Israeli high school students refuse to join the Israeli military citing the “continuing Nakba”

Young people our age are required to take part in enforcing closures as a means of “collective punishment,” arresting and jailing minors, blackmailing to recruit “collaborators” and more– all of these are war crimes which are executed and covered up every day.

Sixty Israeli high school students sign letter refusing their compulsory enlistment in the Israeli military – “The Zionist policy of brutal violence towards and expulsion of Palestinians from their homes and lands began in 1948 and has not stopped since.”

We are a group of Israeli 18-year-olds at a crossroads. The Israeli state is demanding our conscription into the military.

Allegedly, a defense force which is supposed to safeguard the existence of the State of Israel.

In reality, the goal of the Israeli military is not to defend itself from hostile militaries, but to exercise control over a civilian population.

In other words, our conscription to the Israeli military has political context and implications.

It has implications, first and foremost on the lives of the Palestinian people who have lived under violent occupation for 72 years.

Indeed, the Zionist policy of brutal violence towards and expulsion of Palestinians from their homes and lands began in 1948 and has not stopped since.

The occupation is also poisoning Israeli society–it is violent, militaristic, oppressive, and chauvinistic.

It is our duty to oppose this destructive reality by uniting our struggles and refusing to serve these violent systems–chief among them the military.

Our refusal to enlist to the military is not an act of turning our backs on Israeli society. On the contrary, our refusal is an act of taking responsibility over our actions and their repercussions.

The military is not only serving the occupation, the military is the occupation.

Pilots, intelligence units, bureaucratic clerks, combat soldiers, all are executing the occupation.

One does it with a keyboard and the other with a machine gun at a checkpoint.

Despite all of this, we grew up in the shadow of the symbolic ideal of the heroic soldier.

We prepared food baskets for him in the high holidays, we visited the tank he fought in, we pretended we were him in the pre-military programs in high school, and we revered his death on memorial day.

The fact that we are all accustomed to this reality does not make it apolitical. Enlistment, no less than refusal, is a political act.

We are used to hearing that it is legitimate to criticize the occupation only if we took an active part in enforcing it.

How does it make sense that in order to protest against systemic violence and racism, we have to first be part of the very system of oppression we are criticizing?

The track upon which we embark at infancy, of an education teaching violence and claims over land, reaches its peak at age 18, with the enlistment in the military.

We are ordered to put on the bloodstained military uniform and preserve the legacy of the Nakba and of occupation.

Israeli society has been built upon these rotten roots, and it is apparent in all facets of life: in the racism, the hateful political discourse, the police brutality, and more.

This military oppression goes hand in hand with economic oppression.

While the citizens of the Occupied Palestinian Territories are impoverished, wealthy elites become richer at their expense.

Palestinian workers are systematically exploited, and the weapons industry uses the Occupied Palestinian Territories as a testing ground and as a showcase to bolster its sales.

When the government chooses to uphold the occupation, it is acting against our interest as citizens– large portions of taxpayer money is funding the “security” industry and the development of settlements instead of welfare, education, and health.

The military is a violent, corrupt, and corrupting institution to the core.

But its worst crime is enforcing the destructive policy of the occupation of Palestine.

Young people our age are required to take part in enforcing closures as a means of “collective punishment,” arresting and jailing minors, blackmailing to recruit “collaborators” and more– all of these are war crimes which are executed and covered up every day.

Violent military rule in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is enforced through policies of apartheid entailing two different legal systems: one for Palestinians and the other for Jews.

The Palestinians are constantly faced with undemocratic and violent measures, while Jewish settlers who commit violent crimes– first and foremost against Palestinians but also against soldiers- are “rewarded” by the Israeli military turning a blind eye and covering up these transgressions.

The military has been enforcing a siege on Gaza for over ten years.

This siege has created a massive humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip and is one of the main factors which perpetuates the cycle of violence of Israel and Hamas.

Because of the siege, there is no drinkable water nor electricity in Gaza for most hours of the day.

