With Israel’s Nation State Law in place, violence against Palestinians will get worse

First published by the Middle East Monitor on 30/8/2018

Israeli forces fire tear gas at Palestinian during a protest in Nablus West Bank on 15 February 2018 [Nedal Eshtayah/Anadolu Agency]

Ever since Israel passed the Nation State Law, Palestinians and neutral observers have been wondering about its possible impact on the substantial Palestinian minority in Israel as well as those living under occupation in the rest of historic Palestine. The law says that Israel is the state for Jews all over the world and that only Jews have a right to self-determination therein. It also demoted the status of Arabic, which has up to now been recognised as an official language. The law further proclaimed illegal Jewish settlements to be a national value. The Palestinians, whether citizens of Israel or living under its occupation, did not feature.

The signal going out to Jewish Israelis is that this is their land, even though its borders remain undefined, albeit they are assumed to be from the Mediterranean Sea to the River Jordan. Non-Jewish Israelis have no rights in the land, despite the fact that the Palestinians are the indigenous people. The natural conclusion to this “logic” is that they should leave of their own accord, otherwise ways will be found to make their lives so unbearable that they leave out of fear, as happened in the 1948 Nakba when the majority of the Palestinians were expelled.

The world’s shameful silence at Israel’s open declaration that it is a de facto Apartheid state was deafening. If a state can pass such a discriminatory law and get away with it, then it can do anything.

Netanyahu: Nation state law grants all Jews ‘automatic’ immigration rights to Israel

It is worth noting that Israel passed this law shortly after a bill was disqualified from being tabled in the Knesset; that proposed legislation called for equal rights for all Israeli citizens, something we take for granted in real democracies. Readers are reminded that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu considered “Arabs” voting in the last elections as such a threat that he appealed to his supporters to go out and vote, because “Arab voters are heading to the polling stations in droves.” So much for the self-proclaimed “only democracy in the Middle East”. The reality is that Palestinian citizens of Israel — 20 per cent of the population — have always been seen as a threat rather than an asset. Israel is very aware of the “demographic threat” that they pose, simply for having beautiful babies.The Israeli government can now use the Nation State Law as a backdrop to expand the gap further between its Palestinian citizens and their fellow citizens who happen to be Jews, particularly in relation to creating more settlements within the 1948 borders and further restricting building in Palestinian communities. Jew-only communities can use entirely legal “admissions committees” to ban Palestinian Israelis from moving in, fearing that they may sully their neighbourhood. The recent demonstration in the northern town of Afula against the sale of one house to a Palestinian family is testament to the increasingly racist nature of Israeli society.Sadly, it does not stop at demonstrations or the pretence of a state that upholds international norms for a democracy or a fair legal system. Palestinians, both citizens and occupied, face increasing violence simply for who they are and that they remain in their land.

At Haifa’s Kiryat Haim beach recently, three Palestinian Israeli citizens from Shafram were approached by a group of Jewish Israelis who asked them if they were “Arabs”. Their answer in the affirmative resulted in the inquisitors leaving only for a group of eight to return with weapons, attack them violently and yell, “You are Arab dogs, do not stay here.” They explained later that they were not doing anyone any harm on the beach, but that the attackers “just decided to hit us without cause. They almost killed us. We asked them to stop but they continued. They were removed only after other people arrived at the scene. We hope the police find them.” The Palestinians acknowledge that it was other Israeli Jews who came to their rescue.

They worry about nationalist attacks. “Unfortunately, despite the various condemnations against racism, it persists,” they added. “Who will be next?” The Israeli police have arrested a 23-year-old resident of Kiryat Haim on suspicion of attacking the three men.

Poll: 58% of Israelis support the Jewish ‘nation state law’

This incident is particularly worrying because it was an unprovoked attack on Palestinian Israelis just weeks after the passing of the Nation State Law. The only official condemnation reportedly came from President Reuven Rivlin, not Netanyahu.

This was not the first incident of such attacks by Israeli Jews on Palestinians. In May, bus driver Adham Badir, 38, was pepper sprayed and assaulted between Petah Tikva and Kafr Qasem by three young settlers simply for asking them to wait for the next bus as his was too full for them to bring their electric bikes on board.

