On March 5, Gov. Andrew Cuomo flew to Israel to show solidarity with Jews amidst an uptick in anti-Semitism in New York.
But the trip also doubled as the kick-off for a new project meant to bring Israel and New York closer together.
Inside the opulent King David Hotel in Jerusalem, Cuomo announced the creation of the New York-Israel Commission, an initiative to strengthen the already-robust ties between Israel and the state with the largest number of Jews in the United States.
A key part of the commission will focus on connecting New York law enforcement with Israeli security forces. Cuomo wasted no time in starting that initiative.
An hour after the King David press conference, the New York governor stood outside Jerusalem’s Old City police headquarters alongside Gilad Erdan, Israel’s Minister of Public Security and Strategic Affairs, marveling at Israel’s ability to keep Jerusalem safe. He said Israeli security forces’ use of technology is “something that we can learn from,” and also said that he wanted New York law enforcement to learn from Israel about combating “lone wolf” terror threats.
The New York cops won’t be alone in learning from Israel. Since 2001, hundreds of American police officers have been flown to Israel, most on the dime of pro-Israel groups, to tour the country and speak with Israeli security forces about how they keep their country safe.
These police delegations, and Cuomo’s praise for the Israeli police, highlight how Israel is seen as a world leader in security. Because of this reputation, Israeli weapons and surveillance companies — a core part of the Israeli economy — have become well-known in far-flung countries. Such companies export billions of dollars worth of armaments and spy tools to virtually every region in the world.
During the 2014 Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip, 142 Palestinian families lost three or more members. Some of the families were wiped out entirely.
The #ObliteratedFamilies project tells the stories of some of these families, their loved ones who were killed and those left behind.
I will meet my fate Al-Louh Family, Deir al-Balah
8 people killed
August 20, 2014
Buseina put the kettle on the stove. Every day she got up before the morning prayer to make tea. Steam was rising and the aroma of boiling mint escaped the teapot. Buseina’s husband Mustafa emerged from the bathroom and came into the kitchen. Phones barely worked, the network was down. Electricity was scarce, but the radio could run on batteries and could therefore always be relied on those days. “What’s the news?” he asked. “They hit the house of the al-Dalu family,” she answered. The strike was meant for one of the top military commanders of Hamas’ military wing, Mohammed Deif, or so the Israeli army claimed. Instead, the Israeli pilot killed Deif’s wife and his seven-month-old son, along with a 48-year-old woman and her two sons. Fifteen people were injured.
Both Buseina and Mustafa held on to their usual daily habits throughout the Israeli offensive. Buseina would get up before the morning prayer to make tea, and Mustafa would join her in the kitchen soon after.
Since the beginning of the war, Mustafa al-Louh, a tall, slender 61-year-old man, had been sleeping in a small shed wedged between two houses. On one side was the house of Mustafa’s son Rafat and his family. On the other side lived Mustafa’s wife and their kids. A five day ceasefire had just finished the day before. Mustafa felt the war’s end was nearing. When the muezzin of Deir al-Balah called, he got up. He usually woke up before the call to prayer, a habit established over the decades since his youth. But after weeks of sleepless nights, stress and fear, he was just too exhausted.
Down a sandy road, in a nearby house about 50 meters away, his 19-year-old niece, Iman, also got up to pray. She too struggled with waking up on time. Iman had a lot on her mind. Despite the war, she had been preoccupied with her future. Academically brilliant, she would soon have to choose what to study at university. Iman had been considering theology. She got out of bed after the call to prayer had ended, and her sisters had already finished with fajar – the prayer at dawn. Her mother, who woke up earlier, turned on the radio. The latest news was the bombing of the al-Dalu home.
Iman had a lot on her mind. Despite the war, she had been preoccupied with her future. Academically brilliant, she would soon have to choose what to study at university.
Ahmed, Mustafa’s son from another marriage, had stayed over at Rafat’s place. They had to go to work early in the morning. At 6 am, they would have to be on their way to the market in Khan Yunis to buy watermelons and bring them back to Deir al-Balah. The entire summer, every day of the war, the half-brothers travelled on the Salah al-Din road spanning the length of the Gaza Strip. Most days, the road would be nearly deserted. It was risky to drive there. Once back in Deir al-Balah, Rafat and Ahmed would load the watermelons onto a cart and push it through the sandy streets, announcing their arrival through a loudspeaker.
Rafat was an employee of the Palestinian Authority. Like thousands of other people in the Gaza Strip employed by the Palestinian government seated in Ramallah in the West Bank, he stopped going to work in 2007, when Hamas won the parliamentary election and came to power in Gaza. They all kept their modest salaries, not enough for Rafat to feed his family, though. He had three little kids. Two boys: the eldest 10-year-old Mustafa, named traditionally after his grandfather, Maysara, 7, and a daughter Farah, 6. His wife Nabila was pregnant. Rafat was forced to take out a loan. Mustafa, their father, was worried. He asked Ahmed and Rafat not to go to Khan Yunis, but his grown-up sons, one with a family of his own, would not listen. They had never been targeted on the road. Anyways, calculating what would be more risky – staying at home or driving around – had become impossible in Gaza during that time.
Palestinian workers wait to cross the Israeli checkpoint of Al-Jalameh, south of the West Bank city of Jenin, on their way to work in Israel May 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Mohammed Ballas)
June 2017 marks 50 years of Israeli military occupation of Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. In 1967, in open defiance of international law prohibiting acquisition of territory by force, Israel began settling its own Jewish population on occupied Palestinian land, seizing large swathes of the most valuable, fertile and resource-rich areas.
