Why Did Israel Execute Shireen Abu-Akleh?

They attacked the mourners because they weren’t in the casket

Steve Salaita, May 13, 2022

Immediately after Israeli soldiers executed Al-Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu-Akleh and fired at a group of her colleagues, observers began asking how such a horrible thing could happen. Why would Israel murder a journalist well-known throughout the Arab World? A noncombatant wearing appropriate press gear? A high-profile Palestinian with U.S. citizenship? At best, it seemed like a terrible PR move. It didn’t make any sense.

Except it did make sense. In fact, from a certain point of view killing Abu-Akleh was painfully sensible.

It’s natural to seek rational explanations for what appear to be mindless acts of violence. Explanation is contingent on material conditions, though, and so we have to understand the situation in context of Zionist settler colonization. Using the humanistic logic prevalent in most civil societies, Israel’s conduct was baffling. Its soldiers murdered a civilian in full view of people whose job is to report news. Those soldiers had to know that they couldn’t keep their act a secret, that targeting journalists would result in worldwide outrage. And yet they did it anyway.

Why?

To arrive at an answer, we have to discern the colonizer’s psyche. We’re not dealing with normal civil society standards, first of all. The relevant context is military occupation. In such a context, gratuitous state violence is normal. Obviously, killing Abu-Akleh has the immediate benefit of silencing a prominent voice of Palestinian resistance, one that had long exposed Israeli crimes of aggression.

There is more to the story, however.

We also have to explore the assumptions underlying a desire for simple explanations. By asking for reasons over and over again, observers seek answers to incongruous questions. In so doing they’re apt to tacitly implicate the victims in their own suffering. The journalists must have done something. There had to be a provocation. Israeli soldiers don’t just shoot innocent people for the hell of it.

But that’s exactly what Israeli soldiers do. Israel has murdered around fifty journalists over the past two decades. One or two might be an aberration. Fifty is a policy.

We needn’t turn to the victim’s behavior for answers to the colonizer’s violence. He is violent because of colonization.

So there’s no need to seek legible reasons for Abu-Akleh’s murder according the rationale of civic decency. The settler doesn’t need a “reason” to kill the native. The settler kills because deracinating the native is a precondition of his social identity. It is a function of his legal status and class position. Israeli forces viciously attacked a crowd carrying Abu-Akleh’s coffin—abusing our beloved martyr even in death—which only affirms the fact that the settler kills precisely when confronted by the native’s vulnerability. There is a higher purpose to his violence. The settler doesn’t kill simply to produce death; he kills to negate the native’s existence.

Israeli forces attacked Abu-Akleh’s corpse because killing her wasn’t enough. They needed to expunge her from a land they claim by divine mandate. Her body impedes a mythological birthright underlying the settler’s entire sense of self. She has to be rendered nonexistent in order for the settler to survive. Such is the logic of desecrating ancient Muslim cemeteries and planting flora over the ruins of ethnically cleansed Palestinian villages.

The same forces attacked hundreds of mourners not because they were unruly, but because they weren’t also in the casket.

The settler’s violence, in short, is endless. It is the only way he knows how to be a good citizen. And it is the only way, in the end, he can imagine a meaningful existence.

Steve Salaita is a scholar, author and public speaker born in Bluefield, West Virginia.

US Rabbis Call for End to Jewish Funding of Israeli Extremism


Extremist Jewish settlers, escorted by Israeli police, march in Sheikh Jarrah, Jerusalem. (File Photo: via ActiveStills.org)

The Palestine Chronicle, April 8, 2022

19 influential rabbis in New York City have signed a letter accusing a major American Jewish charity of indirectly funding right-wing extremists in Israel, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported on Thursday.

The rabbis called on the $2.4 billion Jewish Communal Fund (JCF) to cease funding to the Central Fund of Israel (CFI), part of a network that funnels donations to Lehava and other violent Israeli groups.

The JCF receives thousands of donations a year and distributes funding according to donor recommendations – including $23 million in “general support donations” to CFI.

During Ramadan in 2021, the extremist group Lehava organized a march through occupied Jerusalem where hundreds chanted “Death to Arabs”, “their villages will burn”, and wounded more than 100 Palestinians without intervention from the Israeli police.

“Lehava, which bases itself in the genocidal philosophy of Meir Kahane, is known for violence against both Palestinians and Israeli Jewish progressive activists,” said the letter from the rabbis, most of whom come from largely progressive Jewish denominations, according to the JTA.

Lehava – a Hebrew acronym that stands for the Prevention of Assimilation in the Holy Land – was founded by followers of the banned Kach movement, a racist group designated as a terrorist organization in Israel, the US and the EU.