A number of attacks have been carried out by members of far-right Jewish group Lehava, which is against romantic relationships between Palestinian men and Jewish girls. In April last year, five Israeli men and one juvenile, all of them Jews, were charged in connection with a series of brutal assaults on Palestinian men in the southern city of Be’er Sheva. The suspects confirmedthat they had been involved in at least six separate incidents between December 2016 and 6 April 2017 carried out with the aim of stopping their targets from pursuing romantic relationships with Jewish women.

In the Occupied Territories, settler violence has been a feature of the daily lives of Palestinians for years. The most high profile incidents were the murders of Mohammed Abu Khdair in Jerusalem in 2014 and the burning to death of the Dawabsheh family a year later. Added to this is a long list of daily attacks on property, crops and olive trees, normally overseen by the Israel Defence Forces, the self-proclaimed “most moral army in the world”. IDF soldiers openly admit that they are there to protect the illegal settlers, not the Palestinians.

Netanyahu promises to ease house demolitions in Druze communities post-Nation State Law

The soldiers recently faced a dilemma when 10 Jewish Israeli settlers attacked 4 Jewish Israeli peace activists from Ta’ayush who were documenting illegal construction in the unauthorised Jewish outpost of Mitzpe Yair. Just who do they protect? In the event, injuries occurred only on the peace activists’ side, leaving us to draw our own conclusion about which side the soldiers are on.

It is particularly worrying that Israel is “relaxing the rules” on gun ownership and allowing up to 500,000 more civilians to carry lethal weapons. This would allow veterans of Israel’s infantry units to obtain licenses more easily, as well as officers and commanders who have completed their reserve duty to keep their weapons. The implication is that the overwhelming majority of those who will benefit will be Jewish Israelis. This poses a real threat to Palestinians across historic Palestine — Israel and the Occupied Territories, including Jerusalem —from trigger-happy Israeli Jews.

International solidarity activists have also faced violence from settlers and the IDF. Norwegian activist Kristen Foss, 43, was shot with rubber bullets on two occasions by soldiers, in the abdomen on 18 August and in the ankle almost a week later. She was taking part in demonstrations in Kafr Qaddum to express solidarity with the residents’ demand for the reopening of the direct road to Nablus and access to their farmland.

Calls for violence against Palestinians including “death to the Arabs” are a regular feature of right-wing rallies and extremist gangs. Thousands chanted this in Rabin Square in 2016 as the crowd gathered in support of Elor Azaria, the Israeli soldier filmed executing 21 year old Abdul Fatah Al-Sharif in illegally occupied Hebron, even though the young Palestinian was already incapacitated having been shot by other soldiers following an alleged knife attack. Azaria was convicted of manslaughter, though in the event he only served only half of his 18-month sentence. Even more troubling was Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s repeated calls for Azaria’s pardon.

Hebron shooter Azaria: ‘I have no remorse whatsoever’

Upon his release in May, Azaria received a hero’s welcome when he returned to the scene of the crime. Activists of the far-right Otzma Yehudit group organised his homecoming.

Far from showing any remorse for what he did, Azaria has said, “I have no remorse. I am completely at peace with myself. I acted as needed. I went with my own [inner] truth. I acted in the most proper way possible and what happened afterwards [his trial and conviction] should not have happened.” What message does that send to other young Israelis?

The lack of condemnation or even concern by Israeli leaders about rising Jewish Israeli violence against Palestinians serves to embolden the extremists. Israel’s leadership feels emboldened and protected by US President Trump and his administration, as well as the silence of the Arab and Muslim world; Netanyahu now feels that he can do whatever he wants with complete impunity.

The future, post the passing of the Nation State Law, is worrying for Palestinians across historic Palestine. They need protection from Israeli violence, which is currently going unchallenged. Is the so called “international community” willing to help, or even capable of doing so?

How the US and Israel are working to transform Gaza into the Palestinian state

First published by the Middle East Eye on 26/7/2018

Trump’s team is focusing on how to force the Palestinians in Gaza – and Hamas – to submit and accept their dictates or face further misery

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The heat is on – again – in Gaza, as Israel tightens its siege and continues to kill and maim at will. If the two million Palestinians in the world’s largest prison camp – Gaza – were seen as humans by the world, the 11-year-long immoral siege on the tiny slither of land would be lifted immediately.

