the previous election. Four out of five Palestinian voters were estimated to have supported the Joint List, according to polling data from the Israeli research institute, Statnet.
He added that the significant rise in Palestinian voters may have been the reason that Yachad, a far-right party, failed to garner the 3.25 percent of votes needed to win seats in the Knesset. Still, Shaizaf believes that the mobilisation of the Arab voters largely rested on the optimistic assumption that a change in government was possible. But with the unexpected victory of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, the Joint List will face significant challenges in living up to the expectations of its constituency.
Shaizaf predicts that the success of the Joint List will largely depend on its ability to form alliances with like-minded Jewish parties on the left and centre. Odeh is well aware of the challenges the Joint List faces, putting to the test its ability to stay united.
The Joint List is an alliance of four parties with very different ideologies, ranging from socialist to Islamist. Nevertheless, Odeh insists that these differences in ideology are secondary to the problems they all face as members of Israel’s Arab minority.
Not everyone shares his optimism. Amany Khalifa, 29, who boycotted the election, told Al Jazeera she does not believe the party will be able to change anything.
“It’s all just a game giving the illusion that things can change, but they can’t and I don’t believe justice can be achieved by playing the game,” she said. “If it’s a Joint List, why doesn’t it unite with all Palestinians?” she asked, referring to the more than four million Palestinians in the occupied territories who are not allowed to vote in Israeli elections.
“I’m not asking for equal rights [with Jewish Israelis] – we are all under the same Israeli rule,” Khalifa added. “Why should I have different rights than Palestinians in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza?”
Khalifa, who works in Jerusalem but is from Um el-Fahem in Galilee, added that all of her extended family members voted for the Joint List.
“They hope that it can change local issues of education, unemployment and discrimination, and I don’t blame them for wanting a better situation in the Palestinian cities in Israel,” she said. “But I care about stopping house demolitions, land confiscations and settlement expansions in the West Bank and not least the siege in Gaza, where I don’t see the Joint List having any power.”
Given that Netanyahu is expected to form a government more right-wing than the previous one, Palestinians in Israel fear a renewed push for controversial bills such as the Prawer Plan, which seeks to expel tens of thousands of Bedouins from unrecognised villages in the Negev and the “Jewish nation-state” bill, which would enshrine Jewishness as the dominant characteristic of the Israeli state, above its democratic values.
Hassan Jabareen, the director of Adalah – The Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, worries that despite the Joint List’s strong performance at the polls, it will be powerless to stop policies limiting the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel. “On one hand, the success of the Joint List is an act of empowerment of the Palestinian citizens of Israel. On the other hand, they will continue to be in opposition – and given a new likely composition of the government, I don’t see the Joint List being able to bar or limit it in continuing its racist policies,” Jabareen said.
“The Joint List shouldn’t be satisfied with just sitting in Knesset and gaining 13 members,” Jabareen added. “Much now depends on the Palestinian leadership in Israel – what political plan it will take, its political activities, its ability to mobilise peaceful public struggle locally and bring awareness in the world of the status of the Palestinians in Israel.”
Al-Monitor: Is Israel’s Arab party about to split?
“Barely does a day go by that the Balad Party does not in some way challenge the other parties that comprise the Joint List, a unified slate of predominantly Arab parties. The scandals and provocations engineered by the party have often embarrassed other Arab lawmakers and political activists. However, they almost always refrained from reacting in public, adhering to the commitment made when the alliance was established in 2015 to wash their dirty laundry at home and not to give their many detractors any reason to crow over their internal differences. They were especially loathe to give any satisfaction to the head of the Yisrael Beitenu party, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, whose party had pushed through legislation raising the electoral threshold in order to keep the (small) Arab parties out of the Knesset. At the time, Liberman’s initiative pushed four Arab parties to unite into one large Knesset list.
Since the birth of the Joint List in January 2015 in Nazareth, its members have managed admirably to resolve the problems arising from their innate ideological and social differences behind closed doors.
When Balad Knesset member Haneen Zoabi was shown on July 28 at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount confronting Israeli police, the cops were not the only ones keeping themselves in check to avoid getting dragged into the provocation she tried to engineer. Knesset members from the other Arab parties — which are part of the Joint List — barely concealed their chagrin at her conduct, but held their tongues.
When her fellow party lawmaker Basel Ghattas was caught smuggling cellphones to Palestinian prisoners jailed for security-related offenses and sentenced to two year’s imprisonment, the most that Israeli reporters were able to elicit from members of the Joint List was that they were surprised.
In recent months, Arab lawmakers and activists with whom I spoke, most of them Hadash Party members, complained that Balad had dragged the Joint List into places they didn’t want to go. One of them (speaking on condition of anonymity) said that they were dragged into “undesirable” territory. Instead of working for the integration of the country’s 20% Arab minority into Israeli society, as espoused in the vision of Joint List leader Ayman Odeh, Balad was diverting them further and further away from that goal, they complained.
On Aug. 30, Balad drove another wedge between Israeli Jews and Arabs, also angering many among the Arab community who do not support the party. At a summer camp run by Balad for Israeli-Arab children and youth, the organizers took the children for “a day of fun” to Dheisheh refugee camp in the West Bank. The children were then taken on a march “to honor the shahids” (Muslim martyrs) in two groups. One was dubbed “Yasser Arafat,” named after the late leader of the PLO, and the other “Izz ad-Din al-Qassam,” the armed wing of the Islamist Hamas movement. Together, they marched and shouted, “With blood and fire we will redeem you, shahids” and “With blood and fire we will redeem you, Palestine.”
In response, Knesset Committee Chair Yoav Kisch of the Likud fired off a letter to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit demanding that Balad be investigated for incitement to violence and support of terrorism. “The Balad Party has once again crossed a red line with its camp activity and its nature, and the severity of this matter should not be tolerated or discounted,” Kisch wrote.
Some among Israel’s Arab community agreed that the party had, indeed, gone too far. Some told Al-Monitor that Odeh, who also heads the Hadash Party, cannot keep ignoring such provocations even if it means dismantling the unnatural alliance that they regard as harmful to the cause of Arab-Jewish coexistence.
The Joint List is, in fact, on the verge of a breakup, but not over Balad’s shenanigans and the discomfort and embarrassment they generate among the other Arab parties under its umbrella.
The fate of the alliance will be determined by Sept. 5, at the end of the Eid al-Adha holiday, and it hangs on one Knesset seat. All the tensions, egos and hatreds suppressed for 2½ years are now erupting in a stormy struggle over the Knesset seat vacated by Ghattas when he was sent to prison.
On the eve of the March 2015 elections, the four parties comprising the Joint List — Hadash, Balad, Ra’am and Ta’al — agreed on a mid-term rotation. Knesset members Osama Saadia of Ta’al and Abdullah Abu Maarouf of Hadash, who currently hold the 12th and 13th spots on the list, were supposed to cede their seats to Joumah Azbarga of Balad, No. 14 on the party’s slate, and to the No. 15, Said al-Harumi of Ra’am. Azbarga went on to join the Knesset, but not because of the rotation arrangement; he moved into the slot vacated by Ghattas. Harumi assumed the Knesset seat vacated for him by Abu Maarouf’s pre-arranged resignation.
Balad is now demanding an additional Knesset representative in keeping with the rotation agreement, with Niveen Abu Rahmoun next in line for that slot. But Abu Rahmoun is ranked in 19th place on the list of incumbent and potential Joint List Knesset members, and for her to assume a seat, the No. 16 and No. 18 would have to step aside, in addition to Saadia. This convoluted succession arrangement is the focus of a bitter struggle among the four parties, to which the Israeli Arab-language media are devoting intense coverage.
The anger among the Israeli Arab electorate at the lawmakers of the Arab Joint List crosses party lines. Social media is buzzing with posts asking how the elected representatives who overcame ideological divides and tensions for two years, maintaining the party’s unity, are now risking it all over a Knesset job and its attendant pay and official car. Some Arab media pundits are panning this internal struggle as an “embarrassment,” wondering why lawmakers are willing to sell out the cause of Palestine for the sake of personal benefits.
So the future of the Joint List will be determined next week. Those who predicted it would fall apart soon after the elections due to its unnatural makeup and forced union were wrong — big time. Its members were able to surmount their substantive divides and resolve issues of principle. But one Knesset slot has become the “be-all and end-all” of the union’s survival, and Israel’s Arab electorate is unlikely to forgive such pettiness.”
Legal Resistance of the “Unrecognised” Bedouin Villages
Palestinian citizens of Israel led the first ‘Land Day’ protests on March 30th, 1976. 40 years later, they’re facing even worse threats than before. +972 visits three unrecognized villages across Israel where Israeli courts have approved evictions in order to build luxury apartments, roads, and new Jewish towns on the ruins of their homes.
“Abu Saleh, a 73-year-old farmer, speaks with a raspy but strong voice as he points to his crops. “Everything you see around you is food grown from my own land. These carrots, this zucchini, these olives…they are all part of my survival.” He lifts his head, his voice starting to shake with anger. “Now they want to tear down my home and remove me from my livelihood. They want to rip my heart from my land – just to put the heart of someone else.”
Abu Saleh is a resident of Ramiya, an Arab community of 50 families nestled within the Jewish city of Karmiel in northern Israel. The vast majority of visitors to Karmiel will never know that Ramiya exists at all: it is hidden behind a wall of clustered bushes, making it easily mistakable for forestation that was waiting to be cleared. From the main road, the only sign of the village’s existence is a wooden shack with a banner reading “Remaining in Ramiya” in Arabic and Hebrew next to an image of the Palestinian cartoon Handala stopping a bulldozer in its tracks.
Ramiya, which has been continuously populated since the Ottoman Empire, once encompassed nearly 600 dunams, or 150 acres, of agricultural land. But in 1976, the Israeli government seized most of the village’s property along with those of many other Arab villages across the Galilee. On March 30th of that year, thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel protested the sweeping confiscations in what became the first “Land Day,” a day of protest and commemoration marked every year since. The 1976 demonstrations, some of which were held not far from Ramiya, were brutally suppressed by Israeli police, who killed six Palestinian protesters and wounded scores more.
The confiscated land was used to build hundreds of new Jewish towns and cities in line with a national development plan called “the Judaization” of northern Israel. Karmiel, the city that surrounds Ramiya today, was established on land belonging to several Palestinian villages, including Ramiya. Today luxury apartments belonging to wealthy Jewish Israelis cover the area, with construction sites nearby breaking ground in preparation to build even more. “Israelis forget that we were not dropped onto Karmiel,” says Abu Saleh. “Karmiel was dropped onto us.”
For years the Karmiel Municipality has pressured its Palestinian residents to yield the remainder of their property and to relocate to another area on the city’s outskirts – a proposal which the residents view as insensitive to their historical and personal attachment to their homes. Abu Saleh recalls: “Officials from the Land Authority entered the village and looked around at our homes and our gardens, and offered us money to give it all up. I told them, ‘Why do I need your money? I have everything I need right here – just leave me my land, for the love of God!’”
The Karmiel Municipality has insisted that the families accept a relocation plan presented to them in 1995; but the proposal is hardly amenable. The land being offered to them is a mere fraction of what the families own; the plan gives no space or consideration for Ramiya’s natural growth or agricultural way of life; and the villagers are skeptical that the city will connect them to the water supply, electricity grid, and other basic services that the residents have been forced to acquire privately or illegally for decades. “The municipality knows what it is doing,” adds Abu Saleh. “They know that to restrict our livelihood is to take away our strength.”
The villagers went to the Israeli Supreme Court demanding that they be allowed to stay on their land, but the court ruled in November 2015 that the families must accept the old offer or be forcibly evicted. Ramiya has since stepped up its campaign to rally public support, bringing Arab journalists, activists, and leaders to the village, including elected representatives from the Joint List. “Right now in my view, a pilgrimage to Ramiya is more important than a pilgrimage to Mecca,” says Saleh, the son of the elder famer. “Our lives here are in immediate danger,” adding wistfully, “Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, is a source of danger to others.”
The men of the village express hope that they can change their fate before the relocation plan is forcibly imposed on them. But not everyone feels the same. As we walk by several homes, a woman asks Abu Saleh who the visitors are. Young people to help the struggle, the old man answers. “‘Al fathi, Abu Saleh,” the woman replies – it’s all for nothing. “Don’t say that ya hajji,” replies Abu Saleh. But the woman is unmoved. “Twenty years we’ve been trying, Abu Saleh. How can I not lose hope?”
Anyone who has visited Palestinian communities in Israel or in the occupied West Bank has heard Ramiya’s story in one form or another. You can hear it from families of the Jahalin Bedouin tribe in East Jerusalem, who are being evicted in order to link Israel’s settlements in the “E1” area. You hear it in the Arab Triangle inside Israel, whose towns are overcrowding due to highways and strategic Jewish towns blocking their expansion. You hear it in the South Hebron Hills, where Palestinian villagers are being displaced to make way for IDF firing zones. And you hear it in the Naqab (Negev), where Bedouin citizens are being forced into townships to make room for new Jewish communities and forests being built on their villages’ ruins.
Palestinians have commemorated the Land Day protests every year since 1976. But four decades later, it is clear that their activism has not left a mark on Israeli policy. Many of the mechanisms that forcibly transferred Palestinian land to Jewish ownership remain active to this day: a national land authority owns 93 percent of the country’s territory; a quasi-state actor, the Jewish National Fund, forbids the sale of property to non-Jews; admissions committees enforce housing segregation; obstinate planning authorities refuse to increase Arab towns’ jurisdictions. The list goes on.
In recent years, Israel has designed even more methods to enhance its discriminatory land governance, allowing it deepen the racial divide within its 1948 borders and effectively annex large swaths of the 1967 occupied West Bank. Far from repairing unjust land policies, Israel has given Palestinians new reasons to recognize March 30th as a day to protest their existing conditions, not only to remember the past.
Ramiya is just one out of dozens of unrecognized Arab villages in Israel that illustrate the “ongoing Nakba” faced by tens of thousands of Palestinian citizens. Dahmash, a community just a short drive from Tel Aviv, is also facing the threat of demolition. Like Ramiya, Dahmash existed before Israel’s establishment but does not exist on any official maps. Its residents do not receive even the most basic services from the authorities. “Dahmash is a thorn in Israel’s throat because we are the only Arab village remaining in the center of the country,” said Kais Nasser, the attorney representing the village.
In a small but rare victory in March 2015, Dahmash convinced the Israeli Supreme Court to recommend to the government that it recognize the village and allow its residents to remain on their land. But that has not stopped the state from moving forward with its plans. The following month, armored police units surrounded the village in the early hours of the morning and demolished three homes on the outer edges of the village. The incursion seemed intended to send a deliberate message to the village’s residents: your presence here is still illegal, and we still want you out.
“There was no notice before the police arrived,” says Mayyada, a resident of Dahmash. “They woke us up and the children were terrified…It wasn’t easy to watch,” she adds. “Our biggest worry is always the effect on the children. You can’t go to sleep at night without wondering if you’ll wake up to find your home is about to be destroyed. It is no way to live.” Mayyada’s young daughter wrote a poem in school a few days later describing how the police stormed into their home with dogs and guns.
Another woman, Shirin, contrasts the treatment of Dahmash’s Arabs with Jews living in the occupied Palestinian territories. “The state gives settlers beautiful homes and provides them with everything on land that is not their own. We are on our own land and in our own homes, living happily and asking for little. The government can’t stand this. What is happening to us now is the same as what is happening in the West Bank. A concrete wall divides us, but the policy is the same here as it is there. We Arabs are all the same to them.”
In the ensuing months, the Israeli authorities continued to insist on their intention to carry out the demolition orders against many of the village’s homes. Nasser has had to file repeated appeals to the district courts seeking injunctions to freeze the demolitions until a final agreement is reached. “We have been using Israeli law for years, but we are constantly worried that the law will fail us,” Nasser explains. “The state only sees us Arabs as infiltrators, thieves, people who don’t belong here. It never sees us as human beings, as having rights to the land. If you want proof that Israel does not believe in democracy or equality, Dahmash is your proof.”
