انتقادات لبريطانيا لموقفها من المستوطنات

انتقادات لبريطانيا لموقفها من المستوطنات

محمد أمين-لندن

غضب عارم في الأوساط الحقوقية والعربية أثارته معارضة بريطانيا تبني مجلس حقوق الإنسان بالأمم المتحدة قائمة سوداء للشركات العاملة أو المتعاملة مع المستوطنات، في صفعة قاسية لإسرائيل وللوبي المناصر لها بأوروبا.

فقد أخفق ذلك اللوبي وحلفاؤه في عرقلة القرار، ورغم الضغط الأميركي والانتقاد البريطاني فإن الدولتين فشلتا في عرقلة القرار الذي صدر عن المجلس بداية الأسبوع ليمثل انتصارا للفلسطينيين وأصدقائهم، ويتوج جهود حملات المقاطعة في الداخل الفلسطيني وعبر أوروبا.

وأصدر مجلس حقوق الإنسان قائمة بالشركات المتورطة في نشاطات تجارية مع المستوطنات، لتكون قاعة بيانات يتم تعميمها وتحدّث سنويا، للتحذير من الشركات التي تتعامل مع المستوطنات.

وحصل الاقتراح على موافقة 32 دولة من الدول الأعضاء بالمجلس وعددها 47، في حين امتنعت 15 دولة -معظمها أوروبية- عن التصويت، فيما انتقد السفير البريطاني القرار، ووصفه بـ”الضار”، وسط غضب إسرائيلي وصل لاتهام المجلس بأنه سيرك معاد لإسرائيل.

ويرى كامل حواش نائب رئيس “حملة التضامن مع فلسطين” في هذا القرار انتصارا فلسطينيا دوليا بالنظر إلى أن هذه القائمة الأممية هي الأولى من نوعها، وسيكون لها أثر كبير في دعم حملات المقاطعة وعزل الشركات التي تتعامل مع المستوطنات.

وفي حديثه للجزيرة نت قال حواش إن أقل ما يوصف به الموقف البريطاني هو أنه “موقف يحمي الاحتلال”، لافتا إلى التناقض البريطاني في التعامل مع ملف المقاطعة، ففي الوقت الذي دعت فيه الحكومة قطاع الاستثمار والأعمال للحذر وتوخي الحيطة عند التعامل مع المستوطنات خشية تعرضه لعقوبات أصدرت مذكرة لمجالس البلديات تحذرها من مقاطعة إسرائيل.

اعتراف بالنجاح
ولفت نائب رئيس حملة التضامن مع فلسطين إلى أن القرار تزامن مع عقد مؤتمر في القدس لبحث سبل مواجهة حملات المقاطعة، معتبرا أن عقد هذا المؤتمر والغضب الإسرائيلي الكبير على قرار مجلس حقوق الإنسان يمثلان اعترافا واضحا بنجاح حملات المقاطعة، فضلا عن تعيين إسرائيل وزيرا خاصا لمواجهة حملات المقاطعة.

من جهته، عاب رئيس منتدى التواصل الأوروبي الفلسطيني زاهر البيراوي على بريطانيا موقفها بالامتناع عن التصويت، معتبرا أن هذا الموقف لا ينسجم مع قيم العدالة الدولية التي من المفترض أن بريطانيا مسؤولة عن حمايتها كعضوة بمجلس الأمن.

وفي حديث للجزيرة نت وصف البيرواي الانحياز البريطاني لإسرائيل بأنه أمر فاضح، كما أن دعم لندن دولة عنصرية تتصرف كأنها فوق القانون هو أمر يخالف نبض شرائح واسعة من المجتمع البريطاني.

ورغم بعض المواقف المنحازة لصالح إسرائيل يرى البيرواي أن قرار مجلس حقوق الإنسان بالأمم المتحدة خطوة مهمة على طريق محاصرة دولة الاحتلال، ومعاقبتها على مخالفتها القانون الدولي لحقوق الإنسان، كما سيساعد -بحسب الناشط- في محاسبة ومعاقبة الشركات التي تتعامل مع المستوطنات أو تعمل فيها، كما أنه مؤشر واضح -بحسب رأيه- على تراجع الرواية الإسرائيلية للصراع -التي كانت مهيمنة خلال العقود الماضية- لصالح الرواية الفلسطينية الصحيحة.

