Category Archives: Occupied Palestinian Territory

Israel’s voracious appetite

An inherent, defining feature of Zionism, and therefore of the Israeli state, is its appetite.  An unrelenting, voracious appetite for that which is not theirs to consume: Palestinian land.  Zionism is this appetite, an appetite not capable of satiation until all – or practically all – Palestinian land has been consumed and digested by the Jewish state.

And what of those which the Israeli state finds indigestible – Palestinians – yet remain so naggingly present?  Well, they must be ‘encouraged’ to leave or accept a lesser life under the tutelage of the self-avowedly ethnonationalist Jewish state.  The state that is feted, funded, endorsed and protected by other states able, without blushing, to proclaim their commitment to democratic principles.

How to convey?

The means to convey what this unrelenting appetite for Palestinian land means in practice are so limited: words, pictures, personal testaments, sharing narratives of courage and resistance, all attempting to evoke the felt experience of, for example, the residents of Sheikh Jarrar threatened with eviction; the Bedouin attacked daily by settlers; of homes and the means to support livelihoods repeatedly destroyed by the Israel Defence Force – so inaptly and inaccurately titled –  working alongside Israel’s Border Police named thus, perhaps with paradoxical intent, since Israel has yet to formally agree its borders.

Israel, as I have elsewhere remarked, is the land of smoke and mirrors, of sleight of hand – little if anything is as on the surface it seems.

Except of course the iron fist, the ‘live’ bullet, the rubber-coated bullet, the tear gas cannister, the skunk water cannon, the handheld baton to beat unprotected Palestinian flesh. Here there is no sleight of hand, no smoke and mirrors, merely raw violence exerted by a militarised, hegemonic society intent on spacio-cide – clearing the land of as many indigenous Palestinians as it can. For the Israeli state, this is work in progress.  

ICAHD UK reports: ‘The Palestinian herding community of Humsa Al-Bqai’a (Khirbet Hamsa in Hebrew) was demolished yet again by the Israeli Civil Administration (ICA) on Wednesday, 7th July 2021 following previous demolitions in November 2020 and February 2021….

On Wednesday the ICA, accompanied by the military, held the residents at gunpoint and told them that they were to get on a bus and leave immediately but they refused. Therefore, the ICA proceeded to demolish a total of 27 structures including homes, animal shelters, and water tanks. All personal belongings were confiscated as were their food supplies and water. The residents were left without even milk for their children or fodder for their 4000 sheep.

Eleven households, comprising around 70 people, including 36 children, were left without shelter in yesterday’s scorching heat that reached 39 degrees C.  Included in the demolition was destruction of humanitarian aid that had been provided by donors including NGOs, EU Humanitarian Aid and European countries including the UK.’

The State of Israel has a right to exist…doesn’t it?

The ending of the latest fighting between the Israelis and the Palestinians, in particular Hamas, has drawn attention yet again to the need for an end to over 70 years of conflict and this, it is said, requires a two state solution. I have explained in previous articles why it is that a two state solution is a chimera, but the possibility that others may explore it raises issues about the nature of a state.

In what sense does the state of Israel have rights and, if it does, how do they compare with the rights which a state of Palestine should have? Indeed, can states have rights? And how might such rights compare or conflict with human rights?

States and rights

States do not, cannot, have rights.  Yet it is a fundamental plank of Israel’s claim to legitimacy that it – the Israeli State – has a right to exist.  The Israeli claim goes further: Israel asserts that it has the right to exist as a specifically Jewish State.  These claims, deployed by Israel and its allies, in particular the USA and EU, act as a form of camouflage, concealing Israel’s rooted unwillingness to work towards justice in Palestine/Israel.  

Usually camouflage is deployed to conceal weaponry or key installations, but in the case of the assertion that the Israeli State has the right to exist, what is concealed is not weaponry, but the absence of a sustainable, coherent idea. A bit like the Wizard of Oz where the wizard is seen to be non-existent, Israel’s right to exist, when considered, is similarly pointing at an empty construct. And this has nothing to do with Israel as such and everything to do with what it means to say an entity – a State or organisation – has rights. 