Palestinian citizens have always been skeptical about using Israeli institutions to defend their rights as citizens. Despite that skepticism, there was a cautious hope since the 1990s that some progress could be made. Legal centers and human rights organizations started petitioning the Supreme Court en masse over cases they believed could set precedents for the Palestinian minority at large. Political parties were established or revitalized to advocate for the Arab community’s needs and aspirations in the Knesset and public sphere. Arab youth became more active and assertive of their Palestinian identity, using social media as a tool for community education and mobilization. This cautious hope still exists for some people, including Nasser who believes that, “if Dahmash succeeds in overturning the demolition plans, it can change the picture for other Arab communities across the country.”
Today, however, most Palestinian citizens are returning to the unsettling realization that Israel’s political, legal, and judicial institutions remain as aggressively geared against their land rights as they were decades ago. New laws and policies enacted by the government are entrenching practices of segregation, resource inequality, and annexation – and these policies are being rubber-stamped by Israel’s judiciary. The bench of the Supreme Court, the purported “liberal vanguard” of Israeli democracy, is being filled with justices who are at best reluctant to intervene in the state’s affairs, and at worst are openly supportive of the state’s discriminatory goals.
No case exemplifies this better than the twin Bedouin villages of Atir and Umm al-Hiran in the Naqab. Although Israel’s military government moved the families to their current lands in 1956 after displacing them from their homes in 1948, the state has decided to displace the now 1,000 Bedouin residents yet again. In place of Atir, Israeli authorities want to expand a JNF-funded forest called “Yatir,” and in place of Umm al-Hiran, they plan to build a new Jewish town called “Hiran.” Construction for the new town is currently under way just a few meters away from the Bedouin homes while the incoming Jewish residents wait in a temporary encampment in the Yatir forest.
Atir and Umm al-Hiran waged an arduous 13-year legal struggle against the plans to displace them. But in May 2015, the Supreme Court dismissed their final petition and refused to reconsider its decision. The main argument it made was that although the Bedouin families were not trespassers as the state claimed, the land on which they live is still technically state land; thus, the state could rescind permission to live there as it wished. The court further argued that the Bedouin villagers were being amply compensated by being relocated to Hura – an urban township in the middle of the desert mired in poverty, crime, and its own housing crisis.
“The state likes to claim that it is modernizing the Bedouin by moving them to cities – yet at the same time, it is supporting Jewish citizens to build their own rural individual farms across the Naqab, including on the ruins of Bedouin villages,” says Suhad Bishara, the attorney and acting director of Adalah (the NGO where I work) who represented Atir and Umm al-Hiran. Bishara argues that the court’s ruling gives Israel a legal stamp of approval to carry out the rest of the Prawer Plan, which would see 35 villages in the Naqab destroyed and up to 70,000 Bedouins forcibly displaced.
“There is no difference in the eyes of Israel’s land regime between a Palestinian with Israeli citizenship and a Palestinian under occupation,” Bishara adds. “Umm al-Hiran in the Naqab is exactly the same as Susiya in the West Bank. It is the same colonial policy driven by the same racist ideology.”
It is difficult to find optimism these days for the future of the unrecognized Arab villages. They have used every means at their disposal to challenge and change Israel’s discriminatory policies – only to find that the state viciously fought back at every turn. Yet the villagers continue to find rays of hope in the face of tragic circumstances – a trait that many Palestinians proudly refer to as sumud: steadfastness, or resilience.
Contrary to what many Jewish Israelis might assume, the Palestinian community in Israel has never been passive in the face of threats to their rights. Together with Jewish partners, Palestinian civil society in Israel has put forward political declarations like the Future Vision Documents and land proposals such as the Alternative Master Plan for the Negev. Palestinian citizens’ day-to-day interaction with Jewish Israelis further signal the desire to build a shared society based on mutual respect and dignity.
“Why do we have to be Jewish and Arab?” asks Abu Saleh in Ramiya. “We share our food with everyone, and our children go to school in Karmiel. I don’t care about politics. I just want to remain on my land, and to be able to die in my own home. But they want to enclose me with concrete walls, and to separate me from my land. I cannot live like that. Al-arth il haya” – land is life.
Abu Saleh’s message is echoed by Ra’ed Abu Al-Qi’an in Umm al-Hiran, where one of several Land Day protests were being held this year. “We have always said we would have no problem expanding our village to include both Arabs and Jews. What we do not accept is a plan that puts Jewish rights above our own, and at the direct expense of our homes. There is plenty of land in the Naqab, even around Umm al-Hiran. There is no reason why we can’t live as equals.”
Electronic Intifada: Palestinians dodge Israeli soldiers to retake village in occupied West Bank
“Hundreds of Palestinians assembled and erected a protest village in the occupied West Bank on Friday, 31 January. By Monday morning, Israeli military forces had the area surrounded and had arrested several activists en route to the area.
Organizers announced a new campaign — Milh al-Ard (Arabic for “Salt of the Earth”) — in response to Israel’s ongoing efforts to colonize and annex the Jordan Valley. The protest village is situated among the ruins of Ein Hijleh, an historic Palestinian village forcibly depopulated by Israel’s army in the 1967 war.
Groups of Palestinians came from across present-day Israel, occupied East Jerusalem and the broader West Bank. As of Friday night, Diana Alzeer, spokesperson for the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee (PSCC), estimated that around 500 persons were camped out in Ein Hijleh.
“We brought over 40 people in buses and cars,” Bassem Tamimi, a prominent Palestinian activist from the village of Nabi Saleh, told The Electronic Intifada. Other large groups came from places like Bilin, Ramallah, Abu Dis and Dheisheh refugee camp. There was also a small presence of activists from the International Solidarity Movement.
Tamimi added, “Our whole families came, including our wives and children because we cannot be truly liberated from the occupation if they do not struggle alongside us.”
On the side of an Israeli highway that dissects the West Bank, the land of Ein Hijleh belongs to the Orthodox Church and is surrounded from all sides by Israeli army bases, settlements and closed military zones.
On Friday morning, one bus of activists with the PSCC was stopped by Israeli military forces at a “flying” (temporary) checkpoint between Ramallah and Jericho. After being told they were forbidden from passing, activists got off the bus and marched past the soldiers and began directing traffic themselves. With the soldiers confused and distracted, the passengers subsequently got back on the bus and continued to Ein Hijleh.
Army “could not stop us”
Over the weekend, Israeli soldiers began to limit access to the area, closing parts of Highway 90 and reportedly turning away journalists and activists. Though soldiers have tried to prevent activists from delivering food and supplies to the village, the campers were able to receive food from families from the surrounding communities.
Mustafa Barghouti, a Palestinian politician and activist, told The Electronic Intifada that the event brought out a “fantastic level of participation,” particularly among Palestinian youth.
The action is “also a great organizational success because the Israeli army could not stop us,” Barghouti added. “They spread a huge number of soldiers everywhere, but they didn’t know where we’re going and how we’re going to get there.”
Within hours of arriving, the Israeli military had the area surrounded on all sides. Though highways and dirt paths leading to the area were spotted with military jeeps and border police, people continued to pour into the area well into Friday evening.
By Saturday morning, however, Israeli occupation forces had begun to prevent journalists and activists from reaching Ein Hijleh. Campers reported that they had begun rebuilding old uninhabited homes in the village.
Campers in Ein Hijleh are sleeping in the remains of homes and tents. They have brought with them supplies, such as electricity generators, gas, food and drink.
“Linking to our history”
“We are building on several [previous] direct actions,” explained Alzeer. “But this is different because we are actually reclaiming a Canaanite village that used to exist, actually linking it to our Palestinian history on the land and our existence [here].”
But the most important aspect of this latest direct action, Alzeer added, is “that it is taking place in the Jordan Valley.”
According to a report by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, more than 64,000 Palestinians lived in the Jordan Valley in 2009. They were vulnerable to Israeli military attacks and forced evictions, the report stated. Additionally, nearly 10,000 Israeli settlers lived in Jewish-only settlements across the Jordan Valley (“Dispossession and exploitation: Israel’s policy in the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea,” May 2011 [PDF]).
In recent months, several Palestinian communities across the Jordan Valley have been demolished. Last Thursday, homes and structures belonging to over a dozen families were razed by Israeli bulldozers in the Palestinian community of Khirbet Jamal (“Soldiers Invade Homes, Conduct Training, In West Bank Village,” IMEMC, 30 January 2014).
On 8 January, Israeli forces attacked the shepherding community of Khirbet Ein Karzaliyah, leaving 25 persons — 15 of them minors — without shelter in harsh winter conditions. Israeli authorities confiscated the tents given to the displaced families by the International Committee of the Red Cross (“Israeli authorities demolish Palestinian shepherding community in Jordan Valley,” B’Tselem, 8 January 2014).
In 2013 alone, more than 1,000 persons were displaced in East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank by demolitions and evictions, James Rawley, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator, said recently (“UN slams Israel destruction of Jordan Valley homes,” Ma’an News Agency, 1 February 2014).
Home to a vast array of natural resources, the area has been repeated plundered by Israel. B’Tselem stated that 77.5 percent of the Jordan Valley is off limits to the indigenous Palestinian population.
“The Jordan Valley is one of the most fertile areas in Palestine, in terms of agriculture, in terms of water resources [and] minerals,” said Alzeer.
“Palestinians have been evacuated from the Jordan Valley. Their houses have been demolished constantly. Land is being confiscated and we have no access to using water.”
Thousands of Palestinians in Bedouin communities across all of Area C are facing imminent eviction to make way for new Jewish-only areas and the expansion of existing ones (“Thousands of Palestinians in Area C face threat of expulsion from their homes,” B’Tselem, 22 October 2013).
In other areas of the Jordan Valley, communities have been uprooted so that Israel’s military can build training areas known as “firing zones.”
In the unlikely event of a US-brokered two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Israeli officials have repeatedly insisted that the Jordan Valley will remain under Israeli control.
In late December, an Israeli ministerial committee voted in favor of a bill to annex the Jordan Valley.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last month Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that he did “not intend to remove a single settlement” (“Israeli official: Palestine should allow settlers,” Ynet, 26 January 2014).
Under the US Secretary of State John Kerry’s proposed plans for the future of the valley, the area would be gradually transferred from Israeli control to that of the Palestinian Authority over an unspecified period of time. The area would be patrolled by Israeli drones, according to right-wing Israeli media reports (“Netanyahu: I will not evict Israelis from the Jordan Valley,” Arutz Sheva, 24 January 2014).
The current negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Diana Alzeer added, “are aiming to establish a Palestinian state that is completely disfigured and that will exclude the Jordan Valley … and this is something that we completely refuse.”
“We will never give up”
Mustafa Barghouti echoed these sentiments. Protesters, he said, had gathered to resurrect “this village to send a message to the Israelis and the world that we will never give up the Jordan Valley.”
Barghouti added that “change can happen only by changing the balance of power through popular resistance — acts like this one — and through boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns worldwide,” referring to the growing international campaign that calls for an economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel until it complies with international law.
Following Ein Hijleh, activists erected another protest village in the northern Jordan Valley. The Israeli military wasted little time before moving in and destroying it (“Israeli forces storm Jordan Valley protest camp,” Ma’an News Agency, 3 February 2014).
These most recent protest villages are only the latest in a lengthy series of Palestinian direct actions against Israel’s policies of expropriating Palestinian land for settlements and military installations.
In January 2013, hundreds of Palestinians declared the protest village of Bab al-Shams in the so-called E-1 area between Jerusalem and Maale Adumim, an Israeli settlement deep inside the West Bank. Israeli military forces swarmed the encampment in the dead of night, evicting everyone. Many of the protesters were beaten and arrested.
More than half a dozen similar protest villages sprung up across the West Bank during the following months. They were all destroyed by Israeli forces.
“This is about rebuilding the spirit of popular resistance in Palestine,” Barghouti said.”
One week ago, some 300 Palestinian activists established the protest village of ‘Ein Hijleh’ in a cluster of palm trees and long-abandoned houses north of the Dead Sea. Their goal was to protest Israeli government demands to retain control of the Jordan Valley as part of a U.S.-brokered peace deal. One week later, their encampment was forcibly evicted by Israeli forces in the early morning hours.
“In the face of pledges by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he would not “uproot any Israeli citizen” from the West Bank and his insistence on retaining control of the Jordan Valley amid talks brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, on January 31, hundreds of Palestinian activists began to occupy abandoned homes in a cluster of palm trees surrounded by land taken by Israeli settlers and military bases north of the Dead Sea.
The Ein Hijleh protest village was thus created, launching the Melh al-Ard (Salt of the Earth) campaign, organized by the Palestinian Popular Struggle Coordination Committee with the aim of “refusing the political status quo, especially given futile negotiations destroying the rights of our people for liberation and claim to their land.”
An Israeli military base sits between the protest village and the Deir Hijleh monastery, which owns about 1,000 dunams, some of which were taken by Israeli forces. Ein Hijleh itself stood on land owned by the Greek Orthodox Church, which granted permission for the activists to remain there for at least 30 days.
During the seven days of the encampment, activists began to make the crumbling houses inhabitable, planted trees, installed solar panels, hosted political, religious and diplomatic leaders, screened films and held cultural and political discussions.
But in the early morning hours of Friday, February 7, one week after the village was re-established, hundreds of Israeli forces descended on the remaining activists. Dozens were arrested and as many as 41 were injured according to reports that emerged from the early morning chaos.
Lasting seven days, Ein Hijleh was by far the longest standing of similar protest camps established since early 2013, including Bab al-Shams in the E1 area near Jerusalem, to protest the Israeli settlements in that key location. Other protest camps were the short-lived Al-Manatir near a settlement outpost overlooking the West Bank village of Burin, and the Ahfad Younis neighborhood of Bab al-Shams, timed to protest a visit by U.S. President Barack Obama. Several smaller actions in the Bethlehem area and south Hebron Hills were dismantled almost immediately, sometimes resulting in arrests and injuries for the activists.
Protest leaders have already vowed to return to Ein Hijleh, as well as to continue establishing new villages as part of the ‘Melh al-Ard’ campaign.”
Electronic Intifada: Defying occupier, Palestinians establish “Bab Al Shams” village on land seized for Jewish settlement
“Defying an eviction order from the occupation authorities, and with Israeli forces gathering around them, some 250 Palestinians remain at what they say will be a permanent village they established today on land in the occupied West Bank that Israel has seized for new Jewish-only settlements.
A statement from the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee explained:
We, the sons and daughters of Palestine from all throughout the land, announce the establishment of Bab Al Shams Village (Gate of the Sun). We the people, without permits from the occupation, without permission from anyone, sit here today because this is our land and it is our right to inhabit it.
A few months ago the Israeli government announced its intention to build about 4000 settlement housing units in the area Israel refers to as E1.
E1 block is an area of about 13 square km that falls on confiscated Palestinian land East of Jerusalem between Ma’ale Adumim settlement, which lies on occupied West Bank Palestinian land, and Jerusalem.
We will not remain silent as settlement expansion and confiscation of our land continues. Therefore we hereby establish the village of Bab Al Shams to proclaim our faith in direct action and popular resistance. We declare that the village will stand steadfast until the owners of this land will get their right to build on their land.
The village’s name is taken from the novel, “Bab Al Shams,” by Lebanese writer Elias Khoury. The book depicts the history of Palestine through a love story between a Palestinian man, Younis, and his wife Nahila. Younis leaves his wife to join the Palestinian resistance in Lebanon while Nahila remains steadfast in what remains of their village in the Galilee.
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Younis smuggles through Lebanon and back to the Galilee to meet his wife in the “Bab Al Shams” cave, where she gives birth to their children. Younis returns to the resistance in Lebanon as his wife remains in Bab Al Shams.
Bab Al Shams is the gate to our freedom and steadfastness. Bab Al Shams is our gate to Jerusalem. Bab Al Shams is the gate to our return.
