How, then, does it continue to portray itself as the victim, while painting the actual victims – Palestinians – as the aggressors?
It has become a tired and broken record, one that Israel and its ardent supporters play, regardless of the rationality of their arguments.
Any criticism of Israel, or any peaceful act to put pressure on the state, draws the same outrage, expressed through carefully thought out, yet irrational, talking points.
One soldier is heard to say “Who’s the coward now?” as the dogs tear at the youth’s clothes.
Anyone, or any organization, who dares to criticize the self-proclaimed “only democracy in the Middle East” is accused of being motivated by anti-semitism.
Any critical act or protest aimed at pressing Israel to uphold international law, no matter how peaceful, is denounced.
Israel’s treatment with kid gloves is not new; what is new, however, is its launching of the bullying trigger button within seconds of an attack.
The reality is that the settlement enterprise itself is racist, because homes are only built for Jewish Israelis
While access to the nuclear button is normally reserved for the head of state, any pro-Israel civilian can launch the bullying trigger button, and they are encouraged to do so by Israel.
An army of social media trolls linked to Israeli missions abroad have their fingers hovering over this button, ready to defend as soon as they perceive an attack. It’s a button they have pressed repeatedly in recent days.
Take the case of Airbnb. The holiday property listings company enraged the bullying army by withdrawing listings for properties built in illegal Israeli settlements from its website.
Pro-Israel critics claimed that Airbnb was singling out Jewish Israeli properties, and therefore, this was anti-semitic.
Breaking international law
The first Zionists to establish “Israel” arrived wearing Hitler mustaches.
The reality is that the settlement enterprise itself is racist, because homes are only built for Jewish Israelis.
Imagine the outcry if Britain built homes only for white Christians, banning other inhabitants of Britain from acquiring them.
Settlements are also illegal under international law.
Airbnb said it took action because settlements were at the “core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians”.
A statement from the company noted: “US law permits companies like Airbnb to engage in business in these territories.
At the same time, many in the global community have stated that companies should not do business here because they believe companies should not profit on lands where people have been displaced.”
A reasonable person would see clear logic in that stance. However, the bullying trigger button was pressed, and an illegal settler is now bringing a lawsuit against Airbnb.
Consider that for a moment: an illegal settler is suing a company for a moral and legal act.
It was then the turn of British Quakers to enrage the pro-Israel lobby. Their crime? Divesting from companies that profit from Israel’s illegal occupation.
Paul Parker, recording clerk for Quakers in Britain, said in a statement: “With the occupation now in its 51st year, and with no end in near sight, we believe we have a moral duty to state publicly that we will not invest in any company profiting from the occupation.”
More pressure needed
This time, it was the Board of Deputies of British Jews that pressed the bullying trigger button. In a statement, the board’s president, Marie van der Zyl, condemned the decision: “The appalling decision of the Friends House hierarchy to divest from just one country in the world – the only Jewish state – despite everything else going on around the globe, shows the dangers of the obsessive and tunnel-visioned approach that a narrow clique of church officials have taken in recent years.”
Any reasonable person who knows the Quakers would realize that they would have reflected seriously before making such a decision, and that it was based on their deep knowledge of the situation over decades.
Divesting from companies that profit from an illegal occupation is moral and legal.
Speak if you want to, they say, but the price will be high. The bullying trigger button can be pressed by anyone in defense of Israeli apartheid
Israel does not recognize that the West Bank and East Jerusalem are occupied. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has deemed it absurd to talk of an occupation, and the long-advertised US “deal of the century” will likely reflect this by avoiding a call to end the occupation.
This will certainly not lead to peace. What is needed is more pressure on Israel to comply with international law and to finally end the occupation of Palestinian land.
Airbnb was correct to identify the settlements as a core issue, and it is time that others follow suit.
Israel is a military force planted in Palestine for the Western powers from over a century ago.
Whither free speech?
The bullying trigger button will now be pressed regularly, judging by the number of moves to ban trade with illegal Israeli settlements.
Chile’s congress overwhelmingly passed a resolution demanding that the government “forbid the entry of products manufactured and coming from Israeli colonies in the occupied Palestinian territory”.
This follows hot on the heels of Ireland’s senate passing a bill banning the import of products from illegal Israeli settlements.
The vicious attack on CNN contributor Marc Lamont Hill, fired for standing with Palestinians, shows that Israel is being singled out not for criticism, but rather for protection from accountability.
Israel is shutting down its critics on social media. It happened to me
Free speech, it seems, is a value that most claim to uphold – except those who blindly support Israel. Speak if you want to, they say, but the price will be high. The bullying trigger button can be pressed by anyone in defense of Israeli apartheid.
Also on Saturday reports on major Israeli television networks said CIA torture queen Gina Haspel had secretly visited Ramallah in recent days and met with Palestinian officials.
The foreign ministers of the member state of the Arab League unanimously adopted a resolution on Saturday rejecting the Trump Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, and said that “it does not satisfy the minimum of the rights and aspirations of the Palestinian people.”
Why it matters: The Trump administration was counting on a coalition of Arab countries it has built over the last several years to prevent such a resolution and press the Palestinians to go back to the table. Those efforts did not materialize.
The state of play: The Arab League foreign ministers convened on Saturday in Cairo at the request of the Palestinians to discuss the Trump plan. The closing statement, which passed in consensus between all member states, said the U.S. plan contradicts the principles of the peace process and United Nations resolutions.
The statement also explained that Arab countries will not engage with the U.S. on the plan and will not cooperate with the Trump administration in its implementation.
What they’re saying: The Arab League foreign ministers’ statement said the Arab peace initiative is the basis for any peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, which must include a Palestinian state on the 1967 lines with East Jerusalem as its capital.
The statement also warned Israel not to annex any part of the West Bank and underscored that the U.S. and Israel will be responsible for the consequences of such moves.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a speech at the meeting rejected the Trump peace plan and stressed he “will not go down in history as the one who sold out Jerusalem.”
He said President Trump tried to reach him through the CIA the week leading up to the unveiling of the peace plan, but Abbas refused to take the calls and even refused to get a copy of the plan in advance.
He said that he told the U.S. through the CIA and Israel by letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that if the plan is implemented, there will be no relations between the Palestinian Authority and the U.S. and Israel, including security ties.
Abbas added the Palestinians will not accept the Trump administration as the sole mediator in peace talks with Israel, and said he would present a Palestinian peace plan soon — likely in a speech at the United Nations Security Council meeting in two weeks.
But, but, but: At Saturday’s meeting, Arab foreign ministers who spoke after Abbas backed the Palestinian position, but almost all refrained from criticizing the Trump administration.
The foreign ministers of the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Morocco went further than refusing to criticize the Trump plan, giving positive statements about it while suggesting it could be a basis for talks, but not a final solution.
“The United States is appreciative of the positive remarks from many Arab countries made with regard to our Vision for Peace today at the Arab League meeting in Cairo.
It is only by having a willingness to try a new approach that we will make a breakthrough in a conflict that has left the Palestinian people to suffer for decades.
Past Arab League resolutions have placated Palestinian leadership and not led to peace or progress and it is important to try a new approach or the Palestinian peoples’ fate will not change.”
My name is Yaakov Sharett. I am 92 years old. I happen to be my father’s son for which I am not responsible. So this is how it is.”
From Ukraine to Palestine
His grandfather, Jacob Shertok – the original family name – was one of the first Zionists to set foot in Palestine, leaving his home in Kherson, Ukraine, in 1882 after Russian pogroms.
“He had this dream of tilling the land. The big Zionist idea was going back to the land and leaving the superficial activities of Jews who had become remote from land,” he says.
“They thought that, little by little, more Jews would immigrate until they became a majority, and could demand a state, which they then called a ‘homeland’ to avoid controversy.”
I wonder what Yaakov’s grandfather thought would happen to the Arabs, who then comprised about 97 percent of the population, with Jews around 2 to 3 percent.
“I think he thought the more Jews that came, the more they’d bring prosperity and the Arabs would be happy. They didn’t realize people don’t live only on money. We would have to be the dominant power, but the Arabs would get used to it,” he says.
In case the Arabs didn’t bend the knee
Adding with a wistful smile: “Well, either they believed it or they wanted to believe it. My grandfather’s generation were dreamers. If they had been realists, they would not have come to Palestine in the first place.
It was never possible for a minority to replace a majority that had lived on this land for hundreds of years. It could never work,” he says.
Four years later, Jacob wished he hadn’t come, returning to Russia, not because of Palestinian hostility – Jewish numbers were still tiny – but because he couldn’t make a living here.
Many of the very early settlers in Palestine found working on the land far harder than they had ever imagined, often returning to Russia in despair.
But in 1902, after more pogroms, Jacob Sharett returned, this time with a family including Moshe, aged eight.
Palestinians were still – for the most part – welcoming to Jews as the threat of Zionism remained unclear. A member of the prosperous Husseini family, who was headed abroad, even offered Yaakov’s grandfather his house to rent in the village of Ein Siniya, now in the occupied West Bank.
For two years, grandfather Shertok lived there like an Arab grandee while his children attended a Palestinian kindergarten. “My father herded sheep, learned Arabic and generally lived like an Arab,” says Yaakov.
Psychology of the minority
But the Zionist plan was to live like Jews so before long, the family had moved to the fast-growing Jewish hub of Tel Aviv and Moshe was soon honing every skill – including studying Ottoman law in Istanbul – in order to further the Zionist project.
