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  • How Bernie Sanders Became a Fighter for Palestine - Steve Salaita

    In short, Sanders is similar to his opponents around Palestine, but his reputation around Palestine is far better. That reputation doesn’t correspond to the substance of his legislative history or his public comments. Supporters project onto him what they hope or assume he’ll do, but hasn’t done throughout his long career in office. The myth of Sanders being “good” or “the best” has made it so that supporting him isn’t merely a pragmatic concession; it can now be passed off as devotion to Palestine.


    Try to extricate yourself from the hullabaloo of electoralism and consider a straightforward question: when have we ever witnessed Bernie Sanders fighting for Palestinians? Many of his supporters have taken up the fight, but Sanders hasn’t joined them. Instead, he gestures toward vague ideals of justice without committing to what Palestinians in struggle repeatedly profess to be their version of freedom (the right of return and equality in their ancestral homeland). He’s happy to let supporters fill the vagueness with their own suppositions. 

    Was Sanders fighting for Palestinian rights when he fondly recalled living on a kibbutz (in other words, a racialized settlement)? When he voted in favor of a Senate resolution (introduced by Mitch McConnell) that recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital? When he yelled at constituents protesting the war crimes Israel was committing with weapons he voted to provide? When he fired a campaign staffer for criticizing Netanyahu? When he went on a Zionist diatribe in an interview with a Palestinian journalist? When he blamed an Israeli massacre of 50 civilians on “Hamas”? When he suggested that Palestinian parents train their children to become suicide bombers? 

    All of these things happened since Israel’s 2014 destruction of the Gaza Strip, one of the century’s most vicious events. 

    How about when he calls himself “100 percent pro-Israel”? Or opposes BDS? Or offers “both sides” pabulum in response to yet more Israeli war crimes? Or declines to support the right of return (Andrew Yang accidentally provided the model for a good answer)? 

    • Sanders’ adviser tells Haaretz what his ’progressive’ foreign policy means for Israel
      Matt Duss says calling Bernie Sanders an ’isolationist’ is a ’slur’ – and explains what the difference between Benjamin Netanyahu and rival Benny Gantz is for the Democratic presidential contender
      Alexander Griffing | Feb. 12, 2020 | 12:43 PM | 9

      With his win in New Hampshire on Tuesday and strong showing in Iowa last week, Bernie Sanders has established himself as the front-runner in the Democratic 2020 race. And while he is likely to be locked in another fierce left versus right battle this year, one thing is already starkly different from his 2016 run: the added clarity of his foreign policy vision.

      While much of the criticism surrounding Sanders’ stance on Israel remains the same as it was four years ago, the Vermont senator’s foreign policy adviser Matt Duss told Haaretz over the phone, ahead of the Iowa cauceses, that to label Sanders an “isolationist,” as many of his critics have done, is simply a “slur.”

      Following his loss to Hillary Clinton, Sanders worked to bolster his foreign policy credentials – a perceived weak point for the longtime independent lawmaker. Despite not serving on the Senate’s foreign affairs or armed services committees, where a U.S. senator would regularly hire a Middle East adviser, Sanders added Duss to his team after the 2016 campaign to help him beef up his foreign policy chops.

      Duss, 47, who was described by The Nation last February as “one of the most significant figures reshaping progressive foreign policy in the Trump era,” got his start in politics on Ralph Nader’s 2000 presidential campaign. He started blogging on foreign policy matters and worked his way up through D.C.’s liberal think tanks, eventually becoming president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace – a left-wing nonprofit that promotes the two-state solution – before joining Sanders’ Senate staff.

      Together, they led the charge for Congress’ historic April 2019 vote in which it used the War Powers Act to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. While Trump eventually vetoed the measure, Duss claims that the vote was the most significant foreign policy achievement of the current Congress.

      More than any other leading Democratic contender, Sanders has detailed his foreign policy vision on the campaign trail, focusing on addressing the causes of international conflict and ending America’s “endless wars.” He argued in Foreign Affairs last June that George W. Bush’s “war on terror” has actually emboldened terrorism in the Middle East.

      Critics have characterized this part of Sanders’ rhetoric as isolationist and even Trump-like, given the U.S. president’s “America First” pledges to end “stupid” Middle Eastern wars and reinvest the money at home instead. Sanders vehemently opposed the Iraq War and criticized former Vice President Joe Biden for his vote and campaigning for the war, which Sanders – like Trump – calls “disastrous.”

      However, Sanders and Trump differ on several key areas. Duss notes that Sanders regularly acknowledges both the need for building strong international alliances and the use of military action in specific circumstances – despite consistently advocating to “end America’s endless wars.” He also echoes Trump in his promises of dealmaking, but replaces the president’s “transactional” approach with one that Duss says is focused on “upholding international human rights standards.”

      “As president,” Sanders told the Pod Save America podcast over the summer, “I will sit down in a room with the leadership of Saudi Arabia, with the leadership of Iran, with the leadership of the Palestinians, with the leadership of Israel, and hammer out some damn agreements which will try to end the conflicts that exist there.”

      Also, while willing to meet with authoritarian leaders to make a deal, Sanders explained in a major foreign policy speech in October 2018 that, unlike Trump, his progressive approach is aimed at undoing the “damage” of the populist, anti-immigration right that has swept the world in recent years. This holistic worldview, Duss says, is also relevant when it comes to the Middle East.

      Sanders sees the effort to confront the threats of ISIS and Al-Qaida as going hand in hand with addressing the oppression and corruption they feed off in the Middle East, Duss explains. He cites Sanders’ foreign policy speeches that often center around upholding universal human rights and improving standards of living. For example, he regularly begins speeches about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by mentioning the high unemployment rate in Gaza.

      When asked if there is any historical comparison for Sanders’ “progressive international engagement,” Duss points to the Marshall Plan, which provided billions of dollars of U.S. aid to postwar Western Europe. He explains that while clearly “a different historical moment,” the plan serves as a blueprint for “the massive economic mobilization and investments in technological innovation needed to address shared global challenges like climate change.”

      ‘Not stoking hatred’

      When it comes to Israel, Sanders has the rare distinction of being both the only candidate to have actually lived in the country (spending several months on a kibbutz in northern Israel in 1963) and to be regularly accused of being anti-Israel.

      Sanders, who called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “racist” in a televised Democratic debate last December, also listed Israel alongside Russia, India, Brazil and Hungary as countries where “we see the rise of a divisive and destructive form of politics. We see intolerant, authoritarian political leaders attacking the very foundations of democratic societies,” he wrote in Jewish Currents last November.

      Speaking at the J Street conference in Washington last October, Sanders promised to use U.S. military aid as leverage to get Israel back to the negotiating table with the Palestinians, even suggesting to send some of that $3.8 billion annual aid to Gaza for humanitarian relief. Fellow presidential contenders Senator Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg have left that option open as well. Duss notes, however, that if Sanders were to become president, he would make every effort to work with any Israeli government to advance shared interests.

      When asked whether he sees any major differences between Netanyahu and his political rival, Kahol Lavan’s Benny Gantz, ahead of the March 2 Israeli election, Duss points out that Gantz is not out “stoking hatred and division” the way Netanyahu is – which Duss sees as an important distinction.

      While Sanders is popular with progressives and young Democrats, he polled as the least popular of the leading contenders among Jewish Democrats in a Pew Research Center survey released ahead of the Iowa caucus. And Michael Bloomberg, also running to be America’s first Jewish president, said at a recent rally: “As president, I will always have Israel’s back,” while declaring he would not touch U.S. aid for Israel – a thinly veiled jab at Sanders.

      Jack Rosen, president of the American Jewish Congress, a mainstream pro-Israel group, wrote recently on the Fox News website that, if elected, Sanders would be “the most anti-Israel president since the founding of the modern Jewish state in 1948.” He added that “Sanders has surrounded himself with political allies who champion anti-Israel policies,” specifically mentioning Linda Sarsour and Congresswomen Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

      Sanders has previously addressed such criticism directly, insisting in a CNN town hall last April that he is “100 percent pro-Israel” and committed to Israel’s security.

