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‘Israel is not exercising the right to defend itself”, says Chris Hedges. “It is carrying out mass murder, aided and abetted by the U.S.”

Hedges, in my opinion, is one of the most insightful and honest commentators alive when it comes to Israel/Palestine. He spent seven years as Middle East Bureau Chief for the New York Times. He is also an ordained Presbyterian Minister! Read the full article here.

Father Dave

Chris Hedges: Israel, the Big Lie

Nearly all the words and phrases used by the Democrats, Republicans and the talking heads on the media to describe the unrest inside Israel and the heaviest Israeli assault against the Palestinians since the 2014 attacks on Gaza, which lasted 51 days and killed more than 2,200 Palestinians, including 551 children, are a lie.  Israel, by employing its military machine against an occupied population that does not have mechanized units, an air force, navy, missiles, heavy artillery and command-and-control, not to mention a U.S. commitment to provide a $38 billion defense aid package for Israel over the next decade, is not exercising “the right to defend itself.” It is carrying out mass murder. It is a war crime. 

Israel has made it clear it is ready to destroy and kill as wantonly now as it was in 2014. Israel’s defense minister Benny Gantz, who was the chief of staff during the murderous assault on Gaza in 2014, has vowed that if Hamas “does not stop the violence, the strike of 2021 will be harder and more painful than that of 2014.” The current attacks have already targeted several residential high rises including buildings that housed over a dozen local and international press agencies, government buildings, roads, public facilities, agricultural lands, two schools and a mosque.

I spent seven years in the Middle East as a correspondent, four of them as The New York Times Middle East Bureau Chief. I am an Arabic speaker. I lived for weeks at a time in Gaza, the world’s largest open-air prison where over two million Palestinians exist on the edge of starvation, struggle to find clean water and endure constant Israeli terror. I have been in Gaza when it was pounded with Israeli artillery and air strikes. I have watched mothers and fathers, wailing in grief, cradling the bloodied bodies of their sons and daughters. I know the crimes of the occupation—the food shortages caused by the Israeli blockade, the stifling overcrowding, the contaminated water, the lack of health services, the near constant electrical outages due to the Israeli targeting of power plants, the crippling poverty, the endemic unemployment, the fear and the despair. I have witnessed the carnage. 

I also have listened from Gaza to the lies emanating from Jerusalem and Washington. Israel’s indiscriminate use of modern, industrial weapons to kill thousands of innocents, wound thousands more and make tens of thousands of families homeless is not a war: It is state-sponsored terror.  And, while I oppose the indiscriminate firing of rockets by Palestinians into Israel, as I oppose suicide bombings, seeing them also as war crimes, I am acutely aware of a huge disparity between the industrial violence carried out by Israel against innocent Palestinians and the minimal acts of violence capable of being waged by groups such as Hamas.

The false equivalency between Israeli and Palestinian violence was echoed during the war I covered in Bosnia.  Those of us in the besieged city of Sarajevo were pounded daily with hundreds of heavy shells and rockets from the surrounding Serbs. We were targeted by sniper fire. The city suffered a few dozen dead and wounded each day. The government forces inside the city fired back with light mortars and small arms fire. Supporters of the Serbs seized on any casualties caused by Bosnian government forces to play the same dirty game, although well over 90 percent of the killings in Bosnia were the fault of the Serbs, as is also true regarding Israel.  

The second and perhaps most important parallel is that the Serbs, like the Israelis, were the principal violators of international law. Israel is in breach of more than 30 U.N. Security Council resolutions. It is in breach of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention that defines collective punishment of a civilian population as a war crime. It is in violation of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention for settling over half a million Jewish Israelis on occupied Palestinian land and for the ethnic cleansing of at least 750,000 Palestinians when the Israeli state was founded and another 300,000 after Gaza, East Jerusalem and the West Bank were occupied following the 1967 war. Its annexation of East Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan Heights violates international law, as does its building of a security barrier in the West Bank that annexes Palestinian land into Israel. It is in violation of U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194 that states that Palestinian “refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date.” 

