Caves in the south Hebron Hills bring villages back to life

Ahmad Al-Bazz and Anne Paq, Mondoweiss, February 11, 2019

Anne Paq presented Intimate Portraits of Gaza’s Lost at the 2017 Madison-Rafah Rachel Corrie Commemoration. Based on the #ObliteratedFamilies project by Paq and Palestinian-Polish journalist Ala Qandil, the project profiled the annihilation of Gaza families during the Israeli bombardment in 2014.


Mahmoud Abu Arram, 72 (left) and his family stand in front of a renovated cave in the West Bank hamlet of Ar-Rakeez in the South Hebron Hills. (Photo: Activestills.org)

For weeks under the cloak of night Palestinians secretly renovated four caves and built a tin-roofed house in the West Bank hamlet of Ar-Rakeez where only a handful of residents live. Last week they opened the homes in a “bringing life back” ceremony.

The event was not announced in advance as to avoid any potential disruption by the Israeli army, locals said.

The caves were refurbished by Palestinians from the southern West Bank villages of Susiya, Masafer Yatta and At-Tuwani who are part of the Protection and Sumud Committee, a local group that seeks to prevent home demolitions, and with support from the Palestinian Authority.

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Palestinian artist brings Japanese origami to Gaza

Ahmed Humaid

In this January 16, 2019 photo Palestinian artist Ahmed Humaid, 29, works on one of his origami sculptures in his house in Nusseirat refugee camp, central Gaza Strip. Origami, the Japanese art of paper folding, is an unlikely pursuit for an artist living in the Gaza Strip, which has been largely cut off from the outside world since Israel and Egypt imposed a crippling blockade on the Hamas-ruled territory more than a decade ago. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

Wafaa Shurafa, Associated Press, Jan 27, 2019

GAZA CITY — In a small studio packed with sculptures made of scrap metal, Palestinian artist Ahmed Humaid has found a new medium in origami, the Japanese art of paper folding.

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On the 39th Friday

The Great March of Return and Breaking the Siege
Israeli Forces Kill 3 and Wound 115 Other Civilians

Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, Ref: 138/2018, 21 December 2018

On Friday evening, 21 December 2018, Israeli forces Killed 3 Palestinian civilians, including a child and a person with a mobility impairment, and wounded 115 other civilians, including 21 children, 2 women, 2 journalists and 3 paramedics, in the peaceful demonstrations in the eastern Gaza Strip despite the decreasing intensity of the demonstrations there for the eighth week consecutively and absence of most means usually used during the demonstrations since the beginning of the Return and Breaking the Siege March 8 months ago.

According to observations by PCHR’s fieldworkers, for the eighth week since the beginning of the Return March on 30 March 2018, burning tires and stone-throwing decreased while the attempts to cross the border fence and throw incendiary balloons were completely absent.

Though the demonstrators were around tens of meters away from the border fence, the Israeli forces who stationed in prone positions and in military jeeps along the fence continued to use excessive force against the demonstrators by opening fire and firing teargas canisters at them, without the later posing any imminent threat or danger to the life of soldiers.

On 21 December 2018, the incidents were as follows:

At approximately 14:30, thousands of civilians, including women, children and entire families, started swarming to the five encampments established by the Supreme National Authority of Great March of Return and Breaking the Siege adjacent to the border fence with Israel in eastern Gaza Strip cities. Hundreds, including children and women, approached the border fence with Israel in front of each encampment and gathered tens of meters away from the main border fence, attempting to throw stones at the Israeli forces. Although the demonstrators gathered in areas open to the Israeli snipers stationed on the top of the sand berms and military watchtowers and inside and behind the military jeeps, the Israeli forces fired live and rubber bullets in addition to a barrage of teargas canisters. The Israeli shooting, which continued at around 17:00, resulted in the killing of 3 civilians, including a child and a person with a mobility impairment.

