What follows is another excellent essay from my friend Franklin Lamb, detailing why ISIS is proving so seductive for Palestinians. Fundamentally, it seems to be the only show in town!
The allure of ISIS is the flip-side of the failure of the current Palestinian leadership to deliver. Both Fatah and Hamas seem to be equally riddled with corruption and compromise. To whom else are the Palestinians to turn?
Of course ISIS don’t really give a damn about the Palestinians. That was amply illustrated by their response to Israel’s last brutal assault on Gaza. What did ISIS do in response? Nothing! They didn’t even offer a word of criticism! Why? Because they hate the Muslim Brotherhood (ie. Hamas) more than they care about the Palestinian people. It is equally well-illustrated by ISIS more recent butchering of the Palestinians of Yarmouk in Syria.
I don’t expect to see ISIS boots on the ground in Palestine any time soon. Their goal is purely to win the PR campaign over their competitors, which only serves to highlight the need for a credible alternative – one that is genuinely committed to the needs of the Palestinian people.
If ISIS Doesn’t Liberate Palestine… Who Will?
Ein el Helwe Palestinian camp, Lebanon.
This is one of the questions ricocheting between Palestinians in Syria and Lebanon, posed also by ISIS (Da’ish) operatives, as the hot summer months and plummeting quality of existence raise tensions in the refugee camps and social gatherings.
With its resilience, on-the-ground “achievements”, adaptability, global franchising, copy-cat knock-offs, chameleon-like adaptations, combinations and permutations, and slick honing of medium and message, ISIS is offering oppressed and desperate populations in this region both hope and fantasy for escaping their deepening misery The dream is to escape abject poverty and indignity by any means necessary, and joining ISIS or other like-minded cash-flush groups, which seem to appear out of thin air these days, is the most promising way to do it.
Some people in Lebanon and Syria are wondering why it took ISIS so long to present a detailed plan to Palestinian refugees to liberate their country, now in its 67th year of brutal Zionist occupation. This subjugation has has created an Apartheid state that, according to South African leader Bishop Desmond Tutu and others, exceeds even the crimes of the Afrikaner National Party. And like the Israelis, the ANP also began their racist occupation of a majority-indigenous “less civilized” population in 1948. South African apartheid ended in 1994, but in Palestine it continues to metastasize. ISIS representatives in the camps are pledging to destroy the Zionist occupation and boast about opening up Palestine to Full Return within two years.
Who is listening to Da’ish (ISIS)?
In the early days of the crisis in Syria, many Palestinians fleeing to Lebanon quickly returned to whatever fate held back in Syria after they saw the conditions in Lebanon’s camps. But as the fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces intensified in Damascus, they became trapped in the camps. Alongside their fellow Palestinians in Lebanon, these new refugees sank ever more deeply into dire poverty.
During recent discussions with a sampling of refugees from several camps in Lebanon and Syria, it’s not surprising that the main part of the conversation quickly moves to subjects long familiar to those of us who have lived among Palestinians in this region. The list of grievances is ever-expanding and ISIS supporters and recruiters take advantage of this in order to round up recruits and sympathizers to join their growing ranks.
These grievances include frustration and anger over the perceived pervasive corruption among political and religious “leaders” who basically speak gibberish while urging patience for the next life, or promise the fruits of countless ‘dialogue’ sessions among sworn political enemies that to date have achieved absolutely nothing to help those most in need. Lebanon’s Parliament has recently ruled against the right to work and home ownership, and this now ranks near the top of any list of refugee grievances. One could also add: severe camp overcrowding, lack of hygienic infrastructures, declining health care, rising illnesses among children due to respiratory diseases and more than a dozen easily preventable communicable illnesses, shortages of medicines, drugs and drug gang violence, increasing tension and gun battles among militia (this is almost weekly – most recently in the Ein el Helwe camp in Saida and this week, in the infamous Shatila camp), domestic violence, petty crime, increase in school dropout rates, and the almost total inability of UNWRA to fulfill its mandate. Typical of the latter, is the closure of some 700 schools in Gaza, which will impact UNRWA’s work in Jordan, Gaza, the West Bank, and Syria. There are also worries here that some UNWRA schools, even those now operating on two shifts, may soon close in Lebanon and Syria.
