I was interviewed by Press TV on 7/3/2018
First published by the Middle East Monitor on 13/5/2017
Israeli security forces break up Palestinian protests organised to show solidarity with Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike, in Ramallah, West Bank on April 23, 2017 [Issam Rimawi / Anadolu Agency]
As Palestinians mark a number of key, painful anniversaries in 2017, Israel is busy with not ending the occupation, but entrenching it and crying wolf claiming to be the victim in the decades-old conflict.
The Palestinians recently marked the 69th anniversary of the massacre of Deir Yassin in which tens of Palestinians were slaughtered by Zionist terror groups. They will shortly mark the Nakba and the creation of Israel on their homeland and against their will in 1948. June marks the 50th anniversary of the occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. June also marks the tenth anniversary of the siege on Gaza and, in November, the Balfour declaration will be 100 years old.
On the ground, prospects for a just peace are almost non-existent. Israel continues to occupy the West Bank and East Jerusalem and to move more of its citizens into these illegally occupied areas. Plans for more settlement units continue to surface and even the idea of settlers leaving their illegal housing units have brought accusations of “ethnic cleansing” by the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Jerusalem continues to be Judaised, and the lives of Palestinians in the holy city continue to be made miserable through restrictions on building, extortionate taxes, heavy handed security, house demolitions, evictions and the planting and expansion of Jewish only settlements in East Jerusalem. Extremist settlers continue to break into the Al-Aqsa Mosque, protected by Israeli security forces without coordination with the Jordanian endowment which administers the holy sanctuary. Even the sound of the Muslim call to prayer which has been heard in the city and the whole of Palestine for centuries is being suppressed.
Israel continues to impose an immoral blockade on Gaza and has the temerity to warn of a catastrophe in the enclave with Major General Yoav Mordechai warning that the Strip’s aquifer has been destroyed by years of excessive pumping and an estimated 96 per cent of water in the enclave is now unfit to drink. This is compounded by recent action by the Palestinian Authority to cut salaries of workers and to refuse to support the supply of electricity to the troubled strip.
The feeling of helplessness by Palestinians, particularly the youth, continues to rise and the regular extrajudicial killing of Palestinians at check points shows no sign of abating. On 7 May, Israeli security forces killed 16-year-old Fatima Afeef Abdulrahman Hajeiji, spraying her body with 20 bullets at Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate, alleging she was about to attack them with a knife, which eye-witnesses strongly dispute.
In March, Israeli forces killed Basel Al-Araj, a Palestinian intellectual and opponent of the Israeli occupation in an area which the Oslo Accords designated as coming under PA security control, clearly confirming Israel has no respect for any accords or agreements it signs. The killing of the popular activist enraged Palestinians who directed their anger at both Israel and the PA whose security coordination was recently lauded by US President Donald Trump during his meeting with Abbas in Washington saying “they get along unbelievably well. I had meetings, and at these meetings I was actually very impressed and somewhat surprised at how well they get along. They work together beautifully.”
The impact of the wall on the daily life of Palestinians is immeasurable, drawing concern and condemnation from many quarters including from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who has spoken of his “profound grief and sorrow” after hearing the testimonies of Palestinians whose land has been put beyond their reach by the vast concrete wall Israel has built near Bethlehem and Beit Jala.
Rising Jewish settler violence goes unchecked by Israel which continues to practice double standards when dealing with this when compared with Palestinian acts. Palestinian prisoners continue to be mistreated and have their legitimate rights denied by Israel, driving them to a mass hunger strike by 1,500 of the estimated 7,000 prisoners which recently entered its third week.
As for Palestinian citizens of Israel, they continue to be treated like second class citizens and to endure the effect of over 50 discriminatory laws. The Bedouin population in the Negev has been targeted for eviction and transfer, while Jewish settlements are built in their place.
In addition, the status of Arabic as an official language of the state is under threat as proposals have been approved by the Cabinet to downgrade it to having “a special status in the state” while the national language is “Hebrew”. This is part of the so called “Nation State Bill” which would also explicitly reserve “the right to realise self-determination in the State of Israel uniquely to the Jewish people.” In any other context, this would be seen as a racist move when at least 20 per cent of the population are not Jewish.
With such a litany of abuses, an objective assessment would conclude that not only is it legitimate to continue to criticise Israel for its policies, but also those western democracies which support it in order for them to rethink their support.
However, 2017 is proving to be the year of the absurd in the international community’s relationship with Israel. It is the year when Israel is pushing hard to change the discourse on the situation despite an escalation in its crimes. A year in which German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel was snubbed by Netanyahu for choosing to meet NGOs Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem.
While 2016 ended with UN Security Council resolution 2334 which criticised the continuing illegal settlement enterprise, criticising Israel in 2017 for the same indiscretions as it committed in 2016 is now suddenly “unfair”.
Recently all 100 US senators signed a letter asking UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to address what the lawmakers call entrenched bias against Israel at the world body. “Through words and actions, we urge you to ensure that Israel is treated neither better nor worse than any other UN member in good standing,” the letter said.
