David Letwin (Jews for Palestinian Right of Return) interviews Dr. Haidar Eid, Associate Professor, Department of English Literature, Al-Aqsa University, Gaza Strip, Palestine. Dr. Eid is also a one-state activist and a member of Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI).
David Letwin: Many Palestinian solidarity activists in this country put their main efforts into opposing the 1967 occupation and more recently, Israel’s siege of Gaza. But you and other Palestinians have argued that Palestinian refugees’ right to return is at the core of the struggle for justice. Why is this?
Haidar Eid: Zionist dispossession and oppression of Palestinians does not begin with 1967. It goes back to 1948, when more than 750,000 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed from villages and towns in Palestine, and were deported to neighboring countries: Jordan, Lebanon, Syria ,Gaza and the West Bank to make way for an apartheid “Jewish state.”
Then, in 1967, Israel occupied the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and Eastern Jerusalem, which represents the remaining twenty-two percent of historic Palestine.
As a result of this systematic and ongoing ethnic cleansing, fully two-thirds of the Palestinian people are refugees entitled to their right of return to their original homeland, in accordance with United Nations resolution 194. This is the root of the Palestine issue.
Solidarity supporters that only take the cause back to 1967 are ignoring the source of the problem, and reflecting the Zionist Left in Israel, which wants separation of Palestinians from Israeli Jews.
Can this central right of return be realized if there is a Jewish state anywhere in historic Palestine?
No, that is an impossibility. Zionism, by nature, is an exclusionary ideology that doesn’t accept the “Other.” And the “Other,” in Zionist ideology, is the Palestinian — the Arab in the historic land of Palestine. So a Jewish state means the denial of rights to non-Jews. I am from a refugee family, but because I am not born from a Jewish mother, I’m not entitled to citizenship in the state of Israel; I’m not entitled to my right of return.
How does this fit into your analysis of the Two-State versus the One-State Solution?
The two-state solution is a racist solution that calls for a “pure Jewish state”, and a “pure Palestinian state,” both of which would be based on ethno-religious identities. It does not take into account the rights of two-thirds of the Palestinian people. Neither does it take into consideration the national and cultural rights of 1.2 million Palestinian citizens of Israel, who live as second-, if not third-class citizens of the state. This is extremely important.
Furthermore, the Palestinian struggle is not about independence — it is about liberation. Liberation is very different from independence, because our right to self-determination must lead to the right of return and full equality for all inhabitants of the state of Palestine.
The two-state solution is a racist dogma that cannot guarantee all the rights demanded by the 2005 BDS call around which we have a Palestinian consensus: withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Arab lands occupied in 1967; implementation of UN resolution 194, which calls for the right of return of all Palestinian refugees and their descendants; and an end to Israel’s apartheid policies against Palestinian citizens of the state of Israel. I’m sorry that we have solidarity activists who have fallen into the trap of supporting this so-called solution. Would supporters from the United States of America accept a state that officially discriminates against African Americans? Did South African supporters accept the “Bantustan solution”? No, they didn’t! So why accept it for the Palestinians?
And the One-State Solution?
The one-state solution is the only solution through which the Palestinian rights called for by the BDS movement can be achieved. Moreover, it is a very generous compromise from the oppressed colonized to the settler colonialists, offering citizenship in a state with total equality, exactly like what happened in South Africa, where white settlers were offered the same generous compromise by the indigenous population.
This is the 21st century, after all! We are offering a humane, inclusive solution that is not based on ethno-religious identity: a secular state for ALL of its citizens, regardless of religion, ethnicity, gender, etcetera.
If you’re really a supporter of Palestine, you are supposed to support our right to self-determination, which ultimately leads to a secular democratic state throughout all of historic Palestine. Otherwise, you would be supporting a racist solution! I don’t think that genuine support for Palestine excludes Right of Return. If that is the case, then where are the Palestinian refugees supposed to return? To an apartheid state that defines itself in ethno-religious terms? A state that is not their state since it is the state of Jews only?!
In a 2009 interview, BDS leader Omar Barghouti said, “I am completely against bi-nationalism. A secular, democratic state, yes, but not bi-national. There is a big difference.” Do you agree? And what, in your opinion, is the difference?
Yes, I completely agree. A bi-national state by definition is a state made up of two nations. These two nations are historically entitled to the land. But Jews do not constitute a nation. Israeli Jews constitute a settler-colonialist community, not unlike the whites of South Africa or the French in Algeria. Settler colonists are not entitled to self-determination. However, the indigenous people of Palestine, Muslims, Christians and Jews, are all entitled to self-determination and they do constitute a nation.
In fact, bi-nationalism is a Zionist idea since it looks at ALL Jews as a nation that is entitled to the land.
What do you say to people who say, “OK, I agree with what you’re saying. But let’s be honest. Two-states is the only realistic solution, and if you really want to help Palestinians, you should focus on ending the immediate problem of the Occupation and supporting the two-state solution”?
I would say that the one-state solution is more practical/realistic than the two-state solution. South Africa proved that civic democracy for all the inhabitants of South Africa was the way forward; the land of South Africa, according to the Freedom Charter, belongs to ALL those who live on it. That’s a lesson that we need to learn from history.
Israel has shot the two-state solution in the head by creating news facts on the ground: by annexing Jerusalem, having a “Greater Jerusalem,” and by increasing the number of settlers and expanding the existing illegal colonies (all colonies are illegal). In 1993, when the Oslo Accords were signed, the illusion of peace prevailed, unfortunately. People believed that it was possible to have two states: a Palestinian state on twenty-two percent of historic Palestine.
That year, 1993, the number of Jewish settlers in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, was 193,000. Twenty years later, the number of settlers in the West Bank has risen to 600,000. Israeli settlements — or rather the Jewish-only colonies, since Palestinians are not allowed to live there — have become towns and cities. Which means that Israel is not planning to leave the West Bank at all. And during these twenty years, Israel has erected a monstrous apartheid wall that separates Palestinians from Israelis, and Palestinians from Palestinians.