One of the most urgent crises in Lebanon’s camps is the fact that the few remaining Palestinian hospitals are also nearing collapse, particularly Haifa Hospital in South Beirut’s Burj al Barajneh camp.. The two main Palestine Red Crescent Hospitals, Gaza and Akka, closed decades ago. These problems are just a sampling of what life has become for Palestinians currently living in Lebanon, and for almost 50,000 more that have come from Syria and are still stuck here.
Da’ish – ISIS – has started to capitalize on these problems, as pressures mount under the long hot summer days and adequate water and electricity becomes ever more scarce. Some camp residents speculate about what kind of ‘explosion’ will happen during or after Ramadan begins…
What is Da’ish (ISIS) offering Palestinians?
First and foremost, Da’ish pledges Full Return for the nearly 12 million Palestinian refugees scattered around the world. Approximately 6.4 million Palestinians had their homes and lands occupied in 1948 (55% of the total population), 4.5 million now live outside historic Palestine, and some 18 million live in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Da’ish is also offering an alternative to the half-century of fake “peace processes” and an alternative what increasing numbers of refugees claim is the quisling position of the current PLO leadership.
Understandably, jihadist appeals are finding an audience. The reason for this was best expressed recently by Dr. Mohsen Saleh, of the Zaytona Center in Beirut: “The refugee issue is the core of the Palestinian issue… the issue of a people who were uprooted from the land in which they lived for thousands of years. These people existed before the Israelites came to Palestine, and were present during their existence in Palestine and after they were gone. The Zionist project could only materialize after destroying the social fabric of these people, destroying more than 400 (531 villages: Ed.) of their villages and cities, confiscating most of their land, and usurping their properties, buildings, factories, and endowments.”
On 29/10/2013, the London-based al-Hayat newspaper published a report, based on Zionist sources, documenting that the Palestinian ‘negotiating team’ had given its Israeli counterpart a “position paper” on the core issues of the conflict. Eyewitness accounts claim that the Palestinian team actually offered to waive the right of return for Palestine refugees to their land, stolen in 1948. The Palestinian ‘negotiating team’ would give the refugees several choices: return to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, accept cash reparations, move to a third country, or stay put in one of the 59 camps and three dozen settlements.
On 8/23/2013, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, speaking to an Israeli delegation from the Meretz Party that visited him in Ramallah, reassured and guaranteed the Israelis that the PLO will not ask to return to Jaffa, Acre (on a clear day visible from villages, including Maron al Ras, in South Lebanon) and Safad (home for one third of the 1948 Nakba refugees who were forced to leave to Syria and Lebanon).
ISIS is making plain to all who will listen that they reject this ‘sellout position’ and that every Palestinian on this planet has the inalienable right of Full Return. This right can never be ceded by any leader and the Zionist regime which has put colonials from the West on their land has no right to even one grain of Palestinian soil.
There is fierce competition between Jabhat al Nusra and ISIS to woo Palestinians. Both groups vow that soon “the Zionist invaders will experience Allah’s wrath until they have been destroyed and Palestine is liberated.”
Meanwhile, Anthony Glees, Director of the Center for Security and Intelligence Studies at the University of Buckingham, is warning that Zionists will be among the jihadis’ main targets in the coming days.. Daesh spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani predicts that Ramadan will be a “calamity for kuffars.”
Peter Neumann, director of International Center for the Study of the Radicalization and Political Violence at King’s College London claimed this week that Jewish institutions in Europe and in Occupied Palestine will also pay the price for the growing battle for influence between Al Qaeda (al Nusra) and ISIS.
Jobs for all who need them?
Young, fit Palestinians are at last being offered a job in a country where they are forbidden by law to work or own a home. Da’ish is reportedly paying an average of $300 a month, promising two and sometimes three days off each week to visit one’s family, cash bonuses for marriage and one-time child subsidies of $400 per child. Subsidies for food of $70 a month are also being offered, in the face of the fact that UNWRA has just reduced monthly cash for food stipends to a mere $30 per month. One can imagine what some of the camp residents are thinking: which horse is the best bet for an improved life and for full return to our own country?
Based on conversations with recently-arrived Palestinian refugees from Syria, as well as old friends in Lebanon’s camps, this observer is confident that today only a small percentage of Palestinians are responding to the siren-call of ISIS.