Amazingly it was lost on the senators, or more probably they chose to ignore, Israel’s refusal to adhere to the body’s multiple Security Council resolutions on the matter, including resolution 2334 which Israel said it would not respect and proceeded to announce further settlement building. This coincided with Washington’s UN envoy Nikki Haley choosing to turn the spotlight from Israel to Iran in her first session holding the rotating presidency of the United Nations Security Council. “If we are speaking honestly about conflict in the Middle East, we need to start with the chief culprit, Iran, and its partner militia, Hezbollah,” Haley told the Security Council Thursday. “For decades they have conducted terrorist acts across the region.”
The UK for its part put the UN Human Rights Council “on notice” at its last session accusing it of “bias against Israel”. “The persistence of bias,” the UK representative argued in his statement, “particularly the disproportionate volume of resolutions against Israel undermines the council’s credibility as the globally focussed and objective international human rights body we all want and need.”
It is incumbent on all who have fallen for Israel’s hasbara propaganda about it being treated unfairly to point to any change in Israeli policy that their collective cowardice in dealing with it has brought. In fact, they cannot. On the contrary, their strategy for dealing with the issue, if they are serious, has failed. There is also no evidence that if Israel is not criticised, it will do the honourable thing and meet the legitimate demands of the Palestinians.
If there is unfairness, it is Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians which has gone on since its creation, not our criticism of it. In fact criticism is not enough, but action is needed to find a just solution.
The West Midlands Palestine Solidarity Campaign organised a vigil for the 1,500 prisoners in hunger strike for 20 days on 6 May 2017
My speech can be viewed below
شاركت بمقابلة على قناة الميادين الفضائية عن تصعيد الإضرابات عن الطعام داخل السجون الإسرائيلية إحتجاجاً على مساندة لأسرى اضربوا عن الطعام لاعتقادهم إدارياً. كانت النقابلة ببداية نشرة الأخبار.
February 17, 2016
Supporters of justice for Palestinians are following news of the deteriorating health of Palestinian detainee Mohammed Al-Qeeq with great concern. Al-Qeeq, a Palestinian journalist is in his 84th day of a hunger strike in protest against his administrative detention. He is currently in Ha’Emek Hospital in the northern city of Afula . Al-Qeeq is a correspondent for the Saudi al-Majd TV network and resides in the West Bank.
Israel arrested 33-year-old Al-Qeek on 21 November, 2015 over allegedly being a Hamas activist but have not charged him. He is one of over 300 Palestinians Israel holds under administrative detention, a law which allows it to detain Palestinians without charge for periods of up to six months which are renewable. On February 4, Israel’s Supreme Court ordered a ‘freeze’ on his administrative detention and allowed him to receive visitors, but ruled that he may not leave hospital. He has refused to end his hunger strike unless he is released unconditionally.
Attorney Jihad Abo Raya explains: “In criminal law either a person is under arrest or he is free to move as he pleases, but for Palestinian detainees the court has created something new, they claim that Mohammed Al-Qeeq is no longer under administrative detention – but they also refuse to allow him to leave Afula hospital.”
In 2015, Israel approved a controversial law, allowing the force-feeding of hunger strikers whose lives are in danger, in order to avoid unrest that would follow the death of a Palestinian prisoner. There are no known cases of this law being put into practice to date.
The Israeli authorities have refused his request to be transferred for treatment to the Ramallah hospital.
Commenting on this latest abuse of the human rights of Palestinians Kamel Hawwash, Vice Chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign said
“Administrative detention is an abuse of the rights of Palestinians suspected of any wrong doing to be charged so they know what they are accused of and then a fair trial. This unjust practice leaves Palestinian detainees with no option but to refuse food for days to pressure Israel to charge them or release them. I call on all supporters of justice to contact their MPs asking them to demand the British Government intervenes immediately to save the life of Mohammed Al-qeeq. It should further demand that Israel ends this terrible practice”.
The Vice President of the NUT, Philipa Harvey visited Palestine as part of the NUT delegation last year. She will be reporting on her visit to a meeting organised by the West Midlands Palestine Solidarity Campaign and sponsored by the Birmingham Trades Council. It will be an opportunity to hear her assessment of the difficulties Trade Unionists in Palestine face living under occupation. As a teacher she would have been particularly interested in the difficulties children face growing up under occupation. We will also hear from those campaigning on behalf of the Hares Boys who are facing attempted murder charges. The Boys are going to be tried in the Military courts. Please join us at this meeting and invite your friends and family to join us. We might consider a delegation of regional Trade Unions and other activists to Palestine in the near future.
SPEAKERS: Kamel Hawwash (West Midlands Palestine Community Association and Vice Chair of Palestine Solidarity Campaign) Rob Marris (Prospective Labour Party Candidate for Wolverhampton South West)
The meeting will reflect on the end of the Kerry-led peace talks in the light of the US Secretary of State concluding remarks ‘Israel could become an Apartheid state’. Kamel Hawwash is a leading Palestinian in the West Midlands will report on what is happening inside the occupied territories and examining how the solidarity movement should respond.
Rob Marris campaigned relentlessly for Palestine when he was last an MP and will be exploring Labour Party policy in the middle east if the Palestine Solidarity Movement can influence a future Labour Government.
7.30pm (refreshments and craft stall from 7:00pm)
Here are links to my appearance on the ‘Debate’ programme on Press TV on 8/6/2014. This covered Administrative detainees as well as the peace talks.
The other guest just could not see that the Pope’s gesture in bringing Abbas and Peres to pray at the Vatican had limited value as I argued here.