For decades, Israel has established facts on the ground as the International community remained silent in response to these violations. The time has come now to change the rules of the game, for us to establish facts on the ground – our own land. This action involving women and men from the north to the south is a form of popular resistance.
In the coming days we will hold various discussion groups, educational and artistic presentations, as well as film screenings on the lands of this village. The residents of Bab Al Shams invite all the sons and daughters of our people to participate and join the village in supporting our resilience.
For two days on a freezing West Bank hilltop, the Bab Al-Shams village stood as a symbol of Palestinian nonviolent resistance to the planned expansion of settlements that would cut the West Bank into two and deny territorial contiguity to any hypothetical Palestinian state.
“On the morning of Friday, January 11, Palestinian activists from the various Popular Struggle Committees established a tent camp on a hilltop in an area east of the West Bank known as E1, calling it the Bab Al-Shams (Gate of the Sun) village.
The land in E1 has been slated for development by Israeli authorities in order to link the Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem with that of Ma’ale Adumim, effectively cutting the West Bank into two and denying territorial contiguity to any hypothetical Palestinian state.
The activists provided historical evidence that Bab Al-Shams was established in an area originally belonging to the nearby al-Tur village, and that the land was privately owned by Palestinians who gave their consent to building the village.
The activists at Bab Al-Shams immediately gained both widespread international support and an ambiguous Israeli High Court statement, which granted the tents a six-day delay of any eviction. However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the site to be evacuated immediately by police, under the pretext that while the tents could stay, the activists had to leave.
In the early hours of Sunday the 13th, Bab Al-Shams was attacked by large numbers of Israeli security forces who loaded the activists on buses to be taken off the site. Many international and Israeli media outlets were prevented from covering the eviction, and at least six activists suffered injuries and were taken to the hospital.
Notwithstanding the harsh and immediate response by the Israeli authorities, Bab Al-Shams was a powerful reaffirmation of the right to and the necessity of maintaining a Palestinian presence in the E1 zone, and remains an inspiration for all those who seek to challenge the Israeli occupation directly.”
More photos at Aljazeera: The rise and fall of Bab al-Shams
This World: The Movement To Boycott Israel Explained
Wikipedia: Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions
“The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (also known as the BDS Movement) is a global campaign attempting to increase economic and political pressure on Israel to end what it describes as violations of international law. The BDS campaign calls for “various forms of boycott against Israel until it meets its obligations under international law”. The stated goals of BDS are: the end of Israel’s occupation and settler colonization of Palestinian land and the Golan Heights, full equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, and acknowledgement of the right of return of Palestinian refugees.
The campaign, organised and coordinated by the Palestinian BDS National Committee, was started on 9 July 2005 by over 170 Palestinian non-governmental organizations in support of the Palestinian cause for boycott of Israel, disinvestment from Israel and international sanctions against Israel. Citing a body of UN resolutions and specifically echoing the anti-apartheid campaigns against white minority rule in apartheid era South Africa. Protests and conferences in support of the campaign have been held in a number of countries around the world…
…The BDS Movement uses the means of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. The campaign has organised demonstrations and protests targeting companies that have contracts with the Israeli military or with companies in Israeli settlements. Actions may also target prominent individuals who openly support settlements businesses.
Social media platforms are used to draw attention to BDS activities. With public calls on social media, protests, petitions and articles, pressure is put on individuals to cancel their participation in events in Israel or in Israeli settlements, such as concerts or academic events. On the other hand, Israelis are pressured not to take part in activities outside Israel or the Occupied territories. Participants in events are sometimes demanded to declare solidarity with the Palestinian cause.”
Israel Boycott Reaction
“On 11 July 2011, the Knesset passed a law making it a civil offence to publicly call for a boycott against the State of Israel, defined as “deliberately avoiding economic, cultural or academic ties with another person or another factor only because of his ties with the State of Israel, one of its institutions or an area under its control, in such a way that may cause economic, cultural or academic damage”. According to the law, anyone calling for a boycott can be sued, and forced to pay compensation regardless of actual damages. At the discretion of a government minister, they may also be prevented from bidding in government tenders.
The law drew a lot of criticism. 32 Israeli law professors signed a petition arguing that the law is unconstitutional and does grievous harm to freedom of political expression and protest. Other critics include BDS opponents, such as Gerald Steinberg from NGO Monitor and Morton Klein from the Zionist Organization of America, who criticize the law noting the many better avenues with which to counter BDS.
On 10 December 2012 the Israeli Supreme Court froze the law and issued an interim order to the State of Israel to explain why the law should not be struck down. The court order gave the state until 14 March 2013 to respond. The final hearing on the issue was to be before a nine-justice panel of the court presided over by Asher Grunis, President of the Supreme Court of Israel. Yehuda Weinstein Attorney General of Israel is reported to have called the law “borderline” defensible and admitted in defending the law in the hearing that it had serious problems. The court’s 2015 ruling upheld most provisions of the law but struck down the ability for lawsuits to go forward without plaintiffs needing to show damages.
In March 2016 the Israeli Intelligence and Atomic Energy Minister Yisrael Katz argued that Israel should employ “targeted civil eliminations” against leaders of the BDS movement. The expression puns on the Hebrew word for targeted assassinations.
In June 2016, Haaretz reported that Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister was going to establish a “dirty tricks” unit to “establish, hire or tempt nonprofit organizations or groups not associated with Israel, in order to disseminate” negative information about BDS supporters. The news came on the heels of a report that Israel’s efforts to fight the BDS movement have been ineffectual, in part because the responsibility had been transferred to the Strategic Affairs Ministry from the Foreign Ministry. “Despite receiving expanded authority in 2013 to run the government’s campaign against the delegitimization and boycott efforts against Israel, the Strategic Affairs Ministry did not make full use of its budget and had no significant achievements in this area,” Haaretz quotes the report as saying. “In 2015, it still did not carry out its work plans.”
On 6 March 2017, Israel passed the Amendment No. 27 to the Entry Into Israel Law which prohibited the entry into Israel of anyone who made a “public call for boycotting Israel” or the Israeli settlements, a measure aimed at the BDS movement and its supporters.”
US Boycott Reaction
List of all State Anti-BDS Legislation
“A bill that would criminalise boycotts against Israel has been signed by 45 US senators and 237 congressman. The so-called “Israel Anti-Boycott Act” would impose fines of up to $250,000 (£192,000) on any US citizen “engaged in interstate or foreign commerce” who supports a boycott of Israeli goods and services.
The US has long defended Israel in territorial disputes in the Middle East, even as the Israeli military has expanded into areas assigned to the Palestinians by international law. This position runs counter to that of the United Nations, which claims Israel’s settlements in occupied Palestinian territory have “no legal validity”, and “constitute flagrant violation of international law”.
In their new legislation, members of Congress claim the UN is considering a resolution to withhold assistance from – and prevent trade with – settlements in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights. The Israel Anti-Boycott act would punish any American who supported such measures.
However, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has argued that the bill would “impose civil and criminal punishment on individuals solely because of their political beliefs about Israel and its policies”, in a letter sent to members of the Senate. “In short, the bill would punish businesses and individuals solely based on their point of view,” it wrote. “Such a penalty is in direct violation of the First Amendment.”
Still, the bill – reportedly drafted with the help of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) – has received widespread bipartisan support.
Even liberal-leaning senators like Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Maria Cantwell of Washington, and representatives like Adam Schiff of Massachusetts, have signed on to the legislation.
Conservatives like Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida also support it.
The Electronic Intifada: ACLU files suit against Arizona anti-BDS law
“The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a second federal suit challenging state law which seeks to repress the Palestinian-led movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) measures against Israel. A 2016 law in Arizona creates a blacklist of companies, organizations and other entities which boycott Israel and bans the state from contracting with them.
The lawsuit, which asserts that the Arizona anti-boycott law violates the First Amendment, was filed last week on behalf of an attorney who contracts with the government to provide legal advice to incarcerated persons in Coconino County Jail, according to the ACLU. The attorney, Mikkel Jordhal, told the ACLU that he is an active participant in a consumer boycott of Israeli goods and wishes to “extend his boycott to his solely owned law firm” and provide legal services to organizations engaged in boycotts.
First Amendment violation
When Jordhal renewed his contract with the county in October last year, “it included an extra form that he had to sign to certify that the firm ‘is not currently engaged in a boycott of Israel,’” according to the ACLU. He signed the form under protest and has excluded his boycott activities from his business. He was asked to sign the form once again in order to renew his contract this year.
“If he agrees, Jordahl will have to limit his boycott participation,” the ACLU stated. “If he refuses, he will put a great deal of his income at risk.” Jordahl said that the state has no business telling private companies how to act when it comes to boycotts.
“Whatever your stance on the boycott issue, everyone has a right to express their opinions on it and act accordingly,” Jordahl stated. The ACLU says Arizona’s anti-boycott law violates the First Amendment and is calling for the legislation to be stricken down.
“The First Amendment squarely protects the right to participate in political boycotts,” ACLU attorney Brian Hauss stated.
The bill would allow the government to impose sanctions on companies complying with calls from the UN Human Rights Council to boycott Israeli settlement goods.
In October, the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Kansas on behalf of Esther Koontz, a public high school math teacher who boycotts Israeli goods. Koontz is a member of the Mennonite Church USA, which passed a resolution in July in support of divestment from companies that profit from Israeli violations of Palestinian rights.
When seeking to renew a state teaching contract, Koontz refused to sign a form certifying that she does not participate in a boycott of Israel, as required by state law passed earlier this year. Attorneys for the state of Kansas failed to provide arguments defending the constitutionality of the law during a federal court hearing earlier this month.
The judge remarked that “I didn’t see, in all candor, that [the Kansas law] is constitutional.” A ruling has not yet been made in the Kansas suit to block the anti-BDS legislation.
Legal advocates say that the right to boycott remains a protected form of political expression, despite state and federal attempts at silencing Palestine rights activism.”
ACLU: In First, Judge Blocks Kansas Law Aimed at Boycotts of Israel
“TOPEKA, Kan. — The American Civil Liberties Union won an early victory today in its federal lawsuit arguing that a Kansas law requiring a public school educator to certify that she won’t boycott Israel violates her First Amendment rights.
A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of the law while the case filed in October proceeds. It is the first ruling addressing a recent wave of laws nationwide aiming to punish people who boycott Israel.
The law, which took effect on July 1, requires that any person or company that contracts with the state submit a written certification that they are “not currently engaged in a boycott of Israel.” The ACLU is also currently fighting a case filed in December against a similar law in Arizona.
“The court has rightly recognized the serious First Amendment harms being inflicted by this misguided law, which imposes an unconstitutional ideological litmus test,” said ACLU attorney Brian Hauss, who argued the issue in court. “This ruling should serve as a warning to government officials around the country that the First Amendment prohibits the government from suppressing participation in political boycotts.”
In his opinion, U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree wrote, “[T]he Supreme Court has held that the First Amendment protects the right to participate in a boycott like the one punished by the Kansas law.” Other Supreme Court decisions have established that the government may not require individuals to sign a certification regarding their political expression in order to obtain employment, contracts, or other benefits.
The ACLU represents Esther Koontz, who belongs to the Mennonite Church USA. In accordance with calls for boycott made by members of her congregation and her church, Koontz decided not to buy consumer products made by Israeli companies and international companies operating in Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. Koontz participates in this boycott in order to protest the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians and to pressure the country to change its policies.
Having served as a public school math teacher for nine years, Koontz now develops her school’s math curriculum and trains teachers on how to implement it. She is also qualified to train teachers statewide as a contractor with the Kansas Department of Education’s Math and Science Partnerships program. When Koontz was asked to certify that she does not participate in a boycott of Israel, she said that she could not sign the form in good conscience. As a result, the state refuses to contract with her, and she is unable to participate as a trainer in the state’s program.
Judge Crabtree wrote in his opinion, “She and others participating in this boycott of Israel seek to amplify their voices to influence change.” The lawsuit argues that the Kansas law violates the First Amendment for several reasons: it compels speech regarding protected political beliefs, associations, and expression; restricts the political expression and association of government contractors; and discriminates against protected expression based on its content and viewpoint. The lawsuit asks the court to strike down the law and bar the Kansas Department of Education from requiring contractors to certify that they are not participating in boycotts of Israel.
The Kansas law is similar to legislation that has been passed in other states. The ACLU does not take a position on boycotts of foreign countries, but the organization has long supported the right to participate in political boycotts and has voiced opposition to bills that infringe on this important First Amendment right. In the lawsuit challenging the Arizona law, the ACLU represents an attorney and his one-person law office, which contracts with the government to provide legal services to incarcerated individuals.”
Fars New Agency: Ben Norton: Israel Is the Master of Racism and Dehumanization
“Q: A large number of US academicians have joined the wave of academic and cultural boycott of Israel, which includes a variety of mechanisms for embarrassing Israel on the global level and showcasing its isolation and loneliness, including pressing the presidents of American universities to refrain from visiting Israel, asking the American universities to stop their student exchange programs with Israel and cut any investment in the Israeli companies run from the settlement regions. Will such measures really yield significant results and compel the Israeli leaders to change their behavior toward the Palestinian people?
A: The BDS movement is, hands down, the most important movement in the struggle for justice in Israel-Palestine, outside of resistance in occupied Palestine itself.
For starters, BDS was called for by leading Palestinian intellectuals and activists as the ideal means by which the international community can express solidarity with the Palestinian people. In any movement against oppression, racism, and settler colonialism, it is imperative that activists wishing to stand in solidarity with an oppressed group in its struggle for justice do what that oppressed group has actually asked of them. The BDS movement is precisely that. Yet, even beyond this most significant factor, the BDS movement is so important because it is effective. And its efficacy is already being seen on campuses across the US, and across the world.
Israeli universities are doubtless complicit in Israel’s crimes. In the wake of Israel’s summer 2014 slaughter in Gaza, Israeli scholar Amir Hetsroni, who before the attack, had been opposed to BDS, wrote in Haaretz of “the undeniable attempts by academic management to prevent students and faculty from speaking their minds and punishing those who protest against the war.” “A college that prohibits students from taking part in political protest is not an academic institute. A university that vetoes its faculty’s right to publish non-Zionist – not to say anti-Zionist – scholarship is not a university. In such cases an academic boycott might be an acceptable response,” he said.
In October 2014 I published an article in Mondoweiss titled “Academia, the ‘battleground’ in the Palestinian solidarity movement,” detailing how Israel has outlined an intentional policy of targeting and repressing Palestinian solidarity activists on US campuses. During the Second Intifada, head of Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) and former Deputy Prime Minister Natan Sharansky went on a tour of US and Canadian college campuses. Upon returning to Israel, he told Prime Minister Sharon “the most important battleground for the future of the Jewish people is campuses.” Israel and closely linked Zionist organizations have since gone so far as to work with US university administrators, police – including local police and the FBI, and even politicians to engage in a McCarthyist campaign of repression.
The real ground being gained in the BDS movement is indeed happening on US campuses, but it is not gained merely by cutting ties between universities; rather, it is being gained by divesting from corporations. A cultural and academic boycott is important, and cutting university ties is a step, but these are not enough. The real power of the BDS movement lies in its economic potential.
We live in a global capitalist system. If one wants to effect change, therefore, one must target powerful economic institutions—namely, corporations. The BDS movement’s call for divestment from and boycotts against large corporations, such as Caterpillar, HP, Lockheed Martin, and more, is where its power really lies.
BDS has already scared Israel’s Justice Minister, who noted that the movement is growing “exponentially,” warning that his fellow denizens in an oblivious Israel are living in a “bubble, … disconnected from the international reality.” Sodastream’s stock is plummeting. The corporation, whose principal manufacturing facility is situated in an illegal Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank, has virtually become synonymous with apartheid profiteering. Europe’s boycott movement is already taking a hefty economic toll. Now, peace organization CODEPINK is leading an exciting new movement, Boycott RE/MAX: No Open House, calling for a boycott of RE/MAX, the world’s largest real estate company. RE/MAX Israel, a franchise of the US-based corporation, sells properties in illegal Jewish-only settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. This brand new campaign already has the corporation trembling in its pecuniary boots.