وكان السفير البريطاني في الأمم المتحدة وصف القرار بأنه ضار، ودعا الأمم المتحدة لعدم الانشغال بهذه القضايا، في وقت ضغطت فيه الولايات المتحدة لإفشال فكرة القائمة السوداء، بينما امتنع السفير الهولندي بمجلس حقوق الإنسان وسفراء أوروبيون آخرون عن التصويت رغم الإقرار بعدم شرعية المستوطنات.

يذكر أن حملة المقاطعة “بي دي أس” هي حملة دولية لمقاطعة المستوطنات اقتصاديا بدأت عام 2005 في فلسطين ثم نشرها أصدقاء فلسطين ومناصرو القضية الفلسطينية عبر العالم، وأنشؤوا مؤسسات تتبنى العمل على مقاطعة بضائع المستوطنات الإسرائيلية باعتبارها أراضي غير شرعية بموجب القانون الدولي.

The BDS movement is not anti-Semitic

The Middle East Monitor published this article on the 30th of March 2016

The BDS movement is not anti-Semitic

   

Image from the Middle East Monitor

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) adopted a resolution on 24 March put forward by the Palestinian Authority which included Clause 17 “to produce a database of all business enterprises involved in the activities detailed in paragraph 96 of the afore-mentioned report, to be updated annually, and to transmit the data therein in the form of a report to the Council at its thirty-fourth session”. This passed despite substantial pressure on the PA to water it down from the US and the EU, which it did not.

The resolution passed with 32 votes in favour, 15 abstentions and none against. Reacting to the resolution’s success the US Ambassador Keith Harper said: “The United States remains deeply troubled with this Council’s stand-alone agenda item directed at Israel and the slate of one-sided resolutions. Especially disturbing is today’s resolution calling on OHCHR to implement a database of businesses operating in settlements. This is an unprecedented step taken by the Council, one not applied to businesses operating in the DPRK, Eritrea, or any other state.” This is despite the fact that the US considers the settlements “illegitimate” and “an obstacle to peace”.

Israel was outraged. Prime Minister Netanyahu said the UNHRC had become “an anti-Israel circus which attacks the only democracy in the Middle East”. Israel’s UN Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon said: “Marking Jewish businesses in order to boycott them brings to mind dark times in human history.” He accused the UNHRC of being a tool of the BDS movement and acting out of “anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic motives”. The claim that the UNHRC had become a tool of the BDS movement is outrageous and laughable. How can a movement with few resources except people’s commitment to justice, time and energy be perceived as so powerful by Israel that it transforms a significant UN body into one of its tools? However, the more serious accusation by Danon is that the BDS movement has “anti-Semitic motives”.

The same accusation was made in abundance at the Yedioth Ahronoth and Ynet anti-BDS conference held in West Jerusalem on Monday. The conference was addressed by Israel’s President Reuvin Rivlin, Israeli ministers, World Jewish Congress leader Ron Lauder, comedian Rosanne Brar, pro-Israel activists and the US and EU ambassadors to Israel. Organisers stated: “Without knives or missiles but with an explosive payload consisting of outrageous lies – genocide, apartheid and crimes against humanity – the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is conquering a growing number of strongholds in Europe, the United States and elsewhere. From the campuses of California to the supermarkets of Paris, the academic, economic and cultural boycott is becoming a palpable threat to the international status of the State of Israel.”

Rivlin criticised BDS as “a movement founded on the non-acceptance of Israel’s existence… We must differentiate between criticism and de-legitimisation. We must show the world the claims of the BDS movement are based on hatred and enmity of the State of Israel.”