A state, an abstract construction, is not capable of having rights though all people living within a state’s territory do, or should have human rights. It is the prospect of equal human rights for all that discomforts Israel.

We can apply a real-life test to the proposition that a state cannot meaningfully be said to have rights.

The United Kingdom claims no right to exist

Within the United Kingdom, one of its component parts, Scotland, is debating whether it wishes to remain part of the UK, or to declare its independence as a Scottish State.  Similarly, there are currents of opinion in Wales, Northern Ireland and indeed Cornwall, that favour divorce from the UK State, and hope for independence. Such aspirations may or may not be achievable, that is not the point.  So far as I’m aware, no charges of sedition have been laid against proponents of these fissiparous tendencies, nor has it been claimed the UK State has any rights that might be infringed by this prospective contraction of its borders.  Implementation of any one of the potential scenarios above would mean that the UK State, as currently constituted, would no longer exist. And of course history, even recent history, has examples of state formation and state dissolution.

When is the death of a child acceptable? An open letter from Dr Sara Roy to President Biden

I had intended that my next post – this one! – would take a look at ‘Israel’s right to exist’, a key phrase in the armory of the Israeli State. But I’ve deferred that subject to the next blog, and that because I happened upon the open letter to President Biden from Dr Sara Roy published by Counterpunch. Her letter is succinct, direct, heartfelt, but invested with moral authority. And timely.

Dr Sara Roy is an American political economist and scholar. She is a Senior Research Scholar at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University. Both her parents survived the Holocaust, but 100 members of her extended family did not. Her father, Abraham, was one of the two known survivors of the Chelmno extermination camp, while her mother, Taube, survived Halbstadt (Gross Rosen) and Auschwitz. While confined in the Lodz ghetto she endeavoured to hide children destined for deportation to the Nazi extermination camps, but they were seized and despatched to Auschwitz.

Dear President Biden,

I am writing to you about Gaza, a place that I have studied and written about for the last 35 years, a place that I consider another home, filled with the kindest and most generous people you will ever meet—have you ever been there? But I am writing not only as a scholar of the region but as a Jew and one whose parents survived Auschwitz.

I have a question for you, Mr. President: When is the death of a child acceptable? Or perhaps I should ask the question this way: When does the death of a Palestinian child become unacceptable? You have experienced the unspeakable loss of your own children so you are better placed than most to answer my questions.

Last week after 87 Palestinians in Gaza were killed and over 500 wounded you stated that you had not seen a “significant overreaction” on Israel’s part to Hamas’s rocket attacks.  Among the dead at that time were 18 children. I did not know any of them but I know people who do. Would you please help me explain to my friends why the death of these 18 children does not constitute an overreaction?  This brings up another question I have for you, Mr. President: How many children must die in Gaza before you would consider Israel’s response excessive particularly since you have made human rights the center of your foreign policy? I need to know so that I can explain it to my friends. As I write this, over 60 Palestinian children have been killed by the government of Israel. Is that enough to qualify?

I know people inside our government who work on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I need to tell you something I heard from one of them about the death of Gaza’s children. This individual implied that some of the dead were likely the children of Hamas officials so their deaths don’t really matter, that is, their deaths are acceptable. Is this the answer to my first question? Should this be the way I explain it to my friends? Please help me out here.

It is tragic that after more than three decades of research and writing, I still find it necessary to argue for the humanity of Palestinians, even to you.

One more thing before I end this letter if you’ll indulge me. It is about my mom. When she was imprisoned in the Lodz ghetto during the Holocaust, she risked her life hiding children who were chosen for deportation to Auschwitz and other extermination camps. The Nazis eventually found the children and sent them to their deaths.  But my mom tried to save them even though she knew she was powerless to do so. And I can assure you, knowing her and learning from her as I did throughout my life, she would have done the same for any child under threat, Jewish or Christian or Muslim. She would have been horrified by the senseless killing of children in this terrible conflict, both Palestinian and Israeli, and she would have railed at the injustice of it all. And this is my last question for you: Why haven’t you done the same?