Universities have already played an important role in this movement, and will only continue to do so. That said, universities are still, in many ways, enclaves of privilege. Not everyone can go to college, and, given the enormous financial burden required to do so in the US, many students do not have time to participate in activism. The goal should hence be to extend BDS into all communities in civil society. No one should support Israel’s policies of apartheid, ethnic cleansing, and settler colonialism, and no corporation or institution should profit off of these crimes. In the words of a popular chant, “When Palestinians are oppressed, boycott, sanction, and divest!””
“Everyone knows the United States is Israel’s best friend. The US gives Israel billions of dollars in aid annually, consistently blocks UN Security Council resolutions condemning Israel, and backs its military offensives publicly. But why? What’s the thinking behind America going above-and-beyond for Israel?
The short version: it’s complicated. The long version is that It’s a tight interplay of America’s long-running Middle East strategy, US public opinion/electoral politics, and a pro-Israel lobbying campaign that is effective, but maybe not as effective as you’ve heard. Here’s a guide to the different factors shaping America’s Israel policy — and how they relate to each other.
Since the Cold War, Israel has been the linchpin of American Middle East strategy
The US wasn’t always so close with Israel. For instance, when Israel (along with France and Britain) invaded Egypt in 1956, the United States sided against Israel, pushing the invaders to leave. And the US for years opposed, and worked actively against, Israel’s clandestine nuclear program. “Stated commitments to [Israel from American policymakers] cannot erase a legacy of US policies that often represented more of a threat than a support to Israeli security,” Michael Barnett, George Washington University political scientist, writes.
Even when the US did come to support Israel, it was more about cold strategic calculation than the domestic political support you see today. The US-Israel relationship grew “by leaps and bounds” after 1967, according to Barnett, owing largely to “a changing US containment and strategic posture.” American presidents and strategists came to see Israel as a useful tool for containing Soviet influence in the Middle East, which was significant among Arab states, and used diplomatic and military support to weave Israel firmly into the anti-Soviet bloc.
This strategic justification came down with the Berlin Wall. Yet the US aid to Israel kept flowing after the Cold War, as did diplomatic support. What kept it going?
or one thing, the US approach to the Middle East didn’t change that much after the Cold War. The US became increasingly involved in managing disputes and problems inside the Middle East during the Cold War, and it maintained that role as the world’s sole super-power in the 90s. Stability in the Middle East continued to be a major American interest, for a number of reasons that included the global oil market, and the US took on the role as guarantor of regional stability.
That meant the US saw it as strategically worthwhile to support states like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Israel, which saw themselves as benefitting from an essentially conservative US approach to Middle Eastern regional politics. Unlike, say, Iran, Syria, and Saddam’s Iraq, these countries were basically OK with the status quo in the Middle East. The US also supported the status quo, so it supported them accordingly.
This view of Israel as a “force for stability” helps maintain US support, according to Brent Sasley, a political scientist at the University of Texas, “in the sense that Israel can stabilize what’s going on in the Middle East. If there’s fear of Jordan being undermined by an internal or external enemy, the United States sometimes turns to Israel to pose a threat to that threat.”
America’s self-appointed role as manager of the Middle East also landed it the job of Israeli-Palestinian peace broker.
“The parties need a third party,” Hussein Ibish, a Senior Fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine, says. “I think there is no other candidate than the United States. There’s no other party that’s capable, and no other party that’s interested.”
American policymakers have seen US support for Israel as a way of showing Israel that the US is still taking its interests into account during negotiations, and thus convincing Israel that they can safely engage in peace talks. It’s meant to draw the Israelis to the negotiating table, and keep them there.
Together, these strategic factors explain why America’s approach to Israel has been broadly consistent for at least the past three administrations. Despite the vast disagreements between the George W. Bush administration versus the Clinton and Obama administrations on foreign policy, they’ve both supported military and political aid to Israel. And they’ve both crossed Israel when it wasn’t in the US’ strategic interests: Bush refused to support an Israeli strike on Iran, and Obama repeatedly clashed with Israeli leaders on West Bank settlements.
All of this isn’t to say that American presidents and foreign policy principals are necessarily right to believe these things. It’s within the realm of possibility, as some argue, that US support for Israel undermines regional stability and compromises America’s status as neutral broker during peace negotiations. The point here isn’t to endorse the official US view, but describe the line of thinking that’s been so influential in driving the American foreign policy establishment’s approach to Israel.
Supporting Israel is good politics in the US
US support for Israel isn’t just about strategic calculation and foreign policy interests, or at least not anymore. For a long time, at the very least since the 1980s, it’s also been about domestic politics and the way American politicians read American voters.
Congressional votes on issues relating to Israel are famously lopsided. The Senate resolution supporting Israel’s recent offensives in Gaza passed unanimously, as many “pro-Israel” bills and resolutions do.
The simplest explanation for these lopsided votes is that supporting Israel is really, really popular among voters. “The single factor most driving the U.S.-Israel relationship appears to be the broad and deep support for Israel among the American public,” Israel Institute program director Michael Koplow writes. “The average gap between those holding favorable and unfavorable views of Israel over [the past four administrations] is 31 points.”
Indeed, Gallup data since 1988 consistently shows a much higher percentage of Americans sympathizing with Israelis than with Palestinians in the conflict:
So it makes sense that Congresspeople would take pretty hard-core pro-Israel stances: it’s reasonably popular.
But why is Israel so popular among Americans in the first place? One big reason is a perceived sense of “shared values.” According to Barnett, the American moral image of Israel — “the only democracy in the Middle East,” for example — is the “foundation of US-Israeli relations.” Of course, as Barnett hastens to add, this leaves Israel vulnerable if Americans comes to believe that Israel has strayed from those shared values (more on that in the last section).
Religious groups are two other critically important factors. American Jews and evangelical Christians are two of the most politically engaged groups in the United States. They’re major constituencies, respectively, in the Democratic and Republican parties. And both are overwhelmingly pro-Israel.
There are nuances here: evangelical support for Israel tends to be more uncritical than Jewish support. For instance, a majority of reform and secular Jews — 65 percent of the American Jewish population — disapprove of Israel’s expansion of West Bank settlements. And Jews under the age of 35 are the least likely to identify as Zionist (though a majority still do). On the other hand, the older and more conservative Jews who aren’t entirely representative of the more liberal body of Jewish-American public opinion toward Israel, have a lot of clout with national politicians. They express strong desire to vote based on the Israel issue and are clustered in Florida and Pennsylvania, large swing states in presidential elections.
All that said, Pew data shows overall consistency in American Jewish views on the US-Israel relationship. 54 percent of American Jews think the US supports Israel the right amount — and 31 percent say it doesn’t go far enough. By contrast, 31 percent of white evangelicals think the US has reached the right level of support, while 46 percent want the US to support Israel more.
Add evangelicals, Jews, and broad public support together, and you get consistent, bipartisan support for Israel.
There’s also a huge pro-Israel lobby — but how effective are they really?
No account of US-Israel relations can ignore the American Israel Public Affairs Committee — AIPAC for short. AIPAC is America’s largest pro-Israel lobby. Surveys of Capitol Hill insiders conducted by Fortune (1997) and National Journal (2005) ranked it the second-most powerful lobbying shop in Washington, after (respectively) the AARP and National Federation of Independent Business. Neither survey is particularly statistically rigorous, so don’t take the specific rankings too seriously. And AIPAC loses on plenty of issues. However, the surveys do suggest that AIPAC is perceived as hugely powerful within Washington.
Saying that AIPAC pushes US foreign policy in a more pro-Israel direction isn’t controversial. The big, and extremely contentious, question is just how much AIPAC actually matters. Is the group actually steering US politics and foreign policy in a direction it wouldn’t go on its own?
The major flashpoint here is John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s The Israel Lobby and American Foreign Policy, which began as an 2006 essay and evolved into a book. The two eminent international relations scholars argued that there’s no way to explain the US-Israel relationship, from an IR perspective, other than as AIPAC and its allies pushing the US to act counter to its own interests. They reject that either strategy or shared values fully explain the US support for Israel, so lobbying must. “The unmatched power of the Israel Lobby,” Walt and Mearsheimer write, is “the” explanation for America’s continued strong support for Israel.
This argument is hugely controversial, including among international relations theorists. Some argued that The Israel Lobby creepily invoked classic anti-Semitic tropes of Jews secretly controlling the government. Others dismissed it as, in one particularly memorable phrase, “piss-poor, monocausal social science.”
One of the main criticisms of Walt and Mearsheimer’s thesis is that they don’t present very much direct evidence that AIPAC lobbying influenced specific votes. Another criticism is that Walt and Mearsheimer premise their thesis on the argument that Israel is neither strategically nor morally worthy of American support, and so policymakers must be supporting Israel because they’ve been coerced into it by AIPAC, whereas a number of policymakers will tell you they earnestly believe the alliance is worthwhile absent lobbying. Critics also argue that the definition of “Israel Lobby” beyond AIPAC used in the book is so large as to encompass basically the entire American foreign policy establishment.
Whatever you think of this debate, it can be easy to get lost in a binary between “the Israel lobby is all that matters” and “the Israel lobby is irrelevant.” What’s clearly true is that AIPAC is highly influential, but also that its power is linked to the other sources of US support for Israel; it does well on whipping up support for bills that are already in line with public opinion.
AIPAC doesn’t always win. For instance, it lost a major fight in Congress when it pushed for more sanctions on Iran in February 2014; the sanctions were likely designed to kill the ongoing US-Iran nuclear negotiations. AIPAC’s influence is a product of financial resources and power, sure, but also of choosing to push for policies that have public support and are consonant with American grand strategy in the Middle East.
Could US support for Israel change?
It’s hard to know where one driver of America’s Israel policy ends and another begins. For instance: early in his administration, President Obama pushed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to halt settlement growth in the West Bank; Netanyahu resisted this in part by rallying his allies in Congress. Netanyahu’s allies in both parties, who are always eager to appear pro-Israel, pressured Obama to drop his anti-settlements push, which he did.
The question here is whether, in this case and others, US foreign policy interests or US domestic politics was ultimately more consequential to driving the US-Israel relationship. For example, would Obama have pushed harder against settlements had Netanyahu not been able to call up so many allies in Congress? Were those members of Congress primarily driven by pure domestic politics, which do favor pro-Israel policies, by an earnest concern that Obama’s approach was bad for Israelis, or by a belief that Obama was hurting US foreign policy interests?
In thinking about the future of US-Israel relations, it’s much more helpful to examine what might cause these broad-bush factors to change. In simpler terms: is there a scenario under which the US and Israel drift apart?
It’s hard to know where one driver of America’s Israel policy ends and another begins. For instance: early in his administration, President Obama pushed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to halt settlement growth in the West Bank; Netanyahu resisted this in part by rallying his allies in Congress. Netanyahu’s allies in both parties, who are always eager to appear pro-Israel, pressured Obama to drop his anti-settlements push, which he did.
The question here is whether, in this case and others, US foreign policy interests or US domestic politics was ultimately more consequential to driving the US-Israel relationship. For example, would Obama have pushed harder against settlements had Netanyahu not been able to call up so many allies in Congress? Were those members of Congress primarily driven by pure domestic politics, which do favor pro-Israel policies, by an earnest concern that Obama’s approach was bad for Israelis, or by a belief that Obama was hurting US foreign policy interests?
In thinking about the future of US-Israel relations, it’s much more helpful to examine what might cause these broad-bush factors to change. In simpler terms: is there a scenario under which the US and Israel drift apart?”
Independent: So, just how powerful is the Israel lobby in the US?
“”Jewish lobby”. It’s always a mistake to use that expression, and not primarily because it sounds anti-Semitic…”Jewish lobby” is wrong on two counts. First, the lobby includes many non-Jews, most notably Christian conservatives. Second, many American Jews do not support the group’s hardline policies over Israel. The correct term, as Hagel quickly acknowledged last week, is “Israel lobby”…
…Power lies in the perception of power, and the Israel lobby, led by Aipac, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, is perceived to have a heck of a lot of it. Fall foul of the Israel lobby, with its financial muscle and ability to put the word out, and, it is said, your political career may be doomed…
…Congress is overwhelmingly supportive of Israel. Probably no more than a dozen of the 435 Representatives can remotely be described as “pro-Palestinian”, while the mood in the Senate may be divined from a 2000 resolution expressing support for Israel, signed by 96 of its members.
Not for nothing did Pat Buchanan once describe Congress as “Israeli-occupied territory” – so much so that an Israeli prime minister at odds with the White House can bypass the President, making his case directly to an Aipac conference or on Capitol Hill. Take Benjamin Netanyahu when he delivered an address to Congress in May 2011. I remember the assembled lawmakers jumping up and down like jack-in-the-boxes to give him 29 standing ovations. Whatever else, Bibi would never have received an acclamation like that in the Knesset.”
“Ten years ago, John Mearsheimer and I published a controversial article and subsequent book examining the impact of the “Israel lobby” — that is, a loose coalition of pro-Israel individuals and organizations like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and Christians United for Israel, just to name a few. We argued that decades of unconditional U.S. support for Israel — the so-called “special relationship” — is not explained by U.S. strategic interests or by shared values, as is often claimed, but is due primarily to the political efforts and activities of the lobby.
The result, we also argued, does more harm than good to both the United States and Israel. For the United States, the “special relationship” undermines America’s standing in the Arab and Islamic worlds, has encouraged a more confrontational approach with Iran and Syria, and contributes significantly both to America’s terrorism problem and to needless and costly debacles like the 2003 invasion of Iraq. For Israel, unquestioning U.S. support for almost all its actions has allowed the decades-long subjugation of the Palestinians to continue unchecked, undermining the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and threatening Israel’s future as a democratic and/or Jewish state.
We made it clear that the lobby was not a monolith controlling every aspect of U.S. Middle East policy, but rather a collection of disparate groups and individuals united by the aim of defending Israel’s actions and deepening the special relationship. We explicitly rejected the idea that anything nefarious was going on, explaining that AIPAC and related organizations were simply part of a powerful interest group like the farm lobby or the National Rifle Association. Their efforts to influence U.S. policy are “as American as apple pie.” And we used the term “Israel lobby” to highlight that not all American Jews support these policies and that some key members of the lobby (such as Christian Zionists) aren’t Jewish. The book also emphasizes that none of these groups or individuals is solely responsible for the choices U.S. leaders make.
As the article and book predicted, a firestorm of criticism followed their publication, including more than a few accusations that we are anti-Israel or anti-Semitic. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our aim was to elicit a debate that would help move America’s foreign policy in a wiser direction and increase Israel’s chances of achieving a durable, peaceful two-state solution with the Palestinians. By successfully squelching any criticism of Israel in almost any form, and by encouraging military action against Israel’s foes, the lobby — in our view — had led us away from both.
Unfortunately for Israel as well as the United States, the past 10 years provide ample evidence that our core argument is still correct. Nevertheless, shifts inside the pro-Israel community and in Israel itself may yet lead to positive shifts in U.S. Middle East policy and to a healthier relationship between the two countries.
There is little question the lobby remains a potent political force today. The “special relationship” is firmly intact: An increasingly prosperous Israel continues to receive billions of dollars in U.S. assistance, and it is still largely immune from criticism by top U.S. officials, members of Congress or contenders for public office. Being perceived as insufficiently “pro-Israel” can disqualify nominees for important government positions; one need look no further than Chuck Hagel’s contentious confirmation hearings — and the 178 times Israel came up — to see how crucial a role being pro-Israel plays in achieving political success in this country. People who criticize Israel too pointedly can still lose their jobs. Wealthy defenders of Israel such as Sheldon Adelson and Haim Saban play outsize roles in American politics, especially on Israel-related issues. A number of hard-line individuals and groups in the lobby remain staunch opponents of the sensible 2016 nuclear deal with Iran and may eventually help convince President Trump or the Congress to overturn it.