EU Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Andersen had come under pressure from BDS not to attend the conference and especially not to share a stage with settlement leader Dani Dayan. Dayan had just learnt that his appointment as Israel’s ambassador to Brazil had been withdrawn as the Brazilian government objected to him because of his record of championing the settlement enterprise. Israel appointed Dayan instead as Consul General to New York which he surprisingly considered a “victory”. The EU ambassador stated the EU position as being “against BDS. Our policy is the total opposite of BDS. Our policy is total engagement with Israel and we have a long track record to prove it.” He went on to clarify that “products from settlements are welcome on the European market but they are not given the same preferential treatment we give products from Israel proper. This is no boycott at all. It is very, very important to distinguish between BDS and a policy we have on settlements. It is about giving the consumers the correct information.” However, he did also state that if peace is achieved there would be no BDS.

The shear fact that the conference was held and the strength of the line-up can only be interpreted as a testament to the success of the BDS movement in piling pressure on Israel for illegal practices and the failure of Israel either to deal with it effectively or, better still, to meet its legitimate demands. Both at the conference and speaking at the annual Ambassadors’ Forum at Bar-Ilan University, attended by some 50 senior diplomats from various countries, Israeli Minister for Public Security Gilad Erdan said the ultimate goal of BDS is nothing less than to “destroy Israel”. He bizarrely argued that “BDS should not be seen as a threat only to Israel – it is a threat to the international community, to your own countries, and to all who value human rights and freedoms.” He went on to claim the tactics used by BDS “are accompanied by anti-Israel propaganda so vicious it would make history’s greatest anti-Semites proud.”

The accusation that BDS, as a movement, is anti-Semitic is not new. In 2014, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu accused proponents of BDS of being “classical anti-Semites in modern garb.” He went on to say that “it’s an absolute disgrace that there are people in Europe calling for a boycott of Jews.”

While it is clearly impossible to claim that no proponent of the BDS movement is an anti-Semite. The BDS movement itself is clear about its aims. It demands an end to the occupation, equal rights for all citizens of Israel and the promotion of the right of return for Palestinian refugees violently driven from their homes in 1948. Each of these demands is moral and legal. It is clear as is the call for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel that this is aimed at institutions, not individuals. This is in stark contrast to the Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri considering revoking the residency permit of BDS founder Omar Barghouti.

The now regular accusation that the BDS movement is anti-Semitic is extremely dangerous. Anti-Semitism is about the hatred of Jews because they are Jews. By conflating this with a peaceful, moral tactic to pressure Israel to end its illegal and discriminatory policies against Palestinians in the occupied territories and its own citizens, Israel devalues the term. The reality is that many proponents of BDS are Jewish and some are Jewish Israelis. They all share the common and moral goal of achieving justice for Palestinians. True supporters of Palestinians should also do everything they can to ensure the pursuit of justice ensures that racism of any form is not tolerated but exposed and dealt with. The Palestinians will thank them for that.

Professor Kamel Hawwash is a British Palestinian engineering academic based at the University of Birmingham. He is a commentator on Middle East affairs and is Vice Chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. He blogs at http://www.kamelhawwash.com. He writes here in a personal capacity.

Israel can’t use archaeology to justify colonialism and dispossession

The Middle East Eye published this article on 30 March, 2016

Israel can’t use archaeology to justify colonialism and dispossession 

ISRAEL-ARCHAEOLOGY-CITADEL-CULTURE-JERUSALEM

photo via Middle East Eye / AFP

 

Ever since the Zionist project succeeded in its endeavour to create a homeland for Jews in Palestine, the Palestinians have faced daily attempts by Israel to deny their rights and belonging to the land.  Those take many forms including general references to biblical times, the spiritual connection between the Jews and historic Palestine culminating in the “God gave us this land”.  It is “in the Bible”. The inference being that all the land between the river Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea belongs to the Jews, Jerusalem is the “eternal united Capital” of the “Jewish People” and the West Bank is “Judea and Samaria”.  Collectively, those are meant to demonstrate that the connection of Jews to the land is much stronger than any other group, including Palestinians. Israeli politicians use this to argue that there is no occupation as Jews are simply returning to their home land.

Today, there is no lack of symbols of the history of the three great monolithic religions in historic Palestine and Jerusalem has these in abundance within a tiny area which is home to the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Every year, thousands of worshippers head to the holy land on pilgrimage, mainly Jews and Christians. However, thousands more Muslims would also make the journey if peace prevailed and they were allowed to visit their third holiest mosque, Al-Aqsa.