Unemployment and poverty are pervasive and the healthcare system lacks the most basic means. This reality serves as the foundation on top of which the disaster of COVID-19 has only made things worse in Gaza.

It is important to emphasize that these injustices are not a one-time slippage or straying away from the path.

These injustices are not a mistake or a symptom, they are the policy and the disease.

The actions of the Israeli military in 2020 are nothing but a continuation and upholding of the legacy of massacre, expulsion of families, and land theft, the legacy which “enabled” the establishment of the State of Israel, as a proper democratic state, for Jews only.

Historically, the military has been seen as a tool which serves the “melting pot” policy, as an institution which crosscuts social class and gender divides in Israeli society.

In reality, this could not be further from the truth.

The military is enacting a clear program of ‘channeling’; soldiers from upper-middle class are channeled into positions with economic and civilian prospects, while soldiers from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are channeled into positions which have high mental and physical risk and which do not provide the same head start in civil society.

Simultaneously, women’s representation in violent positions such as pilots, tank commanders, combat soldiers, and intelligence officers, is being marketed as feminist achievement.

How does it make sense that the struggle against gender inequality is achieved through the oppression of Palestinian women?

These “achievements” sidestep solidarity with the struggle of Palestinian women. The military is cementing these power relations and the oppression of marginalized communities through a cynical co-opting of their struggles.

We are calling for high school seniors (shministiyot) our age to ask themselves: What and who are we serving when we enlist in the military? Why do we enlist? What reality do we create by serving in the military of the occupation? We want peace, and real peace requires justice.

Justice requires acknowledgment of the historical and present injustices, and of the continuing Nakba.

Justice requires reform in the form of the end of the occupation, the end of the siege on Gaza, and recognition of the right of return for Palestinian refugees. Justice demands solidarity, joint struggle, and refusal.

The letter is addressed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, army Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi, Minister of Defense Benny Gantz and Education Minister Yoav Galant.

In Israel, conscientious objectors like these are often jailed. In 2003 five male conscientious objectors were sentenced to about 2 years prison.

The longest-serving female conscientious objector is Hillel Kaminer, who was released from prison after 150 days, in 2016.

It is doubtful that those to whom the letter is addressed to will be very affected by it.

The most ‘liberal’ among them is probably Benny Gantz, former army chief of staff, who has boasted of bringing Gaza back to the “stone age” as his entry card into politics two years ago.

Gantz is precisely a depiction of what these ingenious and courageous youths are speaking about when they say that Israeli society is “violent, militaristic, oppressive, and chauvinistic”.

Yet there are many among us who listen very closely to what these young people are saying.

And here they are defining a critical discourse.

The 1967 occupation is not the start and it is not the end.

It is part of Israel’s overarching project of occupation, it’s the state in its entirety, enacting “Apartheid policies” as part of its very nature. The “proper democratic state” is a sad joke, it is for Jews only.

Lydda Air Port. Palestine Airways plane close-up

1948: The British commander of Transjordan’s Arab Legion, had toured Palestinian Arab towns, including Lydda and Ramle, urging them to prepare to defend themselves against the Zionist horde.

The PLUNDER and LOOTING of Palestinian homes, farms, plantations, banks, cars, ports, railroads, schools, hospitals, trucks, tractors, etc. in the course of the 1948 war were a crime on a massive scale. For example, the looting of Lydda City was described by the Israeli Ministerial Committee for Abandoned Property in mid-July, 1948:

“From Lydda alone, the army took out 1,800 truck-loads of property.” (1949, The First Israelis, p. 69)

It should be noted that the great majority of the Palestinian people have been dispossessed for the past five decades, meanwhile, their properties are being used by mostly European Jews (who were victims of similar war crimes committed by anti-Semitic Europeans). Prior to being ethnically cleansed in 1948, the Palestinian people owned and operated 93% of Palestine’s lands, and contributed up to 55-60% of its national Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Zionists capture Lydda: Palestine’s main railway junction and its airport (now Ben Gurion International Airport) were in Lydda, and the main source of Jerusalem’s water supply was 15 kilometers away.