For 50 years this dispossession has been enforced by a violent regime of military occupation, a regime that has expanded and deepened until many argue that it now meets or exceeds the legal definition of apartheid — a system of laws, institutions and practices that treat people differently based on race, ethnicity, nationality or religion.
For the last 70 years, Israel has also denied millions of Palestinian refugees their right under international law to return to the homes and properties from which they were ethnically cleansed from 1947 onward. In contrast, Israel’s “Law of Return” gives automatic citizenship rights to any Jewish person from anywhere in the world.
Those Palestinians who refused to flee after the Israeli state was declared in 1948 spent years living under martial law before gaining Israeli citizenship. Now making up at least 20 percent of Israel’s population, they face dozens of discriminatory laws that privilege Israeli Jews.
A special mention must be made of Gaza. While Israeli soldiers and settlements were withdrawn in 2005, Israel exercises “effective control” over Gaza’s borders, coastal waters and airspace, making it the occupying power under international law. For 10 years it has enforced a suffocating and deadly blockade of Gaza, condemned by the UN as an inhumane act of collective punishment of nearly 2 million civilians, half of them children. Devastating Israeli military assaults in 2008-09, 2012 and 2014 killed thousands of civilians and deliberately destroyed Gaza’s civilian infrastructure.
U.S. political, military and financial support makes this possible. Republican and Democratic administrations have given lip service to the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, calling the settlements and occupation “obstacles to peace.” In reality, they envision not two equal states side by side, but disconnected, fragmented and nonviable “Bantustans” for Palestinians under permanent Israeli control.
Meanwhile, the U.S. is underwriting Israel’s abuses of Palestinians and the massive expansion of the Jewish-only settlements that long ago killed the possibility for any two-state solution. U.S. taxpayers already give Israel more than $3 billion in weapons like F-16 (and now F-35) fighter jets, Apache helicopter gunships, Caterpillar bulldozers, the Iron Dome, and more each year. This was before President Obama agreed to give Israel another $38 billion in weapons over the next decade. And before the election of Donald Trump, who has enthusiastically aligned himself with Netanyahu and the most racist and militaristic elements of Israeli society.
Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks on Saturday, May 20, 2017, at the Adams Center on the University of Montana campus, in Missoula, Montana (Tommy Martino/AP)
Senator Bernie Sanders’ bid for the U.S. presidency may be history, but the progressive politician is still making his voice heard when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, declaring that “the occupation must end” in a video message to Israel’s left-wing Meretz party.
“We are now in the 50th year of Israel’s occupation, an occupation which denies basic Palestinian rights while failing to deliver Israel real security,” said Sanders.
“I know so many of you agree with me when I say: this occupation must end. Peace – real peace – means security not only for every Israeli, but for every Palestinian. It means supporting self-determination, civil rights and economic well-being for both peoples.”
An Israeli soldier praying at the Western Wall during the Six-Day War, in June 1967 (Micha Bar Am/Magnum Photos)
JERUSALEM — Three months after the 1967 war, Israel’s ruling Mapai Party held a discussion on the future of the newly conquered territories. Golda Meir, who would become Israel’s leader a year and a half later, asked Prime Minister Levi Eshkol what he planned to do with the more than one million Arabs now living under Israeli rule.
“I get it,” Mr. Eshkol jokingly replied. “You want the dowry, but you don’t like the bride!” Mrs. Meir responded, “My soul yearns for the dowry, and to let someone else take the bride.”
On this 50th anniversary of the war, it is clear that over the half-century that followed, Israel managed to fulfill Mrs. Meir’s wish, keeping control of the land indefinitely without wedding itself to the inhabitants. This resilient and eminently sustainable arrangement, so often mischaracterized as a state of limbo assumed to be temporary, has stood on three main pillars: American backing, Palestinian weakness and Israeli indifference. Together, the three ensure that for the Israeli government, continuing its occupation is far less costly than the concessions required to end it.
Each pillar, in turn, draws support from a core myth promoted by leaders in American, Palestinian or Israeli society. For Americans, the myth that the occupation is unsustainable is a crucial element in maintaining and excusing the United States’ financial and diplomatic abetting of it. From the halls of the State Department to editorials in major newspapers and the pronouncements of pro-peace organizations like J Street, Americans are told that Israel will have to choose, and very soon, to give Palestinians either citizenship or independence, and choose to either remain a democracy or become an apartheid state.
Yet none of these groups calls on the United States to force this supposedly imminent choice, no matter how many times Israel demonstrates that it prefers a different, far easier option — continued occupation — with no real consequences. The only real fallout from continued occupation are major increases in American financing of it, with Israel now receiving more military assistance from the United States than the rest of the world does combined. Mistaking finger-wagging for pressure, these groups spend far too much time on phrasing their criticism of settlements and occupation, and far too little asking what can be done about it.
What supports the fiction that Israel cannot continue subjugating the Palestinians — and therefore that the United States will not be complicit in several more decades of subjugation — is a seemingly endless parade of coming perils, each of which, it is claimed or hoped, will cause Israel to end its occupation in the near future.
Initially, the threat was of an attack by the Arab states. But that soon crumbled: Israel made a separate peace with the strongest one, Egypt; the Arabs proved incapable of defending even sovereign Lebanon from Israeli invasion; and in recent years, many Arab states have failed to uphold even their longstanding boycott of Israel.