The clearest illustration of the lobby’s enduring power, however, is the Obama administration’s failure to make any progress on settling the Israel-Palestinian conflict. President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry were strong supporters of Israel, and both believe a two-state solution is, as Obama put it, “in Israel’s interest, Palestine’s interest, America’s interest and the world’s interest.” But even with backing from pro-peace, pro-Israel organizations such as J Street, their efforts to achieve “two states for two peoples” were rebuffed by Israel, working hand in hand with AIPAC and other hard-line groups. So instead of seriously pursuing peace, Israel expanded its settlements in the Israeli-occupied territories, making it more difficult than ever to create a viable Palestinian state.
Given AIPAC’s enduring influence in Congress and its unyielding opposition to any meaningful compromise with the Palestinians, Obama and Kerry ultimately could offer Israel only additional carrots (such as increased military aid) to try to win their cooperation. Like their predecessors, they could not put pressure on Israel to compromise by threatening to reduce U.S. support significantly. As a result, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had little incentive to make a deal. So, the two-state solution, which the United States has long sought and Netanyahu has long opposed, is now further away than ever. This outcome is bad for the United States and for Israel…
…There is also a growing divide within the American Jewish community over what is best for Israel itself. Scholars like Dov Waxman, Steven Simon and Dana Allin have documented that American Jews today are less reluctant to criticize Israel’s policies or the actions of the Israeli government. The creation of the pro-peace lobby J Street, the rapid growth of progressive groups like Jewish Voice for Peace, and the success of controversial online journals critical of Zionism, such as Mondoweiss, show that attitudes about Israel are more complicated than in the past. Reflexive support for whatever Israel does is no longer the default condition for many American Jews.
These developments are especially evident among young people, and as Waxman emphasizes in his 2016 book “Trouble in the Tribe,” they have amplified divisions between the Orthodox and more liberal branches of Judaism. One sees this trend in a recent poll conducted by the American Jewish Committee, which found that nearly 80% of American Jews disapprove of the job President Trump is doing but 71% of Orthodox Jews support Trump. The main reason? Orthodox Jews tend to see Trump as more supportive of Israel. Yet even among the Orthodox, a recent survey by Nishma Research found that only 43% of those between 18 and 34 “actively support” the Jewish state, compared with 71% of those over 55.
These trends stem from a core tension: The vast majority of American Jews remain deeply committed to liberal values, while Israel has been moving away from them for many years now. There is a certain tension between liberalism and Zionism, because liberalism assumes that all humans possess the same set of basic rights and it emphasizes mutual tolerance, while Zionism is a nationalist movement that in its current iteration privileges one people at the expense of another. Until 1967, however, that tension between liberal and Zionist values was muted because most Israelis were Jewish and the second-class status of Israel’s Arab minority did not receive much attention.
When Israel gained control of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, the resulting subjugation of millions of Palestinians brought that tension to the fore. The occupation of the Palestinian territories has endured for half a century, and today, certain sections of Israel’s government are openly committed to retaining the West Bank in perpetuity and creating a “Greater Israel.” This policy not only involves denying the Palestinian subjects meaningful political rights, but also leads Israel to react harshly whenever the Palestinians respond with violence and terrorism (as happened in response to the two intifadas and in Israel’s repeated assaults on Gaza), further tarnishing its image in the United States and elsewhere.
But as former prime ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert each warned, in the long run, denying the Palestinians a viable state of their own will turn Israel into a state akin to apartheid South Africa. Such a state will be increasingly difficult for Israel’s supporters — and especially liberal American Jews — to embrace and defend against the inevitable criticism that will be directed at it. Furthermore, the steady rightward drift of Israeli politics — exemplified by the 2016 “transparency law” marginalizing Israeli human rights organizations, as well as by Netanyahu’s decision to renege on a plan to allow non-Orthodox Jewish men and women to pray together at the Western Wall — also clashes with the political values of most American Jews…
…efforts to silence criticism of Israel have reached new heights. How else can one explain the AIPAC-sponsored Senate bill that would make it a crime in the United States to participate in the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, legislation that the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International and the Center for Constitutional Rights have rightly denounced as a direct threat to free speech?”
“Mere days after Donald Trump won the US presidential election, American Zionists moved quickly to ensure that Israeli interests were fully guarded by the new administration.
The Zionist Organization of America wasted no time, hobnobbing with notorious racists, also known for their anti-Jewish agendas. ZOA’s annual gala on November 20 hosted none other than Steve Bannon, a leader in the so-called alt-right, otherwise known as white supremacy in the United States.
Under his leadership, Breitbart, seen as a major platform for the alt-right, fuelled anti-Semitism (needless to say, racisms of all shades) argued Alex Amend and Jonathan Morgan in AlterNet.
Watching top Israeli officials and leaders of the Jewish community in the US hosting – ever so enthusiastically – Bannon at ZOA’s annual gala appeared perplexing to some. Others casually explained it as the nature of politics, as Israel needs its US alliance even if it meant accommodating anti-Semites.
But it is hardly that simple. Bannon’s ties with Zionists go back well before the rather surprising Trump election victory. In fact, Israel has never had a problem with true anti-Semites. Instead, it merely rebranded any criticism of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land as anti-Semitism.
By conflating the term, the Zionists managed to largely silence all debate on Israel in the US, and despite stubborn attempts to break Israel’s stronghold on Zionist control over the Palestine and Middle East narrative in US media, government and society as a whole, Israel continues to maintain the upper hand, as it has for decades…
…According to Fortune Magazine’s 1997 issue, AIPAC is considered the second-most powerful lobby in Washington, an assessment that was upheld by the National Journal Study in March 2005.
“The Lobby” also relies on Christian evangelicals who have long advocated the return of Jews to Palestine as to fulfil some biblical prophecy pertaining to the end of times. Historically, Zionists have had no quarrel working with such hate-peddling preachers as Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and John Hagee.
Hagee, in particular, has emerged as possibly the most powerful of these figures. His eagerness for the final battle between East and West – Armageddon – led him to establish Christians United for Israel (CUFI).
While AIPAC boasts over 100,000 members, as of January 2015, CUFI’s membership was estimated at two million. When Israel attacked Lebanon in the summer of 2006, thousands of evangelicals descended on Washington to lobby Congress to support Israel unconditionally. They arrived from all 50 states and, in one single day, they reportedly held 280 meetings on Capitol Hill. But unlike the early days of Zionist lobbying, the lobby is no longer standing on the sidelines urging to the Congress and the executive branch to adopt a pro-Israel agenda…
…Moreover, the lobby is no longer satisfied with attempting to sway Washington, by pressuring the Congress and the executive branch – where being pro-Israel has been the expected natural state of mind for American lawmakers (save the few courageous ones) – but “It also strives to ensure that public discourse portrays Israel in a positive light, by repeating myths about its founding and by promoting its point of view in policy debates,” according to The Israel Lobby.
“The goal is to prevent critical comments from getting a fair hearing in the political arena. Controlling the debate is essential to guaranteeing US support, because a candid discussion of US-Israeli relations might lead Americans to favour a different policy.”
This is why the lobby is currently mobilising to stop and even criminalise the BDS movement, for, even if it failed to nudge US foreign policy in a more sensible direction, BDS is relatively succeeding in creating more platforms for open discussions on many university campuses and some media.
Several US states have officially launched initiatives to defeat BDS and more are likely to follow. The fear of losing complete control over the narrative is frightening for the pro-Israel lobby. For them, only Israeli myth peddlers and fear-mongering preachers must be allowed to speak to Congress, media and public.”
“(2014) The official name for Israel’s latest assault on Gaza is “Operation Protective Edge.” A better name would be “Operation Déjà Vu.” As it has on several prior occasions, Israel is using weapons provided by U.S. taxpayers to bombard the captive and impoverished Palestinians in Gaza, where the death toll now exceeds 500. As usual, the U.S. government is siding with Israel, even though most American leaders understand Israel instigated the latest round of violence, is not acting with restraint, and that its actions make Washington look callous and hypocritical in the eyes of most of the world.
This Orwellian situation is eloquent testimony to the continued political clout of AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) and the other hardline elements of the Israel lobby. There is no other plausible explanation for the supine behavior of the U.S. Congress—including some of its most “progressive” members—or the shallow hypocrisy of the Obama administration, especially those officials known for their purported commitment to human rights.
The immediate cause of this latest one-sided bloodletting was the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli hikers in the occupied West Bank, followed shortly thereafter by the kidnapping and fatal burning of a Palestinian teenager by several Israelis. According to J.J. Goldberg’s reporting in the Jewish newspaper Forward, the Netanyahu government blamed Hamas for the kidnappings without evidence and pretended the kidnapped Israelis were still alive for several weeks, even though there was evidence indicating the victims were already dead. It perpetrated this deception in order to whip up anti-Arab sentiment and make it easier to justify punitive operations in the West Bank and Gaza.
And why did Netanyahu decide to go on another rampage in Gaza? As Nathan Thrall of the International Crisis Group points out, the real motive is neither vengeance nor a desire to protect Israel from Hamas’ rocket fire, which has been virtually non-existent over the past two years and is largely ineffectual anyway. Netanyahu’s real purpose was to undermine the recent agreement between Hamas and Fatah for a unity government. Given Netanyahu’s personal commitment to keeping the West Bank and creating a “greater Israel,” the last thing he wants is a unified Palestinian leadership that might press him to get serious about a two-state solution. Ergo, he sought to isolate and severely damage Hamas and drive a new wedge between the two Palestinian factions.
Behind all these maneuvers looms Israel’s occupation of Palestine, now in its fifth decade. Not content with having ethnically cleansed hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in 1948 and 1967 and not satisfied with owning eighty-two percent of Mandatory Palestine, every Israeli government since 1967 has built or expanded settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem while providing generous subsidies to the 600,000-plus Jews who have moved there in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Two weeks ago, Netanyahu confirmed what many have long suspected: he is dead set against a two-state solution and will never—repeat never—allow it to happen while he is in office. Given that Netanyahu is probably the most moderate member of his own Cabinet and that Israel’s political system is marching steadily rightward, the two-state solution is a gone goose.
Worst of all, the deaths of hundreds more Palestinians and a small number of Israelis will change almost nothing. Hamas is not going to disband. When this latest round of fighting ends, the 4.4 million Palestinians who live in the West Bank and Gaza will still be Israel’s de facto prisoners and still be denied basic human rights. But they are not going to leave, mainly because Palestine is their homeland, but also because they have nowhere to go, especially given the turmoil in other parts of the Middle East.
Eventually another ceasefire will be negotiated. The dead will be buried, the wounded will recover, the tunnels now being destroyed will be rebuilt, and Hamas will replenish its stockpile of missiles and rockets. The stage will then be set for another round of fighting, and Israel will have moved further down the road to becoming a full-fledged apartheid state.
Meanwhile, U.S. politicians and policymakers continue to back a brutal military campaign whose primary purpose is not to defend Israel but rather to protect its longstanding effort to colonize the West Bank. Amazingly, they continue to support Israel unreservedly even though every U.S. president since Lyndon Johnson has opposed Israel’s settlements project, and the past three American presidents—Clinton, Bush and Obama—have all worked hard for the two-state solution that Israeli policy has now made impossible.
Yet as soon as fighting starts, and even if Israel instigates it, AIPAC demands that Washington march in lockstep with Tel Aviv. Congress invariably rushes to pass new resolutions endorsing whatever Israel decides to do. Even though it is mostly Palestinians who are dying, White House officials rush to proclaim that Israel has “the right to defend itself,” and Obama himself won’t go beyond expressing “concern” about what is happening. Of course Israelis have the right to defend themselves, but Palestinians not only have the same right, they have the right to resist the occupation. To put this another way, Israel does not have the right to keep its Palestinian subjects in permanent subjugation. But try finding someone on Capitol Hill who will acknowledge this simple fact.
The explanation for America’s impotent and morally bankrupt policy is the political clout of the Israel lobby. Barack Obama knows that if he were to side with the Palestinians in Gaza or criticize Israel’s actions in any way, he would face a firestorm of criticism from the lobby and his chances of getting Congressional approval for a deal with Iran would evaporate.
Similarly, every member of the House and Senate—including progressives like Senator Elizabeth Warren—knows that voting for those supposedly “pro-Israel” resolutions is the smart political move. They understand that even the slightest display of independent thinking on these issues could leave them vulnerable to a well-funded opponent the next time they’re up for re-election. At a minimum, they’ll have to answer a flood of angry phone calls and letters, and, on top of that, they are likely to be blackballed by some of their Congressional colleagues. The safer course is to mouth the same tired litanies about alleged “shared values” between Israel and the U.S. and wait till the crisis dies down. And people wonder why no one respects Congress anymore.
To be sure, the lobby’s clout is not as profound as it once was. Public discourse about Israel, U.S. policy toward Israel and the lobby itself has changed markedly in recent years, and a growing number of journalists, bloggers and pundits—such as Andrew Sullivan, Juan Cole, Peter Beinart, M.J. Rosenberg, Max Blumenthal, Phyllis Bennis, Bernard Avishai, Sara Roy, Mitchell Plitnick, David Remnick, Phil Weiss and even (occasionally) Thomas Friedman of the New York Times—are willing to speak and write candidly about what is happening in the Middle East. Although most Americans openly support Israel’s existence—just as I do—their sympathy for an Israel that acts more like Goliath than David is fading. The ranks of the skeptics include a growing number of younger American Jews, who find little to admire and much to dislike in Israel’s actions and who are far less devoted to it than were previous generations. Pro-peace groups such as J Street and Jewish Voice for Peace reflect that trend and show that opinion among American Jews is far from unified.
Moreover, AIPAC and other hardline lobby groups could not convince the Obama administration to intervene in Syria, and they have been unable to convince the Bush or Obama administrations to launch a preventive strike against Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. They have also failed to derail the nuclear negotiations with Tehran—at least so far—though not for lack of trying. Pushing the U.S. toward another Middle East war is a lot for any interest group to accomplish, of course, but these setbacks show that even this “leviathan among lobbies” does not always get its way.
But the lobby is still able to keep roughly $3 billion in U.S. aid to Israel flowing each year; it can still prevent U.S. presidents from putting meaningful pressure on Israel; and it can still get the U.S. to wield its veto whenever a resolution criticizing Israel’s actions is floated in the U.N. Security Council. This situation explains why the Obama administration made zero progress toward “two states for two peoples”: if Israel gets generous U.S. support no matter what it does, why should its leaders pay any attention to Washington’s requests? Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry could only appeal to Netanyahu’s better judgment, and we’ve seen how well that worked.
This situation is a tragedy for all concerned, not least for Israel itself. A Greater Israel cannot be anything but an apartheid state, and exclusionary ethnic nationalism of this sort is not sustainable in the 21st century. Israel’s Arab subjects will eventually demand equal rights, and as former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned back in 2007, once that happens, “the state of Israel is finished.”
Unfortunately, AIPAC, the Anti-Defamation League, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and assorted Christian Zionist groups continue to exhibit a severe case of tunnel vision. Because defending Israel no matter what it does is their main raison d’etre (and central to their fundraising), they are unable to see that they are helping Israel drive itself off a cliff. Similarly, those pliant members of Congress who cravenly sign AIPAC-drafted resolutions are not true friends of Israel. They are false friends who pretend to care but are really only interested in getting reelected.
Historians will one day look back and ask how U.S. Middle East policy could be so ineffectual and so at odds with its professed values — not to mention its strategic interests. The answer lies in the basic nature of the American political system, which permits well-organized and well-funded special interest groups to wield significant power on Capitol Hill and in the White House. In this case, the result is a policy that is bad for all concerned: for the Palestinians most of all, but also for the U.S. and Israel as well. Until the lobby’s clout is weakened or politicians grow stiffer spines, Americans looking for better outcomes in the Middle East had better get used to disappointment and prepared for more trouble.”
