Thursday, August 16, 2018

RED FLAG: Apartheid becomes official in Israel

Dear friends,
please find below my article for Red Flag on Israel's new "nation-state" law.

In solidarity,


REDFLAG // 28 JULY 2018

The Israeli Knesset (parliament) has enshrined decades of apartheid policy, voting 62-55 for the Jewish Nation State Bill. Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu gloated that it was “a defining moment in the annals of Zionism and the annals of the state of Israel”. 
He is not wrong. The lie peddled by Zionists and their supporters that Israel is a model of democracy rather than a discriminatory, racist oppressor state has been exposed once and for all. 
The bill codifies within Israel’s Basic Laws (the country’s de facto constitution) that Israel is the “national home of the Jewish people” and that “the right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people” – denying Palestinians and other non-Jews such a right. 
It strips Arabic of its former status as an officially recognised language of the state, and declares Jerusalem – in violation of international law – the capital of Israel. It also legalises segregated Jewish-only communities and townships. “The state views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation”, it reads. 
Since its founding in 1948, Israel has used both legal discrimination and military force to ethnically cleanse and oppress the indigenous Palestinian population, imposing an apartheid system inside both the Zionist state and the Palestinian territories seized in 1967. 
Adalah: the Centre for the Arab Minority in Israel notes 65 discriminatory laws in Israel, which ensure the second class status of 1.8 million Palestinians and other non-Jewish citizens. The laws cover such things as land ownership, employment, housing, education, culture, marriage and citizenship. 
The Jewish Nation State law does more than simply reaffirm discrimination. It enshrines discrimination as a “constitutional value” – allowing Israel to continue and extend its oppression of Palestinians. According to Adalah, the new law will entrench “the privileges enjoyed by Jewish citizens, while simultaneously anchoring discrimination against Palestinian citizens and legitimising exclusion, racism, and systemic inequality”.
One of the bill’s sponsors, Avi Dichter, originally introduced it in 2011. After its passing, Dichter – an anti-Arab racist and former head of Israel’s secret police responsible for Shin Bet’s program of extrajudicial murders – clarified its purpose: “We are enshrining this important bill into a law today to prevent even the slightest thought, let alone attempt, to transform Israel to a country of all its citizen[s]”. 
Dichter’s declaration cuts to the heart of Zionism since its inception: the so-called Palestinian demographic threat. An inherently racist and dehumanising concept, it considers the growth of the Palestinian population as a “ticking time bomb” and existential threat to the Zionist state. 
Prior to the establishment of Israel, the primary concern of Zionism was to gain control of the Palestinian homeland, while ensuring that the smallest number of Palestinian Arabs (who made up the overwhelmingly majority of the population) remained. 
After creating a Jewish majority by ethnically cleansing more than 500 villages and forcing more than 750,000 Palestinians into exile in 1948, the Zionist state’s primary concern shifted to the repression of the 150,000 Palestinians left inside the newly formed state and ensuring that they remained an ethnic minority with no national rights. 
In 1967, Israel extended its regime of oppression and repression to another 1.5 to 2 million Palestinians when it illegally occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan Heights. Today, the Palestinian population inside Israel, occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza is about the same as the number of Jewish citizens of Israel. 
Because it is an expansionist settler-colonial state, this presents a “demographic dilemma” not only inside Israel. There is a long-held Zionist aspiration to annex the territories seized in 1967 – an aspiration reiterated by the central committee of Netanyahu’s Likud Party on the last day of 2017. In a unanimous vote, the committee called for annexation of the West Bank and for the Likud leadership to work toward “unhindered construction” of settlements and the extension of “Israeli law and sovereignty”.
Netanyahu is emboldened by the ascension of Donald Trump, whose brand of anti-Muslim ethno-nationalism entirely fits with Likud’s hard right Zionist desire to be rid of the “Palestinian problem”.  
Israel has for decades created “facts on the ground” in illegal colonies in the West Bank. But the formal annexation of Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 would mean the Zionist state would have to contend with a Palestinian demand for full equality. 
The Jewish Nation State law therefore has been passed not only to prevent the creation of a bi-national state, enshrining apartheid within Israel. It has been passed also with an eye to ensuring that any expanded Israeli state will privilege the rights of Jewish citizens above those of any Palestinians and other non-Jews.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Israel passes "Jewish-Nation" law & dispenses with any pretense that they aren't an apartheid state.

Dear friends,

as you will be aware Israel has finally passed the "nation state" law which formally enshrines apartheid. The bill has been on the table since 2011 and simply the latest law put in place by the Zionist state to reinforce the every day apartheid already happening on the ground.

