Gaza’s children deserve to be rescued like the boys in Thailand

First published by the Middle East Eye 12/7/1018

Palestinian children see the efforts put into the rescue of the Thai boys and wonder why nobody cares as much about them

The whole world rejoiced when 12 boys trapped in a cave in Thailand were rescued alongside their football coach. Divers from around the world risked their lives to help the children, a truly remarkable and selfless act. One died in the process.

The darkness, uncertainty, hunger and hopelessness that the children must have experienced reminded me of the predicament of Palestinian children in Gaza – trapped through no fault of their own. Their only crime is being born Palestinian under occupation by a state that sees them as an irritant, a demographic threat and collateral damage if they die at the hands of Israeli forces, as some did in the Great March of Return.

A whole generation born under siege, they have not seen the villages from where most of their families hail. They hear of Jerusalem, al-Aqsa, Haifa, Yaffa, Jericho, Nablus and Hebron, but they have not seen them, even though these places are just a short distance away.

Israel as a violent entity

These children march with their families to the fence with Israel, demanding to return to their villages. Instead, they are met with the brutality of the occupier, as dozens are killed and thousands injured. They see posters of the martyred, including 21-year-old medic Razan al-Najjar, and ask why they were shot dead.

The answer, always, is because this is what Israel does. Their experience with Israel shows it as a violent entity, not the democracy that its spokespeople try to spin.

The daily lives of children in Gaza are miserable, as they have little access to electricity or clean water, but plenty of exposure to Israeli bombs and that unmistakable sound of Israel’s terror drones, which occupy Gaza’s sky.

They see what the world looks like on TV, but quickly realise that at the current rate, they have no chance of ever experiencing it for themselves. They aspire to go to university, but quickly realise that the pride they will one day feel at graduating will be followed by great disappointment as they struggle to find employment.

Their Thai counterparts eventually saw freedom, but the children of Gaza and their families cannot see their own freedom coming any time soon.

Immovable Hamas

Gaza is a prison with two land crossings: one to Israel and the other to Egypt, both almost continuously sealed. More than a decade of an immoral siege has not brought a capitulation by Hamas or an uprising against it by those it rules.

Hamas in Gaza is a fact on the ground that is immovable. The siege only hurts the people, inciting Gaza’s children to hate Israel for the death and the destruction it has heaped on their tiny sliver of land, the most densely populated in the world.

Boys from the Palestinian Bakr family, who survived an Israeli attack in 2014 war, walk on the beach in Gaza (AFP)

These children have grown up amid divisions between Fatah and Hamas. They hear of imminent reconciliation between the two factions, but see their president impose sanctions on them. They hear that Gaza will be uninhabitable by 2020 – but they will tell you to come and see it today, look them in the eye, and say it is still habitable now.

They see the efforts put in to rescue the Thai boys and wonder why nobody cares as much about them. They hear that US President Donald Trump has a plan to help them and that his most senior advisers are on the case, but conversations in the besieged enclave fill them not with hope, but with fear that their leaders are being pressured to abandon their struggle and surrender if they want a better daily life under permanent occupation.

After claiming to have taken Jerusalem “off the table” by recognising it as Israel’s capital and moving the US embassy there, Trump’s team has been consulting further in the region on the administration’s plan to deliver “peace” to the holy land. But the US action has failed to create a climate for peace, as evidenced by the ongoing Great March of Return and Palestinians’ decision to sever contact with the Americans.

The mirage of the ‘ultimate deal’

Despite the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to discuss the deal, the Americans appear to be moving to implement the second stage of the yet-unpublished plan – that of bringing economic relief to Gaza, funded by some of the Gulf states. If the Trump team believes that Palestinians in Gaza are simply looking for some economic relief, then they are as naive now as when they began their sordid endeavours.

Gaza’s children are even more confused after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently opted to tighten the noose around them by closing the “commercial crossing” at Kerem Shalom as punishment for the continuing rudimentary kites and balloons launched from Gaza, which have damaged crops on the Israeli side of the fence. Israel has attacked those launching what they bizarrely call “terror kites”.

If the heavy sacrifices made by Gaza’s Palestinians since the Great March of Return began on 30 March are not sufficient evidence that “economic peace” is a mirage, then the US, Israel and their new Arab allies have underestimated Palestinians’ resilience and their insistence on attaining their rights. As far as the Palestinians are concerned, the Americans will not be able to use Gaza to prop up their heavily damaged “ultimate deal”.

The Trump administration should take inspiration from the rescue of the Thai boys, planned meticulously to end their predicament, not to serve an ideological goal of helping Israel to entrench its control over the whole of historic Palestine. They should act to end the suffering of the two million Palestinians in Gaza, without preconditions, and give its children some hope for an end to their imprisonment – just as the brave divers did for the Thai boys in the cave.

A challenge for Trump: Pull out of the UN

First published by the Middle East Eye on 27/6/2018

If it’s really ‘America first’, why is the US remaining in an organisation simply to act as Israel’s chief defender?SWITZERLAND-SYRIA-CONFLICT-UN-rights

President Donald Trump has pulled the US out of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

I challenge him to pull the country out of the UN entirely.