The letter was published in response to an escalation in violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem, and fears that Ramadan may bring a repeat of Israel’s assault on the besieged Gaza Strip last year, in which more than 250 Palestinians were killed.

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April 18, 2022
“Who Speaks for the Jews?” Series

    6 pm Central

Join IfNotNow and the Jewish Liberation Fund for this speaker series addressing the question of who holds the power to shape Jewish communal narratives, how they exercise it, and what we can do.

The Jewish Liberation Fund (JLF) mobilizes resources to sustain and grow a progressive Jewish movement and fund a Jewish future we can believe in. We pursue this mission by cultivating the seeds of the Jewish progressive movement as a grantmaker whose decisions are made by Black and Indigenous Jews, Jews of Color, Sephardim and Mizrahim; designing resources and courses for large funders to critically consider the role of philanthropy in dismantling unjust social systems; and organizing Jewish funders to take collective action to usher in new practices in the Jewish philanthropic space.

We call hypocrisy on PUMA

Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), April 6, 2022

PUMA enacted swift measures to hold Russia accountable for its illegal weeks-long military invasion of Ukraine. Yet PUMA has been hiding behind the flimsy excuse of not getting involved in politics for years now to justify its ongoing support for Israel’s decades-long apartheid regime. Take action now to call out PUMA’s hypocrisy. 

Hypocrisy.

That’s the only way to describe PUMA’s actions.

PUMA enacted swift measures to hold Russia accountable for its illegal weeks-long military invasion of Ukraine. PUMA first ended a sponsorship contract with the Russian Basketball Federation and subsequently suspended its operations in Russia.

Yet PUMA has been hiding behind the flimsy excuse of not getting involved in politics for years now to justify its ongoing support for Israel’s decades-long apartheid regime.

Never has PUMA’s “we don’t do politics” excuse fallen flatter. Never has its hypocrisy been more exposed.

Tell PUMA: No more hypocrisy. End support for Israeli apartheid now. 
    

Puma continues to maintain its sponsorship contract with the Israel Football Association, which governs and advocates on behalf of teams in illegal settlements forcing Indigenous Palestinians off their land in the occupied Palestinian territory.

More than 200 Palestinian sports teams have called on PUMA to end its support for Israel’s military occupation. According to a leaked PUMA memo, an increasing number of PUMA’s own business partners and ambassadors are raising ethical concerns.

Take action now to call out PUMA’s hypocrisy.

Hey PUMA, now that you “do politics,” stop supporting illegal Israeli settlements
  

PUMA should take action now to end its complicity in oppression and suffering everywhere. Selective action is just another stain on its tarnished image.

In solidarity,
Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)

ps: We’re planning actions ahead of the PUMA shareholders meeting in early May. Mark your calendars and please get in touch if your group would like to join.

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Chicago synagogue officially designates itself ‘anti-Zionist’

Protestors In Chicago Rally Against Trump's Jerusalem Decision
Protestors In Chicago Rally Against Trump’s Jerusalem Decision (Getty Images)

Arno Rosenfeld, The Forward, March 31, 2022

Tzedek Chicago was founded seven years ago, in part, to create a Jewish community free from a strong attachment to Israel. The congregation went beyond its original “non-Zionism” this week to become what is likely the first synagogue in the country to be affirmatively “anti-Zionist.”

“I’m so proud of the thoughtful way we engaged with each other in this process,” Scout Bratt, the shul’s president, said in a statement Wednesday announcing the decision. “While we knew individual members would have their own personal opinions, we ultimately treated this as a communal decision, not an ideological litmus test.”

The decision to add a statement decrying the creation of Israel as an “injustice against the Palestinian people – an injustice that continues to this day” was taken by a vote of the congregation’s 200 member families after the board unanimously endorsed it in December. Seventy-three percent of households voted in favor of the motion.

    Even most progressive Jewish congregations are careful
    to avoid staking an explicit anti-Zionist position

There is little data on how many American Jews identify as Zionists, or support Zionism, but many establishment organizations point to proxy questions to argue that the vast majority of the community is sympathetic to the tenets of Jewish nationalism. For example, the Pew Research Center found in May that 82% of Jews said “caring about Israel” was essential or important to being Jewish, and 81% told the American Jewish Committee that it was antisemitic to say that “Israel has no right to exist.”

Some pro-Israel activists assailed Tzedek Chicago’s announcement on social media.

“I don’t think they know what Judaism even is,” Daniel Koren, director of Hasbara Fellowships Canada, wrote on Twitter.