      In an interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd last May, Sanders left open the possibility of moving the U.S. Embassy out of Jerusalem as a way to get a peace deal, saying that “whether it is Iran and Saudi Arabia, whether it is Israel and the Palestinians, the United States needs to bring people together, needs an evenhanded policy.”

      Regardless of the outcome of the Democratic primary, Israel is all but certain to be a flash point when the party’s general election platform is drafted – as it was in the last two cycles. In 2012, for instance, controversy erupted when language declaring Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital was removed and then reinstated at then-President Barack Obama’s behest, eliciting boos at the party convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.

      For his part, Duss – who will have a key role in crafting Sanders’ policies on Israel and worked on the contentious 2016 Democratic platform – said at the time: “There is no question that we should be and will be Israel’s friend in resolving this conflict.” However, he argued that the U.S. must “recognize that Israel’s continued occupation of Palestinian territories … run contrary to fundamental American values.”

  • Trump administration nixes funding for Palestinian security forces from 2021 budget
    Amir Tibon Washington, D.C. - Feb 11, 2020- Haaretz.com

    WASHINGTON – The Trump administration excluded funding for the Palestinian Security Services in its budget request for the 2021 fiscal year, after 27 years of bipartisan support and Israeli backing.

    The budget request does include, however, $200 million for a “Diplomatic Progress Fund” that could be used to support the administration’s Mideast plan, unveiled two weeks ago. Some of that money, according to the State Department, could go towards an “agreement to resume security assistance in the West Bank.” But such an agreement would likely require the PA to accept the Trump plan.

    For the past 27 years, Republican and Democratic administrations have provided funding for the for the PA’s security services, which operate under Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and work in coordination with Israel to thwart terror attacks in the West Bank. Israel has advocated over the years for continuous American funding for the PA services because it views the coordination with them as a security asset.

    For the first three years of Donald Trump’s presidency, U.S. security assistance to the PA was the only form of aid to the Palestinians not eliminated by the American administration. The PA decided to boycott the Trump administration at the end of 2017, following Trump’s declaration that he has “taken Jerusalem off the table” by recognizing the city as the capital of Israel. The administration retaliated by cutting all aid to the Palestinians, including to hospitals and economic projects in East Jerusalem.

    Even when it punished the Palestinians for their reaction to the Jerusalem declaration, the administration still didn’t cut the security assistance budget, which amounted to $75 million in the current fiscal year. But the administration’s new budget request, which was published on Monday, changes that, and marks the first time that the administration is allocating no funding at all for the PA security services.

    This is likely another form of diplomatic punishment against the Palestinian Authority, this time over its rejection of the administration’s Mideast plan to redraw the borders of Israel, which was published two weeks ago. The plan was unveiled by Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu six weeks before the March 2 Israeli election, and just hours after three criminal indictments against Netanyahu were officially submitted to the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court.

    In November 2019, Axios reported that Israeli officials asked the Trump administration to continue funding the PA security services, but Trump refused, saying Netanyahu’s government should pay for those forces if their activity was so important to Israel. American support for the security services has also been complicated by the “Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act,” a law that passed Congress in 2018 and could expose the PA to massive lawsuits in the United States if it accepts any form of U.S. assistance.

    #deal_du_siècle #financement_occupation

  • #AIPAC must stop Bernie #Sanders – at all costs - U.S. News - Haaretz.com

    At a time of unprecedented hyper-partisanship, and with the possibility that support for Israel will be a point of partisan contention in the fall presidential campaign - especially if the Democrats nominate Bernie Sanders, it’s hard to see how AIPAC can continue to navigate between the parties. It just isn’t possible to attack Democrats who are anti-Israel without sounding pro-Trump.

    While it’s easy to criticize the pro-Israel lobby for its missteps, the real problem is that at a time when Democrats are divided on Israel and Trump is tilting hard toward the Jewish state all the time, AIPAC is just being asked to do something that may no longer be possible.


  • Elizabeth Warren says she will skip #AIPAC conference

    In a sign of how the #lobby has become a political lightning rod for Democrats, Warren answered “yeah” when asked if she was planning to skip the conference in Washington in March.

    “I’m an American Jew and I’m terrified by the unholy alliance that AIPAC is forming with Islamapohobes and anti-Semites and white nationalists and no Democrat should legitimize that kind of bigotry by attending their annual policy conference,” a woman attending a town hall with Warren in Derry, New Hampshire said Thursday. “And I’m really grateful that you skipped the AIPAC conference last year and so my question is if you’ll join me in committing to skip the AIPAC conference this March.”

  • Germany’s pro-Israel left has a new target in the crosshairs : Jews - World News - Haaretz.com

    Donc : #gauche_radicale (sic) anti nationaliste mais pour la nation sioniste remède de (absolument) tous les maux sur terre, ce qui justifie (absolument) l’alliance avec des néolibéraux et la guerre contre.... des juifs.

    #Délire #absurdité

    I met Thomas, an ardent young German, more than a decade ago at a radical-left demonstration in Berlin protesting the commemorative celebrations of the anniversary of Germany’s reunification. Because the official event was packed and rife with security that year, I preferred to go to the protest rally, which also sounded more interesting. It was billed as an anti-nationalist demonstration warning against the dangers of patriotic discourse about “national unity.” But when I got there, I was surprised to see that many of the protesters were waving Israeli flags. Thomas was one of them. He ran through the street draped in the blue-and-white flag. The presence of the Israeli flag puzzled me – after all, for decades the German state he was demonstrating against had been one of Israel’s biggest supporters. Thomas explained: “I am anti-nationalist and I hate every flag, other than the Israeli flag, because Israel is the answer to fascism.” He then joined the other demonstrators in roaring, “Grandpa, Grandma, stop whining – you’re criminals, not victims.”

    That was my introduction to the political phenomenon known as Antideutsche – anti-Germans. It started in the late 1980s as an exotic offshoot of the Maoist left, whose members denied the very legitimacy of a German nation after Nazism, under the slogan, “Germany, never again.” But for the past two decades, Antideutsche has had one primary focus: an unrestrained attack on anyone who is critical, even a bit, of Israeli policy. According to their amazingly simplistic approach, anti-Semitism is the source of all evil, Israel is the answer to anti-Semitism, and thus constitutes absolute good. Hence, at demonstrations and in Facebook posts of this left-wing group, there have even been calls to drop a nuclear bomb on Gaza – that is, calls for genocide.

    The absurdity doesn’t end there. Even a call for regulation of Germany’s financial markets constitutes anti-Semitism in the eyes of the Antideutsche, because they believe it hints at a conspiracy of “Jewish bankers” and “international Zionism.” Intellectuals in this group also assail women’s meditation gatherings, where participants hold hands and connect with the Great Mother, defining them as pagan rites aimed against Jewish monotheism.

    The Hebrew-language Wikipedia terms the Antideutsche an “anti-nationalist communist movement.” But it’s hard to define them as communists, much less anti-nationalists. Antideutsche people don’t come only from the left; many come from the neoliberal economic right and some are even willing to stand with the extreme-right AfD party, because it supports Israel.

    All this sounds like a description of a bizarre ideological cult. Indeed, the Antideutsche number a few thousand activists at most. But in the current global political climate, the marginal becomes central and the central, marginal. As a result, in recent years, the worldview espoused by these people has become a phenomenon that transcends the anecdotal. It wields considerable influence in civil society and on the editorial boards of the most important newspapers in Germany, and now also in Austria and Switzerland. More particularly, it has become increasingly evident in Berlin, where there is an especially large concentration of Antideutsche. Thomas, the enthusiastic demonstrator, has since become an academic and an editor of an influential cultural column in a German paper.

    Antideutsche sympathizers are now the driving force behind journalistic and social-media attacks on institutions in Berlin, notably those dealing with Jewish history and even anti-Semitism research. Thus, the Jewish Museum Berlin became the object of a particularly ugly offensive. The institution’s director, Peter Schaefer, a Jewish studies scholar, was vilified by pro-Israel activists to the point where he was compelled to resign last June. In the wake of the museum’s sharing on Twitter of a story that implied support for the BDS movement, it was claimed that Schaefer personally supports BDS and is therefore anti-Semitic.

