Killing Israeli and Palestinian children

After the bodies of three abducted Israeli teenage settlers were discovered on June 28, Palestinians have been targeted indiscriminately by "extreme rightist" Israeli mobs and now there is news that a 16-year-old Palestinian boy was killed, almost surely in retaliation. 

Before that latest piece of news had broken, Israel had already launched "retaliatory strikes" on Gaza and "sweeps" in the West bank, bombing over 30 locations, arresting hundreds and killing at least 8, including a 14-year-old boy. Hamas had denied involvement in the attack, although Israeli officials say it is responsible and "will pay."  

And Palestinian writer Susan Abulhawa had this to say:

No mother should have endure the murder of her child. No mother or father. That does not only apply to Jewish parents. The lives of our children are no less precious and their loss are no less shattering and spiritually unhinging. But there is a terrible disparity in the value of life here in the eyes of the state and the world, where Palestinian life is cheap and disposable, but Jewish life is sacrosanct.

This exceptionalism and supremacy of Jewish life is a fundamental underpinning of the state of Israel. It pervades their every law and protocol, and is matched only by their apparent contempt and disregard for Palestinian life. Whether through laws that favor Jews for employment and educational opportunities, or laws that allow the exclusion of non-Jews from buying or renting among Jews, or endless military orders that limit the movement, water consumption, food access, education, marriage possibilities, and economic independence, or these periodic upending of Palestinian civil society, life for non-Jews ultimately conforms to the religious edict issued by Dov Lior, Chief Rabbi of Hebron and Kiryat Arba, saying "a thousand non-Jewish lives are not worth a Jew's fingernail."

Israeli violence of the past few weeks is generally accepted and expected. And the terror we know they will unleash on our people will be, as it always is, cloaked in the legitimacy of uniforms and technological death machines. Israeli violence, no matter how vulgar, is inevitably couched as a heroic, ironic violence that western media frames as “response,” as if Palestinian resistance itself were not a response to Israeli oppression. When the ICRC was asked to issue a similar call for the immediate and unconditional release of the hundreds of Palestinian children held in Israeli jails (which is also in contravention of international humanitarian law), the ICRC refused, indicating there’s a difference between the isolated abduction of Israeli teens and the routine abduction, torture, isolation, and imprisonment of Palestinian children.

Here is the whole piece. 

Palfest, part two

The second installment of my diary of the Palestine Festival of Literature went up at Bookforum over the weekend:

The daily life of Palestinians is constrained by an intricate complex of physical and bureaucratic barriers. Nowhere are the divisions and inequalities more dramatic than in Hebron. In 1994, after a far-right Israeli named Baruch Goldstein opened fire in the Ibrahimi Mosque that surrounds the patriarch Abraham’s tomb and killed twenty-nine Palestinians, the holy site was divided into a mosque and a synagogue. Muslims and Jews look at the same tomb from separate barred windows, bullet-proof partitions between them. Four hundred ultra-Orthodox settlers live in the city proper, alongside nearly 200,000 Palestinians. To accommodate and protect them, the government has shut down the main commercial thoroughfare, putting thousands of people out of work. Billboards explain that the street was closed due to the violence of the Second Intifada. Fifteen years on, settlers harass Palestinians, throwing bleach on the wares of shops and attacking children on their way to school. While we holders of foreign passports make our way past checkpoints down the ghostly street, Palestinians must take a much longer and more circuitous route to get from one side of the city to the other.

In a place this segregated, one is forced take sides. (The Jewish or the Muslim entrance? The settler road or the one open to Palestinians?) By the end of the week everyone at Palfest is overwhelmed, not just by the touring schedule and the flow of dispiriting details, but by the constant effort of positioning oneself—one’s work, one’s words—in relation to this terrible, lopsided fight.

The first installment is here. I also wrote something on all the lines that criss-cross Israel-Palestine (segregating Israelis and Palestinians, but also dividing Palestinians from each other, and from their Arab neighbors) for Mada Masr. 