Israel has also transformed the Gaza Strip into a concentration camp (as much as these two words might disturb some people who claim to have monopoly on victimhood), an open-air prison. There is no communication between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The whole issue is personal for me; it is personal for all Palestinians. For example, my sister lives in Bethlehem, just a one-hour drive from Gaza. But I have not been able to see her for fifteen years. When both our parents died back in 2005, she was not able to come to their funerals. That personal experience tells you about the impossibility of having two-states.
So, just to clarify, you don’t support the one-state solution just because a two-state solution has “failed”; you support it because one-state is the only just solution, is that correct?
Absolutely correct. Even if you implemented the two-state solution — which is an impossibility — it does not fulfill the right of self-determination, which is right of return, equality and freedom. The two-state solution doesn’t do that.
At the 2013 Left Forum in New York, Steven Shalom argued that, while unjust, the “two-state solution” nevertheless paves the way for one democratic state and should be supported on that basis. Do you agree?
No, I do not! Does also think that the Anti-apartheid movement should have accepted the Bantustan solution based on the same logic? I have already made it clear in my previous answers and articles as to why that is a fallacy. A racist solution cannot pave the way to a just solution.
Archbishops Desmund Tutu said that “[they] wanted the full menu of rights.” Why are we expected to cater for less than that? I fail to understand.
Is it presumptuous for Jews and other non-Palestinians to endorse the call for one democratic state?
I strongly believe that all solidarity supporters should heed the call for one-state made by the oppressed Palestinians. They should be principled in their support for human rights and democracy as expressed through the Universal Declaration for Human Rights. Does the two-state solution subscribe to that declaration? No. Then logic and principle demands they should support the call for the solution that does, the solution that calls for civic democracy and equality throughout all of historic Palestine.
After all, activists didn’t feel it was presumptuous to support a single democratic state in South Africa, did they? And when the “president” of Transkei called on the international community to support and recognize his “independent homeland,” – his version of the “two-state solution” — international anti-apartheid activists did not buy that line!
And, by the way, most South Africa anti-apartheid activists who have visited Palestine now support the one-state solution. Some of my South African friends and comrades say it very clearly: “The one-state solution is the only solution, because we can’t support a racist solution.” That’s why even the official South African line of supporting a two-state solution is not that popular amongst South African solidarity supporters of Palestine — not to say even amongst members of the cabinet! They know what racism is all about! The five-state solution in South Africa was the brainchild of the architects of Apartheid: White South Africa on 88 per cent of the land, and four “Independent Homelands”/Bantustans for the natives! In fact, the original plan was to have 11 Bantustans, if four was not enough for you!
The solidarity movement supported the call for civic democracy and a secular democratic state in South Africa, because that was the only solution. There could be no compromise, no negotiations with apartheid. The same thing should apply to the Palestine solidarity movement. Why is that so difficult to understand?!
In a recent interview, Noam Chomsky said that the one-state solution was an “illusion” because it “has no international support.” How do you respond?
Did he also add the that the two-state solution has become a facade, a fantasy in the head of those who believe in fantasies? Didn’t he also argue in his latest piece in Mondoweiss that Israel and the US have killed the two-state solution?
Personally, I feel heart-broken when I see an extremely smart thinker like Chomsky missing the point and deciding to adopt a soft-Zionist position! There is something with people like Chomsky and Finkelstein with whom you tend to agree about everything in the world except on Palestine. That’s why, understandably, some BDS and one-state activists in the US call them PEP (Progressive except on Palestine!)
There is an overwhelming international support for our right to self-determination; and this entails our right of return and equality. How is the two-state solution going to deal with these two internationally sanctioned rights? Chomsky fails to provide an answer, unless he thinks we are not entitled to our right of return and equality! He is smart enough to know that the two-state solution is a racist one. Didn’t he think so about the Bantustans of South Africa?!
You recently said, “At one point in time, the BDS movement will be asked to take that stand” in favor of one democratic state. Why has the BDS campaign refrained from taking this stand so far, and should it do so now?
Every activist knows very by now that the BDS movement is rights-based, rights that are guaranteed for ALL human beings regardless of ethnicity, gender, nationality, religion, etcetera. BDS is guided by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. That is why most, if not all, BDS activists are staunch human rights defenders.
I am, nevertheless, aware of tensions arising from the Boycott National Committee’s lack of a political program and its focus on a rights-based approach. This issue is certainly worthy of discussion within the BNC’s secretariat.
But we also need to take into consideration that the BNC is a coalition with all the compromises coalitions have to make in order to work as a front. That is why the BNC has become the frame of reference for international boycott movements. I believe that a good comparison with the South African experience, within this context, can be made, which shouldn’t overlook the role of the United Democratic Front (UDF) that functioned with representation from the National Congress Party, as well as other political parties and civil society organizations in exactly the same manner as the BNC. The UDF adopted two out of what South Africans called the “four pillars of struggle,” namely mass mobilization and the boycott campaign. History stands witness to this approach that contributed immensely to ending apartheid. In my opinion, the BNC has learnt this historical lesson from South Africa. But it took the international community about 30 years to heed the call made by the anti-apartheid movement, whereas the Palestinian BDS call was made in 2005 only.
That is why I think there will come a time when BDS will be asked to take a stand vis-à-vis the one or two-state solution. And I strongly believe that it will come in support of the former.
How is the call for a single secular democratic state throughout historic Palestine connected to other liberation struggles in the region?
When the Arab Spring started in Tunisia and Egypt, Israel was extremely worried because the struggle in the Arab world is for human rights and democracy. And democracy is the antithesis of Zionism; exactly the same way democracy in South Africa was the antithesis of apartheid, and which ultimately led to the end of institutional apartheid there in 1994. (I still think that economic apartheid exists in South Africa, but this is something we can address in another context)
As a Zionist project, Israel knows very well that true democracy in the Arab world would spread and reach Palestine. Israel would be expected by the international community and by the Arab Spring to be truly democratic. That means one person, one vote. And after the right of return, one person, one vote would ultimately lead to the collapse of the Zionist enterprise in Palestine.
That, to my mind, is the link between the Palestinian struggle for freedom, self-determination, and liberation, and the struggle for democracy and human rights in the Arab world.
Speaking of BDS, Norman Finkelstein recently accused the BDS campaign of hypocrisy for appealing to international law when it comes to Palestinian rights, but refusing to respect international resolutions, like the 1947 UN partition, that — he claims — legitimize the existence of the “Jewish state.” How do you respond?
