Palestinian Scholar Noura Erakat: Israeli Forces Killed My Cousin on His Sister’s Wedding Day

Democracy Now!, JUNE 24, 2020

Israeli soldiers on Tuesday killed 27-year-old Ahmed Erekat at a checkpoint in the occupied West Bank as he was on his way to pick up his sister, who was set to be married that night. Ahmed Erekat is the nephew of senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, and cousin of Palestinian American legal scholar Noura Erakat, who says Israeli claims that Ahmed was attempting a car-ramming attack on soldiers are completely unfounded. “What we understand is that Ahmed lost control of his car or was confused while he was in his car. That was all it took to have a knee-jerk reaction … and immediately to cause the soldiers to open fire on him multiple times,” she says.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’re going to begin today in Israel and the West Bank. Israeli officers on Tuesday shot dead a Palestinian man at a checkpoint in the occupied West Bank as he was on his way to pick up his sister, who was set to be married last night. A warning to our viewers: This story contains graphic footage. The video from the scene shows 27-year-old Ahmed Erekat bleeding, but still alive on the street where he was shot. He’s the nephew of senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat, the secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, who said his nephew was, quote, “murdered in cold blood,” and wrote in a tweet that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is responsible for his death.

Ahmed Erekat’s family said he was killed while on his way to a beauty salon to pick up his sister and his mother, but Israeli authorities claim he tried to run over an officer at a checkpoint in the Palestinian village of Abu Dis, east of Jerusalem. His family rejects the allegations, is calling for Israeli authorities to release security footage. Ahmed himself was also due to be married soon.

His killing comes nearly a month after another Palestinian man was killed in similar circumstances near Ramallah, also in the West Bank, and as Netanyahu plans to start annexing nearly a third of the occupied West Bank next month.

For more, we’re joined by Ahmed Erekat’s cousin, Noura Erakat, who’s a Palestinian human rights attorney and legal scholar, assistant professor at Rutgers University, author of Justice for Some: Law and the Question of Palestine.

Noura, our condolences to you and your family. This is such a terrible time for you. We so deeply appreciate you’re able to join us. This is just hours after your cousin was killed. Can you describe the circumstances under which you understand he died?

NOURA ERAKAT: Thank you, Amy. Thank you, Juan, and to the viewers. I haven’t had a chance to speak to his parents, so I want to start out by saying [speaking Arabic].

We understand the circumstances to be what people know. Ahmed was on his way, from Abu Dis to Bethlehem, to pick up his sister from a hair salon for her wedding. Her mom was there with her. You know, on the way to the hair salon, he passed through a checkpoint separating Bethlehem from Abu Dis through a known roadway, back roadway, a dangerous one known as Wadi Nar, or Valley of Fire. There is a steep decline between this checkpoint on the road. And what we understand is that Ahmed lost control of his car or was confused while he was in his car. That was all it took to have a knee-jerk reaction, for the car to jerk a little bit and immediately to cause the soldiers to open fire on him multiple times.

Note that these soldiers, who are fully armed at this checkpoint, are behind barriers, are not actually out in the open, and then left Ahmed to bleed for one-and-a-half hours. We also understand that his father, Abu Faisal, was there pleading with the Israeli soldiers to let him access his son. We also know that the Palestinian Red Crescent, the equivalent of the Red Cross, was not allowed access. And for one-and-a-half hours, as you saw in that inexplicable video, Ahmed was left writhing and bleeding out, without the ability to care for him.

And what is very obvious is the ease and the callousness with which this happened, the way that it’s normalized completely. And there’s a Palestinian — there’s a line, a queue, of Palestinian cars. And the one filming this was praying over Ahmed as he’s dying. It should remind us that even those Palestinians who are bearing witness to this are subject to a state of forced helplessness. They are not even allowed to help Ahmed in that moment.

I want to just bring up something, Amy, to the audience before I address Israel’s vicious, dangerous and disgusting allegations that this was a car ramming, and raise three questions for the audience that’s paying attention right now.