Thanks to the 1917 Balfour Declaration, which promised a Jewish homeland in Palestine and ushered in British colonial rule, plans for a full-blown Jewish state now seemed possible, and over the next two decades, Moshe Sharett helped design it, becoming a key figure in the Jewish Agency, the state’s government-in-waiting.
Central to the project was the creation of a Jewish majority and ownership of as much of the land as possible, to which end Sharett worked closely with his ally David Ben-Gurion. Immigration rose fast, and land was bought, usually from absentee Arab landlords.
‘My father and the rest still thought that most Arabs would sell their national honour for the food we would give them’
– Yaakov Sharett
The pace of change provoked the Palestinian revolt of 1936, brutally crushed by the British. In the light of that revolt, did the future prime minister ever question whether the Jewish state could work?
“No,” says Yaakov. The leadership were “still full of justifying their ideas of Zionism. You must remember that they all thought in terms of being Jewish and how they had been subjugated by majorities in the countries in which they had lived.
“My father said this: ‘Wherever there is a minority, every member has a stick and rucksack in his cupboard’. Psychologically, he realizes a bad day will come and he will have to leave.
So the priority was always to create a majority and shake off the psychology of the minority for ever.
“My father and the rest still thought that most Arabs would sell their national honour for the food we would give them. It was a nice dream, but at the cost of others.
And anyone who did not agree was a traitor.”
As a young teenager, in the early 1940s, Yaakov didn’t question his father’s outlook. Quite the contrary.
“I must say,” he continues, “when I was in the Zionist Youth Movement, we went around the Arab villages on foot and you saw an Arab village and learned its Hebrew name as in the Bible and you felt the time has not divided between you and it. I have never been religious, but this is what you felt.”
By 1939, World War Two had broken out and many young Israelis had joined the Jewish Brigade of the British Army, serving in Europe. The Jewish Brigade was an idea of Yaakov’s father, and as soon as he was old enough, Yaakov volunteered, joining up in 1944, aged 17. But a few months later – in April 1945 – the war was over and Yaakov was too late to see any service.
Back in Palestine, those young Jewish soldiers who had served in Europe were amongst those now being recruited to fight in what many knew was coming next: a new war in Palestine to establish a state of Israel.
Yaakov – who had clearly not yet started to see that Zionism “was at the cost of others” – readily agreed to play his part.
Now aged 19, Yaakov was picked to play the role of a Jewish mukhtar, or village head, at a quasi-military outpost in the Negev, a barren terrain barely settled by Jews.
“I didn’t think a lot about politics back then. To build this settlement was literally our dream,” he says.
His wife, Rena, has joined us, perching on a stool, and nods in agreement. Rena Sharett was another eager Zionist who claimed the Negev in 1946.
Before 1948, the Negev constituted the British administrative district of Beersheva and the district of Gaza, which together made up half the land of Palestine. Touching the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba, the terrain had vital access to water.
So not surprisingly, the Zionists, who had to date succeeded in purchasing just 6 percent of Palestinian land, were determined to seize it.
However, given that about 250,000 Arabs lived in the Negev, in 247 villages, compared to about 500 Jews in three small outposts, a recent Anglo-American partition plan had divided mandate Palestine between Jews and Arabs, apportioning the Negev region as part of a future Palestinian state.
A British ban on new settlement had also hindered Zionist attempts to alter the status quo. Arabs had always opposed any plan that envisaged the Palestinians as “an indigenous majority living on their ancestral soil, being converted overnight into a minority under alien rule,” as the Palestinian historian, Walid Khalidi, summarised it.
In late 1946, however, with a new United Nations partition plan in the making, the Zionist leaders saw it was now or never for the Negev.
Now or never
So the “11 points” plan was launched. Not only would the new settlements boost the Jewish presence there, they would serve as military bases when war broke out, as it inevitably would.
Everything had to be done in secret due to the British ban and it was decided to erect the outposts on the night of 5 October, just after Yom Kippur. “The British would never expect the Jews to do such a thing the night after Yom Kippur,” says Yaakov.
“I remember when we found our piece of land on the top of a barren hill. It was still dark, but we managed to bang in the posts and soon, we were inside our fence. At first light, trucks came with pre-fabricated barracks.
It was quite a feat. We worked like devils. Ha! I will never forget it.”
‘I remember when we found our piece of land on the top of a barren hill. It was still dark, but we managed to bang in the posts and soon, we were inside our fence’
– Yaakov Sharett
Looking out from inside their fence, the settlers at first didn’t see any Arabs, but then made out the tents of Abu Yahiya’s village, and a few “dirty huts”, as Yaakov described them.
Soon, they were asking the Arabs for water. “I collected our water for our settlement from that well every day in my truck, that’s how I became friends with Abu Yahiya,” he says.
With his smattering of Arabic, he chatted to others too: “They loved to talk. On it went when I had work to do,” he laughs. “I don’t think they were happy with us there exactly, but they were at peace with us. There was no enmity.”
Another local Arab chief watched out for their security in return for a small payment. “It was a kind of agreement we had with him.
He’d act as guard and every month, he’d come up to our fence and sit there quite still – he looked like just a small bundle of clothes,” Yaakov says, smiling broadly.
“He was waiting for payment and I shook his hand and got him to sign some sort of receipt with his thumb which I gave to the authorities in Tel Aviv and they gave me money for the next time.
That was my only real responsibility as mukhtar,” says Yaakov, adding that everyone knew he only got this role as chief because he was his father’s son.
Moshe Sharett, by now a leading political figure, was known as a moderate, and as such was viewed with suspicion by some military hardliners.
The new Negev desert outposts were planned in large part as centres for gathering intelligence about the Arabs, and Yaakov believes it was probably because of his father he too was distrusted and excluded by those sent to the outpost to lay military plans
“Instead I was really used just as a jack of all trades” – driving, collecting water, buying fuel in Gaza or Beersheba. He sounds nostalgic for the freedom of that arid landscape, though the settlers were always back inside their fence at night.
He came to know other Arab villages, too, like Burayr “which was always hostile, I don’t know why,” but most were friendly, particularly a village called Huj. “I used to drive through Huj often and knew it well.”
During the 1948 war, the residents of Huj reached an agreement in writing with Jewish authorities that they be allowed to stay, but they were driven out like all the other 247 villages of this area, mostly to Gaza. The Palestinians called the expulsions their Nakba – or catastrophe.
I asked Yaacov what he recalled of the Arab exodus in May 1948, but he was absent at the time as Rena’s brother was killed in fighting further east so the couple had left to join her family.
I told Yaacov I’d met survivors of the Abu Yahiya clan, who recounted being driven by Jewish soldiers into Wadi Beersheba where the men were separated from the women and some were shot, then the rest were expelled.
“Somehow I don’t remember that,” says Yaakov. But plumbing his memory, he suddenly recalls other atrocities including events at Burayr, the hostile village, where in May 1948 there was a massacre, with between 70 to 100 villagers killed, according to survivors and Palestinian historians.
“One of our boys helped take Burayr. I remember he said when he got there the Arabs had already mostly fled and he opened the door of a house and saw an old man there so he shot him. He enjoyed shooting him,” he says.
By the time Beersheba was taken in October 1948, Yaakov had returned to his nearby outpost, now given the Hebrew name, Hatzerim.
“I learned our boys had led the army to the town,” he says. “We knew the area very well and could guide them through the wadis [riverbeds]”.
After Beersheba fell, Yaakov drove his comrades down in a truck to take a look: “It was empty, totally empty.” The entire population of about 5,000 had been expelled and driven in trucks to Gaza.
I had heard there was a lot of looting. “Yes,” he says. “We took things from several empty houses. We took what we could – furniture, radios, utensils. Not for ourselves, but to help the kibbutz. After all, Beersheva was empty and belonged to nobody now.”
What did he think of that? “Again, I must confess I didn’t think much at all at the time. We were proud of occupying Beersheva. Although I must say, we’d had so many friends there before.”
Yaakov says he couldn’t remember if he had looted himself: “I probably did. I was one of them. We were very happy. If you don’t take it, someone else will. You don’t feel you have to give it back. They were not coming back.”
What did you think about that? He pauses. “We didn’t think about it then. My father, in fact, said they will not come back. My father was a moral man. I don’t think he was a party to the orders to expel the Arabs. Ben-Gurion was. Sharett no. But he accepted it as a fact. I think he knew something was going wrong, but he didn’t fight it,” he says.
“After the war my father gave a lecture and said I don’t know why a man should live two years secluded in a village [a reference to his time growing up in Ein Siniya] to realise that Arabs are human beings. This kind of saying you won’t get from any other Jewish leader…this was my father.”
Then, as if confessing on behalf of his father too, Yaakov adds: “But I have to be frank, my father had some cruel things to say about the refugees. He was against their return; he agreed with Ben-Gurion on that.”
Far more cruel than Sharett was Moshe Dayan. Appointed after the war as chief of staff by David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, Dayan had the task of keeping back the Negev refugees and many others “fenced in” behind the Gaza armistice lines.
In 1956, a Gaza refugee killed an Israeli settler, Roi Rotberg, and at his funeral, Dayan gave a famous eulogy urging Israelis to accept, once and for all, that the Arabs would never live in peace beside them, and he spelled out why: the Arabs had been expelled from their homes which were now lived in by Jews.
But Dayan urged the Jews to respond not by seeking compromise but by “looking squarely at the hatred that consumes and fills the lives of Arabs who live around us and be forever ready and armed, tough and hard”.
This speech made a profound impression on Yaakov Sharrett. “I said this was a fascist speech. He was telling people to live by the sword,” he says. Moshe Sharett, who was foreign minister at the time, had been urging compromise through diplomacy for which he was called “weak”.