The above background not only shows the importance of historic Palestine to the three religions but also the potential for many millions to visit each year bringing substantial economic benefits to Jews, Christians and Muslims. For this to happen it is important for peace to be achieved but also for the history of the land to be preserved for current and future generations.  The party that is responsible for these both as a state power but also as an occupying power is Israel.  Its discharge of this responsibility is at best suspect but in reality it has embarked on a process of systematically bringing to the forefront the Jewish history of the land and either hiding or in some cases erasing the other inhabitants’ connection.

When Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967 the occupation forces initially raised the Israeli flag on the Al-Aqsa mosque but this was subsequently removed. However, they quickly moved to bulldoze the Moroccan quarter of Jerusalem including a number of mosques to allow easier access for Jews to the Western Wall, which they refer to as the Whaling Wall. Since then, Israel has embarked on a major archaeological project in this sensitive area but also other less sensitive areas in its attempt to uncover evidence of the existence of Jews on the land after their exodus from Egypt and to use this as a means of justifying their claim to modern day historic Palestine.

The Israelis are particularly keen to unearth evidence that the first and second temple existed on the site of the Al-Aqsa mosque. Ever since occupying East Jerusalem, they have been digging around and under the site giving rise to great concerns by Palestinians and Jordan that the digs could disturb the foundations of the mosque, hastening its collapse. Excavations by the Israel Antiquities Authority are also thought to be endangering homes in the Palestinian Silwan district of Jerusalem which borders the southern edge of the Al-Aqsa mosque. If the digging was simply carried out for historic reason only then it could be argued that provided it is done carefully it could be tolerated by Palestinians. However, this area which right wing Israelis refer to as the City of David is one that they want to take over, effectively separating the Al-Aqsa mosque from one of its closest Palestinian neighbourhoods.

The use of archelogy in Israel to delegitimize the connection of non-Jews to the land and to legitimize Israel’s colonialist project is not restricted to right wing organisations. In 2013 Prime Minister Netanyahu hailed as ‘magnificent’ the discovery of an ancient golden medallion in Jerusalem.  He claimed “It is interesting that even then, over 500 years after the destruction of the Second Temple, we see the menorah in an original illustration. This is historic testimony, of the highest order, to the Jewish People’s link to Jerusalem, to its land and to its heritage – menorah, shofar, Torah scroll.”

In 2015, Education Minister Naftali Bennett used his Facebook page to send a “Memo to Mahmoud Abbas and others who scream ‘occupation’: A 3,000 years old jug bearing the inscription Ishba’al son of Beda was recently discovered near Beit Shemesh. Ishba’al is a name mentioned in the Tanach (Bible) and is unique to the period of King David. This is yet another example of the many facts on the ground that tell the story of the Jewish state that flourished here in this land 3,000 years ago. Back then there was communities that collected taxes, had a strong economy, provided transportation, education institutions, a military – just like today. A nation cannot occupy its own land.”

State institutions can also find themselves embroiled in controversy when venturing into historic symbols. Most recently, the authenticity of the musical image on the Bank of Israel’s half shekel coin was questioned. The “kinnor” or lyre which looks like a harp gave this coin a distinctive and historic look.  The musical instrument appears above an inscription on a stone seal which was uncovered in 1979 and was dated to the 7th Century BCE Kingdom of Judea. The Bank of Israel minted the Lyre shape on the coin in 1985 and it remains on it to this day.  However, Haaretz recently reported that many archaeologists believe this to be a fake seal, a forgery, placing the Bank of Israel in a tricky position. Should it withdraw the coin or continue with it as legal tender?

Its response was that “There is no proof that the seal ‘Belonging to Maadana, the daughter of the king” is not authentic. And even if so, that’s of no importance in terms of the coin itself, many years after it was minted. The public can rest assured that the coin in its hands is legal tender for all intents and purposes”.