I have included below two articles - one from Ben White discussing what the history, political context and political reality of the law, as well as an article from the New York Times which gives a reasonably overview of the law.

in solidarity, Kim 


Ben White, Middle East Eye, 19 July 2018

The law is only the latest attempt to legislate discrimination against Palestinians
On Thursday, the Israeli government formally passed the "Jewish nation state"law. With the Knesset's summer recess on the horizon, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu managed to pass the law ahead of the break.

"This is a defining moment in the annals of Zionism and the history of the state of
Israel," Netanyahu told the Knesset after the vote.

The initiative has risen to the top of the news agenda in Israel, with high-profile interventions from opponents and supporters. Last Tuesday, President Reuven Rivlin warned in a public letter of what he believes are the dangers inherent in the law - especially an article designed to protect and promote the existence of Jewish-only communities.

Lobbying efforts
Ahead of the vote, a number of Jewish American leaders have strongly urged Netanyahu to reconsider, intensifying their lobbying efforts to prevent the bill's passage.
These responses have, regrettably but predictably, been characterised by a failure to understand or take sufficiently into account how Israel's status as a "Jewish state" has always been reflected in legislation and practice, and, crucially, how this has impacted on Palestinians since 1948.

Many discriminatory laws arealready on the books, and legal ways to create segregated communities in Israel already exist. There is no right to equality, and Israel is not a state of all its citizens. The much-heralded Declaration of Independence is not a constitutional law, and the Basic Law already privileges the protection of a “Jewish state” over equality for non-Jewish citizens.

As a UN special rapporteur put it in 2012, Israeli authorities already pursue "a land development model that excludes, discriminates against and displaces minorities". The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has similarly noted “the enactment of a number of discriminatory laws on land issues which disproportionately affect non-Jewish communities”.

Indeed, the issue of Jewish-only communities, which has dominated recent criticism over the law passed on Thursday, is often debated without reference to the fact that Israel already has hundreds of such segregated communities, thanks to the role of "admission committees".

Traced back to the Nakba
A decade ago, Human Rights Watch reported on how these committees "are made up of government and community representatives as well as a senior official in the Jewish Agency or the Zionist Organisation, and have notoriously been used to exclude Arabs from living in rural Jewish communities".

Such decades-old institutionalised discrimination, which can be traced all the way back to the Nakba, makes a mockery of the claim by the Israel Democracy Institute's Mordechai Kremnitzer that the new law would somehow constitute "the end of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state".

The new law does, however, represent an innovation, both legally and politically, as analysedby legal rights centre Adalah in a new position paper published on Sunday; enjoying the status of a Basic Law, the Jewish nation state law would anchor racist practices in the constitution.
Coverage by Western media has, on the whole, reproduced the lacuna of the law’s Israeli critics. Yet, the omission of the experience of Palestinian citizens in this "Jewish and democratic” state is compounded by an analysis that fails to look deeper into why this legislation is being proposed at all.

The "Jewish nation state" law is not the product of a right-wing tussle between Likud and Jewish Home, or Netanyahu and Naftali Bennett. Rather, tracing the origins of this proposed legislation reveals that it is, in essence, pushback against the efforts by Palestinian citizens over the last two decades to affirm their national identity and demand a state of all its citizens.

Doubling down
Not long after former Shin Bet head Avi Dichter began efforts to pass a "Jewish nation state" bill in 2011, Israeli journalist Lahav Harkov – now news editor of the Jerusalem Post – praisedthe initiative by citing “campaigns to delegitimise Israel on the rise both inside and outside the country”.

Thus, the response from the Israeli political establishment to a mobilised Palestinian citizenry demanding genuine equality has been to double-down on discrimination, and to defiantly and ever-more explicitly assert and legally protect the existence of a “Jewish state”.

But this is not without its advantages, as highlighted by the furore over the new law. For what the draft legislation threatens is not the existence of a “democratic” Israel, but rather critics’ idea of a “Jewish and democratic” state (or at least the plausibility of maintaining this idea).

Through its crudeness, the law threatens Israel’s ability to continue long-standing, institutionalised discrimination with no international cost, a prospect flagged through the warnings of Israel’s attorney general and Jewish American leader Rabbi Rick Jacobs.

Demographic war
"The true face of Zionism in Israel," wrote Orly Noy in +972 magazine last week, is “an inherent, perpetual demographic war against its Palestinian citizens. If Israel seeks to be Jewish and democratic, it needs to actively ensure a Jewish majority.”

The "Jewish nation state" law is part of this historic and ongoing demographic war - one that is testimony to the activism of Palestinian citizens and an effort to stifle it.

As Israel consolidates the de facto single state between the river and the sea, this won’t be the last attempt to see the apartheid reality on the ground further reflected in legislation.
- Ben White is the author of the new book Cracks in the Wall: Beyond Apartheid in Palestine/Israel. He is a freelance journalist and writer and his articles have been published by Al Jazeera, al-Araby, Huffington Post, the Electronic Intifada, the Guardian's Comment is Free and more.