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Coronavirus Is a Death Sentence for Palestinians Caged in Gaza

Even a small outbreak among Gaza’s densely-packed, blockaded population would put an impossible strain on a healthcare system already teetering on the verge of collapse


A man, wearing a mask against coronavirus infection, looks through a fence as he waits for Palestinians returning from abroad. Gaza’s Rafah border crossing with Egypt. March 8, 2020. (IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/REUTERS)

Shannon Maree Torrens, Haaretz, Mar 12, 2020

Imagine two million human beings living in the space of just 365 square kilometers. One of the most densely populated places on Planet Earth, confined in a cage from which they cannot escape. These two million people cannot leave, even if they wanted to, without great difficulty.

They must live their lives within the confines of this rapidly deteriorating area of land, some persisting in the hope that one day things may change, but many surviving with the realization and resignation that they very well may not. No matter their degree of optimism or pessimism, all are isolated from the rest of the world. We call this place the Gaza Strip, and it has been under blockade by Israel since 2007.

It is now March 2020. The novel coronavirus, has become an issue of global concern. The disease it causes, COVID-19, has spread far from its origins in China. In a short space of time, coronavirus is seemingly everywhere. It moves as frequently as the planes and people who spread it back and forth across the world.

As of 11 March, more than 118,000 people have been infected globally, almost 4,300 people have died and at least 114 countries/territories and areas are affected. The world buys masks and hand sanitizer. The World Health Organisation classifies novel coronavirus as a pandemic. People stock up on food. "What will happen to us?" the world says. "What if we get sick?"

And what of the people who live in the cage of Gaza? What will happen to them? 

If you’re locked in a cage, you are protected – but, simultaneously, you are also at much greater risk of being acutely affected. If the people of Gaza become unwell, will anyone care, any more than to the minimal degree they have in the past? Will anything change for them, or will it simply become much worse?

At the time of writing, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Gaza Strip. But it only takes one person to change the course of things for the worse – that infamous Patient Zero, to which many of the world’s wealthiest and most medically advanced countries can attest as they grapple with spiking contagion rates.  

Strangers in Our Homeland


MK Aida Touma-Sliman, January 15th, 2019. Photo: Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk via Flickr

Aida Touma-Sliman, JewishCurrents, February 6, 2020

LAST WEEK, Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu announced a deal that is intended to determine the future of the Palestinian people, without a single Palestinian present in the room or involved in the consultation process. They unveiled the plan in the midst of Trump’s impeachment trial and on the same day that Netanyahu was indicted for corruption. Like a group of men deliberating women’s reproductive freedoms, the Americans and Israelis who drafted the plan intend to unilaterally decide the fate of Palestinians, our land, and our fundamental rights. The plan’s total erasure of Palestinian voices and blatant denial of these rights lays bare the real intentions of the Trump and Netanyahu administrations.

Just as importantly, the past week clarifies the positions of so-called moderates—from US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Israel’s Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White Party—who have either barely protested or outright endorsed the plan. While it is no secret that the US and Israel have always rendered Palestinian narratives, demands, and aspirations secondary, centrist acquiescence to Trump’s plan suggests that the “deal of the century” is the logical culmination of a long-held vision of an apartheid Palestinian pseudo-state, bereft of meaningful sovereignty or self-determination. 

Trump and Netanyahu have inherited this vision and added their typical vulgarity. Their plan would enshrine Jewish supremacy in all of Israel and historic Palestine, annexing Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank, the Jordan Valley, and East Jerusalem, while leaving Palestinians in the occupied territories with a patchwork of isolated ghettos surrounded by walls and military checkpoints. Israeli law would be applied in all settlements, which violate international law and numerous UN resolutions. Israel would retain sovereign control over the air and sea, as well as absolute “security” control in the entire territory west of the Jordan River. Jerusalem, including occupied Palestinian East Jerusalem and its holy sites, will remain entirely in Israeli hands. And Palestinian refugees will be categorically denied their right to return to the land from which they were expelled by Israel because they were not Jewish. 

