Thursday, July 6, 2017

Israeli Conscientious Objector: 'It's okay to be racist in Israel'

Dear friends,
Israeli conscientious objector and anti-occupation activist, Sahar Vardi recently gave an interview to Al Jazeera on racism in Israel and the Zionist state's ongoing belligerent military occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

I first briefly met Sahar when she attended demonstration in the Occupied West Bank against Israel's occupation. At the time, she was a high school refusenik/conscientious objector and had not yet been sent to prison for refusing to serve in the Israeli military. 

In 2012, Sahar and Micha Kurz, another conscientious objector and one of the founders of the Breaking the Silence were in Australia for a speaking tour. During the Melbourne leg of their speaking tour, Sahar and Micha kindly agreed to do a video interview with me on co-resistance in Israel and Palestine, which I have included below.

In addition to the 2012 video interview and the recent Al Jazeera interview with Sahar, I have also included the conscientious objector video that Sahar participated in, along with other conscientious objectors in 2009.

In solidarity,

 Israeli Conscientious objectors, 2009

2012: Melbourne interview with Sahar Vardi and Micha Kurz 
on Co-resistance in Israel & Palestine


'It's okay to be racist in Israel'

An Israeli conscientious objector speaks out about racism and subjugation as the occupation enters its 51st year.

Supporters of an Israeli soldier, Elor Azaria, charged with manslaughter after he shot a wounded Palestinian alleged attacker as he lay on the ground in Hebron in 2016


Al Jazeera, 25 June 2017

Zena al-Tahhan is an online journalist and producer for Al Jazeera English

Occupied East Jerusalem - This year, Israel's 1967 occupation of the Palestinian territories entered its 51st year.

In the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, the Israeli army is responsible for controlling the lives of more than three million Palestinians through hundreds of checkpoints, raids of villages and homes, trial of civilians in military courts, demolition of homes, suppression of protests, and the killing and injuring of civilians, to name a few.

To sustain the occupation industry, Israel makes it mandatory by law for Israeli citizens, excluding Palestinians and Orthodox Jews, to enter the military at 18. Men have to serve just under three years while women serve two years.

Yet, there are Israeli citizens who refuse to serve in the military for several reasons, including opposition to the army's policies in the Palestinian territories it occupies.

Sahar Vardi, 27, is one of such refusers. She is an Israeli activist who was sentenced to prison and detention eight times consecutively for her defiance in 2008. Vardi also faced other repercussions for her decision; she said she would get very late phone calls for periods up to a year at a time with people cursing at her.

Her home was also graffitied with profanity directed at her.

READ MORE: How Israeli soldiers interrogated me

Many countries around the world have accepted the right of conscientious objectors to be exempt from military service. In Israel, objectors must apply through a committee to gain exemption.

The committee, popularly known as the "Conscience Committee", is mostly made up of military officers. In practice, only those who claim religious reasons or apolitical pacifism - a refusal of violence in all forms - are exempted.Those who outwardly state their opposition to the occupation are sentenced to repeated terms of imprisonment until they are declared unfit to serve by the Israeli army.

Al Jazeera spoke to Vardi, who was released in 2009, about her experience and her views on Israeli society after 50 years of occupation.

Al Jazeera: Can you tell us about the process of getting out of military service in Israel?

Sahar Vardi: There are two legal ways to be exempt from military service in Israel. The first is being recognised as a conscientious objector. It's difficult to do so, but it is possible.

Every year, some 54,000 people are drafted into the Israeli military. Out of the 54,000, about 100-200 request conscientious objector (CO) status*. A military committee assesses each case, but grants CO status to only a few dozen youths.

READ MORE: Israeli army 'among world's child rights violators'

The committee only allows pacifists to be exempt from military service, but the committee has a very narrow definition of what pacifism is. To be granted CO status, you have to tell the committee that you are against any form of violence under any circumstance and that your refusal is not political. Mainly, if you say the word "occupation", you fail. That's kind of the game.

A lot of it is also avoiding the committee's questions because they're absurd - you cannot answer them - at least not honestly. We've had people being asked: "You're standing with a gun in front of Hitler, what do you do?"

The second way to be legally exempt from military service is to cite mental health problems, which is the easier way out.
Al Jazeera: How did you decide to go about it?

Vardi: I did go to the conscientious objectors' committee, but decided in advance that I will say the real reasons why I did not want to be in the military and use the word "occupation" in my explanation. And I failed the committee's test.

I got a letter saying that I was not recognised as a conscientious objector, and therefore must serve in the military. Once you are classified as fit for service, you cannot refuse to join the military in Israel - there's no legal way to do that.

You are tried as a soldier refusing an order, which means that you will go to court, be sentenced, and go to prison. When you eventually get out of prison, you will get an order saying you have to go back to your military base to continue your service. If you continue to refuse, you will repeat these steps for a while.

The most anyone has ever sat in prison for refusing to serve was two years.

I refused eight times consecutively, but I wasn't sentenced to prison each time. Sometimes I was put in detention because they didn't have room for me in prisons. In those instances, we were kept in a military base instead. I've spent a total of five months in prison and detention.
Al Jazeera: Why didn't you try to get out based on mental health?

Vardi: Getting out on mental health is pretty easy. Today about 12 percent of the Israeli population that's supposed to be conscripted - Jewish and Druze - either don't start or don't complete their military service based on mental health issues. That's huge. I'm going to assume that not 12 percent of Israeli society is mentally ill.

Everyone knows that this is the easiest way out of the military. Many people who do not want to serve in the military because of economic reasons will get out by citing mental health issues.

Also, some people who are ideologically opposed to being in the military, but who do not want to go to prison, choose the mental health route to avoid military service.

