At midnight last night- the fourth ceasefire established since July 8, 2014, ended. Despite the renewed exchange of fire, the ceasefire has been extended another 120 hours or 5 days until midnight August 18th to establish a longer-term agreement. Notwithstanding the relative calm in the Gaza Strip right now, there is no safety or freedom from harm. The humanitarian crisis is overwhelming.
16,800 homes have been partially or completely destroyed- nearly 450,000 Palestinians are displaced, 350,000 are being sheltered in UN facilities and of them 100,000 are completely homeless. This is only exacerbated by an intransigent siege that limits food goods, infrastructure, and trade. Additionally, a new and lethal threat has painfully surfaced: 1000s of explosive remnants of war - aka unexploded bombs. Yesterday, one such bomb killed 6 people in Beit Lahiya, including an Italian journalist and his interpreter. These are scattered throughout the densely populated Gaza Strip and threaten the lives of thousands of Palestinians. In 2006 and upon its withdrawal, Israel similarly left 1000s of cluster munitions scattered throughout southern Lebanon. A long-term ceasefire would simply stop this situation from getting worse. An effective agreement would ensure that it would get better.
In better news- the Obama Administration has suspended shipment of hellfire missiles to Israel and has made clear that it will scrutinize future weapons shipments to Israel. One US official explained that this was to demonstrate that there is no "blank check" from Washington to Tel Aviv.https://uk.news.yahoo.com/gaza-strip-crisis-us-suspends-hellfire-missile-shipment-114211696.html#PnTu1CG
This is clearly insufficient to reverse course and remedy the situation on the ground but its significance cannot be underestimated. In an environment where Israel can do no wrong, this signals a schism between the White House and Netanyahu's government. The last time the US imposed sanctions on Israel was in 1991. Congress is likely to throw a mad fit and frenzy in response. So if you can - take heed of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation call to action and contact the White House and your State and local reps:
29 July 2014
Former IDF advisers turned law professors in the US have repeatedly dodged the weight of facts for the sake of law in theory to obfuscate what are obvious war crimes. (See Amos Guiora on PBS NewsHour, Gabbe Blum on Ronan Farrow Daily). First- let's be clear: I'm not concerned with this because of the questions of legality it raises. This is a moral issue and should be discernible at plain sight. The onslaught of a besieged, impoverished, and defenseless population with modern weapons technology is absolutely abominable. I think the law has been used as a smoke screen to (weakly and ineffectively) defend the unacceptable.
Aside from the illegitimacy of Israel's full scale assault on territory it occupies and civilians it has an obligation to protect- there is the question about the laws of war. That corpus balances military advantage and humanitarian suffering. Here that means asking if Israel's military advantage (destroying Hamas's military capacity) is equivalent to the humanitarian loss (1,106 dead, 6,500 injured, cutting off electricity and water to 1.2 million, destroying over 5,000 homes). I think the answer is, and should be, obvious.
On Ronan Farrow, Blum explained that the death toll of over 1,000 was not indicative of war crimes because criminality revolves around intention. But in law, one can deduce intention from outcome - here the sheer number of civilians killed together with the direct attacks on critical civilian infrastructure as well as the attacks on children and families in their homes belies that civilian deaths are merely collateral.
Moreover, Israel has made clear that it considers persons non-civilians by their mere location (did not evacuate a home, near a site where Hamas allegedly - bc no systematic proof ever shown- using as a place from where to launch rockets). This is a radical and dangerous concept of law. Civilians only lose their status when they directly participate in hostilities. Israel is suggesting and insisting that geographic location can change that status and in effect making nearly all Palestinians legitimate targets.
This may not be new among right-wing Israelis who have long devalued Palestinian life and consider them impediments rather than equal subjects but what is harrowing is listening to liberal Zionists attempt to rationalize this carnage. Somehow they are equivocating their fear with the material and pounding devastation against a captive population. It takes unparalleled logical acrobatics to defend the horror endured by Palestinians today in the name of preventing that same horror unto themselves. They are precluding co-existence as a possibility and defending a merciless massacre as a necessary evil. You can only believe that if you believe that Palestinian life is not equal to all other life.
These are not crimes against Palestinians, they are crimes against our humanity. If the tables were turned, and I hope they never are, I would be protesting on behalf of that principle and not blindly and chauvinistically on behalf of a particular people. Humanity is not exceptional, and yet in the course of this onslaught, that is the discussion being had.
28 July 2014
This is what worries me most, Israel's expansion of its non-borders and shrinking of the Gaza Strip under the veneer of war. It is how Israel has steadily settled the West Bank and concentrated Palestinians into increasingly smaller and smaller population centers surrounded by settler and military infrastructure in an effort to disembody the Palestinian nation physically, by legal status, and by Palestinian narrative. It has similarly ghettoized its Palestinian citizens as well. In Gaza, Israel has achieved this by forcefully displacing more than 100,000 Palestinians so far (this report says 118,300, UNRWA says ~160,000 more than 3 times the number displaced during 2008/09) and now look at the map- 40% of the already tiny Gaza Strip is off limits to the Palestinians who once lived there 21 days ago. The return of these Palestinians must be part of the ceasefire agreement but likely will not be.