American President Bill Clinton and wife Hillary are welcomed at the Gaza airport by President of the Palestinian National Authority Yasser Arafat and wife Soha. (Photo by Ira Wyman/Sygma via Getty Images)

“The airport used to be packed with thousands of travelers and we received presidents and world leaders,” he said, pointing to parts of the site in various stages of decay.
“Now it’s turned into a ruin, a waste dump. It’s a tragedy.”

Daifallah Al-Akhras, the chief engineer of the airport, admitted he wept on a recent visit to the terminal.

“We built the airport to be the first symbol of sovereignty,” he said. “Now you don’t see anything but destruction and ruin.”

When the airport opened in late 1998 it was one of the most tangible symbols of the Oslo accords.

Many saw the deals as paving the way to the creation of an independent Palestinian state, but their five-year transitional period expired without a resolution to the conflict.

The airport was opened despite the assassination of the most senior Israeli signatory to Oslo, prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, by a Jewish ‘radical’ opposed to the agreements.

By 1998 the accords were fraying, but Clinton, along with his wife Hillary, still attended the ceremony to inaugurate the Yasser Arafat International Airport.

Built with funding from countries across the globe, it hosted the newly formed Palestinian Airlines and was able to handle hundreds of thousands of passengers a year, with many airlines opening up routes there.

Once a commercial airport was established, the Palestinian Authority moved forward with a plan to establish a flag carrier for the embattled country.

The airline was officially announced in 1995 with financial backing coming from the Netherlands and Saudi Arabia, who donated two Fokker 50s and a Boeing 727 to help start operations.

The newly-formed Palestinian Airlines would also join the Arab Air Carriers Organization, with its introduction to the alliance coming in 1999.

While the airline officially started operations in 1997, limits were quickly established on where it could fly.

The Yasser Arafat International Airport was still under construction in Gaza, leaving the airline to commence service in the Egyptian towns of Port Said and Arish to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and Amman, Jordan.

Once the airline’s home in the Gaza Strip was completed, all operations were transferred to the new airport.

Palestinian Airlines quickly expanded to include service to additional countries including Turkey, Bahrain, Qatar, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

The airline would also come to take hold of an Ilyushin Il-62 to help with their expansion plans.

While the airline was expanding, it was not completely free of Israeli restrictions.

Under the Oslo II Accord, Israel had the right to restrict the airport’s schedule, which frequently saw the airport shuttered during the nighttime hours.

The airport’s security was also administered by the Israeli government due to fears that the Palestinians would lapse on security due to the economic instability of Gaza.

Unfortunately, the Oslo II Accord soured over time and increased tensions between the Israelis and Palestinians led to the breakout of the Second Intifada in the early 2000s.

Palestinian Airlines was forced to suspend operations while Israel and Palestine escalated their conflict.

Fearing that the Palestinians would use Yasser Arafat Airport for weapons smuggling into the Gaza Strip, Israel made the airport a primary target, destroying both the radar and control towers in 2001 before carving up the runway using bulldozers in 2002.

In addition to its smuggling fears, Israel also claimed that the dismantling was in response to a Palestinian raid that killed four Israeli soldiers.

The destruction of Yasser Arafat International Airport did not sit well with Palestinians or the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

For Palestinians, the ruins of the airport were a symbol of a potential nation now reeling from the Second Intifada and a sign that Israel and Palestine may never trust each other.

Meanwhile, the ICAO saw Israel’s destruction of the airport as a violation of Palestine’s right to operate a commercial airport and strongly condemned the Israelis for their actions.

The ICAO called for Israel to pay for any repairs from the damages caused to the airfield, which Israel ignored.

With no home airport inside Palestine, the flag carrier fled back across the border and restarted operations at El Arish International Airport in Egypt.

However, getting Palestinians to Arish was a struggle, as Egyptian security could take up to a day processing those traveling into and out of the country.

To attempt to ease the issue, the airline still manned the ticket counters at Yasser Arafat Airport, hoping to sell tickets to passengers inside Gaza and simplify their flying experience.