Trump’s decision to leave the UN rights council was announced by US ambassador Nikki Haley and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Haley gave two reasons for the decision: that “human rights abusers continue to serve on, and be elected to, the council” and that the council has become “a cesspool of political bias”.

Haley also pointed to a “disproportionate focus and unending hostility” towards Israel. She called the 47-member international council “an organisation that is not worthy of its name”.

Support from Netanyahu

A day earlier, UN rights chief Zeid Raad al-Hussein urged Washington to stop separating migrant children from their parents at the US border, saying: “The thought that any state would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable.”

Only Israel came out fully in support of the US pullout, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanking Trump, Pompeo and Haley for their “courageous decision against the hypocrisy and the lies of the so-called UN Human Rights Council”.

“For years, the UNHRC has proven to be a biased, hostile, anti-Israel organisation that has betrayed its mission of protecting human rights,” Netanyahu wrote on Facebook.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson called the decision “regrettable” but said the UK was “here to stay” – despite the UK putting the council on notice last year for its criticism of Israel through the inclusion of a standard agenda item that considers Israel’s human rights abuses against Palestinians.

“We share the view that the dedicated Agenda Item 7, focused solely on Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, is disproportionate and damaging to the cause of peace – and unless things change, we shall vote next year against all resolutions introduced under Item 7,” Johnson said.

This will be interesting, as one of the resolutions normally reaffirms the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination. Would the UK really vote against this right?

Haley’s ‘extraordinary’ letter

Twelve rights and aid groups, including Human Rights First, Save the Children and CARE, wrote to Pompeo to warn that the withdrawal would “make it more difficult to advance human rights priorities and aid victims of abuse around the world”.

Haley responded in a letter that Iain Levine, the deputy executive director for programme with Human Rights Watch, described as “extraordinary”. He argued that Haley was seeking to hold HRW and other human rights groups “responsible for the US withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council”.

Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s executive committee, noted in a statement: “It is not surprising that the United States administration who gives orders to snatch crying babies from their parents’ arms and who partners with Israel, a cruel and belligerent military occupier that holds an entire nation captive, has withdrawn from the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC).”

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley delivers remarks to the press together with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, announcing the U.S.'s withdrawal from the U.N's Human Rights Council at the Department of State in Washington

US ambassador Nikki Haley accused the UN rights council of hostility towards Israel (Reuters)

 

She continued: “The problem is not with the just and functioning global order, but with Israel who (sic) persists in committing lethal violations and war crimes against the Palestinian people. The US administration’s blind commitment to Israel and its proven track record of human rights violations will succeed in isolating it in the international arena and undermining its influence and standing globally.”

The US withdrawal from the council is not without precedent. Last October, the US withdrew from the UN education and culture organisation UNESCO, claiming it harboured “anti-Israel bias”. Then, too, Israel applauded the US decision as “courageous and moral”, while Mustafa Barghouti, secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative, said it showed the US administration’s “complete and total bias” towards Israel.

Accountability gap

The US is not a member of the International Criminal Court, established to “bring to justice the perpetrators of the worst crimes known to humankind – war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide”, when national courts are unable or unwilling to do so.

It would be natural to assume that a world power, which claims to be committed to human rights, would be a member of the ICC. The fact that it is not brings into question its real commitment to ensuring individuals who commit human rights abuses are accountable for their crimes.

Israel is currently awaiting a decision on whether the ICC, at the request of the PLO, will open proceedings against some of its military and political leaders for alleged violations, including the attacks on Gaza and the illegal settlements. It would be safe to assume that if the US were a member, it would leave the ICC if this happened, citing bias against Israel.

The US administration claims that the UN is dysfunctional, but then obstructs its work in order to protect Israel, including using its veto and withdrawing from its agencies. While it claims the UN singles Israel out for criticism, the US singles it out for protection from accountability for its crimes.

The US recently obstructed a UN Security Council resolution to provide protection for Palestinians participating in the peaceful Great Return March against violence by Israel, whose forces have killed 130 people, including medics and journalists. However, the US lost a similar resolution at the UN General Assembly, where it does not have a veto.

This mirrored the situation after Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Haley vetoed a Security Council resolution rejecting the recognition, while the General Assembly adopted a similar resolution.

US veto is Israel’s veto

If Trump believes the UN – 22 percent of whose budget is funded by the US – is dysfunctional, anti-Israel and disrespectful, he should leave the organisation entirely, just as he left the Paris climate agreement and the Iran nuclear deal.

It is likely that if America could leave the General Assembly but remain in the Security Council, it would – but that is not possible. It is all or nothing.

But even if for a moment Trump considered leaving the Security Council, Israel and its lobby would soon bring him to his senses. After all, the US veto is Israel’s veto on the council.

For a man who claims to put “America first”, I challenge the US president to withdraw his country from the UN.