I’m so sorry to hear that from a smart person like Norman Finkelstein.
As US solidarity supporters, you have principles. You can’t reconcile an unjust partition and apartheid with human rights and democracy. Has Norman Finkelstein forgotten that Israel defines itself as the state of Jews only? Do you expect me to recognize something like this, just because the United Nations declared it to be so? We recognize those laws and resolutions, like 194, that are just and reject those, like the partition resolution, that are unjust. That is the way all human rights struggles have operated. How is that hypocritical?
That is how it was in the struggle against apartheid South Africa. Whether it was Norman Finkelstein or his mentor Noam Chomsky, everybody heeded the call by South Africans. We all said, “What do you want, you oppressed, colonized South Africans?” They said, “We want an end to apartheid.” And right now, Palestinians are saying we want an end to Israeli apartheid.
And I would have understood him had he supported the two-state solution based on UN resolution 181, passed in 1947; it offered to partition Palestine into an Arab and a Jewish state as THE solution! It is a very unfair and problematic resolution in that it offered the Jewish minority (660,000 out of 2 million people) the larger part of the land (56%). This 56 percent, offered to the Jews, included an equal number of Jews and Palestinians. And since most Zionists, soft or not, fought for a Jewish majority in Palestine, that ultimately led to the NAKBAH, i.e, an orchestrated process of ethnic cleansing. Two-staters, such as Finkelstein, do say that a Palestinian state should be established on 44 per cent of Palestine based on UN resolutions!
So I would argue that it’s Norman Finkelstein who’s being hypocritical, because he is unwilling to do for Palestinians what he and all other activists did for South Africans. And in fact, he’s being Zionist and racist when he actually expects us Palestinians to listen to what he has to say in the first place. No, excuse me — he is supposed to listen to what *we* have to say. Unless he has decided to ignore the fact that the 2005 BDS call has been endorsed by the overwhelming majority of Palestinian Civil Society, including National and Islamist forces! Is that not enough for you if you were a genuine supporter of Palestine?
It has been twenty years since Oslo Accords were signed. What effect did these accords, and the so-called “Peace Process,” have on the struggle for the core Palestinian rights called for by BDS: equality, right of return, and end of Occupation?
I’ll sum it by quoting Edward Said in 1993: the Oslo Accords are a second Nakba. Oslo has reduced the Palestinian people to those who only live in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, while excluding Palestinian refugees and Palestinian citizens of the state of Israel. Oslo never alluded to Palestinian’s right to return to their villages and towns from which they were ethnically cleansed in 1948 and never alluded to equality in the 1948 territories. Oslo basically codified and legitimized the ethnic cleansing — the Nakba — of 1948.
Oslo also gave a false impression to the international community that you have “two equal parties” — Palestinians on the one hand, and the Israelis on the other — engaged in “dialogue” to solve their problem. But there are not two equal parties. There is no dialogue. There is an apartheid regime seeking to perpetuate its rule on the one hand, and an indigenous people struggling for their inalienable rights on the other.
Rather than acknowledging the necessity of disassembling this apartheid regime once and for all, Oslo fetishized the trappings of statehood, that if you offer Palestinians a flag and a red carpet for its president and a national anthem, then you have solved the Palestinian question once and for all!
Going back to Norman Finkelstein: you have the struggle of colonized Palestinians against settler colonialists — thanks to the BDS movement, thanks to the formation of the BNC, thanks to the formation of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, and thanks to the revival of the one-state idea. You have intellectuals and activists like Edward Said, Azmi Bishara, Ali Abunimah, Omar Barghouti, Ramzy Baroud, Joesph Masaad, Ilan Pappe and all these people who have decided to say farewell to the two-state solution, and to endorse the one-state solution.
As solidarity supporters you need to support democracy and human rights — the same principles you followed in the Eighties against apartheid South Africa. You didn’t waste time discussing the practicalities of having Bantustans in South Africa. So you need to join us in putting the two-state solution on the shelf in a museum, because it delays our liberation, and support our call for one-state.
- David Letwin is a member of Jews for Palestinian Right of Return. Dr. Haidar Eid is an Associate Professor in the Department of English Literature, Al-Aqsa University, Gaza Strip, Palestine. Dr. Eid is also a one-state activist and a member of Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI).
Deir Istiya, Occupied Palestine – The village of Deir Istiya has encountered severe disruption to its agriculture and water supply since 1990 from the Israeli authorities and nearby illegal settlements. This has culminated in the Israeli army’s planned action to uproot nearly 2,500 olive trees in the very near future.
The army’s mandate to perform this action stems from a court ruling given in May 2013 that gave permission for them to cut down all olives trees in the Wadi Kana (a valley making up a large part of the village’s farmland) that are under two years old. However trees that were planted over five years ago have been included in the marking action over the last five months, a marking action typically precludes the actual uprooting process.
On the 26th of November, four men in civilian clothing marked 157 more trees across the village farmland. Before the army actually begins the action, under Israeli law, they have to inform lawyers representing the village of the date that this will commence. Although from past experience, villagers across the West Bank have not received such prior warning in similar cases. If the army succeeds with its plan, the destruction of more than 2,500 olive trees will decimate the village’s agriculture and economy, destroying the livelihoods of many of the 4,000 inhabitants of Deir Istiya.
This is the latest in a long line of aggressive acts that the Israeli government, army, courts and nearby illegal settlers have inflicted upon the people of this village. In 1990 nearby settlers deposited sewage from three separate illegal settlements into the 12 springs that provided water for the village. This water was crucial for the irrigation of the traditional crops of the village, lemon and orange trees. As water became scarce for the village, the farmers abandoned the orange and lemon crops, replacing them with olive trees due to the fact they require far less water. This is typical of the Israeli state to dramatically reduce the Palestinians methods for survival only to attempt to snatch away the small ray of hope that they have managed to build for themselves in the face of such adverse conditions.
Moreover, on the 23th of November, illegal settlers from a nearby settlement trespassed on Palestinian land in order to steal 100 meters of fencing material. The purpose of this fence was to protect a number of olive trees from pigs that have infested the area since Israeli settlers began releasing them for the exact purpose of disrupting Palestinian olive farming.