By David M. Halbfinger and Isabel Kershner
July 19, 2018 New York Times

  • JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has long demanded that the Palestinians acknowledge his country’s existence as the “nation-state of the Jewish people.” On Thursday, his governing coalition stopped waiting around and pushed through a law that made it a fact.
In an incendiary move hailed as historic by Mr. Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition but denounced by centrists and leftists as racist and anti-democratic, Israel’s Parliament enacted a law that enshrines the right of national self-determination as “unique to the Jewish people” — not all citizens.
The legislation, a “basic law” — giving it the weight of a constitutional amendment — omits any mention of democracy or the principle of equality, in what critics called a betrayal of Israel’s 1948 Declaration of Independence, which ensured “complete equality of social and political rights” for “all its inhabitants” no matter their religion, race or sex.

The new law promotes the development of Jewish communities, possibly aiding those who would seek to advance discriminatory land-allocation policies. And it downgrades Arabic from an official language to one with a “special status.”

Since Israel was established, it has grappled with the inherent tensions between its dual aspirations of being both a Jewish and democratic state. The new law, portrayed by proponents as restoring that balance in the aftermath of judicial rulings that favored democratic values, nonetheless struck critics as an effort to tip the scales sharply toward Jewishness.

Its passage demonstrated the ascendancy of ultranationalists in Israel’s government, who have been emboldened by the gains of similarly nationalist and populist movements in Europe and elsewhere, as Mr. Netanyahu has increasingly embraced illiberal democracies like that of Hungary — whose far-right prime minister, Viktor Orban, arrived in Jerusalem for a friendly visit only hours before the vote.

With the political opposition too weak to mount a credible threat, and with the Trump administration providing a never-before-seen degree of American support, Mr. Netanyahu’s government, the most right-wing and religious coalition in Israel’s 70-year history, has been pressing its advantages on multiple fronts.

It has sought to exercise more control over the news media, erode the authority of the Supreme Court, curb the activities of left-wing advocacy groups, press ahead with moves that amount to de facto annexation of parts of the West Bank, and undermine the police by trying to thwart or minimize the effect of multiple corruption investigations against the prime minister.

The police have already recommended that Mr. Netanyahu be charged with bribery in two inquiries.

But none of these expressions of raw political power has carried more symbolic weight than the new basic law.

This is a defining moment in the annals of Zionism and the annals of the state of Israel,” Mr. Netanyahu said after the bill was enacted in the early morning after hours of impassioned debate, just before the Knesset, or Parliament, went into summer recess.
We have determined in law the founding principle of our existence,” he said. “Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people, and respects the rights of all of its citizens.”

Opponents say the law will inevitably harm the fragile balance between the country’s Jewish majority and Arab minority, which makes up about 21 percent of a population of nearly nine million.

If the new law was meant to give expression to Israel’s national identity, it exposed and further divided an already deeply fractured society. It passed in the 120-seat Parliament by a vote of 62 to 55 with two abstentions. One member was absent.

Moments after the vote, Arab lawmakers ripped up copies of the bill while crying out, “Apartheid!” Ayman Odeh, the leader of the Joint List of predominantly Arab parties, which holds 13 seats and is the third-largest bloc in Parliament, waved a black flag in protest.
The end of democracy,” declared Ahmad Tibi, a veteran Arab legislator, charging the government with demagogy. “The official beginning of fascism and apartheid. A black day (another black day),” he wrote on Twitter.

Yael German, a lawmaker from the centrist opposition party Yesh Atid, called the law “a poison pill for democracy.”

The law is now one of more than a dozen basic laws that together serve as the country’s Constitution and can be amended only by a majority in the Knesset. Two others, on human dignity and on liberty and freedom of occupation, both enacted in the 1990s, determine the values of the state as both Jewish and democratic.

The basic laws legally supersede the Declaration of Independence and, unlike regular laws, have never been overturned by Israel’s Supreme Court.

Dan Yakir, chief legal counsel for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, said that while largely only declaratory, the new law “will give rise to arguments that Jews should enjoy privileges and subsidies and rights, because of the special status that this law purports to give to the Jewish people in Israel.”

In that regard,” he added, “this is a racist law.”
He noted that a right to equality in Israel had been derived, by interpretation of the Israeli Supreme Court, from the Basic Law on Human Dignity, but that the new law was explicit in elevating the status of Jews.

There is a plausible argument that the new basic law can overrule the right of equality that is only inferred, and is not specified anywhere in our constitution,” he said.

Adalah, a legal center that campaigns for Arab rights in Israel, warned that the law “entrenches the privileges enjoyed by Jewish citizens, while simultaneously anchoring discrimination against Palestinian citizens and legitimizing exclusion, racism, and systemic inequality.”

Some supporters lamented that many of the law’s more polarizing clauses had been diluted to assure passage. Critics decried it as a populist measure that largely sprang from the perennial competition for votes between Mr. Netanyahu’s conservative party, Likud, and political rivals to its right.