The plan would also have dire consequences for Palestinian citizens of Israel, many of whom would probably be stripped of their citizenship and transferred to the new Palestinian “state” under the plan’s proposed land swaps. To those ends, Israel’s Tourism Minister, Yariv Levin, has already raised the specter of de-nationalizating Israel’s Palestinian citizens, who make up about 20% of the population, or about 1.8 million people. Many people in this category would likely lose the ability to travel within most of historic Palestine and be subject to the same restrictions, including on movement, imposed on citizens of the new Palestinian “state.” 

As a Palestinian citizen of Israel myself, I have been treated with suspicion and as a threat by the government for my whole life, a fifth column in my own homeland. Will I now be told to move to the new Palestine, or remain and accept permanent second- or third-class Israeli citizenship? We already face dozens of laws that discriminate against us—including the so-called “Jewish nation-state” law, which has effectively made segregation official national policy—because we are not Jewish. With Trump’s plan, Israel’s claim to being a liberal democracy that values human rights has been discredited once and for all.

Trump and Netanyahu’s plan, then, is outrageously unapologetic in its denial of Palestinian rights and its whitewashing of Israeli colonization. In key respects, however, it does not represent a radical break with the many previous plans proposed over the past several decades—by both Democrats and Republicans, by Israel’s Labor and Likud—to “grant” Palestinians nominally autonomous, discontiguous parcels of land surrounded by Israeli settlements and under the control of the Israeli military, and to pass off these bantustans as an independent state. As far back as 1978, Prime Minister Menachem Begin proposed granting Palestinians a limited “autonomy” or home rule in scraps of the occupied Palestinian territories in an attempt to quash Palestinian demands for independence. The 1993 Oslo Accords offered Palestinians limited self-rule in parts of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, while allowing unfettered Israeli settlement expansion—with the number of Israeli settlers more than tripling since the signing of the peace agreement. 

Gantz, supposedly a moderate alternative to Netanyahu, has embraced Trump and Netanyahu’s racist annexation plan, and vowed to bring it for approval in the Knesset. The Joint List—the coalition of Arab-majority parties, of which I am a member—will not support any candidate or party that supports annexation, including Gantz. Indeed, with rare exceptions, most Jewish Israeli politicians subscribe, implicitly or explicitly, to Trump and Netanyahu’s agenda of segregation, intolerance, and xenophobia, as evidenced by the nation-state law and others passed in recent years, like the so-called Nakba law, which is intended to suppress public discussion and debate of the mass expulsion of Palestinians that accompanied Israel’s establishment as a Jewish state in 1948.

In the US, meanwhile, even some Democrats critical of Trump and Netanyahu have been muted in their criticism of this scheme. Reacting to a summary of the plan last week, Pelosi declared that it “appears to be a basis for negotiations . . . so let us be optimistic and hopeful.” Echoing Pelosi, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel of New York declared: “There’s some good room for hope there.”

With the notable exception of Bernie Sanders, Democratic presidential hopefuls have thus far refrained from proposing concrete ideas to end US complicity in Israel’s apartheid regime, with some even proudly reiterating their support for Israel. Because our shared values of freedom, equality, and democracy are on the line more clearly than ever before, Democrats can no longer get away with claiming progressive credentials in some arenas while remaining willfully blind to injustice elsewhere. Trump and Netanyahu recognize their own shared values and are working hand in hand; Democratic leaders likewise need to understand that Palestinians are their natural allies in resisting the onslaught of Trumpism in the US and around the globe.

The time has finally come for Israeli leaders to pay a price for their half-century-old occupation of Palestinian lands, for seven decades of ethnic cleansing, for blockading the Gaza Strip for over a decade, and for their relentless incitement against and attempts to exclude us—Israel’s Palestinian citizens—from equal citizenship in our own homeland.

Aida Touma-Sliman is a member of the Israeli Knesset representing Hadash/The Joint List.

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Trump Plan Protests in the Jordan Valley


Operation Dove, January 29, 2020

Tubas, Jordan Valley — Today in response to the “Deal of the Century” Palestinians gathered for an action in the Jordan Valley during which they plowed the land in an area declared a closed military zone for training.