This is the truth.  Any other starting point for the discussion of what is taking place between Israel and the Palestinians is a lie.

Israel’s once vibrant peace movement and political left, which condemned and protested against the Israeli occupation when I lived in Jerusalem, is moribund. The right-wing Netanyahu government, despite its rhetoric about fighting terrorism, has built an alliance with the repressive regime in Saudi Arabia, which also views Iran as an enemy.  Saudi Arabia, a country that  produced 15 of the 19 hijackers in the September 11 attacks, is reputed to be the most prolific sponsor of international Islamist terrorism, allegedly supporting Salafist jihadism, the basis of al-Qaeda, and groups such as the Afghanistan TalibanLashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Al-Nusra Front.  

Saudi Arabia and Israel worked closely together to back the 2013 military coup in Egypt, led by General Adbul Fattah el Sisi. Sisi overthrew a democratically elected government. He has imprisoned tens of thousands of government critics, including journalists and human rights defenders, on politically motivated charges.  The Sisi regime collaborates with Israel by keeping its common border with Gaza closed to Palestinians, trapping them in the Gaza strip, one of the most densely populated places on earth. Israel’s cynicism and hypocrisy, especially when it wraps itself in the mantle of protecting democracy and fighting terrorism, is of epic proportions. 

read the rest of the article here.

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Free Palestine

I reprint below an excerpt from an article by Steven Sahiounie – a Syrian journalist and friend. The bulk of this article, published in the Middle East Discourse, is an interview with Palestinian writer and political analyst, Jafar Ramini, who points out that this savage attack on Gaza may, ironically, serve to bring unity between the various Palestinian factions – something that the Palestinians have struggled to accomplish on their own!

Father Dave


How can we look at Palestine with no moral compass and no sense of justice or fair play?

“This is truly a massacre that cannot be described,” said Dr. Al Reesh at the al-Shifa Hospital which received the bodies of 10 Palestinians killed, including eight children, and 15 people wounded by an Israeli air raid on the Shati Refugee Camp in the Gaza strip in the hours of Friday night and Saturday morning.  Among the dead were visiting relatives of a family on the second day of the Al-Fitr holiday.

Shati is the third largest of the Gaza Strip’s eight refugee camps and one of the most crowded, with more than 85,000 refugees, according to the United Nations refugee agency.

The crisis began Monday, following days of protests against the forced expulsion of Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah, a neighborhood in East Jerusalem. Israeli security forces brutally crackdown on the peaceful protests, and further inflamed tensions with a raid on the Al-Aqsa mosque, preventing prayers in the holy month of Ramadan. This unprovoked Israeli aggression led to Hamas firing rockets at Israel.

The Israeli bombardment of Gaza has killed at least 139 Palestinians, including 40 children, and wounded more than 920 since Monday. Palestinians in the occupied West Bank began protesting at security checkpoints in solidarity with their countrymen in Gaza under siege. Israeli forces have killed at least 13 in the West Bank while Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship rose in protests in mixed cities such as Lod, where Jews attacked their Palestinian neighbors and damaged homes and businesses.

To better understand the current crisis, and the underlying root causes, Steven Sahiounie of MidEastDiscourse reached out to Jafar Ramini, a Palestinian writer and political analyst and activist born in May 1943 in Jenin, northern Palestine. He was educated at Jenin local secondary school and then completed his education in London where he has resided for the past 53 years. In January 2021 he moved to Perth, Western Australia. Jafar lectures, and writes, and appears regularly on various international TV networks explaining both the history and modern-day politics of the Palestinian NAKBA.  At 78 years old he is still as passionate and as vocal as he has always been and has traveled extensively through Europe, the Middle East, and North America looking for the answer to a question that still eludes him.  Why have successive US Administrations since Harry Truman, supported Israel and its land-grabbing theft and ethnic cleansing of Palestine so blind-folded? And why do the UK, Canada, and Australia follow their lead without question? It would seem, says Jafar that we look at a country and a people with no moral compass and no sense of justice or fair play.