    Subsequently, the denunciations focused on another senior official of the institution, Yasemin Shooman, who was accused of having dared to compare anti-Semitic attacks to attacks on Muslim migrants. For his part, Thomas Thiel, a senior editor at the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, wrote an opinion piece alleging that Shooman had turned the museum, which features exhibitions focusing on Jewish history and the Holocaust, into an active center of “political Islam.”

    In fact, intellectual and academic discourse in Germany today is consistently skewed toward the Israeli right. When the subject is Israel, the most distinguished media and academic platforms publish items that look like they could have been culled from the Israeli right-wing site Mida. Even the Center for Research on Anti-Semitism, one of the most important institutions of its kind in Germany, has been caught up in a public storm and accused of anti-Semitism.

    The Antideutsche want everything having to do with anti-Semitism to be subjected to their uniform and dogmatic line. Paradoxically, ideas and opinions that can be voiced in Israeli academia with no special problem, foment a huge ruckus in Berlin. Incensed Germans, some of them descendants of Nazis, don’t hesitate to attack Jewish and Israeli left-wingers. Scholars who have devoted their lives to Jewish studies tread carefully for fear they will say something that is not consistent with this absurd conception of reality.

  • Palestinians paint murals in Jerusalem, looking Israeli occupation in the eye - Palestinians - Haaretz.com

    Palestinians Paint Murals in Jerusalem, Looking Israeli Occupation in the Eye

    A total of 150 colorful murals are planned for Silwan, and when completed, will drastically alter the neighborhood’s appearance: ’The staring eyes say to people we see them and they should see us too’

    #palestine #jérusalem #silwan #occupation #colonisation #démolition

  • Trump blasts ’far left’ magazine Christian Today for calling for his removal - U.S. News - Haaretz.com


    A major evangelical Christian magazine founded by the late Rev. Billy Graham on Thursday published an editorial calling for President Donald Trump’s removal from office.

    The editorial in Christianity Today — coming one day after the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives made Trump the third president in American history to be impeached — raised fresh questions about the durability of his support among the conservative evangelicals who have proven to be a critical component of his political base.

    Trump blasted the magazine on Twitter Friday, writing, “A far left magazine, or very “progressive,” as some would call it, which has been doing poorly and hasn’t been involved with the Billy Graham family for many years, Christianity Today, knows nothing about reading a perfect transcript of a routine phone call and would rather.........have a Radical Left nonbeliever, who wants to take your religion & your guns, than Donald Trump as your President. No President has done more for the Evangelical community, and it’s not even close. You’ll not get anything from those Dems on stage. I won’t be reading ET again!”

  • Israel’s dirty arms deals with Myanmar - Haaretz Editorial - Israel News | Haaretz.com

    Official Israel does not allow the publication of reports on the arming of Myanmar. In a hearing on petitions to the High Court of Justice filed in the last year and a half by human rights activists and attorney Eitay Mack against Israel’s weapons sales to Myanmar, the Defense Ministry argued that the court had no authority to rule on defense exports. Israeli spokesmen justified the supplying of weapons with the claim that “both sides committed war crimes,” claims that were rejected in the UN report. The court’s ruling on the petition is classified, but according to testimony from Myanmar the weapons sales are continuing, even in the midst of the crimes.

    Israel has a long history of arming dark regimes, from Latin America through the Balkans and Africa, to Asia. The findings of the UN panel’s report require an examination of this method, whose economic benefits cannot serve as a counterweight to the atrocities. Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit must order an investigation to determine whether the individuals who approved the arms sales to Myanmar were complicit in genocide in accordance with Israel’s 1950 Law for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. In addition, he must see to it that the findings are made public.

  • Israeli student beaten on Paris Metro train after he was heard speaking Hebrew - Europe - Haaretz.com

    “This new attack tends to confirm that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitic in nature,” the group said in its statement.

    Antisémitisme certainement, mais anti-sionisme qu’est-ce qu’ils en savent ?

  • From now on, every Palestinian is an anti-Semite - Europe - Haaretz.com

    L’excellent article de Gideon Levy sur la résolution Maillard, “désormais chaque Palestinien est un antisémite”


    ❝The plague is spreading. Under cover of the (just) war against anti-Semitism, Europe and the United States silence every voice daring to criticize Israel. Under cover of this war, they are undermining their freedom of speech. Incredibly, this new phenomenon is not triggering any protest, as one would expect. Laws labeling anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism and the anti-occupation movement as anti-Semitic, are passed with overwhelming majorities. Now they are playing into the hands of Israel and the Jewish establishment, but they are liable to ignite anti-Semitism when questions arise about the extent of their meddling.

    Last week, the phenomenon hit France, cradle of the revolution. The French National Assembly passed by a sweeping majority a bill that adopts the definition of anti-Semitism issued by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, which equates anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. Liberty? Equality? Fraternity? Not when it involves Israel. Here, these values are rendered mute.
    Haaretz Weekly Episode 51Haaretz

    French parliament member Sylvain Maillard formulated the bill. He is another friend of Israel’s who reportedly participated in a meeting with settler wheeler-dealer Yossi Dagan, head of the Samaria regional council, some months ago. “Criticizing the very existence of Israel as a collective composed of Jewish citizens is tantamount to hatred towards the Jewish community as a whole; just like collectively holding Jews accountable for the policies of the Israeli authorities is an expression of anti-Semitism,” the law’s introduction states. The cat is out of the bag: It is forbidden to raise doubts about Zionism, one of the only ideologies in the world whose righteousness cannot be questioned by the nations of the free world.

    First, the language. Israel “as a collective composed of Jewish citizens.” The nation-state law was also accepted in the National Assembly in Paris. If Israel is a collective of Jewish citizens, what are the Palestinian citizens? And what are the subjects living under occupation? The 154 parliamentarians who raised their hands in support of the decision cannot evade these questions. Liberté, égalité, fraternité – only for the Jews? And what are they offering the six million Palestinians, citizens and subjects of the occupation, who live under “the collective of Jewish citizens”? Second-rate liberty, equality, fraternity? From now on no one is even allowed to ask these questions. Anyone who asks is an anti-Semite.

    “Anti-Zionism is a legitimate position in Jewish history, and it also has a long history in Israel,” a petition signed in vain by 129 Jewish and Israeli professors and intellectuals against passage of the law, stated. The petition’s signatories mentioned that there were many anti-Zionist Holocaust survivors. Now they, too, are anti-Semites.

    From now on, every Palestinian and every Arab, except for Ayoub Kara, is an anti-Semite. Even every Jew and every Israeli who supports a solution of one democratic and egalitarian state, precisely in the spirt of the French revolution, is an anti-Semite. So too anyone for whom Zionism is a colonialist movement – is that not a legitimate position? – is an anti-Semite.

    For generations of Palestinians, Zionism is the essence of their existence; it expelled them from their country, deprived them of their lands, dishonored them, ruined their lives, and kills and torments them to this very day, without the end being in sight. Are they forbidden from being anti-Zionists? Are they able to not hate Zionism? Will France try them for the transgression of anti-Semitism? They are not fighting Zionism because they are anti-Semites. They are anti-Zionist only because Zionism destroyed their lives.
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    And what are the protesters of the fence around the cage of Gaza? Are they anti-Semites? Are they not freedom fighters? And what about people of conscience around the world who identify with them? From now on they are all anti-Semites, and that is outlawed in France. And if denying the right of Jewish self-determination is anti-Semitism, how will the French National Assembly refer to Israel’s denial of the Palestinians’ rights? Why does it not pass a law about that? Only because the Palestinians and justice don’t have a powerful lobby in France.

  • A Million People Are Jailed at China’s Gulags. I Managed to Escape. Here’s What Really Goes on Inside

    Rape, torture and human experiments. Sayragul Sauytbay offers firsthand testimony from a Xinjiang ’reeducation’ camp Twenty prisoners live in one small room. They are handcuffed, their heads shaved, every move is monitored by ceiling cameras. A bucket in the corner of the room is their toilet. The daily routine begins at 6 A.M. They are learning Chinese, memorizing propaganda songs and confessing to invented sins. They range in age from teenagers to elderly. Their meals are meager : cloudy (...)