Below is a performance by the very talented British-Egyptian playwright and poet Sabrina Mahfouz, who composed this after a visit to Hebron and performed it two days later in Ramallah:



Must watch: Egypt's lost power

Al Jazeera English does a great first dig into the EMG gas deal between Egypt and Israel –theft from the Egyptian people involving many who are still in power in Egypt today, and with the blessing of the United States. It underplays the extent to which Hussein Salem was a key member of the Egyptian intelligence establishment, close to Field Marshal Abu Ghazala (Mubarak's chief rival in the early 1980s) and granted some protection from the Reagan administration after being caught in one of the scams in the US-Egypt military aid relationship. It's a story at the heart of how corruption, power, and strategic interests interact in the Middle East – very much worth watching.

Israel won't stop spying on US, which won't stop it

Some interesting reporting on Israel's extensive spying on the US in two pieces by Newsweek's Jeff Stein this week - Israel Won’t Stop Spying on the U.S. and Israel’s Aggressive Spying in the U.S. Mostly Hushed Up. From the first piece:

“I don’t think anyone was surprised by these revelations,” the former aide said. “But when you step back and hear…that there are no other countries taking advantage of our security relationship the way the Israelis are for espionage purposes, it is quite shocking. I mean, it shouldn’t be lost on anyone that after all the hand-wringing over [Jonathan] Pollard, it’s still going on.”

And this anecdote from the second, follow-up report:

When White House national security advisor Susan Rice’s security detail cleared her Jerusalem hotel suite for bugs and intruders Tuesday night, they might’ve had in mind a surprise visitor to Vice President Al Gore’s room 16 years ago this week: a spy in an air duct.

According to a senior former U.S. intelligence operative, a Secret Service agent who was enjoying a moment of solitude in Gore’s bathroom before the Veep arrived heard a metallic scraping sound. “The Secret Service had secured [Gore’s] room in advance and they all left except for one agent, who decided to take a long, slow time on the pot,” the operative recalled for Newsweek. “So the room was all quiet, he was just meditating on his toes, and he hears a noise in the vent. And he sees the vent clips being moved from the inside. And then he sees a guy starting to exit the vent into the room.”

Did the agent scramble for his gun? No, the former operative said with a chuckle. “He kind of coughed and the guy went back into the vents.”

To some, the incident stands as an apt metaphor for the behind-closed-doors relations between Israel and America, “frenemies” even in the best of times. The brazen air-duct caper “crossed the line” of acceptable behavior between friendly intelligence services – but because it was done by Israel, it was quickly hushed up by U.S. officials.

And the reason it goes on unchecked, of course, is that American lawmakers are protecting Israel:

Always lurking, former intelligence officials say, was the powerful “Israeli lobby,” the network of Israel’s friends in Congress, industry and successive administrations, Republican and Democratic, ready to protest any perceived slight on the part of U.S. security officials. A former counterintelligence specialist told Newsweek he risked Israel’s wrath merely by providing routine security briefings to American officials, businessmen and scientists heading to Israel for meetings and conferences.

“We had to be very careful how we warned American officials,” he said. “We regularly got calls from members of Congress outraged by security warnings about going to Israel. And they had our budget. When ... the director of the CIA gets a call from an outraged congressman–’What are these security briefings you're giving? What are these high-level threat warnings about travel to Tel Aviv you're giving? This is outrageous’ – he has to pay close attention. There was always this political delicacy that you had to be aware of.”

A Palestinian Bantustan won’t end the conflict

Daniel Levy, writing in Haaretz:

The logic of the current U.S.-led effort is apparently predicated on the assumption that by offering Israel unprecedented security deliverables within a two-state deal (under a package put together by U.S. General John Allen), together with front-loading recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, that Netanyahu would then be unable to dodge a serious negotiation on territory. That logic, combined with the ever-present American unwillingness to deploy any leverage viz its Israeli ally. Predictably enough, the Israeli leadership has pocketed the American concessions, demanded that the Palestinians follow suit, and asked for more.