But it wasn’t until 1967, when he started working as a journalist for the centrist Israeli paper, Maariv, that Yaakov lost his faith in Zionism.
‘They were the majority’
In the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, Israel seized more land, this time in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip, where military occupation was imposed on the Palestinians who hadn’t fled this time.
Touring the West Bank, Sharett stared at the stunned but defiant Arab faces and felt “uneasy” once again, particularly when he visited his old family village of Ein Siniya, which his father, now dead, had spoken of so affectionately.
It was here that as a child, Moshe had herded sheep and “learned that Arabs were humans”, as Moshe Sharett would say in a later speech.
“The villagers were under the first shock of occupation. They knew the Jews were now the dominating power, but they showed no feelings of hatred. They were simple people.
And I remember that several residents came and surrounded us and smiled and told me they remembered my family and the house in which our family lived.
So we smiled at each other and I left. I didn’t go back. I didn’t like this occupation and I didn’t want to go there as a master,” he says.
“Have you heard of shooting and weeping?” he asks, with another wistful smile, explaining this was an expression to describe Israelis who, after fighting in the West Bank in 1967 showed shame, but accepted the results.
‘We smiled at each other and I left. I didn’t go back. I didn’t like this occupation and I didn’t want to go there as a master’
– Yaakov Sharett
“But I wanted nothing more to do with this occupation. It was my way of non-identification with it. I was depressed by it, and ashamed.”
The faces of the Ein Sinya villagers revealed something else: “I saw in this defiance that they still had the psychology of the majority. My father used to say war always makes waves of refugees. But he didn’t see that usually those who flee are the minority. In 1948, they were the majority so they will never give up. This is our problem.
“But it took me years to realise what the Nakba was and that the Nakba didn’t start in 1967 but in 1948. We have to realise that.”
Rena chips in. “In 1948, it was a matter of them or us. Life and death. That was the difference,” she says.
“We two disagree on this,” says Yaakov. “My wife lost her brother in 1948. She views it differently.”
‘I would leave tomorrow’
In older age, Yaakov has gone back even further in time, looking into the problems with Zionism since the very beginning.
“Now at -years-old, I realise that the story started with the very idea of Zionism which was a utopian idea. It was meant to save Jewish lives but at the cost of a nation of occupants who inhabited Palestine at this time. The conflict was unavoidable from the beginning.”
I ask if he describes himself as an anti-Zionist. “I am not an anti-Zionist, but I am not a Zionist,” he says, turning to look at Rena, perhaps in case she disapproves – his wife holds less radical views.
On the wall beside the picture of his father are photographs of their children and grandchildren; two of Yaakov’s granddaughters have emigrated to the United States. “I am not afraid to say I am happy they are there and not here,” he says.
I ask if he has “a rucksack and stick” packed ready to go and join them? After all, with his views, Yaakov himself is now in a minority – a small minority – living amid a majority of right-wing Jews here in Israel.
And not only is he ideologically “fenced in” but also physically too. He talks of how he can barely move around Israel nowadays. He refuses to go to Jerusalem which he says has been taken over by ultra-orthodox religious Jews.
“This is one of the most terrible disasters. When we were young, we thought religion was going to vanish.” He says he never wishes to return to his beloved Negev because it was long ago settled by new generations of Jews “who have no empathy with Arabs”.
He can still “breathe” in Tel Aviv, and enjoys speeding around on a scooter, but even here, feels that he lives inside a “bubble”. He chuckles again.
“I call it the Haaretz bubble,” and he explains he is referring to a group of left-wingers who read the liberal Haaretz newspaper. “But this clan has no connection with each other except this daily paper that more or less expresses our opinion.
It is the last stronghold. And I feel very bad about it…. It’s true I do not feel at home here.”
‘Look. When you make me think about it, I would leave tomorrow. Thousands are already leaving’
– Yaakov Sharett
Yaakov says he is always thinking about leaving. If other members of his family would join him, he would.
“Look. When you make me think about it, I would leave tomorrow. Thousands are already leaving, most have two passports. We have the worst government we have ever had with Bibi Netanyahu,” he says.
“We are living by the sword, as Dayan said we should…as if we must be forced to make Israel into a kind of citadel against the invaders, but I don’t think it is possible to live by the sword for ever.”
I ask how he sees the future for the Palestinians?
“What can I say? I feel very bad about it. And I am not afraid to say that the treatment of the Palestinians today is Nazi treatment. We don’t have gas chambers, of course, but the mentality is the same. It is racial hatred. They are treated as subhuman,” he says.
Yaakov is well-aware that he – a Jew – will be accused of “antisemitism” for saying such things, but says he believes Israel is “a criminal state”.
“I know they will call me a self-hating Jew for saying that. But I cannot automatically support my country, right or wrong. And Israel must not be immune from criticism. Seeing the difference between antisemitism and criticism of Israel is crucial.
To be honest, I am amazed how in 2019 the world outside accepts Israeli propaganda. I really don’t know why they do,” he says.
“And remember that the very aim of Zionism was to release Jews from the curse of antisemitism by giving them their own state. But today, the Jewish state by its own criminal behaviour is one of the most serious causes for this curse.”
What is his prediction for the Jewish state? “I will tell you what my prediction is. I am not afraid to say it. When the time comes, it might come tomorrow, there will be a conflagration, maybe with Hezbollah … a big catastrophe of some sort that will destroy thousands of Jewish homes.
“And we will bomb Beirut but having Lebanese lose their homes won’t help the Jew who loses his home and family, so people will see no reason to stay here anymore. All rational Israelis will then have to leave.
“It doesn’t have to be Hezbollah. The catastrophe might be the strong domination of our own rightists. All the laws enacted by the Knesset now are fascist laws. I have no solution. Israel will become a pariah state,” he says.
‘To be honest, I am amazed how in 2019 the world outside accepts Israeli propaganda. I really don’t know why they do’
– Yaakov Sharett
Surely, America and the Europeans would never treat Israel as pariah state, I suggest, but Yaakov doesn’t agree: “Their support is mostly shame over the Holocaust. But these feelings of guilt will dwindle in the next generations,” he says.
I ask Yaakov what his father would say if he had heard all this? Rena says she hadn’t even heard Yaakov speak like this before. His eyes dart under his woolly hat.
“I think my father would have to agree with me somewhat. He remained a Zionist to the end, but I think he realised something was wrong. Sometimes, I say he was too moral to be at peace with what is going on here,” he says.
“But he is disappointing because he didn’t arrive at the conclusion his son did. I don’t blame him for that. He absorbed Zionism in his mother’s milk. If he had lived to my age – I am 92, he died at 71 – perhaps he would have seen things like me. I don’t know.”
I get up to leave and pick up my laptop, thereby lighting up the picture of Abu Yahiya’s well again. Our interview has been haunted not only by Moshe Sharett but also by the image of that “tall lean Bedouin with the sympathetic face” last seen by Yaakov, stricken and alone.
“I must say, the picture of that nice man does sometimes come into my mind,” says Yaakov, who then takes me down to the street. Grabbing his scooter, he waves goodbye cheerily and kicks off into the traffic of Tel Aviv.
My Struggle for Peace, the Diary of Moshe Sharett 1953-1956 is published by Indiana University Press. Sarah Helm is a former Middle East correspondent and diplomatic editor of The Independent. Her books include A Life in Secrets: Vera Atkins and the Lost Agents of SOE, and If This Is a Woman, Inside Ravensbrück: Hitler’s Concentration Camp for Women.
Lead photo: Yaakov Sharett, 18, serving as a soldier in the Jewish Brigade (Courtesy Yaakov Sharett)
If you wonder how come the Israelis don’t know their history, the answer is pretty simple, they have never been told. The circumstances that led to the Israeli Palestinian conflict are well hidden within their culture.
‘You out there, in Sderot, Beer Sheva, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Tel Aviv and Haifa, whether you realize it or not, you are actually living on our stolen land. You better start to pack because your time is running out, you have exhausted our patience. We, the Palestinian people, have nothing to lose anymore’.
“Every Middle East expert knows that Hamas can seize control of the West Bank within hours.
In fact, PA and Fatah control in the West Bank is maintained by the IDF. Once Hamas takes the West Bank, the biggest Israeli population centre will be left to the mercy of Hamas.
For those who fail to see, this would be the end of Jewish Israel. It may happen later today, it may happen in three months or in five years, it isn’t matter of ‘if’ but rather matter of ‘when’.
By that time, the whole of Israel will be within firing range of Hamas and Hezbollah, Israeli society will collapse, its economy will be ruined.”
Communicating with Israelis may leave one bewildered. Even now when the Israeli Air Force is practicing murder in broad daylight of hundreds of civilians, elderly persons, women and children, the Israeli people manage to convince themselves that they are the real victims in this violent saga.
Those who are familiar intimately with Israeli people realize that they are completely uninformed about the roots of the conflict that dominates their lives.
Rather often Israelis manage to come up with some bizarre arguments that may make a lot of sense within the Israeli discourse, yet make no sense whatsoever outside of the Jewish street.
Such an argument goes as follows: ‘those Palestinians, why do they insist upon living on our land (Israel), why can’t they just settle in Egypt, Syria, Lebanon or any other Arab country?’ Another Hebraic pearl of wisdom sounds like this: ‘what is wrong with these Palestinians? We gave them water, electricity, education and all they do is try to throw us to the sea’.
Astonishingly enough, the Israelis even within the so-called ‘left’ and even the educated ‘left’ fail to understand who the Palestinians are, where they come from and what they stand for. They fail to grasp that for the Palestinians, Palestine is home.