1.  Steven Sahiounie (SS):  What is your opinion of the report by Human Rights Watch labeling “Israel” as an Apartheid state?

Jafar Ramini (JR):  Of course I support the Human Rights Watch declaration that Israel is an Apartheid state.  It is about time it was recognized as such having been practicing Apartheid, albeit undercover, since the inception of the Zionist state.  Now with the Nation-State Bill passed into law on1 May 1918 declaring that only Jews in Israel have the right to self-determination it is an unapologetic, unashamed admission of Apartheid as you could get. Israeli Arabs may have, so far, the right to vote but their vote is of little consequence and in all other matters they are second or even third-class citizens in Israel. As for the West Bank, occupied since the six-day war of June 1967 with citizens having no rights of any kind and for Gaza, continually under siege and especially now with this latest savage bombardment the Palestinian people have been described by Bishop Desmond Tutu under a worse version of Apartheid than South Africa in the 60s and 70s.

read the rest of this article here.

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I thought this was anti-Semitic fake news. Then I saw it confirmed on the Amnesty International website! Surely the world will not tolerate this sort of blatant race discrimination? Surely the people of Israel will not tolerate this? 

The following details come from an article by Ramzy Baroud, first published on Countercurrents.

There is no legal or moral justification for Israel’s action. The Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 asserts that an Occupying Power has the “duty of ensuring and maintaining … the medical and hospital establishments and services” with “particular reference” on taking the “preventive measures necessary to combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics.”

Even the Oslo Accords, despite their failure to address many crucial topics pertaining to the freedom of the Palestinian people, oblige both sides “to cooperate in combating epidemics and to assist each other in times of emergency,” the New York Times reported.

Not all Israeli officials deny that Israel is legally compelled to provide Palestinians with the help required to contain the rapid spread of the pandemic. This admission, however, comes with conditions. Former Israeli Ambassador, Alan Baker, told NYT that, while international law does “place an obligation on Israel” to help in the provision of vaccines to Palestinians, Palestinians must first release several Israeli soldiers who were captured in Gaza during and after the 2014 war.

The irony in Baker’s logic is that Israel holds over 5,000 Palestinian prisoners, including women and children, hundreds of whom are imprisoned without trial or due process.

The captured Israelis are held in Gaza as a bargaining chip, to be exchanged for the easing of Israel’s hermetic blockade on the densely populated Strip. One of the Palestinians’ main demands for the release of the soldiers is that Israel allows for the transfer of medical equipment and life-saving medication to the two million people of the Gaza Strip. International and Palestinian human rights groups have long reported on many unnecessary deaths among Palestinians in Gaza because Israel deliberately prevents Gazan hospitals from acquiring cancer medications.

Long before the onset of the coronavirus, Israel has weaponized medicine, and Gaza’s dilapidated health sector is a standing testimony to this injustice.

Perhaps, the overcrowded Israeli prisons remain the glaring testimony of Israel’s mishandling of the COVID-19 outbreak. Despite repeated calls by the United Nations and, particularly, the World Health Organization, that states should take immediate measures to help ease the crisis in their prison systems, Israel has done little for Palestinian prisoners. Al Haq reported that Israel “has taken no adequate measures to improve provision of healthcare and hygiene for Palestinian prisoners” in line with the WHO “guidance for preventing COVID-19 outbreak in prisons.” The consequences were dire, as the spread of COVID among Palestinian prisoners continues to claim new victims at a much higher ratio compared with Israeli prisoners.

Israel’s intentional hampering of Palestinian efforts to fight COVID is consistent with a trajectory of racism, where colonized Palestinians are exploited for their land, water and cheap labor, while never factoring as a priority on Israel’s checklist, even during the time of a deadly pandemic. Israel is an Occupying Power that refuses to acknowledge or respect any of its basic obligations as an Occupying Power under international law.

For the complete article, click here.