Read the whole thing for details and insights on the negotiations.

The Life and Death of Juliano Mer-Khamis: A Death in Jenin

Juliano was the founder of the Freedom Theatre. He was an Israeli citizen, the son of a Jewish mother and therefore a Jew in the eyes of the Jewish state. But his father was a Palestinian from Nazareth, and Juliano was a passionate believer in the Palestinian cause. He would often say he was ‘100 per cent Palestinian and 100 per cent Jewish’, but in Israel he was seldom allowed to forget he was the son of an Arab, and in Jenin he was seen as an Israeli, a Jew, no matter how much he did for the camp. Among the artists and intellectuals of Ramallah, however, he was admired for having left Israel to work in one of the toughest parts of the West Bank, and was accepted as an ally. Since its founding in 2006, the Freedom Theatre had been under constant fire: local conservatives saw it as a corrupting influence, even a Zionist conspiracy; the Palestinian Authority resented what Juliano said about its ‘co-operation’ with Israel; and Israel saw him as a troublemaker, if not a traitor. 

In a must-read piece in the London Review of Books, Adam Shatz portrays a complicated, compelling man and artist, and delves into the mystery of his murder. 

Our No-Man-But-His-Own-Man in Ramallah

Youth organizer turned leg -breaker, charity worker turned embezzler, and nationalist propagandist turned bargaining chip for foreign aid donors.

All three of these descriptions fit just one person: Mohammad Dahlan

As we enter another round of "did they resign or didn't they?" for the Palestinian negotiating team led by Saeb Erekat, for sheer chutzpah, this has to take the cake: Daoud Kattab reports that Dahlan, formerly Fatah's enforcer-in-chief in Gaza (emphasis on "former" - more on that below) may yet return to the fold of the party that he was expelled from in 2010

Reportedly, his reintegration into Fatah is being accomplished by the promise of Emirati foreign assistance to the PNA: Dahlan's exile saw him take up an advisory position to the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, and this is his vehicle for returning to political life in the Territories, not unlike how American aid was his vehicle for the abortive 2007 operation to disarm Hamas before it could consolidate military control over the strip. 

Read More

Still desecrating the memory of Mohammed al-Dura

This NYT report by Isabel Kershner is titled "Israeli Report Casts New Doubts on Shooting in Gaza", but if it were another country one suspects it might be titled "Government report spins  boy's death as trial verdict looms". The Israeli government has made hasbara about the al-Dura shooting one of its signature image campaign, regularly seeding doubt about the version recorded and witnessed by France 2 cameramen which became an iconic image of the occupation of Palestine. It has had little difficulty in recruiting the help of online pro-Israel activists who launched this site (linked to by the NYT without identifying its ideological, propagandistic character — e.g. "Europeans, who repeatedly ran this footage, unwittingly waved the flag Jihad (sic) in front of their Muslim populations.") and mainstream media journalists like James Fallows of The Atlantic who ran a repulsive long piece in 2002 that tackled the al-Dura affair entirely from an Israeli perspective.

The new findings published on Sunday were the work of an Israeli government review committee, which said its task was to re-examine the event “in light of the continued damage it has caused to Israel.” They come after years of debate over the veracity of the France 2 report, which was filmed by a Gaza correspondent, Talal Abu Rahma, and narrated by the station’s Jerusalem bureau chief, Charles Enderlin, who was not at the present at the scene.
The Israeli government review suggested, as other critics have, that the France 2 footage might have been staged. It noted anomalies like the apparent lack of blood in appropriate places at the scene, and said that raw footage from the seconds after the boy’s apparent death seem to show him raising his arm.
“Contrary to the report’s claim that the boy is killed, the committee’s review of the raw footage showed that in the final scenes, which were not broadcast by France 2, the boy is seen to be alive,” the review said. “Based on the available evidence, it appears significantly more likely that Palestinian gunmen were the source of the shots which appear to have impacted in the vicinity” of the boy and his father.