Franklin Lamb’s most recent book, Syria’s Endangered Heritage, An international Responsibility to Protect and Preserve is in production by Orontes River Publishing, Hama, Syrian Arab Republic. Inquires c/o firstname.lastname@example.org…. The author is reachable c/o email@example.com…
The war on the ground in Gaza is one of blood and fire. The war we see here from the comfort of our living-rooms is one of propaganda and lies. The contrast is indeed stark and yet they are equally a part of the same war, and one cannot go on without the other.
If we are going to stop the war on the ground, the great task before us comfortable onlookers is to dismantle the edifice of lies that sustains public support for the slaughter. I’ve included below two good examples of anti-propaganda warfare.
The first is a video that shows the senior Israeli propaganda spokesperson, Mark Regev, doing what he does best – defending the indefensible by blaming the victims. Subtitles have been added to translate Regev’s obfuscation into something more resembling the truth.
The second is an article from Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi – a leading figure in Palestinian civil society and a long-time advocate for the non-violent Palestinian protest movement. It speaks for itself.
Debunked: The Mendacious Propaganda Israel is Pushing to Justify Its War On Gaza
by Mustafa Barghouthi
It is time to clarify the real facts on the aggression the Israelis started on the Palestinians. Unfortunately, the Israeli narrative has dominated in the global media. It’s very important to uncover the Israeli narrative and bring facts to the public’s attention. The world needs to differentiate between myths and truth.
The first and very important point is that it was Israel which initiated this war and not the Palestinians.
This is very different from what is presented in most of the media and it’s completely wrong to accept the Israeli narrative here. Israelis claim that Israel was subjected to rocket shooting from Gaza to which Israel responded by airstrikes. This is not true. The reality is that Israel initiated airstrikes on Gaza, several times, and assassinated people in Gaza, trying to provoke a reaction until they got rockets being shot at Israel. And then, it was spun in the media as Israel defending itself.
The second point is that this war started not in Gaza but in the West Bank, when the Israeli army, without providing a single proof that Palestinians were responsible for the disappearance and subsequent death of three settlers, started a collective punishment campaign all over the West Bank. One of the results of that campaign was the arrest of more than 1,000 Palestinians, including huge numbers of Palestinian members of Parliament, bringing the number of Palestinian parliamentarians in Israeli jails to 34. During that campaign moreover, Israel invaded more than 3,000 houses, destroyed many of them, stole money from people and destroyed furniture. Israeli forces initiated wide-ranging violence against Palestinians and started using high-velocity bullets and gun shots against peaceful demonstrators who were protesting against the kidnapping of Muhammad Abu Khdeir who was tortured and burned alive by Israeli settlers. This led to a very serious escalation all over the West Bank.
The third point is that this war in not on Hamas only, it is a war on all Palestinians. It is a war on Palestinians in Gaza, it is a war on Palestinians in the West Bank, in East Jerusalem and on the Palestinians in general. It is very important to mention that most of the people who suffer from the Israeli aggressions are civilians. At the time of writing this article, on the 26th of July, at least 1,000 Palestinians have been killed, 90% of whom were civilians. Among them, are more than 208 children. Over 6000 people have been injured, 31% of whom were children. Whole families have been eliminated. Just this morning, 20 members from the same family, including 11 children, were killed in their sleep as the building they had found refuge in only the day before was leveled. We are talking about more than 30 families that have been scratched out of the civil record because the whole extended family was eliminated, the father, the mother, the grand-parents, the grand-children, everybody. This kind of extermination of people, this level of attack is nothing less than a massacre, a genocide that is conducted by Israel.
To add insult to injury, Israel has forced hundreds of thousands of people to evacuate their homes, forcing them to leave by bombarding them. No less than 13,000 homes were completely or partially destroyed, thousands of people have lost everything, their clothes, a lifetime of belongings and memories and now, hundreds of thousands of people are refugees once more, many living in schools, with nothing. If the war ends, when they come back, they will come back to nothing, only rubble. Entire neighborhoods like Shujaeya were completely eliminated within 24 hours. Even hospitals were attacked. So far, the Israeli army has attacked seven hospitals, 13 ambulances and two Medical Relief centers, among other clinics. In several cases, they have injured and killed medical workers and/or patients. They also attacked a care facility for disabled people, killing two disabled women in the process. On another occasion, a disabled young man, deaf and unable to speak, did not understand what was going on until he was directly hit and paralyzed from the waist down, adding yet another disability to his life. The most touching and heart-wrenching words I have heard were those of a man who was speaking to two of his children in the hospital, killed by Israeli airstrike: “Forgive me my children, I could not protect you.”
