Stuctural and personal violence: Israel’s relationship with Palestinians

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.

Guardian report, 5 November 2020:Demolitions used as a ‘key means’ to ‘coerce Palestinians to leave their homes’

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.

The West Bank and Gaza comprise the Palestinian Occupied Territory.

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.

Defence for Children International: Palestine Ramallah, August 21, 2020

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

UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)

 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. 

Military Court Watch: Monitoring the treatment of children in military detention

Children in military [note ‘military’] detention as of 31 August 2020: 135

Nationality Law

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….

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.  



[1] The ‘Green Line’ currently delineating Israel from the OPT is in fact the 1949 Armistice Line

[2] Some 465,000, and rising, Israeli Jews live in Settlements built on stolen Palestinian land.

[3] Israel annexed Palestinian East Jerusalem soon after the six day war (June 1967)


ODSC calls for international support against Israel’s annexation plans

Free Haifa

A CALL AGAINST APARTHEID OVER PALESTINE; ONE DEMOCRACY FOR ALL

One Democratic State Campaign (ODSC)

April 29, 2020

Israel is racing to complete its project of institutionalizing a colonial apartheid regime over all of historic Palestine. The next step is planned for July, when the coalition government of Benjamin Netanyahu intends to formally annex large swathes of the West Bank. The expansion of Israel onto 85% of historic Palestine leaves the Palestinian majority imprisoned in dozens of impoverished enclaves on just 15% of the land, under permanent Israeli rule, bereft of any civil or national rights. This is apartheid, pure and simple.

Having “given” occupied East Jerusalem to the Israelis, Trump’s “Deal of the Century” allows Israel to take possession of the rest of the West Bank. Israel’s unilateral annexation of its massive settlement blocs has been waiting on a green light from the Trump Administration, the only international authority…

View original post 260 more words

Playing with death – Palestinian childhoods

Traditionally, this site has been concerned with children and their freedoms.  More recently, it has also focused on the conflict in Palestine/Israel.  The two subjects distressingly combine in todays’s Daily Telegraph report.

Something hidden, obscured or ignored now starkly highlighted:

More children than Palestinian fighters are being killed in the offensive on Gaza. The name, age, sex and location of 132 of the 155 Palestinian children killed have been collected by the Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights

PLAYLINK changes in Twitter notifications

The @PLAYLINKuk Twitter account has until now been used to publicise all of my blog posts, regardless of subject.

The new position

From now on a new Twitter feed – @BernardSpiegal – will be used for posts which discuss Palestine/Israel issues.  Please follow me at @BernardSpiegal if interesed in that subject.

PLAYLINK’s tweets will continue to be on play and reated matters.

Apologies in advance: this post may go out two or three more times by way of friendly reminder.

Thank you

Bernard Spiegal

2019 Eurovision Song Contest – Songwashing occupation, discrimination, apartheid

Tel Aviv is to host the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest

What’s Tel Aviv like?  This from Business Insider:

‘From the Mediterranean shores of Tel Aviv, Israel’s fraught geopolitical position is almost non-existent. Tourists and locals alike sip Goldstar, Israel’s ubiquitous dark lager, as the waves roll in and out. Children laugh and splash in the water. A group of teens play volleyball as the sun sets.

It feels like a much nicer version of the Jersey Shore: The sand is softer, the water is clearer, and the beer tastes better.’

Tel Aviv, Israel: Tourists eating in outdoor cafe, Tel Aviv Yafo, Israel

Poster child

Tel Aviv is the Israeli state’s poster child, projecting an image of a country that is modern, open, welcoming and, of course, democratic.  But it is only an image, a mirage, a shimmering falsehood that does not in fact exist – certainly not if you’re a Palestinian.

From: Haaretz:

Settler Violence Against Palestinians Is the Escalation to Fear in the West Bank

Rise in attacks against Palestinians likely to continue as army, police, Israeli society stand by passively or encourage attacks

What actually exists is an Apartheid state that has enshrined in law – the Nationality Law – Jewish supremacy.  And lest there be room for doubt about the law’s intent, Knesset (Israel’s Parliament) Member Avi Dichter, a sponsor of the Nationality Law, provided confirmatory commentry: ‘We [Israel] 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 (sic).’   It is this state that is to host, in May 2019, the Eurovision Song Contest.