    #CCTV #vidéo-surveillance #Islam #surveillance #viol #prison

  • Despite Israel, U.S. pressure, and ongoing probe, UN renews #UNRWA mandate - Palestinians - Haaretz.com

    UNRWA mandate renewed for three years, ending US pressure - The National

    Countries voted overwhelmingly on Friday to renew the mandate of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, ending a concerted campaign by the United States to abolish it.

    Having endured a funding crisis largely caused by the US withdrawing support, the finances of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency remain volatile.

    But members of the United Nations Fourth Committee adopted a resolution approving the agency’s operations until June 2023.

    Among those who voted, 170 states supported renewal of the mandate and seven abstained. Only the US and Israel voted against.

    “Despite bullying, blackmail and pressure they stood by UNRWA,” said Riyad Al Mansour, Ambassador for Palestine to the UN, thanking countries for resisting US lobbying against the agency and its donors.

    #Palestine #sionisme #etats-unis

  • Israeli army admits to killing eight Gaza family members: We thought the house was empty
    Israeli military’s spokesperson in Arabic said that the target was an Islamic Jihad commander, but defense establishment sources say it was an ‘infrastructure’■ Palestinians say casualties are a family of herders
    Yaniv Kubovich and Jack Khoury Nov 15, 2019 8:23 AM

    Palestinians attend the funeral of the Asoarka family killed in the Israeli strike, Deir al-Balah, Gaza Strip, November 14, 2019.AFP

    The Israeli military admitted on Thursday that it made a mistake in targeting a Gaza building Wednesday night which housed a family of eight, all of whom died in the strike.

    The Israeli army said it assessed that the building in the Deir al-Balah neighborhood was empty, not realizing it was populated by a family. The Israel Defense Forces are investigating the strike, which took place a few hours before a cease-fire came into effect, and its consequences.

    “We are aware of the claim that non-combatants were injured in the central Gaza Strip, and we are investigating it,” the IDF said in a statement, adding that that “we undertake great intelligence and operational efforts not to harm non-combatants over the course of thwarting terror activities.”

    The Palestinian Health Ministry identified the dead as Rasmi Abu Malhous of the Asouarka tribe, 45; his son Mohand, 12; Miriam Asoarka, 45; Moad Mohamed Asoarka, 7; Sim Mohamed Asoarka, 13; Yoseri Asoarka, 39; and two toddlers whose bodies were dug up from the debris on Thursday morning and whose names have not been released.

    Following the strike, the Israeli military’s Arabic-language spokesperson announced that the target had been Rasmi Abu Malhous, the Islamic Jihad commander of a rocket squadron in the center of the Strip. He published a picture of Abu Malhous, but residents of Deir al-Balah say the man in the picture isn’t the one who was killed on Wednesday night.

    Sources in the defense establishment said, however, that the target of the strike was “infrastructure,” and that they were not at all aware that Palestinians were in it.

    Associates and neighbors of the family claim that they had no connection to the Islamic Jihad commander, and that the case was probably one of mistaken identity.

    “This was a very simple, poor family, who lives from hand to mouth in a tin shack, with no water or electricity,” said a neighbor who knew the family. “They lived off herding sheep and were known as simple, poor people. Is this the way the head of a rocket unit or a senior Islamic Jihadist lives?

    “Every child in Gaza knows the unit members and senior activists live in different conditions, they have houses, and even when they go underground their children and families don’t live in such squalor,” he said. “The story that they attacked a senior jihadist seems disconnected from reality.”


    • Frappes sur Gaza : Israël reconnaît une erreur dans un bombardement
      Par RFI Publié le 15-11-2019 | Avec notre correspondant à Jérusalem, Michel Paul

      Il règne un calme précaire à la frontière entre Israël et Gaza. Les Israéliens reconnaissent désormais avoir bombardé un bâtiment qui abritait une famille de huit personnes dans le centre de l’enclave palestinienne. Parmi les victimes, trois enfants, âgés de 7 à 13 ans.

      Un porte-parole de l’armée israélienne a reconnu qu’il s’agissait d’une erreur. Les militaires israéliens visaient une infrastructure appartenant à un haut responsable du Jihad islamique du nom de Rasmis Abou Malhous, soupçonné par les Israéliens d’être le responsable de l’unité chargée des roquettes au sein de l’organisation. Un bâtiment qui était situé à Dir el Balah, dans le centre de la bande de Gaza.

      Et toujours selon cette même source militaire, l’armée israélienne ignorait que la bâtisse abritait une famille de huit membres qui ont tous trouvé la mort dans la frappe. Les faits se sont déroulés quelques heures avant l’entrée en vigueur d’un fragile cessez-le-feu entre Israël et le Jihad islamique et ont été révélés par le quotidien Haaretz.

    • Outdated intelligence, social media rumors: Behind Israel’s killing of Gaza family
      Yaniv Kubovich and Jack Khoury Nov 15, 2019 - 5:39 PM |Haaretz.com

      Military officials acknowledge the eight family members died in a building that hadn’t been examined by Israeli intel for months, and no one checked whether any civilians were in the vicinity before the overnight strike, which the IDF is now looking into

      An Israeli strike Wednesday overnight that killed eight Palestinian family members targeted a Gaza building that appeared in an outdated target database, and it was carried out without prior inspection of of civilian presence at the site.

      Following the attack, one of the last incidents in a two-day surge in violence between Israel and Palestinian group Islamic Jihad, the Israeli army’s Arabic-language spokesman claimed that the building was a command post for an Islamic Jihad rocket launching unit in the central Strip. However, this claim was backed by unreliable information based on rumors on social media, which hadn’t been verified.

      The building where the family lived was on a list of potential targets, but Israeli defense officials confirmed to Haaretz that it had not been looked at over the past year or checked prior to the attack.

      The officials also confirmed that they had no idea who the Palestinian whose name and picture were released by the army’s Arabic-language spokesman was, stressing he wasn’t known to be somehow linked to Islamic Jihad, refuting the spokesman’s initial claim.

      Residents of the central Gaza town of Dir al-Balah described the building that was targeted as a tin shack, but it was added months ago to the “target bank” used by the Israel Defense Forces’ Southern Command as an “infrastructure target,” meaning it was of interest as a site, although not because of any individual linked to it.

      The army classified the site, found in a complex of dilapidated shacks and greenhouses, as a military training complex. But in the period since it was approved as a target, the changes at the complex were not looked into to determine if it still served as an Islamic Jihad site.

      At 1:30 A.M., the green light was given to attack the structure and other targets using a JDAM bomb, which is used by the Israeli Air Force’s fighter aircraft. This weapons system fitted on aerial bombs enables a direct hit using a GPS-based guidance system.

      Defense sources confirmed that at no stage was the area checked for the presence of civilians.

      According to an initial investigation the army conducted, the strike was never intended to target a given individual, despite the statement released by its spokesman, but rather to hit infrastructure used by Islamic Jihad.

      Contrary to statements given to the media, defense sources confirmed that the site was a complex of shacks – a target that even if used by the Palestinian group would not have much significance or harm its capabilities. Senior defense officials told Haaretz the target was approved in the past according to protocol, but had not been reexamined since.

      The IDF is still trying to understand what the family was doing at the site, a defense source told Haaretz. The military doesn’t rule out a Palestinian claim that the family had been living there for quite some time prior to the attack.

      A neighbor, who said he personally knew the family, told Haaretz that they had lived there for “over 20 years.” He added they were “known as simple people, living in shacks and making their living off herding and some agriculture, nothing beyond that. They … didn’t come here recently or were moved here by anyone.”

      He also said the targeted complex isn’t known to be used for any sort of military activity.

      “This was a very simple, poor family, who lived from hand to mouth in a tin shack, with no water or electricity,” another neighbor who knew the family told Haaretz on Thursday. “They lived of herding sheep and were known as simple, poor people. Is this the way the head of a rocket unit or a senior Islamic Jihad officer lives?”

      Thousands attended the family’s funeral on Thursday.The Palestinian Health Ministry identified them as Rasmi al-Sawarkah, 45; his son Muhannad, 12; Maryam, 45; Muath Mohammed, 7; Wasim Mohammed, 13; Yousra, 39; and two toddlers whose bodies were dug up from the debris on Thursday morning and whose names haven’t been released.

