A Nightmare of Terror Across the Landscape of Palestine

As Israeli lynch mobs roam the streets attacking Palestinians, and as Israeli war planes drop bombs on Gaza, it’s essential to understand how we arrived at this moment.


Israeli forces respond to a Palestinian man protesting in Jerusalem by placing him in a choke hold. (Photo by Menahem Kahana / AFP via Getty Images)

Yousef Munayyer, The Nation, 5/13/21

I have been trying to think of a moment since 1948 when so broad a range of Palestinians have been exposed to as great a level of Israeli violence as they have been these last few days—and I don’t think I can.

In towns throughout Israel, Palestinians have been beaten and terrorized by rampaging mobs; one man was dragged from his car and brutalized in what many are describing as a lynching. In the West Bank, Palestinians have been shot and killed in raids by the Israeli military. In Jerusalem, Palestinian families, facing the ongoing threat of expulsion, have been harassed by settlers and military alike. And across Gaza, Israeli war planes have dropped bomb after bomb, destroying entire apartment buildings. Many have died, many more have been injured. If they manage to survive, they will witness their society shattered when the smoke clears.

The origins of this moment are as obvious as they are painful, but they bear explaining and re-explaining for a world that too often fails—in fact, refuses—to see the true terms of Palestinian suffering.

To understand how we’ve arrived at this moment, it is essential to start with the story of Sheikh Jarrah. That small Jerusalem enclave, from which several Palestinian families have been under threat of expulsion, is perhaps, the most immediate proximate cause of this latest crisis. It is also just the latest targeted dispossession of Palestinians by Israel, which has been part of a more than 70–year process.

Since occupying the West Bank in 1967, the Israeli government has pursued various policies aimed at demographically engineering the city of Jerusalem—again, all with an eye toward ensuring its perpetual dominance over the city. Among such policies are the building of illegal settlements around the city to cut it off from the rest of the Palestinian population in the West Bank; the restriction of movement to deny Palestinians access to and within the municipality itself; the revocation of Palestinian residency status, which is tantamount to expulsion; and the demolition of Palestinian homes. The Israelis also expel Palestinians from their homes, as we are witnessing in Sheikh Jarrah, so that they can be handed to Israeli settlers.

Such policies have created a uniquely potent set of threats, humiliations, and injustices targeting Palestinians in Jerusalem. Yet what is happening in Sheikh Jarrah is not just about Jerusalem but is also reflective of the entire Palestinian experience. Since the start of Zionist settler colonialism in Palestine, the aim has been to slowly and steadily expand control over the territory, pushing the indigenous population out in a continual process of replacement. The single biggest episode of this was the Nakba of 1948, during which Jewish militias and then the state of Israel depopulated hundreds of towns and villages, made nearly two-thirds of the Palestinian Arab population refugees, and subsequently denied their return, first by military force and then by force of law. But the process did not stop there. In the decades since, the settler colonial process has moved forward in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza through the building of settlements, land theft, and brute military force.

All of this would be tinder enough for this moment, but it also happens to be taking place in a broader immediate context, one in which the vise grip of accelerating right-wing, theocratic nationalism is tightening across Israel. Recent Israeli elections brought outright Kahanists – Jewish theocratic extremists who seek to deny any rights to Palestinians and embrace ethnic cleansing—into the parliament in their most significant numbers ever. Right-wing ideologues have long dominated the Knesset, but as Israeli politics shifts ever right-ward, enabled by internationally ensured impunity, there is now increasing political space for the most open and direct racism we have seen. (It should therefore come as no surprise that it has burst out into the streets in the shape of lynch mobs.)

These new depths of depravity have coincided with the possibility that the Likud party, whose leader Benjamin Netanyahu has dominated Israeli politics longer than any other, risks losing power. This is not due to a challenge by those to his left, but those to his right who seek to replace him.

What makes the threat to Netanyahu’s grip on power particularly dangerous is that he is perhaps the most seasoned Israeli politician when it comes to riling up violence by his followers in moments of political turmoil. It is a tactic he has often deployed, perhaps most famously just before of the assassination of his political rival Yitzhak Rabin by a right-wing Israeli in 1995. Since the election in March, these violent extremists have escalated their attacks on Palestinians throughout the West Bank and have rampaged in Jerusalem, shouting “Death to Arabs” as they marched through the Old City. These attacks, fully tolerated if not outright supported by the state, further escalated during the holy month of Ramadan, culminating first with efforts by the Israeli government to shut down the Damascus Gate and then, ultimately, with the brutal raids we have seen this week by the Israeli military inside Al-Aqsa mosque.

Once again, these events, on their own, would have been enough to bring the region to this volatile and fast-shifting moment. Yet there have also been other events, and other shifts—most notably, perhaps, the rupture of an experiment in the politics of Palestinian citizens of Israel. The Joint List, which brought together several smaller parties, once reached 15 seats in the Israeli Knesset, but it broke apart this time as some parties indicated a willingness to back a Netanyahu government for the right price. The failure of this experiment was the failure of the very idea that Palestinian citizens of Israel could have their grievances addressed by participating in the Israeli government. As even these limited mechanisms of representation faltered, people were primed to take to the streets. Just as the election was taking place, thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel rallied in the city of Umm al-Fahem, carrying Palestinian flags, and singing of their beloved homeland, foreshadowing many of the events in recent days.