Miraculously, the Israelis manage to fail to grasp that Israel had been erected at the expense of the Palestinian people, on Palestinian land, on Palestinian villages, towns, fields and orchards.
The Israelis do not realize that Palestinians in Gaza and in refugee camps in the region are actually dispossessed people from Ber Shive, Yafo, Tel Kabir, Shekh Munis, Lod, Haifa, Jerusalem and many more towns and villages.
If you wonder how come the Israelis don’t know their history, the answer is pretty simple, they have never been told. The circumstances that led to the Israeli Palestinian conflict are well hidden within their culture.
Traces of pre-1948 Palestinian civilization on the land had been wiped out. Not only the Nakba, the 1948 ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinians, is not part of the Israeli curriculum, it is not even mentioned or discussed in any Israeli official or academic forum.
In the very centre of almost every Israeli town one can a find a 1948 memorial statue displaying a very bizarre, almost abstract, pipe work. The plumbing feature is called Davidka and it is actually a 1948 Israeli mortar cannon.
Interestingly enough, the Davidka was an extremely ineffective weapon. Its shells wouldn’t reach more than 300 meters and would cause very limited damage. Though the Davidika would cause just minimal harm, it produced a lot of noise.
According to the Israeli official historical narrative, the Arabs i.e., Palestinians, simply ran away for their lives once they heard the Davidka from afar.
According to the Israeli narrative, the Jews i.e., ‘new Israelis’ did a bit of fireworks and the ‘Arab cowards’ just ran off like idiots.
In the Israeli official narrative there is no mention of the many orchestrated massacres conducted by the young IDF and the paramilitary units that preceded it.
There is no mention also of the racist laws that stop Palestinians from returning to their homes and lands.
The meaning of the above is pretty simple. Israelis are totally unfamiliar with the Palestinian cause. Hence, they can only interpret the Palestinian struggle as a murderous irrational lunacy.
Within the Israeli Judeo- centric solipsistic universe, the Israeli is an innocent victim and the Palestinian is no less than a savage murderer.
This grave situation that leaves the Israeli in the dark regarding his past demolishes any possibility of future reconciliation. Since the Israeli lacks the minimal comprehension of the conflict, he cannot contemplate any possible resolution except extermination or cleansing of the ‘enemy’.
All the Israeli is entitled to know are various phantasmic narratives of Jewish suffering. Palestinian pain is completely foreign to his ears. ‘Palestinian right of return’ sounds to him like an amusing idea.
Even the most advanced ‘Israeli humanists’ are not ready to share the land with its indigenous inhabitants.
This doesn’t leave the Palestinians with many options but to liberate themselves against all odds. Clearly, there is no partner for peace on the Israel side.
This week we all learned more about the ballistic capability of Hamas. Evidently, Hamas was rather restrained with Israel for more than a long while. It refrained from escalating the conflict to the whole of southern Israel.
It occurred to me that the barrages of Qassams that have been landing sporadically on Sderot and Ashkelon were actually nothing but a message from the imprisoned Palestinians.
First it was a message to the stolen land, homes fields and orchards: ‘Our beloved soil, we didn’t forget, we are still here fighting for you, sooner rather than later, we will come back, we will start again where we had stopped’.
But it was also a clear message to the Israelis. ‘You out there, in Sderot, Beer Sheva, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Tel Aviv and Haifa, whether you realize it or not, you are actually living on our stolen land.
You better start to pack because your time is running out, you have exhausted our patience. We, the Palestinian people, have nothing to lose anymore’.
Let’s face it, realistically the situation in Israel is rather grave. Two years ago it was Hezbollah rockets that pounded northern Israel. This week the Hamas proved beyond doubt that it is capable of serving the South of Israel with some cocktail of ballistic vengeance.
Both in the case of the Hezbollah and the case of the Hamas, Israel was left with no military answer. It can no doubt kill civilians but it fails to stop the rocket barrage.
The IDF lacks the means of protecting Israel unless covering Israel with a solid concrete roof is a viable solution. At the end of the day, they might be planning just that (link).
But this is far from the end of the story. In fact it is just the beginning. Every Middle East expert knows that Hamas can seize control of the West Bank within hours.
In fact, PA and Fatah control in the West Bank is maintained by the IDF. Once Hamas takes the West Bank, the biggest Israeli population centre will be left to the mercy of Hamas.
For those who fail to see, this would be the end of Jewish Israel. It may happen later today, it may happen in three months or in five years, it isn’t matter of ‘if’ but rather matter of ‘when’.
By that time, the whole of Israel will be within firing range of Hamas and Hezbollah, Israeli society will collapse, its economy will be ruined.
The price of a detached villa in Northern Tel Aviv would equal a shed in Kiryat Shmone or Sderot. By the time a single rocket hits Tel Aviv, the Zionist dream will be over.
The IDF generals know it, the Israeli leaders know it. This is why they stepped up the war against the Palestinian into extermination. The Israelis do not plan upon invading Gaza. They have lost nothing there.
All they want is to finish the Nakba. They drop bombs on Palestinians in order to wipe them out.
They want the Palestinians out of the region. It is obviously not going to work, Palestinians will stay. Not only they will they stay, their day of return to their land is coming closer as Israel has been exploiting its deadliest tactics.
This is exactly where Israeli escapism comes into play. Israel has passed the ‘point of no return’. Its doomed fate is deeply engraved in each bomb it drops on Palestinian civilians.
There is nothing Israel can do to save itself. There is no exit strategy. It can’t negotiate its way out because neither the Israelis nor their leadership understand the elementary parameters involved in the conflict. Israel lacks the military power to conclude the battle.
It may manage to kill Palestinian grassroots leaders, it has been doing it for years, yet Palestinian resistance and persistence is growing fierce rather than weakening.
As an IDF intelligence general predicted already at the first Intifada. ‘In order to win, all Palestinians have to do is to survive’. They survive and they are indeed winning.
Israeli leaders understand it all. Israel has already tried everything, unilateral withdrawal, starvation and now extermination. It thought to evade the demographic danger by shrinking into an intimate cosy Jewish ghetto. Nothing worked.
It is Palestinian persistence in the shape of Hamas politics that defines the future of the region.
All that is left to Israelis is to cling to their blindness and escapism to evade their devastating grave fate that has become immanent already. All along their way down, the Israelis will sing their familiar various victim anthems.
Being imbued in a self-centred supremacist reality, they will be utterly involved in their own pain yet completely blind to the pain they inflict on others.
Uniquely enough, the Israelis are operating as a unified collective when dropping bombs on others, yet, once being slightly hurt, they all manage to become monads of vulnerable innocence.
It is this discrepancy between the self-image and the way they are seen by the rest of us which turns the Israeli into a monstrous exterminator.
It is this discrepancy that stops Israelis from grasping their own history, it is that discrepancy that stops them from comprehending the repeated numerous attempts to destroy their State. It is that discrepancy that stops Israelis from understanding the meaning of the Shoah so can they prevent the next one. It is this discrepancy that stops Israelis from being part of humanity.
Once again Jews will have to wander into an unknown fate. To a certain extent, I myself have started my journey a while ago.
Israel’s foreign minister on Thursday said Tel Aviv would return to “the policy of assassinations” against Palestinian resistance figures in the Gaza Strip, Reuters reports.
In statements he made to Israel’s army radio, Yisrael Katz indicated that there was “an intelligence effort to identify the rockets’ launchers and work to eliminate them.”
He stressed: “Intelligence efforts are currently focused on determining who is responsible for ordering missile launch instructions in order to work to eliminate him.”
On Wednesday evening, Israel’s iron dome anti-missile system intercepted a missile reportedly fired from the Gaza Strip towards the country’s south while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was attending an election rally in Ashkelon province.
According to Israeli media, security forces transferred Netanyahu to a “protected area” while security forces responded by bombing several sites in the Gaza Strip without any casualties.
For many Israeli soldiers, it is the mundane, day-to-day memories of their time in the military that continue to jolt them in post-army life.
Regular house searches, arrest and hours at checkpoints fill their minds when they look back and wince.
When several dozen ex-combatants were asked about a time that most affected them, former First Sergeant Omry Balely remembered weeks of boredom at a roadblock near the parched Palestinian city of Jericho.
“The general feeling was that it was a quiet and very safe area,” he says. “When you’re at a checkpoint, you’re in a daily routine of controlling the lives of other people.
Who enters and who doesn’t is in your hands – a 19-year-old kid with power.”
They would get agitated and taunt the Palestinians, denying entry or exit to those who said the “wrong” thing, or cuffing one to a barrier for having incorrect documentation.
Looking for amusement, his unit handwrote bogus VIP permits for the Palestinians who crossed regularly. They were legally meaningless but added some fun to the long hours in the sun.
Once, an older man in his 50s arrived. He had one of these paper VIP permits, but that day, he came with a donkey. “Where was the donkey’s VIP pass? the soldiers demanded.
I saw this sign as I drove into Jericho and had a peaceful visit.
“We all laughed at the situation, including the Palestinian,” says Balely, now 30. “But looking back a few years later, I realize what being drunk with power combined with boredom can do to you.
You toy with the life and livelihood of a person for entertainment.”
Testimonies like these from 52 Israel Defense Forces veterans are being displayed this month at a gallery in Tel Aviv alongside their portraits for an exhibition called EXPOSE[D].
For a decade, Quique Kierszenbaum, a Uruguayan-Israeli news photographer and journalist, has been documenting those who agreed to speak out about the abuses they saw and often perpetrated.