For me, it was kind of an opportunity to make a political stand. I knew I could get out in whatever way - I could have said the right things to the conscientious objectors' committee. I know the answers they wanted to hear. But the idea is that it's an opportunity to talk about the occupation. There are other people like me, so we had a voice - we came out with a campaign, we made statements to the media, and so on.

Once you go to prison, you can talk about the realities of the occupation. This is not merely about avoiding military service, which is easy. It is also about putting out a message.

Al Jazeera: Do you think Israelis are ignorant of the occupation of the Palestinian territories?

Vardi: Israelis do know that something is happening in the West Bank. Some of them won't call it occupation because they like to hide behind the legal discourse of it being disputed territory.

But there aren't Israelis that don't know there's military control on a civilian population at least in the West Bank - in Gaza, it's different.

People have no idea about what that means though. We have this idea that everyone was in the military so everyone knows what occupation looks like right? That's not the case.

Between 10-15 percent of the military are combat - meaning will actually be stationed in the occupied territories.

Even then, what they know is a very specific narrow reality. You speak to soldiers in a protest and they'll tell you this is Area A of the West Bank, you're not supposed to be here when we're not actually in Area A. [Under the 1993 Oslo Accords, Israeli citizens are forbidden from entering Area A of the West Bank, under Palestinian control]

They don't even know what's happening around them.

Even the fact that you're there doesn't mean you understand the reality. Understanding what is actually going on requires a lot of knowledge and the priority of the military is not to educate soldiers. The military's priority is to teach soldiers that they need to follow orders. So, Israelis don't really know what occupation is.

Most Israeli Jerusalemites that you stop in the street in West Jerusalem don't know that Palestinian Jerusalemites are residents and not citizens - they literally have no idea that they are not citizens of the state.

Al Jazeera: Who's responsibility do you think it is?

Vardi: Of course, it is their responsibility to know, but it's the responsibility of Israeli activists to make sure Israeli citizens know these things. For most people, the occupation is not relevant to their lives. It's also important to understand the dynamics within the Israeli society.
Israel today, within the Organisation for Economic, Co-operation and Development (OECD), is a country with one of the biggest gaps between the rich and the poor. This means a huge part of Israeli society is struggling for existence - and really couldn't care less why East Jerusalemites are only residents, and why close to 80 percent of them live in poverty. It's not really their priority.

I think for us as activists, part of the responsibility is to figure out how to make this an issue - and make people understand that it is their responsibility to care about this. But we need to make sure that we do this from a place that also acknowledges other issues that they care about.

Al Jazeera: Why do you think the discussion on 1948 in Israel, even among leftists, is non-existent?

Vardi: There's a difference between the Zionist and the non-Zionist left. But mainly, it's because there's an easy solution for 1967 - the two states. I don't think it's realistic, but at least at the discourse level, the Israeli left have a solution for the problems born out of the 1967 war.

But 1948 - what do you do with it? The one thing you can do with it - if you actually want to talk about it and recognise the Right of Return - is to give up the Jewish state. There's a lot of solutions that will still allow Israeli Jews to be here - that's not the issue. The issue is that if you acknowledge the problem with 1948, your only option is to give up on the Jewish state.

INTERACTIVE: A record year of home demolitions in occupied East Jerusalem

In mainstream Zionist discourse and mindset, that's not on the table. That's not an option, that's not something people conceptualise. It's challenging for people who grew up with the conception of: "We need a Jewish state to protect ourselves." That's mainly what it stems from. They believe that this is a need. So, based on that, opening up 1948 to discussion is a problem.

It's a question of tackling something far deeper and far more rooted within Israeli existence. Most Israelis don't have a reason to do it. Their life is fine - it's comfortable - why should they question these things?

There's actually been more discussion in the last few years about the "Nakba" - surprisingly because of the right wing. For example, the Nakba law [a law that criminalises commemorating the Palestinian catastrophe of 1948] meant that you have to explain what the Nakba is.
Al Jazeera: How do you think regular Israelis justify what is happening in the occupied Palestinian territories?

Vardi: For the ideological right, it's about taking over the Holy Land. From a more mainstream political perspective, a lot of it is about resources - cheap land, water, man power, that allows for a successful economy.

Most settlers don't move to a settlement for ideological reasons - they move because it's far cheaper. For example, people who move into the Maale Adumim settlement move there because that is the only place they can afford to live.

Others justify all this with the need for security. They think occupation keeps them safe. This has a lot to do with how Israelis are educated and how fear is a huge part of our identity. And there's a lot of political interest in keeping it that way. You can't continue such a level of militarisation in a society without fear. You can't ignore what happened in 1948 without it. You can't continue maintaining an occupation without it. Our education system is built to make sure that we're terrified. Even our media and political campaigns - [Israeli Prime Minister] Netanyahu is an expert at making sure that we're terrified.

I have a friend who, during her military service, worked at the biggest radio station in the country, which is military run. She was part of the news desk. They were ordered to start the broadcast with a news story about Iran whenever they had to report something that is critical of the military or something bad that happened - like a Palestinian being killed at a checkpoint.
They were told to go to Reuters and find something about Iran. It's like: "We do bad things sometimes at a checkpoint but there's an existential threat - a nuclear bomb, right?"

People are genuinely afraid.
Al Jazeera: How do you explain the Israeli military's use of psychological abuse in the occupied territories?

Vardi: That's how militaries work. If you choose to maintain an occupation and if you choose to maintain military control on a civilian population, it's going to be violent - there's no nice way to do it.

Of course, racism is an inherent part of it. This is rooted in the fact that these people are told that they have to control this civilian population as if they are an enemy. To achieve this, they have to become racist. You can't stand in a checkpoint and stop people from going where they need to go without either going crazy or becoming racist.
You have to dehumanise people. You can't follow orders if you don't dehumanise people. Think about yourself standing at a checkpoint for eight-hour shifts and having to tell people, "Oh, actually, your permission to enter ended three minutes ago and you can't pass anymore, even if you have a doctor's appointment."
You can't do that if you actually see the person in front of you as someone who could be your grandmother.

