IDF puts Palestinians under closure as Israelis go to the polls

While Jewish Israelis will be able to move freely in and out of the occupied West Bank, millions of Palestinians — even those with entry permits issued by the Israeli army — will be on lock-down.

Illustrative photo of Israeli soldiers voting at a portable ballot box, near Bethlehem in the West Bank. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Illustrative photo of Israeli soldiers voting at a portable ballot box, near Bethlehem in the West Bank. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Edo Konrad, +972 Magazine, April 8, 2019

As millions of Israeli citizens head to the polls to vote on Tuesday, the Israeli army will put Palestinians in the West Bank under complete closure and will seal the Gaza Strip entirely. Movement within the West Bank should not be affected.

This means that as Israeli citizens living in settlements across the occupied territories may move freely back and forth across the Green Line separating Israel and the West Bank, millions of Palestinians are barred from doing so.

Continue reading

First Anniversary of the Great March of Return and Breaking the Siege

Israeli Forces Kill 3 Palestinian Civilians and Wound 364

Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), Ref: 50/2019, March 30, 2019

On Saturday, 30 March 2019, in excessive use of force against the peaceful protesters in the 1st anniversary of the Great March of Return and Breaking the Siege, Israeli forces killed 3 Palestinian civilians, including a child, and wounded 364 others, including 74 children, 12 women, 7 journalists, and 6 paramedics. The injury of seven of them was reported serious.

It should be mentioned that before the protests started today, the Israeli forces deployed military reinforcements along the border fence with the Gaza Strip, and set up more fortified sniper positions. This indicates an Israeli intention to use excessive force against the demonstrators.

Israeli media reported that the Israeli forces had deployed three military brigades and an artillery battalion, and announced the deployment of 200 snipers along the border with the Gaza Strip. This is reminiscent of similar preparations on the eve of the outbreak of Return March a year ago, preceded with systematic incitement by the Israeli political and military echelons and giving direct orders to target the peaceful demonstrators, especially those who were described as “inciters.”

The Israeli military reinforcements came despite the prior declaration of the Supreme National Authority of Great March of Return and Breaking the Siege that the demonstrations will be peaceful. On Thursday, the Supreme National Authority of Great March of Return and Breaking the Siege confirmed in a press conference the peaceful and popular nature of all activities in the Earth Day demonstrations in order to block the Israeli authorities’ plans, which intend to shed the blood of peaceful demonstrators.

According to observations by PCHR’s fieldworkers, the Israeli forces who stationed in prone positions and in military jeeps along the fence with Israel continued to use excessive force against the demonstrators by opening fire and firing teargas canisters at them. As a result, dozens of the demonstrators were hit with bullets and teargas canisters without posing any imminent threat or danger to the life of soldiers.

Moreover, PCHR’s fieldworkers said that the Israeli forces increased the sniper-positioning points and raised the sand berms on which the snipers position, enabling them to see clearly and completely the area ,where the protestors spread, and deep into the Return encampment.

PCHR’s fieldworkers monitored the deployment of hundreds of police officers to control the demonstrations and prevent the demonstrators from approaching the border fence. The demonstrations were as always fully peaceful and some protesters in very limited cases approached the border fence and attempted to threw stones at the fence.

On Saturday, 30 March 2019, the incidents were as follows:

At approximately 07:00, Israeli forces opened fire at a group of Palestinian young men who approached the border fence, adjacent to the Return camp in eastern Gaza Strip. As a result, Mohamed Jehad Jawdat Sa’d (20), from al-Shuja’iyia neighborhood, was hit with a live bullet to the chest and his death was declared after half an hour of his arrival at al-Shifa Hospital. It should be noted that Mohamed died before the actual start of the demonstrations to commemorate the 1st anniversary of the Great March of Return and Breaking and the 43rd anniversary of the Earth Day, which the Supreme National Commission has called “the millions of land and return.”

Continue reading

How the Battle Over Israel and Anti-Semitism Is Fracturing American Politics

The growing prominence of the B.D.S. movement — and the backlash to it — is widening fault lines from college campuses to Capitol Hill.