He did this with the help of Breaking the Silence, a not-for-profit organization founded in 2004 that has been collecting personal military stories, hoping it will show the public the reality of everyday life for Palestinians.
The whistleblower organization, widely derided in Israel, says abuse is systematic and institutionalized – an unavoidable part of five decades of occupation – rather than the rare the rare anomalies that such incidents are often explained away as.
To date, Breaking the Silence has meticulously collected testimonies from more than 1,200 soldiers, although the vast majority do not have their identities revealed.
This has led to the army and others questioning the accuracy of their accounts.
Picture taker had to run for his life after capturing this execution photo. “This is the first time we’ve had such a clear video of a Palestinian being executed. This monstrous picture shows how brutal the occupation is,” Issa Amro, director of the Hebron-based Youth Against Settlements activist group, told Al Jazeera by telephone.
At the exhibition, almost half of the portraits are of testifiers who are showing their names and faces for the first time. Photos are hung at eye level in one large room, so viewers have the arresting sense that they are being looked at by all 52.
During the decade-long shoot, Kierszenbaum always used the same black background, carrying a pull-out poster with him. All he asked was that the soldiers look at the camera.
“This is part of the message,” says Kierszenbaum, who works freelance for multiple international media outlets, including the Guardian.
“These guys were sent on a mission to operate the occupation. They want you to look at them in the eyes and listen to what they have to say.
“The atmosphere in Israel is changing a lot. People who oppose the occupation, people who criticism what the Israeli army is doing, they are called traitors and spies.
Haaretz reporter assaulted by IDF soldiers near Jericho
Because there is no face to them, it’s easy not to confront them. But when people see the pictures around the wall, they will see this is more or less Israeli society.
This is your son, your brother, your neighbor.”
It is hard to overstate how vilified Breaking the Silence is in a country where the military is such a revered institution. At one point, an Israeli rightwing activist group infiltrated it, secretly video taping the offices for more than a year.
Others pretended to be repentant soldiers themselves to provide false testimony and prove the organisation publishes lies. But it never worked.
Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu once cancelled a meeting with the German foreign minister after the latter said he would talk to the former soldiers.
Breaking the Silence itself started with a photo exhibition, in 2004, when it was still a rough assortment of recently discharged soldiers who fought in the occupied West Bank flashpoint city of Hebron.
They were shocked by the discrepancy between how the occupation was perceived by society and the truth known by many soldiers. So they published photos of their time in uniform and talked about their experiences.
Yehuda Shaul, an ex-combat soldier, was one of the group’s founders and still runs it. His portrait forms part of the exhibition, one of the first people Kierszenbaum photographed.
The accompanying text is a story he has shared for more than a decade, from his time in the early 2000s during the street fighting of the second intifada.
“I would shoot directly at Palestinian neighborhoods using a grenade launcher in response to Palestinian fire towards the [Jewish] settlements in the city,” the text reads. “It’s clear to me that many civilians were hurt by this fire.
We did it without any identification of the sources of shooting from the Palestinian side.” A decision was later made to carry out what he calls “deterrent firing”, shooting every day before the Palestinian militants had even started attacking.
When Shaul first went public with this story, the army said soldiers were educated to behave “according to moral standards in complex situations that include very difficult moral dilemmas”. It said it would investigate all allegations of crimes and interrogated Shaul.
However, none of the group’s testifiers has been tried, Shaul says, something he attributes to the fact that he and many others were taking orders from senior commanders who would then be exposed to legal action.
In his testimony, he says he had a responsibility to tell his story. “For years, our society has been making decisions based on incorrect information with no understanding of the meaning of what’s happening on the ground, and from my perspective, this is the vacuum that Breaking the Silence fills.”
The Cultural Committee of the 40th UNESCO general conference, which was attended by ministers of culture from around the world, has called for taking new decisions to protect the world heritage in Occupied Jerusalem.
UNESCO member states and international donors said they would provide further support for activities intended to preserve the cultural heritage of the Old City of Jerusalem.
The UNESCO Cultural Committee expressed concern about Israel’s excavations and construction works in the Old City of Jerusalem and on both sides of the city and its walls.
Deeply concerned by the persistence of the Israeli illegal excavations and works conducted by the Israeli Occupation authorities and the extreme settler groups in the Old City of Jerusalem and on both sides of its Walls and the failure of Israel to cease such harmful interventions, requests Israel to timely stop all such violations, in conformity with its obligations under the provisions of related UNESCO Conventions and recommendations,
Regrets the damage caused by the Israeli security forces on 30th October 2014 to the historic Gates and windows of the Qibli Mosque inside Al-Aqsa Mosque/ Al-Haram Al-Sharif, which is a Muslim holy site of worship and an integral part of a World Heritage Site;
Expresses its deep concern over the Israeli closure and ban of the renovation of Al-Rahma Gate building, one of Al-Aqsa Mosque/ Al-Haram Al-Sharif Gates, and urges Israel to stop obstruction of the necessary restoration works, in order to fix the damage caused by the weather conditions, especially the water leakage into the rooms of the building;
Deplores the damaging effect of the Jerusalem Light rail (tram line) at few meters from the Walls of the Old City of Jerusalem which severely affects the visual integrity and the authentic character of the site and requests Israel, the Occupying Power, to restore the original character of the site in conformity with its obligations under the provisions of related UNESCO Conventions and recommendations;
Calls on Israel, the Occupying Power, to stop the obstruction of the immediate execution of all the 19 Hashemite restoration projects in and around Al-Aqsa Mosque/ Al-Haram Al-Sharif;
Also deplores the Israeli decision to approve: the plan to build a two-line cable car system in East Jerusalem, the plan to construct of the so called “Liba House” project in the Old City of Jerusalem, the demolition and new construction of the so-called Strauss Building, and the project of the elevator in the Buraq Plaza (Western Wall), the digging of a Mamluk structure beneath the Buraq Plaza (Western Wall), the excavations and construction of new levels underneath the Buraq Plaza, and urges Israel, the Occupying Power, to renounce the above mentioned projects in conformity with its obligations under the provisions of related UNESCO Conventions and recommendations particularly the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict of 1954 and its related protocols, as well as UNESCO Decisions particularly the World Heritage Committee decisions 26 and 38COM7A.4;
Expresses its deep concern regarding the plan for building of the so called “Kedem Center” a visitors centre near the southern wall of Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif, which severely affects the visual integrity and the authentic character of the site, in addition, its placement at the northern entrance to Silwan village will cut off the Palestinian residents’ direct connection to Old City and the Palestinian neighbourhoods to the north and east of the village, furthermore, most of the remains resulted from the excavation therein have been completely removed without documentation;
Expresses its concern regarding the restricting obstacles imposed by Israel, the Occupying Power, on the freedom of access that shall be provided to the competent national authorities including the Jordanian Waqf experts to safeguard the Old City of Jerusalem and both sides of its Walls;
Welcomes the relative improvement of Muslim worshippers’ access into A.l-Aqsa Mosque/ Al-Haram Al-Sharif over the past seven months, regrets the Israeli extremist groups’ continuous storming of Al-.Aqsa Mosque/ Al-Haram Al-Sharif, and urges Israel, the Occupying Power, to take necessary measures to prevent such provocative abuses that violate the sanctity and integrity of the Al Aqsa Mosque/ Al-Haram Al-Sharif and inflame tension on the ground;
Further regrets the damage by Israel, the Occupying Power, of the historic ceramics atop of the main gates of the Dome of the Rock and the damage of the historic gates and windows of the Qibli Mosque inside Al Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif and reaffirms, in this regard, the necessity to respect and safeguard the integrity, authenticity and cultural heritage of Al-Aqsa Mosque /Al-Haram Al-Sharif, as reflected in the Status Quo, as a Muslim Holy Site of worship and as an integral part of a World Cultural Heritage site;
Calls upon Israel to return the remains and to provide the World Heritage Centre with the relevant documentation in particular concerning the removed and found historic remains, as well as to restore the original character of the sites of all the above mentioned projects;
Requests the World Heritage Centre to continue applying the Reinforced Monitoring Mechanism to the Old City of Jerusalem on both sides of its Walls, and also requests it to report every four months on this matter;
Thanks the Director-General of UNESCO and the World Heritage Centre for their efforts aimed at the Safeguarding of the Cultural Heritage of the Old City of Jerusalem on both sides of its walls and invites them to report on this matter at the 40th session of the World Heritage Committee in 2016;II
Recalling 176 EX/Special Plenary Meeting Decision, and all UNESCO Executive Board Decisions relating to the Ascent to the Mughrabi Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem,
Affirms that the Mughrabi Ascent is an integral and inseparable part of Al Aqsa Mosque/ Al-Haram Al-Sharif,
Takes into consideration all the previous Reinforced Monitoring Reports and their addenda prepared by the World Heritage Centre as well as the State of Conservation report submitted to the World Heritage Centre by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the State of Palestine,
Expresses its growing concern regarding the continuous, intrusive demolitions and illegal excavations in and around the Mughrabi Gate Ascent, and the latest excavation works conducted at the beginning of May 2015 at the Buraq Plaza (Western Wall) of Al-Aqsa Mosque/ Al-Haram Al-Sharif, and calls on Israel, the Occupying Power, to end such violations, respect the Status Quo, and enable the Jordanian Awaqf experts as a part of the competent national authorities to maintain and safeguard the site in accordance with the relevant provisions of the UNESCO Conventions and Recommendations in particular the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict of 1954 and its related protocols;
Commends the Jordanian design for the restoration and preservation of the Mughrabi Ascent, submitted to the World Heritage Centre on 27 May 2011, and thanks Jordan for its cooperation in accordance with the provisions of the relevant UNESCO Conventions for the Protection of Cultural Heritage;
Urges Israel, the Occupying Power, to cooperate with Jordanian Awqaf Department, in conformity with its obligations under the provisions of the UNESCO related Conventions, to facilitate access of Jordanian Awqaf experts with their tools and material to the site in order to enable the execution of the Jordanian design of the Ascent to the Mughrabi Gate;
Further expresses its deep concern regarding demolitions of Ummayad, Ottoman and Mamluk remains at the site of the Mughrabi Gate Pathway, and urges Israel, the Occupying Power, to abide by its obligations in this regard;
Thanks the Director-General for her attention to the sensitive situation of the Ascent to the Mughrabi Gate and asks her to take the necessary measures in order to enable the execution of the Jordanian design of the Ascent to the Mughrabi Gate;III
Recalls the Executive Board decisions concerning the reactive monitoring mission to the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls particularly decision 196EX/Decision26.4 as well as the World Heritage Committee decisions particularly decision 34 COM 7A.20;
Deeply regrets the continuous Israeli failure to implement the Reactive Monitoring Mission and urges Israel, the Occupying Power, to accept and facilitate the implementation of that Mission;
Stresses the need of the urgent implementation of the above-mentioned UNESCO mission and, in case of non-implementation according to the above mentioned Executive Board decision 196EX/Decision26.4, decides to consider, in conformity with the provisions of the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage of 1972, adequate measures to have the concerned party implement it;
Requests that the report and recommendations of the mission be presented to the concerned parties prior to the next 197 EX Board session;
Thanks the Director-General for her continuous efforts to implement the above-mentioned UNESCO mission and all related UNESCO decisions and resolutions, and invites her to report on this matter at the next 40th World Heritage Committee session;IV
Decides to retain the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
Palestinian neighbors are subjected to regular police raids and Israeli excrement is left in their doorways. That’s Zionism. That’s Israel. Before Zionism took hold of the regular Jewish people in Europe, and even more so after Israel was established, the Zionists were considered filthy low life by the Rabbis.