Yusuf Fahri Mussa Ahleil, 1995-2011
Yusuf Fahri Mussa Ahleil, aged 16, was shot and killed on January 28th, 2011, probably by a settler. The prosecution took 14 months to appoint an attorney to the case, and eventually closed it due to lack of evidence.
Many of the posts in this blog deal with the incompetence of Israeli police investigations, and it’s possible that the death of Yusuf Fahri Mussa Ahleil, a 16-year old boy from Beit ‘Ummar, will be added to this list; but for the time being, it is a story of criminal negligence on behalf of the prosecution.
On January 28th, 2011, something happened in the village of Beit Ummar in the Hebron region. The testimonies describe an assault by Israeli civilians from two different directions simultaneously. Both incidents involved shooting; the second one ended in death. Witnesses describe a large group of Israeli civilians raiding the village, among whom three fired at the Palestinians using weapons, likely M-16 assault rifles. According to one of the witnesses, the Israelis were conducting some sort of ceremony, blew a shofar, and then opened fire. The witnesses agree that no military troops were present and that they arrived only after the shooting.
When it was all over, Yusuf Ahleil, who was on his way to help his father with his work in the field, lay dead on the ground. The testimony of the father, Fahri, is worth quoting: “I work in agriculture, and that is my main profession. During their vacations the children help me. Before I went to work [on the morning of the incident] I asked my son Yusuf to come with me to work later during the day. At some point I heard the sound of gunshots; I did not know what it was about and kept on working. And then, I don’t remember the time, some people from the village came with a vehicle and asked to take me home. I did not understand why – I refused but they insisted, took me with them and brought me back home. When we arrived, I saw that most of the village was gathered next to my house. I asked what happened? I was told, your son was shot. I said, how can that be? We agreed that he should join me at work. This is how I learned that my son, while on his way to work with me, had been wounded by the settlers.” Yusuf was shot in the head, and died.
The family filed a complaint with the police that same day. From that point onwards, our monitoring tells the story. On February 16th, 2011, the police informed us that the case was under investigation. On March 14th, 2011, it told us it received testimonies and photographs, and asked that we provide any further information we may come across. On May 2nd, 2011, the police informed us that the case had been transferred to the Jerusalem District Prosecution Office.
On June 5th, 2011, we called the Jerusalem District Attorney Office to ask which prosecuting attorney is handling the case. None had yet been appointed. We asked the same office again on August 24th, 2011, i.e. almost seven months after the incident, but the prosecution did not consider the violent death – this fact is not disputed – of a 16-year old boy as something requiring the immediate attention of an attorney. We repeated our query in September 25th, 2011. We might as well be speaking to the walls.
October 24th came and went, and the death of Yusuf still did not hinder the sleep of the prosecutors. We had reached December 15th, 2011, and the boy who had dropped dead from a bullet in his head still failed to arouse the interest of the prosecutors. On January 15th, 2012, almost a year since he had been killed, Yusuf’s prosecution file was still gathering dust. We kept on pestering, and on March 20th, 2012 – that is almost 14 months since the killing – we were informed that on this happy day a prosecutor had been assigned to the case. A week later, we tried to verify with her what steps she she had taken with the case so far. We were not dignified with an answer.
We repeated the question, to no avail, two months later. We are stubborn people, studied in the ways of banging our heads against the system’s wall, so we asked once again on July 30th, 2012 whether the prosecutors made any decision – four months since a prosecutor had been assigned to the case, and more than 18 months since the killing itself, but who’s counting. We did not receive a response.
On January 3rd, 2013, nearly two years after the killing and nine months after a prosecutor was assigned to the case, she still had no answer for us. Six months breezed by, and on August 4th, 2013, the prosecutor informed us that on July 30th, 2013, she had made the decision to close the case. The police had identified four suspects; the prosecutor closed the case against three of them for lack of evidence and against the fourth, for lack of criminal culpability.
That was the beginning of August. Since then we’ve been trying to get a hold of the investigative file so we can appeal the decision to close it. Until recently, the prosecution had failed in the rather simple job of providing us with it. There were contradictory claims as to what happened to it. The prosecution said it was sent back to the Hebron Police, which in turn said they never got it back. We are happy to report, however, that recently the file was found, photocopied, and will be reviewed by us soon.
Let’s conduct a mental experiment. Let’s say the victim is still 16 years old, still residing in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, but is not burdened with a foreign, Palestinian, name like Yussuf Alhleil; let’s say his name is something familiar, say Yossi Hebroni. Our hypothetical Yossi Hebroni was shot near a Palestinian village. Can anyone imagine that the prosecution would amble slowly to the case after 14 months? Or that it would need 16 more months to make up its mind?
The prosecution is entrusted, since Israel controls the Occupied Palestinian Territories, with protecting its residents from violence. When they are the victims of theft, it ought to bring the thief to justice. When they are killed, its duty is to bring justice for the dead.
The case of Yusuf Fahri Mussa Alhleil shows us how seriously the prosecution takes this duty. It removes another thin layer of the already crumbling patina of the claim that there is something you may refer to with a straight face as “rule of law” in the West Bank. Where the rule of law is absent, what we see is the law of nature, where the strong rule over the weak. The point of our social contract with the government is to overcome nature’s law, under which, to quote Hobbes, life is “nasty, brutish and short.” In the most gentle words possible, in Yusuf’s case – and, unfortunately, in far too many others – the prosecution has betrayed the social contract.
The result that there is the father who waits in vain for his son to return to him in the field, and killers who know that nothing will happen to them if they kill once more.
- Israeli admits shooting at Palestinian children on TV game show (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Nablus woman injured in hit and run vehicular assault by Jewish settler (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Jewish Terrorism (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Outrage as Palestinian child faces possible life prison sentence for throwing stones (gazasolidarity.blogspot.com)
- Israel to displace Palestinian community south of Hebron (altahrir.wordpress.com)
Palestinian medical sources have reported that a Palestinian woman was wounded after being rammed by a speeding vehicle of an Israeli settler, near the northern West Bank city of Nablus on Tuesday.
The sources said that Shamsa Sharif, 60 years of age, was moved to the Rafidia Hospital in Nablus, suffering moderate but stable injuries.