Israel controls all access to the strip by land and sea, while Egypt joins in by regularly closing the Rafah crossing, denying the imprisoned population the right to the free movement in and out of their country that we all enjoy. There is no justification for Egypt’s closure of the Rafah crossing.

Vital means of life

The main commercial access from Israel, the Kerem Shalom crossing, was suddenly closed by Israel on 9 July, denying the strip of the vital means of life, including fuel, which powers the electricity generating station, reducing the supply of electricity to at most six hours a day. The distance fishermen could sail within to catch their fish was also reduced from six to three nautical miles.

Palestinians are forced to buy drinking water at six times the standard rate from private companies because, according to experts, 97 percent of the water is contaminated by sewage and/or salt.

Israel partially opened the crossing through which it “will be possible to transfer gas and fuel into the Gaza Strip, in addition to food and medicine”. However, fish swimming more than three nautical miles off the shore of Gaza remain safe.

Gaza’s residents continue to bury their dead, with over 150 now killed since the start of the peaceful Great Return March four months ago, shot or bombed by Israel at the fence that separates them from their homes, from which they were forcibly transferred in 1948.

Back in 2015, the United Nations

warned that Gaza may become uninhabitable in 2020. That is less than 18 months away but a quick search on the internet reveals no attempt to rehabilitate it or – as I wrote recently – to rescue its children.

Sinai-map (1)

The suffering of Palestinians in Gaza has also been exacerbated by the continuing Palestinian division which shows no sign of ending. Recent months have even seen the Palestinian National Authority imposing sanctions on Gaza in an effort to yield concessions from Hamas.

Price of geopolitical change

The changing geopolitical situation in the Arab world is also piling pressure on the Palestinians to accept what Arab leaders know the Palestinians could not accept as a resolution to their struggle for freedom, justice and equality. A resolution that is being cooked up between Tel Aviv and Washington.

In short, Gaza seems to be under constant attack as US President Trump’s team develop the “ultimate deal” to bring peace to the holy land while laying all the blame for a lack of peace at the door of Hamas and none at Israel’s door.

Any objective assessment of causes of the current situation would conclude that it is the lack of a just resolution to the conflict rather than the actions of Hamas or any other faction that causes the instability. Israel continues to illegally occupy the West bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza and people under occupation have every right to resist until this occupation ends.

Efforts to end the conflict through US-sponsored talks have thus far failed to bring the justice and security the Palestinians deserve, 71 years after Israel was created in their homeland and against their will. There are no signs that the current “dream team” put together by Trump to bring peace to historic Palestine will succeed.

They are committed Zionists and firm supporters of Israeli policies, including the settlement enterprise. Jared Kushner is an assistant and senior adviser to Trump. Jason Greenblatt is an assistant to the president and special US representative for international negotiations. David Friedman is US ambassador to Israel. Each of them qualifies for Israeli citizenship.

The Zionist trio wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post which, rather than setting out their vision for peace for the whole of historic Palestine, focused solely on Gaza and was essentially an attack on Hamas for Gaza’s ills, laying no blame at Israel’s door.

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem on 14 May 2018 (AFP)

In fact, it is revealing that their article made no mention of any of the ingredients which the international community has largely agreed would lead to peace, including a halt to settlement activity, a two-state solution with Jerusalem as a shared capital and a just resolution to the refugee issue.

The Republic of Gaza?

Clearly, the Nation State Bill, passed into law on 19 July and which claims the land of Israel as the Jewish homeland, giving any Jew from any part of the world a right to move to Israel, has helped focus the Trump team’s work on Gaza.

Working in cahoots with Israel, it seems Trump’s team is leaving issues related to the West Bank to Israel and focusing on how to transform Gaza into the Palestinian state or perhaps more clearly the Republic of Gaza.

Israeli hardliners will never accept the emergence of a state called Palestine but they could live with a label such as Gaza, perhaps expanded with land from the Sinai. While Israel would love to have the land of Gaza back as part of Israel, it would not want to have the two million Palestinians that inhabit it back with it.

The rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, which Zionists call Judea and Samaria, is off the table. While Israel will continue to consider ways of emptying these areas – and indeed areas inside the Green Line – of the indigenous Palestinians, that is a longer term headache that it can work to resolve, including by transferring them to Jordan.

In simple terms, if Hamas could be removed or convinced to accept the Trump deal, economic peace would come to Gaza.