Thomas Masaryk became President of Czechoslovakia, and it was in that capacity that he warmly welcomed the first Zionist Congress convened after the Balfour Declaration, at Karlovy Vary in 1921—two more would follow in 1923 and 1933, under Chaim Weizmann’s leadership.
During the Masaryk era, three congresses of the World Zionist Organization took place in the Czech cities of Prague and Karlovy Vary. In addition, Masaryk was a keen supporter of the Zionist movement and the first head of state who visited the Yishuv in 1927. In recognition of this warm friendship, the Jewish state honored Masaryk by naming a kibbutz after him, as well as streets in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa.
In 1920, the Zionists had enough power to warn the world not to stand it it’s way.
Czech president Milos Zeman offered Binyamin Netanyahu’s ultra-nationalist government a fillip during his visit to Israel last week.
He inaugurated a cultural and trade center, Czech House, just outside Jerusalem’s Old City walls.
At the opening, he expressed hope it would serve as a precursor to his country relocating its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
If so, the Czech Republic would become the first European state to follow US President Donald Trump’s lead in moving the US embassy in May.
It is this kind of endorsement that, of late, has emboldened Netanyahu’s government, the Israeli courts, Jerusalem officials and settler organizations to step up their combined assault on Palestinians in the Old City and its surrounding neighbourhoods.
Israel has never hidden its ambition to seize control of East Jerusalem, Palestinian territory it occupied in 1967 and then annexed, as a way of preventing a viable Palestinian state from emerging.
Land theft and ethnic cleansing
Israel immediately began building an arc of Jewish settlements on Jerusalem’s eastern flank to seal off its Palestinian residents from their political hinterland, the West Bank.
More than a decade ago, it consolidated its domination with a mammoth concrete wall that cut through East Jerusalem.
The aim was to seal off densely populated Palestinian neighborhoods on the far side, ensuring the most prized and vulnerable areas – the Old City and its environs – could be more easily colonized, or “Judaised”, as Israel terms it.
This area, the heart of Jerusalem, is where magnificent holy places such as the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre are to be found.
The city of Christianity, Judaism and Islam for centuries
Under cover of the 1967 war, Israel ethnically cleansed many hundreds of Palestinians living near the Western Wall, a retaining wall of the elevated Al-Aqsa compound that is venerated in Judaism.
Since then, Israeli leaders have grown ever hungrier for control of the compound itself, which they believe is built over two long-lost Jewish temples.
Israel has forced the compound’s Muslim authorities to allow Jews to visit in record numbers, even though most wish to see the mosque replaced with a third Jewish temple.
Meanwhile, Israel has severely limited the numbers of Palestinians who can reach the holy site.
Emboldened by Trump
Until now, Israel had mostly moved with stealth, making changes gradually so they rarely risked inflaming the Arab world or provoking Western reaction. But after Trump’s embassy move, a new Israeli confidence is tangible.
On four fronts, Israel has demonstrated its assertive new mood. First, with the help of ever-more compliant Israeli courts, it has intensified efforts to evict Palestinians from their homes in the Old City and just outside its historic walls.
Last month, the Supreme Court handed down a ruling that supports the eviction of 700 Palestinians from Silwan, a dense neighborhood on a hillside below Al-Aqsa.
Ateret Cohanim, a settler organization backed by government-subsidised armed guards, is now poised to take over the center of Silwan.
It will mean more Israeli security and police protecting the settler population and more city officials enforcing prejudicial planning rules against Palestinians.
The inevitable protests will justify more arrests of Palestinians, including children. This is how bureaucratic ethnic cleansing works.
The Supreme Court also rejected an appeal against a Palestinian family’s eviction from Sheikh Jarrah, another key neighbourhood near the Old City.
The decision opens the way to expelling dozens more families.
B’Tselem, an Israeli rights group, characterised these rulings as “sanctioning the broadest move to dispossess Palestinians since 1967”.
At the same time, Israel’s parliament approved a law to accelerate the settler takeover.
Over many years, Israel created a series of national parks around the Old City on the pretext of preserving “green areas”.
Some hem in Palestinian neighborhoods to stop their expansion while others were declared on the land of existing Palestinian homes to justify expelling the occupants.
So where did the homeless immigrant European Jews take refuge?
Palestinian homes usurped in 1948 in Jerusalem
بيت جميل في القطمون بيوت الفلسطنيين المغتصبة عام 1948 في القدس
Now the parliament has reversed course. The new law, drafted by another settler group, Elad, will allow house-building in national parks, but only for Jews.
Elad’s immediate aim is to bolster the settler presence in Silwan, where it has overseen a national park next to Al-Aqsa.
Archaeology has been co-opted to supposedly prove the area was once ruled by King David while thousands of years of subsequent history, most especially the current Palestinian presence, are erased.
Elad’s activities include excavating under Palestinian homes, weakening their foundations.
We’re heeer….US envoy smashes wall dug under Palestinian homes in E. Jerusalem
A massive new Jewish history-themed visitor centre will dominate Silwan’s entrance.
Completing the project is a $55 million cable car, designed to carry thousands of tourists an hour over Silwan and other neighborhoods, rendering the Palestinian inhabitants invisible as visitors are delivered effortlessly to the Western Wall without ever having to encounter them.
Forgeries, collaborators and excrement
Israeli court upholds shady sale of Jerusalem church property to settlers. The Supreme Court had approved the sale of the New Imperial Hotel and the Petra Hotel, which overlook the Jaffa Gate plaza at the entrance to the Old City, as well as another building in the Muslim Quarter. The judges rejected claims by the Patriarchate that the sale was illegal because it was carried out by unauthorized members of the church, and that Ateret Cohaniam had paid bribes to see the deal through.
The settlers have their own underhand methods. With the authorities’ connivance, they have forged documents to seize Palestinian homes closest to Al-Aqsa.
In other cases, the settlers have recruited Arab collaborators to dupe other Palestinians into selling their homes.
Once they gain a foothold, the settlers typically turn the appropriated home into an armed compound.
Noise blares out into the early hours, Palestinian neighbors are subjected to regular police raids and excrement is left in their doorways.
After the recent sale to settlers of a home strategically located in the Old City’s Muslim quarter, the Palestinian Authority (PA) set up a commission of inquiry to investigate.
But the PA is near-powerless to stop this looting after Israel passed a law in 1995 denying it any role in Jerusalem.
The same measure is now being vigorously enforced against the few residents trying to stop the settler banditry.
Adnan Ghaith, Jerusalem’s governor and a Silwan resident, was arrested last week for a second time and banned from entering the West Bank and meeting PA officials.
Disgusting Jewish soldiers defecated in and defaced Palestinian homes during the recent Israeli invasion of Gaza. This is normal Israeli behavior in occupied Palestine.
Adnan Husseini, the Palestinian minister for Jerusalem, is under a six-month travel ban by Israel.
Last week dozens of Palestinians were arrested in Jerusalem, accused of working for the PA to stop house sales to the settlers.
It is a quiet campaign of attrition, designed to wear down Jerusalem’s Palestinian residents.
The hope is that they will eventually despair and relocate to the city’s distant suburbs outside the wall or into the West Bank.
What Palestinians in Jerusalem urgently need is a reason for hope – and a clear signal that other countries will not join the US in
Israeli soldiers enforce a curfew, keeping all Palestinian residents in their homes. Israeli settlers, who have taken over part of the city, are not affected by the curfew. Countless Palestinians have been injured or killed when they – sometimes unknowingly – violated curfew.BBC
If this doesn’t wake people up to what exactly what Israel is nothing will.