– Kamel Hawwash is a British-Palestinian engineering professor based at the University of Birmingham and a longstanding campaigner for justice, especially for the Palestinian people. He is vice chair of the British Palestinian Policy Council (BPPC) and a member of the executive committee of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC). He appears regularly in the media as a commentator on Middle East issues. He runs a blog at www.kamelhawwash.com and tweets at @kamelhawwash. 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: The United Nations Human Rights Council is pictured on 13 March 2018 in Geneva (AFP)

 

Israel’s royal reward for discriminating against Palestinians

First published by the Middle East Monitor on 25/6/2018

Prince-Williams-arrives-at-Jordan20180624_2_31108726_35032294

UK Prince Williams arrives at the Marka International Airport to hold official visits in Amman, Jordan on 24 June 2018 [Shadi Nsoor/Anadolu Agency]

As Britain’s Prince William arrives in Israel for a royal visit that will also see him visit the Occupied Palestinian Territories, does he really understand the country upon which he is bestowing an air of normality? The same question would apply to any world leader or dignitaries making a similar trip to the state of Israel as it is currently constituted.

Members of the British royal family have, of course, made visits to other states with highly questionable values and human rights records. However, in the current climate, the Foreign Office rightly shies away from organising such a trip to, for example, Myanmar because of its appalling treatment and displacement of the Rohingya Muslims, which has created a major refugee problem.

Similar consideration should have been given before pushing the second in line to the throne to undertake a trip to Israel, which was founded in 1948 on the forced displacement of 750,000 Palestinians to make way for Jewish immigrants; it has rightly been called “ethnic cleansing” and is an ongoing process. Palestinians continue to live in exile in refugee camps to this day, including those in Jordan, where William spent the first evening of the visit watching a recording of the England vs Panama football match with the Jordanian Crown Prince. Will he be briefed about the obstacles that Israel places in the way of Palestinians trying to play the beautiful game, and the sometimes targeted shooting of them in the legs?

The prince could have visited Al-Baqa’a refugee camp, which Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn visited a couple of days ago, highlighting the continuing Palestinian refugee problem that the world has failed to resolve. It is one of 10 camps registered with UNRWA, which altogether accommodate around one-fifth of the 2 million Palestinian refugees in the Hashemite Kingdom.

In a carefully choreographed visit to Israel and Palestine, the prince will meet the leadership of a people still under occupation, the Palestinians, as well as the people who have been occupying and colonising their land for 51 years (70 if you count the original Nakba), the Israelis. He will meet carefully chosen Palestinians who will not remind him of Britain’s role in their predicament or ask why Britain continues to sell weapons to Israel and why it failed to condemn Israel’s massacres of Palestinians under siege in Gaza.

They will not talk about the Balfour Declaration or the British occupation under the League of Nations Mandate, or ask him why he has made the trip now, which his family had refrained from doing since Israel’s establishment. Nor will they ask him why Britain is rewarding Israel with his visit, when the situation on the ground is worse now than ever before for the indigenous Palestinians whose only crime was to live on the land that Zionists wanted as a homeland for people who did not come from there. They will not ask him the fundamental question of why he is visiting an Apartheid state that dominates and discriminates against even its own Palestinian citizens who make up one-fifth of the population.

2018_5-15-Pro-Palestine-demonstration-in-London20180515_2_30391105_33774815

The FCO will have emphasised to the Prince that Israel is not only an ally but also a democracy and that it shares western values to which Britain subscribes. However, it is unlikely that he would have been briefed in detail about the kind of democracy that Israel actually practices. It claims to be a Jewish and democratic state, but inherent in this is that its Jewish character always trumps democracy.

Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, recently stopped a bill from being discussed that would have given equal rights to all citizens. A bill calling for Israel “to be defined as a state of all its citizens” was disqualified from being placed on the Knesset’s agenda. Palestinian Israeli MK Haneen Zoabi, who the Prince is unlikely to meet, reaffirmed recently that, “A democracy does not exist without equality among its citizens.” Such equality is missing from Israeli-style democracy.

We can assume that this naked discrimination between citizens of the same country would not be something that Prince William would subscribe to, but his visit to Israel gives it the green light to continue.

The “Nation State Bill” passed its first reading earlier this year, and will define Israel as the “nation-state of the Jewish people”. The discriminatory implications of the Bill passing in its original format worry those who fight for equality between human beings, particularly citizens of the same state.

We can also safely assume that Britain would not establish as a matter of policy communities that are exclusively for people of one colour, creed or religion, but the illegal settlement enterprise enforced by Israel on occupied Palestinian land does exactly that. It builds homes, roads and other infrastructure for the exclusive use of its Jewish citizens. Even within Israel’s undeclared but internationally recognised borders, Jews live largely segregated lives from non-Jewish citizens.

Furthermore, it would be inconceivable for British communities to set up “Admissions Committees” to vet those wishing to move in. Prince William will not be told that in 2014 the Israeli Supreme Court upheld the “Admissions Committees Law” that allows Israel’s Jewish communities to exclude its Arab citizens from living in the same town, village or neighbourhood.

In March, a Jewish town in the Galilee region of northern Israel cancelled the sale of land for new homes in the community after it “became clear that more than 50 per cent of those purchasing the plots were Arab citizens”. Hundreds of Jewish Israelis demonstrated recently in Afula against the sale of a home to an Arab family.

