I have accepted an offer from Sky News tomorrow to discuss anti-Semitism in the UK, where I shall argue that opponents of Israeli policy are being tarred with anti-Semitism in an witch-hunt.
I do this with some trepidation, because the media hype has become so hysterical that I am certain to face accusations of anti-Semitism myself for daring to question the narrative that has gripped the corporate media and political elite. But witch-hunts succeed because not enough decent people have the courage to stand against them; I imagine Sky contacted an awful lot of people who refused to do it before they worked all the way down to me.
Nor am I expecting to get a level playing field from the Murdoch media on which to argue my point. As I doubt I shall get a chance to put my case without interruption, this is what I am going to be trying to say.
Real anti-Semitism does exist and is to be deplored without reservation. Thankfully it is much rarer in the UK than in many other European countries.
There is a deliberate ploy by Israel to brand Palestinian sympathisers and critics of the Israeli state as anti-Semitic, in order to delegitimise criticism of Israel, as the settlements programme makes any two state solution completely non-viable.
Support for Israel is a clear dividing issue between Corbynites and Blairites. The Blairites are hopeless and defeated, so are seizing on the meme that critic of Israel equals anti-semite as a means to undermine Corbyn and create a leadership crisis
They have the tool to amplify this as the corporate media, like the political “elite”, are massively more pro-Israel in their sympathies than the great bulk of the population.
I think the chances of my getting to say much of that on air are pretty limited!
Palestinian medical sources confirmed that the Palestinian woman, who was killed by Israeli army fire, on Wednesday, did not carry an explosive belt as the army claimed, but was instead five months pregnant, and “her only fault was walking the wrong route and not understanding Hebrew.”
The Israeli police and army tried to come up with various allegations, including the usual claim of “carrying a knife,” and then tried to claim that she “was wearing an explosive belt,” while the only thing she “carried” was her fetus.
The slain woman has been identified as Maram Saleh Abu Ismael, 24, a mother of two children; Sarah, 6, and Remas, 4. Her brother, Ibrahim Taha, only sixteen years of age, was also killed as he was walking with her, heading to Jerusalem, after she obtained for the first time, a permit to enter the city.
Contrary to the Israeli allegation that Maram “carried a knife,” and the second allegation of “carrying an explosive,” eyewitnesses said the two victims walked the wrong route while heading to the Qalandia terminal, as they took the route that is only used for vehicles, instead of the pedestrian path.
The soldiers then started shouting in Hebrew, a language neither Maram nor her brother understood, and the woman just froze from fear before the soldiers started firing at her, and when her brother rushed to rescue her, the soldiers shot him too, and both were left to bleed to death.
The two were tens of meters away from the soldiers, and contrary to military allegations, did not attempt to attack any soldier or officer.
Ahmad Taha, an eyewitness from Jerusalem said that after the soldiers shot the pregnant woman and her brother, they retreated a few meters back, and fired several additional live rounds on them, “confirming the kill.”
“There was no stabbing attempt, and no reason for the army to shoot, the soldiers shot them from a distance, and later fired more rounds to confirm the kill,” Ahmad said, “The soldiers then placed two knives next to the lifeless body of the pregnant woman, and shortly after that, the police published pictures showing three knives!”
Mohammad Ahmad, a bus driver who witnessed the shooting, said an Israeli soldier who was standing behind a large concrete block, shot the woman from a distance of more than twenty meters.
“Neither the woman, nor her brother, posed any threat to the lives of the soldiers,” Ahmad stated, “They were far away from the nearest soldier, and did not pose any threat to them – they just walked the wrong route.”
The slain brother and his sister are from Qotna village, northwest of occupied Jerusalem; Maram is Married and living with her husband and children in Beit Surik nearby village.
It is worth mentioning that a Palestinian ambulance rushed to the scene, but the soldiers closed the entire area, and prevented them from approaching the two Palestinians, who eventually bled to death.
More than an hour after the shooting, Israeli military medics placed the corpses of the two Palestinians in black bags, and took them away.
One day before this fatal shooting, a Palestinian man in his sixties nearly faced the same deadly fate when he walked this same wrong route, but when the soldiers started shouting at him he understood them because he speaks and understand Hebrew very well.
An Israeli journalist has called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to exploit the readiness of Egyptian President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi to concede Egyptian land in return for money to solve the conflict with the Palestinians, Arabi21 reported yesterday.
Haggai Segal, the editor of the Israeli newspaper Makor Rishon, wrote: “Al-Sisi’s concession of Tiran and Sanafir islands shows that Arabs do not revere the land. Al-Sisi conceded the two islands for money.”
The journalist, who is very close to Netanyahu, added: “Two years ago, Al-Sisi showed his willingness to accept the establishment of a Palestinian state in Sinai. This makes us expect reaching an agreement with Al-Sisi and the Palestinian Authority (PA) regarding this in return for a respectable sum of money.”
“We have to measure the idea of establishing a Palestinian state in Sinai based on the equation: land for shekels.”