      Dir al-Balah residents said all of them were related and lived in the same complex.

      The IDF spokesman in Hebrew said in a statement that the strike targeted “terrorist infrastructure,” adding: “According to the information the IDF had at the time of the strike, it was not expected that any uninvolved civilians would be harmed.”

      A jihadist known to no one

      Following the strike, the Israeli military’s Arabic-language spokesperson Avichay Adraee posted on his official social media accounts that a senior Islamic Jihad commander was killed in the strike. A man identified by Adraee as Abu Malhous was said to be in charge of the group’s rocket squadrons in central Gaza.

      Defense officials now admit it was a false statement, and defense sources told Haaretz they are unfamiliar with anyone of that name. The IDF’s Intelligence Corps has no such information that correlates with Adraee’s statement, and the army is examining whether the mistake stemmed from the death of a man with the same name – although he doesn’t look like the person whose photo was distributed by Adraee.

      Haaretz found that the false statement, which defense sources confirmed wasn’t based on any intelligence gathered by Israeli security agencies, was inspired by unreliable information shared on social media, including an Israeli Telegram group.

      However, senior officials gave a green light to publish the unverified information in an attempt by the IDF to display its achievements in targeting high-ranking Islamic Jihad operatives in this round of fighting, which began on Tuesday in the early morning with the assassination of Baha Abu al-Ata.

      This family’s killing has been heavily criticized by Palestinian officials and citizens, also leading the United Nations envoy Nickolay Mladenov to tweet: “There is no justification to attacking civilians in Gaza, or elsewhere! Such a tragedy! My heartfelt condolences to the family of Al-Sawarkah & I wish a speedy recovery to the injured. I call on Israel to move swiftly with its investigation.”

      IDF officials expressed great frustration with how events unfolded, and one of them confirmed it is highly unlikely that such a key figure to the Islamic Jihad’s rocket operation would be found in a shack during a round of violence. The individual who appeared in Adraee’s statement is unknown to the Israeli military, the official stressed, and the information was published without consultation with officials in the field, who could have easily refuted it.

      Other military officials said there was no intention to cover up the killing of a Palestinian family, and that it was an innocent mistake, while admitting the way the incident was handled and made public was unprofessional.

      The IDF’s spokesman in Hebrew said that “initial information” pointed to the death of an Islamic Jihad operative, but “an examination found that the information concerning his identity was uncertain. The issue is being investigated.”

      Noa Landau contributed to this report.

  • Human Rights Group Condemns Israel’s Shelling Of Its Headquarters In Gaza
    November 12, 2019 3:57 PM – IMEMC News

    After being targeted by Israeli missiles, the Independent Commission for Human Rights in Palestine (IHCR), issued a statement denouncing the military escalation, and calling for an international investigation at the highest level.

    At approximately 09:50 AM on Tuesday, 12 November 2019, the headquarters of the Independent Commission in the Gaza Strip, which occupies the fifth, sixth and seventh floors of a multi-story building near the Palestinian Legislative Council in the center of Gaza City, was targeted by Israeli missiles.

    Mr. Bahjat Al-Helu, ICHR’s Coordinator of the Awareness and Training Unit in the Gaza Strip, was slightly injured.

    It was a fortunate coincidence that the colleagues on the targeted floor just left the place a few minutes prior the shelling to participate in a meeting on the seventh floor, otherwise, they would have been directly hit.

    The Independent Commission for Human Rights condemns the attacks on its offices in Gaza City and calls upon the international community to take urgent action to stop the aggression carried out by the occupying power since the early morning of today, Tuesday.


    • Missile hits human rights office in Gaza. Here’s why you never heard about it
      Amira Hass Nov 13, 2019 - Haaretz.com

      Israeli sources confirmed a local missile hit an office building in Gaza, but one could conclude that was the case just from the silence of Palestinian media outlets regarding the hit

      At about 10 A.M. on Tuesday, a missile hit the fifth floor of the Al-Harara office building in Gaza City, which is across from the Palestinian Legislative Council building. It s a missile that went astray on its launchers, almost certainly members of Islamic Jihad.

      Ironically, it scored a direct hit on the office of Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights, which scrutinizes the Palestinian authorities and reports on their violations of human rights, civil rights and the rule of law in the enclaves of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

      Israeli sources told Haaretz that the missile wasn’t Israeli. But one could have concluded that it was a local missile just from the silence that Palestinian media outlets imposed on themselves regarding the hit and the destruction it caused to the lowest of the three floors that the commission occupies in this elegant building.

      In Gaza, one cannot keep it a secret when a local rocket or missile falls inside the territory and even causes casualties among Palestinian civilians. But what is shared by word of mouth isn’t reported by the Palestinian media, and certainly not in real time. Even without orders from above, self-censorship is at work.

      Some websites, however, did publish the commission’s press statement, which asked the international community to investigate and condemned the escalation Israel sparked by its assassination of Baha Abu al-Ata (which also killed his wife, Asma, and wounded eight other people).

      By great good fortune, two commission employees who were working on the fifth floor had gone up to the seventh floor for a smoke a few minutes earlier. Eight other employees who had come to work that morning were in their offices on the sixth floor.

      They didn’t understand what had happened when the explosion went off beneath them, with its terrible noise. In the following seconds, they found themselves in a cloud of dust and fragments of the ceiling. At first, they were astonished to find themselves alive; then, each of them checked to see that his colleagues were okay. One had been lightly wounded and suffered from shock.

      Members of Hamas’ internal security service and the civil defense unit (the firefighters) arrived and collected the missile fragments. It’s hard to know if and when information about what happened after that will eventually leak. Will there be an investigation into why the errant missile fell where it did? Will anyone be reprimanded or punished?

      When the missile hit the commission’s office, Gazans already knew that half of Israel was shut down due to Islamic Jihad’s rockets. They could listen to Israeli interviewees talking openly about their fears.

      These Israeli fears, like reports that residents of communities near Gaza had left their homes, were in the past considered achievements of Palestinian militant organizations, especially Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Their ability to “repay” Israel for all its terrifying, lethal and humiliating military assaults – to make Israelis, too, feel fear, while temporarily paralyzing their normal lives – raised the prestige of both organizations, especially in the eyes of Palestinians outside Gaza.

      But countless similar rounds of mutual but asymmetric intimidation have already proven that the number of casualties on the Palestinian side, as well as the damage done to Gaza’s economy, property and infrastructure, is many times greater.

      When Hamas, as the ruling party that even won an election once, uses the tactic of counter intimidation, one can ascribe some sort of political purpose and logic to it and assume that the organization will know how to limit the scope of the escalation, since it bears governmental responsibility and must therefore pay attention to the public’s feelings. But for Islamic Jihad, which has no aspirations to lead the Palestinians, or even participate in elections, intimidation and revenge (“the right to respond”) have become an end in themselves. It’s hard to set limits on them when there are no defined political goals (aside from liberating all of Palestine).

      Tuesday afternoon, Islamic Jihad’s spokesmen announced that the group hadn’t yet responded to the assassination itself. Whether this was braggadocio or a promise, Gazans aren’t censoring themselves in private conversations: This frightens them, a lot.

      The commission employees who came to work at the organization’s headquarters on Tuesday were among the few Gazans who left their homes that morning. Just like in Israel between the Gazan border and Tel Aviv, in Gaza, too, schools and universities were closed. Some teachers and principals were already on their way to school when this was announced, so they had to retrace their footsteps.

      The streets were empty. People stayed home. Markets didn’t open. The only businesses that did open were neighborhood grocery stores, for the sake of people who emerged for a few minutes to buy something.

      A mother of five said she didn’t know whether Gazans were happy over the Israeli panic, “because we’re all shut in our homes.” A young woman said, “We’re afraid of all three types of explosions: when an Israeli missile lands, when a local missile is launched and when Iron Dome intercepts a missile.”

      Nevertheless, the Palestinian public, including representatives of the PLO and its dominant Fatah faction, are united in viewing the assassination of Abu al-Ata as an Israeli crime. Consequently, all the combative reports on Islamic Jihad’s news site, Filistin Al Youm (Palestine Today), also included a personal touch.