The prince will not be told about Israel’s discrimination against the Bedouin Community in the Negev Desert. Since its creation on Palestinian land in 1948, it has not recognised 35 villages, which it deprives of services, simply because they are populated by Bedouin. He will not be told that the Bedouin village of Um Al-Hiran will be demolished to make way the Jew-only settlement of Hiran.

William will not be told of more than 65 laws on the statute book that discriminate against non-Jews in the state, including the law of return and marriage between Israeli citizens and Palestinian citizens from the occupied territories. Nor will he visit Hebron to see modern day Apartheid in action, with an illegal occupation to boot. He will not visit Gaza to see the impact of the 11-year long siege, so he will not visit the home of Razan Al-Najjar, the 21- year old medic who was gunned down and killed by an Israel soldier while helping the injured.

razan-al-najjar

The prince will not be told that Jewish and Arab women are segregated in hospital maternity wards or that Bedouins are not allowed into a swimming pool because locals threatened to “boycott the pool if Bedouin were allowed in.”

Even as a military man himself, Prince William will not visit a military court to see Palestinian children shackled and abused while they await conviction as almost all charges against them are upheld by the courts whose jurisdiction does not apply to Israeli Jews.

The above is but a taste of the discriminatory state that Prince William is honouring with his visit. Does such an openly racist state deserve this honour? What will it take for the so-called international community and civilised western states to see Israel for what it has become and move from protecting it from accountability for its crimes to sanctioning it for its continued breaches of international laws and conventions?

The timing of the visit is very much linked to Britain’s exit from the European Union and its desperation to sign trade deals post-BREXIT. Prince William is being used by the government to extract such a deal with a rogue, Apartheid state that will take anything on offer and continue to discriminate against Palestinians with impunity, emboldened by this royal visit.

First came America’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and now we have a visit by a senior member of the British royal family, despite Israel’s appalling human rights record What incentive does it have to stop abusing Palestinians and their legitimate rights and aspirations?

El escudo humano más famoso de Israel es Avigdor Lieberman, su ministro de Defensa

primero publicó el monitor de Oriente en 13/6/2018

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Palestinos participan en las protestas contra la ocupación y el bloqueo israelí en la frontera entre Gaza e Israel, en la localidad de Khan Younis, el pasado viernes 8 de junio de 2018 [Mustafa Hassona / Anadolu Agency]

La maquinaria propagandística de Israel lleva funcionando a pleno nivel desde el 30 de marzo, cuando comenzó la Gran Marcha del Retorno y decenas de miles de palestinos de Gaza marcharon hacia la valla que les separa de Israel para exigir su derecho a regresar a sus ciudades y pueblos de origen, además del fin de los 11 años de asedio inmoral a Gaza. Una vez más, el objetivo es deshumanizar a los palestinos, retratarlos como personas violentas que pretenden atacar y asesinar a los israelíes, en vez de como a un pueblo respaldado por la ley internacional articulada en la Resolución 194 de la ONU, que otorga su derecho al retorno.

La hasbará israelí ha trabajado horas extras para tratar de ocultar la naturaleza pacífica de las manifestaciones y su origen como movimiento de base. Incluso antes de producirse la primera marcha a la valla, el ministro israelí de Asuntos Exteriores distribuyó un documento llamado “La Campaña de Confrontación liderada por Hamás”, que detallaba los principales factores expuestos por la diplomacia pública de Israel respecto a la marcha. Tal y como implica el título del documento, Israel quiso despojar a la marcha de su encuadre pacífico y civil, tachándola de “provocación” y afirmando que “Hamás ha gastado más de 10 millones de dólares en financiar la actual campaña de confrontación, pagando a los ciudadanos de Gaza para que participen”. Por supuesto, no existen pruebas que respalden estas afirmaciones. Todos palestinos (no sólo los ciudadanos de Gaza) marcharon por su propia voluntad. Muchas familiar salieron a las calles con sus hijos con la esperanza de poder atravesar pacíficamente la valla y volver a sus hogares.

Otra de las cosas que afirmaban es que “Israel tiene derecho a defender sus fronteras e impedir infiltraciones a su territorio soberano”. Pero el documento no explica cuáles son exactamente las fronteras de Israel. Dado que Israel sigue ocupando Gaza, donde controla la entrada tanto de personas como de bienes y cuenta con un registro de población, la valla en la que se colocaron sus tropas es artificial. Tampoco ha construido un muro a lo largo de toda la frontera, para permitir un fácil acceso a la franja sitiada para aplastar los cultivos y asesinar a la población a voluntad.

Israel reaccionó a las marchas pacíficas con gas lacrimógeno y munición que han provocado 120 muertos y más de 10.000 heridos. Ni un solo ciudadano o militar israelí ha resultado herido durante las marchas.

El documento del ministro de Exteriores israelí también afirma que “Hamás sigue utilizando a la población civil de Gaza como escudo humano”. Es una acusación que hace a menudo para desviar la atención mundial de sus crímenes y culpar a Hamás, no a sus acciones asesinas, de las víctimas y los heridos palestinos. Durante la guerra de 2014 en Gaza, afirmó que Hamás disparaba cohetes desde zonas civiles, incluso desde casas, escuelas y hospitales.