Segal was a member of a terrorist Jewish organisation that planned to destroy Al-Aqsa Mosque in the 1980s. He also carried out a number of explosions that killed and wounded scores of Palestinians, including heads of West Bank municipalities.
Two years ago, Israeli Army Radio revealed that Al-Sisi suggested the creation of a Palestinian state in Sinai in return for Palestinian concession of the West Bank.
Both Egypt and the Palestinian Authority denied the report, however many Israeli officials, including the Education Minister Naftali Bennett, confirmed the proposal had been put forward.
Meanwhile, former Israeli ambassador to Cairo Zvi Mazel said Al-Sisi recognises the size of the economic crisis his regime is currently facing and is therefore “ready to concede Egypt’s respect and dignity and ignore the constitution for financial support.”
Although Israel is geographically located in Asia, the self-described “Jewish state” has emphasized its Europeanness whenever it has suited it to do so. It has been allowed to take part in the Eurovision Song Contest since 1973, as the Israeli Broadcasting Authority has been a member of the European Broadcasting Union since 1957. Israeli soccer clubs began playing in European competitions in 1991 and Israel became a member of UEFA in 1994. Even more importantly, in the political sphere, Tel Aviv’s recent major political step towards realizing its apparent desire of becoming a fully-fledged European state has passed under the radar of the media.
In March, a delegation from the Likud visited Strasbourg at the invitation of the European Conservatives and Reformists faction in the European Parliament. According to the Jerusalem Post, the delegation explained the Likud’s policies to a group of 15 ECR members of Parliament. The Likud reached an agreement with the ECR that enables it to become one of the ECR’s “regional members,” which allows Likud representatives to attend ECR faction meetings and influence its policies.
Within a year, the Likud will become a regional party ally of the European Conservatives and Reformists faction in the European Parliament. The move is likely to boost relations between Israel’s ruling party and Europe. The ECR decided the Likud could already become observers in the faction and that a delegation of ECR members would be hosted by the Likud in Israel in October.
Eli Hazan, the Likud’s deputy director-general for public and foreign relations, said he would take the parliament members to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, the Likud’s Tel Aviv headquarters, and “communities in Samaria,” using the Israeli term for part of the occupied Palestinian West Bank.
“This is a significant step, because at a time of boycotts of Israel, the Likud will be added to a group in Europe that has power,” Hazan said.
“When anti-Israel motions are debated in the European Parliament, we will now be able to send Likud MKs to defend Israel to members of the parliament in an official capacity,” Hazan added.
Hazan led the delegation, which included mayors, city council members and advisers to Likud leaders. MKs weren’t part of the group, because in a 61-member coalition, they were all needed in the 120-seat Knesset.
Founded by members of the British Conservative Party, the ECR has 75 MEPs from 17 EU countries, making it the third-largest group in the European Parliament.
It has alliances with the ruling Turkish AKP, with the U.S. Republican Party and parties in Australia, Canada, Morocco and New Zealand.
The most recent alliance emerged from Hazan’s efforts to build relations between the Likud and Center-Right parties across Europe.
The meeting with the ECR arose out of Hazan’s success in reaching out to party officials on a recent trip to London.
It is hardly a coincidence that the rapprochement began in the British capital. According to the 2009 television program “Dispatches: Inside Britain’s Israel Lobby,” up to 80 percent of the Conservative Party are members of the Conservative Friends of Israel. “The pro-Israeli lobby in this country is the most powerful lobby; there’s nothing to touch them,” one British politician told the investigative television program.
Before last year’s election, Ha’aretz published an article that posed the question “Is David Cameron the Most pro-Israel British PM Ever?” As the Israeli daily observed, “The United Kingdom may no longer be a major player on the world stage, but its prime minister has still been able to work quietly in support of the Jewish State.”
During a visit to Israel the previous year, Cameron told the Knesset in a speech about his great-great-grandfather, a Jewish banker who emigrated from Germany.
The link gave Mr. Cameron “some sense of connection” to the Israeli people, he said, as he hailed their “extraordinary journey” and history of persecution.
In the address he vowed to stand “shoulder-to-shoulder” with what he described as a “vulnerable” state against terrorism, despite the fact that Israel is the region’s preeminent military power and its sole possessor of nuclear weapons. “We are with you,” the prime minister then said in Hebrew.
“My Jewish ancestry is relatively limited but I do feel just some sense of connection. From the lexicon of my great, great grandfather Emile Levita, a Jewish man who came from Germany to Britain 150 years ago to the story of my forefather Elijah Levita who wrote what is thought to have been the first ever Yiddish novel,” he said.
While the British Prime Minister’s Jewish ancestry may be “relatively limited,” his party’s behind-the-scenes service to the Zionist state may yet have a significant impact on its mixed relations with the European Union. Notwithstanding the newsworthiness of this development, the only media to date to report this story has been The Jerusalem Post. Given the media’s apparent lack of interest in Likud becoming a regional member of the European Parliament, Israel remains free to counter the increasingly unlikely threat of a EU boycott.