This feeling of helplessness is overwhelming because thousands and thousands of people today in Gaza, thousands of mothers and fathers are unable to protect their children. Many have seen their children killed; some have seen their children decapitated by Israeli shrapnel.
The next point I want to make is related to the claim that Israel has the right to defend itself. The most insulting thing here is that many of the world’s leaders like Angela Merkel of Germany and Barack Obama of the United States are speaking of Israel’s right to defend itself, while no single word is said of the Palestinians’ right to defend themselves, although the Palestinians are the oppressed ones, the underdogs in this struggle. The Palestinians are the ones whose land has been occupied for 47 years, who have been forced into displacement and refugee status since 1948, who are suffering from a system of apartheid, discrimination and segregation created by the Israeli occupation. Yet, not a single word has been uttered about our right to defend ourselves.
In reality, what we see from the Israeli narrative is nothing but a consistent effort to dehumanize Palestinians, as if Palestinians are not equal human beings, as if Palestinian life is not important, as if Palestinian life is worth nothing, as if it is okay that over 1,000 Palestinians are killed and 6000 are injured. Meanwhile, all anybody is talking about is the psychological impact on the Israeli population of the fear, although so far projectiles fired out of Gaza have killed just two civilians. Up until now, 42 Israelis were killed, 40 of whom were soldiers. These are soldiers who were killed inside Gaza while they were invading Gaza and attacking people in an act of aggression. We don’t want anybody to die, whether Israeli or Palestinian. But to say that Palestinians are the aggressors in this situation is very wrong and totally unacceptable.
The asymmetry in the current situation is also a very important point to clarify. We are talking here about the Israeli army which is probably the fourth most powerful army in the world, attacking civilians in one of the most crowded areas of the world, with 1.8 million people living in less than 140 square miles, about 12,000 people per square mile on “normal” days, but nearly double that number these days, as Israel has declared 44% of Gaza unsafe and hammered in the message by bombings homes. These 1.8 million people have been attacked by a powerful air force, very powerful ships, and artillery, while these people have only very primitive means to defend themselves. Even the rockets that were thrown at Israel – and we don’t want these rockets to be thrown – are almost invariably nothing but a psychological instrument. This has been frightening Israelis, it is true, but these projectiles have caused harm exceedingly rarely. The harm is happening almost entirely on one side, the Palestinian side. There is no way anyone can compare the two, this sophisticated army and the Palestinian people. The asymmetry is clear and yet, Israeli forces are consistently using indiscriminate and disproportional force against the Palestinian population.
One element that is almost always ignored is the issue of the siege of Gaza. The siege on Gaza has been ongoing for eight years and it has caused the most dramatic humanitarian crisis not only in this region but probably worldwide. We are talking about 1.8 million people besieged by sea, by air and by land. Israel is controlling all passages, it is controlling the sky and it is controlling the sea. Fishermen are not allowed to fish deeper than three miles into the sea; they haven’t been allowed to sail at all for the past three weeks. Almost nobody can get in or out, even to go to the hospital or receive medical treatment. The one entrance to Egypt is also closed from the Egyptian side. This siege has caused very serious problems. Gaza lacks construction materials. Gaza does not have access to clean water; 90% of the water in Gaza is not fit for drinking because it is either salinated or polluted. More than 300,000 people have lost all water supply because the water pipes were destroyed by Israeli shelling and when workers tried to repair them, they were shot at by the Israeli military.
Electricity is an enormous problem in Gaza too. Most of the time, most people do not have electricity for more than six to eight hours a day. Today, more than one third of the population does not have any electricity at all because Israel bombarded the only electricity plant in Gaza. Because of the siege, 90% of educated young people are unemployed. Because of the siege, the level of poverty is very high in Gaza, a fact compounded by the high prices of basic products which have to come from Israel. This is an unacceptable situation. A siege like that is considered an act of aggression. It is very important to remind world politicians of the fact that, in 1967, Israel declared that it had the right to attack Egypt, Syria, Jordan and the Palestinian people and occupy all of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and the whole of Sinai just because the Egyptian army closed the passage to Eilat, a small port in the southern part of Israel. Israel still had full access to the Mediterranean Sea, yet they considered this an act of aggression that gave them the right to conduct one of the worst wars in the Middle East. That is why we say that a ceasefire is not enough; it is very important to also lift the siege on Gaza, because the siege itself is an act of aggression.