Sincerely,

Dr. Sara Roy

First hand report from Jaffa

I thought readers of this blog may be interested in a piece by Matan Kaminer, a Jewish Israeli anthropologist and political activist living in the ‘mixed’ city of Jaffa. Matan reflects on the situation in Jaffa and the larger meaning of the crisis, arguing that it serves the Israeli far right’s agenda of eroding the already fragile fabric of joint Jewish–Palestinian life. The article was originally published in Jewish Currents.

These last few days in Jaffa, the most centrally located and deeply unequal of Israel’s mixed Jewish–Arab cities, a tense quiet has prevailed. The intercommunal mayhem that engulfed mixed cities like Acre and Lod since Israel’s horrific attack on the Gaza Strip began last week has for the most part passed us by. To even speak of what might have happened, and still might, seems like courting misfortune. But if the worst is to be averted, it must be imagined and faced head-on.

The conflagration within Israel’s 1948 borders, while unexpected, did not erupt spontaneously. The Jewish residents of the mixed cities have for years been targeted for proselytization by garinim toraniim—“Torah nuclei,” or groups of extremist West Bank settlers whose guru, Meir Kahane, is also the hero of street-brawling groups like Lehava and La Familia. The involvement of Palestinian residents in the indefensible destruction of Jewish lives, livelihoods, and places of worship as part of this violence should not be ignored or glorified. But the arrival of armed settlers in the mixed cities, Netanyahu’s framing of the troubles as Arab “terrorism,” the criminal justice system’s completely lopsided response, and the police’s naked provocations all point in the direction of a strategic agenda being served: ethnic cleansing, known euphemistically in Israel as “population transfer.” Netanyahu’s recent courting of Kahanism, through his promotion of the far-right Religious Zionism party, explicitly legitimates this agenda.

In a way, this is nothing new. The threat of “transfer” has hung over the heads of the Palestinians who managed to retain their homes in the state of Israel ever since the original ethnic cleansing of 1948. Just a few years ago it was touted by politician Avigdor Liberman—now a darling of anti-Netanyahu centrists—as a way of dealing with the Arab-majority area of Wadi Ara, which abuts the West Bank. But one should not expect the next round of ethnic cleansing to arrive in the familiar guise of camouflaged trucks and shouting soldiers. In the mixed cities, it may take the shape of further provocations by state and parastate actors, calculated to gradually destroy the texture of everyday Palestinian life, which relies on peaceable, if not always harmonious, interaction between Arabs and Jews.

The word “coexistence” is often applied to life in the mixed cities, but local activists are hesitant to use this simplistic term, which is all too often abused by romanticizing tourist agencies and see-no-evil dialogue groups. This tissue of common life is a scar over the broken flesh of previously lively urban centers, a direct result of the corralling of those Palestinians who managed to survive the Nakba into cramped ghettos. The foundational violence of 1948 has continued to mar the social life of these cities, many of which were packed after the war with Jewish immigrants nearly as poor as the locals. As in many other places around the world, here the effects of capitalism and racism are compounded through gentrification, and its slow violence has made survival even more difficult for residents of the sought-after beachfront neighborhoods of Jaffa. Braving poverty and discrimination, the Palestinian residents of the mixed cities have refused to budge, practicing sumud, the Palestinian national value of steadfastness. But here, where Arabs and Jews live in close proximity, patronize each other’s businesses, and even undertake cultural projects together, connections with Jews have been central pillars of the Palestinian strategy for survival.

The long-standing links between the mixed cities’ Palestinian communities and the Israeli Jewish left have given rise to political initiatives that play a role in protecting these communities from the combined violence of state and market. Most prominent in recent years has been the Tel Aviv/Jaffa municipal political party City for All, led by Jewish Knesset member Dov Khenin of the majority-Palestinian party Hadash (now part of the Arab-led Joint List). During its heyday as an effective opposition to the city’s neoliberal mayor Ron Huldai, City for All managed to secure an informal moratorium on the eviction of Arab Jaffans from housing that had been confiscated from Palestinian refugees and held by the public corporation Amidar. Along with a few other pockets—the higher education system, the hospitals—the mixed cities have become small islands of common living in what has become, since the beginning of the Oslo process, a sea of total segregation.