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U.S.-Mexico Border: An Israeli Tech Laboratory


Migrants running from tear gas fired by American border agents near the fence at Tijuana. (Credit: Hannah Mckay/Reuters)

Brittany Dawson, PALESTINE SQUARE, December 6, 2018

When hundreds of Central American migrants arrived in Tijuana, Mexico, in late November, planning to claim asylum in the United States, U.S. Customs and Border Protection closed the San Ysidro border crossing in anticipation of their arrival. In protest of the closure, asylum seekers rushed the fence separating Mexico and the United States, and border patrol agents fired tear gas at them through the fence. Images of children and their families running through clouds of CS gas went viral on social media. Palestine solidarity activists speculated that the agents used the same U.S.-manufactured tear gas as is used by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) against Palestinians and has been used against activists in the United States from Standing Rock to Ferguson, MO.

Such collaboration between U.S. and Israeli defense establishments is not new. In 2004, Hermes drones manufactured by Israel’s Elbit Systems were the first unmanned aerial vehicles deployed at the U.S. southern border. A decade later, Customs and Border Protection awarded the company’s subsidiary, Elbit Systems of America, a $145 million contract to construct its integrated fixed towers system in Nogales, Arizona. And in October 2017, when camera crews gathered in San Diego, California, for the unveiling of President Donald Trump’s border wall prototypes, the only foreign contractor on display was ELTA, a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries.

In an interview published in the Journal of Palestine Studies, excerpted below, I spoke with journalist and author Gabriel Schivone about the use of Israeli technology at the U.S.-Mexico border and beyond. Schivone has published widely on issues of human rights and homeland security technology along the U.S.-Mexico border, as well as on the Israeli arms trade in Central America, the Mexican drug wars, and other topics. His book Making the New “Illegal”: How Decades of U.S. Involvement in Central America Triggered the Modern Wave of Immigration (forthcoming from Prometheus Books) includes a chapter on Israel’s military role as a proxy for the United States in Guatemala’s “Dirty War.”

Subscribe to the Journal of Palestine Studies to read the complete interview on the Journal’s website.

[From the Journal of Palestine Studies | The Great March of Return: An Organizer’s Perspective]

One issue on which the United States and Israel have been cooperating for a while is the U.S.- Mexico border. When Donald Trump announced his candidacy in 2015, he promised to build a “great wall” and to make Mexico pay for it, which ignored the fact that the wall already existed, both physically and virtually through all kinds of security technology. How did this come about?

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The Palestinian Right of Return



November 29, 2018

Today is the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. Over 7 million Palestinians are refugees – scattered around the globe. In the face of incredible hardship and oppression, Palestinians continue to demand the implementation of their rights – including the right to return to their homes from which they were forcibly displaced 70 years ago.

As the US government’s cuts to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) have put millions of Palestinians at risk, it is crucial now more than ever to learn about and campaign for the rights of refugees. On this day of solidarity, please watch and share this video, which explains what we mean when we talk about the Palestinian right of return.

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This year, when Palestinian refugee rights had all but disappeared from public consciousness in the West, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip came together in a groundswell of collective action through the Great Return March. Tens of thousands of Palestinians living under an illegal and devastating military blockade showed the world that they have not given up on their struggle for freedom and justice. Return is a core demand of these demonstrations that continue every week, even after they have faced unprecedented militarised repression at the hands of Israel’s military.

Please share this video to help raise the voices of Palestinians struggling for justice.

In solidarity,
Ryvka Barnard
Senior Campaigns Officer – Militarism and Security
War on Want

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 13, 2018

House Democrats Condemn Trump Administration’s Actions Harming the Palestinian People

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Representatives Mark Pocan (WI-02), James P. McGovern (MA-02), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Betty McCollum (MN-04), Raúl Grijalva (AZ-03), and Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) today released the following statement condemning the Trump Administration’s recent actions harming the Palestinian people.

“We are alarmed by the Trump Administration’s blatant attempts at exacerbating the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian territories. The punitive measures employed by President Trump are intended to use the Palestinian people as pawns on the negotiating table for his administration’s failed attempts to bring stability to the region.

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UNRWA Crisis: Beyond Dollars and Cents

Zaha Hassan, Palestine Square | Institute for Palestine Studies, August 3, 2018

“Continuing services to refugees is a right, not a handout.”