Maidhc Ó Cathail is an author, analyst and political commentator. His forthcoming book is “Agents, Assets and Sayanim: Israel’s ‘People in Between’ You and the Facts.”
Hebron, Occupied Palestine – At around 11.30am on Tuesday 26 April, heavily armed Israeli occupation soldiers and border police started appearing in large numbers through Shuhada checkpoint (also called checkpoint 56). This area is H1 area, supposedly controlled by the Palestinian Authority, where Israelis have no legal authority. In blatant disregard of this fact they proceeded to walk down Bir Saba Street, stopping at each shop demanding all cars on the street were removed, but did not make the shops close as they usually do. At the same time the soldiers closed Shuhada checkpoint for registered resident Palestinians, who could neither leave or enter to reach their homes.
The soldiers moved up and down the street, ensuring their demands were met and the cars removed. Where they could not find the owners, they broke into cars to search for explosives. While this was ongoing, more soldiers and border police arrived blocking off the road at the other end from the checkpoint. A sniffer dog was led up and down the street by the soldiers to also search for non existent explosives. The army rummaged around rubbish piles along the road, or made local shop keepers move rubbish for them to inspect, leaving a mess for the Palestinians to clean up.
Occupation soldiers searching for explosives outside local shops. Photo credit: ISM
Several hours later, having also made locals move off the road and sit on the pavement, the reason for this elaborate exercise was clear when a group of approximately 40 settlers, escorted by the same number of border police and soldiers, moved from the illegal settlement inside Shuhada checkpoint into Palestinian territory down the road to a clearly revered tomb, where they spent ten minutes or so. They were then escorted back into the illegal settlement, and followed by five subsequent groups of illegal settlers, again escorted by police and army.
Illegal settlers escorted by occupation soldiers and border police to the tomb in H1. Photo credit: ISM
Local and international activists were present at several points along the road to monitor and photograph events, and any incidents. When the settlers walked past several of them took photos and/or filmed the activists along the road, for unknown reasons. One settler asked where the internationals were from, and welcomed them to Israel. Not only was this factually inaccurate and a disregard of the Oslo agreement, but a highly insensitive and conflictual comment, made on Palestinian territory.
At three o’clock the “tours” were finished and all the settlers escorted back through the checkpoint into H2 area, where large groups of Palestinians live under Israeli military control. A day of trading was lost for the local shops keepers; not to mention that an Israeli incursion into a Palestinian area is illegal and unacceptable.
The establishment of the state of Israel is known throughout Palestine as the Nakba, or “Catastrophe.” As the British Mandate of Palestine ended throughout 1947 and 1948, at least 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from or fled their homeland, and another 100,000 or more were massacred.
Although the United States wasn’t an active party to the circumstances that led to the Nakba, the country’s long history with Israel has only been supportive of that nation’s barbarity — and that support has grown exponentially over the years.
In the U.S., the press framed Palestinian resistance as opposition to the Jewish state rather than an assertion of their own human rights. Scholar Michael A. Dohse wrote in “American Periodicals and the Palestine Triangle, April, 1936 to February, 1947”:
“Despite the fact that there was considerable evidence of the extreme nationalistic drive behind the Zionist movement, which was its motivating force, American journals gave a good press to the Zionists’ alleged goal of building a democratic commonwealth in Palestine. How this would be possible when the Arabs constituted two-thirds of the population and were opposed to Zionism, did not seem to be a relevant question to many of the magazines.”
This, of course, was in complete contravention of U.S. doctrine, even as enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, which asserts that all men are endowed with certain inalienable rights, and “[t]hat to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” The consent of the governed — in this case, the Palestinians — was not to be considered.
Pre-WWII, pre-state of Israel
Months before the Balfour Declaration was made in November of 1917, declaring British support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson commented on the absolute need for self-determination. On May 27, 1916, he said: “Every people has a right to choose the sovereignty under which they shall live.”
Mr. Wilson continued his lofty rhetoric, telling Congress on Feb. 11, 1918: “National aspirations must be respected; peoples may not be dominated and governed only by their own consent.” Further, in the same speech on German-Austrian “peace utterances,” he declared: “Self-determination is not a mere phrase. It is an imperative principle of action, which statesmen will henceforth ignore at their peril.”
These and subsequent speeches by Mr. Wilson were troubling to his secretary of state, Robert Lansing. In his private journals, according to Frank Edward Manuel in his book “The Realities of American Palestine Relations,” Lansing wrote that such concepts were “‘… loaded with dynamite, might breed disorder, discontent and rebellion’. His neat, logical mind saw it leading the president into strange contradictions: ‘Will not the Mohammedans of Syria and Palestine and possibly of Morocco and Tripoli rely on it? How can it be harmonized with Zionism, to which the President is practically committed?’”
If the Palestinians ever relied on U.S. rhetoric to assist them in achieving the basic human rights that all people are entitled to, they were certainly to be disappointed.
Following World War II, the world was anxious to make some kind of reparation to the Jewish people for the Holocaust. U.N. General Assembly Resolution 181, passed on Nov. 29, 1947, effectively partitioned Palestine into two states.