22 July 2014
Yesterday Israeli soldiers clashed with Palestinian youth and used live fire in Nablus, Hebron, Jerusalem, and surrounding villages. Israeli police also clashed with 200 Palestinian-Israelis in Nazareth. There are no rockets from anywhere in the West Bank. There are no rockets from Jerusalem where the population is subject to ethnic cleansing as explicitly stated in its 2000 Jerusalem Master Plan to shift the demographic balance of Jews to Christian and Muslim Palestinians from 60:40 to 70:30. There are no rockets in the Negev where Israel seeks to forcefully displace 70,000 Palestinian citizens of Israel to make room for a Jewish-only settlement. Israel does not have a problem with Hamas, it has a problem with Palestinians.
The attacks on the besieged population of the Gaza Strip are horrific. I struggle to even write 600, because one death is too many and yet we have become conditioned to expect suffering in the hundreds in the form of decapitated bodies, flailing limbs, charred faces. But emphasis on Israel's war on Gaza or headlines about Israel and Hamas attempt to separate and exceptionalize Palestinians in Gaza from the rest of the global Palestinian nation.
This is a diversion from Israel's primary problem: it cannot be Jewish and democratic. Being Jewish means that it MUST discriminate as a matter of fact and no country whose constitution is predicated on such stark discrimination (from slavery and Jim Crow in the US to Apartheid in South Africa) is sustainable. The debate among sympathetic liberal Zionists is about how much discrimination is acceptable. The conversation we are pushing is that discrimination, subjugation, and supremacy in all its forms is unacceptable.
Israel seeks to either placate, co-opt, or force the Palestinian population into submission. But it is not in our human nature to submit. Like all people, Palestinians fight to live; not just during spectacular episodes of carnage and destruction but daily, year round, for decades through resilience, sumoud, protests, storytelling, cooking, dancing, singing, loving, and memory. You can't blow that up.
16 July 2014
According to Maan News, Hamas and Islamic Jihad submit a list of 10 demands to enter into a 10-year truce with Israel. They all affirm life.
-remove tanks from western border allow farmers to farm
- release re-arrested prisoners
- lift the siege
- allow airport to function
- increase naval zone to 10 nautical miles to allow fishermen to fish
12 July 2014
There is a demonstration in DC today at 1 PM. I encourage folks to come through. It's a bit pathetic that we have little way of intervening in this incessant attack on Palestinians in Gaza (again) besides our showing of internet outrage, novel media interventions (because bringing on Palestinians to speak for themselves is still "bold"), and of course our mass gatherings in public spaces to assert moral claims about the massacre of civilians, absurdly framed as "self-defense."
Israel continued its attack overnight and struck a center for the disabled in the middle of Gaza, killing two women and seriously injuring four (not shocking that I cannot find their names). It also struck another home in Jabaliya refugee camp killing 3 Palestinians (not shocking that I cannot find their names) bringing the total number of residential homes directly targeted to 12 - all with families inside.
It has deployed its reservists to the West Bank and deployed its regular troops to the Gaza Strip in preparation for an 'imminent incursion' and what Yuval Steinitz has said will be a "temporary" re-occupation of the besieged area. That's very dumb because the occupation of Gaza has never ended. What's troubling about this nonetheless is that I believe the long-run objective is to concentrate Palestinians into truncated areas just as it has steadily and successfully done in the West Bank for over four decades now and certain maps I've seen show that this is also the case within Israel itself. The end result will be the establishment of tiny, isolated, and discontiguous enclaves of Palestinians throughout all of Mandate Palestine surrounded by Israeli settler infrastructure and with limited autonomy (sound familiar?) This is a long-term projection but kinetic violence offers Israel the perfect veneer under which to accelerate its project. Otherwise, Israel steadily continues it under the veneer of a "peace process" and other diplomatic overtures.
The end of this current massacre will not end the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from Palestine. We need to keep saying that now and we need to keep organizing against it well after it is over.
7 July 2014
On Saturday night an Israeli settler ran over a 13-year old Palestinian boy riding his donkey on a bypass road in Jerusalem. On Sunday morning, settlers ran over two Palestinian laborers from Tul Karem crossing the road in Haifa. Later on Sunday, Israeli air strikes killed 9 Palestinians in Gaza. On Saturday it was confirmed that 16 year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir was burned alive.
This brings the total number of Palestinians killed by settlers to 4 this week alone and the total number killed by Israeli soldiers to 19 since June 12th. This suffering has been incorrectly framed as an “another cycle of violence” rather than an escalation of violence endured by Palestinians during relative calm, when no one is watching.
Settlers are indeed attacking Palestinians more brazenly then ever, but it is not the first time they are attacking them. UN OCHA has documented a 4-fold increase in settler violence from 115 in 2006 to 399 in 2013. The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel reports that of the 700 complaints filed by Palestinians regarding settler violence in the past 10 years, 700 have been closed without a criminal investigation.