I don’t agree with those saying this is an apartheid law,” said Amir Fuchs, an expert in legislative processes and liberal thought at The Israel Democracy Institute, an independent research group in Jerusalem. “It does not form two separate legal norms applying to Jews or non-Jews,” he said.

But he added, “Even if it is only declarative and won’t change anything in the near future, I am 100 percent sure it will worsen the feeling of non-Jews and especially the Arab minority in Israel.”

The law, which also was subtly changed where it addresses the Jewish diaspora to mollify ultra-Orthodox leaders, who feared it could promote Jewish pluralism in Israel, also drew protests from overseas.

We will use all of the legal means available to us to challenge this new law and to promote Reform and Progressive Judaism in Israel,” said Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the New York-based Union for Reform Judaism.

Many North American Jews have grown increasingly alienated from Israel over the Netanyahu government’s hawkishness and coercion by the strictly Orthodox state religious authorities. They remain angry nearly a year after Mr. Netanyahu reneged on an agreement to improve pluralistic prayer arrangements at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, once a hallowed symbol of Jewish unity, and promoted a bill enshrining the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly over conversions to Judaism in Israel.

The new law stipulates that Hebrew is “the state’s language” and demotes Arabic to “special status,” though it is a largely symbolic sleight since a subsequent clause says, “This clause does not harm the status given to the Arabic language before this law came into effect.”

Another highly divisive clause in the draft version, which experts said would have opened the door to legalized segregation, was replaced by one declaring “the development of Jewish settlement as a national value” and promising “to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation.”

Some critics argued the replacement clause was even worse, because while the previous version allowed for separate but equal communities, the new one could be interpreted to allow for discrimination in the allocation of resources.

Proponents of the new law cite continuing demographic threats: Some in Israel’s Arab minority are demanding collective rights and already form a majority in the northern Galilee district. Others view it as a largely pointless expression of nationalism that lays bare basic insecurities in a hostile region and will serve only to fan tensions at home and beyond.
Avi Shilon, an Israeli historian who teaches at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and New York University’s campus in Tel Aviv, noted that Mr. Netanyahu and Likud were the ideological heirs of the right-wing Zionist Revisionist movement of Zeev Jabotinsky, which believed that words could shape reality.

That view is in contrast with those held by the Labor Zionist founders of the state, led by David Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister, who placed more faith in deeds and actions.
The great spirit of Ben-Gurion and the founding fathers was that they knew how to adjust to the times,” Mr. Shilon said. “Mr. Netanyahu and his colleagues are acting like we are still in the battle of 1948, or in a previous era.”

A former Labor Party legislator, Shakeeb Shnaan, a member of Israel’s small, Arabic-speaking Druze community, whose men are drafted for compulsory service in the military, pleaded emotionally for the bill’s defeat. His son was one of two Druze police officers killed in a shooting attack a year ago while guarding an entrance to Jerusalem’s holiest site for Jews and Muslims. The perpetrators were Arab citizens of Israel.

The state of Israel is my country and my home, and I have given it what is most dear to me, and I continue, and I will continue, to serve it with love,” he said, before adding: “The nationality law is a mark of Cain on the forehead of everyone who votes for it.”

Friday, June 29, 2018

Birthright Participants Walk Off Trip to Join Anti-occupation Tour

Dear friends,
please find below a news article from Haaretz discussing the Talgit-Birthright program.  As many of you will be aware of Talgit-Birthright is funded by mulimillionaire hard right Zionist, Sheldon Adelson. The program is NOT apolitical.

It was set up to encourage young American Jews to make Aliyah. All of this is done within the frame work of the Zionist world view. As a result, the program actively downplays Israel's illegal military occupation of Palestine and the human rights abuses and war crimes carried out against Palestinians by the Zionist state.

There has been efforts over the years by young dissident Jewish activists to foster more honest engagement via Birthright in regard to the reality of Israel's military occupation and apartheid regime, including setting up alternative tour programs to allow young Jews who participated in Birthright to visit the Occupied West Bank to see for themselves the reality of Israel's occupation.

The walk out of five participants from a recent Birthright Tour has made the news in Israel mainly because there is an increasing concern within Zionist circles that more and more young Jews are not falling behind the Zionist narrative as they once did.  For more information on this see:

As Israel turns 70, many young American Jews turn away

Young American Jews Increasingly Turning Away From Israel, Jewish Agency Leader Warns

In solidarity,

Five participants left the program in public protest in order to visit Hebron and Bethlehem with Breaking the Silence: 'Israel tour is one-sided' ■ Birthright: We're apolitical and reject promotion of any agenda
Taly Krupkin
Jun 28, 2018 Haaretz

 Illustration, Birthright participantsBirthright

A group of five American Jews visiting Israel as part of the Birthright Israel program left the trip Thursday in protest of the program's treatment of the occupation and joined a tour of Hebron led by anti-occupation army veterans' group Breaking the Silence.