The level of naivety demonstrated by the Trump trio should not surprise anyone, as it is a true reflection of the dearth of experience in politics or diplomacy that their CVs reveal.

Their politics come straight off Netanyahu’s desk, where – seemingly – the “ultimate deal” was drafted, just like the US policy on the Iran nuclear deal before it. Their diplomacy appears restricted to how they can convince the Gulf states to pay for the economic peace they think they can deliver.

Supremacist ideology

While the “ultimate deal” has not been released, elements of it have already been implemented: the US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the death of any meaningful two-state solution, and the threat to declassify the descendants of Palestinian refugees coupled with the systematic closure of the UN refugee agency.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency is under attack because the Israelis believe it “perpetuates” the conflict. In January, the State Department announced that it was withholding $65m out of its $125m interim aid package earmarked for UNRWA stating that “additional US donations would be contingent on major changes” by the agency.

UNRWA-Gaza-Reuters

Palestinian employee of UNRWA hold a sign during a protest against a US decision to cut aid, in Gaza City on Monday (Reuters)

Downsizing its operations to deal with the resulting deficit UNRWA faces was cited as the reason for the dismissal of hundreds of workers in the agency’s emergency programme. This has led to major protests by UNRWA’s workers and one worker threatening to burn himself.

Gaza’s beleaguered economy can hardly take another hit with UNRWA job losses and a reduction in its programmes, which provide vital sustenance, health and educational services.

As the Freedom Flotilla makes its way gingerly to the Gaza shores to bring basic medical supplies and solidarity with the Palestinian people, Israel and America are working to force the Palestinians and Hamas to submit and accept their dictates or face further misery.

The naive American trio will find that their immoral plans will fail as many before them have. Therefore, if they want a place in history as those who brought peace to historic Palestine, they need to come round to realising that once they see Palestinians as a whole, and those in Gaza in particular, as human beings with equal rights to Jews and others and not as a demographic threat to Zionism, peace is very possible.

For the sake of peace that we all crave, it is not Hamas or Fatah that need to go, but the supremacist ideology of Zionism.

– 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: Palestinians prepare to set fire on an Israeli flag and portraits of US President Donald Trump and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a protest at the border fence with Israel, east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza city, on 13 April, 2018 (AFP)

 

كل الأبعاد: حول مستقبل القضية الفلسطينية في ظل اقتراب صفقة القرن

لقائي مع الأستاذ شريف منصور الذي تحدثنا به عن القضية الفلسطينية في ظل صفقة القرن والتغيرات الإقليمية بتاريخ ٢٧/٦/٢٠١٨

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.

While Razan lost her life, Nikki Haley lost her humanity

First published by the Middle East Monitor on 3/6/2018

Nikki Haley, US Ambassador to the United Nations votes during a UN Security Council meeting following the United States, United Kingdom and France attacks on chemical weapons positions in Syria at United Nations Headquarters in New York, United States on 14 April, 2018 [Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency]

Razan died a proud Palestinian full of humanity and will be remembered with the same name she was born with. In contrast, Nimrata Randhawa, will be remembered by her adopted name, Nikki Haley, hiding her Indian heritage. Elshamy/Anadolu Agency]

Last Friday, 1 June, a Palestinian volunteer medic, Razan Al Najar, was fasting and tending to the wounded at Gaza’s artificial fence with Israel. Thousands of miles away, the US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, was scheming on behalf of Israel at the world body. The day ended with martyrdom and glory for Razan and shame and humiliation for Nikki.

Just like she had done since the start of the Great March of Return on 30 March, Razan said goodbye to her family to go to the border, knowing that her skills would undoubtedly be called upon to treat Palestinians planning to march to the fence that artificially separates Gaza from the rest of historic Palestine. They have been marching to exercise their right of return to the homes they and their families hail from and which Israel and its terrorist gangs had expelled them from in 1948 and continued to do since then. Razan’s medical skills would surely be needed because Israel decided to deploy tens of highly trained snipers to kill Palestinians. The number killed has now reached 119, with over ten thousand injured; some estimates put this figure at over 13,000.