Israeli soldiers responded to this action by firing sound grenades and tear gas into the crowd. Israeli soldiers also closed roads and established checkpoints in order to prevent Palestinians from reaching the spot.


Video: Ahmad Al-Bazz / Activestills

Activestills, January 29, 2020

Palestinians protest the Trump administration’s plan to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli issue, Northern Jordan Valley, West Bank.

The U.N. once predicted Gaza would be ‘uninhabitable’ by 2020. Two million people still live there.

The shoreline in Gaza City during strong winds on Christmas Day.   (Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images )
The shoreline in Gaza City during strong winds on Christmas Day (Mohammed Abed-AFP-Getty Images)

Hazem Balousha and Miriam Berger, The Washington Post, January 1, 2020

GAZA CITY — Jana Tawil was born in 2012, the same year that the United Nations released an alarm-raising report on the state of the Gaza Strip: If the prevailing economic, environmental and political trends continued, the organization warned, the besieged coastal enclave sandwiched between Israel and Egypt would become unlivable by 2020.

The United Nations revised its initial rating in 2017 to warn that “de-development” was happening even faster than it first predicted.

Jana’s father, 35-year-old Mahmoud Tawil, never thought much of that assessment.

“When the U.N. report [said] that Gaza would be unlivable, I felt that Gaza was not fit for life in the same year, not in the year 2020,” he said.

That is the bleak reality facing Gaza’s 2 million Palestinian residents as they approach a new year and new decade: still stuck living in a place the world has already deemed uninhabitable in perhaps the most surreal of 2020 predictions.

The Tawil family lives in Gaza’s al-Shati refugee camp, or the Beach camp, where cramped and crumbling rows of homes sit adjacent to the Mediterranean Sea. It is in theory a scenic view — but life here persists on a parallel plane.

The elder Tawil, a psychologist, fears the sea: It’s full of sewage, pumped in because there’s not enough electricity and infrastructure to run Gaza’s war-torn sewage system. Hospitals, schools and homes are similarly running on empty, worn down by the lack of clean water, electricity, infrastructure and jobs or money. Barely anyone has enough clean water to drink. The only local source of drinking water, the coastal aquifer, is full of dirty and salty water. By 2020 — basically, now — that damage will be irreversible, water experts have warned.

“There is no stability in work, and there is no money for people,” Tawil said. “We cannot drink water or eat vegetables safely, [as] there is a fear that it will be contaminated.”

He continued: “We need a just life, and we need hope that there is a possibility for us to live on this earth. … The various Palestinian parties do not help us in Gaza to live, just as Israel imposes a blockade on Gaza. Unfortunately, no one cares about the residents of Gaza.”

Perhaps the hardest part of it all is that, relatively speaking, none of this is new.

When the United Nations issued the 2012 report setting 2020 as the zero hour for Gaza’s unlivability, the organization knew even then that no one should be living in Gaza’s already dangerous conditions.

“From our perspective, [the report] was a useful sort of ringing the alarm bell a couple of years ago,” said Matthias Schmale, the director of operations in Gaza for the U.N. Works and Relief Agency (UNRWA), the U.N. body responsible for Palestinian refugees. “But for us it’s no longer really the issue that by 2020 it will be unlivable. … The key question is how do we prevent total collapse?”

Gazans battle daily with the same crushing question.

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Why We Sail, Sail, and Sail Again: Freedom Flotilla 2020

Canadian Boat to Gaza, December 20, 2019

Freedom Flotilla sailors and participants are sometimes asked: Why do you keep sailing toward Gaza only to be captured? Why not give the funds you raise directly to the Palestinians of Gaza as aid? Our rationale for sailing and our experiences in 2018 provide some answers. Our Palestinian partners in Gaza are asking us to challenge the illegal blockade. In May 2018 the Norwegian fishing trawler Al Awda (The Return) and the Swedish sailing ship Freedom sailed from Scandinavia. Over two months, we called on ports in Denmark, Germany, Holland, England, France, Spain, Portugal and Italy spreading the message of freedom for Palestinians. Israel has extended its reach, pressuring governments in Cyprus,Turkey, and Greece to prevent our ships sailing from their ports.