Nathan Thrall, New York Times, March 28, 2019

On June 9, 2016, the committee tasked with drafting the new Democratic Party platform held its second day of hearings at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, in the upscale Woodley Park neighborhood of Washington. The platform, which is rewritten every presidential-election year, is meant to express a consensus among Democrats on the major issues of the day. The afternoon session, on “America’s role in the world,” included discussions of platform language on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. At stake was whether Democrats would reaffirm the party’s strongly pro-Israel position or make some concessions to the Palestinians.

Days before the hearing, The Associated Press declared that Hillary Clinton had crossed the threshold of delegates and superdelegates needed to secure the nomination. But Bernie Sanders had not yet conceded. And the Democratic National Committee, which normally chooses the platform-drafting committee, decided in May to allow the two leading candidates to select most of the committee’s 15 members: Sanders was allowed to pick five; Clinton, six; the D.N.C., the remaining four.

The group met in the hotel’s Palladian Ballroom, whose walls are covered in murals depicting Thomas Jefferson’s slave plantation, Monticello. The representatives chosen by Sanders who spoke during the Israel-Palestine hearing were all minorities, including James Zogby, the head of the Arab American Institute and a former senior official on Jesse Jackson’s 1984 and 1988 presidential campaigns; the Native American activist Deborah Parker; and Cornel West, the African-American professor and author then teaching at Union Theological Seminary. The representatives selected by Clinton and the D.N.C. who spoke on the issue were all Jewish and included the retired congressman Howard Berman, who is now a lobbyist; Wendy Sherman, a former under secretary of state for political affairs; and Bonnie Schaefer, a Florida philanthropist and Democratic donor, who had made contributions to Clinton.

Sanders and Clinton each assigned one person to deliver expert testimony. Sanders’s expert was Matt Duss, who was then president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace and would go on to become Sanders’s foreign-policy adviser. Clinton’s expert, Robert Wexler, a former seven-term congressman from Florida who is Jewish, was introduced as “an outspoken advocate for the unbreakable bond between the United States and Israel.” Wexler spoke in favor of a two-state solution and argued against including the words “occupation” and “settlements” in the party platform. He also spoke against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (B.D.S.) movement, which seeks to exert economic, moral and political pressure on Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian territories, grant equal rights to Palestinian citizens of Israel and recognize the right of Palestinian refugees to return. “While some proponents of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement may hope that pressuring Israel will lead to peace, the truth is outside forces will not resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Wexler said. “Particularly when anti-Semitism is rising throughout the world, Democrats must condemn efforts to isolate and delegitimize Israel.”

The Sanders appointees had a different view. James Zogby took issue with Wexler’s opposition to mentioning the words “occupation” and “settlements.” In his opening testimony, Wexler called for a negotiated two-state solution in which Israel’s capital would be Jerusalem, long a flash point in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, making no mention of Palestinian claims to the city, whose eastern and predominantly Palestinian half — including the Old City and the major Muslim, Christian and Jewish holy sites within it — has been occupied by Israel since 1967. Noting Wexler’s assertion that the platform shouldn’t include positions on which there still needed to be “delicate” negotiations, Zogby asked pointedly: “Should we leave Jerusalem out of the platform? I think that would fit your notion appropriately.”


A mock Israeli checkpoint demonstration at U.C. Berkeley’s Sather Gate in 2016 organized by Students for Justice in Palestine. (Tracy Lam/The Daily Californian)

Wexler appealed to the longstanding U.S.-Israeli relationship: “Whether one agrees with Prime Minister Netanyahu or not, one point he always makes is that Israel is our one ally that never, ever has asked and I can’t imagine would ever ask for an American to do their fighting for them. Israelis fight for themselves.” At this, an audience member called out, “With our money!”

Cornel West, a Sanders appointee, expressed concern that “for too long, the Democratic Party has been beholden to Aipac” — the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the bipartisan pro-Israel lobbying group — which “didn’t take seriously the humanity of Palestinian brothers and sisters.” He added that the party was now at a “turning point,” which was why he supports the B.D.S. movement, disputing the charge that it’s anti-Semitic. “We’ve got to fight anti-Semitism, anti-Jewish hatred,” he said, adding: “It’s wrong, it’s unjust. But that cannot be the excuse for in any way downplaying the unbelievable misery that we see in Gaza and the West Bank and other places.”