Songwashing Continue reading

Palestine/Israel: Reflections on a visit

Extract: War on Want Briefing to MPs

Israel’s use of military force against Palestinian civilians is a prominent feature of its occupation regime. This militarised repression of the Palestinian people extends beyond  the scenes of checkpoints and bombings we have unfortunately become accustomed to; Israel’s military and security services maintain an intense regime of surveillance, physical violence against people, and destruction of Palestinian homes, schools, and properties. Israel’s use of excessive force has been repeatedly condemned by the United Nations, and has been deemed unlawful by human rights experts. This violence and destruction is made possible by Israel’s trade in arms with dozens of countries, including the UK. Since 2014, the UK Government has approved over £500m worth of military technology and arms exports to Israel, including for weapons of the type used in clear violation of international law.

This means that the UK is providing material support for Israel’s illegal use of force, and is complicit by providing an infrastructure to sustain it through the ongoing trade in arms

From the Occupied Palestine Territory, 23 October – 13 November 2018

Evil is being done here: systemised, institutionalised and unrelenting.  Its manifestations are threefold: physical; bureaucratic; and psychological. The three distinct but interconnected aspects coil, python-like, round the Palestinians, asphyxiating their capacity for agency, all aimed at extinguishing the possibility of hope.  The extinguishment of hope is part of the point: it is an Israeli tactic to embed the idea that it will always be dominant.  To achieve this requires a refinement in the modes of cruelty that can be visited upon people.  This surely is part of the motivation in requiring a person to demolish their own house, a standard practice.

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM

The Israeli authorities have ordered the Palestinian citizen Murad Hsheima, 38, to demolish his own house in Ras al-Amud in Occupied Jerusalem. Otherwise, the municipality would carry out the demolition and force him to pay 60,000 NIS and serve two months in jail. 

Ensuring the house came down

According to Palestinian sources, 19 houses have been demolished in Jerusalem by their owners since the beginning of 2018. The Palestinian Information Center

The overarching aim of the current Israeli regime is the Judaisation of Palestine/Israel – ugly word, ugly concept.  To achieve that purpose a key condition must be met: That the number of Jews in the area controlled by Israel must be greater than the number of Palestinians. That is the rationale and driving motivation of establishing Jewish only settlements on Palestinian land.

In order to achieve the goal of population supremacy, Palestinians need to be removed from their land and properties and/or be corralled into semi-isolated enclaves within which they may constitute a majority but their sovereignty is limited, curtailed by Israeli domination of virtually everything, including receipt of tax remittances, control and withholding of infrastructure (water, utilities, roads, travel routes etc). This stifling of Palestinian life can only be achieved by a sophisticated, multi-layered, physical and psychological attritional war of relentless coercion and control. Continue reading

Palestine/Israel: What oppression looks like

I have just returned from a trip to Palestine/Israel. My purpose: to understand more; to interview/have conversations with people; to report back to those who might already be interested and, fond hope, to encourage more widespread interest – and action. 

The bulk of my time was spent in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), taking the opportunity to have conversations in Bethlehem, Nablus, Ramallah, East Jerusalem and Hebron.

The Palestine/Israel conflict receives relatively sparse coverage in the mainstream media and where it does, coverage seems to me and many others to lean heavily towards an Israeli state narrative that seeks to frame the conflict in terms of  Israel’s security concerns, terrorist threat and the absence of a Palestinian ‘partner for peace’. One aim of this and the next post(s) is to attempt, in however minor a way, to offer a counter narrative that helps illuminate the institutionalised viscousness of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. Having said that, most of the examples I offer in these posts cover the West bank and illegally annexed East Jerusalem.

Israel society is, for the present, ensnared in the current regime. This has got to change. 

The one thing the current Israeli regime fears is loss of  international support, in particular of  the USA, UK, and EU.  Israel’s occupation, and it’s colonising programme are utterly dependent on the willingness of the USA, UK, EU to  actively support it (see Trump’s USA, but in fact practically every administration), turn a blind eye, or to offer ritualised statements of regret at this or that incident or policy, with no further consequence. Yet all these countries have to hand the levers that can help contrain, and turn round the worsening situation.  

This post offers a little backround to the conflict, and a few examples of  what Israeli policy means in practice. It’s not pretty.  Subsequent post(s) will offer a commentry on the situation and try to expose some of its essential, underlying features.  

