My purpose in this posting is simply to put before you first-hand testimony of the lived experience of the Jordan Valley Bedouin. The testimony offered here is by Professor David Shulman accompanied by his and Margaret Olin‘s photos .
Below is a brief introduction by David followed by a link to his 6 November 2020 report. The combination of words and photos is evocative indeed. No additional words from me are required.
One of Ta’ayush projects, writes Professor David Shulman, centres on protecting Palestinian shepherds and farmers in the Jordan Valley. [Rabbi] Arik Ascherman and the group of activist-volunteers who have joined him are with these shepherds and farmers almost every day.
There is no doubt whatsoever that without our presence accompanying the shepherds to their grazing grounds, it would be dangerous for them—perhaps impossible—to bring their sheep and goats out to pasture. They regularly and repeatedly suffer violent attacks by Jewish settlers, who are in many cases supported by soldiers and the police; the overall aim of this violence is to drive these Palestinians out of the Jordan Valley altogether. The authorities make no attempt even to disguise this brutal goal. One should keep in mind that the Jordan Valley settlements, like those elsewhere in the West Bank, sit on Palestinian land. All of the many newer “outpost”-settlements in the Jordan Valley are illegal even under the lenient terms of Israeli law. Such settlements tend to attract sociopathic young men who have found in them an outlet for their aggressive impulses.
One could say that this is a struggle on the micro-level for the lands still available to Palestinians in the Jordan Valley (probably less than 15% of the lands in the Valley as a whole, since huge areas have been declared closed military zones and/or handed over to settlers). It is also fair to say that in many cases the only thing standing between the Bedouin shepherds and their final expulsion is the presence of Israeli activists, on a daily basis, to protect them from the settlers and the soldiers. This form of activism is not without danger; all of us have been physically attacked at times by the settlers. This is a risk we need to take, if we are to live up to the privilege of being human.
In so far as it is possible to convey in words and pictures the brutal reality of Isaeli rule, it will be found in Professor Shulman and Margaret Olin’s Ta’ayush post of November 6, 2020.
Dear Reader, I return to a topic that is much neglected in mainstream media. It is also a matter of some sensitivity for many, and for many reasons. Whilst it is not necessarily hard to discern the motives and objectives of key state interests in maintaining and enriching, beyond all conscience, an apartheid regime, for many individuals the subject is of visceral significance, one of deep personal commitments, born of a mix of personal histories, motives and affiliations.
It is also an issue subject to massive distortions – of truth, of ethics, of conceptual muddles – that litter the terrain with metaphorical landmines, overseen by vigilant and aggressive metaphorical drones. The adage ‘sticks and stones may hurt my bones, but words will never hurt me’ has no purchase here.
The subject is Palestine/Israel. Over the coming weeks I hope to discuss aspects of the issue. Inevitably, for some, some words will sting.
The democratic state of Israel
Like a toxic thread, cruelty runs through Israel’s dealings with Palestinians, perhaps most particularly in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), including East Jerusalem and Gaza. Be you Palestinian child, woman or man, its coarse rasp will demean, humiliate, wound or kill you. Daily.
‘Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank have razed a Palestinian village, leaving 73 people – including 41 children – homeless, in the largest forced displacement incident for years, according to the United Nations….Three-quarters of the community lost their shelters during Tuesday’s operation…making it the largest forced displacement incident in more than four years.
However, by the number of destroyed structures, 76, the raid was the largest demolition in the past decade, she [UN spokesperson] added.
On Wednesday, families from the village were seen rifling through their wrecked belongings in the wind, with some of the first rain of the year arriving the same day.
Two strategic objectives
None of this is random, an unintended consequence or miscalculation. It is the logic of a founding ideology systematically going about its work: State Zionism. State Zionism’s strategic rationale and purpose are essentially twofold:
One, to create and maintain a specifically Jewish State – that is, a state with a built-in, perennial Jewish majority – within Israel’s boundaries. This requires the containment and removal of significant numbers of the indigenous Palestinian population. The only way to achieve this is to enact, as a matter of policy, structural and personal violence against Palestinians. Daily.