Establishment groups have long shunned Tzedek Chicago, with JTA reporting in 2019 that the congregation was not listed in the local Jewish federation’s directory of synagogues.

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Navigating our Humanity: Ilan Pappé on the Four Lessons from Ukraine


Israeli warplanes attacked hundreds of towers and civilian ‘targets’ in the Gaza Strip. (Photo: Mahmoud Ajjour, The Palestine Chronicle)

Ilan Pappe, The Palestine Chronicle, March 4, 2022

The USA Today reported that a photo that went viral about a high-rise in the Ukraine being hit by Russian bombing turned out to be a high-rise from the Gaza Strip, demolished by the Israeli Air Force in May 2021. A few days before that, the Ukrainian Foreign Minister complained to the Israeli ambassador in Kiev that “you’re treating us like Gaza”; he was furious that Israel did not condemn the Russian invasion and was only interested in evicting Israeli citizens from the state (Haaretz, February 17, 2022). It was a mixture of reference to the Ukrainian evacuation of Ukrainian spouses of Palestinian men from the Gaza Strip in May 2021, as well as a reminder to Israel of the Ukrainian president’s full support for Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip in that month (I will return to that support towards the end of this piece).

Israel’s assaults on Gaza should, indeed, be mentioned and considered when evaluating the present crisis in the Ukraine. It is not a coincidence that photos are being confused – there are not many high-rises that were toppled in the Ukraine, but there is an abundance of ruined high-rises in the Gaza Strip. However, it is not only the hypocrisy about Palestine that emerges when we consider the Ukraine crisis in a wider context; it is the overall Western double standards that should be scrutinized, without, for one moment, being indifferent to news and images coming to us from the war zone in the Ukraine: traumatized children, streams of refugees, sights of buildings ruined by bombing and the looming danger that this is only the beginning of a human catastrophe at the heart of Europe.

At the same time, those of us experiencing, reporting and digesting the human catastrophes in Palestine cannot escape the hypocrisy of the West and we can point to it without belittling, for a moment, our human solidarity and empathy with victims of any war. We need to do this, since the moral dishonesty underwriting the deceitful agenda set by the Western political elites and media will once more allow them to hide their own racism and impunity as it will continue to provide immunity for Israel and its oppression of the Palestinians. I detected four false assumptions which are at the heart of the Western elite’s engagement with the Ukraine crisis, so far, and have framed them as four lessons.

Lesson One: White Refugees are Welcome; Others Less So

The unprecedented collective EU decision to open up its borders to the Ukrainian refugees, followed by a more guarded policy by Britain, cannot go unnoticed in comparison to the closure of most of the European gates to the refugees coming from the Arab world and Africa since 2015.  The clear racist prioritization, distinguishing between life seekers on the basis of color, religion and ethnicity is abhorrent, but unlikely to change very soon. Some European leaders are not even ashamed to broadcast their racism publicly as does the Bulgarian Prime Minister, Kiril Petkov:

“These [the Ukrainian refugees] are not the refugees we are used to … these people are Europeans. These people are intelligent, they are educated people. … This is not the refugee wave we have been used to, people we were not sure about their identity, people with unclear pasts, who could have been even terrorists…”

He is not alone. The Western media talks about “our kind of refugees” all the time, and this racism is manifested clearly on the border crossings between the Ukraine and its European neighbours. This racist attitude, with strong Islamophobic undertones, is not going to change, since the European leadership is still denying the multi-ethnic and multicultural fabric of societies all over the continent. A human reality created by years of European colonialism and imperialism that the current European governments deny and ignore and, at the same time, these governments pursue immigration policies that are based on the very same racism that permeated the colonialism and imperialism of the past. 

Lesson Two: You Can Invade Iraq but not the Ukraine

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Justice for Palestine Cannot Wait: U.S. Military Funding to Israel with Anti-Palestinian Bill

Shame on Hoyer. It's shameful to fund safety for some and violence for others. Call now to voice your outrage: uscpr.org/ShameOnHoyerCat Knarr, US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, 10 Mar 2022

WASHINGTON, DC, March 10, 2022—House Democratic leadership is so committed to undermining the grassroots call to end military and diplomatic support for apartheid Israel that they tied the passage of anti-Palestinian legislation and military funding for Israel to the must-pass omnibus spending bill, which passed the House late in the evening on Wednesday, March 9.

Democratic House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer rigged the vote against justice for all: in order to vote for humanitarian funding for Ukraine, and funding at home for hospitals, domestic violence shelters, clean drinking water, public transportation, and other life-giving community projects, Congress also voted for billions of dollars in weapons and military funding to Israel.