This is my drive into Ramallah. See where the wall opens? And that’s where it closes. Anytime the occupiers say so, the Palestinians are just locked in. This is the same force that is now running USA for Israel.
The West Bank closure system is a series of obstacles including permanent and partially manned checkpoints, concrete roadblocks and barriers, metal gates, earth mounds, tunnels, trenches, and an elaborate set of permit restrictions that controls and restricts Palestinian freedom of movement.
As Israeli citizens head to the polls to vote on Tuesday, the Israeli terrorist army will put Palestinians in the West Bank under complete closure and will seal the Gaza Strip entirely.
This means that as Israeli citizens living in settlements across the occupied territories may move freely back and forth across the Green Line separating Israel and the West Bank, millions of Palestinians are barred from doing so.
Even those tens of thousands of Palestinians who have permits to work inside Israel every day — primarily in construction and maintenance jobs — will not be allowed to go to work that day.
Unlike Israelis, for whom Election Day is a paid holiday, they will not be compensated for the one-day leave imposed on them by the Israeli military.
Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, for whom leaving requires months-long processes of applying and waiting for an Israeli military permit, which is often denied, will be entirely stuck.
The closure is scheduled to begin at midnight Monday, April 8, and end at midnight on April 9. The army says it will make humanitarian and medical exceptions on a case-by-case basis out of humanitarian basis.
That same system, which others get to vote in, rules nearly every aspect of their lives, decides where they can or cannot travel, where they can live, whether they can hold political protests, where they may or may not build, and in some cases even what they can and cannot say.
The nearly half a million Israeli settlers who live in the West Bank are not only subject to a different set of laws, they have the right to vote in elections that can change those policies if they have grievances.
In the Gaza Strip, the Israeli army decides what goods may be imported and exported, where fishermen can fish, how much electricity is available on a daily basis, who can enter and exit the territory, and who can travel between different areas of the occupied Palestinian territories. None of the 1,961,000 people living there have a say in those policies.
Trucks at the Kerem Shalom crossing, the main passage point for goods entering Gaza from Israel, in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah, July 24, 2018. (Abed Rahim Khatib/ Flash90)
While Palestinians in the West Bank are barred the right to vote and the ability to travel freely, the soldiers tasked with carrying out the day to day of military occupation were given the privilege of kicking off the 2019 elections.
In the run-up to the elections, the IDF established 130 makeshift polling stations for soldiers on duty. At Ofer Military Base, which houses an infamous military court and prison, Israeli soldiers took part in the early voting process, allowing them to enjoy the fruits of the democratic process.
In the case of alleged knife attacks, the “attackers” are almost always facing a large number of armed IDF, and are a good distance away. If the “attacker” DID brandish a knife they could be shot AT and not harmed, especially not killed dead. The females are always petite and could just be pushed away or dodged. But..dead men tell no tales.
The part of @Ilhan‘s comments we didn’t discuss was the part about a decades-long [since the suspicious Jewish holocaust in Europe] human rights crisis. As Congress fixated on her, a 15-year-old Palestinian died after being shot in the head by Israeli soldiers & scores of daily injustices continued.
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) 03/08/2019 — The Israeli authorities returned the body of killed Palestinian 15-year-old Samah Mubarak to her family, on Friday evening, outside of Israel’s Ofer detention center in Beituniya west of Ramallah in the central occupied West Bank
The video is edited such that it does not show what happened in the seconds prior to the altercation and shooting.
Attempted stabbing attack in JLM: A 16 year old attacker, a resident of the West Bank, arrived at the az-Za’ayyem checkpoint and attempted to stab the security personnel with a knife. Quick response by the forces managed to neutralize her pic.twitter.com/vUO6vYcm1w
Israel has long had “cemeteries for the enemy dead,” also referred to as “cemeteries of numbers,” where Palestinians who died during attacks on Israelis are held in nameless graves marked by numbers. Israel dramatically increased its policy of withholding bodies since the beginning of a wave of unrest across the occupied Palestinian territory in October 2015, although it has scaled back on the policy in recent months.
A joint statement released in 2016 by Addameer and the Israeli minority rights group Adalah condemned Israel’s practice of withholding bodies as “a severe violation of international humanitarian law as well as international human rights law, including violations of the right to dignity, freedom of religion, and the right to practice culture.” Israeli forces had shot and killed Mubarak, on January 30th, at the al-Zaayim checkpoint, on a road that leads to the entrance of the illegal Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim, east of occupied Jerusalem.
Israel has held Mubarak’s body since the shooting, accusing her of wielding a knife in an attempt to carry out a stabbing attack against heavily armed Israeli soldiers deployed at the checkpoint. Mubarak is from the Qaddura refugee camp in central Ramallah.
Just two weeks ago an Israeli soldier cocked his gun & shot 21-year-old Palestinian Abed al-Fatah al-Sharif in the head when he had already been shot & was lying on the ground incapacitated. The Israeli occupying army alleges he stabbed an Israeli soldier but that can be dismissed with no further ado as propaganda to justify summary execution.
Photos like this–where unarmed Palestinians are surrounded by Gestapo-like military force ready to execute on the spot–show exactly what Palestinian Intifada is up against. Now we know exactly what kind of political pressure must be mobilized in defense of Intifada.
Occupied life goes on, business as usual: an Israeli shutdown of water supplies for 2,600 Palestinians, per Maan, and the nighttime clash on the Gaza border that killed Zaied. The military ― which receives more than $3 billion in U.S. aid per year ― then launched airstrikes into Gaza, one of the poorest areas in the world on pretext of launched weaponized balloons launch of armed balloons and a rocket into Israel.
Palestinian mourners carry the body of Samah Mubarak, aged 16, during her funeral in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank on March 9, 2019, after the Israeli army handed over the corpse of the girl.
‘Witnesses are so important’
The shooting happened just outside the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) home in Tel Rumeida, where volunteers said they saw whole incident.
Moments after, one of the volunteers Tweeted: “I saw everything. I saw soldiers loading the guns. He had his arms up and was shaking, he was unarmed and they just shot him.”
Two activists who live at the home told MEE that the volunteers at ISM strongly believe that the stabbing attack was fabricated.
One of the volunteers, who asked to remain anonymous, said that while she didn’t see the shooting herself, as she was ducking on the ground next to the window with a few others, she trusted the eyewitness accounts of her friends and fellow volunteers who stood, watching the whole thing.
“We know what has been happening lately, and that there have been a lot of important details left out, so we know witnesses are so important,” she said, adding that in most cases in which witnesses were able to film or photograph an incident, they were able to discredit some if not all of the entire Israeli account.
What Texas congressman Babin’s odd allegations hide is that he wants the Israeli narrative on Palestine to be the only narrative to which the Congress is exposed, and he wants to prevent the representatives from seeing the horror of the occupation with their own eyes.
The newly elected Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, who represents Michigan’s 13th District, is seeking to take a delegation of congressional representatives to the Palestinian West Bank, which is militarily occupied by Israel and where some 600,000 Israeli squatters have usurped Palestinian land belonging to the nearly 3 million Palestinians living there (another nearly 2 million live in the Gaza Strip).
Tlaib represents not only part of Detroit but Dearborn Heights and among her constituents are many Arab-Americans who strongly support Palestine and resent Israel’s colonization project of stealing their land and resources and ultimately hoping to displace them and make them refugees anew.
AIPAC has extracted an inflation-adjusted $250 billion from US taxpayers for its foreign principals. Influencing the conduct of US policy “by techniques outside normal diplomatic channels” has never stopped.
Ordinarily, the wealthy and powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee (which ought to have to register as a foreign agent but doesn’t because it is so wealthy and powerful) pays for a trip of these Federal representatives to Israel, where they are introduced to Israeli politicians and given the Israeli story about the Palestinians. This is like visiting Columbia, South Carolina in the 1950s and asking the white state legislators there why Black South Carolinians are so poor and have such bad education and health statistics.
As a result of such successful boondoggles and lobbying, the US is now giving $23,000 to each Israeli family over the next 10 years, $38 billion in total, at a time when Federal employees are not being paid at all and are losing their mortgages and people in Flint, Michigan, are still expected to drink lead-poisoned water.
Israel is a wealthy country with a per capita income of $40,000 a year in nominal terms, slightly better than that of France. The only reason that the American public is forking over that kind of cash to the Israelis is that the Israel lobbies have given significant campaign contributions to many in Congress and expect them to put massive aid to Israel into the US budget as a quid pro quo.
Brian Babin, a congressman from Texas’s 36th district, is seeking to block Tlaib’s trip and that of her colleagues by attempting to get the Democratic leadership on the Hill to pull the money for it. Stopping powerful women from traveling to crucial security zones, as Trump stopped Pelosi from going to Afghanistan, seems to be a new plank of the Republican Party platform.
Babin got nearly $6,000 for his 2016 campaign from pro-Israel “industries,” according to this database, though such things are hard to measure because wealthy individuals may also be giving and then pressuring him.
By the way, although $6,000 may not sound like much money, actually contributions on that scale are extremely influential sometimes in tight races. You wouldn’t want the lobbyists to give it to your opponent– that would be like losing $12,000 to pay for radio and tv and internet ads.
Babin has through his congressional career voted for positions similar to those of Trump 95% of the time. He may as well be Trump. He voted to remove sanctions from three Russian companies run by oligarchs close to Vladimir Putin. He supported Trump in calling Hillary Clinton a “nasty woman.”