Continue reading

1st Year Anniversary of the Great March of Return

Palestinian Center for Human Rights, March 28, 2019

On Friday 30 March 2018, the commemoration of Land Day, Palestinians launched a massive wave of peaceful weekly demonstrations known as the Great Return March along the security fence separating Gaza from Israel. The demonstrations call for the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes lost in the 1967, as enshrined in United Nations Resolution 194, and the lifting of the blockade imposed on Gaza Strip by Israel for over a decade. The demonstrations, which were initially planned to be held for six weeks, have continued every Friday since then (51 weeks). All segments of society have participated in the demonstrations including youth, children, women, people with disabilities and elderly.

The Great Return March demonstrations are seen by many Palestinians in the Gaza Strip as a way to vent their continued deprivation from the worsening humanitarian and economic situation caused mainly by the 12-year-long suffocating Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip. The blockade, which severely restricted freedom of people and goods, has devastated Gaza’s economy, caused widespread destruction and separated its citizens from the rest of the world. Today, the Strip is suffering from widespread poverty, high unemployment to lack of opportunities, especially among the youth, and collapsing public services such as health care, water, and sanitation. The United Nations has warned that Gaza would become “unlivable” by 2020.

Question and Answer: 1st Year Anniversary of the March of Return Demonstrations

April 22, 2019
North America Nakba Tour

UW-Madison Campus
(time & location to follow)

MRSCP and UW Students for Justice in Palestine will be co-sponsoring a Madison appearance of the 2019 North America Nakba Tour featuring Um Akram (Mariam Fathalla), an 89-year-old Palestinian refugee, and Amena ElAshkar, a fourth-generation refugee, both from Lebanon.

2019 North America Nakba Tour

71 Years Without a Country: Stateless Palestinians from Lebanon

In some ways time stopped in 1948 for the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. Many of them and their descendants are living in the same refugee camps created when the Zionist forces expelled them from Palestine in that year.

Israel expelled most of the majority Palestinian population in 1948, and has prevented them from returning to their homes ever since. Hundreds of towns and villages were leveled to the ground, a crime that Palestinians call al-Nakba (the Catastrophe). But Israel did not stop there. It repeatedly attacked Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, killing thousands more.

Suddenly stateless and without the benefits of citizenship, Palestinian refugees were extremely vulnerable and had very few rights starting in 1948. 71 years later, not much has changed for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, who continue to be denied basic civil rights as well as their most fundamental right: to return to their homeland.

These Palestinians have different experiences than other Palestinians, even as they share a common struggle and identity. They are not living under Israeli occupation. Israel does not allow them to visit their homes, much less live there. As exiles, they have a different perspective from Palestinians in Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza and the part of Palestine that became Israel.

Palestinian peace activist denied entry to U.S. for speaking tour

Edo Konrad, +972, March 4, 2019

Osama Iliwat was supposed to speak to synagogues, churches, and universities across the United States about the power of nonviolence and bringing an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Instead he was sent back to Palestine.

A Palestinian peace activist was denied entry to the United States last week after being extensively questioned by American border authorities about his political affiliations and about the funders and leadership of the group for which he works. Iliwat was supposed to join a Jewish-American member of the organization for a speaking tour in synagogues, churches, and university campuses across the United States.

Osama Iliwat, a 42-year-old from Jericho, in the West Bank, had a valid visa for the United States and had been admitted into the country on numerous occasions before last week.

Iliwat, a former Palestinian Authority police officer who grew disillusioned with the violence of the Second Intifada, joined Combatants for Peace in 2014 as its Jericho-Jerusalem coordinator. Today, he serves as one of the organization’s public speakers, delivering talks to Israelis, Palestinians, and international audiences on nonviolence as a path toward reconciliation. He has never been convicted of a crime and Israel even gave him a general entry permit that allows him to cross into the country whenever he wants.

During his interrogation at New York’s JFK airport, Iliwat was repeatedly asked about Combatants for Peace and about his political affiliations. In a telephone interview with +972 upon returning to the West Bank, Iliwat said that interrogators focused most of their questions on the organization’s activities, asking for information about the its founders, their political beliefs and affiliations, how often Iliwat speaks to them, and whether they have spent time in Israeli prison. Iliwat said the interrogators also asked him about the West Bank tours Combatants for Peace organizes, and which Palestinian political movement he supports.