 

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with Dr Chandra Muzaffar in 2013

with Dr Muzaffar in Kuala Lumper, Malaysia, in 2013

I found this speech by my friend, Dr Chandra Muzaffar, to a Pax Christi gathering in Australia (reprinted in their journal), deeply encouraging. It has been a while since I have heard words of hope regarding Palestine, and there is no one, from my perspective, who speaks with greater authority when it comes to issues of global hegemony than Dr Muzaffar.

Dr Muzaffar points to the rising significance of Russia in the Levant, and the further discrediting of the USA as a credible broker in any peace process as indications of a deep shift in influences in the region. Could this spell a new beginning?

Father Dave

Palestine—A TURNING POINT? 

By Dr Chandra Muzaffar

An address to Pax Christi Victoria, via Zoom 18th October 2020.

Before I attempt to show why Palestine is at a turning-point, let me underscore the significance of the Palestinian issue to the world. Why is the Palestinian issue so important?

IMPORTANCE

It is important because of the human suffering it has caused. Even before the state of Israel was established in May 1948, scores of Palestinians protesting the growing Israeli presence in their land lost their lives in conflicts with Israeli settlers from Europe who had begun to colonise Palestine from the beginning of the 20th century. What facilitated colonisation was the British mandate over Palestine.

Though the British mandate ended in 1948, Palestinian suffering continued. Palestine was now divided with the larger portion of the land occupied by Israel. Israeli occupation intensified in 1967 with its conquest of the West Bank and Gaza. Settler colonialism reinforced by occupation was further consolidated through regular armed assaults upon Gaza and through the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

It was the injustice associated with colonial settlement and occupation which increased Palestinian suffering. Not only were thousands of Palestinians killed, tortured and imprisoned. They were also expelled from their lands and farms and their rights crushed mercilessly. Palestinian dispossession rendered them refugees within and without Palestine. In fact, their dispossession is the major cause of the Palestinian catastrophe.

The catastrophe or Nakba or more accurately, the on-going catastrophe, al-Nakba al-Mustamera, expresses itself in the drive to eliminate the indigenous Palestinian population which is seen as an obstacle to the usurpation of the whole of Palestine for the Israeli project. It is for this reason that the killing and expulsion of Palestinians is viewed as a genocide in various circles.

What reinforces this perception is the gross imbalance in physical power between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel has one of the most formidable armed forces in the world while Palestinian military power is so limited that it is incapable of providing even elementary protection to the Palestinian people. This huge disparity in military power underlines the helplessness of the victim in this conflict.

It is partly because of this utter helplessness and the desire to restore the dignity of the Palestinian people that almost all the wars fought in West Asia and North Africa (WANA) since 1948 has had some link or other to the plight of the Palestinians. The 1956 Suez conflict, the 1967 Israel –Arab war, and the 1973 war between Israel and neighbouring Arab states would be some of the earlier examples. In more recent times, the 2003 Anglo-American invasion and occupation of Iraq; the 2011 NATO led assault on Libya; and the long-drawn attempt by the US and its allies within and without WANA to overthrow the Bashar Assad government in Damascus, emasculate the Hezbollah in Lebanon and isolate the Iranian government are all intertwined to a greater or lesser degree to the Palestinian question.

Finally, Palestine is also important to the relations between and among religious communities in the region. For many Jews, there is a deep religious connotation to the very birth and survival of the Israeli state. For Christians, Bethlehem in Palestine with its profound association to Jesus Christ will always remain special. For Muslims, Jerusalem is their third holiest city and has a spiritual significance that revolves around the mission of the Prophet Muhammad.

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS

This backdrop to the Palestinian question is crucial in understanding recent developments. It is intimately enmeshed with the recently announced ‘Deal of the Century’. The deal does not address critical concerns such as the right of return of millions of Palestinian refugees; the viability and sovereignty of a Palestinian state as part of the so called two- state solution; the role and status of Jerusalem; Israeli settlers on the West Bank; and the Palestinian/ Arab population within Israel. The deliberate marginalisation of these and other related concerns is an attempt by Israel and the US to erase the crux and the core of the Palestinian Nakba. The Palestinian question is re-cast as an economic concern confined to creating jobs and stimulating economic growth.