So you dehumanise them and once you dehumanise a group of people there is no turning back. You dehumanise them just so you can say "no" at a checkpoint. But the next time you're in a situation where you have to push them, it'll be easy enough for you to push them. And then, when you have to shoot them, it'll be easy enough for you to shoot them.

After a few months, you lose all touch with humanity.

Al Jazeera: Is this part of the military training?

Vardi: The military is made up of officers who are used to dehumanising people. It is full of people who used to beat people to the ground. That's already inherent in who they are and how they see things. So, obviously, it's part of the entire culture. This culture stems from the military and eventually becomes part of civil society - and today - racism is a legitimate part of the Israeli discourse.

It's okay to be racist in Israel today. It's okay to say, "Yes, Jews are better." It's okay to think, "Yes, when we are thinking of security, the security of Jews is more important than the security of Arabs" - that's not even a question.

The legitimacy of racism is partially based on what Zionism is. It's a nationalist movement of the Jewish people – it's by definition preferring Jews over non-Jews – that's what Zionism is. People believe that this is a logical way of thinking in light of the way we have been treated through history.

There's a fundamental difference between protecting the Jewish identity as a minority and what happens when Jews become the majority and still pursue the ideology of protecting the Jewish identity at any cost.

Once, I witnessed a family having a serious conversation about what would be worse - their Jewish son bringing home a Palestinian girl or [an Israeli] man. A Palestinian friend of mine, who speaks fluent Hebrew, also witnessed this conversation. And we just sat there, thinking that this is a legitimate conversation that can be had in public.

Al Jazeera: What do you think needs to happen for things to change?

Vardi: I think one of the things that Israel has done very well is to maintain a level of oppression, which means you will always have to deal with certain issues, but you also still have something to lose because, when people don't have anything to lose, they revolt.
Israel is pretty good at keeping that balance, although it is beginning to break slightly. The fact that Israeli society is becoming more right-wing and that Israeli politicians are responding to that and are becoming more aggressive means that at some point that balance will break - at some point Palestinians will not have as much to lose - but I hate to see that as the optimism.

*The Israeli military did not respond to Al Jazeera's request to confirm the figures.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Facts & Figures: 50 Years of Israeli Military Rule, 70 Years of Palestinian Dispossession

Originally published June 08, 2017 - IMEU

50 Years of Israeli Military Rule, 70 Years of Palestinian Dispossession

A woman sits in front of her destroyed home after it was demolished by Israeli bulldozers in the Bedouin village of Umm Al-Hiran

The policies of discrimination and displacement that Israel has implemented against Palestinians in the lands it has military occupied since the 1967 war are part of a larger program of dispossession of Palestinians dating to Israel’s establishment in 1948 and encompassing Palestinians citizens of Israel as well. Inside Israel’s pre-1967 borders, these policies are intended to limit and contain the Palestinian population in order to create and maintain a Jewish majority country that privileges Jewish citizens over non-Jewish ones.
  • Although they have the right to vote, Palestinian citizens of Israel (who comprise about 20% of the population) face widespread systematic discrimination in virtually every aspect of life, including dozens of laws that preference Israeli Jews dealing with everything from land ownership and housing, to education, employment, health care, and family reunification.


  • As non-Jews in a Jewish state, Palestinian citizens of Israel are confined by law and zoning policies to just 3.5% of the land. Ninety-three percent of the land in Israel is state controlled by the Israel Land Authority and quasi-governmental Jewish National Fund, which discriminate against non-Jewish citizens. According to Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, in 2015 only 4.6% of the housing tenders published by the Israel Land Authority were given to Palestinian communities in Israel. 


  • Like Palestinians in the occupied territories, Palestinian citizens of Israel who build homes without difficult to obtain permission from Israeli authorities risk having them destroyed. Between 1997 and 2017, Israel destroyed more than 5,000 homes belonging to Palestinian citizens of the state. According to the Israeli government, between 2012 and 2014, 97% of the demolition orders issued were for homes belonging to Palestinian citizens of Israel. In April 2017, the Israeli government passed the “Kaminitz Law,” making it easier for authorities to destroy homes belong to Palestinian citizens of Israel.


  • There are currently entire Palestinian Bedouin villages in the Negev desert in southern Israel which are threatened with destruction by the Israeli government. In 2013, Israel decided to forcibly remove the 500 Bedouin residents of Umm al-Hiran and build a town for Israeli Jews in its place, called Hiran. Following the decision, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz published an editorial declaring that it “constitutes a new low in the state’s treatment of the Bedouin of the Negev, and a new stage in Israel’s becoming an ethnocracy: a regime that exists for the good of a single ethnic group, and that grants rights on the basis of ethnic affiliation rather than the principles of equality.”


  • In total, there are an estimated 56,000 homes belonging to Palestinian citizens of Israel that under threat of destruction by the Israeli government.


  • During Israel’s establishment, between 1948 and 1950, Zionist and Israeli forces ethnically cleansed more than 400 Palestinian towns and villages, including homes, businesses, houses of worship, and vibrant urban centers, which were systematically destroyed or repopulated with Jews. Most of them were demolished to prevent the return of their Palestinian owners, now refugees outside of Israel's pre-1967 borders, or internally displaced inside of them. (See here for interactive map of Palestinian population centers destroyed during Israel's creation)


  • During its establishment, Israel expropriated approximately 4,244,776 acres of land belonging to Palestinians who were made refugees or internally displaced people. Between 1948 and 1967, Israel expropriated approximately 172,973 acres of land belonging to Palestinian citizens of the state.