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Sheikh Jarrah Explained

The past and present of East Jerusalem

Middle East Eye explains the history of Israel’s push to evict Palestinian families from the East Jerusalem community

Mustafa Abu Sneineh, Middle East Eye, 6 May 2021

Sheikh Jarrah, the Palestinian neighbourhood in occupied East Jerusalem facing imminent Israeli eviction, was once a breezy orchard lying less than a kilometre north of the ancient walls of Jerusalem’s Old City.

In the early 20th century, wealthy Palestinian families moved to build modern houses in the area, escaping the narrow streets and the hustle and bustle of their air-tight homes in the Old City.

The neighbourhood’s name refers to the personal physician of the Islamic general Saladin, who is believed to have settled there when Muslim armies captured the city from Christian crusaders in 1187.

Refugees from Palestine 1948

In 1956, 28 Palestinian families settled in the neighbourhood. Those families were part of a wider population of 750,000 forcibly expelled by Zionist militias during the 1948 war – known to Palestinians as the Nakba, or “catastrophe” – from the Arab towns and cities that became Israel.

East Jerusalem was administered by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, which governed the West Bank. Jordan had built houses for the 28 Palestinian families in 1956 with the approval of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.

In the 1960s, the families agreed a deal with the Jordanian government that would make them the owners of the land and houses, receiving official land deeds signed in their names after three years. In return, they would renounce their refugee status.

However, the deal was cut short as Israel captured and illegally occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war and Jordan lost control of the territories.

Currently, there are 38 Palestinian families living in Sheikh Jarrah, four of them facing imminent eviction, while three are expected to be removed on 1 August.

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Human Rights Watch Documents Israeli Apartheid

American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), April 27, 2021

For the past week, the world watched as Israeli settlers attacked Palestinians living in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. Over 1500 Palestinians, mostly children, are facing threats of forced displacement and home demolitions by Israeli authorities. For nearly 75 years, this has been the devastating reality for many Palestinians – exile, intimidation, occupation, and apartheid. The human rights abuses that Palestinians have faced at the hands of Israel are finally attracting more attention. While. the United Nations has repeatedly pointed out violations of international law by Israel, While the United Nations has repeatedly pointed out violations of international law by Israel, the international consensus has always been to ignore the violations– but the world can no longer ignore what is happening.

Yesterday, in a historic move, Human Rights Watch came out with a 213-page report that documents the human rights abuses Israel inflicts on Palestinians and recognizes their actions as crimes of apartheid. While Palestinians and many others who support them have known this for years, this is a bold move that pushes the plight of the Palestinian people into the spotlight with the hope that Israel will be held accountable for these crimes.

The report states: “Israeli authorities methodically privilege Jewish Israelis and discriminate against Palestinians. Laws, policies, and statements by leading Israeli officials make plain that the objective of maintaining Jewish Israeli control over demographics, political power, and land has long guided government policy. In pursuit of this goal, authorities have dispossessed, confined, forcibly separated, and subjugated Palestinians by virtue of their identity to varying degrees of intensity. In certain areas, as described in this report, these deprivations are so severe that they amount to the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.”

Palestinians have suffered under occupation and crimes of apartheid for over half a century. Recognizing the human rights abuses inflicted by Israel such as checkpoints; annexation; lack of medical care, access to clean water; and the deliberate, imposing apartheid wall, is essential in the pursuit for justice.

In recent months, mounting pressure from the American people and international community has pushed US lawmakers into action. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) recently introduced H.R.2590, the Defending the Human Rights of Palestinian Children and Families Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act. This historic bill would hold Israel accountable for its human rights abuses of Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation and withhold sending our tax dollars to fund these atrocities. Over a dozen members of Congress co-sponsored this resolution, and ADC- along with dozens of Palestinian and human rights organizations – is proud to have signed on as an endorsing organization.

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US congresswoman denounces ‘disturbing’ arrests of Palestinian children

Betty McCollum vows to push that US military aid to Israel is not ‘used in any way that violates the rights of any Palestinian’


B’Tselem says Israeli forces arrested five Palestinian children in the West Bank on Wednesday (B’Tselem)

Ali Harb, Middle East Eye, 11 March 2021

US Congresswoman Betty McCollum, a Democrat who has led efforts in Congress to hold Israel accountable for human rights abuses against Palestinians, denounced the arrest of Palestinian children by Israeli soldiers in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday. 

The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem had reported that five Palestinians aged 8 to 12 had been detained by the Israeli military in the West Bank near the settlement of Havat Maon south of Hebron for picking wild vegetables. 

The group shared video footage of Israeli troops in combat gear pushing visibly terrified Palestinian children into military vehicles. 

At one point, an older child tried to rescue another minor who was being escorted by a soldier only to be yanked away by another officer.