It is difficult to properly quantify the degree of injustice that this entailed. “Although Jews owned only about seven percent of the land in Palestine and constituted about 33 percent of the population, Israel was established on 78 percent of Palestine,” according to the Institute for Middle East Understanding. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were driven from their homes, with no voice in the decision that evicted them, no reparation for the loss of their homes and lands, and nowhere to go but refugee camps.
By this time, Harry S. Truman was president, and he offered full consent for this plan for reasons that will be familiar to readers today: He was subjected to intense lobbying by the Zionist lobby. He also felt that by supporting the establishment of Israel, he would be in a better position to be elected to a full term as president, having ascended to that office upon the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Lobbying and political considerations then, as now, trump human rights every time.
Mr. Truman was elected president in his own right in 1948, and was succeeded four years later by Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, who named John Foster Dulles as his secretary of state.
Mr. Dulles was familiar with the Palestine-Israel situation, and his sympathies clearly rested with Israel. In 1944, he played an active role in seeing that the platform of the Republican Party included support for a Jewish commonwealth in Palestine, and also that the platform called for the protection of Jewish political rights. Years later, he exerted a strong influence on the president under whom he served, setting the tone for the Eisenhower administration’s attitude toward Israel and Palestine.
Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter
Things appeared to take a turn with the administration of John F. Kennedy, who showed support for the right of return for refugees, as described in Paragraph 11 of U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194 of Dec. 11, 1948. That resolution affirms that “the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live in peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Government or authorities responsible.”
Israel, under David Ben-Gurion, used what has become a tried and true method to oppose this measure: The state’s founder and first prime minister called it a threat to Israel’s national security.
Ultimately, Resolution 194 passed, but has yet to have any effect.
Despite his apparent support for Palestinian refugees, Mr. Kennedy was the first president to elevate the U.S.-Israel relationship from that of simply two allies to a more enhanced bond. Speaking to the Zionist Organization of America three months before his election, he said, “Friendship for Israel is not a partisan matter, it is a national commitment.”
Following Mr. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, he was succeeded by Lyndon B. Johnson, who did not share his predecessor’s interest in resolving the refugee problem. The Democratic Party Platform of 1964, the year Mr. Johnson was elected president, included a provision to “encourage the resettlement of Arab refugees in lands where there is room and opportunity.” All talk of the right of return ceased.
The Johnson administration ended in January of 1968, when former Vice President Richard Nixon was inaugurated as president. Nixon had less obligation to Israel, having earned only about 15 percent of the Jewish vote. In his memoirs, he commented on Israeli arrogance after the Six-Day War of 1967, describing “an attitude of total intransigence on negotiating any peace agreement that would involve the return of any of the territories they had occupied.”
Unfortunately for Palestine, however, Mr. Nixon’s closest advisor was Henry Kissinger, Nixon’s national security advisor and, later, his secretary of state. Mr. Kissinger’s parents had fled Nazi Germany shortly before the start of the Holocaust, and he had visited Israel multiple times but had never set foot in an Arab country. With Mr. Nixon’s preoccupation with what he considered the “Communist threat,” Mr. Kissinger was perfectly content with the Israel-Palestine status quo. “Rather than make any effort toward the Arab states, much less the Palestinians, Kissinger felt the United States should let them stew until they came begging to Washington,” according to “U.S. Policy on Palestine from Wilson to Clinton,” edited by Michael W. Suleiman. With this attitude, nothing was done to further the cause of justice under this president’s terms in office.
When Mr. Nixon resigned in a fog of controversy and scandal, his vice president, Gerald Ford, became president. He served as a caretaker president until the next election, when he was defeated by Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter.
Although Mr. Carter has recently become a strong supporter of Palestinian rights, this was not the case during his single term as president. He presided over the Camp David Accords, a two-track agreement that was supposed to bring peace to the Middle East. The first of the two dealt with Palestine, and nothing in it was ever achieved. The second led to a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt.
After one term, Mr. Carter was defeated by former actor and California Gov. Ronald Reagan. Like Mr. Nixon before him, Mr. Reagan saw Communist threats everywhere. Fearing a Soviet stronghold on the Middle East, he determined that strengthening ties with Israel would be an excellent deterrent. In 1982, he declared that the U.S. would not support the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, nor would it “support annexation or permanent control by Israel.”
Following First Intifada in 1987, Mr. Reagan sent his secretary of state, George Shultz, to solve the problem. Mr. Shultz proposed a three-pronged strategy: convening an international conference; a six-month negotiation period that would bring about an interim phase for Palestinian self-determination for the West Bank and Gaza Strip; talks between Israel and Palestine to start in December 1988 to achieve the final resolution of the conflict.
Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir immediately rejected this plan, claiming that it did nothing to forward the cause of peace. In response, the U.S. issued a new memorandum, emphasizing economic and security agreements with Israel and accelerating the delivery of 75 F-16 fighter jets. This was to encourage Israel to accept the peace plan proposals. Yet Israel did not yield. As Suleiman’s work noted: “Instead, as an Israeli journalist commented, the message received was: ‘One may say no to America and still get a bonus.’”