The group split off from the rest of the tour on the eighth day of their trip. One of those who left the group said that Birthright, the organization that brings young Jewish adults on free, 10-day visits to Israel, "is not providing the kind of education that we really need... and is telling a one sided story. This is not fair, and we deserve the truth."

The five young Americans live-streamed the incident on Facebook, where they are seen leaving the bus and arguing with their guide and with fellow participants. They also published a statement on a Twitter account.

Following the incident one of the five people who walked off, Sophie Lasoff, 24, told Haaretz that she wanted to participate in Birthright due to its significant place in the American Jewish community, and that she and her friends did not initially plan to leave the Birthright program.

(for full text of statement, see end of blog article)
“I wanted to give Birthright a chance”, says Lasoff. “We didn’t want to do something like that, but we felt that it was the right thing to do.”
Lasoff told Haaretz that the members of the group did not know each other before the trip to Israel, and did not plan the action beforehand. She explained that they felt disappointed with the program's treatment of the occupation, and therefore contacted Breaking the Silence, an Israeli veterans organization that collects testimonies from Israeli soldiers about their service in the territories, and coordinated to join their tour of the West Bank.

Another woman who left the tour, Katie Anne, claimed on the live stream that "Birthright gave us a map of Israel that does not denote the West Bank [even though] the director of our Birthright organization admitted that the majority of maps in Israel do include [it]. They keep saying they're apolitical but this is clearly to the right."

Anne added: "We love our Jewish community and that's why it's so hard for us to see Birthright systemically miseducating it. We cannot stand this injustice."

After leaving the Birthright bus, the group visited Hebron and Bethlehem.

This week, IfNotNow, an anti-occupation movement led by young U.S. Jews, launched a new campaign targeting the Birthright program. The campaign, called, #NotJustAFreeTrip, seeks to "pressure Birthright to tell the truth about the Israeli occupation to its 40,000 young Jewish participants". IfNotNow activists have been gathering in airports in the U.S. to engage with participants as they leave on Birthright trips, encouraging them to question the tour guides about the occupation.

Yonah Lieberman, spokesperson for IfNotNow, told Haaretz that members of his group met the group who left for the Birthright trip as they were flying to Israel from JFK airport in New York last week.

In response to the protest, Birthright said that it is "an apolitical project and the leading educational initiative in Israel." The organization added that "since we respect our participants' abilities to form their own opinion, we reject the promotion of any agenda and any attempt at manipulation of provocation by any political side."

In November, Haaretz reported that Birthright's education department instructed its trip providers to stop including meetings with Israeli Arabs on their itineraries.

Birthright mandates that all of its trips include meetings with Israeli soldiers. Haaretz also reported last year that Birthright is promoting a free stay for participants who extend their time in Israel beyond the 10 days offered if they choose to remain at a hostel in Jerusalem’s Old City run by an extremist rabbi aligned with radical factions of the settler movement who encourages those who stay with him to volunteer at illegal Israeli outposts in the West Bank.

Sheldon Adelson and Dr. Miriam Adelson attending Birthright's 18th anniversary gala in New York, April 15, 2018.Michael Priest Photography
Birthright’s single largest donor today is casino-magnate Sheldon Adelson, a major supporter of the Republican Party and of Israel’s right-wing government. Adelson and his associates have long insisted, however, that he does not intervene in any way in Birthright's itineraries.

In April, 150 students protested a Birthright annual gala in New York.

Breaking the Silence has faced severe criticism by the Israeli government, including attempts to silence the group through legislation.

Protesters from Jewish Voice for Peace outside the Birthright gala event in New York, April 15, 2018.Ben Lorber, Jewish Voice for Peace


Thursday, June 14, 2018

UN Condemns Israel's 'Excessive Use of Force' in Gaza

Dear friends,
As you will be aware, Israel has repeatedly used excessive force over the last weeks against Palestinians in Gaza, killing 129 Palestinians and injuring hundreds more.  

Unsurprising, Australia - a country built on settler-colonialism like Israel, who like Israel is a serial human rights abuser - voted against the resolution and instead voted with/in support of their fellow human rights abuser. 

Once again, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the governing Liberal-National Party have blood on their hands.

Here is the reports on the vote from Al Jazeera and Haaretz.

in solidarity, Kim 


UN slams 'excessive' Israeli force against Palestinians in Gaza

The resolution, backed by 120 countries, rejected a US bid to blame Hamas for the violence that has left 129 dead.

Al Jazeera News, 14 June 2018

The UN General Assembly on Wednesday condemned Israel for excessive use of force against Palestinian civilians, in a resolution adopted by a strong majority of 120 countries.

