Palestinian villagers in the South Hebron hills have long been defending their land and water from settlers, their agents – like Regavim, and the IDF. Supporting the Palestinians are two Israeli-Palestinian groups, Ta’ayush and the Villages Group. One of their members, David Shulman, recounts how the soldiers have now given up niceties like the law and courtesy and rely on brute force to get their, and the settlers’, way.
The Knesset has ratified, by a comfortable majority, a new governance act which will raise the electoral threshold for Knesset seats (which would exclude all the parties with Arab MKs) and making it much harder to oust, or even criticise the government, through a no-confidence vote. It also limits the number of cabinet members. A faint hope for democrats is that previously the number of small parties has limited opposition cohesion and made all susceptible to co-option into government.
The mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, said this week that Palestinians should rename Ramallah ‘northern Jerusalem’ and leave actual Jerusalem to sole Jewish rule. Two fifths of the population of Jerusalem are Palestinians.
Stephen Hawking, one of the world’s best-known physicists, has pulled out of the fifth Israeli Presidential Conference in Jerusalem on 18–20 June 2013. He had headed the list of international speakers at the ‘Facing Tomorrow’ conference. He came under pressure to withdraw as his condemnation of Operation Cast Lead as out of proportion and likening of Israel to an apartheid state were well known. UPDATE: the reaction
Aki Orr is remembered and honoured by many people in Israel and the UK. As the founder of Matzpen, a socialist party, he was resolute in seeing libertarian socialist politics as the way to live and the way to take part in Israeli politics – for which he founded Matzpen. He came to Britain to study in 1964 and remained as a disputatious and always engaged person until his death earlier this year. As an emblem of Nazi persecution and an Israeli revolutionary his legacy is alive in Jadaliyya.
The proposal for land-swaps to break the paralysis in negotiations has been accepted by the Arab League and the PA in the course of Kerry’s talks. Hamas immediately rejected it as treacherous; Netanyahu, more disingenously, says land is not an issue – it’s acknowledgement of Israel as the Jewish state that is.
This is a harsh judgment on the Palestinian leadership, while acknowledging the power of the occupation. Roger Cohen describes the PA’s paralysis and Fatah as ‘a revolutionary party that has exhausted itself; ossified and murky’ with an appetite only for ‘sweet deals’; Salam Fayyad, whom Cohen is interviewing, describes Fatah’s leaders as casual, lacking seriousness or strategy, hostage to their own rhetoric. That rhetoric is all that engages the Palestinian people.
The Israeli government has long been determined to corral all Bedouin into official towns in the West Bank and as few towns as possible in the Negev. The cost of following through the Prawer and Begin plans is estimated to be NIS 6.8 billion. Many voices have been raised in protest at this deprivation of the Bedouins’ freedom of movement and self-government, including by Rabbis for Human Rights, the UK’s Union of Jewish Students and Pro-Zion which say the plans are un-Judaic..
Israel has shown the way, says the NY Times – Syrian air defences can be easily penetrated, so now the West (the USA, with France and the UK) can intervene. Obama is reluctant – who would be helped? Robert Fisk argues that by stopping a weapons supply to President `Assad, the Israelis are directly helping the rebels – which the West has been dithering about doing. All agree on one thing: Israel’s airstrike spreads the conflict beyond any national boundaries.
The least informed people in the West about the IAF’s massive airstrikes on Syria appear to be the Israeli public who have had to rely on agency and foreign reports to know what is going on. Nonetheless a well-informed report from Amos Harel, who reports that the government says only 2 people were killed. JPost reports 42 killed. Ynet reports the statement of an Iranian general that the target was not Iranian weapons which they had not provided and the Syrian government does not need.
In a dramatic display of what ensuring Israel’s ‘qualitative military edge’ – preserved by US law – means, Israel has fired missiles into Syria. Its airforce has Medium Range Laser Guided Bombs. The IDF has moved its Iron Dome defence system up to the northern border. Its surveillance equipment ranges from satellites to devices hidden in fake rocks overlooking Beirut. No missiles have been fired by any country or group into Israel so far and protests against Israel’s aggression and the danger of its action leading to a regional war are being made.