Israel asegura que Hamás ha pagado a los palestinos para que vayan hasta la frontera, arriesgando su vida y su integridad física, llevándose a sus hijos, tan sólo para actuar como escudos humanos que protejan a sus operativos, que planean ataques contra los ciudadanos y soldados israelíes. Los palestinos niegan estas acusaciones, subrayando que son los organizadores de la marcha los que determinan su desarrollo, no Hamás, y que los palestinos acuden a la valla por su propia voluntad.

112 palestinos fueron asesinados en #Gaza por fuerzas israelíes del 30 de marzo al 15 de mayo de 2018

Read more: ow.ly/RxA530k7jVN

BY The White Canvas

Israel incluso tuvo la desfachatez de publicar un vídeo editado para acusar a Razan Al-Najjar, una médica de 21 años, de lanzar un objeto a la valla y actuar como escudo humano de Hamás. En realidad, lo que dice Razan en la entrevista completa es “actúo como escudo humano para los heridos en el frente de batalla”.

Las afirmaciones de Israel de que los palestinos utilizan a los palestinos como escudo humano son falsas. De hecho, Israel utiliza tanto a palestinos como a judíos como escudo humano. A menudo, el ejército israelí usa a palestinos como escudos humanos, según ha informado la organización pacifista israelí B’Tselem. Les ordenan “retirar objetos sospechosos de las carreteras, decir a la gente que salgan de casa para que el ejército pueda arrestarla, ponerse delante de los soldados mientras estos últimos disparan detrás de ellos, y demás. Los ciudadanos palestinos que desempeñan estas tareas son escogidos al azar, y no pueden rechazar las obligaciones que les imponen los soldados armados”.

En 2010, dos soldados israelíes fueron condenados por utilizar a un chico palestino de 11 años como escudo humano en Gaza, ordenándole que abriera bolsas que se sospechaba que eran trampas bomba.

Lo que no resulta tan evidente para los analistas es que el mayor grupo de escudos humanos en la Palestina histórica son los colonos israelíes. Desde que ocuparon Cisjordania y Jerusalén Oriental en 1967, Israel ha construido colonias exclusivas para judíos, localizadas estratégicamente en base a razones tanto políticas como militares. La razón política consiste en imposibilitar que alguna vez emerja un Estado palestino viable y contiguo. Su objetivo también es judaizar Jerusalén y Hebrón. Al colocar ilegalmente a colonos en barrios palestinos, Israel les pone en peligro por razones políticas, ya sea como peones o como escudos humanos. Cuando los colonos ocupan un hogar palestino en Hebrón o en el barrio jerosolimitano de Sheikh Jarrah, se convierten en escudos humanos políticos.

Fue el ministro de Defensa de Israel, Avigdor Lieberman, quien articuló la lógica militar. Afirma que, desde su punto de vista, “está claro que los asentamientos en Judea y Samaria [Cisjordania] y los de las zonas de Jericó y del Mar Muerto son el verdadero muro defensivo del Estado de Israel”. Así, admitió que los colonos que habitan estas colonias están siendo utilizados como escudos humanos de Israel para proteger lo que, hasta el momento, es un Estado sin fronteras definitivas. Lieberman ha defendido los asentamientos y se ha comprometido a seguir construyendo colonias judías ilegales en Cisjordania, Jerusalén Oriental y los Altos del Golán.

El ascenso del terrorismo colono es otro uso de los colonos como peones, para provocar represalias palestinas y expulsar a los palestinos de su territorio. El ejército se pone detrás de ellos mientras se dedican a sembrar el terror, utilizándolos efectivamente como escudos humanos.

La acusación falsa de que Hamás ha utilizado a 40.000 ciudadanos como escudos humanos no está ni cerca del uso israelí de 700.000 escudos humanos: los colonos. Con un gobierno israelí liderado por colonos, hay muchos líderes importantes de Israel que viven en asentamientos ilegales, lo que les convierte en escudos humanos que protegen los objetivos políticos y militares de Israel.

El propio Avigdor Lieberman, ex portero de clubes nocturnos de Moldavia y ahora ministro de Defensa israelí, es un colono que reside en el asiento ilegal de Nokdim, en Gush Etzion. Resulta que el escudo humano más famoso de Israel es su ministro de Defensa.

 

Israel’s most famous human shield is its defence minister, Avigdor Lieberman

First published by the Middle East Monitor on 12/6/2018

Palestinian protestors seen at the Gaza-Israel border during the protests called "commemorating the Naksa", along the border fence, east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on June 8, 2018 [Mustafa Hassona / Anadolu Agency]

Palestinian protesters seen at the Gaza-Israel border during the Great March of Return on June 8, 2018 [Mustafa Hassona / Anadolu Agency]

 

The Israeli propaganda machine has been in full swing since 30 March when the Great Return March saw tens of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza march to the fence with Israel demanding that they be allowed to return to their home towns and villages and for an end to the 11-year immoral siege on Gaza. The object is to once again dehumanise the Palestinians, presenting them as violent people intent on attacking and killing Israelis, rather than people with the backing of international law articulated in UN Resolution 194 which gives them the right to return.