Canadians Karen DeVito and John Turnbull joined the sailing ship Freedom in Denmark and crewed her from Copenhagen to Palermo where John then captained the ship on the final leg toward Gaza. Other Canadians, including Heather Milton-Lightening, Ron Rousseau, Majed Khraishi, Kathy Wazana, and Larry Commodore of the Stó:lo Nation, were on board Al Awda at different points in her voyage, and Canadian journalist Dimitri Lascaris reported for The Real News Network from Flotilla boats and from several ports.

The arrival of the ships at each European port occasioned special events, marches, music, speaking opportunities, as well as visits with municipal and provincial politicians. In some places cities and regions had passed motions to support the Flotilla and recognize Palestine. In Amsterdam, activists organized a small-boat Flotilla through the canals with music, banners and flags. Supporters followed along the canals and bridges handing out hundreds of flyers. Brighton, England gave a rousing welcome on the pier, held an information event in a local park, and a packed house speaking event in the town. Gijón, Spain held a march through the city with about 800 people with music, dancing, singing and a Palestinian flag that required 40 people to parade it through the streets. The City Council of Cádiz, Spain voted the Flotilla “Illustrious Visitor.” Two smaller Swedish sailboats crossed Netherland, Belgium and France by river and canal, catching public interest when authorities prevented them from mooring in Paris, and visited a number of other waterside communities.

Energizing local solidarity groups, providing outreach and diplomacy are all aspects of the Flotilla’s work. The voyage around Europe is so valuable in these respects. We also discovered that refugees would visit our ships at each port. The mayors of three Italian ports met our ships at the piers and declared refugees welcome to their cities, regardless of their then-Prime Minister’s negative attitude. Our crew met with local and provincial politicians, ambassadors– they attended regional parliamentary sessions, municipal meetings and gave presentations to the public as well as tours of the boats. All these activities are part of why we sail.

Palestinians in Gaza are now more than ever connected with the rest of the world by the internet. They know when the Freedom Flotilla is coming; they go to the seashore and wait. We are answering a civil society call when we sail–when we ask our partner organizations in Gaza if they would prefer a donations over a Flotilla, they always respond saying we should to sail and raise international awareness about the blockade. They prefer we expand awareness of the longest running occupation in modern history. They also tell us that our sailing gives Palestinians hope and the knowledge that they are not alone.

The Flotilla movement has launched successful legal challenges to Israel for improper confiscation of our ships. One recent court victory by Ship to Gaza Sweden provided the funds for purchase of the Freedom and two smaller sailboats that travelled through France to the Mediterranean. And so Captain John, when interrogated on the way to an Israeli prison, was pleased to answer this question: “Did a terrorist organization provide your funding?” with a solid “Yes”. Then to “Which one?” , John replied: “The Israeli government.”

The Freedom, aside from its main cargo of hope, also carried some medical aid that Israel is required to deliver. To date our 114 boxes remain in Israel, awaiting delivery to Gaza. While these medical supplies were not a significant quantity, they provide another opportunity for ongoing legal action in Israeli courts against the blockade.

The Flotilla will sail again in 2020, at the request of Palestinians of Gaza. This is the year the UN report declared that Gaza will be unliveable. Right now, most of its drinking water is contaminated. Every child shows symptoms of psychological distress. Each Friday Palestinians stand on their own land near the fence asking for their human rights as Israeli snipers shoot them. In 2018 the IDF has killed 254 people in Gaza, 47 of them children. Thousands have been injured; many amputations have resulted.

There are shortages of medicine in Gaza. Children go to school in shifts. Many are orphaned. Israeli drones fly overhead day and night. Hospitals are overwhelmed, especially on Fridays. Last summer we met young Jamil from Gaza in an Italian port; his mother had applied to Israel for permission to take him there for medical treatment. During the years of waiting he had survived on blood transfusions from his grandfather. He must return once his rare blood condition is treated. We saw the worry in his mother’s eyes. Gaza is hazardous even for a healthy child.