The mixed cities thus make a doubly attractive target for the far right in government and its parastate allies: Not only do their trapped Palestinian populations make for relatively easy targets, but their very existence represents the possibility of Jews and Arabs living together, a possibility these groups would like to eradicate. To an extent, they have already succeeded. As a Jew who has lived in Jaffa for over a decade, I had never felt the slightest concern about interactions in public spaces before this week. If I am now more cautious, how much more frightened must my Palestinian neighbors be, knowing that if conflict breaks out the police will not come to their aid as they would come to mine?

God willing, soon the attack on Gaza will end. But if Netanyahu’s jingoistic strategy succeeds in keeping him in power—as it probably will—then we can expect the onslaught on the mixed cities to continue, with the aim of pushing local Palestinian communities away from prime real estate and deeper into isolated ghettos, and destroying the texture of joint life. The emergency committee for self-defense established by the Palestinian community in Jaffa understands this, and has reached out to Jewish allies, who have responded warmly. The threat to sumud here is as dire as it has been in decades, but this community will not be destroyed without a fight.

The original wound

The original wound is still raw – septic. Yet the work of wounding continues, daily, without let, without hindrance.

The original wound

The original wound was inflicted in 1948 – the Naqba (Catastrophe) marking the expulsion of the settled, indigenous inhabitants of Palestine from their homes and land.  The methods: Intimidation and brute force at the service of the ethnic cleansing project that was, and still is, the modus operandi of the Israeli State. 

The State of Israel, a colonial and colonising State – a peculiar, almost ahistorical aberration seemingly out of time with the wider world where, for example, European countries were beginning to glimpse and face up to the inevitability of having to relinquish their colonial possessions. Israel – history in reverse.  Out of time.

Starting here, with the unhealed wound of 1948, alerts us to what has too often been obscured, that Occupation and Colonisation did not start in 1967, after the Six Day War. It started in 1948.

Between 1948 and 1967, Israel worked, as it still works, to erase Palestinian history. A patina of contrived forgetfulness lays upon the land. Walk where you will, look where you will, and you’ll not be far from a forest or institution, the presence of which masks, and is designed to mask, the Palestinian village or cemetery destroyed by Israel. Be that the Jewish National Fund’s South African Forest – billed an ecological-conservation-motivated project – which overlays the destroyed Palestinian village of Lubya; or by Tel Aviv’s coastline, at the site of what is now the Etzel Museum, which was once part of the Palestinian village of al-Manshiyyah. Then there is Al-Shaykh Muwannis, which abuts the campus of Tel Aviv University. Down the road a large building that was once part of the Palestinian village is now a faculty club.

Where you walk in Israel, you walk on injustice.  This original wound has festered for seventy-three years and counting.

The perpetual wounding

Israel did not have to hold on to the West Bank, Gaza, still less East Jerusalem after the 1967 war. The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs reported Senator Fulbright’s 1970 proposal ‘that America should guarantee Israel’s security in a formal treaty, protecting her with armed forces if necessary. In return, Israel would retire to the borders of 1967.…As Israeli troops were withdrawn from the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank they would be replaced by a UN peacekeeping force. Israel would agree to accept a certain number of Palestinians and the rest would be settled in a Palestinian state outside Israel.’ 

But the wounding continued. The strategic Israeli aim of acquiring and retaining Palestinian land, but removing as many Palestinians from it as possible, has been and continues to be the principle and reference point of Israeli policy. What began in 1948 continues. It is now fifty-four years and counting, of Israeli Occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

The Israelisation of British politics

It should be a matter of the gravest concern. A concern for the integrity of British politics.  A concern over and above those we have about the diverse causes we support.  