What exactly the British government assumed, wanted and expected when its foreign secretary, Lord Balfour, wrote the letter now known as the Balfour Declaration is mired in competing myths of the UK’s relationship to Jews, Arabs and Palestine. James Renton, an expert on the history of those relations, here argues that Lloyd George’s government was under the antisemitic delusion that all Jews were influential and would swing support for the UK in the war. They set up a ‘Jewish Section’ in the Foreign Office to further this narrow and short-term aim.
The Church of Scotland played a leading role in designating Palestine as the Biblical land of Israel to which Jews must return for prophecies to be realised. It was one of its ministers who made the claim that Palestine was ‘a land without people for a people without land’ . Over 180 years after that kickstart to Christian Zionism, the Church of Scotland publishes a report – The Inheritance of Abraham? – throwing out the literal reading of ‘the land of Israel’ and putting forward its view of how Christians should regard the treatment of Palestinians by the Israeli state. UPDATE: Rebuke from Scottish Council of Jewish Communities.
Since Israeli military forces first drove out Palestinians from 1947, neighbouring countries have provided them with refuge. Conditions vary from awful to tolerable but refugees lack basic rights to basic services and they are almost entirely sustained by UNRWA. So far, over 1000 have been killed in Syria’s civil war. They will not escape the effects of the latest strike by Israel on Syria.
The Oslo accords entrenched the occupation, established an international complacency about 2-state negotiations, and created a new Palestinian elite whose status depends on the false independence of the Palestinian Authority. In his class analysis of the Oslo agreement, Adam Hanieh argues that only if the Palestinians continue to challenge their supine governing class can they regain the vigour of an independence movement.
This week, several articles in which Palestinians examine what they see as the weakness of civil society following the Oslo accords. Tariq Dana on how popular involvement has fallen away as NGOs take over the space, divesting groups of their activists and of their social care functions as they follow the neo-liberal agendas of their donors (and a mention for the pioneering work of Islah Jad on the NGOisation of the Palestinian women’s movement. Aitemad Muhannah, once in the PFLP, on the left’s failure to engage the poor, and the appeal of Hamas. Plus Adam Hanieh above.
One of Israel’s best-paid celebs, TV host Avri Gilad, returns from a tour of the Negev organised by the aggressively Zionist Regavim, declaring that “There’s no more Negev. The Bedouin have taken it over completely. By force…” By buying into Regavim – which uses the law and propaganda to maximise Israeli land and minimise non-Jewish inhabitants – he could have uttered his judgment without leaving home. Particularly given Gilad’s view that “Islam today is the most terrible disease raging around the world”. His views cause no uproar in Israel.
John Kerry, US Secretary of State, has been putting the work in to narrow the gulf between Palestinians and Israelis. The Arab League has agreed to support the proposal of land swaps – which was not part of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative. While welcomed by Tzipi Livni, many Israeli commentators have rejected it as they fear it will give hope to Paestinians or threaten their security. Hamas has also said no: land swaps would ensconce some settlements. For the PA, Kerry’s biggest task is to get Israel to agree to accept the 1967 borders.
As we have posted before, the U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2013 comes straight from AIPAC’s wish list. It allows Israelis to enter the USA without a visa – and allows Israel to continue to discriminate against anyone on the grounds of ethnicity, religion and political beliefs. This is so contrary to the modern American ethic that it has prompted unusual condemnation for an AIPAC initiative. Annie Robbins of Mondoweiss reports.
Once a nomadic people herding animals and transporting goods throughout the Middle East and the Negev, the Bedouin tribes have been forcibly moved by successive governments to urban shanty-towns. The Jahalin were shifted to the E1 area of Khan al-Ahmar on the edge of East Jerusalem in 1967. The Israeli Ministry of Defence now plans to move them again into blocks of 800 units near Jericho, to allow settlement expansion and the break up tribal self-government.