On an annual basis, settlers attack the famers during their olive harvest. On a daily basis, they terrorize the Palestinian residents of Hebron who are held hostage in their own homes. On November 14, 2013, two Israeli settlers firebombed a Palestinian home where a family of 7 slept.
The surface problem is Israeli impunity, the root problem is Israeli settler-colonialism.
Al-Haq Organization مؤسسة الحق produced a critical report on settler violence and impunity in 2013 entitled “Institutionalized Impunity: Israel’s Failure to Combat Settler Violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.” [http://www.alhaq.org/publications/publications-index/item/institutionalised-impunity-israel-s-failure-to-combat-settler-violence-in-the-occupied-palestinian-territory]
Dena Takruri produced an excellent 3-minute video describing what settlements are with AJ Plus. [http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/18383/video_israeli-settlements-explained]
Tariq Dana explains how the Oslo peace process and the Palestinian Authority’s security coordination with Israel is both protecting the settlers and thwarting more fervent Palestinian resistance in this stellar piece. [http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/18379/the-beginning-of-the-end-of-palestinian-security-c]
Gideon Levy has written a scathing and honest critique of Israel’s self-definition as a Jewish state that explains why these problems are not limited to the Occupied Territories but permeate all of Israel as well. [http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.603232]
Mainstream media, including numerous local news outlets, have thankfully, and uncharacteristically, picked up the story of young Tarek- Mohammed’s cousin visiting his family from Florida and beaten by Israeli officers to non-recognition and then detained to be placed on trial. He has since been released but is held under house arrest and subject to a fine (yes this is as absurd as it sounds).
While this attention is critical and “good” it should be a gateway story to the stories of Israel’s structural violence rather than a shocking story that shows that Israelis are bad too.
On Saturday, Diana Buttu did a phenomenal job of exposing this narrative of false parity when she refused to appear on set with Netanyahu’s spokesperson Mark Regev. [http://www.cnn.com/2014/07/05/world/meast/israel-palestinian-remarks/]
Failing to dig deeper is akin to accepting that Donald Sterling’s commentary about his own basketball team is the most egregious example of racism in US-based professional sports. It’s just the surface and, arguably, the least harmful kind.
Beneath the surface (in Palestine) is a foundation comprised of laws, policies, decrees, practice, pop culture, foreign aid, and international diplomacy that sustains and perpetuates settler-colonialism, military occupation, and apartheid.
3 July 2014
The burial of Mohammed Abu Khdeir will take place tomorrow so that a proper autopsy can be conducted today. A burial on Friday after prayer in Ramadan. That is intense enough.
The burial of a kidnapped, tortured, and burned boy in the midst of ongoing clashes in Jerusalem, ground troop deployment to the Gaza border, and an escalating discourse of hate demanding Arab blood among Israeli society is deeply frightening.
Because what is likely to unfold is violent provocation that cannot be contained easily; setting off systematic clashes and military crackdowns throughout the West Bank and a renewed onslaught against Gaza. This will provide the perfect veneer for Israel under which to expand the "buffer zone" in Gaza; entrench the separation of Palestinian society from one another by military infrastructure, and to accelerate an already rapid ethnic cleansing campaign in East Jerusalem that includes Shufat and several other neighborhoods that have been under Israeli attack for years.
When the dust falls, Israel will have established a new status quo around which negotiations revolve.
I hope I am completely and horribly wrong. In all cases, the message should be clear: the problem is settler-colonialism, military occupation, and apartheid and they must end.
1 July 2014
Why would Israel launch another attack right now? It revolves around the political life (& death) of PM Netanyahu.
In short form- he failed to prevent a US-Iran rapprochement on nuclear weapons which remains hostile but clear of war; he appeared as the obvious culprit that dashed Secretary John Kerry's renewed and fervent efforts to renew the peace process; Palestinian national reconciliation took place under his watch and was accepted by both the US and the EU; and domestically he failed to prevent the precedency of Reuven Rivlin in his parliament.
His own power is severely cracking, and as in 2012 and before, Netanyahu took to beating down on Palestinians and drumming up violent public hysteria to draw attention away from his own failures as well as to flex his militant brass.
This is all repulsive and draped in the obfuscating language of national security. It is likely only the beginning since the bodies of the settler boys have not even been buried and laid to rest.
30 June 2014
The bodies of the 3 kidnapped Israeli settler teens found in northern Hebron in Halhul. Israel continues to insist that this operation is not over and it seeks to pound Hamas- likely in retribution and deterrence. The problem: Hamas has nothing to gain from this operation as part of the recently formed unity government and a crippled economy. Khaled Mashal has publicly chastised Mahmoud Abbas for not justifying the kidnappings but insisted that it is not a Hamas operation. In the course of Israel's violent and intense incursion into the West Bank and against Gaza since the kidnappings, Israel has killed 6 Palestinians, arrested 400 alleged members of Hamas, and searched 1,300 homes, buildings, and sites. Two men have been accused of the kidnappings: Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Aisha- Marwan only admitted membership in Hamas under torture in Israeli custody.
I'm afraid that Hamas and, more tragically, the population of the Gaza Strip, will continue to bear the brunt of Israeli politics.