As a result of this horrible merging of life-threatening and life-giving funding in one bill, it is guaranteed to easily pass in the Senate as well.

Lumping support for apartheid Israel into a bill funding essential government services creates an anti-democratic false choice vote. The bill enables impunity for apartheid Israel through:

  • $4.8 billion in military funding to Israel, including the annual $3.8 billion and an extra $1 billion in weapons funding
  • Further diplomatic support through H.R. 2748/S. 1061, the Israel Relations Normalization Act of 2021. This harmful bill, which we’re calling the Normalizing Israeli Ethnic Cleansing Act, expands Trump-era weapons and business deals between apartheid Israel and other authoritarian regimes, while sidelining Palestinian demands for justice.

While the Normalizing Israeli Ethnic Cleansing Act (H.R. 2748) purports to advance regional cooperation, in reality it entrenches impunity by willfully ignoring Israel’s constant human rights violations and settler colonialism. H.R. 2748 also includes language that limits free speech in support of Palestinian rights and threatens to censor or defund international organizations that may not support normalization as defined by this bill. Read USCPR’s full analysis of the bill in this policy memo.

Israel’s ongoing ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people is part of a decades-long history of violence and settler colonialism. Just since the start of the year, the Israeli regime has inflicted massive violence:

  • Israeli forces shot and killed three Palestinian children, 16-year-old Mohammad Akram Ali Taher Abu Salah near Jenin, 13-year-old Mohammad Rezq Shehadeh Salah near Bethlehem, and 15-year-old Yamen Nafez Mahmoud Khanafseh near Jerusalem.
  • The Israeli regime demolished at least 145 Palestinian homes and structures including the Salahiya family’s home in Sheikh Jarrah, Jerusalem.
  • Israel brutally repressed protests in the Naqab desert while mass arresting over 40 Palestinians, including many children.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International charged Israel with crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution in a damning report released last month, a reality that Palestinian people have long known and named.

“After Israel’s mass killing of 260 Palestinians in Gaza in May 2021 and escalating ethnic cleansing across Palestine, Congress should be focused on demanding accountability ASAP,” said Sana Siddiq, USCPR’s Manager of Policy and Advocacy Campaigns. “Instead, Majority Leader Hoyer just rammed through billions in military funding as well as anti-Palestinian legislation that perpetuates Israeli impunity.”

Indeed, the Normalizing Israeli Ethnic Cleansing Act backs the deeply transactional Abraham Accords, which give weapons to authoritarian regimes in return for ignoring Israeli violence against the Palestinian people.

Justice for the Palestinian people cannot wait. Members of Congress who claim to care about human rights must support legislation that holds Israel accountable for its crimes, such as H.R. 2590, the Palestinian Children and Families Act. Anything less further enables and emboldens the human rights abuses of an apartheid state.

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AIPAC Endorses Republicans Who Deny Biden’s Election Win

Critics say the endorsements endanger its declared bipartisanship and increase its association with the Republican Party. AIPAC’s reply: “We are a single-issue organization focused on Israel.”

Richard N. Haass is a former U.S. diplomat and President of the Council on Foreign Relations.

The US supports illegal annexations by Israel and Morocco. Why the hypocrisy?

America must be consistent. It cannot pick and choose when to follow international law.

ISRAEL-SYRIA-CONFLICT-GOLAN<br>Israeli soldiers walk near Moshav Sha'al in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights on February 9, 2022. - Israel launched strikes against targets in Syria early today, hitting anti-aircraft batteries in response to a missile fired from Syria, the military said. (Photo by JALAA MAREY / AFP) (Photo by JALAA MAREY/AFP via Getty Images)
Israeli soldiers walk near Moshav Sha'al in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights on February 9, 2022. (Photo by JALAA MAREY/AFP via Getty Images)

Peter Beinart, The Guardian, 10 Mar 2022

Last December, as Russian forces encircled Ukraine, the Biden administration and its allies delivered a stark warning to Vladimir Putin: “Any use of force to change borders is strictly prohibited under international law.” In January, as Russian troops massed even in even greater numbers, Secretary of State Antony Blinken added that “the inviolability of frontiers” was among the “guiding principles for international behavior.” Last month, after Russia’s parliament recognized the independence of two self-declared republics Moscow had cleaved from eastern Ukraine, Blinken called this infringement upon “Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” a “gross violation of international law.”

All this is indisputably true. Remaking borders by force violates a core principle of international law. Which is why the Biden administration must do more than resist Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. It must stop violating that principle itself.