As expected, the vast majority of Palestinians and others in WANA have rejected the deal. Elites in certain countries such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain have embraced it and extended diplomatic recognition to Israel. Other governments who have forged close security ties with Washington DC or are dependent upon Saudi largesse may also follow suit. This may result in a more pronounced elite – mass dichotomy in the region as a whole.

It is a dichotomy that may eventually weaken the Sunni-Shia split — a split which the Saudi elite in particular has in recent times exploited as a way of targeting preponderantly Shia Iran, its regional rival. Indeed, because the Iranian elite is deeply committed to Palestinian rights, especially the right of self determination, it is becoming increasingly obvious that Tehran is emerging as the most consistent and principled champion of the Palestinian cause. Political movements and social groups and individuals in WANA are now more inclined towards the Iranian position on Palestine and on issues related to hegemony and political independence. Shia majority Iraq and Shia majority Bahrain are cases in point. There is also the Shia dominant Hezbollah in Lebanon, arguably the country’s most significant political actor. These forces ensure that there is a powerful counterweight to a Saudi-Israeli nexus in WANA, buttressed by the US.

An elite mass dichotomy and new emerging alignments in WANA have been rendered even more complex with the deepening involvement of other states within and without WANA in the region’s political maelstrom. Since the Arab uprisings of 2011, Turkey is trying to play a bigger role in a region whose history has a profound link to Turkey’s Ottoman Empire. China is also taking a greater interest in WANA partly because of its own dependence upon oil from major producers such as Saudi Arabia and Iran. But the nation that has become really prominent in WANA in the last five years is Russia. AS the USSR in past decades, Russia had enjoyed a close relationship with the government of Hafiz Al-Assad, the father of the current Syrian president.

That relationship has grown since 2015 through Russia’s direct involvement in the Syrian war as a staunch defender of the Bashar Al Assad government. It is a role that has brought Russia closer to Iran and to a lesser degree to the Hezbollah. Since the bond that holds Syria, Iran and Hezbollah together is the defence of Palestine, Russia’s image within a segment of Palestinian society has also risen.

Since Russia also enjoys a warm relationship with Israel, going back to the creation of the state in 1948, will this enable Russia to play a positive role in the resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict? Indeed, will Russia’s increasingly critical role in WANA change the region’s political landscape? Or are there vested interests more in the US than in Israel that will prevent this from happening?

These are questions of great import that should be raised because US influence in WANA is waning rapidly. The decline became obvious with the turmoil and turbulence that followed the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq of 2003. The colossal death toll, the massive destruction of infrastructure and the mammoth depletion of financial resources destroyed the US image in the region and elsewhere.

Its debacle in Libya in 2011 further damaged its standing. Its concerted push to oust the Bashar government in Syria was yet another foolish manoeuvre surpassed only by its military support for the Saudi government in its reckless adventure in Yemen.

US decline in WANA has impacted negatively upon its role in Palestine exacerbated no doubt by some of the arrogant and ill-conceived moves made by President Donald Trump.

These moves such as the decision to shift the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem have convinced Palestinians that they cannot expect even a modicum of even handedness from the US Administration. The Jerusalem move, together with the deal of the century, demonstrates that the Palestinian catastrophe has reached a turning-point.

Palestinian interests have been totally abandoned by the US. Even the fig-leaf of hypocrisy has fallen off!. That US hypocrisy has been exposed so blatantly is not the only reason why many feel that the Palestinian catastrophe has reached a turning point. As we have observed, new dichotomies and alignments are emerging in WANA. Actors from outside the region are also beginning to shape the political landscape. All this will certainly impact upon Palestine.

WHAT DO WE DO?