  • Today, approximately 100,000 internal refugees from Israel’s establishment in 1948 live in more than 100 “unrecognized villages” near their original homes, which were destroyed by Israel, where they “suffer from inadequate living conditions and constant threats of demolition,” according to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD).


  • Similar to Palestinians living under Israeli military rule in the occupied territories since 1967, Palestinian citizens of Israel were governed by martial law from 1948 to 1966. Thus, during the entirety of Israel’s nearly 70-year history, there has been a period of only about one year that it didn’t rule over large numbers of Palestinians while denying them the most basic of political and civil rights.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Facts & Figures: 50 Years of Israeli Military Rule - Settlements & Settlers

Originally published by IMEU on June 05, 2017

50 Years of Israeli Military Rule: Settlements & Settlers

As Israeli soldiers watch, Jewish settlers from the settlement of Yitzhar throw rocks at Palestinian farmers near the city of Nablus in the occupied West Bank.

  • Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are segregated housing units built by Israel for the use of Israeli Jews on Palestinian land occupied by the Israeli army during the June 1967 War. Their purpose is to cement permanent Israeli control over the occupied Palestinian territories and to prevent the creation of an independent Palestinian state in them.


  • All Israeli settlements, including those in occupied East Jerusalem, violate international law and longstanding official US policy. Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states, “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” The Hague Convention on the laws of war also forbids occupying powers from making permanent changes in the occupied territory unless it is a military necessity.


  • While successive Israeli governments have argued that settlements are not illegal, a formerly classified document dated September 1967 shows that the legal counsel to Israel’s Foreign Ministry at the time advised the government of Prime Minister Levi Eshkol that “civilian settlement in the administered territories contravenes the explicit provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention."


  • Today, there are approximately 650,000 settlers living on occupied Palestinian land in approximately 125 official settlements and more than 100 “outposts,” including approximately 300,000 in East Jerusalem and 350,000 in the rest of the West Bank.


  • Although Israeli settlers and Palestinians in the occupied territories live in the same land, they are subject to two separate and unequal legal systems based on their religion. As Human Rights Watch noted in a June 2017 statement entitled, Israel: 50 Years of Occupation Abuses :

“Israel applies Israeli civil law to settlers, affording them legal protections, rights, and benefits that are not extended to Palestinians living in the same territory who are subjected to Israeli military law. Israel provides settlers with infrastructure, services, and subsidies that it denies to Palestinians, creating and sustaining a separate and unequal system of law, rules, and services.”

  • The presence of settlers makes life extremely difficult for Palestinians:

    • Palestinian land is stolen by the Israeli government and by settlers themselves for the expansion of settlements and Palestinians are forcibly evicted from their homes so that settlers can live in their place;

    • Palestinian famers and others are harassed, assaulted , and even murdered by heavily-armed extremist settlers, often while under the protection of Israeli soldiers.

    • Restrictions on the movement of Palestinians imposed by the Israeli army for the convenience of settlers and the location of settlements dividing Palestinian population centers makes it nearly impossible for Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to travel freely or live normal lives.


  • Israel’s settlement enterprise and related infrastructure, including roads that are off limits to Palestinians, cover approximately 42% of the occupied West Bank.


  • According to one study, Israel has spent an estimated $20 billion on settlements and related infrastructure since 1967. As part of an effort to encourage Israelis to move to settlements, Israel’s government provides the average settler with three times more in public subsidies than Israelis living within Israel’s internationally-recognized pre-1967 borders.


  • Today, settlers are a powerful political force in Israel, exerting a strong influence on the government through parties like the extreme religious nationalist Jewish Home, counting among their number several cabinet ministers. After half a century, Israel’s settlement enterprise is deeply entrenched on the ground in the occupied territories and in Israeli society.


  • Polls repeatedly show that nearly half of all Americans, and a majority of Democrats, would support sanctions or stronger action against Israel due to settlement construction.

Friday, June 30, 2017

FACT & FIGURES: 50 Years of Israeli Military Rule

Dear friends,
the Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU) regularly publish fact sheets about Israel's military occupation and the situation faced by Palestinians in the Occupied West, Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza and inside the Zionist state.  Recently, they have published a number of facts sheets to mark the 50th anniversary of Israel's seizure of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza in 1967. 

I will be reposting them over the next week, with links to the original.  Please find the first below.

In solidarity, Kim


50 Years of Israeli Military Rule

Originally published: May 31, 2017IMEU

Palestinians waiting at an Israeli checkpoint in Bethlehem

Since militarily occupying the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, during the June 1967 War, Israel has:

  • Destroyed more than 48,000 Palestinian homes and other structures, including agricultural buildings and places of business, because they were built without permission from Israel’s occupying army, which is nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain.


  • Imprisoned more than 800,000 Palestinians using a military court system that human rights organizations have condemned as falling far short of the minimum standards required for a fair trial.


  • Built approximately 125 official settlements on occupied Palestinian land in violation of international law and official US policy, and more than 100 so-called “outposts,” built with tacit approval from Israeli authorities even though they violate Israeli law. These settlements separate Palestinian population centers from one another and the outside world and sever East Jerusalem from the rest of the occupied West Bank, making the creation of an independent Palestinian state in the occupied territories all but impossible.


  • Implanted approximated 650,000 illegal settlers, many of them violent, heavily-armed religious fanatics, onto occupied Palestinian land, including approximately 350,000 in the West Bank and 300,000 in East Jerusalem.


  • Built a wall on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice, separating Palestinians from their farmland, schools, places of business, and family and friends.


  • Imposed a permit and checkpoint system severely restricting the movement of Palestinians within the occupied territories and to and from the outside world, making ordinary life difficult for Palestinians and strangling the Palestinian economy. (According to the UN, in 2016 there were 572 Israeli checkpoints and other obstacles to Palestinian movement in the occupied West Bank, with more than 100 more in the city of Hebron alone.)