Sharif is from Huwwara village, south of Nablus. The settler fled the scene after the incident.
There have been numerous similar hit-and-run incidents in different parts of the occupied West Bank, mainly in the Hebron district in the southern portion of the West Bank.
On November 19, 2013, a young woman identified as Zeina Omar Awad, 21, was injured after being rammed by a settler’s vehicle at the main entrance of Beit Ummar. She suffered cuts and bruises, while the settler fled the scene.
On October 16, 2013, an elderly Palestinian man was seriously injured after being hit by a settler’s vehicle in Al-Fondoq village, east of Qalqilia, in the northern part of the West Bank.
On September 29, 2013, a Palestinian worker was injured after being rammed by a settler’s vehicle, near Husan town, west of the West Bank city of Bethlehem.
On September 20, a Palestinian man was injured in a similar accident with an Israeli settler who fled the scene.
A week before the incident took place, Palestinian child was severely injured after being hit by a settlers’ vehicle as she was walking home from school in Teqoua’ village, near the West Bank city of Bethlehem.
The child Hayat Mohammad Suleiman, 8 years of age, was walking back home from school on the main road that is also utilized by Israeli settlers living in illegal Israeli settlements in the region.
- Elderly man seriously injured by speeding Jewish settler in hit and run assault (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Dozens injured after jewish terrorists attack Palestinian villagers nr. Nablus (uprootedpalestinians.wordpress.com)
F. was attacked on his land by settlers, and received an unsubtle hint from the police about its biases
Meet F., He lives in a village in the Ramallah and Al Bireh District, which unfortunately for its residents borders several settlements and outposts. As a result, the residents have virtually lost all access to their land, as they have to coordinate such access with the military; twice a year, they are permitted access for several days. The settlers, naturally, don’t have to coordinate anything whatsoever and have access to the same land whenever they want it. F. estimates that each year, about 80% of his olives are stolen before he even manages to come and harvest them.
This year, F. went along with a few family members to the olive harvest, and when he reached his land he noticed several Israeli soldiers. The soldiers were leaving the property, however; half an hour later three Israeli civilians, one of them armed with a rifle, showed up. They demanded that F. evacuate his land, and when he refused, the gunman pointed the rifle at him and started threatening him; F. refused to obey, and shouted for the soldier’s help.
A brawl erupted, three Israelis vs. a single Palestinian. The gunman beat F. up with his rifle. During the brawl, F. – armed with a saw – did what he could to defend himself, and as a result one of the settlers was slightly wounded. Lo and behold: as soon as he was wounded, the soldiers arrived and stopped the brawl. To their credit, the soldiers prevented the Israelis from continuing their assault on F.
Half an hour later, the police arrived at the scene. A policewoman took the statements of the Israelis, and a policeman took F.’s statement. Nobody bothered taking the statements of F.’s relatives, who were nearby and had witnessed the attack. The soldiers were divided: one claimed that F. attacked the Israelis, another soldier supported him and said he had been attacked. At the end, F. was taken to the police station for interrogation, as was one of the Israelis; the other two Israelis, the gunman among them, were discharged immediately.
At the police station, F. underwent what he described as a hostile interrogation, during which he was treated as the attacker. Let us repeat the facts: F. was on his land, during harvest time, in one of the only days the army allows him to reach his land. Did the police take the claim seriously that he attacked three Israelis (what were they doing there, anyway?), one of whom was armed with a rifle?
But there’s one little detail that tells us all we need to know. As mentioned above, F. and one of the Israelis were both taken to the police station. When their interrogation was over, the police drove the Israeli home; they left F. on the road, to find his own way home.
It’s a minor, unimportant detail, not related directly to the investigation – but it tells us clearly who is seen by the police as the public it serves and who is at best a nuisance. F., when he finally made it home, did not expect his complaint to have any effect; the next time he is attacked, he may not bother to make a complaint. The time after that, he may realize what he is expected to do, despair of maintaining his land and move elsewhere. After all, in a place where the police only interrogate one of your attackers, refrain from confiscating the weapon used to attack you, and then drive your attacker home while ditching you on the road – what’s the point of expecting justice? And without the assurance that there is someone who will prevent injustice – be it theft, arson or assault – what point is there in tilling the land?
And that’s how it works.
Related article by Yossi Gurvitz:
A 16-year-old Palestinian stabbed an Israeli soldier to death on a bus on Wednesday in an attack apparently motivated by the jailing of his relatives in Israel, police said.
The death came as Israel backtracked on an announced plan to expand illegal settlements in the West Bank, calling for “intelligent and coordinated” construction despite international condemnation.
The killing, in the town of Afula in Occupied Palestine, follows a surge in violence in the West Bank, where 10 Palestinians have been shot dead by Israeli troops and three Israelis killed since peace talks resumed in July.
Israel’s northern police commander, Ronny Attia, said the attacker was from the West Bank town of Jenin, and that he was in custody.
According to police, the Palestinian youth did not have a permit to be inside Israel.
“By his account, his uncles are in prison in Israel and this is the reason he decided to carry out the terrorist attack,” Attia said.
Israel refers to many acts of protest against the decades-long occupation – whether violent or non-violent – as terrorism.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the soldier, aged 18, was pronounced dead in hospital.
The attack occurred a day before the one-year anniversary of the Israeli Pillar of Cloud offensive on Gaza, in which six Israelis and more than 100 Palestinian civilians were killed in eight days.
Peace talks orchestrated by US Secretary of State John Kerry have faced serious obstacles, including the high rate of Palestinians incarcerated in Israeli prisons, many in indefinite administrative detention, as well as extensive plans to expand Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
A report by British newspaper The Guardian on Tuesday revealed that Israeli troops conducted mock arrests and raids in the West Bank without informing the local population that their actions were drills, causing extreme distress to many Palestinians.
The attack came as Israel’s Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz urged “coordinated” settlement building, a day after a new plan for settler homes in the West Bank drew international condemnation.
Settlements in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem and the West Bank “must be done in an intelligent and coordinated way,” Steinitz told Israeli public radio on Wednesday.
The settlements are deemed illegal under international law.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu late Tuesday cancelled plans to build 20,000 new settler homes in the West Bank, hours after their announcement sparked US and Palestinian criticism.