Except there is not much debate about the "veracity" of the report anywhere else, and France 2 and the national union of journalists has stood behind Enderlin. This is not an investigation, this is a government propaganda operation timed ahead of a court verdict that may further damage Israel's image and an ongoing attempt at damage control by attempting to muddy the waters of a case that is iconic of the Israeli occupation of Palestine precisely because children are so often its victims.

Kissinger on "just outcomes"

In this interview, Kissinger says:

“I’m not optimistic” about reviving peace talks, in large part because of the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist parties in the region that aren’t inclined to support a “just outcome” with Israel, Kissinger said in an interview airing this weekend on Bloomberg TV’s “Conversations with Judy Woodruff.”

 Because of course Israel is all about supporting a "just outcome."

There is no future

Israeli news broadcasters don't cry - Israel News | Haaretz Daily Newspaper

From an interview with Israeli broadcaster Shlomi Eldar:

A few days after the end of Operation Pillar of Defense, I gave a talk at a Herzliya high school. The children, who said they came from good homes, told me we have to kill all the Arabs, including the Israeli Arabs, because where do they get off thinking they will get control of the country. Their ideal is to go into the army and kill as many Arabs as possible. That’s one side of the picture, Israeli youth, the new generation, living in an atmosphere of demonizing the Palestinians − which is something the Israeli media are responsible for in no small measure. The other side of the picture is the young generation in Gaza, a child of five or nine. Let’s say he is not wounded, but a four-ton bomb landed next to his house. Do you know that in Operation Pillar of Defense, not one pane of glass remained intact in the whole of Gaza? It’s a tactic of creating sonic booms to frighten people without hurting them. A child who has a bomb like that land next to him can’t hear anything for the next three days. What does he think about the Jews afterward? And where will we end up, if this is how Jewish youngsters think about Arabs?

Nowhere good.

We are on a nothing-to-lose track. Which is why I say there is no future. When I told the high school class that we have to look at them as human beings, one boy jumped up and said, “Who do you vote for? You’re extreme left, no?” I replied, “It would surprise you to know who I vote for.” But that’s not the point. The point is that we in Israel have reached a situation in which if someone says we have to talk peace, he’s considered extreme left.

You are very reserved.

I maintain reserve all the time.

As a defense mechanism?

Yes.

What does it defend you against?

I safeguard myself, and I need to safeguard myself against a host of things. I will tell you something I have never told anyone, and I hope I will not regret telling you. During Operation Cast Lead I came into possession of material about very grim events relating to the idea that Israel was deliberately “going crazy.” Testimonies, images and much more. So many people were killed there. I took it all and put it in an envelope. I told Reudar Benziman, who was CEO of Channel 10 News at the time, what I had. He told me, “Work on it.” I told him I couldn’t. Because that’s the truth − I couldn’t. If I had verified what I heard, I would not be able to live with it. I couldn’t have evoked the “rotten apples” metaphor. I still have the material in a closed room. I didn’t give it to anyone. When there was talk about a commission of inquiry, I said I would be ready to give them the material − let them check it out, not me. I’m not touching it. I’m not capable. I can’t. I, too, understand my limits.

Shatz on Bab al-Shams

Opening the Gate of the Sun « LRB blog

Adam Shatz writes on the latest repression of peaceful protests, on their own land, by Palestinians in the face of Israeli encroachment that is subsidized by American taxpayers:

At 2.30 on Sunday morning, the Israeli army removed 250 Palestinians from Bab al-Shams, a village in the so-called E1 corridor: 13 square kilometres of undeveloped Palestinian land between East Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim, an Israeli settlement in the West Bank with a population of 40,000. Israel has had designs on E1 for more than a decade: colonising it would realise the vision of a ‘Greater Jerusalem’, and eliminate the possibility of a contiguous Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. After the UN vote to recognise Palestine as a non-member observer state, Binyamin Netanyahu declared that Israel would build 4000 new settler homes in E1. The high court issued a six-day injunction against his order to ‘evacuate’ Bab al-Shams, but Netanyahu was in no mood to wait. Once the Palestinians had been driven out, the land was declared a closed ‘military zone’.