      On the night before Abu al-Ata died, he promised his daughter Layan that he’d buy a cake for her birthday, which fell on Tuesday. According to his brother Ihab, he also promised to avenge Omar Haitham al-Badawi, the young man killed by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank’s Al-Aroub refugee camp on Monday.

      Like all Gazans, employees of the Independent Commission for Human Rights have all experienced three major Israeli military assaults and dozens of other military strikes. All have often experienced the fear of death, and all have relatives or friends, including children, women and the elderly, who were killed or wounded in those attacks. But the missile that struck the bottom floor of their office proved that no one ever gets used to fear.

      The rules of self-censorship, however, apply not only to Palestinian journalists, but also to senior Palestinian Authority officials. They oppose Islamic Jihad’s tactics. Yet they can’t say openly and directly that an organization which represents only a tiny fraction of Palestinian society has no right to decide – together with Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – that Gaza will once again descend into the hell of war.

  • A wall, arrests and close surveillance: How Israel fences in a Palestinian family
    Amira Hass | Nov. 2, 2019 | Haaretz.com

    Their every move is filmed, every exit from their house depends on the army and they may access their land three times a year at most. The Gharib family has been living this way since Israel surrounded them with settlers


    Nothing unusual happened this week to Sa adat Gharib and his family from the village of Beit Ijza northwest of Jerusalem. That is, if you don t take the olive harvest into account. This routine is what makes the family a microcosm of the Palestinian situation.

    Life in the enclaves. The enclave the Gharib family lives in is especially small; maybe it should be called a fenced-in pocket. On three sides, a 6-meter-high fence surrounds the one-story house and the short path leading to it from Sa’adat’s brothers’ house to the south. An unpaved, sunken road, blocked by concrete walls and fences, closes in on the house from the south and cuts it off from the family’s olive grove and the village’s lands.

    Above it is a concrete bridge. Under the bridge on the east, behind a locked door made of iron bars, steps lead to the sunken road, which is intended only for Israeli military vehicles. The soldiers have the key to the door and at any moment they can open it and enter the path leading to the family’s house.

    The house. It was built in 1979 on land the family says has belonged to them from as far back as the Ottoman era. The village’s ancient stone houses attest wordlessly to the continuity of life there.

    The permanent threat of being cut off. A large iron gate leans on the concrete wall on the sunken road. The soldiers can move it at will and block the entrance to the fenced-in house, cutting it off at any moment from the village’s other houses.

    In the first three months after the fence was built at the end of 2006, the entrance was blocked all the time, Gharib says. To leave, the family had to negotiate by phone with the police at the nearby Atarot industrial zone, or get the Red Cross to help out. “Sometimes we waited for several hours for them to come and open it,” he said.

    Close surveillance. This is achieved by cameras on the bars of the fence and at the entrance to the path. In Israeli military language this is called an “indicative fence” – which is also equipped with sensors. The son Sabri climbs a tree, the daughter Haya runs to her father, the daughter Ruba returns from school, the nephew Mohammed comes to see who the visitors are. All filmed. Cameras aimed at the Gharib house are also placed at the neighbors’ house beyond the fence.

    The neighbors are settlers. The settlement is Givon Hahadasha. “I don’t talk to them, they don’t talk to me,” Gharib says. About 3 meters separate the house from the fence. At a similar distance on the other side stand the neighbors’ villas. Their cars drive along the fence and park in its shade.

    Gharib hung a green sheet along the bottom part of the fence to obtain a semblance of privacy. Or the illusion of privacy. The setters’ villas are two or three stories high and are abundant with greenery. This past Wednesday a woman was watering plants on her balcony and explaining something to her son. “Tomer,” she called out to him. Three women came down the stairs outside another house and discussed something in Hebrew.

    “Sometimes I lift the green sheet,” says 10-year-old Sabri, “and look at the settlers’ children playing. I say ’Shalom’ to them.”

    The poverty of words. It’s hard to describe the labyrinths of fences, concrete and sunken roads cutting the area’s villages off from their groves and vineyards. It’s hard to describe the way from Ramallah to Beit Ijza – bypass routes and a kind of tunnel, built by Israel, as part of the network of roadblocks and restrictions on movement.

    All the land of the Palestinian region between Beitunia in the north via Nebi Samuel to Beit Iksa in the south have de facto been annexed to Israel. Now Palestinians are forbidden from entering it, aside from laborers who work in the Givat Ze’ev settlement bloc and the dwindling number of residents of two cut-off Palestinian communities, Nebi Samuel and al-Khalaila.Territorial contiguity is for Israelis only.

    Only a tour here and in all the other fenced-off enclaves and sub-enclaves of the West Bank – only actually seeing it – could make clear the reality of living in cages.

    Jerusalem. It’s 11 kilometers (7 miles) from Beit Ijza to the city to the southeast. Since the direct roads are blocked and due to the restrictions on movement, the few village residents who obtain entry permits to Israel must travel to the capital via the Qalandiyah checkpoint for about two hours. In each direction.

    Expulsion attempts. In a 2006 petition to the High Court of Justice on the route of the separation barrier being planned there, a Givon Hahadasha “communal settlement committee” demanded that the army expropriate the house, evict the family and pay them compensation – to ensure the settlers’ safety. The family refused.

    “Ever since Israel occupied the West Bank, Jews have been offering my father to sell the house,” Gharib says. “They even brought him a suitcase of money. He refused.”

    During some years, people hurled stones at the house, also a firebomb, he recalls. It’s the kind of testimony you hear in every West Bank village and neighborhood on whose land settlers built homes just beyond existing Palestinian homes. Envoys offer money and then raise their bid, and when the answer is no, the violent harassments begin – and with them bans on any additional construction.

    Arrests. Gharib, born in 1981, is the youngest of eight siblings; his father died in 2012. He remembers how, when he was a child, his father and older brothers would be in and out of prison because they challenged the settlers and the bans on entering the family’s land. Gharib himself spent three months in prison once for objecting to the construction of the separation barrier. His elderly father was sentenced to a month behind bars for the same offense, he said.

    Prehistory. The separation barrier in the West Bank was planned and built because of the second intifada. The fence at Beit Ijza turned the Gharib family home into a monitored fenced-in pocket after Israel confiscated two of the family’s plots of land.

    But before that there were confiscations for various excuses; the main one was that 167 dunams [41 acres] are registered as Jewish-owned. Jews stayed their briefly in the 1920s and left. After 1948 the land became Jordanian property.

    “We grew wheat and barley on it,” Gharib says. After 1967 the land was declared Israeli government property. A group of Gush Emunim settlers settled there and cleared the way for a secular villa community with some religious residents. The villas near the Gharib house were built after the Oslo Accords, he recalls.

    On the basis of that registration of Jewish ownership, the appeals committees of Israel’s Civil Administration and the High Court of Justice denied appeals and petitions by the head of the family, Sabri Gharib, but recognized his ownership of 24 dunams. Eventually, 10 more dunams were confiscated for the separation barrier. Four dunams had been allocated years earlier for a water tower for the settlement.

    Water. When the fence and security road were built, the pipe that led water to the family’s house was severed. Now a narrow black rubber hose stretches along the fence from the imprisoned house to the brothers’ house.

    In the summer, when the demand for water increases, the pressure in the hose is low and the water doesn’t arrive. This is worsened by the house’s position on relatively high ground. Gharib has been forced to buy water from containers. Instead of 5 shekels ($1.41) per cubic meter he pays 20 shekels. The settlers’ full water tower overlooks the house 6 meters away.

    Proportionality. This is how Supreme Court President Aharon Barak justified the go-ahead he gave the army to surround the family’s house with a fence, destroy part of its groves for the separation barrier and block the family’s direct access to the groves. Access to the groves, he ruled, would be permitted through gates in the separation barrier.

    Twice a year. If this is what Barak meant it’s impossible to say. But the residents of Biddu, Beit Ijza and Beit Duqqu may go to their lands only for a few days twice a year, three at the most: at plowing, grape harvesting and olive picking. The two locked gates are set in a barbed-wire fence beside the security road winding through their land.