The entanglement of archaeology and politics in Israel is a dangerous trend which seems to have escalated as Israeli society and politics has moved to the right and as Israeli politicians manoeuvre the conflict form a political to a religious one. However, nobody, including the Palestinians deny that Jews lived in Palestine a couple of millennia ago or that they have a spiritual connection to it.  However other groups have claims too.  Before the Jews came to Palestine it was inhabited by the Canaanites.  Christianity was born in Palestine and therefore Christians also have a strong connection to it and more recently Muslims conquered it in the 630s and have inhabited ever since.

Historic Palestine is referred to as the Holy Land because it is holy to the three monolithic religions. Denial of this attachment to any group is selfish and wrong. Attempts to better understand the history, including through archaeology, are important but so too is honesty.

– Kamel Hawwash is a British/Palestinian engineering professor based at the University of Birmingham and a long-standing campaigner for justice, especially for the Palestinian people. He is Vice Chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and appears regularly in the media as commentator on Middle East issues. He runs a blog at www.kamelhawwash.com. He writes here in a personal capacity.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Photo: Workers from the Israeli Antiquity Authorities dig on 3 November, 2015 at the excavation site near the City of David adjacent to Jerusalem’s Old City walls (AFP).

– See more at: http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/israel-cant-use-archaeology-justify-colonialism-and-dispossession-1987013836#sthash.HvcEy55d.dpuf

 

The next generation of Israeli leaders could complete Israel’s isolation

This was first published on the Middle East Monitor on Saturday, 19 March 2016

File photo of Benjamin Netanyahu and his colleagues greeting supporters after their electoral win last yearPhoto from the Middle East Monitor

The nature of Israeli politics tells us that elections could be called fairly quickly. Should that happen in the next couple of years it is of course feasible that current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could stand and win a further term. However, if he chooses retirement, then who might replace him is important both to domestic Israeli issues but crucially to the conflict with the Palestinians. Their record to date and their stated positions on a number of issues will tell us about their possible approach to resolving the conflict with the Palestinians.

The ongoing shift to the right both in Israeli society and Israeli politics suggests that a left wing coalition led by say the Labour party or the ‘centrist’ Kadima party is unlikely to win and have any chance of forming a government in the near future. However, before dismissing potential leaders from the left, an examination of the current party leaders’ positions offers no hope of a genuine attempt to achieve peace with the Palestinians.

Take the leader of Labour, Yitzhak Herzog. As leader of the Zionist Union bloc, he was touted as a potential game changer at the last Israeli elections in 2015. He claimed that if elected he would “try to reignite” the peace process with the Palestinians. However, in reality he was only looking at seeking “confidence building measures” which would have simply prolonged the occupation. There was no vision.

In recent weeks Herzog has demonstrated his true colours in relation to how he would really deal with the Palestinians. There was clear acknowledgement that the two-state solution was “impossible to realise under current conditions” and that rather than reaching out to the Palestinians and changing the dynamics of the conflict, his plan is to separate from them. “I wish to separate from as many Palestinians as possible, as quickly as possible,” said Herzog, speaking at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.

“They over there and we over here; we’ll erect a big wall between us. That is the kind of co-existence that’s possible now. You exist there and we exist here.” Remember, this “plan” is from the leader of the left in Israel. What hope then from the right?

Within the Likud party, Gideon Saar who was a minister under Netanyahu and then took a break from politics has criticised him for not taking hard enough action against the Palestinians. In 2012 he claimed that the establishment of a Palestinian state was “never part of Likud’s platform”.

Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev, a former brigadier general in the Israeli army has been described as “Trump in high heels”. She has called for Arab Knesset members who pray at Al-Aqsa to be jailed. She believes that any “concessions on Jerusalem or the status of Palestinian refugees should require an absolute majority in the Knesset. Regev also called for the family of the Beersheba “terrorist” to be expelled to Gaza.

Another of the crop of possible future Likud leaders, Tzipi Hotovely, is the de facto foreign minister who holds some of the most extreme views amongst the potential leaders. Shortly after her appointment she proclaimed: “We need to return to the basic truth of our rights to this country. This land is ours. All of it is ours. We did not come here to apologise for that.”

To complete the crop of possible future leaders from Likud is Netanyahu’s number two, Gilad Erdan, minister of public security, strategic affairs and public diplomacy with the specific brief to fight the growing BDS movement.