Israeli hasbara was working overtime to deny the peaceful nature of the demonstrations and their origin as a grassroots movement. Even before the first march to the fence, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) circulated a document entitled “Hamas-led Confrontation Campaign”, which detailed the main talking points for Israel’s public diplomacy on the march. As the title of the document implies, Israel wanted to strip the march of its peaceful and civilian framing calling it a “provocation” and claiming that “Hamas is spending more than $10 million to finance the current confrontation campaign, paying Gazans to get them to participate”. There is of course no evidence that Hamas did such a thing. Palestinians (not Gazans) marched under their own free will. Families went out to the camps with their children in the hope that they could walk peacefully through the fence to their homes.

Another talking point was that “Israel has the right to defend its borders and to prevent infiltration into its sovereign territory”. What the document fails to explain is where exactly Israel’s borders are. Since Israel continues to occupy Gaza, controlling ingress and access for both people and goods, as well as keeping the population registry, the fence at which its troops were placed is artificial. It also has not built a wall along the whole border to allow it easy access to the besieged strip to flatten crops and to carry out murderous attacks against the population at will.

Israel reacted to the peaceful marches with tear gas and live ammunition that has resulted in 120 deaths and over 10,000 injuries. There has not been a single injury to an Israeli citizen, military or civilian during the marches.

The Israeli MFA document also goes on to claim that “Hamas continues to exploit the civilian population of Gaza as human shields”. This is an accusation it makes regularly to deflect the world’s attention from its crimes and to blame Hamas, not its murderous actions, for the death and maiming of Palestinians. During the 2014 war on Gaza, it claimed Hamas was firing rockets from civilian areas, even from civilian homes, schools and hospitals.

Israel claims Hamas has been paying Palestinians to go to the border, risking life and limb, taking their children, all to serve as human shields to provide cover for its operatives, planning attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians. The Palestinians reject this claim, stressing that it is the organisers of the march that determine its development, not Hamas, and that Palestinians go to the fence of their own free will.

Israel even had the temerity through the publication of a misleading, edited video clip to smear 21-year-old medic Razan Al-Najjar accusing her of throwing an object at the fence and of acting as a human shield for Hamas. In fact, what Razan said in the full interview was “I act as a human shield as a rescuer for the injured on the front lines”.

The claim of Israel that Palestinians use Palestinians as human shields is false. In fact, Israel uses both Palestinians and Jews as human shields. The Israeli Army regularly uses Palestinians as human shields as outlined by B’Tselem. This includes ordering them to “remove suspicious objects from roads, to tell people to come out of their homes so the military can arrest them, to stand in front of soldiers while the latter shoot from behind them, and more. The Palestinian civilians were chosen at random for these tasks, and could not refuse the demand placed on them by armed soldiers”.

In 2010 two Israeli soldiers were convicted of using an 11-year-old Palestinian boy as a human shield in Gaza when they used him to open bags suspected of being booby trapped.

What may not be so apparent to observers is that the largest group of human shields in historic Palestine are Israeli settlers. Since its occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1967, Israel has built colonies for Jews only, which it placed strategically, both for political and military reasons. The political reason is to make it impossible for a viable and contiguous Palestinian state to ever emerge. It is also a means of judaising Jerusalem and Hebron. By planting settlers illegally into Palestinian neighbourhoods, Israel deliberately puts them in harm’s way for political reasons, whether as pawns or human shields. When settlers occupy a Palestinian home in Hebron or Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, they are political human shields.

It was Israel’s defence minister, Avigdor Lieberman, who articulated the military rationale. He claims that from his perspective, “it’s clear that the settlements in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] and those here in the area of Jericho and the Dead Sea are the State of Israel’s true defensive wall”. This is therefore an admission, that the settlers that populate these colonies are used as human shields by Israel to protect what is until now a state without definitive borders. Lieberman has been championing the settlement enterprise and has indeed vowed to continue to build illegal Jewish colonies in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

The rise in settler terrorism is another use of the settlers as pawns to provoke Palestinian retaliation and to push Palestinians off their land. The army stands behind them as they carry out their terror, effectively using them as human shields.

The false claim that Hamas has used 40,000 civilians as human shields comes nowhere near Israel’s use of 700,000 human shields that are the illegal settlers. With a settler-led Israeli government there are plenty of prominent Israeli leaders that live in illegal settlements, making them human shields for Israel’s political and military goals.

Avigdor Lieberman, the former nightclub bouncer from Moldova now Israel’s defence minister, is himself a settler residing in the illegal Nokdim settlement in Gush Etzion.  It turns out Israel’s most famous human shield is its defence minister.

Britain must not reward Israel for its abuse of Palestinians

First published by the Arab Weekly on Sunday 10/6/2018

Britain appears to be developing closer relations with Israel on many fronts.

Breaking with the norm? Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II (L) and Prince William arrive as she hosts a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in London, on May 31. (AP)

Prince William’s visit to Israel this month, the first official British royal visit to the country, could not come at a more inappropriate time.

More than 100 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli gunfire since March 30, when mass protests near the Gaza-Israel border broke out to highlight the plight of the besieged enclave and the rights of refugees. More than 10,000 people have been reportedly injured.