    “This year they wouldn’t let us harvest the grapes,” a Biddu resident said Tuesday, waiting for the Border Police to open the gate. This season the gates are opened for eight days over two weeks. At the end of week, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, they are closed. People like Sa’adat Gharib are forced to miss work in order to pick their olives.

    Sumud – steadfastness. “My son Sabri didn’t know his grandfather Sabri,” Gharib says. “But he knows we’ll never leave the house and never give it and our land up.”

  • Elizabeth Warren open to making settlement freeze condition for U.S. aid to Israel
    Oct 21, 2019 - Haaretz.com

    Senator Elizabeth Warren, one of the leading candidates in the Democratic Party’s presidential primary, said on Saturday that she would consider making an Israeli freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank a condition for U.S. aid, according to The Hill.

    “Right now, Netanyahu says he is going to take Israel in a direction of increasing settlements, [but] that does not move us in the direction of a two-state solution,” the Massachusetts senator told the news outlet. “It is the official policy of the United States of America to support a two-state solution, and if Israel is moving in the opposite direction, then everything is on the table.”

    Senator Bernie Sanders, another prominent candidate in the Democratic field, said in July that he supports using U.S. aid to pressure the Israeli government.

    Speaking on the popular podcast, “Pod Save America,” Sanders was asked about his vocal criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and whether he would consider using U.S. aid to Israel as leverage to get the Israeli government to act differently. “Absolutely,” Sanders said.

    “In recent years under Netanyahu, you have an extreme right-wing government with many racist tendencies,” he said.

    In Augus, Sanders raised the issue of U.S. aid in connection with the Israeli government’s decision to deny entry to Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib. “But the idea that a member of the United States Congress cannot visit a nation which, by the way, we support to the tune of billions and billions of dollars, is clearly an outrage,” Sanders said. “And if Israel doesn’t want members of the United States Congress to visit their country to get a firsthand look at what’s going on — and I’ve been there many, many times — but if he doesn’t want members to visit, maybe he can respectfully decline the billions of dollars that we give to Israel.”

  • Saudi Arabia recognizes its weakness and is ready to talk to the Iranian foe - Iran - Haaretz.com

    Avec les dirigeants irakiens comme intermédiaires

    Saudi Arabia has no illusions that Iraq can or would agree to disengage from Iran and force Tehran to withdraw its forces. Iraq and Iran do $12 billion in trade annually; Iraq is dependent on Iranian gas and electricity and there is the Shi’ite religious connection between the two countries.

    But it looks that Saudi Arabia realizes that in the struggle for regional hegemony it doesn’t have the upper hand, so it’s adopting a new strategy of trying to win influence and access to balance the Iranians. As part of this strategy, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in an interview with CBS, said for the first time that the problems with Iran and the question of safe passage in the Persian Gulf can’t be resolved militarily.

    These remarks, which were applauded in Iran, aren’t the result of some celestial enlightenment that descended on the crown prince. The attack on the oil installations embarrassingly proved Saudi Arabia’s military weakness and vulnerability.

    #Iran #Arabie_saoudite #moyen-orient

  • Israel’s war of attrition on a Christian Palestinian town

    Amira Hass | Sep 21, 2019 8:09 PM Haaretz.com

    An Israeli machinery demolishes a Palestinian building housing an apartment and a restaurant in Beit Jala in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on August 26, 2019.\ MUSSA ISSA QAWASMA/ REUTERS

    An Israeli outpost has been established in the middle of a World Heritage site, igniting mutual suspicions among the local people. Small wonder a recent protest did so poorly

    Around 50 people came out to demonstrate a week ago Sunday against the new Israeli outpost on the lands of Beit Jala, a Palestinian Christian town in the Bethlehem Governorate of the West Bank. The outpost is being built a few meters above the site where Israel’s High Court of Justice recently approved the razing of the Qassiyeh family’s restaurant and house.

    The low number of protesters, one of them said, may indicate that the town’s people deem the protest a lost cause: They assume they can’t prevent the destruction of their gem of a landscape in the Al-Makhrour valley, virtually their only refuge from the claustrophobic urban enclave of the Bethlehem area.

    Another possible reason for the low attendance is that more efforts have been invested lately in the attempts to solve the unreported crisis that followed the demolition. This has brought to the surface suspicion and hostility between Muslims and Christians, between original residents and refugees and between residents and the Palestinian Authority. It includes masked men, pepper spray, arson and talk about a “land-buyers’ mafia.” The crisis has revealed an exhausted community keeling under Israel’s looming construction plans.

    In June, when settlers first came to level a plot at the top of a green hill and fence it in, Beit Jalans were astonished to find that one of their own may have sold a Jew seven plots of land in the region about 50 years ago. The seller has long since left the country. His family – undoubtedly patriotic – is shocked by the discovery or the suspicion. After all, when a Jew buys land in the heart of the West Bank, Israel makes sure to make it, sooner or later, a de facto sovereign extension, a springboard to broaden Israeli control in the ever dwindling Palestinian space.

    The new settlement outpost in Beit Jala, this week. Credit Olivier Fitoussi

    At some stage, the Jew who apparently bought the plots sold them to the Jewish National Fund and they were registered as belonging to Himenuta, the JNF subsidiary running the fund’s land. The cautious words “may” and “apparently” are needed here, because land purchases by Jews in the West Bank are not an innocent act, and quite a few forgeries have been discovered over the years. By the time matters are sorted out in Israeli courts, the outpost can turn into a prosperous Jewish neighborhood.

    One could legitimately wonder why the JNF remembered only now to claim the land. When did it buy the land? Was it bought by a front pretending to be a private citizen? All this remains unclear.

    The religious demon

    Some say it was discovered in 2017, or at least suspected, that land had been sold to a Jew. The Qassiyeh family, which has been cultivating one of the seven plots for decades, was waging a legal battle against the Civil Administration’s demolition orders for the restaurant and house. Suddenly, in 2017, Himenuta entered the picture, claiming that the land belongs to it. It’s hard to obtain accurate, full details from everyone involved. But apparently the scope of Himenuta’s claims in the Al-Makhrour valley wasn’t yet clear three years ago.

    On August 26, the Civil Administration razed the restaurant for the third time, as well as the house built by the Qassiyeh family. In his grief, Ramzy Qassiyeh, the head of the family, held a large wooden cross with the Virgin Mary’s picture at the top while the bulldozers demolished the structures. He said in a video that neither the Muslims nor the Jews would drive them away.

    Ramzy Qassiyeh holds a large wooden cross with the Virgin Mary’s picture at the top in a protest against the demolition by Israeli forces of his family’s restaurant and house, on August 26, 2019. AFP

    By “Muslims” one may assume he meant the PA and senior Fatah officials, especially some born in the area’s refugee camps. The video went viral and the anger spread accordingly. Old tensions between the refugees and native Beit Jalans flared up again.

    Then came an apology. But a few days later a pickup truck containing masked, probably armed, people came to the Qassiyeh’s plot, where they insist on staying, despite the demolition. They say the masked men wanted to kill Ramzy and maybe his son. Whether the men really wanted to kill him, they sprayed the family with pepper spray and disappeared after an Israeli army unit showed up. Who called the unit remains unclear.

    At the same time, up the path, Israeli earth-moving equipment was preparing the undisturbed ground in a second plot for the new outpost. Palestinian news sites reported the appearance of the new outpost, but not the attack by the people in the pickup truck. The news of the attack spread gradually.

    “People are angry at the video and the talk against Muslims,” a resident of the Deheisheh refugee camp said. “Whatever the reason, it’s not done,” a Muslim resident of Beit Jala said.

    People in Beit Jala say that some parts of Al-Makhrour are owned by people from out of town; that is, Muslims, mainly from refugee camps. But who said refugees may not buy land and cultivate it? So many Beit Jala residents have left the country, why shouldn’t others look after the land and trees? The problem is that some sales weren’t kosher, apparently. Local residents of Beit Jala indeed say that a “mafia” of people – both Muslim and Christian – with social and political power is involved in the transactions.