This was the message last week of one of the thousands in Gaza who came out to protest the UN Relief and Works Agency’s (UNRWA) decision to not renew 154 employment contracts in the occupied Palestinian territory. Despite UNRWA’s best efforts, it has not been able to make up its current $250 million budget shortfall resulting from the U.S. decision to slash its contributions to the refugee agency.

Almost 12,500 Palestinians in Gaza are dependent on an UNRWA paycheck, which in many cases helps sustain more than just the nuclear family in the enclave where the unemployment rate is over 40%. It is unclear whether there will be enough funding for the 262,000 children in Gaza’s UNRWA schools to return to their classrooms this academic year.

The existential threat facing UNRWA is deliberate, and so are the dire consequences for the 5.3 million registered refugees it serves. President Donald Trump and his Middle East Team headed by advisor, Jared Kushner, have latched onto the idea that humanitarian relief may be used as leverage to force the Palestinian leadership back to a negotiating table set by Israel. Leaked details of the Kushner-crafted peace plan indicate that it is nothing more than a souped up, donor-infused version of the status quo that Israel seeks to have legitimated with the signature of President Mahmoud Abbas. The Palestinian leader has infuriated the Administration by refusing to engage with it on these terms and so the Administration—along with the Republican-controlled Congress—has been tightening the financial noose around Palestinians.

[From the Journal of Palestine Studies | UNRWA and the Refugees: A Difficult but Lasting Marriage]

The idea of weaponizing humanitarian assistance provided to Palestinians is not new but it has never before found the currency it now has in the White House. Of late, right-wing think tanks, pro-“Greater Israel” Washington lobby groups and the “no daylight between Israel and the U.S.” politicians have been peddling the fiction that humanitarian relief to Palestinian refugees has been growing by leaps and bonds. They argue that aid money that maintains the camp infrastructure and enables the provision of essential services and work opportunities perpetuates refugeehood.

Of course, no Palestinian, or any other person for that matter, chooses to live as a stateless person in the squalor of a refugee camp dependent on food aid. The plight of Palestinian refugees is a result of a concerted effort by pre-state Zionist leaders and successive Israeli governments to avoid reaching a political solution based on international law and precedent. One need only look back on the remarks of Abba Eban, Israel’s representative to the UN, during the debate over whether the UN ought to accept Israel’s twice-rejected application for UN membership. Eban, though loathe to definitively state that Israel would permit the return of the 750,000 Palestinian refugees to their homes, promised that Israel would take no action “inconsistent with the resolutions of the [UN General] Assembly and the Security Council.” Furthermore, he stated that the refugee issue could only be solved within the United Nations and that acceptance of Israel as a member would make it easier to reach the desired political solution. He argued, however, that the timing for refugee return was premature; a peace agreement between Israel and the Arab states was required first so that borders could be established and repatriation could be implemented.

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A Vengeful and Shortsighted Act

Palestinians waiting to cross the border to Egypt in May. (Adel Hana/Associated Press)

New York Times Editorial, September 1, 2018

The Trump administration has offered various explanations for cutting aid to the Palestinians and stopping all contributions to the United Nations agency that supports five million Palestinian refugees: They need to learn to help themselves. Other Arabs should pay. Most of them are not really refugees and should stop claiming a right to return to what is now Israel. This will push them to the negotiating table. They’re not grateful enough.

These excuses range from petty to downright dangerous. Does Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law, who is supposed to be preparing an Israeli-Palestinian “deal of the century,” really believe that slashing assistance to the Palestinians and stripping them of their status as refugees will compel them to accept whatever one-sided plan he cooks up or teach them to show proper respect for Mr. Trump?

Most important, does Mr. Trump understand or care that his administration has effectively abandoned the critical role his predecessors have tried to fulfill as peace brokers in the Middle East, while remaining Israel’s major friend and ally? Does he recognize that depriving Palestinians of any hope of outside mediation or support, and making their lives more miserable, could well lead to another round of violence?

The decision to stop all funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, formally announced on Friday, goes far beyond questions of respect or negotiating tactics. It affects an agency that provides critical schooling, health, food and other services for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. The United States finances about a third of the budget, or about $350 million a year. The planned cut to the agency, moreover, follows an announcement last week that the State Department is cutting $200 million in other aid to Palestinians in the West Bank, primarily intended for development and infrastructure projects.