Today the Palestinians have been demanding to have a ceasefire. But Israel is refusing. Three or four efforts were made to have at least a humanitarian ceasefire, so that the Palestinians could take out all the bodies of those who were killed and who are buried under the rubble in Shujaeya and other places like Khuzaa. It is heartbreaking to note that there are many injured people there probably, who still cannot get access to medical care and who will die, bleeding out slowly or from their wounds, because no full ceasefire was allowed to take place and no medical teams were allowed to reach them. As a matter of fact, Israel has attacked not only hospitals, schools, mosques and houses, but also attacked first aid teams and ambulances as well as killing three first responders. They burned down two ambulances trying to reach injured people in Shujaeya. They destroyed many clinics and many first aid providers were shot and injured. This is an act of ethnic cleansing, an act of genocide and a massive act of terror against the Palestinian population.
Dehumanizing Palestinians will never negate the facts. And it is important to clarify all of them. This war was started by Israel. It is even debatable whether it can be called a war, as a war suggests a fight between two equal sides. In reality it is not a war, it is an act of aggression from an occupying power which is trying to solve the problem of occupation by increasing the occupation. In this attack, Israel was the initiator and the victims are mainly the Palestinians.
Now the killing has extended again to the West Bank, where Israel has resumed shooting peaceful demonstrators with high-velocity bullets. For years, the world has been urging us to organize big peaceful marches with thousands of people. This is exactly what we did in Ramallah on the 24th of July when more than 25,000 marched peacefully to Jerusalem protesting the massacre in Gaza, demanding the end of aggression and demanding access to Jerusalem to go pray in Al Aqsa on the holiest of all nights for Muslim Palestinians. Before we reached the checkpoint, which was heavily manned, the Israeli army started to shoot people. Snipers shot demonstrators with high-velocity bullets in a scene reminiscent of what the apartheid police did to the peaceful protestors in Soweto in the 1970s. During the night, 211 Palestinians were shot with high-velocity bullets. During the course of four hours, six of them lost an eye, six others were injured critically and one lost his life. The very next day, the Israeli army, using live fire, killed nine Palestinians who were demonstrating peacefully in Hebron, Nablus, Bethlehem and Jenin. Approximately 60 people were injured. The list goes on.
The people who are being killed in the West Bank are not Hamas and are not in Gaza. They are not shooting rockets at Israel, they do not have any weapons to defend themselves. Yet they are killed repeatedly by an Israeli army which considers itself above international law thanks to the silence and complicity of many Western leaders. UN Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, does not have the courage to hold Israel accountable, even when a UN school serving as a shelter in Beit Hanoun is attacked by the Israeli army, killing 16 women and children and injuring 200 others.
Finally, one has to remember that this stage of terrible violence has repeatedly happened over the last 66 years. The root of the problem is Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land, settlement building and the forcing of hundreds of thousands of people out of their homes. This is the longest occupation in modern history and has endured for 47 years. This is an occupation that has transformed into a system of apartheid and discrimination. Without solving this, without ending the occupation and the apartheid system, there will be no peace, let alone stability or normal life. When we struggle as Palestinians for our freedom, it is not only about our future, but also about the future of Israelis. Because Israelis will never be free themselves as long as we are not free. It is time to see that extremists in Israel, who have benefited from all these wars, are using Palestinian lives and neighbourhoods as a testing area for their weapons, so that Israel can still continue selling weapons worldwide, becoming the third largest military exporter in the world. This has to stop.
Occupation must stop and this asymmetry must be addressed; impunity and reality must be exposed. It is time to tell Israel “enough is enough”; it is time to say to the world “please see the reality, look at the facts.” Citizens from all the countries in the world, be it the United States, Germany, or France are entitled to know the truth and your media are not telling you the truth. Your media, for the most part, are overwhelmed with the Israeli narrative. This has to be corrected.
It is painful that we have to keep going over the facts. Every time Israel launches an attack on the people of Gaza I hear the same spin being repeated – “Israel has a right to defend itself”, “the Israeli army never targets civilians”, “you must hate Jews if you care about Palestinians”.