When it comes to thinking about, speaking about, using one’s best judgment about Israel and Palestine, too many of our politicians behave with the integrity of a pre-programmed talking machine. Forget human rights, international and humanitarian law, the evidence of any number of authoritative witnesses; and even the testimony of one’s own eyes and knowledge, all this counts for nothing once the censoring pro-Zionist lobby gets to work. This lobby’s purpose is to direct and shape all public speech about Israel.  This lobby has contaminated British political life, curtailing what may be said about Israel in the public realm.

Labour’s shame

Thus we have the sorry sight of Kier Starmer, Labour Party leader, withdrawing from a virtual Ramadan interfaith event after a pro-Israel lobby group alerted him to the organiser’s support for the boycott of Israeli dates produced in territories occupied by the Zionist state.

Note here that the dates proposed for boycott are grown in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, not in Israel proper.  In other words, grown on stolen Palestinian land. 

Despite initially agreeing to take part in the event, Starmer pulled out after the Board of Deputies, a pro-Israel lobby group, alerted him to the organisers’ Tweeted comments supporting the boycott of dates produced on Occupied Palestinian land.  The Board of Deputies’ Tal Ofer tweeted he was ‘glad to see that after I raised this issue Keir Starmer withdrew his participation from the event.’

The Muslim Association of Britain, however, was ‘disappointed’ to hear that the Labour leader had pulled out ‘due to the host’s support for boycotting dates grown in Israeli settlements’.

MEND (Muslim Engagement and Development) in condemning the withdrawal said:

‘Numerous UN resolutions have affirmed that settlements in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip are in breach of international law. Meanwhile, support for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against goods grown on illegal settlements or through other means deemed in contempt of international law are a legitimate form of democratic activism to promote peaceful change, regardless of where in the world such acts are being committed’.

Two States or One?

I’m afraid this is rather a long post – just under 3,000 words –which may tax some readers’ stamina, and indeed patience. Doubtless a bit more incisive editing might have reduced the word count, but the subject I was aiming at – the One State idea as a potentially positive approach to the Palestine/Israel impasse – seemed to me to require, at least in outline, a critique of the optimistically titled Two State ‘solution’.  One needs to clear the ground before it can be built on.

Almost without exception my posts on Palestine/Israel have not been sunny fare.  They’ve pointed to the multiple sufferings – killings, woundings, home demolitions, internal displacements, child detentions, racist policies and enactments – endured, and resisted, by Palestinians, child, man, woman. All this and more, daily.

But mere describing and reporting – imperatives not to be shirked – of themselves offer no pathway to remediation, nor strategy towards a wished for, just, future. And while the legendary steadfastness – Samud – of Palestinians is and will be a prerequisite underpinning any strategy directed towards creating such a just outcome, it is only a prerequisite, not a strategy in itself. 

One State/Two State

Jeff Harper,[1] in his latest book ‘Decolonising Israel, Liberating Palestine’, makes the point there needs to be a wished-for, articulated endgame if progress towards a durable political settlement to the Palestine/Israel impasse is to be achieved. For reasons that will be outlined below, the much-touted two State ‘solution’ is not that endgame.  

A wished-for endgame can only come to fruition in the context and pursuit of a political strategy.  Samud and resistance are necessary, but of themselves not future-oriented strategies. I want, therefore, in this post to point to a potential ‘endgame’ that historically had, and perhaps now has, greater credibility than commonly supposed. It is the One State idea: a unified, democratic State of equal citizenship and rights for all between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.    

Before proceeding, however, it is necessary to dispose of a different proposed endgame, one that for some time had apparent credence, but that time, almost certainly, has passed. I speak of the now entirely notional ‘Two State Solution’ proposed, indeed promoted, as the way to resolve the Palestine/Israel conundrum. 

The ‘solution’ is in fact snake oil, not cure.  At first blush it suggests a sense of fairness, the title ‘two states’ implying a symmetry between the gains and losses that would be borne by Israelis and Palestinians alike.  All in pursuit of the ‘solution’. But there is no symmetry here, still less fairness. Proposals for the Palestinian State require it to accept but 22% of historic Palestine. Such a State would be almost entirely dependent on a dominant Israel, which has not hitherto displayed any intention of supporting a truly independent Palestinian state.