  • Imposed a cruel and illegal siege and naval blockade on occupied Gaza, starting in 2006, which amounts to collective punishment of the 1.8 million Palestinians living there.


  • Revoked the residency rights of approximately 250,000 Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, and more than 14,000 Palestinian residents of Jerusalem.

Monday, June 26, 2017

1967 war: How Israel occupied the whole of Palestine

Dear friends,
June 2017 marks 50 years of Israeli military occupation, in the Occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.  Between 5 - 11 June, Israel launched an attack on Egypt and invaded the West Bank, Gaza, Sinai and East Jerusalem seizing control of Palestinian territories administered by Egypt and Jordan.

Over the next week or so, I will post up a series of articles and facts sheets about the events of 1967 and the what 50 years of belligerent, illegal military occupation for the Palestinian has meant and continues to mean today.

In addition to 2017 marking 50 years of Israel's illegal occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, it also marks 68 years since the Nakba in 1948 and 100 years since Great Britain issued the Balfour Declaration.  I will also post over the next 4 - 6 weeks a range of material on Balfour as well.

Please find below a very comprehensive article by Al Jazeera on the lead up to the 1967 war, how it unfold, its immediate impact and what it means still for Palestinians today.

In solidarity, Kim


1967 war: How Israel occupied the whole of Palestine

Palestinians are marking 50 years since the 1967 occupation of their remaining lands this week.


6 June, 2017, Al Jazeera English.

Zena al-Tahhan is an online journalist and producer for Al Jazeera English. 

Fifty years ago this week, the state of Israel shocked the world when it seized the remaining Palestinian territories of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza Strip, as well as the Syrian Golan Heights, and the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula, in a matter of six days.

In a war with Egypt, Jordan and Syria, known as the 1967 War, or the June War, Israel delivered what came to be known as the "Naksa", meaning setback or defeat, to the armies of the neighbouring Arab countries, and to the Palestinians who lost all what remained of their homeland.

The Naksa was a continuation of a prior central event that paved the way for the 1967 war. Nineteen years earlier, in 1948, the state of Israel came into being in a violent process that entailed the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

  In the 1967 War, Israel took control of the shaded areas of the Egyptian Sinai, Syrian Golan Heights, and the Palestinian territories of the West Bank including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

Zionist forces, in their mission to create a "Jewish state", expelled some 750,000 Palestinians from their homeland and destroyed their villages in the process. Shortly after Israel declared statehood, units of the neighbouring Arab country armies came in to fight for the Palestinian nation.

The 1948 War ended with Israeli forces controlling approximately 78 percent of historic Palestine. The remaining 22 percent fell into the hands of Egypt and Jordan.

In 1967, Israel absorbed the whole of historic Palestine, as well as additional territory from Egypt and Syria. By the end of the war, Israel had expelled another 430,000 Palestinians from their homes and gained territory that was three and a half times its size. 

Why did the war break out?

The narrative of the war is highly polarised, as is common for many events in the Arab-Israeli conflict. There exists, however, a series of events that undeniably led to the outbreak of the war.

Firstly, there were frequent clashes on the Israeli-Syrian and Israeli-Jordanian armistice lines after the 1948 war. Thousands of Palestinian refugees tried to cross the border searching for relatives, attempting to return to their homes and to recover their lost possessions.

Between 1949 to 1956, it is estimated that Israeli forces shot dead between 2,000 to 5,000 people who tried to cross. 

In 1953, Israel committed the most notorious reprisal massacre in the West Bank against the village of Qibya, where 45 houses were blown up and at least 69 Palestinians were killed.

A few years later, the Suez Crisis took place in 1956. Israel, along with France and Britain, invaded Eygpt with the hope of toppling then President Gamal Abdel Nasser after he nationalised the Suez Canal Company. The company was a joint British-French enterprise which controlled and operated the strategic waterway. 

The three countries were forced to withdraw, and for a decade afterwards, a United Nations peacekeeping force was installed along the Egyptian-Israeli border.

The mid-1950s and 1960s saw the rise of the Fedayeen movement - Palestinian armed resistance groups who attempted to mount attacks against Israel. 

A year before the war, Israel raided the West Bank village of As Samu' in the largest military operation since the 1956 Suez Crisis, after the Palestinian Fatah group killed several Israeli soldiers. As a result, Israeli forces rounded up the town's villagers and blew up about dozens of homes. About 18 people were killed and more than 100 wounded in the attack.

Tension between Syria and Israel was also brewing over disagreements on the use of the Jordan River water and Israeli cultivation along the border, which played a major role in leading up to the war. 

On May 13, 1967, the Soviet Union falsely warned Egypt that Israel was assembling its troops to invade Syria. Under an Egyptian-Syrian defence treaty signed in 1955, the two countries were obliged to protect one another in the case of an attack on either.

Egypt then ordered the evacuation of UN troops out of Sinai and stationed its troops there. A few days later, Abdul Nasser blocked Israeli shipping in the Red Sea.

At the end of May, Egypt and Jordan signed a mutual defence pact that effectively placed the Jordanian army under Egypt's command. Iraq followed suit shortly after.

 While Israel said Nasser’s closure of the straits was an act of aggression, Abdul Nasser said “The Gulf [of Aqaba] constitutes Egyptian territorial waters” and that his decisions were legally justified

On the early morning of June 5, Israel launched a surprise attack against Egypt's air bases and destroyed the Egyptian air force while it was still on the ground, a move that unleashed the war.

The motives behind the war are a point of contention among various historians and analysts.

Some believed that Israel had "unfinished business" for failing to seize the whole of historic Palestine in the 1948 war. On the eve of the 1967 attack, Israeli minister Yigal Allon wrote: 

"In … a new war, we must avoid the historic mistake of the War of Independence [1948] … and must not cease fighting until we achieve total victory, the territorial fulfillment of the Land of Israel". 