No, no and NO to all of the above! But I’ll let the far-more-eloquent Robert Fisk spell out the facts this time. The following extract is from an article published by Fisk in The UK Independent on July 9th.
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week
It is encouraging to hear about this new reporters’ guidebook – one that makes the bold attempt to help journalists be more objective in their reporting of Israel-Palestine. It is encouraging at least because it recognises that the words we use are often laden with values and judgements of the kind that journalists are generally keen to avoid. Even so, to suggest that a mere substitutions of sensitive terms will in some way improve media coverage in the Middle East is patently absurd!
Certainly using the term ‘Security Fence’ rather than ‘Apartheid Wall’ to describe the barrier that separates Israel from the West Bank shows clearly which side the writer is on. Even so, the construction and deconstruction of political narratives is far more complex than any simple change in vocabulary.
To write in any detail about the suffering of the Palestinian people is in itself an act that subverts the dominant narrative. And even if writers were able to discuss the violence with clinical objectivity, this would not suggest impartiality by any means! Evil scientists have performed monstrous experiments on living beings, and that fact that they can describe their results in purely scientific terms actually reinforces the horror of their acts!
What we need is not ‘objective’ reporting (whatever that is) but reporting where the agenda is not concealed. For me personally, my sympathies are with the Palestinians, and I say that unashamedly. For me to refer to the ‘Apartheid Wall’ as anything else would be dishonest!
A new reporter’s guidebook released on October 23 aims to balance media coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a field that often spirals into semantic mudslinging at the cost of clear news coverage.
The Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI) published Use With Care: A Reporter’s Glossary of Loaded Language in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict after a year of joint work between six anonymous Israeli and Palestinian media veterans. The two sides worked on separate content submissions, which IPI then combined through several months of back-and-forth editing.
The glossary comprises some 150 terms ranging from “terrorist” to “martyr.” Each word or expression is presented in English, Arabic and Hebrew, with an explanation of why it might be sensitive to Israeli and/or Palestinian audiences. Most entries include a suggested alternative term.
For example, the guide explains why “Apartheid wall” and “security wall/fence” are respectively offensive to Israelis and Palestinians, recommending that journalists use “separation barrier” instead. Many of the entries also address unnecessary adjectives, asking that reporters drop the modifiers from terms like “innocent civilians” and “peaceful demonstration.”
Instead of “Judea and Samaria,” “eternal capital of the Palestinian people” or “united capital of Israel,” the guide recommends geographically specific terms like the West Bank, East Jerusalem and West Jerusalem. “Israel” is recommended over both “Zionist entity” and “Jewish state.” The former is tendentious because it is perceived to deny Israeli statehood, the guide says, while the latter ignores Arab history predating the State of Israel and implies that non-Jewish Israelis are not fully part of the state.
Other terms are less obvious. “Middle East expert” is problematic, the guide says, because ideologues and activists are often referred to as experts without disclosure of their partisan views.
“This tactic is used to magnify and repeat the views that certain journalist or media wish to promote. It is dishonest and is partly to blame for the fact that audience stereotypes and viewpoints are repeatedly reinforced instead of being challenged,” the guide says. “It creates an echo-chamber effect, in which pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian readers, viewers, and listeners believe that only their frame of reference is reasonable and enlightened, while the other side is hateful, prejudiced, and extreme.”
read the rest of this article here
It is one of the tragedies of the Occupation that Palestinian resistance has always been portrayed as being the work of terrorists. The truth is that most acts of Palestinian resistance have been non-violent. Even the first and second Intifada started as non-violent protests until they were met with great violence from the occupying power.
The following article is from Jeff Cohen compares the Palestinian struggle to the American Civil Rights struggle of the 60’s, and the parallels are significant. The article was published on the Tikkun Daily – one of the sites associated with progressive Rabbi, Michael Lerner.
Non-Violent Palestinian Resistance: Echoes of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement
by Jeff Cohen
As I prepared for a grueling fact-finding trip to Israel and the Palestinian West Bank (occupied for 46 years), Secretary of State John Kerry announced that Israel and the Palestinian Authority had agreed to resume peace talks without preconditions.
On the day my delegationflew to the region, Israel announced that it had approved still more housing for Israeli settlers: “Israel has issued tenders for the construction of nearly 1,200 housing units in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank,” reported London’sFinancial Times, “defying U.S. and Palestinian opposition to expansion of Jewish settlements three days before the scheduled start of peace talks.”