    A Palestinian woman argues with an Israeli border policewoman over the Israeli demolition of a building, in Beit Jala in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, August 26, 2019.\ MUSSA ISSA QAWASMA/ REUTERS

    The PA has an orderly land registry to expose forgeries. At least in one case, I was told, a forgery was found, but it did no good – the people holding the land didn’t leave. This may partially explain the Qassiyeh’s complaints.

    In the plot near the Qassiyeh and the new outpost a small stone structure was set on fire at the beginning of last week. The plot’s owner is a resident of a refugee camp. Who wanted to set it on fire? Who was capable of it? The mutual suspicions inflamed the tensions.

    All this happened just when the Palestinian government announced that the local councils would start to expand their master plans without taking into consideration whether the land in question was in area A, B or C. But the events in Al-Makhrour show that Beit Jala, like any other Palestinian village or town, have no control over the land that Israel classifies as in Area C; Israel does whatever it likes there.

    The PA has so little control that the Qassiyehs hired their own attorneys and are replacing them one after the other as if the land problem were the family’s private business rather than a national Palestinian issue that should be handled by PA lawyers.

    In 2001, at the beginning of the second intifada, when Palestinian gunmen shot at Gilo in Jerusalem, the army shelled and destroyed the Qassiyehs’ house in Beit Jala. The PA partially compensated the family for the damage and the Qassiyeh brothers built a new home there.

    The entrance to the new settlement outpost in Beit Jala, September 2019. Credit : Olivier Fitoussi

    Ramzy Qassiyeh has West Bank residency status. His wife Michelle and their children are Israeli citizens with voting rights. Michelle was born in Jerusalem to a refugee mother from the village of Ein Karem who as a child lived in a Jerusalem monastery, and to a French father from Lebanon. A few years ago, her mother moved to live near her daughter in Beit Jala and has Alzheimer’s disease, Michelle Qassiyeh says.

    “When we bring her here, to Al-Makhrour, she thinks she’s in Ein Karem and asks to go to her home there,” Michelle says.

    Ancient terraces and much more

    Al-Makhrour is a farming area of some 3,000 dunams (740 acres), characterized by ancient terraces, olive groves, vineyards, fruit trees, archaeological sites and a traditional irrigation system. It boasts ancient agricultural stone structures, clear air and “the best olive oil in Palestine.”

    In 2014 the region was declared a World Heritage site. “Palestine, land of Olives and Vines – Cultural Landscape of Southern Jerusalem, Battir,” the UNESCO document says. The declaration was seen as a Palestinian

    achievement in the efforts to prevent the construction of the separation barrier, which threatened to destroy the terraces and landscape.

    A demonstrator holding a Palestinian flag gestures in front of Israeli forces during a protest against Jewish settlements near Beit Jala in the Israeli-occupied West Bank September 8, 2019.\ MUSSA ISSA QAWASMA/ REUTERS

    The Al-Makhrour area connects al-Khader, Beit Jala, Husan, Battir and al-Walajeh, most of whose farming lands were torn from it for the settlement of Har Gilo, the separation barrier and the road along it, and a park for Israelis only. The new Route 60 that bypasses Bethlehem, and the tunnels built in the ‘90s obstruct the landscape’s agricultural and historical continuity.

    Recently Israel expropriated more land from Al-Makhrour and Beit Jala in order to widen the road bypassing Bethlehem and the tunnels, which Palestinians are forbidden to travel on. These are meant to shorten the travel time between the Gush Etzion settlement bloc and Jerusalem.

    This is why an agricultural outpost on top of one of Al-Makhrour’s hills is so threatening. On September 5, two Israeli youths with long side curls asked a French journalist and myself to leave the plot. An adult who joined them also asked us to leave, but was ready to talk outside the gate.

    “Three people are here permanently, with a few volunteers,” he said, while his silent wife looked at us from a distance. He said he was from the settlement of Elon Moreh and had leased the land from Himenuta. “I went to the JNF and looked for land,” he said. “They showed me a few places and this is the one I chose.” (Haaretz’s Yotam Berger has reported that the settlement of Neveh Daniel is behind the lease.)

    He said the demolition below had nothing to do with it. “My relations with the neighbors are good. Others, not from here, uprooted the olive trees we planted three months ago.”

    But he added, “We’ll be here for the next 50 years.” Why 50 and not 100? I asked, and he replied: “Because the lease is for 50 years.”


  • Israel election results: Ayman Odeh with Shin Bet bodyguards? - Opinion - Israel News | Haaretz.com


    Shortly after the exit poll results were released on Tuesday night, talk began of Ayman Odeh heading the opposition in the next Knesset. Then the whispers started: Odeh with Shin Bet security service bodyguards? Odeh in an official state car, an armored one even? Odeh in official meetings with foreign heads of state?

    You must be joking.

    Even worse: Odeh provided with sensitive intelligence from defense briefings. Israel’s next existential crisis. But commentators did not take long to put us at ease: There are ways to get around the law, they said, the Knesset can choose a different opposition leader, he doesn’t need to hear everything, the Shin Bet will find a way, no need to worry, have faith in Israeli democracy.

    The votes were still being counted in the only democracy in the Middle East, and racism and ultranationalism already reared their ugly heads. No, of course, not the vulgar racism of Benzi Gopstein and Michael Ben Ari, who actually took a severe blow in the election, and not that of Benjamin Netanyahu, who stirs up anti-Arab fear. No, this is the hidden kind, which goes down easy, dressed in excuses about security, and is immeasurably more dangerous because it’s nicer and more commonplace. Barely an eyebrow will be raised.

    Political correctness in Israel permits treating all Arabs like a suspicious object, even the head of the Knesset’s third-largest party. It’s chilling to think just how politically correct this discussion is: Odeh was portrayed from the start as a traitor, who cannot be trusted with state secrets because it’s obvious he’ll betray his country and pass them on to the enemy. This line of talk lacks all legitimacy, yet it is not only the remit of seasoned Arab-haters. Serious people bring it up for serious debate.
    Knesset member Ayman Odeh at a protest against the failure of police to protect Arab citizens.
    Knesset member Ayman Odeh at a protest in Shfaram against the failure of police to protect Arab citizens, May 20, 2019. Gil Eliahu

    That’s the illusion of Israeli elections: They create the false impression that the state’s Palestinian citizens are part of the game. It’s the same with the Israeli propagandist’s hollow response to the accusation of apartheid: We have Arab legislators, in contrast to the blacks in apartheid South Africa, ergo we don’t have apartheid. But when the Arabs succeed and they become the third-largest faction in the Knesset, as they did (again) in this election, then the masks come off, and the game is over.
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    Their representatives can chair the decorating committee, submit parliamentary questions and even represent the Knesset in parliamentary delegations, but they cannot be privy to state secrets because the state, after all, is not truly their state.

    The subtext of this discussion is despicable. If Odeh cannot head the opposition, then wouldn’t it be better to bar Arabs from serving in the Knesset altogether? If they will always be suspected of treason, then they don’t belong in the legislature. What will we do then with our show of egalitarian democracy?

    Thin is the cloak of democracy, and its fragility became painfully obvious as soon as the polls closed. As it turns out, the opposition leader must in effect belong to the coalition: the coalition, that is, of accepted convention, of Zionism, of the Jews. Otherwise he has no place in this undemocratic democracy. First, we reject the possibility of the Arab parties joining the governing coalition a priori, now they’re not even fit for the opposition.

    Israel wants only good Arabs in the Knesset, if at all, and it wants an opposition-free opposition, one that isn’t bothersome, that doesn’t resist, that is not different – her majesty’s opposition. Behind all this hides the national identity of Odeh and his colleagues in the Joint List. Israel isn’t ready to see a Palestinian Israeli in a senior official position. The security excuse is groundless, of course. Odeh and his colleagues are much more loyal to Israel than it is to them; anyone who has been elected in accordance with the law has the right to know everything.

    A unity government is bad news, but every cloud has a silver lining: It could challenge Israel. Let’s welcome opposition chairman Ayman Odeh. He will speak immediately after the prime minister at every important debate in the Knesset. He will have a security detail, he’ll be driven in an official state car — and let Israeli Jews explode with anger.