In 2019, the Trump administration made the United States the only foreign country to recognize Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights, which Israel seized from Syria in the 1967 War. Tel Aviv University Law Professor Eliav Lieblich noted that the decision – which contradicted a unanimous United Nations Security Council resolution supported by the US itself – constituted a “significant departure from the bedrock legal prohibition of unilateral annexation.” Yale Law School’s Oona Hathaway called the move “outrageous and potentially destabilizing to the postwar international order.” The Russian government called it an “indication of the contempt that Washington shows for the norms of international law.”

After Trump’s move, Illinois Senator Richard Durbin asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to explain the legal difference between Israel’s annexation of the Golan and Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, which had led the US to impose sanctions. Pompeo replied that “there’s international law doctrine on this very point. We don’t have time to begin to go through it today. But [I’m] happy to have a team go over and walk you through that.” When journalists followed up, the State Department cited no international law doctrine at all. To the contrary, a department spokeswoman declared, nonsensically, that “The US policy continues to be that no country can change the borders of another by force.”

Then, in 2020, the Trump administration followed up by making the United States the only foreign country to recognize Morocco’s annexation of Western Sahara, a territory Morocco invaded in 1975 after the territory’s Spanish colonial rulers withdrew. Former Secretary of State James Baker III called the decision an “astounding retreat from the principles of international law.” Once again, the United States contradicted Security Council resolutions it had supported itself. Once again, Russia blasted the US for transgressing a “universally recognized international legal” principle.

Since taking office, the Biden administration has reversed neither of these Trump decisions. To the contrary, the US continues to provide Israel almost $4 billion in military aid per year absent any human rights conditions even as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International allege that it is practicing apartheid. The Biden administration has also boosted arms sales to Morocco even though the US-based democracy watchdog Freedom House reports that people in Western Sahara enjoy fewer freedoms than people in China or Iran.

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine gives the Biden administration a chance to reconsider this dangerous path. It can harness the current global revulsion against Putin’s aggression to rebuild the principle that no country should redraw another’s borders by force. But only if it reverses Trump’s decisions and proves that the US is willing to live by the standards it demands of Moscow. Politically, that won’t be easy since Israel, which enjoys strong support in Washington, benefitted from both of Trump’s decisions—his decision on the Golan Heights and his decision on Western Sahara, which helped convince Morocco to normalize diplomatic relations with the Jewish state. But international norms only remain strong if countries abide by them when they’re inconvenient. And if the US chooses continued hypocrisy, it will make Ukraine, Taiwan and every other weaker nation bordered by a rapacious neighbor more vulnerable.

After Secretary of State Pompeo defended Trump’s recognition of Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights, Senator Durbin warned that, “I don’t think the administration is thinking clearly about how this ends well.” He was right. The continued erosion of the norm against international aggression will not end well. Russia’s attack on Ukraine is just the latest sign. The Biden administration can stem that erosion now. But in addition to the military battle it is assisting in Ukraine, it must wage a political battle at home.

#DefundRacism: The Ibrahimi Mosque Massacre

#DefundRacism | defundracism.org

On February 25 Palestinians in Hebron will be mobilizing in protest as we commemorate the 28th anniversary of the Ibrahimi Mosque Massacre, in which an Israeli settler murdered 29 Palestinians and injured over one hundred.

In response to the murder of 29 Palestinians on Feb 25, 1994, Israeli forces increased restrictions on Palestinians’ most basic rights. This cycle of settler violence and oppression is funded in part by the Hebron Fund, a US-based “charity.”

Since 1994, Palestinians have been denied access to Shuhada street, a former major economic hub, while settlements continue to expand around them. These actions are supported by the Hebron Fund. It’s time to revoke its charitable status.

Every day acts of violence are carried out against Palestinians in Hebron. This systemic and perpetual violence is a result of illegal settlements in the city and those who support them, like the Hebron Fund. Raise your voice with ours.

As we remember the victims of the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre, join us to speak out against the Hebron Fund, a group dedicated to the continuation of settler colonialism and the elimination of Indigenous Palestinians from their own lands.

The Israeli settler movement works to dominate and erase indigenous Palestinians. The 1994 Ibrahimi Massacre is just one example. Organizations like The Hebron Fund support ethnic cleansing with “charitable” funds — but we have the power to stop them.

The colonial violence Israeli settlers carry out against Palestinians is financed by US charities like the Hebron Fund. Settler colonialism is not charitable.

Sign our petition
Stand with Palestinians to #DefundRacism