Among the fatalities was Razan Al-Najar, a 21-year old volunteer medic who was shot in the back while tending to injured protesters near the Israeli fence. Her death caused international outrage. Nicolai Miladinov, UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, tweeted: “Medical workers are #NotATarget!”

Israel, however, has not been held accountable. A resolution tabled at the UN Security Council to provide protection for the Palestinian people was vetoed by the United States hours after Razan’s death.

Britain’s Middle East Minister Alistair Burt, who was visiting the Palestinian territories and Israel, tweeted: “Circumstances of dreadful death of young Palestinian medic yesterday require urgent clarification.”

The world community failed to condemn Israel for the use of live ammunition fired by highly trained snipers, when less lethal force could have been used. There were no reports of injuries either to Israeli army personnel or nearby settlers.

Britain called for an independent inquiry into Israel’s killings of Palestinians only to abstain in the UN Human Rights Council when a resolution setting up the required inquiry was tabled.

Criticism of Britain’s U-turn on an independent inquiry grew when Burt said he could not verify how British weapons would be used once delivered to Israel. This raised concerns that British weapons may have been used by the Israeli military to kill Palestinian protesters, which is in contravention of the licences that allowed their sale.

Burt explained that once a risk assessment had been conducted, the licences were issued and no further checks made.

The Campaign Against Arms Trade said the United Kingdom issued approximately $300 million worth of arms licences to defence companies exporting to Israel, substantially more than the $115 million sold last year and the $27 million licensed in 2015.

Over the past five years, Israel has bought more than $450 million worth of British military hardware, making Israel the eighth largest market for UK arms companies. Last year’s sales included targeting equipment, small arms ammunition, missiles, weapon sights and sniper rifles. This makes it possible that snipers were using British rifles to kill and maim civilian protesters at the Gaza fence.

Britain appears to be developing closer relations with Israel on many fronts.

Britain’s Royal Air Force took part in a flyover to mark Israel’s Independence Day last month, even though it coincided with the Palestinians’ commemoration of 70 years of their Nakba.

Last December, HMS Ocean, a flagship of the British Royal Navy, docked in Haifa. It took part in exercises with the Israeli Navy and Air Force. To encourage British-Israeli business cooperation, particularly in the high-technology sector, the United Kingdom created the UK Israel Tech Hub. Its website confirms that it focuses on “tech areas with the potential to contribute to growth in both the UK and Israel.”  The areas include cyber-security, biomed, clean tech and fintech.

The United Kingdom is also firmly against placing pressure on Israel through the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and has attempted to stop British local authorities excluding companies complicit in Israel’s occupation from applying for contracts or for their pension schemes to invest in such companies.

Israel is on a list of ten countries the United Kingdom is targeting for trade deals post Brexit and the United Kingdom appears to be exercising caution in taking any action against Israel that may put such a deal in jeopardy.

Prince William’s visit to the region is to include stops in Jordan and the occupied West Bank. The Palestinian Authority welcomed the visit, however, it is likely to be a only courtesy call in Ramallah, rather than a “meet the people” affair. The pomp and pageantry will be with the Israelis. Significantly, the prince will not visit Gaza to see first-hand the effect of the siege — imposed by the leaders whose hands he will shake and whose wine he will drink — on 2 million people.

It is the norm that royal visits avoid politics but by choosing to make such a visit in the current climate, every step and every word uttered by the prince will matter.

To avoid the many pitfalls, it would have been better for this visit to take place after a peace deal between the Palestinians and the Israelis, rather than after the significant loss of life in the Great March of Return.

Razan perdió su vida; mientras tanto, Nikki Haley perdía su humanidad

Primero publicado en Monitor De Oriente on 5/6/2018

Razan murió como una orgullosa palestina lleno de humanidad y será recordada con el mismo nombre con el que nació. Por el contrario, Nimrata Randhawa, será recordada por su nombre adoptado, Nikki Haley, ocultando su herencia india. Elshamy/Anadolu Agency]

El pasado viernes, 1 de junio, una médico voluntaria palestina, Razan Al Najar, mientras ayunaba, atendía a los heridos en la verja artificial que separa a Gaza de Israel. A miles de kilómetros, la embajadora de Estados Unidos en la ONU, Nikki Haley, maquinaba en nombre de Israel en el organismo internacional. El día acabó con Razan glorificada y convertida en mártir y en Nikki humillada y avergonzada.

Como hacía cada día desde el comienzo de la Gran Marcha del Retorno el 30 de marzo, Razan se despidió de su familia y se dirigió a la frontera, consciente de que sus habilidades serían necesarias para tratar a los palestinos que se disponían a marchar hacia la valla que separa artificialmente a Gaza del resto de la Palestina histórica. Marchan para ejercitar su derecho a regresar a los hogares de los que proceden y de donde las fuerzas israelíes les expulsaron en 1948. Sin duda, los conocimientos médicos de Razan serían necesarios, ya que Israel había decidido desplegar a decenas de francotiradores profesionales para asesinar a palestinos. El número de víctimas ha alcanzado las 119 y más de diez mil heridos; algunas estimaciones elevan esta cifra a más de 13.000.