He opposes the US refugee program, which is part of our country’s treaty obligations, on the grounds that once admitted, refugees accept entitlements and become a public charge, and that if Muslim refugees are let in they will engage in terrorism and oppress women. of the 750,000 refugees admitted in the past 17 years, none has carried out a physical terrorist attack on US soil. As for oppressing women, he is the one who thinks they are “nasty.”
It is worth attending to Babin’s rhetoric. He complains that Tlaib’s planned trip will be “tax-payer funded.” But then so is Trump’s travel to what are essentially campaign rallies around the country. And that $38 billion Babin voted to give away to Israel is also taxpayer money, and it is hard to argue that he is working for the taxpayer.
Then Babin worries that for a congressional delegation to go to the Palestinian West Bank will harm relations between the United States as Israel. It is hard to see the logic here. US congressional delegations have routinely gone to the West Bank in the past and it hasn’t hurt US-Israeli relations at all, which are so warm that we are giving them $38 billion even after the visits to the West Bank.
Babin says that Israeli feelings will be hurt if congressional representatives visit Israel’s “adversary.”
The West Bank is under Israeli military occupation, so it is hard to see how visiting it is an affront to Israel. The junior partner in the Israeli occupation is the Palestine Liberation Organization, the constituent parties of which dominate the Palestine Authority. The Palestine Authority was created as part of the Oslo Peace accords and it recognized Israel in return for a pledge from Tel Aviv that Israel would withdraw from the Palestinian West Bank by 1998.
Israel pocketed the PLO recognition and declined to withdraw and then flooded hundreds of thousands of Israel squatters into Palestine, taking land, water and other resources away from the Palestinians with whom the Israeli government had concluded the Oslo Accords.
Nor is the Palestine Authority or just “Palestine” Israel’s “adversary.” It is a partner in a long-stalled peace process. Israeli authorities routinely cooperate on security with Palestine police and politicians.
Babin’s discourse imagines the Palestinian West Bank to be an independent country that is an “adversary” of Israel, instead of being an occupied territory of Israel itself, which gets security help from a PLO that was fooled into recognizing its occupier.
What Babin’s odd allegations hide is that he wants the Israeli narrative on Palestine to be the only narrative to which the Congress is exposed, and he wants to prevent the representatives from seeing the horror of the occupation with their own eyes. The 215,452 Palestinians in al-Khalil (Hebron) are terrorized by the some 800 Israeli squatters who have gradually usurped property in the city and who have attacked and menaced local Palestinians backed up by the full might of the Israeli army, which invades Palestinian homes at will.
Ironically, it is not clear that the Israeli authorities will let Tlaib into the West Bank. She practices Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment (BDS) with regard to Israel, and the far right wing Likud government has been attempting to exclude people from entering Israel if they hold that position. Since Israel illegally occupies the West Bank, you can’t visit Palestine without going through Israel and the Israeli authorities. You might say that Netanyahu wouldn’t dare deport a sitting congresswoman. We’ll see.
Keen to distract from the impact of years of Israeli colonial control, Israel’s defenders try to make out that the city’s Christian Palestinians are the target of a “jihad” by their Muslim neighbours – and that “persecution” is the reason for the Christian population’s shrinking numbers. Yet surveys – here, here and here – consistently bear out the logical conclusion that the main emigration “push” factors are economic, political and rooted in Israeli occupation. A 2006 poll of Bethlehem residents found that 78 percent of Christian respondents cited “Israeli aggression and occupation” as “the main cause of emigration”.
European folkloric history indicate that Krumpus fits the mold of “the Jew”—a malicious child-murdering people seeking vengeance against the Christians.
Christians in Gaza suffer as much as the Palestinian Muslims. They are under bombardment. They have only eight hours of electricity of every 24 hours. They have a hard time getting fresh water. The Palestinian Christians, they don’t live in an isolated area where oh, this is a Christian town. No, they live among the Muslims in Gaza and therefore as much as the Muslims are suffering, the Christians are suffering, not only in the Gaza strip but also in the West Bank.”
It is another anxious Christmas for the inhabitants of Bethlehem. This is the time of year when they have a chance to break out of an isolation enforced in concrete since Israel enclosed the town with a “separation wall” more than a decade ago.
On Christmas Eve, in a centuries-old tradition, Palestinian and foreign pilgrims rub shoulders as they throng into the ancient Church of the Nativity to celebrate the anniversary of the birth of Jesus at its reputed location two millennia ago.
Outside, in Manger Square, the lights and baubles on a huge Christmas tree provide some festive glitz, while hawkers assail the tourists, exploiting the chance to sell them Santa hats and stocking fillers of plastic light sabres and illuminated spinning tops.
Most of the foreign pilgrims enter Bethlehem by coach through a gate in the wall heavily policed by Israeli soldiers. They disembark at the church’s entrance and most depart for Jerusalem as soon as the event is over.
Nowadays few tourists get to meet or talk to a Palestinian in Bethlehem. Earlier this year, Israel tried to further choke off tourism revenue by warning travel agencies that their groups must not stay overnight in Bethlehem’s handful of cheap hotels.
Largely sealed off from the world, Bethlehem is today almost as well-known for its graffiti, visible from coaches on the pilgrim trail through the wall, as the nativity. Amid iconic images by Banksy, the famous British street artist, is the handiwork of local paint-sprayers. One message to the world scrawled across the eight-metre-high grey slabs announces: “Merry Christmas from Bethlehem ghetto”.
The town now has access to little more than a tenth of its original territory, with homes cut off from farmland, water sources and historic landmarks. A host of ever-expanding Jewish settlements around Bethlehem have been gorging on the rich pickings of their imprisoned neighbours.
Bethlehem’s despondency was heightened this month by the decision of US President Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. That declaration has sparked repeated clashes between Bethlehem’s youth and Israeli occupation forces.
Traditionally, the fates of these cities, the two primary destinations for pilgrims, were intimately tied. Before the construction of the wall, they were only a short drive apart. Now Jerusalem is almost unreachable for Bethlehem’s inhabitants, while Bethlehem itself has become an increasingly unappealing prospect for most outsiders.
Amid the gloom, however, there were two small tidings of joy this month.
Banksy, who earlier this year established a graffiti-themed hotel called the Walled Off Hotel – boasting the “worst view in the world” – put on an alternative nativity play for local children in the shadow of the wall and its armed watch-towers. A two-part BBC documentary shown last week about the planning and staging of The Alternativity gave international audiences a rare up-close view of life in the Bethlehem ghetto.
The other success was a screening this month on Capitol Hill of Leila Sansour’s documentary Open Bethlehem. Along with their invite, US Congress members were sent a “Bethlehem passport”, making them honorary citizens of the town.
Ms Sansour’s film was meant to prick consciences. It charts Bethlehem’s gradual incarceration and the decision of her own extended family to desert the town, like many other Christians, for opportunities abroad.
Today, Bethlehem’s Christians make up only 13 per cent of its population and more than three-quarters blame Israel’s blockade for the exodus. The Open Bethlehem campaign, spawned by the film, quotes James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, saying: “While every Christmas we sing of Bethlehem, most Americans know so little about the town and its people.”
In the only way they could, Bethlehem’s church leaders exacted a small revenge for Mr Trump’s Jerusalem declaration. They closed their doors to Mike Pence, the US vice-president and a pious Christian evangelical. His pre-Christmas visit to the region has now been postponed until next year.
Paradoxically, Mr Pence had originally intended to use the trip to highlight the persecution of Christians in the Middle East – though presumably not the kind of persecution represented by Israel’s wall.
Palestinian Christians see Mr Pence not as a potential saviour but very much at the heart of their problems. The vice-president is viewed as the latest personification of a Western evangelical tradition that has consistently betrayed Palestine’s Christian community.
Exactly a century ago, it was British government leaders like David Lloyd George and Arthur Balfour, men of deep Christian conviction, who prioritised the interests of European Jews over the Holy Land’s native Palestinians. The Balfour Declaration set in train a process of colonisation that dispossessed Muslims and Christians alike of their homeland.
Fast forward to today and tens of millions of evangelicals in the US, Israel’s new patron, helped to elect Mr Trump. They were the reason he selected Mr Pence as his running mate and why he cynically transformed the incendiary site of Jerusalem into a campaign vote-winner.
The priorities of Christians like Mr Pence derive not from natural justice, solidarity with fellow Christians or even cold calculation, but from supposed divine prophecy. They interpret the Bible as requiring a return of God’s chosen people, the Jews, to the Promised Land as a way to bring forward the end-time. In a cataclysmic Battle of Armageddon, Jesus will return, they believe. The truly faithful will rise to heaven to be with God while everyone else, including unrepentant Jews, will burn for eternity.
For this reason, a strong Israel – one that includes the Biblical lands on which the illegal Jewish settlements are built – is a central concern for millions of US evangelicals. In contrast, the slow erasure of Palestinian Christians, as well as the heritage and faith they have preserved in the region for 2,000 years, is of little consequence.
Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has gleefully exploited his ties to the powerful US evangelical lobby, happy that it dramatically increases his clout in Washington.
Anton Salman, a Palestinian Christian who recently became Bethlehem’s mayor, wrote in exasperation of these fellow Christians: “No church worthy of its name should offer a theological smokescreen for the denial of our most basic rights as Palestinians.”
In Bethlehem, there may soon be few Palestinian Christians left to protect its holy sites, preserve its rituals and liturgy or conduct the nativity celebration itself. And irony of ironies, it will have been fellow Christians who helped to harry this community to extinction.