When Mr. Reagan’s vice president, George H.W. Bush, succeeded him for one term, the bonus to Israel continued unabated. Yet this was still not enough for Israel. Writing in The New York Times in 1991, Thomas Friedman commented on the state of relations between the U.S. and Israel during the Bush administration: “Although the Bush Administration’s whole approach to peacemaking is almost entirely based on terms dictated by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, the Israelis nevertheless see the Bush Administration as hostile.”
Clinton, another Bush, Obama
Following one term, Mr. Bush was succeeded by Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, who surrounded himself with Zionists, including CIA Director James Woolsey and Pentagon Chief Les Aspin.
In March of 1993, following clashes between Palestinians and Israelis in both Israel and the Occupied Palestine Territories, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin closed the borders between Israel and Palestine. This had a drastic detrimental effect on the lives and basic subsistence for at least tens of thousands of Palestinians. The Clinton administration chose to look the other way as Israel perpetrated this unspeakable act of collective punishment.
The administration of George W. Bush differed little in its treatment of matters related to Israel and Palestine from those who came before it. When Hamas was elected to govern the Gaza Strip in 2006, Mr. Bush ordered a near-total ban on aid to Palestine. Noam Chomsky commented on this situation:
“You are not allowed to vote the wrong way in a free election. That’s our concept of democracy. Democracy is fine as long as you do what we say, but not if you vote for someone we don’t like.”
Coming into office chanting the appealing mantra of “Change we can believe in,” current President Barack Obama proved to be another in a long line of disappointments. Like his predecessors, he’s vetoed any resolutions presented at the U.N. Security Council that were critical of Israel. Incredibly, after one such veto, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice made this statement:
”We reject in the strongest terms the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity. Continued settlement activity violates Israel’s international commitments, devastates trust between the parties, and threatens the prospects for peace.”
Meanwhile, military aid to Israel from the U.S. continued unabated. This aid has reached nearly $4 billion annually under the Obama administration, and is likely to get another boost before Mr. Obama leaves office.
This is not unusual. According to conservative estimates, the U.S. has given Israel a staggering $138 billion in military and other aid since 1949. In 2007, President George W. Bush signed the first 10-year Memorandum of Understanding, granting billions to Israel every year. Mr. Obama and Mr. Netanyahu are currently negotiating the new deal, which the prime minister hopes will guarantee even more to the apartheid regime.
Change that can’t come soon enough
Even if it didn’t come with Mr. Obama, change does seem to be on the horizon. With the explosive growth of social media, the general public no longer relies solely on the corporate-owned media for information. The horrors that Israel inflicts daily on the Palestinians are becoming more common knowledge. This includes the periodic bombing of the Gaza Strip, a total blockade that prevents basic supplies from being imported, and the checkpoint stops and verbal and physical harassment that Palestinians are subjected to on a daily basis in the West Bank.
It’s even entered the current U.S. presidential election. Sen. Bernie Sanders, seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for president, skipped the annual American Israel Political Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, convention in March. Additionally, he said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu isn’t always right and that Israel uses disproportionate force against the Palestinians, and Mr. Sanders recognized that Palestinians have rights. Like skipping the AIPAC conference, these statements are all in violation of some unspoken U.S. code of conduct for politicians.
Yet the ugly history of the U.S., in its unspeakably unjust dealings with Palestine, created a stain that generations will be unable to cleanse. Total disdain for the human rights of an entire nation, and the complicity in the violation of international law and in the war crimes of Israel, are not easy to expunge. Mr. Sanders’ words and actions are only the manifestation of a larger change occurring in U.S. attitudes toward Israel and Palestine. Once that change is sufficiently great to impact the U.S. power brokers, real change will occur. For Palestinians living under Israeli apartheid, it cannot come soon enough.
IN THE FINAL DAYS leading up to Maryland’s Democratic voters going to the polls on Tuesday to choose their U.S. Senate nominee, Rep. Donna Edwards has been barraged by ads and mailers from the Super PAC backing her opponent, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, called the Committee for Maryland’s Progress.
A television ad assails Edwards as “one of the least effective members of Congress,” contrasting her career with Van Hollen’s legislative record. It mentions no foreign policy issues, despite the dominant issue motivating one of the Super PAC’s largest funders.
Recently released disclosures reveal that $100,000 — a sixth of what the Super PAC has raised —comes from a single source: a donation by pro-Israel billionaire Haim Saban.
A “One-Issue Guy”
Saban, who made his fortune in the media and entertainment industry, has spent millions of dollars influencing the foreign policy establishment, including by sponsoring the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy and funding the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). He is also one of the largest donors to Hillary Clinton’s Super PACs. In a 2010 interview with the New Yorker, he described himself as a “one-issue guy, and my issue is Israel.”
Last year, he briefly teamed up with GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson to sponsor an effort to counter university boycotts and divestment from Israel’s occupation. “When it comes to Israel, we are absolutely on the same page,” he said of Adelson. “When it comes to this, there is no light between us at all.”