How did the war unfold?

The Israeli attack on Egypt's airbases in the Sinai and the Suez reportedly disabled at least 90 percent of the Egyptian air force and dictated the course of the war. Israeli ground forces proceeded to invade Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula on the same day.

 Egyptian warplanes lie destroyed on the tarmac after an Israeli Air Force strike on June 5, 1967, against Egyptian airfields at the start of the June War.

 Israel also attacked the Syrian airfields on the evening of June 5. The next day, fighting ensued between Jordan and Israel for control of Jordanian-held East Jerusalem.

On the dawn of June 7, military commander Moshe Dayan ordered Israeli troops to take the Old City, which lies in East Jerusalem. Amid UN calls for a ceasefire on the same day, Israeli diplomats in New York and Washington, DC reportedly attempted to garner US support for delaying a ceasefire in order to grant Israel more time to "finish the job". 

By mid-day of June 7, Israeli forces had seized the Old City from the Jordanian army. 

Israeli leaders David Ben-Gurion and Yitzhak Rabin lead a group of soldiers past the Dome of the Rock in East Jerusalem's Old City after the occupation of June 1967

 The major West Bank cities of Nablus, Bethlehem, Hebron and Jericho, fell to the Israeli army a day later. Israel also shelled the Abdullah and Hussein bridges over the Jordan River that linked the West Bank to Jordan.

After taking the Old City, Israeli forces demolished the entire 770-year-old Moroccan Quarter neighbourhood, to widen access to the Western Wall, as it is known to Jews, known to Muslims as the al-Buraq Wall. The site holds religious significance to both Jews and Muslims.

Approximately 100 Palestinian families living in the quarter were ordered to evacuate their homes and the neighbourhood was bombed and completely demolished. The space was used by Israel to build the "Western Wall Plaza", an area that granted Jews direct access to the Wall. 

Throughout the war and under the orders of Yitzhak Rabin - who later became Israel's prime minister - Israeli forces ethnically cleansed and destroyed several Palestinian villages, expelling some 10,000 Palestinians. Among the most infamous wiped out villages were Imwas, Beit Nuba and Yalu.

In the Palestinian West Bank cities of Qalqilya and Tulkarem, the Israeli army systematically destroyed Palestinian homes. About 12,000 Palestinians were forced out of Qalqilya alone, as a means of "punishment", Dayan reportedly wrote in his memoirs.

 The rubble of the Moroccan Quarter after it was razed to the ground and the Palestinian families expelled to make way for Jews to pray at the Wall

Israel's offensive on the Syrian Golan Heights started on June 9, and by the next day, the Golan had been captured, putting Israel at a shocking distance from the Syrian capital, Damascus.

Egypt and Israel signed a ceasefire on June 9, while Syria and Israel signed on June 11, effectively ending the war with a UN-brokered truce.

Approximately 430,000 Palestinians were uprooted from their homes, with the overwhelming majority seeking refuge in Jordan. Many crossed into Jordan through the river, and did so on foot with very few belongings.

About half of the refugees had already been previously expelled from villages in historic Palestine that became part of Israel in 1948. The events of the 1967 war had them suffer displacement for a second time in 20 years.

 Palestinian refugees carry their belongings as they prepare to cross the wrecked Allenby Bridge over the Jordan River from the Israeli-occupied West Bank on June 22, 1967

What impact did the war have on Palestinians, Israelis and the Arab world?

The war was a turning point for the entire region. For the Palestinians and rest of the Arab world, it dealt a blow to their psyche and to their trust in the Arab governments.

In six days, Israel brought more than one million Palestinians under its direct control in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. The 1967 war turned Israel into the country with the largest Palestinian population.

The shock of loss and defeat precipitated a revolutionary atmosphere among Palestinians, which spurred the emergence of armed resistance movements, vowing to take back Palestine with force throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

 Israeli soldiers stand over captured Egyptians and Palestinians at the start of the war on June 5, 1967

For the Israelis, their government's seizure of territory in the war led to a sense of euphoria. Thousands of Jews, even secularists, flocked to the Wall and wept as they prayed for what they believed was a miracle from God.

The belief that the outcome of 1967 was a miracle reinforced the idea to religious and messianic Zionists who believed, based on religious convictions, that they had a right to the entirety of the Holy Land.

The war unleashed the settler movement; a young generation of messianic Zionists decided to establish houses in the West Bank and Gaza, territory that is occupied and is not part of the state of Israel.

More importantly, the war opened up the question of the Zionist movement's colonial nature.

Instead of exchanging land for peace, as per the UN Resolution 242 that called on Israel to give up the territories in exchange for peace with its neighbours at the end of the 1967 war, Israel began encouraging its citizens to move into the territories it occupied and supporting them as they did so. 

Palestinian refugees flee from the Israeli-occupied West Bank on June 15, 1967

The Jewish state had been created in 1948 and its sovereignty recognised by most of the world's countries. But as soon as the guns fell silent in 1967, Israel, in direct contravention of international law, began building illegal settlements for its citizens on land it does not own.
Just one year after the 1967 war, there were six Israeli settlements built in the Syrian Golan Heights. By 1973, Israel had established 17 settlements in the West Bank and seven in the Gaza Strip. By 1977, some 11,000 Israelis had been living in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and the Sinai Peninsula.

"The occupation of the West Bank and Gaza reminded the world of the colonial aspects of Israel," Munir Nuseibah, a professor at the Faculty of Law at Al-Quds University, told Al Jazeera. 

Palestine: Fifty years of military occupation, land theft, and settler colonialism

Despite the war being between Arab countries and Israel, those who have lost the most are the Palestinians, who are marking 50 years of Israeli military occupation this June. The occupation is the longest in modern history.