State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki had said Washington was not only concerned by the initial announcement, but also “surprised” and sought an explanation from Israel.
She repeated the longstanding US position on settlements that “we do not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity.”
Netanyahu then ordered Israeli Housing Minister Uri Ariel “to reconsider all of the steps for evaluating planning potential (for the settler homes) that he distributed without any advance coordination,” the premier’s office said.
(Reuters, AFP, Al-Akhbar)
One morning last September, Nadel Shafiq Taher Shatiya heard the loudspeakers of the mosque in his village, in the Nablus region, announce that settlers were approaching the village’s land. Shatiya, a photojournalist by trade, grabbed two cameras and raced to the scene.
Based on his account, it turns out that when he arrived, several tractors and settlers – who, according to the reports received by Shatiya, came from thenearby Elon Moreh settlement – were trying to plough the village’s lands while several dozen Palestinian farmers tried to expel them. A settlement security vehicle showed up, and two settlers stepped out of it (Shatiya believes he can identify them), and started shooting live ammo at the farmers. Some of them took cover; Shatiya kept taking photos. That’s his job.
About ten minutes later, a large IDF force arrived at the scene, and did what it usually does: joined the settlers. The soldiers fired tear gas canisters and stun grenades at the farmers, and as the area is full of dry thorns, a fire broke out. The Palestinian farmers tried to put it out, and the two armed settlers demanded that the troops stop them (Yours truly was present for another incident, in which IDF soldiers fired at Palestinians who tried to put out a fire which had erupted after a demonstration due to canister fire.) The soldiers confronted the Palestinians, and Shatiya saw – and documented – one of the soldiers pull out a knife and threaten one of the farmers.
Our brave troops don’t know how to deal with nonviolent resistance. Major General (res.) ‘Amon Gilad became famous abroad when he told the American embassy “we don’t do Ghandi very well.” In such cases, the IDF’s instinct is to use excessive force. It makes for bad publicity, and the soldiers know that – so they try to suppress the evidence.
Shortly after Shatiya photographed the knife-wielding soldier, other soldiers assaulted him and took his cameras and camera bag from him. He witnessed another soldier tearing a phone out of the hands of a farmer, who was using it to document the incident; the farmer was beaten and detained.
So far, no surprises. Anyone who has either served in the West Bank or demonstrated there is familiar with the loving care the soldiers lavish on photographers. But in Shatiya’s case, the story underwent an unusual twist: the soldiers took his cameras to an officer, who turned them over, along with his camera bag, to a settler. Shatiya protested to the officer, saying “you’re in charge of security, and if, as part of your duty, you want to confiscate the cameras, keep them; why do you give them to the settler?” In return, the officer blamed Shatiya for the fire. Later on, Shatiya saw a settler moving among the detained Palestinians, telling the soldiers who should be kept in detention.
Turning the cameras over to the settler caused some fuss, with Israeli DCO officers telling the army it had no authority to detain journalists or confiscate their cameras, that only policemen may do so. This is inaccurate, by the way: in the West Bank soldiers have the same authority as cops, until the latter reach the scene. The Military Commander is the sovereign in the West Bank, as it is legally considered to be held under belligerent occupation; the police only act in the West Bank because they have been delegated that authority by the Military Commander. In the end, several officials promised Shatiya he’d get his cameras back, but afterwards they simply ignored and then began avoiding him.
Some 12 days after the incident, the Israeli DCO contacted the Palestinian DCO, and informed the latter Shatiya could come and retrieve his cameras. He found them broken and rubbed with sand. The damage to the cameras is estimated at 21,000 NIS (about 6,000 USD). That’s what happens when you try to document the most moral army between the Jordan and the Mediterranean while it fails to move into Ghandi mode.
So, to sum it up, we’ve had settler violence, immediately backed up by the army; the destruction of evidence by soldiers, using a settler for this purpose; yet another example of problematic cooperation between soldiers and settlers, where a settler tells soldiers who to detain and they obey, and, finally, another example of the security forces in the West bank misunderstanding their role. There’s a strain of thinking in Israel, particularly among the center and on the left, which says that the problem in the West Bank is the settlers, and that the soldiers are not at fault.
But the soldiers know full well that they are at fault – Had they felt no guilt, they wouldn’t have felt the need to destroy evidence, and they would neither have broken the farmer’s cell phone nor given Shatiya’s cameras to a settler, in order to rid themselves of responsibility for taking the cameras away from him. In the West Bank, the soldiers and the settlers are part of the same pattern, the pattern of an occupation whose inner logic is annexation by a quiet population transfer of the Palestinians.
Yizhak Shamir, an Israeli prime minister, once said that one is allowed to lie for Eretz Israel (the ‘Land of Israel”). The IDF soldiers take this one step further: in the name of Eretz Israel, they destroy evidence and intimidate journalists and innocent civilians.
Sam Mayfield | October 2, 2009
Settlement expansion in the Occupied Territories of Palestine is about more than constructing houses for Jewish settlers. Palestinian farmland is being turned into industrial space. Illegal outposts on Palestinian land are protected by Israeli military. Roads, if Palestinians are allowed to drive on them, are often blocked without warning.
I toured Illegal settlements and outposts in the West Bank with Dror Etkes.
Israel orders destruction of village olive grove in retaliation for kids alleged stone throwing at soldiers
The Israeli military has issued demolition orders for hundreds of Palestinian olive trees in the village of Yabad, in the northern West Bank, following threats that if kids kept throwing stones at soldiers, the army would destroy the village’s olive trees.
The village is located west of Jenin, in the northern part of the West Bank, and depends largely on the annual olive harvest for its income.
According to local sources, the military placed notices in Hebrew and Arabic on trees throughout the main olive grove in town, saying that they will be uprooted by military order.
Over a million olive trees have been uprooted by the Israeli occupation forces since 2000, and the destruction continues to take place on a regular basis. The destruction of olive trees, both by Israeli settlers and the Israeli military, is concentrated during the olive harvest season of October and November each year, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinian farmers head to their groves to harvest their olives for that year.
The mayor of the village of Yabad told the Ma’an News Agency that a few days before these military orders were issued, the soldiers had come into town and told the villagers that if kids in the town kept throwing stones at the soldiers when they invade the town, the army would come back and cut down all the olive trees in town.