It’s the same old depressing story, with Israel showing little interest in making peace.
So before I turn to what’s surprising and inspiring in the West Bank, let’s acknowledge the bad news: Palestinians are slowly being squeezed out of their homes, deprived of their water and centuries-old olive groves, humiliated on a daily basis by Israeli settlers and the Israeli state in a relentless violation of their human rights that gets worse as much of the world looks away.
But here’s the good news: Across the West Bank, Israel’s occupation has given rise in recent years to a nonviolent “popular resistance” movement that should be an inspiration to people across the globe. This unarmed resistance has persisted in the face of Israeli state violence (aided by U.S.-supplied weapons and tear gas), lengthy jail sentences for nonviolent protesters and widespread detention and abuse of children.
It was fitting to return to the U.S. on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington because Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy of militant nonviolence were invoked by Palestinian activists in virtually every village and town I visited as part of the fact-finding delegation.
Like King, leaders of the Palestinian popular resistance – from intellectuals to grassroots villagers who’d been repeatedly jailed – spoke to us about universal human rights, about a human family in which all deserve equal rights regardless of religion or nationality. “We are against the occupation, not against the Jews,” was the refrain among Palestinian activists. “We have many Jews and Israelis who support us.”
It was indeed inspiring to meet several of the brave Israelis who’ve supported the nonviolent resistance, often putting themselves in the frontline of marches (their jail sentences are tiny compared to what’s dished out to Palestinians). They are admittedly a small minority, thoroughly ostracized within Israel – a society that seems as paranoid and militaristic today as our country during the McCarthyite Fifties.
NABI SALEH: In this village near Ramallah that’s being squeezed by settlers, a leader of the local popular resistance waxed poetic about Israelis who’ve supported their struggle: “After we started the popular resistance in 2009, we saw a different kind of Israeli, our partner. We see them as our cousin – a different view than the Israeli as soldier shooting at us, or the settler stealing, or the jailer shutting the cell on us.” The story of Nabi Saleh was compellingly told in an atypical New York Times Magazine article by Ben Ehrenreich, “Is This Where the Third Intifada Will Start?”
“It’s not easy to be nonviolent, but no soldier has been killed by a stone,” said activist leader Manal Tamimi. “We want to show the world we are not terrorists. On CNN, Fox News, we’re just terrorists, suicide bombers. I was in the states; you never hear of settlers attacking Palestinians.”
As we were leaving her house, Manal added: “You need to be our messengers because your tax money is killing us. You are our brothers in humanity, but you are part of the killing.”
Like our 1964 civil rights martyrs in Mississippi – Schwerner, Cheney and Goodman – Nabi Saleh reveres its martyrs:Mustafa Tamimi and Rushdi Tamimi.
BIL’IN: If you saw the Oscar-nominated documentary “5 Broken Cameras,” then you know of the seven-year-long, partly-successful battle by the villagers of Bil’in to drive back Israel’s “separation wall” (aka the Apartheid Wall) – which was positioned to confiscate nearly 60 percent of their land, separating farmers from their fields and olive trees. It’s aninspiring story of courageous nonviolence, with international activists (and Israelis) flocking to Bil’in to support the villagers’ resistance.
“Internationals” who live in the West Bank and put their bodies on the line in support of nonviolent Palestinian struggles remind me of the U.S. students and others who “headed south” in the 1960s to support the civil rights movement.
We stayed overnight in the homes of Bil’in residents. Iyad Burnat, the brother of “5 Broken Cameras” director Emad Burnat, talked with us past midnight about the importance of media coverage, international support, and creative, surprise tactics in a successful nonviolent movement (like using their bodies to close an Israeli “settlers-only” road). “In Bil’in we don’t use stones. The Israeli soldiers use that – kids throwing stones – to attack our people.”
Iyad was one of a dozen Palestinians we met who bristled at their lack of mobility now that their communities are ringed by the wall, settlements, checkpoints and Israeli-only highways. “It’s easier for me to get to the U.S. or the U.K. than to Jerusalem, 25 kilometers away.”
Like our Selma martyrs – Jimmy Lee Jackson, Rev. James Reeb and Viola Liuzzo – Bil’in has its nonviolent martyrs:Bassem Ibrahim Abu Rahmah and Jawaher Abu Rahmah.
read the rest of this article here