Palestinian peace activist Osama Iliwat (left) seen in the village of Jeb al-Deeb, south of Bethlehem in the West Bank. (Courtesy of Combatants for Peace)

Palestinian peace activist Osama Iliwat (right) seen in the village of Jeb al-Deeb, south of Bethlehem in the West Bank. (Tatiana Gitlits/Combatants for Peace)

Continue reading

Will Christchurch be our wakeup call??

Many of those killed in the Christchurch, New Zealand mosque attack were, in fact, Palestinians. Rifat Audeh is a Palestinian-Canadian who participated in the Freedom Flotilla when the activists on the Mavi Marmara were murdered; he later produced a documentary about that experience: The Truth: LOST AT SEA.

Rifat Audeh, Scoop Media, 19 March 2019

Yesterday I met my cousin, although he was killed in cold blood a few days ago, at the Christchurch terror attack in New Zealand. I “met” him upon visiting his aunt’s house and learnt much more about this ambitious 33-year-old whose life was cut so short.

While my cousin Atta Elayyan lived in Kuwait and later New Zealand, I was living in Jordan and North America, and we never crossed paths. During my visit, I heard about how kind and supportive he was to his family, how intelligent and ambitious he was as a tech entrepreneur establishing his own company, and how energetic and athletic he was as a member of New Zealand’s national futsal team. His father, Mohammed Elayyan, who founded the Alnoor Mosque in Christchurch, was also injured in the shooting. I struggled to hold back my tears as I saw a video of Atta’s father speaking from his hospital bed about Islam being a religion of love and the need to love one another. Mohammed had spearheaded efforts to assist the local community during the devastating 2011 Christchurch earthquake, providing food and shelter in the mosque to many.

These past couple of days, I’ve been reading news items addressing this terror attack, including reports analysing how the media disproportionately blames terror attacks globally on Muslims. This propaganda is effectively brainwashing many, and increasing hate and distrust between people. Yet these reports fall short not only in their scope of what they cover but also what they fail to mention. The reports and news items mostly discuss individual terror attacks like the one committed in Christchurch. Yet in many instances they fail to mention several important points.

First, Muslims have been the biggest victims of such attacks globally. One such contrast I remember includes the January 2015 terror attacks in France, which killed 10-20 people. This was followed by a global outcry with dozens of world officials gathering in France and leading a massive march in Paris in protest. Yet in July 2016, a single terrorist attack killed close to 400 people, mostly Muslims, in Baghdad’s Karrada district. For the most part, this barely made a blip on the radar of media globally, with the victims dying silently, since this was once again just one terror attack among hundreds of others against Muslims.

Second, the fact is that many terrorist groups in the world today including ISIS, who have killed so many Muslims as they did in the aforementioned attack, have been created and supported by Western intelligence agencies. Ironically, even the name given to such groups i.e. “Islamic State of…” further divides East and West, giving non-Muslims the illusion that this is being done under the name of Islam itself or with the somehow implicit consent of Muslims.

Third, and perhaps most significantly of all, is the terror perpetrated by various Western governments – notably the USA- and their client puppet states, which continue to kill millions of people globally and throughout history. When looking at individual terrorist attacks like those committed by white supremacists in Christchurch, we must not forget that the wars and oppression waged on places like Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Palestine and elsewhere, are the epitome and manifestation of terror, practiced against civilian populations. We must never be naïve enough to accept the actions of governments when they attempt to shroud the massacres, wars and terror they perpetrate and perpetuate in a false cloak of legitimacy.

And yet, despite all of this and despite the millions of Muslims who continue to be killed by mostly white Christian men in positions of power, the vast majority of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims do not hate the West or people from other religions. This sentiment manifested itself clearly when one of the first victims to be killed at the Alnoor mosque greeted the terrorist coming to kill him with words of love saying “Hello brother”.

The attack has backfired on this white supremacist, and the love shown towards the Muslim community has exemplified his failure. My cousin leaves behind his wife and two-year-old daughter. Hopefully, if we all work together hard enough, she can grow up in a world better than ours. Continue reading