And perhaps most notably, for the first time this century — if not ever — Democrats are now about equally split between sympathizing more with Israel (33 percent) and with the Palestinians (31 percent).
The change across the political spectrum is clear when you look at the chart below. The biggest shifts over the last 15 years have occurred among conservative Republicans, who have drifted toward a more pro-Israel view, and liberal Democrats, who have drifted more toward the Palestinians. The most politically polarized are driving the change.
Noam Chomsky 2014: Why Does the US Support Israel
Anti-Zionism Equals Anti-Semitism Myth
“To argue that hostility to Israel and hostility to Jews are one and the same thing is to conflate the Jewish state with the Jewish people. In fact, Israel is one thing, Jewry another. Accordingly, anti-Zionism is one thing, anti-Semitism another. They are separate. To say they are separate is not to say that they are never connected. But they are independent variables that can be connected in different ways.” Brian Klug, “And when every anti-Zionist is an anti-Semite, we no longer know how to recognize the real thing–the concept of anti-Semitism loses its significance”
The Nation: The Myth of the New Anti-Semitism
“What puts the “new” into “new anti-Semitism”?
The answer, in a word, is anti-Zionism. The “vilification of Israel,” Iganski and Kosmin argue, is “the core characteristic” of Judeophobia (their term for “new anti-Semitism”). In his contribution to their book, Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of Britain and the Commonwealth, explains: “What we are witnessing today is the second great mutation of antisemitism in modern times, from racial antisemitism to religious anti-Zionism (with the added premise that all Jews are Zionists).” Sometimes the point is made by equating the State of Israel in the “new” anti-Semitism with the individual Jew in the “old” variety. Rabbi Sacks himself draws this parallel in an article in the Guardian: “At times [anti-Semitism] has been directed against Jews as individuals. Today it is directed against Jews as a sovereign people.” In the same vein, Dershowitz argues that Israel has become “the Jew among Nations.”
Foxman defines Zionism thus: “Zionism simply refers to support for the existence of a Jewish state–specifically, the state of Israel.” In a narrow sense, anti-Zionism is simply the antithesis: rejection of the very idea of a Jewish state, specifically Israel. Foxman’s verdict on this position is uncompromising: “The harsh but un- deniable truth is this: what some like to call anti-Zionism is, in reality, anti-Semitism–always, everywhere, and for all time.” He adds for good measure: “Therefore, anti-Zionism is not a politically legitimate point of view but rather an expression of bigotry and hatred.”
Foxman insists that he is not opposed to criticism of Israel. “In every public forum,” he says, “I’m always careful to say that criticism of the state of Israel is not necessarily anti-Semitic.” But “is not necessarily” implies “is possibly,” and what this really means is “it’s usually so.” In his view, “most of the current attacks on Israel and Zionism are not, at bottom, about the policies and conduct of a particular nation-state. They are about Jews.” This is conventional wisdom in the “new anti-Semitism” literature. The main basis for this opinion is that such attacks single out Israel unfairly or apply a double standard. As Dershowitz writes:
So long as criticism is comparative, contextual, and fair, it should be encouraged, not disparaged. But when the Jewish nation is the only one criticized for faults that are far worse among other nations, such criticism crosses the line from fair to foul, from acceptable to anti-Semitic.
Just where this line in the sand is drawn varies from author to author. But it tends to be drawn in such a way as to rule out criticism that goes much beyond a gentle rap across the government’s knuckles or finger-wagging at the laws of the land.
When I say that “anti-Zionism” puts the “new” into “new anti-Semitism,” I am referring not only to anti-Zionism in the narrow sense; I am using the word broadly to include any position that lies on the far side of the line separating “fair” from “foul.” Now, if crossing the line is anti-Semitic, and if “most of the current attacks on Israel and Zionism” cross the line, it follows that most current attacks on Israel and Zionism are anti-Semitic. By extension, any attack aimed at a Jewish target is anti-Semitic if it is inspired by a position that crosses that line. Given that both Israel and Zionism are at the center of so much controversy around the world, the effect of this logic is to produce, at a stroke, a quantum leap in the amount of anti-Semitism worldwide, if not a veritable “war against the Jews.”
It is, of course, understandable that many Jews find this logic compelling. There is a long and ignoble history of “Zionist” being used as a code word for “Jew,” as when Communist Poland carried out “anti-Zionist” purges in 1968, expelling thousands of Jews from the country, or when the extreme right today uses the acronym ZOG (Zionist Occupied Government) to refer to the US government. Moreover, the Zionist movement arose as a reaction to the persecution of Jews. Since anti-Zionism is the opposite of Zionism, and since Zionism is a form of opposition to anti-Semitism, it seems to follow that an anti-Zionist must be an anti-Semite.
Nonetheless, the inference is invalid. To argue that hostility to Israel and hostility to Jews are one and the same thing is to conflate the Jewish state with the Jewish people. In fact, Israel is one thing, Jewry another. Accordingly, anti-Zionism is one thing, anti-Semitism another. They are separate. To say they are separate is not to say that they are never connected. But they are independent variables that can be connected in different ways.
The history of the Zionist movement itself illustrates the point. Consider the background to the Balfour Declaration of November 2, 1917, by which the British government committed itself to the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. This was a major coup for the Zionist movement. But it would be wrong to think that it was the product of pro-Jewish sentiment within the British establishment. On the contrary, British support for Zionism was spearheaded by anti-Semites within the civil and foreign service. These people believed that Jews, acting collectively, were manipulating world events from behind the scenes. Consequently, they vastly exaggerated the power and influence of the tiny Zionist movement. Balfour himself took a similar view. Moreover, some years earlier, as Prime Minister, he introduced the Aliens Bill (which became law in 1905), aimed specifically at restricting admission of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. He warned Parliament at the time that the Jews “remained a people apart.”
The Balfour Declaration was delayed by opposition. The opposition was not led by a rival anti-Semitic faction, as it were, but by Jews. Some of the most prominent members of the British Jewish community were opposed to the Zionist cause. Among them was Edwin Montagu, a member of the Cabinet. Montagu rejected what he saw as the basic premise of Zionism: that Jews constitute a separate nation. In an official memorandum in August 1917, he wrote: “I wish to place on record my view that the policy of His Majesty’s Government is anti-Semitic in result and will prove a rallying ground for anti-Semites in every country in the world.” A similar view was held by the Conjoint Committee, which joined the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Anglo-Jewish Association, and represented British Jewry in foreign affairs. In a long letter that ran in the May 24, 1917, edition of the London Times, the committee gave what was, in effect, a critique of mainstream Zionist ideology. Commenting on the claim that “the Jewish settlement in Palestine shall be recognized as possessing a national character in a political sense,” the committee wrote:
It is part and parcel of a wider Zionist theory, which regards all the Jewish communities of the world as constituting one homeless nationality, incapable of complete social and political identification, with the nations among whom they dwelt, and it is argued that for this homeless nationality, a political center and an always available homeland in Palestine are necessary. Against this theory the Conjoint Committee strongly and earnestly protests.
So in 1917 anti-Semites were promoting the Balfour Declaration while a significant number of Jews opposed it. Does it follow that Zionism, in and of itself, is anti-Semitic? Of course not. But this episode does undercut the converse claim: that anti-Zionism is necessarily so.
Why–on what grounds–do the authors under review or people of a similar cast of mind maintain this claim? Zuckerman argues, “Just as historic anti-Semitism has denied individual Jews the right to live as equal members of society, anti-Zionism would deny the collective expression of the Jewish people, the State of Israel, the right to live as an equal member of the family of nations.” This is a variation on an argument that is a staple in the “new anti-Semitism” literature. It goes like this: “Given the principle of self-determination for nations, the Jewish people have a right to their own state, like everyone else. To deny that right, especially if this means singling Jews out, is anti-Semitic.”
This argument assumes that Jews, or the Jewish people, constitute a nation in the relevant sense, the sense in which the principle of self-determination applies. But this question is no less a burning issue today–not least for Jews themselves–than it was in 1917, when the Conjoint Committee disputed it. (It has been disputed from the beginning of political Zionism in the late nineteenth century down to the present day.) Certainly, mainstream Zionism, insofar as it had an ideology, saw itself as a national movement. But it was unlike other national movements in one crucial respect: There was no pre-existing nation, not in the modern sense of the word, where both territory and language are already in place. Traditionally, the idea of the Jewish people was centered not on a state but on a book, the Torah, and the culture (or cultures) that developed around that book.
Within this book, it is true, there is a narrative about a people, Am Yisrael (the people of Israel) in a land, Eretz Yisrael (the land of Israel) or Tzion (Zion), from which they are exiled and to which they will eventually return. But traditionally, this was regarded as a sacred story, not as a political blueprint. Mainstream Zionism set out to modernize Judaism by politicizing it, nationalizing it, turning the Jewish people into the Jewish nation, in the nineteenth-century sense of that word. The idea was to put Israel, a political entity in the here and now, at the center of Jewish identity. This was a radical departure from the “old” Jewish idea of a Jew. The concept of “new anti-Semitism,” to the extent that it is based on mainstream Zionist ideology, is just the other side of the coin, the obverse of this new idea of a Jew, the national Jew. Zuckerman and others of this cast of mind are arguing in a circle; for it is only anti-Semitic to reject his argument if you have already accepted it.
However, political Zionism is larger than its mainstream ideology. In the first place, there are other ideologies that have motivated people in the movement. In the second place, people in the movement have been motivated by considerations that have nothing to do with ideology. Many Jews, as well as non-Jewish sympathizers, were drawn to the Zionist goal of creating a Jewish state in Palestine for reasons that were purely humanitarian or practical. This motive was reinforced by the catastrophic consequences of the Second World War: the extermination of one-third of the world’s Jewish population, the wholesale destruction of Jewish communities in much of Europe and the plight of masses of Jewish refugees with nowhere to go. In these circumstances, the State of Israel was seen by many Jews as a lifeline. Such people did not necessarily see the state in romantic ethnic terms as “the collective expression of the Jewish people.” They saw it simply as a safe haven for Jews, a refuge, a place in the sun.
On this basis, the following argument can be made: “It is one thing to argue about the existence of Israel in 1917, another to do so after 1948, when the state was founded. History has overtaken the question. Israel is no longer an idea in someone’s head. It exists. And for millions of Jews, Israel is their home. They have nowhere else to go. To oppose the existence of the Jewish state at this point means nothing less than wanting to deprive these Jews of their homeland and perhaps their very lives. It also means depriving millions of other Jews, Jews around the world, of their protector and their safeguard. For who will come to the defense of Jews, and who will offer persecuted Jews a place of refuge, if not Israel, the Jewish state? Only an antiSemite would want to destroy this state.”
The argument, understandable though it is, makes several questionable assumptions. For one thing, the alternatives are not black and white: either preserving the status quo or annihilation. There are a variety of constitutional arrangements in between. For example, Israel could continue to exist as a sovereign state but cease to define itself, in its basic laws and state institutions, as specifically Jewish. Or there is the so-called one-state solution: a binational homeland for Palestinians and Jews. The tragic impasse in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has renewed interest in this proposal among some Arab and Jewish intellectuals. And although this view lacks a significant constituency in either community at present, attitudes may well change. At any rate, while Jews might have embraced Israel as a safe place to be Jewish, Israel today is hardly a place of safety for Jews. And you don’t have to be an anti-Semite to envisage a future for Israel, or for Israel’s Jewish population, that is not based on the principle of a Jewish state. As for Jews around the world, whether they are safer because of the existence of Israel, or whether Israel is putting them at greater risk than they would otherwise be, is debatable.
I turn now to anti-Zionism in the broader sense: criticism of Israel that is unbalanced or intemperate. It is true that some critics judge Israel by harsher criteria than they use to judge other countries, that they misrepresent the facts so as to put Israel in a bad light, that they even vilify the Jewish state, none of which is fair. But is it necessarily anti-Semitic? The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a bitter struggle. The issues are complex, passions are inflamed and the suffering in both communities is immense. In such circumstances, partisans on both sides are liable to “cross the line from fair to foul.” Moreover, just as there are those on the outside who support the Palestinians, so there are those whose sympathies lie with Israel. When the latter cross the line, they are not ipso facto racist or Islamophobic. By the same token, when others cross the line on behalf of the Palestinian cause, this does not make them anti-Semites. It cuts both ways.
A simple thought experiment reinforces this argument. Imagine if Israel were the same in every essential respect as the state that exists today, including its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, except in its religious identity. Suppose it were Catholic, like the Crusader states that Europeans created in the Middle East in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Let us call this imaginary state “Christiania” instead of “Israel.” Would Christiania be accepted into the bosom of the region more readily than Israel has been? I doubt it. Would the animosity felt toward Christiania be qualitatively different from, or significantly less than, the hostility now directed at Israel? Again, I think not. Any differences would be a matter of nuance. In fact, Israel is often called a “crusader state” in Arab and Muslim circles. In a way, this says everything about the Israeli-Arab and Israeli-Palestinian conflicts. Crusader states, like the imaginary Christiania, were Christian; the State of Israel is Jewish. But the underlying hostility toward it in the region is not hostility toward the state as Jewish but as a European interloper or as an American client or as a non-Arab and non-Muslim entity; moreover, as an oppressive occupying force. Some people see this disposition toward Israel as anti-imperialist or anticolonialist, others as chauvinist or xenophobic. But in and of itself, it is not anti-Semitic.
Which is not to deny that anti-Semitism enters the mix. But it is one ingredient in a complex situation, not the engine that drives anti-Zionism. When Chesler speaks of “the war against the Jews,” and Foxman refers to “the resurgence of worldwide anti-Semitism,” they give the impression that the monsters of the deep are stirring once again and that the 1930s are returning with a vengeance. Foxman says as much: “I am convinced we currently face as great a threat to the safety and security of the Jewish people as the one we faced in the 1930s–if not a greater one.” But there is a world of difference between then and now, as there is between anti-Semitism in Europe and the Middle East.
In Europe, its original home, antiSemitism is an old and deeply rooted cultural trait that from time to time (as in the League of Anti-Semites) has found political expression. In the Arab and Muslim world today it is, roughly speaking, the other way around: The political conflict is what comes first and goes deep, while anti-Semitism is a secondary formation, a byproduct of aspirations and grievances that have nothing to do with a priori prejudice against Jews (although such prejudice was hardly absent from the Muslim world before the creation of Israel). Foxman says that anti-Semitism is “rampant in the world of Islam” and warns against its “spread” in Europe due to the burgeoning Muslim population. But without a doubt, it would not be spreading within Muslim communities in Europe were it not for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, especially the current crisis that began in 2000 with the breakdown of the Oslo peace initiative and the outbreak of the second intifada.
In the scenario painted by Chesler, Foxman and others, no distinction is made between, say, the young Muslim immigrants who carried out the vast majority of physical attacks against Jews in France in 2002, and someone like the former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. Mahathir’s speech to the tenth session of the Islamic Summit Conference this past October was an example of classical anti-Semitic discourse, with its peculiar combination of animus and admiration. Describing Jews as “the enemy,” he warned, “We are up against a people who think.” He went on to credit Jews with having “invented,” among other things, human rights and democracy. “With these,” he explained, “they have now gained control of the most powerful countries and they, this tiny community, have become a world power.” Mahathir was singing from the same anti-Semitic hymn book as Wilhelm Marr. But the evidence suggests that the perpetrators of the anti-Jewish attacks in France were animated by political outrage, not bigotry. According to the Israeli Foreign Ministry itself, most of the incidents were a protest against inequities in the occupied territories.
“Nonetheless,” someone might object, “the young Muslim immigrants who carried out these attacks are anti-Semites. For it’s not the Jews of France who are occupying the territories, it’s the State of Israel. If the motive for these incidents was purely political, why didn’t the protesters attack the Israeli embassy? Why attack individual Jews and Jewish institutions? This is a clear case of lumping all Jews together and holding them collectively responsible. This is what makes these incidents anti-Semitic.”