Between June 25-27, Israel illegally annexed East Jerusalem and various parts of the West Bank, declaring them part of the state of Israel, in a move never recognised by the international community.

The rest of the occupied Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, housing some 5.1 million Palestinians, remain under Israeli military control under the pretext of security. Their lives have been dictated by hundreds of military checkpoints, a colour-coded permit system, and a Separation Wall that has divided families.

The devastating effect of the military occupation of the Palestinian territories cannot be overstated. 

Palestinians wait to cross into Jerusalem next to Israel's controversial Separation Wall at an Israeli military checkpoint in the West Bank town of Bethlehem

Human Rights Watch, a US-based NGO, grouped at least five categories of "major violations of international human rights law and humanitarian law" that characterise the occupation, in a report released on Sunday. The violations are unlawful killings, abusive detention, blockade of the Gaza Strip and restrictions on Palestinian movement, the development of settlements, and discriminatory policies that disadvantage Palestinians.

"Whether it's a child imprisoned by a military court or shot unjustifiably, or a house demolished for lack of an elusive permit, or checkpoints where only settlers are allowed to pass, few Palestinians have escaped serious rights abuses during this 50-year occupation," Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said in the report.

"Israel today maintains an entrenched system of institutionalised discrimination against Palestinians in the occupied territory - repression that extends far beyond any security rationale."

All the while, Israel, since 1967, has proceeded with illegally building homes and transferring its Jewish citizens into the West Bank and East Jerusalem, on stolen Palestinian land. Today, at least 600,000 Israelis live in Jewish-only settlements scattered across the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

 Palestinians are subject to random and often humiliating body searches by Israeli soldiers on the streets of occupied East Jerusalem

Settlements, which are accompanied by roads and infrastructure built especially for the settlers, control at least 40 percent of the West Bank's surface area. As such, Israel has created an apartheid reality in the Palestinian territories whereby Israelis and Palestinians live under a system that privileges Jews over non-Jews.

"By establishing two separate systems for Israelis and Palestinians, Israeli authorities also violate the international law prohibition on discrimination," a report by the London-based European Council on Foreign Relations think-tank, released on Sunday, said.

"In sum, Israel's prolonged occupation creates a situation of serious human rights violations and unbearable living conditions, in which communities and individuals see no other option but to relocate."

Nur Arafeh, an analyst with Al-Shabaka, a Palestinian think-tank told Al Jazeera she believes the likelihood of Israel ending its occupation is low. 

"I don’t see any likelihood of Israel withdrawing from the occupied territories and ending its settler-colonial enterprise as long as it enjoys a culture of impunity and is never held to account by the international community for its violation of international law and human rights; and as long as the cost of its occupation is lower than the price of ending".

“Will there be an upcoming attack on Gaza?” Is Not the Question We Should Be Asking, After 11 Years of Siege.

Dear friends,
please find below an article by my good friend, Noura Mansour on the current situation in Gaza.

in solidarity,


“Will there be an upcoming attack on Gaza?” Is Not the Question We Should Be Asking, After 11 Years of Siege

by Noura Mansour

21 June 2017, Medium 

Every couple of years, since Hamas was elected in 2006, the International Community grants Israel a window of opportunity to carry out a major attack on Gaza. All the leaders of the “free world” then stand together in supporting Israel’s right to “defend itself” from besieged unarmed Gazan civilians. Some countries provide political back up, others provide arms, while others offer their silence allowing Israel to carry out its violations of International law and Human Rights unimpeded.

Is it that time again?

It seems like the escalation against Gaza has already begun. On Monday, June 12th, the Israeli government decided to cut down electricity supplies, leaving 2 million people with only 4 daily hours. Few days later, in June 20th, Israel further tightens the cut and reduces the electricity supplies from 4 to 2 hours daily. The reason for why this is occurring at this time is threefold:

Internationally, the rise of right wing governments, the election of Trump in the US, and the spread of Xenophobic and Islamophobic discourse, which find their reflection in real policies in the US, Europe and different parts of the world, provide a fertile ground for any operation that targets Muslims people, countries or organisation. Israel isn’t even required to provide plausible reason (not that it was ever required to do so in the past) especially in times when being a Muslim is enough by itself to make an individual or an organisation a terror suspect and legitimate target.

Regionally, the recent diplomatic crisis in the Arab gulf, between Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and UAE on one hand, and Qatar on the other, has been an enabling factor in increasing the likelihood of the occurrence of such and even further escalation. The Saudis and their allies have been blunt about Qatar’s support of Gaza as one of the primary reasons that led them to cut diplomatic ties with Qatar. This alignment between the Saudis and allies, with the US and Israel provides an Arab and Muslim cover for and regional legitimacy for whatever action the Zionist state decides to take against the besieged 2 million Palestinians in Gaza.

In Israel, Netanyhu is grappling with three different corruption scandals, which he is currently being investigated over, and may very well be indicted for. According Israeli media (Ma’ariv, Ynet, The Marker and Walla websites), the police is expected to recommend Netanyahu’s indictment for unlawfully receiving gifts worth a few hundred thousand dollars and in return providing certain services. Netanyahu has already declared that, even if he is indicted, he will not step down from office as he is not required to do, according to the Israeli law.

Netanyahu has also stated that he is considering to call for early elections, in an obvious attempt to distract the public from the current conundrum he is in. Early elections will allow Netanyahu to portray himself as the only strong leader fit to fight “terror”, and what a better way to prove it to his electorates than to escalate, further abuse and possibly attack a besieged community that has been living on the verge of a humanitarian crisis for the last 11 years under Israeli blockade?

Cutting off electricity is a clear step in escalating the humanitarian crisis and is designed to provoke a Palestinian response, as we have learned from previous Gaza attacks. Such tactics have been repeatedly used by Netanyahu and other Israeli governments to justify their attack on Gaza.