With this restriction, and the flag carrier operating 30 miles from its home opposite a major international border, the consumer base for Palestinian Airlines slowly dried up. The airline removed the Boeing 727 and Ilyushin Il-62 from its fleet before suspending operations outright in 2005.

The Palestinian Authority would hold on to the two Fokker 50s and lease them to other airlines while they waited for a chance to restart operations.

That chance would finally come in 2012, when the airline announced it would restart service using its Fokker 50s and a route map that would, yet again, be based in Arish, Egypt with flights to Cairo, Amman and Jeddah.

But much like their previous experience at Arish, Palestine was at too much of a disadvantage to make use of their airline.

The airline would last less than two years before re-suspending operations.

The Palestinian Authority returned to leasing their Fokker 50s, with Niger Airlines currently being the home for the two aircraft.

Despite having no current operations, the airline is still an active member in the ICAO, IATA and Arab Air Carriers Organization.

While Palestine hopes to have the airline flying again, the prospect of coming home to Gaza grows bleaker and bleaker.

The airport sustained more damage in recent years, with the terminal and ramps areas taking heavy bombings by Israeli forces in 2014.

Given that the Egyptian rehabilitation attempts have proven too costly for the airline, Palestinian Airlines is currently a flag carrier with no home, no service and no clear future.

In last push before Trump exits, GOP tries to erase Palestinian refugees

“The original Zionist slogan—’a land without a people for a people without a land’—disclosed its own negation when I saw the densely populated Arab towns dwelling sullenly under Jewish tutelage. You want irony? How about Jews becoming colonizers at just the moment when other Europeans had given up on the idea?”
― Christopher Hitchens, Hitch 22: A Memoir

Republican Members of Congress are calling on the Trump administration to reclassify which Palestinians are considered refugees — a move which would constrain the Biden White House, and could fatally harm the Palestinian demand for the right of return.

The political nature of the demand is spelled out clearly by these Members of Congress.

“The issue of the so-called Palestinian ‘right of return’ of 5.3 million refugees to Israel as part of any ‘peace deal’ is an unrealistic demand, and we do not believe it accurately reflects the number of actual Palestinian refugees…it is time to end the fiction of the ‘right of return’ and bring the conflict one step closer [to] conclusion,” they argued.

The Trump administration has already taken a major step toward trying to erase Palestinian refugees.

In August 2018, the State Department cut US funding to UNRWA, deeming the UN agency responsible for providing social services to Palestinian refugees an “irredeemably flawed operation.”

By starving UNRWA, the Trump administration hoped to magically make Palestinian refugees disappear.

By declassifying the State Department report on Palestinian refugees, Republican Members of Congress hope to publicly redefine in US policy who is and is not a Palestinian refugee for this same purpose.

Operation Dani: Lydda and Ramle Remembered in light of recent atrocities in Gaza

The massacres of Lydda and Ramle must be remembered not as remnants of the past, but as an act of aggression that has continued with varying regularity throughout the life of the Israeli state.

Jews stole Palestine Lydda Airport

Some of the soldiers threw hand grenades into Arab houses. One fired an anti-tank shell into the small mosque. In thirty minutes, two hundred and fifty Palestinians were killed. Zionism had carried out a massacre in the city of Lydda.

The occupation

“israel” was founded on the ruins of Palestinian society.  Along the way in that Zionist quest, many massacres occurred, many lives were lost, dispossessed, and many villages were destroyed. 

Some 90 percent of the Palestinians living in historic Palestine were driven out, many by psychological warfare and/or military pressure. 

Well-known and widely documented examples of outright expulsion include the Palestinian towns of Lydda and Ramle, located roughly halfway between Jaffa and Jerusalem.

Operation “Dani” was the codename given for Zionist aggression against Lydda and Ramle from July 11-14. 

The massacres of Lydda and Ramle account for approximately 10 percent of the entire Palestinian exodus from 1947-1949, the period commencing from the incompetent, naïve, and non-consensual UN partition of historic Palestine on November 29 1947 and ended more or less after the Armistice agreements between Israel and the neighboring Arab states in 1949. 