The objection, however, is misconceived, and the misconception goes to the heart of the complex situation in which Jews find themselves today. Israel does not regard itself as a state that just happens to be Jewish (like the medieval kingdom of the Khazars). It sees itself as (in Prime Minister Sharon’s phrase) “the Jewish collective,” the sovereign state of the Jewish people as a whole. In his speech at the Herzliya Conference in December, Sharon called the state “a national and spiritual center for all Jews of the world,” and added, “Aliyah [Jewish immigration] is the central goal of the State of Israel.” To what extent this view is reciprocated by Jews worldwide is hard to say. Many feel no particular connection to the state or strongly oppose its actions. On the other hand, in spring 2002, at the height of Israel’s Operation Defensive Shield, Jews gathered in large numbers in numerous cities to demonstrate their solidarity, as Jews, with Israel. Many Jewish community leaders, religious and secular, publicly reinforce this identification with the state. All of which is liable to give the unreflective onlooker the impression that Jews are, as it were, lumping themselves together; that Israel is indeed “the Jewish collective.”
Not that this justifies, not for one moment, a single incident where Jews are attacked for being Jewish; such attacks are repugnant. But it does provide a context within which to make sense of them without seeing a global “war against the Jews.” There is no such war. It is, in fact, as much a figment of the imagination as its mirror image: a Jewish conspiracy against the world. Jews have good reason to be concerned about growing hostility toward them. But while this includes the revival of hard-core antiSemitism, it is closer to the truth to say that anti-Zionism today takes the form of anti-Semitism rather than the other way round. As Akiva Eldar observed recently in Ha’aretz, “It is much easier to claim the entire world is against us than to admit that the State of Israel, which rose as a refuge and a source of pride for Jews…has become a genuine source of danger and a source of shameful embarrassment to Jews who choose to live outside its borders.”
In defense of her assertion that there is a global “war against the Jews,” Chesler wields the ultimate weapon. “In my opinion,” she says, “anyone who denies that this is so or who blames the Jews for provoking the attacks is an anti-Semite.” Since I deny that there is such a war, this makes me an anti-Semite. But since her argument empties the word of all meaning, I do not feel maligned. In his contribution to A New Antisemitism?, historian Peter Pulzer, faulting the way “the liberal press” sometimes reports the activities of the Israel Defense Forces in the occupied territories, makes a telling point about the misuse of words. He says: “When every civilian death is a war crime, that concept loses its significance. When every expulsion from a village is genocide, we no longer know how to recognize genocide. When Auschwitz is everywhere, it is nowhere.” Point taken. But equally, when anti-Semitism is everywhere, it is nowhere. And when every anti-Zionist is an anti-Semite, we no longer know how to recognize the real thing–the concept of anti-Semitism loses its significance.
Wikipedia: Criticism of Israel and antisemitism
Criticism of Israel and antisemitism
Some criticisms of Israel or Israeli policies have been characterized as anti-Semitic. Proponents of the concept of New Antisemitism, such as Phyllis Chesler, Gabriel Schoenfeld and Mortimer Zuckerman, argue that, since the 1967 Six-Day War, many criticisms of Israel are veiled attacks on Jews and hence are essentially antisemitic. Abba Eban, Robert S. Wistrich, and Joschka Fischer focus on criticism of Zionism, and contend that some forms of anti-Zionism, particularly attacks on Israel’s right to exist, are anti-Semitic in nature.
Critics of this view often portray this view as an “equation” of criticism with anti-Semitism. Some critics of Israel or Israeli policies, including Ralph Nader, Jenny Tonge, Noam Chomsky, and Desmond Tutu suggest that equating criticism of Israel with antisemitism is inappropriate or inaccurate. Other critics, such as John Mearsheimer, Alexander Cockburn, Norman Finkelstein, and William I. Robinson, claim that supporters of Israel sometimes equate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism in a deliberate attempt to prevent legitimate criticism of Israel and discredit critics…
Objections to characterizing criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism
..Some commentators have objected to the characterization of criticisms of Israel as anti-Semitic, and have often asserted that supporters of Israel equate criticism with anti-Semitism or excessively blur the distinction between the two. Examples include Michael P. Prior, Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, Michael Lerner, Antony Lerman, Ralph Nader, Jenny Tonge, Ken Livingstone, and Desmond Tutu. They provide a variety of reasons for their objections, including stifling free expression, promoting anti-Semitism, diluting genuine anti-Semitism, and alienating Jews from Judaism or Israel.
Vague and indiscriminate
Michael Lerner claims that the American Jewish community regularly tries to blur the distinction between legitimate criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism, and says it is a “slippery slope” to expand the definition of anti-Semitism to include legitimate criticism of Israel.
Philosophy professor Irfan Khawaja asserts that it is a “false equation” to equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism, writing “The point is not that the charge of ‘anti-Semitism’ should never be made: some people deserve it…. But the equation of anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism is a farce that has gone on long enough, and it’s time that those who saw through the farce said so…”
Palestine Monitor, a Palestinian advocacy group, is critical of what it characterizes as a modern trend to expand the definition of the term “antisemitic”, and states that the new definitions are overly vague and allow for “indiscriminate accusations”
Brian Klug argues that anti-Zionism sometimes is a manifestation of antisemitism, but that “[t]hey are separate” and that to equate them is to incorrectly “conflate the Jewish state with the Jewish people.”
Earl Raab, founding director of the Nathan Perlmutter Institute for Jewish Advocacy at Brandeis University writes that “[t]here is a new surge of antisemitism in the world, and much prejudice against Israel is driven by such antisemitism,” but argues that charges of antisemitism based on anti-Israel opinions generally lack credibility. He writes that “a grave educational misdirection is imbedded in formulations suggesting that if we somehow get rid of antisemitism, we will get rid of anti-Israelism. This reduces the problems of prejudice against Israel to cartoon proportions.” Raab describes prejudice against Israel as a “serious breach of morality and good sense,” and argues that it is often a bridge to antisemitism, but distinguishes it from antisemitism as such.
Irfan Khawaja suggests that some legitimate criticisms of Israel are improperly attacked by deliberately conflating them with criticisms that are anti-Semitic in nature.
Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, in the book The Politics of Anti-Semitism, write “Apologists for Israel’s repression of Palestinians toss the word ‘anti-Semite’ at any critic of what Zionism has meant in practice for Palestinians on the receiving end. So some of the essays in this book address the issue of what constitutes genuine anti-Semitism – Jew-hatred – as opposed to disingenuous, specious charges of ‘anti-Semitism’ hurled at rational appraisals of the state of Israel’s political, military, and social conduct.”
Represents Jews as victims
Norman Finkelstein and Steven Zipperstein (professor of Jewish Culture and History at Stanford University) suggest that criticism of Israel is sometimes inappropriately considered to be anti-Semitism due to an inclination to perceive Jews as victims. Zipperstein suggests that the common attitude of seeing Jews as victims is sometimes implicitly transferred to the perception of Israel as a victim; while Finkelstein suggests that the depiction of Israel as a victim (as a “Jew among nations”) is a deliberate ploy to stifle criticism of Israel.
Sander Gilman has written, “One of the most recent forms of Jewish self-hatred is the virulent opposition to the existence of the State of Israel.” He uses the term not against those who criticize Israel’s policy, but against Jews who oppose Israel’s existence. Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun magazine, asserts that the equation of Criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism has resulted in conflict within the Jewish community, in particular, proponents of the equation sometimes attack Jewish critics of Israeli policies as “self-hating Jews“. Lerner also claims that the equation of Criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism and the resulting charges of “self hating Jew” has resulted in the alienation of young Jews from their faith
Antony Lerman believes that many attacks on Jewish critics of Israel are “vitriolic, ad hominem and indiscriminate” and claims that anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism have been defined too broadly and without reason. Lerman also states that the “redefinition” of anti-Semitism to include anti-Zionism has caused Jews to attack other Jews, because many Jews are leaders in several anti-Zionist organizations.
Nicholas Saphir, Chair of the Board of Trustees of the New Israel Fund in the UK published an open letter defending non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that operate within Israel to promote civil rights. He said that several organisations such as NGO Monitor, Israel Resource News Agency, WorldNetDaily and the Near and Middle East Policy Review “associate moral and ethical criticism of any activity by Israel or the policies of its Government as being anti-Israel, anti-Semitic and when conducted by Jews, as evidence of self-hatred.”[
The International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network is also opposed to the use of the antisemitic label to suppress criticism, and objected to the “fear tactics” employed when the anti-Semitic label was applied to supporters of Israel Apartheid Week, claiming that it was reminiscent of the anti-Communist scare tactics of the 1950s.
Michael Lerner suggests that some United States politicians are reluctant to criticise Israel because they are afraid of being labelled anti-Semitic. Lerner also states that groups that promote peace in the mid-East are afraid to form coalitions, lest they be discredited by what Lerner terms the “Jewish Establishment”.
Draws attention away from genuine antisemitism
Brian Klug asserts that proponents of New Antisemitism define antisemitism so broadly that they deprive the term “antisemitism” of all meaning. Klug writes: “… when anti-Semitism is everywhere, it is nowhere. And when every anti-Zionist is an anti-Semite, we no longer know how to recognize the real thing–the concept of anti-Semitism loses its significance.”
In the book The Politics of Anti-Semitism Scott Handleman writes: “Partisans of Israel often make false accusations of anti-Semitism to silence Israel’s critics. The ‘antisemite’ libel is harmful not only because it censors debate about Israel’s racism and human rights abuses but because it trivializes the ugly history of Jew-hatred.”
Excessive accusations of antisemitism may result in backlash
Brian Klug argues that excessive claims of anti-Semitism (leveled at critics of Israel) may backfire and contribute to anti-Semitism, and he writes “a McCarthyite tendency to see anti-Semites under every bed, arguably contributes to the climate of hostility toward Jews”
Tony Judt also suggests that Israel’s “insistent identification” of criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism is now the leading source of anti-Jewish sentiment in the world
Michael Lerner echos those thoughts and suggests that the continued “repression” of criticism of Israel may eventually “explode” in an outburst of genuine anti-Semitism.
Attacking the messenger rather than the message
Michael Lerner claims that some supporters of Israel refuse to discuss legitimate criticisms of Israel (such as comparisons with apartheid) and instead attack the people who raise such criticisms, thus deliberately “shifting the discourse to the legitimacy of the messenger and thus avoiding the substance of the criticisms”.
Exaggerating the equation in order to draw sympathy
Alan Dershowitz distinguishes between legitimate criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism, but he claims that some “enemies of Israel” encourage the equation of the two, because it makes the enemies appear to be victims of false accusations of anti-Semitism, which the enemies use in an attempt to gain sympathy for their cause.
Suppression of Criticism
A number of commentators have debated whether public criticism of Israel is suppressed outside of Israel, particularly within the United States. Stephen Zunes writes that “assaults on critics of Israeli policies have been more successful in limiting open debate, but this gagging censorship effect stems more from ignorance and liberal guilt than from any all-powerful Israel lobby.” He goes on to explain that while “some criticism of Israel really is rooted in anti-Semitism,” it is his opinion that some members of the Israel lobby cross the line by labeling intellectually honest critics of Israel as anti-Semitic. Zunes argues that the mainstream and conservative Jewish organizations have “created a climate of intimidation against many who speak out for peace and human rights or who support the Palestinians‘ right of self-determination.” Zunes has been on the receiving end of this criticism himself: “As a result of my opposition to US support for the Israeli government’s policies of occupation, colonization and repression, I have been deliberately misquoted, subjected to slander and libel, and falsely accused of being “anti-Semitic” and “supporting terrorism”; my children have been harassed and my university’s administration has been bombarded with calls for my dismissal.” In an opinion piece for The Guardian, Jimmy Carter wrote that mainstream American politics does not give equal time to the Palestinian side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and that this is due at least in part to AIPAC…
Criticism stifled by accusations of antisemitism
..Several commentators have asserted that supporters of Israel attempt to stifle legitimate criticism of Israel by unfairly labeling critics as antisemitic.
One of the major themes of Norman Finkelstein‘s book Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History is that some supporters of Israel employ accusations of anti-Semitism to attack critics of Israel, with the goal of discrediting the critics and silencing the criticism. Professors Judy Rebick and Alan Sears, in response to Israel Apartheid Week activities at Carleton University, wrote an open letter to the University president which claimed that accusations of anti-Semitism are sometimes made with the goal of “silencing” criticism of Israel.
Journalist Peter Beaumont also claims that some proponents of the concept of New Antisemitism conflate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. Tariq Ali, a British-Pakistani historian and political activist, argues that the concept of new antisemitism amounts to an attempt to subvert the language in the interests of the State of Israel. He writes that the campaign against “the supposed new ‘anti-semitism'” in modern Europe is a “cynical ploy on the part of the Israeli Government to seal off the Zionist state from any criticism of its regular and consistent brutality against the Palestinians…. Criticism of Israel can not and should not be equated with anti-semitism.” He argues that most pro-Palestinian, anti-Zionist groups that emerged after the Six-Day War were careful to observe the distinction between anti-Zionism and antisemitism.
Jewish Voice for Peace has spoken against what they see as the abuse of the antisemitic label. For example, in an opinion piece, they wrote “For decades, some leaders of the Jewish community have made the preposterous claim that there is complete unity of belief and interest between all Jews and the Israeli government, no matter what its policies. They must believe their own propaganda, because they see no difference between criticism of the Israeli government and anti-Semitism, and they do everything they can to silence critical voices. If the brand of anti-Semitism is not sufficiently intimidating, the silencing has been enforced by organized phone and letter-writing campaigns, boycotts, threats of, and actual withdrawal of funding support from ‘offending’ institutions and individuals.”
Accusations are public relations efforts
John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt claim that the accusations of anti-Semitism leveled at critics of Israel are deliberately timed to defuse the impact of the criticisms. They suggest a pattern where accusations of antisemitism rise immediately following aggressive actions by Israel: following the Six-Day War, following the 1982 Lebanon War, and following exposure of “brutal behavior in the Occupied Territories” in 2002.
Norman Finkelstein says that to further a public relations campaign, apologists for Israel make accusations of what they call a “new anti-Semitism” against those they oppose, and that they do so deliberately in order to undermine critics and bolster the nation’s image. Finkelstein also asserts that “American Jewish organizations” purposefully increase vocal accusations of anti-Semitism during episodes when Israel is coming under increased criticism (such as the during the Intifada), with the goal of discrediting critics of Israel.
Critics of Israel who have been accused of antisemitism
Critics of Israel who have been accused of antisemitism and have denied the allegation include Ralph Nader, John Mearsheimer, Cindy Sheehan, Jenny Tonge, Ken Livingstone, Desmond Tutu, and Helen Thomas.
Professor J. Lorand Matory is a vocal critic of Israel who supports disinvestment from Israel. Larry Summers, president of Harvard, called efforts by Matory and others to divest from Israel “anti-Semitic in effect, if not intent.” According to Matory, “the knee jerk accusation that targeted criticism of Israel singles out Israel is as absurd as stating that the anti-apartheid movement was singling out South Africa.”
Professor Noam Chomsky argues that Israel’s foreign minister Abba Eban equated anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism in an effort to “exploit anti-racist sentiment for political ends”, citing statement Eban made in 1973: “One of the chief tasks of any dialogue with the Gentile world is to prove that the distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism is not a distinction at all.” Commenting on Eban’s statement, Chomsky replied: “That is a convenient stand. It cuts off a mere 100 percent of critical comment!” In 2002, Chomsky wrote that this equation of anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism was being extended to criticism of Israeli policies, not just criticism of Zionism. Chomsky also wrote that, when the critics of Israel are Jewish, the accusations of anti-Semitism involve descriptions of self-hatred. In 2004, Chomsky said “If you identify the country, the people, the culture with the rulers, accept the totalitarian doctrine, then yeah, it’s anti-Semitic to criticize the Israeli policy, and anti-American to criticize the American policy, and it was anti-Soviet when the dissidents criticized Russian policy. You have to accept deeply totalitarian assumptions not to laugh at this.” However, Oliver Kamm contends that Chomsky inaccurately interpreted Eban’s comments.