It was another bleak day in the story of Palestinians trying to hold onto their land in the face of Israeli expansionism. But it was also something else. Bab al-Shams was no ordinary village, but a tent encampment set up by Palestinian activists, a number of them veterans of the Popular Resistance Committees who have been organising weekly demonstrations against the ‘separation fence’ in the villages of Bil’in and Nil’in. Several journalists noted that the residents of Bab al-Shams used the same tactics as Israeli settlers: pitching their tents, laying claim to the land, establishing ‘facts on the ground’. But the differences were more significant than the resemblances. The pioneers of Bab al-Shams were Palestinians, not foreigners. When settlers establish wildcat outposts, they know that the authorities may chastise them for it but will nonetheless soon supply them with electricity and water, and even build roads and access routes on their behalf. The people of Bab al-Shams knew that an IDF demolition crew would appear in due course: less than three days, as it turned out. 

Though I know the river is dry

An independent Egyptian-Palestinian production needs help to finish post-production ahead of its festival release later this month:

Starring Kais Nashif (Paradise Now) and directed by Omar Robert Hamilton (founding member of the Mosireen Collective in Cairo), the film tells the story of a man's return to Palestine, years after a fateful choice sends him to America.  

WATCH THE TRAILER

As well as being selected to world premiere at the prestigious Rotterdam Film Festival, the project was awarded a post-production grant from the Doha Tribeca Film Festival and will have it's MENA premiere there in November 2013.  

The production costs of the shoot were raised through a successful crowdfunding campaign that attracted $14,000 of support from 100 individuals. Now, because there are so few funding sources for independent films from the Arab world, the race is on to raise $7,500 in 9 days to give Though I Know the River is Dry  the post-production it deserves. 

VIEW THE CAMPAIGN

I helped these guys out, pitch in if you can.

Gaza blockade eased - not lifted

Israel eases Gaza blockade following truce deal | Egypt Independent

This is good news to be sure, but an interesting detail: construction material and other critical types of goods for Gaza's reconstruction must still go through the Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom crossing, and not Egypt:

Israel is easing its blockade of Gaza to allow construction materials and other goods into the enclave under the terms of a truce deal mediated by Egypt.

The decision allows private companies and individuals to import construction materials that were previously restricted exclusively to international aid groups under the terms of Israel's blockade, AFP reported.

The truce between Israel and Gaza's leaders Hamas ended more than a week of Israeli air strikes and Palestinian rocket fire last month.

This is the first time Israel has allowed such goods into Gaza since 2007, said Palestinian customs official Raed Fattouh.

Starting on Sunday up to 20 trucks carrying gravel will be allowed into the strip daily Sunday through Thursday via the Karem Abu Salem border crossing in southeast Gaza, Fattouh said. Karam Abu Salem is the only commercial crossing open to the transport of goods and fuel and is closed on Fridays and Saturdays.

In other words, these Egypt-brokered talks are still steering away from lifting the blockade as Palestinians have called for along with Egypt-based activists. Whether this amounts to the ruling Muslim Brotherhood's recognition of the complexity of the border issue (including the fear that if the Rafah crossing is fully opened to commercial traffic Israel will simply dump the Gaza problem onto Egypt) or that General Intelligence, which is running the talks, has a veto power on this issue over the Morsi administration is not clear. 