- Palestinian villagers face attacks during olive harvest (letthesilencering.wordpress.com)
Later this month Palestinians will be celebrating an important anniversary, namely the decision by the UN General Assembly a year ago to recognise Palestine as a non-member observer state.
But not with much joy, I suspect.
Its upgraded status enables Palestine to now take part in UN debates and join bodies like the International Criminal Court (ICC). Predictably, Israel flew into a rage at the prospect and said the move pushed the peace process “backwards”, while the US said it was “unfortunate”.
So what has the Palestinian leadership done with this precious gift of empowerment from the international community?
In March this year the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, concluding four years of investigations, called for the ICC to investigate “crimes” committed by Israel in the occupied territories. The Tribunal said it would “support all initiatives from civil society and international organisations aimed at bringing Israel in front of the International Criminal Court”. Since Palestine was awarded observer status at the UN the previous November, it could file complaints on its own behalf against Israel with the Court. The tribunal also called on the ICC to recognise Palestinian jurisdiction and for an extraordinary session of the United Nations Special Committee against Apartheid, set up for South Africa, to examine the Israeli case.
Also in March the United Nations Human Rights Council said Israeli settlements in the West Bank were a “creeping form of annexation” and the international community should take steps to halt business ties with those communities. Their report claimed that Israel could be culpable for these acts before the International Criminal Court. The mission asked Israel to withdraw its settlers from the West Bank and East Jerusalem and urged the international community to comply with their obligation under international law to act.
In April senior Palestinian officials were saying that if Israel began construction in the area designated “E-1″ , a piece of land in the West Bank adjacent to Jerusalem seized by Israel in 1967, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas would join the ICC and seek indictments on war crimes charges. It is believed that Israel’s administration had just given provisional permission to build some 3,300 Jewish homes on E-1.
Palestinians say that Israeli construction there would make an independent Palestinian state virtually impossible because it would cut off East Jerusalem (which is Palestinian) from the rest of the West Bank.
But why is Abbas waiting for the bulldozers to go into E-1 when there’s a long list of other examples of criminal settlement building and atrocities that Israel ought to be charged with?
In June Dr. Saeb Erekat, Palestine’s chief negotiator, was criticising the policies being pushed by Israeli PM Netanyahu “including aggressive settlement activity, home demolitions, evictions and ID revocations. This is part of Israel’s plan to destroy any possibility for a Palestinian State, by annexing and changing the status quo of Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley and other vast areas of the Occupied State of Palestine”.
The Israeli government, with its destructive policies, was determined to make US Secretary Kerry’s efforts fail, he said. Israel’s actions made it clear they were declaring the end of the two-state solution. The international community should be pushing Israel to implement previous agreements and adhere to international law instead of calling for a resumption of negotiations. “There is a new urgency to face reality and finally hold Israel accountable for destroying the prospects of justice and peace.”
Israel was turning up its aggression against the Palestinian people while we were trying to reach a negotiated solution, grumbled Erekat. “After the announcement to intensify negotiations made by US Secretary John Kerry, Israel destroyed the village of Khirbet Makhoul for the fourth time and approved further settlement expansion aimed at sealing Occupied East Jerusalem from Ramallah.”
Palestinian leadership shows no sign of starting the justice ball rolling
“Our position is clear and in line with international law: all Israeli settlements in Palestine are illegal… and undermine the prospects of a negotiated two-state solution. If Israel is serious about peace, they must cease all settlement activities.” Erekat again demanded action by the rest of the world “to make Israel pay the price for its institutionalized defiance of international law and UN resolutions”.
But there was still no sign of his own people – the Palestinian Authority and the PLO – taking action on their own account, or at least starting the ball rolling, even though the international community had given them the wherewithall to do so.
Now I hear that Israel is drilling into 3.5 billion barrels of oil reserves straddling the armistice ‘green line’, most of it lying under the West Bank. According to official agreements, says Al-Jazeera, “Israel is obligated to coordinate any exploration for natural resources in shared territory with the Palestinian Authority, and reach agreements on how to divide the benefits.”
Ashraf Khatib, an official at the Palestinian Authority’s negotiations support unit, described the oil field as part of Israel’s “general theft of Palestinian national resources… the occupation is not just about settlements and land confiscation. Israel is also massively profiting from exploiting our resources. There’s lots of money in it for Israel, which is why the occupation has become so prolonged.”
And, of course, the world knows how the Palestinians are prevented from benefiting from their offshore gas field and how, if Israel has its way, they’ll never get a sniff of their own gas either.
‘Life in Palestine is subject to the rule of the jungle’
Since the beginning of the Oslo process over 20 years ago, the rights of the Palestinian people have been sacrificed on the altar of so-called political progress, the glittering prize being ‘peace and security’. But that was never really on the cards. All we’ve seen is a continuous slide downhill for the Palestinians while the Israelis’ colonisation and expansion programme goes from strength to strength. “In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the expansion of settlements continues relentlessly, while the illegal Annexation Wall creates a situation that is completely at odds with both international law and the stated goals of the peace process,” says Shawan Jabarin in an excellent article Time for the ICC to act on Palestine.
“Life in Palestine is subject to the rule of the jungle: generals and politicians know that they can violate the law with impunity, fuelling a continuous cycle of violations and suffering. The result has been an increase in war crimes committed against innocent civilians. Throughout Palestine we are struggling for the right to live, and the right to live in dignity.”
Talking of the right to live in dignity, only today I was reading how some of the Palestinian villages are used by Israel for military training exercises in which soldiers enjoy virtual impunity with regard to their cruel behavior in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, the pretext being that the Israeli military is the sovereign authority over the whole territory. “This edict contradicts international law and numerous United Nations resolutions that question the Israeli claim to sovereignty over all Palestinian land,” reports IMEMC .
The Israeli military frequently invades Palestinian towns and villages, with soldiers running through streets and alleys with loaded automatic weapons, ransacking homes and terrorizing residents, for the purposes of ‘training’. Residents and the human rights groups representing them have provided numerous examples of the soldiers tearing through homes and yards, breaking into houses, running up and down stairs and taking over rooftops of family homes as part of these exercises.