Musician Roger Waters is a critic of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, and was accused by the ADL of using anti-Semitic imagery in one of his recent musical productions. Waters responded by stating that the ADL regularly portrays critics of Israel as anti-Semitic, and that “it is a screen they [the ADL] hide behind”.
n 2002 Desmond Tutu is a critic of Israel who has compared Israel’s policies to apartheid South Africa. Tutu wrote that criticism of Israel is suppressed in the United States, and that criticisms of Israel are “immediately dubbed anti-Semitic”.
Michael Prior was a vocal critic of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, and who was frequently accused of anti-Semitism, yet he was careful to distinguish between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.
Ken Livingstone, former mayor of the City of London, was accused of antisemitism for a variety of comments, including remarks criticizing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. In response, Livingstone wrote “For 20 years Israeli governments have attempted to portray anyone who forcefully criticizes the policies of Israel as anti-semitic. The truth is the opposite: the same universal human values that recognize the Holocaust as the greatest racist crime of the 20th century require condemnation of the policies of successive Israeli governments – not on the absurd grounds that they are Nazi or equivalent to the Holocaust, but because ethnic cleansing, discrimination and terror are immoral.”
Peace activist Cindy Sheehan claims she has been improperly accused of being anti-Semitic because of her anti-war position, particularly her criticism of the Israel lobby and Israel’s actions towards Palestinians. Sheehan emphasized that her criticism of Israel is “not to be construed as hatred of all Jews”.
Critics that suggest censorship or suppression
Political scientists John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt wrote an article critical of the Israel lobby in the United States, in which they asserted that the Israel lobby uses accusations of anti-Semitism as a part of a deliberate strategy to suppress criticism of Israel. Mearsheimer and Walt themselves were accused of anti-Semitism as a result of that article and the book they wrote based on the article.
Jenny Tonge, member of the UK House of Lords, has frequently criticized Israel’s policies, and has been labelled antisemitic. In response, she said during a speech in Parliament: “I’m beginning to understand … the vindictive actions the Israel lobby [and] AIPAC … take against people who oppose and criticize the lobby…. [I understand] … the constant accusations of antisemitism – when no such sentiment exists – to silence Israel’s critics.”
Ralph Nader, United States politician and consumer advocate, has criticized Israel’s policies, expressed support for Palestinian causes, and criticized the excessive influence of the Israel lobby on the U. S. government. In response, Nader wrote a letter to the director of the Anti-Defamation League entitled “Criticizing Israel is Not Anti-Semitism” in which he said “Your mode of operation for years has been to make charges of racism or insinuation of racism designed to slander and evade. Because your pattern of making such charges, carefully calibrated for the occasion but of the same stigmatizing intent, has served to deter critical freedom of speech…. The ADL should be working toward this objective [peace] and not trying to suppress realistic discourse on the subject with epithets and innuendos.”
William I. Robinson, a professor at UCSB, was accused of being antisemitic due to a class assignment that revolved around Israel’s attack on the Gaza strip, and he replied by stating that the Israel lobby labels “any criticism” of Israel as anti-Semitic In response, Robinson said: “The fact that I did include my interpretation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is totally within what is normal and expected…. One of the most pressing affairs of January was the Israeli assault on Gaza – there was nothing that could be more relevant to this course at that time. When you bring up delicate, sensitive, inflammatory, controversial material in the classroom, we as professors are carrying out our mission to jar students in order to challenge them to think critically about world issues…. The Israel lobby is possibly the most powerful lobby in the United States, and what they do is label any criticism of anti-Israeli conduct and practices as anti-Semitic” Robinson said. “This campaign is not just an attempt to punish me. The Israel lobby is stepping up its vicious attacks on anyone who would speak out against Israeli policies.”
Dr. Steven Salaita, an American expert on comparative literature and post-colonialism, became embroiled in a controversy regarding freedom of speech for faculty at American universities when his offer of employment was withdrawn from UIUC by Chancellor Dr. Phyllis Wise, a move some regard as an infringement on Salaita’s freedom of speech. During the 2014 conflict between Israel and Gaza, he had published tweets that were seen as criticism of the Israeli government, and Salaita claims that as a result, pro-Israel advocates associated with the university accused him of anti-Semitism and pressured the university to rescind its offer of employment to him. As a result of his outspoken critique of the university’s handling of his situation, Haaretz notes that Salaita has established “celebrity status on the lecture circuit.”
Fars New Agency: Ben Norton: Israel Is the Master of Racism and Dehumanization
QFor a long time, the Israeli politicians have been using the cover of “anti-Semitism” to obstruct any criticism of their actions and discriminatory policies against the Palestinians. They automatically brand as anti-Semite and Jew-hater anyone who condemns their brutalities, regardless of the essence and content of the criticism that has been leveled. Is the excuse of anti-Semitism going to work for a long time and help the Israeli leaders evade accountability and facing justice?
A: Zionists use many obscene and vile tactics to defend their racist, settler colonialist ideology, yet the ubiquitous anti-Semitic slur may very well be the most repugnant of them all.
The unfortunate reality is that many people do not know the difference between Judaism or Jewishness and Zionism. Zionism is an explicitly racist and explicitly settler colonialist ideology. The “Father” of Zionism, Theodor Herzl, openly spoke of “the idea of Zionism, which is a colonial idea,” calling it “something colonial.” Zionists exploit this ignorance of the definition of Zionism in order to whitewash Israeli crimes.
In many ways, it can in fact be argued that Zionism is itself an anti-Semitic movement. Many Zionists have gotten to the point where they are so extreme in their jingoist hyper-nationalism that they try to argue that anti-Zionism is inherently anti-Semitic, because it opposes a movement that fights for “Jewish self-determination,” they claim. This position is grotesquely anti-Semitic, as it suggests that all Jews have the same conception of “Jewish self-determination,” let alone that all Jews believe a homogenous, apartheid, ethnocratic Jewish state is the expression of “Jewish self-determination.” In short, when Zionists claim anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism, what they are actually saying is that all Jews have the same political ideas and believe the same things. Now that is anti-Semitism.
What is worst of all about this abominable practice is that it is often directed at Jews themselves. According to many Zionists, Jews who oppose Zionism – read: a racist, colonialist movement – are “self-hating,” or even “not” Jewish. This is anti-Semitism in its most blatant form. Zionists construct an essentialist view of Jewishness that says that “this is what it means to be a Jew.” This is already a racist act. Then, Zionists call Jews who do not conform to their essentialist conception of Jewishness “self-hating” or “not Jewish.” Sometimes, the Zionists who are calling anti-Zionist Jews “self-hating” or “not Jewish” are not even Jewish themselves! This is racism in its rawest form.
This problem is not limited exclusively to Zionism. This is a problem with nationalism itself. A quick caveat here: Nationalism is not necessarily always a reactionary ideology. There are certainly historical examples in which nationalism was an important way of united members of oppressed groups in order to resist oppressor groups. Most of the time, however—and all of the time when it is nationalism practiced by an oppressor group, as in the case of Israel—nationalism is a fundamentally reactionary ideology.
Leading anti-imperialist scholar Eqbal Ahmad constantly warned of its dangers, explaining “Nationalism is an ideology which always has the Other. And therefore, it’s a double distortion. You distort by glorifying your own, and you distort by darkening the other’s history.” Zionism, like any form of nationalism, constructs a false binary of the world, seeing the Palestinian as the “Other.” This binary is predicated on racism.
In a discussion about nationalism with Mubashir Hasan, Ahmad’s colleague and comrade, the former cautioned nationalism “unites the exploiters and exploited to fight united exploiters and exploited of other nations. And thus it prevents social change.”
Accordingly, Zionists often use anti-Semitism as an excuse to disguise the real reasons why Palestinians engage in resistance against the state that is ethnically cleansing and colonizing them. Zionists reiterate ad nauseam the preposterous notion that “all Palestinians are anti-Semitic.” For starters, this ignores the fact that Palestinians are Semitic themselves. The term “anti-Semitic” was created by racist 19th-century German pseudo-scientists. Like most racists, they were asinine, and used “Semite” as synonymous with “Jews,” without realizing that both Jews and Arabs are Semites.
Beyond that, this cheap tactic also explicitly silences what the Palestinian resistance itself has to say. In her autobiography, Palestinian revolutionary Leila Khaled writes “The supreme objective of the Palestinian liberation movement is the total liberation of Palestine, the dismantlement of the Zionist state apparatus, and the construction of a socialist society in which both Arabs and Jews can live in peace and harmony.” Creating a state “in which both Arabs and Jews can live in peace and harmony” is the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and it is one that many Palestinians have been calling for for decades.
It is rarely mentioned, but it must be said. The fact of the matter is that Zionism is one of the primary instigators of anti-Semitism in the world. Zionism, by constantly claiming that Israel represents the Jewish people, and by constantly silencing and persecuting Jewish voices who oppose this racist narrative and challenge Israel’s crimes against humanity, is one of the principal reasons anti-Semitism continues to be a problem. This is just one of the many ways in which the Palestinian solidarity movement is a fundamentally anti-racist movement.
Digital (Third) Intifada
Not all of the new generation of Palestinians activists are non violent. Many activists are using social media to encourage violence against Israelis, often referred to as the Third or “Digital” Intifada. This Intifada is different than the previous one because its not being lead by political organizations like the previous Intifadas, but more through grassroots and digital efforts. Israel is using this violence to respond more aggressively and violently against Palestinian terrorists and activists, including censorship of Palestinian news, bulldozing the homes of family members related to anyone accused of terrorism by Israel and increasing the amount of children arrested and tortured.
“If you only take care of the incitement with out taking care of the source of the problem, which is the occupation, the poverty, the unemployment, then you’ll just enlarge the problem” Orit Perlov (INSS Social Media Analyst)
“The intifadas were two Palestinian uprisings against Israel, the first in the late 1980s and the second in the early 2000s. The intifadas had a dramatic effect on Israeli-Palestinian relations; the second, in particular, is widely seen as marking the end of the 1990s era negotiating process and ushering in a new, darker era in Israeli-Palestinian relations.
The first intifada was a largely spontaneous series of Palestinian demonstrations, nonviolent actions like mass boycotts and Palestinians refusing to work jobs in Israel, and attacks (using rocks, Molotov cocktails, and occasionally firearms) on Israelis. Palestinian fatalities dramatically outpaced Israeli ones, as the Israeli military responded to the protests and attacks with heavy force.
The second, and far bloodier, intifada grew out of the collapse of the peace process in 2000. Negotiations between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat broke down, and the intifada began shortly afterwards. Typically, Israelis blame a conscious decision by Arafat to turn to violence for the intifada’s onset, while Palestinians point to an intentionally provocative visit to the contested Temple Mount by Israeli politician (and soon to be Prime Minister) Ariel Sharon. While both Arafat and Sharon played some part, the central cause was likely a basic mistrust between the two sides that made war inevitable after peace talks broke down.
The spark that lit this powder keg was a series of Palestinian demonstrations that Israeli soldiers fired on. Palestinian militants subsequently escalated to broader violence, and the PA refused to rein them in.
Unlike with the first intifada, Palestinian tactics centered on suicide bombings, rocket attacks, and sniper fire — which Israel met with even deadlier force. The conflict petered out in 2005, but not before about 1,000 Israelis and 3,200 Palestinians were killed.
The second intifada, together with the wave of rocket fire from Gaza after the Hamas takeover, had a transformative effect on Israeli attitudes toward the conflict. The Israeli peace camp’s traditional argument, that Israel would be eventually rewarded for trading land for peace, became significantly less popular. Skepticism of the peace process grew, complicating future efforts to arrive at a two-state agreement.”
Vice News: Digital Intifada
Leaderless Palestinian youth, inspired by instructional videos and photos on social media encouraging people to “Stab a Jew,” are thought to be behind a new wave of violence in Israel and the West Bank. Uncoordinated and spontaneous attacks by individual young Palestinians, mostly under the age of 25, started to occur almost daily from October 2015, with assailants often using a household weapon — a knife, axe, meat cleaver, screwdriver — before being fired upon by nearby Israeli security forces. So far, the bloodshed has claimed the lives of at least 28 Israelis and 189 Palestinians, 128 of whom Israel says were assailants.
Israelis believe that Palestinian Muslim youth are being radicalized by Islamic groups through online incitement campaigns. Micah Avni, the son of Richard Lakin who was killed in an attack on a public bus in East Jerusalem in October, has filed a civil action lawsuit against Facebook. He and 20,000 other Israelis are suing the platform CEO.
VICE News travels to Israel and the West Bank to talk to young Palestinians about their use of social media, and to Israelis who fear it’s inspiring a Third Intifada. We also hear from parents dealing with the consequences of their children’s violent actions and explain their understanding of the situation.
Anti-Zionist Jewish Resistance
For nearly as long as Palestinians have resisted their displacement, small groups of Jews have joined them
“Solidarity with Palestinians facing eviction, expulsion and home demolitions has been a cornerstone of radical left-wing Israeli activism over the past decade. The Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions raised international awareness of Israel’s ongoing forced displacement of Palestinians. Anarchists Against the Wall faced down Israeli military bulldozers. The Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity movement brought thousands of Israelis to East Jerusalem for weekly protests against evictions. Left-wing Israeli and international activists from various groups can be found alongside Palestinians facing forced displacement and home demolitions in the Negev, the Jordan Valley, and the South Hebron Hills.
That activism has a history. The destruction of entire villages and the removal of Palestinians from their land was part of the practice of Zionism long before Israel’s founding. And for nearly as long as Palestinians have resisted their displacement, small groups of Jews have joined them.
The urgency of present political demands, however, often buries the history of past struggles. And without historical consciousness, today’s activists risk repeating the mistakes of their predecessors. Ran Greenstein’s Zionism and Its Discontents: A Century of Radical Dissent in Israel/Palestine remedies this amnesia, providing a useable past for activists and scholars fighting for peace and justice between the river and the sea.
While the long history of resistance to Zionism is the subject of Greenstein’s book, Zionism and Its Discontents is not a history of events but a history of thought in action — a chronicle of the internal debates, shifting ideological positions, political aspirations, failures, and successes of four different movements from before Israel’s establishment to the present day. Greenstein deftly parses the sometimes arcane theoretical disputes of anti-colonial and left-wing groups as they attempted to articulate a politics of resistance to Zionism across the tumultuous twentieth century.
Greenstein begins with Brit Shalom, perhaps the best-known Jewish bi-nationalist movement during the British Mandate, which counted Martin Buber, Gershom Scholem, Henrietta Szold, and Hannah Arendt among its members and supporters. Greenstein shows that the movement lacked not for good intentions but rather clear-headedness. Many of the early Jewish bi-nationalists, often themselves officials in Zionist settlement organizations, failed to see how one hand’s work undid the other’s. The violence and displacement inherent to expanding Jewish colonial settlement undermined and outright negated calls for a peaceful federation of Arabs and Jews.
At roughly the same time, the Palestinian Communist Party (PCP) attempted to reconcile its mostly Jewish membership (at least in the early days) with support for an Arab peasants’ revolt against both large Arab landowners and the British colonial authorities. The PCP’s Jewish members remained within Zionist institutions like the Histradrut, the national trade union, while coming paradoxically close to advocating for an armed Arab uprising against evictions of Arab tenants by and land-sales to Zionist settlement organizations.
The PCP’s policies, however, were often not of their own choosing, subject to the shifting dictates of the Communist International (Comintern), such as Arabization: transforming the party into a majority Arab party and replacing the Jewish leaders with Arabs. What was controversial, Greenstein writes, was not the process of Arabization itself but the “underlying rationale”: such changes implied “that the Arab masses were inexorably moving towards the revolution, regardless of their current leadership and its direction, and that Jews were second-class partners regardless of their personal record.”