Following the Paris terrorist attacks, Saban called for “more scrutiny” of Muslims. “You want to be free and dead? I’d rather be not free and alive. The reality is that certain things that are unacceptable in times of peace — such as profiling, listening in on anyone and everybody who looks suspicious, or interviewing Muslims in a more intense way than interviewing Christian refugees — is all acceptable [during war],” he told The Wrap. “Why? Because we value life more than our civil liberties and it’s temporary until the problem goes away.”
Days later, he walked back his remarks, saying he “misspoke” and that all “refugees coming from Syria” should “require additional scrutiny,” regardless of religion.
A Maryland Divide Over Israel and the Palestinians
Last week, Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times wrote that the Maryland Senate race involves “slight differences in policy.” But on Israel and the Palestinians, Edwards has significantly departed from the status quo in votes and statements in ways that her opponent has not.
During “Operation Cast Lead,” the sustained bombing campaign of Gaza that began in late 2008 and lasted through the middle of January 2009, 390 members of Congress, including Van Hollen, voted in favor of a one-sided resolution affirming support for Israel’s conduct during the war; Edwards voted “present.”
In November of 2009, the House of Representatives voted 344 to 36 to call on the administration to oppose endorsement of the United Nations’ “Goldstone Report,” which described war crimes by both Israel and Hamas during the previous year’s war. Van Hollen voted with the majority, and Edwards was one of the few who voted no.
Following the 2010 deaths of activists aboard a Gaza-bound flotilla carrying humanitarian aid to the territory under Israeli blockade, Israeli officials and right-wing supporters of the government there denied that there was a growing humanitarian crisis in the territory.
“I think all international institutions have acknowledged a humanitarian crisis in Gaza,” Edwards told me at the time. “I have long said that I don’t think the blockade is really sustainable for the people of Gaza.” Van Hollen’s statement on the event — highlighted on AIPAC’s website — was more muted; it did not condemn the embargo but affirmed that the “U.S. must also continue to make sure humanitarian assistance is able to reach the people of Gaza.”
In November 2015, all but one member of the Maryland congressional delegation signed onto a House letter written to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemning the “recent wave of Palestinian violence in Israel and the West Bank.” By mid-October seven Israelis had been killed in stabbings and similar incidents, and dozens had been wounded. In the same time frame, almost 30 Palestinians had been killed by Israeli military attacks and nearly 2,000 had been injured.
Van Hollen signed the letter, Edwards did not. Asked by Washington Jewish Week why she did not sign the letter, she gave a brief statement condemning the violence as a whole, not just one side’s attacks:
I condemn the violence affecting the lives of Israelis and Palestinians, and urge both sides to return to the negotiating table to seek peace. It is critical that we ensure the State of Israel as a secure Jewish democratic state by making a two-state solution a reality, with the recognition of an independent Palestinian state that respects and recognizes the State of Israel.
“If you take their records side by side, she’s in the bottom 5 percent of the class and he’s up there, among the top,” Morris J. Amitay, a former AIPAC executive director, said in comments to the Baltimore Sun. “I’ve never seen such a disparity.”
In Israel’s evermore tribal politics, there is no such thing as a “good” Arab – and the worst failing in a Jew is to be unmasked as an “Arab lover”. Or so was the message last week from Isaac Herzog, head of Israel’s so-called peace camp. The shock waves of popular anger at the recent indictment of an Israeli army medic, Elor Azaria, on a charge of “negligent homicide” are being felt across Israel’s political landscape.
Most Israeli Jews bitterly resent the soldier being put on trial, even though Azaria was caught on camera firing a bullet into the head of a badly injured Palestinian, Abdel Fattah Al Sharif.
In the current climate, Herzog and his opposition party Zionist Union have found themselves highly uncomfortable at having in their midst a single non-Jewish legislator.
Zuheir Bahloul, an accommodating figure who made his name as a sportscaster before entering politics, belongs to the minority of 1.7 million Palestinian citizens, one in five of the population.
Unlike most of Israel’s Palestinian politicians, he preferred to join a Zionist party than one of several specifically Arab parties. Nonetheless, he embarrassed colleagues by briefly pricking the bubble of unreason cocooning the country.
Attacks on soldiers were wrong, said Bahloul, but a Palestinian such as Al Sharif – who tried to stab soldiers at a checkpoint in the West Bank city of Hebron – was not a “terrorist” by any normal definition. Terrorists target civilians, Bahloul noted, not soldiers enforcing an illegal occupation.
Other Zionist Union MPs raced to disown Bahloul, while Herzog warned that the party was unelectable as long as it was seen as full of “Arab lovers”.
Bahloul is hardly the first Palestinian politician in Israel to find himself denounced as a “bad” Arab. But the others have mostly sinned by demanding an end to Israel’s status as a Jewish state. Israel is currently promulgating a law to oust such dissenters from the parliament.
Now the earth is shifting beneath the feet of formerly “good Arabs” such as Bahloul, the small number who cling to the belief that a self-declared Jewish state can be fair to them.