The 193-member world body rejected the United States' efforts to blame Gaza's Hamas rulers for the violence that has killed over 120 Palestinians in the past two and half months.

The resolution deplores Israel's use of "excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate force" against Palestinian civilians and calls for protection measures for Palestinians in Gaza and the occupied West Bank.
Presented by Algeria and Turkey on behalf of Arab and Muslim countries, the measure won a decisive 120 votes, with eight votes against and 45 abstentions.

The resolutions are not legally binding but carry political weight.

Australia, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Solomon Islands and Togo joined Israel and the US in voting against the resolution, which comes weeks after Washington vetoed a similar resolution in the 15-member UN Security Council.

At least 129 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in Gaza border protests since March 30 to commemorate 70 years since the Nakba (or Catastrophe), when about 750,000 Palestinians were driven out from their homes.

The largest number of deaths occurred on May 14, the day the US moved its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. Palestinians and their supporters said most protesters were unarmed civilians and Israel used excessive force against them.

"We need protection of our civilian population," Palestinian UN envoy Riyad Mansour told the General Assembly before the vote, adding that the resolution was "intended to contribute to a de-escalation of the volatile situation".

"We cannot remain silent in the face of the most violent crimes and human rights violations being systematically perpetrated against our people," Mansour said.

Despite international condemnation of its use of lethal force, Israel said many of the dead were armed and that the Israeli army was defending itself against attacks on the border fence with Gaza. Washington has maintained Israel's right to defend itself.

The resolution also asked UN chief Antonio Guterres to report back within 60 days on proposals "on ways and means for ensuring the safety, protection and well-being of the Palestinian civilian population under Israeli occupation, including ... recommendations regarding an international protection mechanism."

No mention of Hamas

While the General Assembly text condemned the firing of rockets from Gaza into Israeli civilian areas, it did not mention Hamas, the group that governs Gaza.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley dismissed the resolution as "one-sided" and accused Arab countries of trying to score political points at home by seeking to condemn Israel at the United Nations.

"For some, attacking Israel is their favourite political sport. That's why we are here today," Haley told the Assembly.

An amendment presented by the US that condemned Hamas for "inciting violence" along the border with Gaza failed to garner the two-thirds majority needed for adoption.

In December 128 countries defied President Donald Trump and voted in favour of a UN General Assembly resolution calling for the US to drop its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

UN Condemns Israel's 'Excessive Use of Force' in Gaza, Rejects Amendment Denouncing Hamas

General Assembly passed the resolution with 120 countries in favor and only 8 opposing. U.S. tried to add Hamas condemnation, but couldn't garner sufficient majority

Amir Tibon and Reuters Jun 14, 2018

The UN General Assembly passed a resolution Wednesday night condemning Israel for excessive use of force against Palestinian civilians and proposing forming an international protection mechanism in Gaza.

The resolution is not expected to lead to action against Israel since any attempt to bring such a decision to the Security Council is expected to be met with a U.S. veto.

The resolution passed with 120 countries in favor, eight against, and 45 abstaining. It was put forward in the General Assembly by Algeria, Turkey and the Palestinians.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley criticized the General Assembly for discussing the situation in Gaza instead of the crises in Nicaragua, Yemen and Burma. "Gaza is important, but what makes it more urgent than many other desperate places?" Haley asked. "What makes Gaza different for some is that attacking Israel is their favorite sport." She called the resolution condemning Israel "totally one-sided" and unhelpful for promoting peace.

Haley wanted to add an amendment to the resolution that included a strong denunciation of Hamas. While 62 countries voted in favor of the amendment and only 58 voted against it, that small majority wasn't enough in order to add the amendment to the resolution as passing an amendment would require a two thirds majority.

Australia, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Solomon Islands and Togo joined Israel and the United States in voting against the resolution.

"By supporting this resolution you are colluding with a terrorist organization, by supporting this resolution you are empowering Hamas," Israel's UN Ambassador Danny Danon told the General Assembly before the vote.

"We need protection of our civilian population," Palestinian UN envoy Riyad Mansour told the General Assembly before the vote, adding that the resolution was "intended to contribute to a de-escalation of the volatile situation." "We cannot remain silent in the face of the most violent crimes and human rights violations being systematically perpetrated against our people," Mansour said.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

A grotesque spectacle and a Trump Square in Jerusalem

Dear friends,
a MUST READ article by Michelle Goldberg which was first published in the New York Times and republished by the Fairfax Media in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Goldberg makes clear in her article that the Trump's Embassy move is an alliance between rightwing  anti-semites in the Christian fundmentalist (one of the bases Trump courts) and the Zionist movement.  Goldberg writes:

The event was grotesque. It was a consummation of the cynical alliance between hawkish Jews and Zionist evangelicals who believe that the return of Jews to Israel will usher in the apocalypse and the return of Christ, after which Jews who don't convert will burn forever.