And so the flotilla will sail again in 2020, even more mindful this year of the children of Gaza and the tenth anniversary of the attacks on the Mavi Marmara and other Flotilla vessels in 2010.

A critical way to help this campaign is to contribute financially. There are different ways you can make a donation. Click here to donate. We ask you to consider a monthly donation. We are pleased to accept e-transfers from Canadian bank accounts (Interac) or online using a major credit card or PayPal account. You can also donate by cheque or money order and mailing to Canadian Boat to Gaza, PO Box 1950, London Stn. B, London, Ontario N6A 5J4, CANADA. In other countries, please consider donating through one of our Freedom Flotilla coalition partner campaigns : https://jfp.freedomflotilla.org/donate

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Barbara Olson and Tsela Barr: Congress needs to stand against Israeli travel bans


In this July 15, 2019, file photo, U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn, right, speaks, as U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., listens, during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington. (J. Scott Applewhite)

TSELA BARR AND BARB OLSON, The Cap Times, August 23, 2019

Last week, the Israeli government took the unprecedented step of denying two sitting members of the U.S. Congress, Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, entry to Israel.

Their crime was to set up their own independent fact-finding trip to visit Palestine rather than participate in the scripted, AIPAC-sponsored free trip to Israel that most Congress members participate in.

They couldn’t be allowed to meet with Israeli or Palestinian peace activists, or visit places like heavily occupied Hebron that aren’t on the itinerary of the AIPAC junket.

Tlaib and Omar had to be kept out because they had the gall to criticize Israel and express support for the non-violent South Africa-inspired Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement seeking justice and human rights for Palestinians.

This may be outrageous, but it is hardly surprising. Israel has been denying entry to Palestinians since they began expelling them in 1948. The discrimination and harassment experienced by Palestinian, Arab and/or Muslim travelers seeking to enter Israel, or just pass through it to visit the illegally occupied Palestinian territories, is well-known. Recently they have also kept out Jewish Americans who support BDS and champion Palestinian human rights.

Earlier this year, the Trump administration revoked the visa of Fatou Bensouda, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court; denied a visa to Palestinian diplomat Hanan Ashrawi; and prevented Palestinian civil society activist Omar Barghouti from traveling to the U.S. for his daughter’s wedding.

It is also not surprising that Trump, no friend of human rights anywhere, seeks to score political points with his base by continuing his racist and Islamophobic attacks on Omar and Tlaib, as well as fellow Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Presley.

But alarm bells should ring out when a U.S. president openly collaborates with the government of a foreign country to which Congress generously provides some $5 billion per year in U.S. tax money in order to stop members of that same Congress from seeing the reality on the ground there.

Many members of Congress are speaking out against the Trump/Netanyahu action. One of these is our own Rep. Mark Pocan, who tweeted “Prime Minister Netanyahu is wrong to deny @RepRashida & @Ilhan entry into Israel. The U.S. is Israel’s strongest ally & has provided billions in support. PM Netanyahu must reverse this decision & no member of Congress should visit Israel until all members of Congress are welcome. “

One who has yet to speak out is Sen. Tammy Baldwin. Baldwin is a co-sponsor of Senate Resolution 120 that slanders the BDS movement, implies that it is anti-Semitic, and condemns this legally protected exercise of First Amendment rights.

Even Sen. Ron Johnson has yet to co-sponsor this bill.

Unlike earlier bills that would have imposed draconian legal and financial penalties for those who support BDS and which are being thrown out by the courts, this resolution has no “teeth.” Yet clearly it provides fertile ground for what just happened to Omar and Tlaib, and what will happen to others with far less ability to fight back.

More than ever, Baldwin needs to withdraw her support of this anti-democratic resolution.

It is long past time for Israel to change its racist and exclusionary policies towards Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims. The Palestinian people, like people everywhere, including members of the U.S. Congress, should have the freedom to visit their families (as Tlaib hoped to do in the occupied West Bank), to see the impact on the ground of U.S. policies, and to take action for justice and human rights.

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