“Seeing the images of heavily armed Israeli soldiers manhandling and detaining these five preteen Palestinian children is extremely disturbing,” McCollum told MEE in an email. 

“Using Israeli soldiers to capture little boys who were reportedly ‘gathering wild vegetables’ in occupied Palestinian land is wrong.”

Welcome to the 12th Annual Open Shuhada Street Campaign

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On this page, you will find information about the Open Shuhada Street campaign in 2021. Please go to our calendar page for events.

Join the international campaign led by local Palestinian volunteers to call for an end to the restrictions in the city of Hebron — call for the reopening of Hebron’s main street, an end to the segregation in Hebron, an end to the human rights violations, and an end to the Israeli occupation.

Please follow the campaign on Youth Against Settlements’ Facebook and Twitter.

Book a speaker: [email protected]

MATERIALS HERE

Every year since 2010, local Palestinian volunteers with the Hebron-based Youth Against Settlements (YAS) group have been launching a campaign calling for an end to the closures in the city and an end to the Israeli military occupation of Palestine. Please follow the campaign on YAS’s Facebook and Twitter.

This year, due to COVID-19, we will be conducting the campaign virtually. We need your participation and solidarity. Please join the events and post on social media. Please go to our calendar page to RVSP and read more about our events.

To book a speaker for an online webinar, please contact [email protected]

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February 10, 2021
Jim Zogby Talks with Human Rights Advocate Issa Amro


Wednesday, February 10, 2021 from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m CT

In the months we have been gathering weekly for Coffee & a Column, I have welcomed our substantive conversations each week. I’ve also been thinking about how to expand our community and it is with that in mind that I am excited to share with you the special format for this Wednesday.

We will begin at 2:00 PM with discussion of the two violent acts in the past 20 years that have shaken American democracy: the terrorist attacks on 9/11/01 and the Capitol insurrection on 1/6/21. In “Our Democracy Was at Risk,” I speak about the weaknesses each event exposed in our democracy and the differing actions our leaders took after each, and why.

At 2:30, Issa Amro will join us to discuss the ongoing non-violent protests he is helping lead in opposition to the occupation and Israel’s politically motivated prosecution against him.

An Israeli military judge was set to rule against Issa and as Issa recently said, “we have no choice but to resort to civil disobedience until we win our right to freedom, justice, equality and a life of dignity.” Issa is a critical voice in Palestine and he will be with us to provide the latest on his case and the broader work being done in support of Palestinian human rights.

Please register here to receive the dial-in information for the Zoom call Wednesday, February 10, 2021 from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m ET sharp. After you register, you will automatically get the dial-in information for the call.

Regards,

Jim Zogby

US Congressman: Respecting Palestinian Rights is Key to Defeating Antisemitism


US Congressman Andy Levin

US Congressman Andy Levin has warned that anti-Semitism cannot be properly defeated without addressing Israel’s human rights abuses against Palestinians.

Speaking earlier this week during an online discussion hosted by the progressive Jewish movement IfNotNow on how the Biden administration can combat anti-Jewish racism, the Michigan Democrat lawmaker mentioned his long track record of urging the US to oppose Israel’s occupation.

“Over 30 years ago, I was part of a little group of Jews and Christians and Muslims who organized an interfaith delegation to Israel and Palestine from Metro Detroit,” explained Levin. “We went to Gaza, we went to the West Bank, and I wrote a piece in the Detroit Jewish News saying ‘There’s no time left’,” He added that he “took a lot of c**p in my community. “And now it is 30 years later and we have to change things right now. We have to find the language to talk about this in a grounded way.”

He drew a comparison to the recent coup in Myanmar. “The Burmese military just conducted a coup and ended Burma’s fragile, 10-year experiment with democratic self-governance. During those 10 years, the rights of the Rohingya and the Karen and other minority peoples of Burma were never recognized at all.” The suggestion seemed to be that Myanmar could not be considered a democracy even while it held elections because of its failure to respect the rights of its minorities.

Increasingly Bold Israel Begins Building Settlements In Downtown Albuquerque

The Onion, January 27, 2021

ALBUQUERQUE, NM—In a move that shocked and angered city residents, including families that have called the area home for centuries, an increasingly bold Israel announced Tuesday that it had begun building settlements for its citizens in downtown Albuquerque, NM.

“Our High Planning Committee has approved 1,200 new Israeli homes in Albuquerque’s central business district and will soon move forward with plans to expand into the nearby Old Town and Nob Hill neighborhoods as well,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who confirmed Albuquerque Plaza, the Metropolitan Courthouse, and the historic KiMo Theatre were just a few among many of the city’s buildings that would soon be demolished to make way for brand-new Israeli subdivisions.

“We will also be taking measures to protect these new settlements by building a barrier wall along the Santa Fe border, which can only be crossed by those holding an Israeli passport. In addition, we’ll have IDF troops patrolling all of Albuquerque to keep the peace, and any American resident charged with a crime will be tried in our military courts. Naturally, these measures are necessary to ensure Israel’s security interests.”

At press time, the U.S. government had pledged to provide Israel with an additional $3 billion in military aid to help the nation defend its new territory.