It is no longer just the state’s Jewishness that is sacrosanct. The occupation is too.
Salim Joubran, the only Palestinian judge in the supreme court, fell foul of this creed last week as the court considered an appeal from Raed Salah, leader of the northern Islamic Movement, against his jail sentence for incitement to violence.
There is almost continual incitement by Jewish political and religious leaders, but indictments are almost unheard of. Two rabbis who wrote a book, the King’s Torah, calling for the killing of Palestinian babies were investigated but not charged.
In his minority opinion, Joubran thought it reasonable to observe that Salah’s remark urging the Arab world to support the Palestinians with a “global intifada” to protect Jerusalem’s Islamic holy sites under occupation was more rhetorical than a call to arms.
He was wrong. Israelis took to social media calling for an “intifada” against both him and the supreme court.
The ugly political tide turning against the most moderate and pragmatic elements in Israel’s Palestinian minority was also exemplified by threats against Ayman Odeh, leader of the only joint Jewish-Arab party in the parliament.
Odeh’s crime was to describe the assassinations of Palestinian leaders by the Shin Bet intelligence service as “executions without trial”.
Avi Dichter, a former Shin Bet head who is now a legislator in the ruling Likud party, wondered aloud about the merits of assassinating Odeh, before concluding it was not worth “wasting the ammunition”. Dichter knows there is no danger he will face a trial for incitement to violence.
Meanwhile, a TV investigation last week turned a critical lens on the late Rehavam Zeevi, a hero of the occupation. The programme revealed that the general had serially raped and assaulted women under his command, and used underworld connections to silence critics.
Tellingly, however, while the programme highlighted his crimes against Jews, it was largely untroubled by his many well-documented abuses of Palestinians.
Zeevi once proudly boasted of killing prisoners, and famously terrorised Palestinians by flying over their villages with a Palestinian corpse hanging from his helicopter undercarriage.
Later he sat in government as head of a party calling for the expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland.
When he was assassinated by Palestinians in 2001, he was quickly beatified. Scores of roads and parks are named after him, and a commemoration law requires that his “legacy and values” be taught in schools.
The anti-Arab values Zeevi embodied are in no danger of being discarded. Rather, they are being entrenched. Today, the definition of a “bad Arab” stretches from those, such as Al Sharif, who take up arms against the occupation to those, such as Bahloul, who do nothing more than raise their voice against it.
The trigger-happy soldier Elor Azaria and the peace camp leader Isaac Herzog have more in common than either might wish to admit. In their different ways, both have helped to turn all Palestinians into outcasts – and crush any hope of concessions from Israel to peace.
Israeli soldiers closed the main entrance of the Hebron Emergency Center, run by the Hebron Health Committees, by placing concrete blocks, completely sealing it, and deployed dozens of soldiers on its rooftop on Monday morning.
Dr. Ramzi Abu Yousef, director of the Health Work Committees (HWC) in Hebron, said many soldiers occupied the center’s rooftop, and turned it into a military base.
Abu Yousef warned of the consequences of this violation, especially since the center receives hundreds of patients on a daily basis, and added that the center provides its medical services to more than 60,000 Palestinians.
“For years now, the center has been subject to frequent Israeli military violations, including many invasions, and the soldiers even fired gas bombs at it,” Abu Yousef said, “They also repeatedly sprayed it with waste-water mixed with chemicals, in addition to harassing the patients and their families, and the various measures restricting their freedom of movement.”
The HWC voiced an urgent appeal to various human rights groups to intervene, and provide the needed protection to Palestinian health centers, in addition to pressuring Israel into halting its serious violations.
“People who need medical care have the right to receive it, but Israel continues to violate it,” the HWC added, “International Humanitarian Law stresses on the importance of unrestricted access to medical facilities.”
On April 17th 2009, Bassem Abu Rahme was demonstrating against the separation wall in his village, Bil’in. After another demonstrator was hit by crowd-dispersal weapons shot by Israeli security forces, Abu Rahme shouted at the soldiers and Border Policemen that the person was wounded. Seconds later, a person in Israeli uniform (it is unclear whether he or she was an IDF soldier or a Border Policeman) fired a tear gas canister directly into Abu Rahme’s chest; the wound was fatal, and within hours Abu Rahme was dead.
These facts were not, until recently, in contention. Even so, almost seven years after his death, no one has been held responsible for Abu Rahme’s death. Seven years of foot dragging and avoiding investigation (more on that in these two posts). This is what happens when a member of the security forces shoots an unarmed man — who everyone agrees posed no danger to — and the cameras (three of them, actually) document the event – yet are not aimed directly at the shooter.
We do not know who shot Abu Rahme, whether he or she was an IDF soldier or a Border Policeman. We do, however, have forensic evidence pointing to where the shooters stood. According to the ballistics examination, conducted by the IDF itself, “the only possibility of this sort of armament hitting the target is only by direct fire and using a flat angle — in the single digits — no more than three or four angles.” That is, there is no possibility of Abu Rahme being hit by a canister shot according to the orders and hitting him by mistake; even were the canister to ricochet off a fence, it would still be fired directly, contrary to orders.