It’s bad enough that villages experience actual Israeli military invasions on a regular basis. Now, since the military makes no attempt to differentiate between an invasion and a ‘training exercise’, the villagers are just as terrorized as they are during real raids.
Wasting that all-important empowerment on a dumb promise
International justice remains out of reach for millions of civilians because the corrupt US, UK and EU political establishments conspire to ‘persuade’ Palestine not to join the ICC or press war crimes charges and other complaints against racist Israel. The Office of the Prosecutor at the ICC, meanwhile, is waiting for Palestine to ratify the Statute of the International Criminal Court and become a full member if it wishes to commence proceedings.
To pretend there is something wrong with pursuing a brutal oppressor for war crimes through the proper channels – that is, the ICC – while talking peace, is absurd. No peace is sustainable unless it’s underpinned by international law and justice.
So a week ago I sent a ‘press enquiry’ to the Palestinian Embassy in London, addressed to Ambassador Hassassian. It said:
“What is the PA/PLO doing, please, to regularise its position regarding the ICC statute and satisfy any remaining requirements for exercising its membership rights and bringing charges against Israel for its crimes?
“What still remains to be done and why the continuing delay after the international community cleared the way and unpgraded Palestine’s status?”
No reply, no acknowledgement, despite follow-up phone messages. Silence speaks volumes and is par for the course when dealing with Palestinian officials.
However, I’ve heard it said that Abbas promised Kerry not to seek justice through the ICC during the nine months or more the going-nowhere peace talks will be… well, going nowhere. That takes us by my reckoning to May next year, or beyond. And he gave the undertaking without wringing from the Israelis a corresponding promise to halt settlement planning, construction and enlargement.
Welcome to the Palestinian School of Appeasement.
Every now and then we run across stories in the Jewish media that are amusing for their unintended humor. Several days ago the Jewish Press published an article about West Bank Palestinians who crept into a Jewish-owned olive grove, apparently in the night, and stole a number of bushels of olives, breaking off tree branches in the process.
The story—a total of five paragraphs—is written by Yori Yanover, who, in common with most Israelis, refers to Palestinians not as Palestinians but as “Arabs,” and who additionally applies the word “thugs” to the particular thieves in question. (Truly a masterpiece of journalistic objectivity). We also are informed the theft took place at a Jewish-owned farm located between the West Bank settlements of Shiloh and Eli:
Someone should alert Philip Gordon – the US Middle East Czar who was so adamant in his condemnation of those pesky Jewish settlers out to ruin Arab olive trees, he should express at least the same amount of rage at what has taken place today in the Eretz HaTzvi farm, between the towns of Shiloh and Eli.
According to a report by the Tazpit news agency, Jewish farmers who arrived Thursday at the olive grove belonging to Eretz HaTzvi, discovered that Arab thugs had stolen bushels of olives and broke off tree branches. The damage is estimated in tens of thousands of dollars.
Note: we are talking about Jewish farmers who decided to grow their olive trees on stolen Palestinian land—and who now feel put upon because the people they stole the land from pilfered some of their olives. But that angle to the story seems to escape Yanover.
The author also goes on to quote one of the farmers, who speaks of “telltale signs” left by “Arab fruit thieves,” thus arousing our sympathy by letting us know that he, poor fellow, has had to deal with this sort of heinous thievery in the past:
“I arrived at the grove a short while ago, and from the highway I recognized the telltale sign of Arab fruit thieves – Jute sacks that were spread on the ground. Walking around the grove I identified many broken branches and a large amount of olives that fell out of the thieves’ sacks.”
Again note: we’re talking about some broken branches. Nothing is mentioned about whole trees being uprooted or destroyed. In fact, here is one of the photos that accompany the story. You’ll notice, of course, that a limb has been broken from a tree but that the tree itself is still standing:
And here is a second photo that accompanies the article. Again notice, a few broken limbs in the foreground, with unharmed, whole trees standing in the background.
I want to be clear: I do not think theft is ever justified, whether it be a single olive or an entire parcel of land. But at the same time it can be useful to us to put things into perspective. I have posted numerous articles about Palestinian olive groves that have been attacked and vandalized by Jewish settlers (see here, here, here, here, here, and here ). In many of these instances, whole trees have been uprooted or destroyed, and in some cases the number of trees destroyed was in the hundreds. But apparently many Jews are incapable of seeing things from the perspective of their victims. Here is a sampling of comments that accompanied the Jewish Press article:
The commenters seem almost out of touch with reality in a certain sense. But in the interest, again, of perspective, here’s a little dose of reality. The following comes from a report published last year entitled “When Settlers Attack,” by Yousef Munayyer for the Palestine Center:
- Israeli settler violence presents a direct and consistent threat to Palestinian civilians and their property in the occupied West Bank and instances of Israeli settler violence are on the rise.
- From 2010 to 2011 there was a 39 percent increase in incidents of Israel Settler violence. In the five year period from 2007 through 2011 there has been a 315 percent increase. Conversely, over the same 5-year period, there has been a 95 percent decrease in Palestinian violence in the West Bank.
- There is a noticeable shift in the proportion of violence as it occurs geographically in the West Bank. In the past, the southern part of the West Bank saw the largest number of instances but in recent years the northern part of the West Bank is becoming increasingly targeted and has overtaken the southern part of the West Bank in terms of number of attacks.
- The period of the olive harvest annually brings a peak in violent settler activity. The presence of Palestinian civilians in olive groves, where they are easy targets for unrestrained and violent Israeli settlers, is the main reason why this occurs on an annual basis.
- There is a noticeable increase in the frequency and proportion of arson attacks employed by violent settlers. This suggests that violent settlers are increasingly choosing this method of violence and will continue to do so. The percentage of arson among all attack types in 2005 was 6 percent and has risen to 11 percent in 2011.
- While minimal variation in Israeli settler violence over time can be explained as a response to Israeli state actions against settlements, like the dismantlement of outposts, the vast majority of Israeli settler violence is not responsorial but rather structural and symptomatic of occupation.
- Over 90 percent of all Palestinian villages which have experienced multiple instances of Israeli settler violence are in areas which fall under Israeli security jurisdiction.
At the top of this piece I referred to Yanover’s article as providing us with “unintended humor,” and so it does. But what I also detect in it is an element of self pity.