File photo of 21-year-old Razan Al-Najar, a volunteer medic in Gaza, killed on June 1, 2018, during the 10th week of the ‘Great March of Return’ protests at the Gaza-Israel border

A post on Facebook whose accuracy I cannot verify says that her last words to her mother were to ask her to cook stuffed vine leaves for her breaking of the fast meal at sunset. She said her goodbyes and left to join her medical colleagues at the fence. Nikki Haley would at that time probably been having her breakfast before heading to the UN to decide how to deal with the 15-member Security Council. It had failed to agree on any statement regarding the events at the Gaza fence since the start of the marches, despite the high number of casualties. The choice for the Council that day was whether to back a resolution tabled by Kuwait calling for protection for the Palestinian people or to back an American resolution condemning Hamas for a volley of rockets fired from the Gaza Strip in response to Israeli crimes.

Twenty-one-year-old Razan was the eldest of six siblings. She had a diploma in general nursing and had completed some 38 first aid courses. Although she had not secured paid work, she volunteered in hospitals and with NGOs and medical organisations, building skills and experience that made her an asset when it came to the Great March.

In an interview with The New York Times last month, Razan explained why she had volunteered to help with the Great Return March, especially as a woman. “Being a medic is not only a job for a man,” Razan said. “It’s for women, too.”

She also bore witness to the final moments of some of those who were fatally wounded. “It breaks my heart that some of the young men who were injured or killed made their wills in front of me,” she told Al Jazeera. “Some even gave me their accessories [as gifts] before they died.”

In a post on her Facebook account on the 16 May, Razan denied claims that she and others went to the fence under duress.

On 1 June, she was shot in the back by an Israeli sniper, the human rights group Al Mezan stated, citing eyewitnesses and its investigations. She was100m from the fence the moment she was shot and was wearing clothing which clearly identified her as a medic. Her blood stained medical vest accompanied her to her grave during what was a massive funeral the following day.

Contrast the humane and selfless acts of 21-year-old Razan, with limited opportunities to bring peace and justice to her people, with the shameful and brazen attempts in the Security Council by US Ambassador Nikki Haley to deny another people, Razan’s people, protection from Israeli terror. While Kuwait had brought a resolution to the Council to call on it to fulfil its responsibility to an oppressed people and ensure their protection, Hayley was bringing a resolution to denounce Hamas for the volley of rockets that were launched into other Israeli controlled areas following the deadly attacks at the fence and bombings of the beleaguered enclave.

Votes on the two texts came shortly after Razan’s death. Haley failed to garner any votes for the resolution except her own, with three countries voting against it and 11 abstaining. A complete humiliation for the US and for Haley personally, leaving observers scrambling through historical records to find another occasion when a resolution only had the support of the country proposing it. None were found at the time of writing this piece.

Palestinians attend the funeral ceremony of Razan Ashraf Najjar, 21, a female paramedic who was shot dead by Israeli forces while healing wounded demonstrators during ‘Great March of Return’ protests in Khan Yunis on Friday, in Huzaa neighbourhood of Khan Yunis, Gaza on June 02, 2018 [Mustafa Hassona / Anadolu Agency]

Hayley was again isolated when the US vetoed a resolution to protect Palestinians. With her Israel proxy, she had turned her back on a largely unarmed Palestinian people, facing the might of Israel’s military, aided by American military hardware worth billions of dollars. She had walked outof a previous Council meeting on Israel’s killing of Palestinian protesters when their representative began to speak. It was a clear breach of protocol which brought heavy condemnation.  Given her overall performance as US ambassador, President Trump should, without delay, sack Hayley. She has brought isolation and disgrace to her country; all for the sake of an undeserving ally, Israel.

On 1 June 2018, Razan lost her life while Nikki Hayley lost her humanity defending the terrorist actions of a rogue state, Israel. Razan died a proud Palestinian full of humanity and will be remembered with the same name she was born with. In contrast, Nimrata Randhawa, the daughter of Sikh immigrants will one day pass away to be remembered by her adopted name, Nikki Haley, hiding her Indian heritage. Razan will be remembered for her selfless volunteering while Hayley will be remembered for her astonishing role, supporting and shielding the world’s only apartheid state.

Razan had little power to change the dynamics and bring peace to the holy land, while Hayley, from one of the most powerful offices in world politics, could have helped protect Palestinians and bring peace to the region. If only Razan had such a high profile office, the world would be a better place.

Rest in peace Razan Al-Najar, you are worth more than a million Nikki Haleys.

112 Palestinians were killed in #Gaza by Israeli forces from 30th March to 15 May 2018

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