If Not Two States, Then One

If Not Two States, Then One - NYTimes.com

A very good op-ed by Saree Makdisi :

Once the fiction of a separate Palestinian state is revealed to have no more substance than the Wizard of Oz — which the E1 plan will all but guarantee — those Palestinians who have not already done so will commit themselves to the only viable alternative: a one-state solution, in which the idea of an exclusively Jewish state and an exclusively Palestinian one will yield to what was really all along the preferable alternative, a single democratic and secular state in all of historical Palestine that both peoples will have to share as equal citizens.

A campaign for rights and equality in a single state is a project toward which the Palestinians will now be able to turn with the formidable international support they have already developed at both the diplomatic and the grassroots levels, including a global boycott and sanctions movement whose bite Israel has already felt.

For Palestinians, in any case, one state is infinitely preferable to two, for the simple reason that no version of the two-state solution that has ever been proposed has meaningfully sought to address the rights of more than the minority of Palestinians who actually live in the territory on which that state is supposed to exist.

Britain and the Palestinian vote at the UN

Britain ready to back Palestinian statehood at UN | World news | guardian.co.uk

Don't welcome this move by Britain — a source of so much of the modern Middle East's woes — they will only back the Palestinians if they jettison the rights other nations have to pursue war criminals:

On Monday night, the government signalled it would change tack and vote yes if the Palestinians modified their application, which is to be debated by the UN general assembly in New York later this week. As a "non-member state", Palestine would have the same status as the Vatican.

Whitehall officials said the Palestinians were now being asked to refrain from applying for membership of the international criminal court or the international court of justice, which could both be used to pursue war crimes charges or other legal claims against Israel.

Abbas is also being asked to commit to an immediate resumption of peace talks "without preconditions" with Israel. The third condition is that the general assembly's resolution does not require the UN security council to follow suit.

Update: France looks like it will recognize Palestine, apparently without condition.

Hamas normalized, Israel marginalized

Adam Shatz · Why Israel Didn’t Win · LRB 24 November 2012

I have the same read — as distasteful as it is to call winners and losers, Hamas (not Gazans) came out a winner in this war, Israel a loser:

Israeli leaders lamented for years that theirs was the only democracy in the region. What this season of revolts has revealed is that Israel had a very deep investment in Arab authoritarianism. The unravelling of the old Arab order, when Israel could count on the quiet complicity of Arab big men who satisfied their subjects with flamboyant denunciations of Israeli misdeeds but did little to block them, has been painful for Israel, leaving it feeling lonelier than ever. It is this acute sense of vulnerability, even more than Netanyahu’s desire to bolster his martial credentials before the January elections, that led Israel into war.

Hamas, meanwhile, has been buoyed by the same regional shifts, particularly the triumph of Islamist movements in Tunisia and Egypt: Hamas, not Israel, has been ‘normalised’ by the Arab uprisings.

. . .

The Arab world is changing, but Israel is not. Instead, it has retreated further behind Jabotinsky’s ‘iron wall’, deepening its hold on the Occupied Territories, thumbing its nose at a region that is at last acquiring a taste of its own power, exploding in spasms of high-tech violence that fail to conceal its lack of a political strategy to end the conflict. Iron Dome may shield Israel from Qassam rockets, but it won’t shield it from the future.

Worth adding that in my opinion Morsi came  a short-term winner and Egypt a probable long-term loser.

When Will the Economic Blockade of Gaza End?

↪ When Will the Economic Blockade of Gaza End? - Robert Wright - The Atlantic

President Obama and Bibi Netanyahu are on the same page when it comes to the justification for Israel's bombardment of Gaza. Netanyahu : "No country in the world would agree to a situation in which its population lives under a constant missile threat." Obama: "There's no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders."

It's true that if, say, Canada were lobbing missiles into the US, the US wouldn't tolerate it. But here's another thing the US wouldn't tolerate: If Canada imposed a crippling economic blockade, denying America the import of essential goods and hugely restricting American exports. That would be taken as an act of war, and America would if necessary respond with force--by, perhaps, lobbing missiles into Canada.