Palestinians are not commodities to be bought and sold on the market, whose bodies and labour power are the possession of the owners. But, like slaves, they are born in dishonour, do not possess the civil rights through which they can defend themselves and have no free movement; like the Americans, the ‘white’ population of Jews is itself bitterly split on the issue of the freedom of the oppressed people. A powerful essay from Eva Illouz which, like Faysal Mikdadi, responds to the film 12 Years a Slave.
In his dreams Faysal Mikdadi, exiled from his Palestinian homeland since 1948, remembers running freely beside the Mediterranean sea. Cruelly awake, he marvels at how politicians – Miliband, Netanyahu, Arab and Palestinian leaders – can carry on as though a whole people has not been displaced and lost all they had. Will we weep for them one day as now we weep for the slaves of yesteryear?
The unremitting conflict for control of the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria has driven out many of its penniless Palestinian residents, the bulk of whom have been taken in by Jordan and Lebanon at huge cost to their budgets and amenities. Those left behind are subject to cynical denial of food. Many agencies and charities are trying to help them – and Syrian people themselves left devastated by the years of war.
The absence of any realistic ‘peace process’ may be a vacuum which pulls in any moving body, such as John Kerry. Or Kerry may be ‘addicted’ to the process, as Foreign Policy’s Aaron David Miller suggests. Or the Peace Process is emptied of all meaning because for Israelis the only peace is unconditional Palestinian surrender as Zeev Sternhell argues. Israeli supremacy will rule.
Violent resistance to Israeli oppression will always invite hostility, whatever the provocation. But Israeli security forces consistently imprison Palestinians who act through politics. The Israeli security junta will find some link between any Palestinian and a security risk – and shut them up. Ben White reports on the latest arrests.
Regular readers of this website do not need to to be told of the deprivations visited on all people in the Gaza Strip by Israel Security – and the Egyptian government. On his first visit, the new head of UNWRA is shocked and says the siege must be ended. 50 UN agencies made the same call 2 years ago. An entire people is locked into an enclave without basic resources. Say ‘security’ and care dies.
Israel was created, expanded and is sustained by military force. It is not democracy Israelis admire but the IDF. It is the one firm and protective father for whom Israelis yearn – and whose cruelties and errors they pretend not to notice. Yossi Sarid on Israel’s cult of the soldier-hero.
The most recent report from the Foundation for Middle East Peace is devoted to the question of Israeli settlements. As it has become clear that there is going to be no effective international action to prevent – let alone reduce – settlement building Israelis have become more aggressively confident while Palestinians consider how best to protect themselves.
The British Jewish group Yachad (Hebrew for ‘together’) was founded in 2011 as a pro-Israel pro-peace group. Taking people on visits to Israel has been made more difficult by the places that have to avoided, or somehow explained. Hebron’s devastated Shuhada Street is one such place – but it’s not so different from the rest of the West Bank writes Yachad founder Hannah Weisfeld.
The plan to build a 7-storey visitors’ centre in Silwan just below the Temple Mount, first passed 2 years ago, has been formally approved by Jerusalem city council. It has been pushed ahead by groups bent on getting Jewish control of the area and angrily condemned by Israeli archaeologists and those opposed to Judaisation of E. Jerusalem.
As Richard Silverstein notes, ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’ has been holding a young Israeli journalist since April 12, initially in secret – a gagging order was imposed on the press and denied access to lawyers. The gagging order is lifted but he is still confined in a cell with no bed or window. His supposed crime? He travelled to Lebanon, and he’s an Arab/Palestinian citizen.
If Israeli security forces hoped that imprisoning Palestinian political activists would ‘disappear’ them from public life they were wrong. The more there are, the longer they languish inside, the more who die from their treatment in prison the louder the demand that they be freed. Today, April 17th, is Palestinian Political Prisoners Day when public voices say freedom will pave the way for peace.
Marwan Barghouti, informal leader of two intifadas, was abducted by Israeli security men in 2002, and imprisoned in 2004 on charges of terrorism. Since then his popularity has grown and he has become the outstanding symbol of Palestinian political prisoners and of potential Palestinian unity founded on resistance. An international campaign for his release was launched last October and on this anniversary of his arrest many voices say that releasing him would be the most potent sign Israel could make of its serious intent in peace talks.
The settlers of Yitzhar in the Nablus district of the West Bank are a stereotype of the worst sort; violent, racist, convinced they are kings of the mountain where the writ of the police does not run. On April 8th, Israeli police set out to assert their authority by demolishing some of their illegal structures. Obviously, the settlers – who believe they are directed by God from their ‘sacred’ yeshiva – fought back and demolished an IDF outpost. The reaction in Israel ranges from shock through outrage to hysteria.
The life of people in Gaza is bound up with the politics of Egypt. They have been enthused by talk of pan-Arab nationalism throwing off colonial oppressors, and stunned and impoverished by the policies of Field Marshal al-Sisi. In between they have looked to Egypt for sanctuary and supplies – but Egyptians have long centred their energy on themselves. Two articles on Egypt’s leaderships cults and shifting politics.
Labour leader Ed Miliband will have completed a three day visit to Israel and Palestine by the time of posting this. Coverage has been more on the nature of his Jewish background, identity and connections to Israel than his policies on a Palestinian state. His statements on the illegality of Jewish settlements and their block to peace were reported as was his opposition to boycott.
Here are a lot of words spent on what many in the PA and Israeli government see as essentially symbolic acts – the PA’s signing up to 15 UN protocols and Israel’s ruling that it must take punitive retaliation: a ban on (minor) officials of both governments talking to each other and the withholding of tax transfers. Even if the punishment is largely symbolic it does not help Israel’s image.
Billions of dollars are sent to Israel every year by Jewish philanthropists which equals a lot of trees in the Negev (and displacement of Bedouin). Younger Jews are more inclined to send money to NGOs which promote a 2-state solution. Few give money to the underlying issue of Palestinian rights. Three articles from an Open Democracy discussion on funding.
The people of Lebanon are in a hard place. They are having to accommodate thousands of refugees from Syria; the effective power is Hezbollah which had proclaimed itself their principal protector through its ‘resistance’ to Israeli and American power in the region. But its military support for the Assad regime has damaged its reputation, as has its manipulation of Shi’ite/Sunni differences into a harmful sectarianism. (See Rachel Shabi below)
In their view, the Obama administration had no choice but to believe that hard work and good will would produce observable change in Palestine/Israel relations. They were wrong. Kerry saw Israeli intransigence and ‘poof’, hope went. Israeli hardliners crow at the failure of this ‘Arab lapdog’. With the US no longer a player, who, if anyone, will make the first move to break the status-quo?