Religions like "Mormonism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism" lead people "to an eternity of separation from God in Hell," Robert Jeffress, a Dallas megachurch pastor, once said. He was chosen to give the opening prayer at the embassy ceremony. John Hagee, one of America's most prominent end-times preachers, once said that Hitler was sent by God to drive the Jews to their ancestral homeland. He gave the closing benediction.

Goldberg also draws attention to the grotesque spectacle in Jerusalem and Gaza, where Israel has massacred more than 55 Palestinians, including children.

I have included the photos from the SMH article, but not the videos. If you wish to see the videos, click on the article title below and it will link to the SMH article.
Please support the Nakba rallies and protests against Israel's massacre in Gaza in your city. If you are in Melbourne, please join the rally on Saturday 19th May at 12 noon at the State Library of Victoria.
In solidarity, Kim

A grotesque spectacle and a Trump Square in Jerusalem

New York: On Monday, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and other leading lights of the Trumpist right gathered in Israel to celebrate the relocation of the US Embassy to Jerusalem, a gesture widely seen as a slap in the face to Palestinians who envision East Jerusalem as their future capital.

The event was grotesque. It was a consummation of the cynical alliance between hawkish Jews and Zionist evangelicals who believe that the return of Jews to Israel will usher in the apocalypse and the return of Christ, after which Jews who don't convert will burn forever.

Religions like "Mormonism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism" lead people "to an eternity of separation from God in Hell," Robert Jeffress, a Dallas megachurch pastor, once said. He was chosen to give the opening prayer at the embassy ceremony. John Hagee, one of America's most prominent end-times preachers, once said that Hitler was sent by God to drive the Jews to their ancestral homeland. He gave the closing benediction.

This spectacle, geared toward Donald Trump's Christian American base, coincided with a massacre about 80 kilometres away. Since March 30, there have been mass protests at the fence separating Gaza and Israel. Gazans, facing an escalating humanitarian crisis due in large part to an Israeli blockade, are demanding the right to return to homes in Israel that their families were forced from at Israeli's founding. The demonstrators have been mostly but not entirely peaceful; Gazans have thrown rocks at Israeli soldiers and tried to fly flaming kites into Israel. The Israeli military has responded with live gunfire as well as rubber bullets and tear gas. In clashes Monday, dozens of Palestinians were killed and thousands wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

The juxtaposition of images of dead and wounded Palestinians and Ivanka Trump smiling in Jerusalem like a Zionist Marie Antoinette tell us a lot about America's relationship with Israel right now. It has never been closer, but within that closeness there are seeds of potential estrangement.

Defenders of Israel's actions in Gaza will argue no country would allow a mob to charge its border. They will say that even if Hamas didn't call the protests, it has thrown its support behind them. "The responsibility for these tragic deaths rests squarely with Hamas," a White House spokesman, Raj Shah, said.

But even if you completely dismiss the Palestinian right of return — which I find harder to do now that Israel's leadership has all but abandoned the possibility of a Palestinian state — it hardly excuses the Israeli military's disproportionate violence.

"What we're seeing is that Israel has used, yet again, excessive and lethal force against protesters who do not pose an imminent threat," Magdalena Mughrabi, Amnesty International's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, told me by phone from Jerusalem.

Much of the world condemned the killings in Gaza. Yet the United States, Israel's most important patron, has given it a free hand to do with the Palestinians what it will. Indeed, by moving the embassy to Jerusalem in the first place, Trump sent the implicit message that the US government has given up any pretence of neutrality.

Reports of Israel's gratitude to Trump abound. A square near the embassy is being renamed in his honour. Beitar Jerusalem, a soccer team whose fans are notorious for their racism, is now calling itself Beitar "Trump" Jerusalem. But if Israelis love Trump, many Americans — and certainly most American Jews — do not. The more Trumpism and Israel are intertwined, the more left-leaning Americans will grow alienated from Zionism.

Even before Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu helped open a partisan divide on Israel in American politics, where previously there had been stultifying unanimity.

"Until these past few years, you'd never heard the word 'occupation' or 'settlements' or talk about Gaza," Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the liberal pro-Israel group J Street, said of American politicians. But Ben-Ami told me that since 2015, when Netanyahu tried to undercut then president Barack Obama with a controversial address to Congress opposing the Iran deal, Democrats have felt more emboldened. "That changed the calculus forever," he told me.

The events of Monday may have changed it further, and things could get worse still. Tuesday is Nakba Day, when Palestinians commemorate their dispossession, and the protests at the fence are expected to be even larger.

"People don't feel like they can stay at home after loved ones and neighbours have been killed for peacefully protesting for their rights,"Abdulrahman Abunahel, a Gaza-based activist with the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, told me via email.