What should we — civil society groups and citizens in general committed to justice and peace in WANA ? Our first task is perhaps to raise awareness among people everywhere about the real issues in the Israel – Palestine conflict. Let us proclaim with courage that the real issues are about the dispossession of the Palestinian people, their suppression and oppression and the Israeli threat to obliterate their catastrophe. Developing this type of mass consciousness is not going to be easy since Israel and Zionism backed by the US and a certain segment of Western public opinion have the media behind them. Nonetheless, we should use all channels of communication available to create an alternative narrative that is more just and genuine.

Translating the vast corpus of materials that exists in the English language and Arabic into languages such as Chinese, Japanese, Malay and Vietnamese would be a major undertaking. These translations should be converted into videos and easy to understand documentaries and widely disseminated.

Cartoons and children’s stories should also be part of this mass public education. Having materials on the Palestinian catastrophe that will reach the grassroots is one thing. But they will not have the desired impact if groups and organisations do not exist which are prepared to carry the message forward, There should be more Palestinian support groups in different parts of the world that will play this role.

Support groups should not only articulate the Palestinian position but should also counter distortions and lies about their struggle through the local media and other platforms. This sort of combat often helps to advance one’s cause. For instance, Christian Zionism which is opposed to the Palestinian struggle has to be confronted through the media. At the same time, there may be groups claiming to champion the Palestinian cause which may be advocates of senseless violence. Genuine Palestinian advocates should not hesitate to expose such groups.

This brings us to the question of the means employed by the champions of the Palestinian cause. There is more and more support today among young Palestinians for peaceful resistance to Israeli and Zionist power and dominance. Such resistance should be nurtured.

Many young Palestinians are also deeply disturbed by the schism that separates Palestinian leaders and their factions — specifically the division between Fatah and Hamas. This is the festering wound that hurts the Palestinian liberation movement. No liberation struggle in modern times has been as split as the Palestinian leadership. If the leadership was united, it would be able to offer more meaningful support to the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement. BDS has revealed the magnitude of support that Western corporations, agencies and universities extend to Israeli occupation of the West Bank. In a direct sense, it has helped to convince ordinary citizens in the West that they should act on behalf of the Palestinian victim. It is this kind of networking that may hold the key to the future of the Palestinian struggle.

There is another type of networking that is vital not only for the future of Palestine and WANA. It is a relationship that is crucial for the entire human family. This is the relationship between Jews, Christians and Muslims. It is significant that in spite of the negative influence of Christian Zionists and some Muslim bigots, Christians and Muslims who are in the actual struggle for Palestinian liberation have developed strong ties. The strength of these ties reflected in various events and episodes, sometimes rooted in deep personal friendships, has endowed both Christians and Muslims in Palestine with a shared culture of sorts. It is a culture which some Jews also share.

If peace with justice descends upon the land, —– a land which God had touched a number of times through various prophets —- then Palestine may once again light a multi-faith lamp for the entire human family.

Source: paxchristi.org…

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Friends of Sabeel, Australia, join the rest of the world in distaining the US President’s ‘Deal of the Century’ as a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

The fact that no Palestinian was involved in the formulation of the proposal, nor was present when it was unveiled, is indicative of the fact that the US and Israeli leaders prepared their deal for domestic consumption. It offers nothing to the Palestinian people – no land, no real sovereignty, and no right of return for refugees. It is, as some commentators have suggested, the Monty Python parody of Israel-Palestine peace initiatives.

Friends of Sabeel, Australia, stands with the Palestinian people in the fundamental demands as outlined in the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) program:

  • An end to the Israeli Occupation of Palestinian lands
  • Equal rights for Arabs in Israel
  • The right of return for refugees

No meaningful deal can be made with the Palestinian people that does not address these basic demands.

Father Dave Smith, President of Friends of Sabeel, Australia, said “If Mr Trump wants to make a deal with the Palestinian people, he needs to actually deal with the Palestinian people and their demands. This one-sided parody of a peace initiative does nothing to move us closer to a just settlement of the Israel-Palestine conflict”.