It’s true that the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organisation) did in fact come to accept the two State outcome, this in 1988. Having by that time endured twenty-one years of Israeli Occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, with an International Community, so called, largely in support of the proposal, one can see that weariness, coupled with pressure by international funders, beget a form of pragmaticism so that, in 1988, a two State outcome was formally endorsed by the PLO, though never thus far achieved.

NSPCC/JCB complicit in cruelty to Palestinian children: Campaign report

There’s been an agreeable increase in both visitors and viewings of pages to this blog site. In particular, there appeared to be interest in the campaign to persuade NSPCC to refuse donations from JCB (Machines) on the grounds that this made the NSPCC complicit in cruelty to Palestinian children and their families. JCB’s heavy duty machines – bulldozers and others – are used by Israel to destroy Palestinian homes and livelihoods, often without warning.

The rate of demolitions is increasing. The aim: to remove Palestinians from their land to make way for Jewish-only Settlements.

I thought readers might be interested in a report on the campaign by the UK Palestine Mental Health Network. It can be found here. I will promote the next stages of the campaign as soon as details are released.

Looking ahead, I think there are two issues on Palestine/Israel I want to tackle in next postings: 1. the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions Campaign (BDS); 2. the proposal for One State between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.

NSPCC complicity in cruelty to Palestinian children. An open letter signed by ninety one health workers, academics, educators, social workers, youth workers, and others

It should at the very least be a source of disquiet that a number of mainstream media, including the Guardian, determined that this letter, and the issue it addressesNSPCC’s complicity in undermining the lives of Palestinian children and their families – does not warrant space within their columns.

A perhaps unintended, though perhaps ultimately useful, consequence of media indifference to this letter is that it alerts readers of this post to the way in which the daily, persistent oppression of Palestinians by Israel and its fellow travellers is to a significant extent marginalised or entirely ignored by the mainstream media.

PLAYLINK is pleased to be among the signatories of this letter.

We, the undersigned, are campaigning organisations, professionals and creatives who are very concerned with the recent reports of escalating home demolitions in Palestine

We are deeply disquieted to learn that the charity the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) is accepting funds from JCB – a company which exports equipment to Israel via its partner, Comasco, despite knowing how its products are subsequently employed. 

Evidence shows that JCB bulldozers are routinely used to demolish Palestinian houses, animal shelters and water sources. They destroy livelihoods by digging up olive and other fruit trees.  Palestinian children, their families and communities suffer terribly as a result. 

JCB currently faces scrutiny under OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises which investigates companies that may be involved in human rights violations as a result of their business relationship with other parties. The United Nations has also listed JCB as involved in activities that support the Israeli settlements.

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children accused of complicity in cruelty to Palestinian children

My guess is that a significant number of those who read my posts are involved, in one way of another, with children and the required work to ensure their flourishing. We recognise this as a universal goal, unbounded by border, background or ethnicity. With this in mind, this post may have particular salience for at least some readers, for reasons set out below. This post ends with a call to action. My hope is that some readers at least will respond to the call.

The NSPCC, which does valuable work here in the UK, is charged with being complicit in the ruination of Palestinian children’s, and their families, lives. This because it accepts substantial donations – millions of pounds – from J C Bamford Excavators Ltd (JCB), the private UK company that builds and sells to Israel the bulldozers and other heavy equipment used by Israeli forces to demolish, not only the homes of Palestinians, but also the structures and buildings required to maintain life, for example, animal housing, olive and fruit trees, wells, community freshwater systems, cutting off villagers from water sources.

The aim of the demolitions is to clear – ethnically cleanse – Palestinians from their land to make way for exclusive Jews-only Settlements.  The demolitions are well documented and are virtually a daily occurrence both in the Occupied West Bank and within illegally annexed East Jerusalem.