The Chief of the IDF’s Photo Reconnaissance Department told the Military Police Criminal Investigations Division (MPCID) in 2013 that direct fire of tear gas canisters is forbidden and that it should hold a lineup to determine where each of the shooters stood. The MPCID refrained from doing so.
Last week, Israel’s Supreme Court heard an appeal by Yesh Din and human rights NGO B’Tselem , in which we demanded that the shooter be indicted, or that at least the army indict his commander. The hearing was held ex parte due to a strike by the prosecution. We estimate that the state would have argued that the shooters cannot be identified; and that it would also try to avoid mentioning the fact that the MPCID and the military prosecution did everything in their power to refrain from investigating the case for 15 months, and were forced to open an investigation after our first petition to the High Corut of Justice. The government is likely to claim that the canister that hit Abu Rahme’s chest ricocheted off something – and will play down the fact that even if it did, its own ballistic diagnosis ruled that it was fired contrary to orders.
The government is further likely to argue that it has no clue as to whom it should prosecute, hoping the judges will not think too much of the fact that it strangled the investigation for years. Our demand is simple: even if there is no chance to indict the shooters themselves, and we contend this claim since the MPCID’s failure to investigate rendered the case no longer investigable, the commanders should still bear responsibility.
So far, none of this has happened. The justices decided to rescind the petition, since under the Turkel Commission’s recommendations one may now object to the Attorney General over the military prosecution’s decision – a process that did not exist when we made our appeal. Justice, it seems, will have to keep waiting.
It is important to emphasize this time and again: Abu Rahme was unarmed. He was a danger to no one. He was protesting an injustice in his village – an injustice recognized by the High Court of Justice. And yet, an Israeli security officer, perhaps more than one, fired at a demonstrator in a life-threatening manner and caused his death. We note that one of the suspects said in his interrogation that he never received proper training with the weapon he was using. The commanders of these warriors, who are responsible for their actions, continue dodging this responsibility to this day.
Over the last few weeks, the very well-documented murder in Hebron has been called an exceptional, unrepresentative, and isolated incident by senior IDF and political figures. Every person of conscience should wonder whether this is so; whether the important statement in the case was not made of by Chief of Staff Eizenkot, but rather by Prime Minister Netanyahu, who phoned the father of the shooter and told him (Hebrew) to “trust the IDF investigation.”
What ought an Israeli security officer understand from the prime minister’s remarks? A reasonable interpretation would be: “don’t worry, our investigation will find you acted properly.” This, after all, is the unwritten contract between the government and its soldiers: we send you to do the dirty work of oppressing a civilian population, and in return we will turn a blind eye if you sometimes exceed your orders – unless are caught red-handed, that is. In such a case, we shall regrettably have to begin the investigation show.
Local sources told the Palestinian Information Center that Israeli soldiers at the checkpoint detained Barghouthi and took him to an undeclared place.
Barghouthi, 53, is a professor of theoretical space plasma physics at al-Quds University and has worked for some time at NASA in the United States. His scientific work is widely published internationally in academic journals.
The IOF previously kidnapped him on December 6, 2014 at al-Karama border crossing as he was trying to cross to Jordan in order to attend a scientific conference in the United Arab Emirates.
At the time, he was reportedly interrogated for participating in a mass march against Israel’s war on Gaza.
Copyright © The Palestinian Information Center
A graduate student union at New York University on Friday voted in favor of joining the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights.
Two-thirds of the Graduate Student Organizing Committee cast a vote in support of the resolution, which calls on both NYU and its United Automobile Workers union affiliate to divest from all Israeli state institutions — including universities — and corporations “complicit in” Israeli violations.
The resolution proposes that NYU join the movement “until Israel complies with international law and ends the military occupation, dismantles the wall, recognizes the rights of Palestinian citizens to full equality, and respects the right of return of Palestinian refugees and exiles.”
Over 600 union members voted in the referendum, a reportedly larger-than-average turnout for union votes. The 2,000-strong union represents graduate teaching and research assistants at the university.
Some 57 percent of voters made a voluntary individual pledge to participate in the academic boycott against Israel.
The BDS movement has gained momentum over the past year, aiming to exert political and economic pressure over Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory in a bid to repeat the success of the campaign which ended apartheid in South Africa.
Major actors to join the movement this year include British security giant G4S and French telecom company Orange.
The NYU union’s support of BDS comes after US President Barack Obama in February signed into law an anti-BDS trade agreement reiterating that US Congress “opposes politically motivated actions that penalize or otherwise limit commercial relations specifically with Israel,” referring directly to BDS activities.
The Israeli leadership has widely condemned the BDS movement as antisemitic or carried out from “hatred of Israel,” while proponents of the movement argue divestment measures are necessary in pressuring Israel to end its decades-long military occupation.
Moves inside the US — Israel’s longstanding ally and number one provider of military aid — to criminalize BDS have meanwhile been slammed by human rights defenders as a violation of free speech.