By presenting the electricity cut as a “Palestinian domestic issue” and stating that it was requested by the Palestinian Authority, Netanyahu is clearly trying to shift the responsibility for the escalation from Israel and place it on the Palestinians. It is hard to believe that the Zionist state takes orders from the Palestinian Authority, but even if this is the case, the Palestinian domestic context is entirely controlled and manipulated by Israel. It is no secret that Israeli policies have instigated, fueled and created structures to maintain the Palestinian political rift and prevent Palestinian unity between Gaza and the West Bank. That said, over a week into the electricity cut, there has been no actions or at least statement from the PA, condemning or opposing this move as collective punishment. Once again, the PA fails to perform as an elected authority, and proves to be incompetent in representing and protecting the needs of its own people.

What can be done to try and prevent the next mass murder of Palestinians in Gaza?

We shouldn’t wait until the bombs start to fall, or the body count exceeds 2,200 on the next attack to start mobilizing for Gaza again. We, as individuals and civil society organisation, inside and outside of Palestine, can play a vital role by surfacing what has been happening and highlighting the real issue, which is that Gazans have been living under inhumane conditions due to Israeli policies for the last 11 years. Since the beginning of the siege, various human rights organisations and solidarity movements across the world have been calling for the immediate end to the blockade, however it seems like there is a pressing need for renewing campaigns that focus on the man-made humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and intensifying attempts and actions aimed at breaking the siege through advocacy, organizing events, freedom flotillas, and applying more pressure, through the BDS campaigns, targeting specific parties that have been playing a role in sustaining the blockade.

We need to demand and actively push for no less than an immediate end of the illegal and inhumane Israeli blockade on Gaza. Once the Israeli air-force starts to hover, and the bombs start to rain over Gaza skies again, it will be too little and too late.

Friday, May 19, 2017

CATCHUP POST: Gideon Levy on Israeli occupation, apartheid and denialism

Dear friends,

veteran Israeli journalist, Gideon Levey pulls now punches when he responds to Israeli settlers, who publicly cancelled their subscription to Haaretz in protest of both Levy and Amira Hass truth telling about Israel's illegal occupation and apartheid regime. 

Here is Levy's "heartfelt" apology from mid April, where he responds to those who want to pretend that they and the Israeli state/military are not the problem.

In solidarity, Kim


A Heartfelt Apology to Haaretz Readers

To all offended readers, I apologize for the one-sidedness. How could I not maintain a balance between the murderer and the murdered; the thief and his victim; and the occupier and the occupied?

Gideon Levy Apr 21, 2017 Haaretz

    Photo: Gideon Levy

Dear Orna and Moshe Gan-Zvi,
I was saddened to read in Tuesday’s Hebrew edition of Haaretz that you’ve decided to cancel your subscription. I don’t know you, but I will miss you as readers. As someone who is partly responsible for your decision, as your article indicated, allow me to apologize. To apologize for writing the truth all these years. I should have taken into account that this truth wasn’t palatable to you, and acted accordingly.

It was not pleasant for you to read the theory put forward by me and my fellow Haaretz correspondent Amira Hass about the occupation. You, who are active in Rotary Israel, who come from the business world, who are so proud of your children and the fact that they live in the West Bank. Your son was educated at the Eli premilitary academy, and your granddaughters proudly carry the last name Sheetrit. You, who are so pleased with yourselves and your values, with your children and your morals, don’t think you should be forced to read unpleasant truths. You simply don’t deserve it.

Indeed, how could I have spent all these years publishing articles that even you, generously, admitted were touching, without ever, to my shame, checking how these Palestinian families ended up in their serious predicaments? Really, how did that happen? Of course it was their own fault, but I keep blaming the Israel Defense Forces – how could I? And how could Amira Hass be so one-sided and lacking in perspective that would explain how a people could prefer the elimination of another people over a democratic society? Really, how could you, Amira?

I assume, Moshe, that if they were to lock you in a cage for years, you would continue your Rotary membership and refuse to back a struggle against your incarceration. I assume, Orna, that if foreign soldiers were to burst into your home in the middle of the night and arrest your Moshe before your eyes, kick him, force him to his knees, blindfold him, handcuff him, and beat him in front of your children who study in Eli – and then snatch him from your home for months without trial – you would be looking for some “creative leadership” for your people.
I assume that you, who come from the business world, would lovingly accept those who confiscate your property and ban you from your own land. I’m sure it would never occur to you to struggle against those who have tortured you with such evil for so many years.   

What can we do? The Palestinians are different from you, dear Orna and Moshe. They were not born in such lofty heights as you. They are human animals, bloodthirsty, born to kill. Not all of them are as ethical as you and your children from the Eli academy. Yes, there are people who fight for their freedom. There are people who are forced to do so violently. In fact, there are almost no nations who haven’t acted this way, including the chosen people you’re proud to belong to. Not only do you belong; you are the pillar of fire that leads the camp, you’re the best, the moral elite – you, the religious Zionists.

I apologize for the one-sidedness. How could I not maintain a balance between the murderer and the murdered; the thief and his victim; the occupier and the occupied? Forgive me for daring to turn off your joy and pride in the land flowing with milk and Mobileye, and cherry tomatoes, too. There are so many wonderful things in this country, and Haaretz – with its “moral deterioration,” as you call it – is ruining the party. How did I not see that you don’t like to read the truth, and didn’t take this into account when I’d return from the occupied territories every week to write about what I’d seen with my own eyes?

But now it’s too late. The call to boycott chocolate spread was too much even for you, so you’ve decided to boycott Haaretz. From now on, the only paper on your coffee table will be the weekly, right-wing Makor Rishon. They won’t write about how IDF soldiers sprayed five Palestinian car passengers with bullets three weeks ago, and I’m sure your Shabbats will be a lot more pleasant from now on.