Two, significant Israeli political forces hold that Israel’s ultimate geographical boundary properly includes the West Bank and East Jerusalem; that is, the land between the Green Line1 and Jordan River. On this land Israel has built illegal Jews-only Settlements2– colonies, properly called – and aims to formally annexe all or part of the West Bank at some point3.
The only way to achieve an expansion of Israel’s borders whilst ensuring a Jewish majority or iron grip control of the area – approximately three million Palestinians live in the West Bank – is to enact, as a matter of policy, structural and personal violence against Palestinians. Daily.
Recent publicity suggesting that Prime Minister Netanyahu has put to one side his intention to annexe additional swathes of Palestinian territory is little more than window dressing. Much of the West Bank, and all of East Jerusalem, are to all intent and purposes de facto annexed. Israel’s writ and reach in practice extends to the entirety of the West Bank; and it maintains a suffocating seige of Gaza. ‘Israel’s writ’ refers to the OPT being under military rule, enforced by a brutal Israel Defence Force (IDF) inflicting Israel’s will on Palestinian childen, women and men.
As the Guardian news item above demonstrates, Israel is and has been pursuing a policy of annexation by other means i.e. demolishing villages and individual homes; population dissplacement, and ensuring Palestinian villages have no access to water and other essential utilities. Meanwhile, the Settlements – colonies – are richly endowed with new and developing infrastructure – all on stolen Palestinian land.
Israeli forces shot and detained a 16-year-old Palestinian boy on Wednesday night in the occupied West Bank and informed his family the next day that he was dead.
Late Wednesday night, three Palestinian teenagers approached a road used by Israeli settlers near the occupied West Bank village of Deir Abu Meshal, located northwest of Ramallah, seemingly to throw stones or Molotov cocktails, according to information collected by Defense for Children International – Palestine. Israeli forces in a nearby concealed position opened-fire with live ammunition injuring all three boys.
So far in 2020, 689 structures have been demolished across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, more than in any full year since 2016; rendering 869 Palestinians homeless.
The two strategic purposes outlined above are predicated on the ‘Judaisation’ – ugly word; ugly concept – of the ‘historical, biblical’ Land of Israel.
In addition to, as a matter of policy and daily practice, displacing as many as possible of the indigenous Palestinian population, Israel ensures that those Palestinians not displaced are nevertheless hemmed in by structural and legal barriers such that anything resembling full, equal citizenship on the same terms as the Jewish population is, and always will be, impossible to achieve.
Children in military [note ‘military’] detention as of 31 August 2020: 135
The corrupted State ideology delineated above is enshrined in Israel’s 2018 Nationality Law. In fact, the racist, apartheid basis of the Jewish Israeli state had been embedded in earlier legislation and organisational arrangements such as, for example, in the Jewish National Fund (JNF) which holds or controls vast tracts of land which can only be settled by Jews.
Israel is as it is because it is allowed to be so
Precisely because the Nationality Law was not strictly necessary there is, arguably, a performative aspect to its purpose. It can be seen as Israel confirming to itself and other state and civil society actors that it is immune to censor or consequence, no matter which norms of international behaviour or common decency are breached.
Israel is enmeshed in a web of American, British and European state and quasi-state enterprises along with academic research, much of it military, all seemingly sanctified by a somewhat mystical International Community. In other words, the much vaunted democratic west is pock-marked and stained by its active support of what should be a pariah state.
Subsequent posts will flesh out the degree to which western complicity is not only maintaining, but bolstering, Israel’s apartheid state regime.
But neither the past, nor the present, are binding upon the future. In an admittedly almost entirely bleak vista, there are Palestinians and Jewish Israelis working to break out of the binary, zero sum game such that what is good for Palestinians must be bad for Jewish Israelis; and what is bad for Palestinians must be good for Jewish Israelis. Paradoxically perhaps, these moves are not so much a forging of new ideas, but are rather a return to, and renewal of, a more generous faith and a more inclusive, expansive vision.
Of which, more anon.
 The ‘Green Line’ currently delineating Israel from the OPT is in fact the 1949 Armistice Line
 Some 465,000, and rising, Israeli Jews live in Settlements built on stolen Palestinian land.
 Israel annexed Palestinian East Jerusalem soon after the six day war (June 1967)