We start in Occupied East Jerusalem:

Hashimi Hotel, Old City (Palestinian) Jerusalem, 25 October 2018. in the part of Jerusalem illegally annexed by Israel in 1967 after the six day war of that year

I’m writing this from the rooftop terrace – by no means a ‘luxury’ terrace, but fine – of the hotel with a view of the Al Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site for Islam after Mecca and Medina.  The hotel has quite a number of Muslim pilgrims based here.

Jerusalem is awash with a variety of pilgrimage groups from virtually everywhere in the world.  You can’t walk in the Old City without encountering a snake of seemingly welded-together pilgrims on their way to Al Aqsa or, this for Christians, walking the Via Dolarosa  (the Way of Tears) and pausing at each of the Stations of the Cross.  There is also the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built over what is believed to be the site both of Jesus’s crucifixion and his burial tomb, a site for often emotional veneration.

Jews (my lot, in general terms) are at it too, for they head towards the Wailing Wall which is ‘a relatively small segment of a far longer ancient retaining wall, known also in its entirety as the “Western Wall’.  Together, the entire area incorporating the Western Wall and the Al Aqsa Mosque is known as Temple Mount, or Haram al-Sharif  by Muslims.  This is an area of sharp contention, religious passion and naked political power games, further destabilised by virtue of Israel’s annexation of the city and its own less than commendable agenda. Which I shall no doubt come to.

Welcome?

Not infrequently, one can get a sense of a place, a sense of ‘what’s going on’ by way of a series of vignettes, actual incidents that illustrate, in shorthand form, essential features of a wider canvass. I was at the threshold of the country, queuing at passport control to enter Israel.  The manner of greeting can say a lot about the nature of a home.

My queue contained a group – a family group: mum, daughter, three lads, probably in their twenties – all obviously Muslim. The lads had what I suppose we think of as typical beards, one or two wore skull caps, and one had that long garment, the name of which escapes me.  I was next to them and so heard them talking – talking in northern British accents and clutching their British Passports ready for examination. We started chatting.

They were already prepared for some at least not to be allowed through passport control without being interviewed, and perhaps denied entry.  Sure enough, the three lads were turned back and walked past me smiling as they went to the interview area. Mum and daughter got through. Continue reading

So what’s new? Israel’s Nationality Law

Israel’s parliament (Knesset) has this July passed its Nationality Law by sixty two votes to fifty five. In brief, it enshrines, and in effect crows about, Israel’s status as an apartheid state.

The law confirms that ‘Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people and they have an exclusive right to national self-determination in it’. Note ‘exclusive’.  In addition, the Arabic language is downgraded from its co-equal status as an official language with Hebrew to a lesser ‘special status’.  By way of reminder, Israel’s Palestinian Arabs number some 1.8 million, about 20 percent of the nine million population.

The law also affirms that ‘The state views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment.’  Note ‘Jewish’. Note, too, ‘settlement’, which in fact refers to the construction of Jewish-only colonies built on historic Palestinian land cleared by Israel in an unrelenting programme of house demolitions, land seizures, and crop destruction in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) and in (illegally annexed) East Jerusalem. Continue reading

Another Israeli state violation now, and a harbinger of more to come

The proposed demolition of Khan Al-Ahmar – a violation now, and a harbinger of more to come

This article has just been published on the ICAHD UK (Israel Committee Against House Demolition, UK) web site.  I would urge you to take a look at the web site as a whole.

The website also announces an  Edinburgh Festival ICAHD UK benefit gig – Laughing for Palestine – Monday 13 August.  The curernt line-up includes Danny Boyle and Comedian Daphna Baram (ICAHD’s Director) in her own show Sugarcoating.  Other comedians for the fundraising gig will be announced shortly.

On 24 May the Israeli High Court confirmed that the mass demolition and transfer of the Palestinian Bedouin community of Khan Al Ahmar can proceed.  This Bedouin village is located on the outskirts of East Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank.  From Israel’s perspective, it represents an impediment to the state’s intention to link and expand the exclusively Jewish settlement of Maale Adumin into the area known as E1.