Trump has empowered what's worst in Israel, and as long as he is president, it may be that Israel can kill Palestinians, demolish their homes and appropriate their land with impunity. But some day, Trump will be gone. With hope for a two-state solution nearly dead, current trends suggest that a Jewish minority will come to rule over a largely disenfranchised Muslim majority in all the land under Israel's control. A rising generation of Americans may see an apartheid state with a Trump Square in its capital and wonder why it's supposed to be our friend.
Michelle Goldberg is an American blogger, author and New York Times columnist.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Israeli forces must end the use of excessive force in response to “Great March of Return” protests

Dear friends,

As unarmed Palestinians once again staged protests in Gaza, Israel has once again opened fire on them.  As of today (14 April), 26 Palestinians have been murdered by Israel, including 3 children and Palestinian photojournalist Yasser Murtaja. An additional 3078 Palestinians have been injured.

Amnesty International has issued the following statement condemning Israel's actions.

Please support and join the Palestine solidarity actions in your city.

In solidarity, Kim


Israel/OPT: Israeli forces must end the use of excessive force in response to “Great March of Return” protests

The Israeli authorities must put an immediate end to the excessive and lethal force being used to suppress Palestinian demonstrations in Gaza, Amnesty International said as fresh protests have started today.

Following the deaths of 26 Palestinians, including three children and a photojournalist, Yasser Murtaja, and the injuring of around 3,078 others during protests on the past two Fridays, Amnesty International is renewing its call for independent and effective investigations into reports that Israeli soldiers unlawfully used firearms and other excessive force against unarmed protesters.
For the past two weeks, the world has watched in horror as Israeli forces unleashed excessive, deadly force against protesters, including children, who merely demand an end to Israel’s brutal policies towards Gaza and a life of dignity 

Magdalena Mughrabi, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“For the past two weeks, the world has watched in horror as Israeli forces unleashed excessive, deadly force against protesters, including children, who merely demand an end to Israel’s brutal policies towards Gaza and a life of dignity,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“The Israeli authorities must urgently reverse their policies and abide by their international legal obligations. Their horrifying use of live ammunition against unarmed protesters, and the resultant deaths, must be investigated as possible unlawful killings.

“The Israeli authorities must respect the Palestinians’ right to peaceful protest and, in the event that there is violence, use only the force necessary to address it. Under international law, lethal force can only be used when unavoidable to protect against imminent threats to life.”

Eyewitness testimonies as well as videos and photographs taken during demonstrations point to evidence that, in some instances, unarmed Palestinian protesters were shot by Israeli snipers while waving the Palestinian flag or running away from the fence.
The Israeli authorities must urgently reverse their policies and abide by their international legal obligations. Their horrifying use of live ammunition against unarmed protesters, and the resultant deaths, must be investigated as possible unlawful killings. The Israeli authorities must respect the Palestinians’ right to peaceful protest and, in the event that there is violence, use only the force necessary to address it. 

Magdalena Mughrabi, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
Among those injured since Friday 30 March, there were around 445 children, at least 21 members of the Palestinian Red Crescent’s emergency teams, and 15 journalists.

According to the Ministry of Health in Gaza, some 1,236 people have been hit by live ammunition. Others have been injured by rubber bullets or treated for tear gas inhalation dropped by drones. The World Health Organization expressed concern that nearly 350 of those injured may be temporarily or permanently disabled as a result of their injuries. So far, at least four people have had leg amputations.

On two consecutive Fridays, tens of thousands of Palestinians, including men, women and children, have gathered in five camps set up around 700 meters away from the fence that separates the Gaza Strip from Israel to reassert their right of return and demand an end to nearly 11 years of Israel’s blockade. While protests have been largely peaceful, a minority of protesters have thrown stones and, according to the Israeli army, Molotov cocktails in the direction of the fence. The Israeli forces claim that those killed were trying to cross the fence between Gaza and Israel or were “main instigators.”

There have been no Israeli casualties.

While the Israeli army indicated that it would investigate the conduct of its forces during the protests in Gaza, Israel’s investigations have consistently fallen short of international standards and hardly ever result in criminal prosecution. As a result, serious crimes against Palestinians routinely go unpunished.

In a statement made on 8 April, Fatou Ben Souda, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court expressed concern at the deaths and injuries of Palestinians by Israeli forces, reminding that the situation in Palestine was under preliminary examination by her office.

“Accountability is urgently needed not only for this latest spate of incidents where excessive and lethal force has been used by Israel but also for decades of potentially unlawful killings, including extrajudicial executions, and other crimes under international law.”

The protests were launched to coincide with Land Day, and are demanding the right of return for millions of refugees to villages and towns in what is now Israel.

The protests are expected to last until 15 May, when Palestinians commemorate the Nakba or “great catastrophe”. The day marks the displacement and dispossession of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in 1948-9 during the conflict following the creation of the state of Israel.