Una publicación de Facebook – cuya exactitud no puedo verificar – afirma que, en sus últimas palabras, Razan le pidió a su madre que hiciera hojas de parra rellenas para la ruptura del ayuno al anochecer. Se despidió y marchó a encontrarse con sus compañeros médicos en la valla. En aquel momento, Nikki Haley estaría probablemente desayunando antes de dirigirse a la ONU y decidir cómo lidiar con los 15 miembros del Consejo de Seguridad. No había llegado a un acuerdo sobre ninguna declaración respecto a los acontecimientos en la frontera de Gaza desde el comienzo de las marchas, a pesar del alto número de víctimas. Aquel día, el Consejo decidía si respaldar una resolución presentada por Kuwait pidiendo protección para el pueblo palestino, o respaldar una resolución estadounidense condenando a Hamás por una serie de cohetes disparados desde la Franja de Gaza en respuesta a los crímenes israelíes.

Razan, de 20 años, era la mayor de seis hermanos. Tenía un título en enfermería general y había completado unos 38 cursos de primeros auxilios. Aunque no tenía asegurado un trabajo remunerado, se ofrecía como voluntaria en hospitales, ONGS y organizaciones médicas, desarrollando habilidades y experiencia que la convirtieron en una gran ayuda durante la Gran Marcha.

En una entrevista con el The New York Times el mes pasado, Razan explicaba por qué se había ofrecido voluntaria para ayudar en la Gran Marcha del Retorno, sobre todo como mujer. “Ser médico no es sólo un trabajo de hombres”, dijo Razan, “también es de mujeres”.

También atestiguó los momentos finales de algunos heridos de muerte. “Me rompe el corazón que algunos de los jóvenes que resultaron heridos o fueron asesinados me dijeran a mí su última voluntad”, contaba a Al Jazeera. “Algunos incluso me daban objetos suyos [como regalo] antes de morir.”

En una publicación en su cuenta de Facebook el 16 de mayo, Razan negaba las acusaciones de que ella y otros voluntarios habían sido coaccionados para ir a la frontera.

El 1 de junio, un francotirador israelí la disparó por la espalda, según informó la organización activista Al Mezan, citando a testigos oculares y a sus investigaciones. En el momento de recibir el disparo, se encontraba a 100 m. de la valla y llevaba ropas que claramente la identificaban como médico. Su chaleco médico manchado de sangre la acompañó a la tumba durante el funeral masivo que se celebró para ella al día siguiente.

Comparemos los actos humanos y desinteresados de Razan, de 21 años, con oportunidades limitadas de conseguir paz y justicia para su pueblo, con los intentos vergonzosos y descarados de la embajadora Nikki Haley en el Consejo de Seguridad para denegar la protección al pueblo de Razan. Mientras que Kuwait proponía una resolución al Consejo para cumplir su responsabilidad ante un pueblo oprimido y garantizar su protección, Haley proponía una resolución para denunciar a Hamás por los cohetes lanzados contra zonas israelíes tras los ataques y bombardeos mortales de Israel en el enclave asediado.

La votación sobre ambos textos se produjo poco después de la muerte de Razan. Haley no consiguió más votos que el suyo para su resolución; tres países votaron en contra y 11 se abstuvieron. Una total humillación para Estados Unidos y personalmente para Haley que hizo que los analistas revolvieran los registros históricos hasta encontrar otra ocasión en la que una resolución sólo hubiera contado con el apoyo del país que la proponía. En el momento de escribir este artículo, aún no han encontrado ninguna.

Una vez más, Haley quedó aislada cuando Estados Unidos vetó una resolución para proteger a los palestinos. Con su poder en Israel, ha dado la espalda a un pueblo palestino mayoritariamente pacífico que se enfrenta al ejército de Israel, ayudado por el hardware militar de EEUU, con un valor de miles de millones de dólares. En una reunión previa del Consejo respecto a los asesinatos de Israel contra manifestantes palestinos, decidió salir en cuanto su representante comenzó hablar. Supuso una clara violación del protocolo y produjo grandes críticas. Dado su desempeño general como embajadora de los Estados Unidos, el presidente Trump debería despedir a Haley inmediatamente. Ha provocado el aislamiento y la humillación de su país; todo por el bien de un aliado inmerecido, Israel.

El 1 de junio de 2018, Razan perdió su vida mientras Nikki Haley perdía su humanidad al defender las acciones terroristas de un Estado criminal, Israel. Razan murió como una palestina orgullosa, llena de humanidad, y será recordada con el mismo nombre que le pusieron al nacer. Al contrario, Nimrata Randhawa, hija de inmigrantes sij, un día fallecerá y será recordada por su nombre adoptivo, Nikki Haley, con el que oculta su herencia india. Razan será recordada por su voluntariado desinteresado, mientras que Haley será recordada por apoyar y proteger al único Estado de apartheid del mundo.

Razan no podía hacer mucho por cambiar el mundo y conseguir la paz en tierra santa, mientras que Haley, desde una de las oficinas más poderosas de la política mundial, podría haber ayudado a proteger a los palestinos y llevar la paz a la región. Si Razan hubiera tenido un cargo tan alto, el mundo sería un lugar mejor.

Descansa en paz, Razan Al-Najar. Vales más que un millón de Nikki Haleys.