In human terms, the judgment means the demolition of dozens of Bedouin family homes along with a school in which 165 children study; that, and also the destruction of pens that shelter 850 sheep.  The proposed transfer will move a rural livestock-dependent community to an urban site and life style unsuitable for Bedouin livelihood, culture and traditions.  It is an attempt at the vanquishment of a community, body and soul. Eight homes were already demolished by Israel in 2016. Many in the international community are familiar with the story of the now doomed school, built in 2009 by members of the community out of  2,200 recycled car tires, mud and falafel oil – an outstanding example of eco-building and community initiative. Israel, unsurprisingly, refused to provide the children of the village with a modern standard school.

Khan Al Ahmar is one of 18 communities located in or next to the E1 area.  This area is critical to Israel’s intention, which it pursues with relentless brutality,   to create a continuous built-up area between the Maale  Adumin Jewish settlement and East Jerusalem and expanding east to Jericho. Therefore this is part of the wider strategic goal to cut the Occupied West Bank in two thereby ending any possibility of a contiguous Palestinian state.

In a further twist of the screw, Israeli authorities have approved a scheme for the construction of 92 new housing units and an educational institution in the Kfar Adummim Jewish colonial settlement.  This settlement, which is immediately adjacent to Khan Al Ahmar, represents yet another move to create a ‘fact on the ground’ notwithstanding their illegality in international law.  And in a display of toxic neighbourliness that no longer surprises, the Kfar Adummim Jewish settlement petitioned the High Court to hurry along the outstanding demolition orders of these rooted, long-established Bedouin communities.

ICAHD and ICAHD UK have many times over the years raised awareness about the threat to Khan Al-Amar, but the Israel bulldozer state is immune to entreaties to act reasonably, still less ethically. However, in this context, it appears to be increasingly the case that Israel’s actions are yielding, for it, unintended consequences.

The state’s intention is clear: its goal is to create a majority Jewish state with no possibility of a vibrant, equal, and certainly not equal in numbers, Palestinian presence. Hence population displacements, dispossessions, apartheid laws, racist practices and institutionalised brutality, of which Israel’s killings and wounding of Palestinians Gazans is but one sickening example.  And through these policies and practices Israel is close to achieving its tutelage over the area bounded by the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River – Greater Israel.

The current Israel regime believes it is creating for itself one state, a Jewish state, moulded to its current shape and image – the culmination of a settler colonial enterprise whose inception dates back to the 19th century.  If there ever was a chance of a two state solution, it is dead now, whether one wishes it or not.  It is therefore almost beyond argument that the reality we confront revolves around questions about the nature of the future one state, the state that will lie between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.

This, then, is now the urgent task: to flesh out, argue for and demonstrate what an ethical, pacific, one-state of equal citizens – Palestinians and Jews – would look like.  This task is central to the purpose of the One Democratic State Campaign (ODSC), a campaign that emerges – breaks forth into the day light – from the thinking and activism of Palestinians and Israeli Jews, in a mutual, rights-based, endeavour.  This campaign will launch formally in the autumn.

As important, perhaps, as ODSC is and will be in terms of addressing in practical terms knotty issues of constitutional structure and statecraft, there is at the core of the campaign a metaphorical and psychological dimension.

Hitherto the orthodox discourse – a notionally pragmatic one – was rooted in a belief in the necessity and inevitability of division – of people, of religions, of individuals, one from another: the two state dispensation: a Palestinian state and a Jewish one.  It was always a false prospective, if only because an entity structured to be a specifically Jewish State must be, as is the current Israel state, a racist state. This must in principle be morally iniquitous and ultimately unsustainable – unsustainable, at least, according to common ethical precepts.

The ODSC offers a glimpse of a better future – a break in the clouds.  As the song says: ‘There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in[1].’   A fine sentiment, but one that should not obscure that there is work to be done in support of Palestinians- here, now and with vigour.

Edinburgh Festival ICAHD UK benefit gig – Laughing for Palestine – Monday 13 August.  The curernt line-up includes Danny Boyle and Comedian Daphna Baram (ICAHD’s Director) in her own show Sugarcoating.  Other comedians for the fundraising gig will be announced shortly.

[1] With thanks to Leonard Cohen’s song Anthem.

Anti-semitism- an article of clear, good sense

There follows a link to an article on anti-semitism in the London Review of Books by Stephen Sedley:  https://www.lrb.co.uk/v40/n09/stephen-sedley/short-cuts

I commend it to you as a good and worthwhile read.

Stephen Sedley  is a former appeal court judge. A collection of his articles and lectures, Law and the Whirligig of Time, will be published by Hart in May.