The lack of possible moderate future leaders extends beyond Likud. Take former Likud member now Finance Minister and head of Kulanu Moshe Kahlon. He claims that he sees no possibility of reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians as he does not see a Palestinian partner with whom to negotiate and asserts that Jerusalem will remain united.

The views of Naftali Bennett, leader of the Jewish Home party and Israel’s minister of education, provide no hope for peace with the Palestinians if he was ever to lead Israel. He famously said: “I’ve killed many Arabs in my life, and there’s no problem with that.” Bennett recently banned a novel on Jewish-Arab romance from schools in Israel for “threatening Jewish identity”.

As for the Palestinians, he believes that parents don’t keep children from terrorism because “the Palestinian Authority pays them”. Regarding the peace process, he said “the time has come to say Israel is ours” and “to go from strategic defence to a process of initiating the implementation of Israeli sovereignty over the territories under Israeli control in Judea and Samaria.” Thus he supports annexing the West Bank and is firmly against a two-state solution.

It is rather ironic that the Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked holds some of the most extreme views amongst the next generation of potential leaders. In 2014, the notorious Palestinian hater said: “They are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons, nothing would be more just. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.” She was recently heavily criticised for attempting to introduce a “transparency bill” designed to curb the activities of NGOs partly funded by foreign governments in what was seen as an attempt to silence criticism of Israel.

For those looking beyond Prime Minister Netanyahu to the new crop of potential Israeli leaders that could bring peace to historic Palestine, I have some bad news. Israel’s move to the right and to further denial of Palestinian rights appears to be permanent and the mirage of a final settlement based on a two-state solution is just that, a mirage as none of the potential leaders has come out in favour. They are for continued occupation, dispossession and oppression until the Palestinians submit. The Palestinians have shown no indication that they will anytime soon as evidenced by the continuing intifada. The status quo is therefore likely to continue and with it Israelis will see their country’s isolation accelerate. The next Israeli elections will not offer them a choice between moderate and extremist candidates, only a choice between extremist and more extremist. That is a bad situation for them but also as importantly, for Palestinians and anyone that wants to see peace in the Holy Land.

Professor Kamel Hawwash is a British Palestinian engineering academic based at the University of Birmingham. He is a commentator on Middle East affairs and is Vice Chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. He blogs at www.kamelhawwash.com. He writes here in a personal capacity.

Hanan al-Hroub is a shining beacon for Palestine

The Middle East Eye published my latest article on 16/3/2016

Hanan al-Hroub is a shining beacon for Palestine

Hanan al-Hroub was handed the second annual global teacher prize at a star-studded ceremony in Dubai on 13 March. Announcing the name of the prize winner, Pope Francis said “Part of education is to teach children how to play.” He congratulated al-Hroub for winning the prize “due to the importance she gave to the role of play in a child’s education”.

Accepting her award, al-Hroub said: “I am proud to be a Palestinian female teacher standing on this stage. I accept this as a win for all teachers in general and Palestinian teachers in particular.” The pride that she brought to a whole nation still fighting for its legitimate rights could be felt not only back in the occupied territories but in the Palestinian refugee camps and the rest of the diaspora.

The announcement was greeted with loud cheers and the waving of Palestinian flags in the hall but also with joyous celebrations among Palestinians the world over.

The last time this unity in celebration among Palestinians everywhere was seen on this scale was when the now famous Palestinians singer Mohammed Assaf won Arab Idol back in 2013. Assaf and al-Hroub share not only being winners but also originating from Palestinian refugee camps in Gaza and the West Bank respectively. Both grew up under Israel’s military occupation and witnessed its violence first hand.

Assaf almost missed the opportunity to audition for the Arab Idol programme due to the siege on Gaza. Following his win, Assaf was named a goodwill ambassador for peace by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). Palestinian President Mahmood Abbas also named him ambassador of culture and arts.

Al-Hroub’s work which led to her global award demonstrates that despite the extremely difficult conditions under which Palestinians grow up, there is a determination to excel in their lines of work and to seek non-violent means to contribute to the development of their society. Al-Hroub’s approach to dealing with children that have either experienced violence themselves or witnessed it first hand – as her own children had – is detailed in her book We Play to Learn.

It is reported that the trigger for her work was her children’s experience of a shooting incident. The work led to her developing interventions to help children cope with their experiences and to say “no to violence”. Al-Hroub believes in “developing trusting, respectful, honest and affectionate relationships with her students and emphasises the importance of literacy. She encourages her students to work together, pays close attention to individual needs and rewards positive behaviour.”

Her biography confirms that her approach has “led to a decline in violent behaviour in schools where this is usually a frequent occurrence; she has inspired her colleagues to review the way they teach, their classroom management strategies and the sanctions they use.”

The struggle for normality

It was rather timely that the announcement of al-Hroub’s award was made as the strike by Palestinian teachers came to an end. Both brought joy to the beleaguered Palestinian people battling to live anything like a normal life free from Israeli violence, restrictions on movement, ever expanding settlements and settler violence.

Teachers and children wake up in the morning with the uncertainty and the insecurity of not knowing whether this is to be a normal day, whether they will be able to make it to school and in some cases whether their school will be there when they get to it.

The recent example of the demolition of the Abu-Nawwar Primary School in occupied Jerusalem is but one example of the trauma Israeli policies inflict on children. Other examples include the daily terror that children face from illegal settlers on the school walk in parts of Hebron, which necessitate accompaniment by international volunteers. The IDF has also been known to fire gas canisters in the direction of children on their way to school and into schools. A recent report accused Israeli soldiers tossing astun grenade into another school in the West Bank.

In Gaza, children have seen friends die next to them in school under fire from Israeli soldiers and during the major wars on the strip, including that in 2014, witnessed deaths of relatives, loved ones and friends. However, despite this and the regular “study by candle light” due to the lack of electricity and abject poverty as a result of the siege, the resilience of the children and their teachers is admirable.

They continue to pursue the highest levels of education both at home and, when permitted, abroad and continue to excel. In 2013 14-year-old Palestine refugee Areej El Madhoun, a student at UNRWA’s school in Jabalia camp, received the first prize in in the Intelligent Mental-Arithmetic Competition, held in Malaysia every two years.

It was rather ironic that in the audience that saw al-Hroub receive her award in Dubai was the former Middle East Envoy and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, a man known for coining the phrase “Education, education, education” to indicate that this would be a key priority for his government. It is rather sad that his tenure as envoy saw the situation for Palestinians, especially children, worsen rather than improve.

The situation is particularly desperate in the areas designated “C” under the Oslo Accords which Israel administers and effectively bars any development of schools to cater for the children, including building any additional class rooms or facilities without planning permission which is almost always refused.

The 13th of March was about a Palestinian teacher excelling and being recognised for so doing on the international stage. The Palestinians see this as a major achievement for her and for them and all celebrated this in style. One can look forward to the day when Palestine is free, allowing the Palestinians to bring their talents to helping others and to tackling the world’s challenges. They will undoubtedly win many more awards.

Kamel Hawwash is a British/Palestinian engineering professor based at the University of Birmingham and a long-standing campaigner for justice, especially for the Palestinian people. He is Vice Chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and appears regularly in the media as commentator on Middle East issues. He runs a blog at www.kamelhawwash.com. He writes here in a personal capacity.

 

Westminster Hall debate about local democracy & UK Government bypassing Parliamentary scrutiny 

Birmingham Northfield MP Richard Burden secured a parliamentary debate to challenge the Government on bypassing parliamentary scrutiny before announcing in Israel its commitment to reduce local Goverment’s ability to exercise ethical procurement. This was clearly done to appease Israel and to protect illegal settlements. In other words it was done to protect Israel’s illegal occupation and settlement endeavour.

 Richard Burden, MP for Birmingham Northfield

This is in contradiction to its position that the settlements are illegal and the Foreign Office advisory to businesses on the risks associated with trade and investment in the settlements.

Be warned that the pro Israel side ranted and the repeated the obnoxious accusation that BDS is anti Semitic. It is those apologists for Apartheid that embolden Israel and push any chances of a just peace way into the future.

Watch the debate here