The ethnic cleansing of Palestine has continued every since.  It is significant to note that Lydda and Ramle were clearly within the designated Arab State per the UN Partition plan of 1947.

Ben-Gurion and three senior army officers, Yigal Allon, Moshe Dayan, and Lieutenant-Colonel Yitzhak Rabin were directly involved in the massacres. 

Yitzhak Rabin, Operation Dani head of Operations and the face of the so-called Israel-Palestine “peace process” nearly 50 years later, issued the following order: “The inhabitants of Lydda must be expelled quickly without attention to age.”

(Palestinian Refugees: The Right of Return, Edited by Naseer Aruri). A similar order was issues at the same time to the Kiryati Brigade concerning the Palestinian inhabitants of the neighboring town of Ramle.

According to Israeli historian Yoav Gelber,

“Deir Yassin (another massacre) was not the worst of the war’s atrocities . . . the massacre of approximately 250 Arabs in Lydda … took place following capitulation and not in the midst of combat”

Palestinians being expelled from Lydda in 1948 during Operation Dani. (Palmach archive).
Palestinians being expelled from Lydda in 1948 during Operation Dani. (Palmach archive).

(Nur Masalha, The Palestine Nakba: Decolonising History, Narrating the Subaltern, Reclaiming memory). 

One official Israeli source put the casualty figures at 250 dead, with an estimated 350 more in the subsequent expulsion and forced march of the townspeople.  On May 6 1992, new revelations were published concerning the terrorist atrocities committed by the Palmah forces at Lydda. 

After Lydda gave up the fight, a group of stubborn Arab fighters barricaded themselves in the Dahmash Mosque; the Israeli army gave an order to fire a number of shells at the mosque. 

The soldiers who forced their way into the mosque were surprised to find no resistance.  Under the destroyed walls of the mosque they found the remains of the Arab fighters. 

A group of between twenty and fifty Arab civilians was brought to clean up the mosque and bury the remains.  After they had finished their work, they were shot in the graves they had dug.

Just like their Nazi brethren

Make no mistake about it, the innocent sounding Operation Dani was nothing short of a brutal terrorist attack on a defenseless civilian population, reminiscent of the most recent Zionist aggression against the defenseless civilian population of the besieged Gaza, otherwise known as the most densely populated ghetto in the world per square mile, or the world’s “open air prison.” 

Initiated under the guise of Operation Protective Edge, this is merely another attempt at humiliating and dehumanizing the Palestinian residents of Gaza, most of whom are refugees of 1948.  The major distinction being that today Israel is a much stronger military power backed by the one and only superpower (i.e. The United States of America). 

Israel’s weaponry is much more sophisticated and destructive than in the past, whereas Palestinians have only grown weaker as the power disparity continues to widen in Israel’s favor, but yet Israel is the victim.  What is most shocking is that Israel’s claim of self-defense is presented in US mainstream media as logical and warranted.

The only problem with that presentation is that it is not based on reality, but Zionist fantasy, the same fantasy that claimed Palestine was “uninhabited,” “virgin,” “uncharted,” “undiscovered,” a “wasteland,” “wilderness,” “untamed,” “unoccupied,” etc… despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. 

What is occurring in Gaza at this present moment is nothing short of a massacre.  But so long as the Orwellian characterization of Palestinians as “savages,” “heathens,” “barbarians,” “uncivilized,” “primitives,” or my favorite, “terrorists,” persists, the massacre will continue as a justifiable action by the “only democracy in the Middle East,” the civilized side of the conflict. 

However, the only side in this conflict that can rightly claim self-defense is the defenseless.  If you do not know which side that is, watch and read what is happening in Gaza right now.  How about a simple scoreboard:  Palestinians deaths 90+, Israeli deaths 0.

The massacres of Lydda and Ramle must be remembered not as remnants of the past, but as an act of aggression that has continued with varying regularity throughout the life of the Israeli state. 

Yitzhak Rabin has been heralded as a man of peace, the man who provided formal recognition to the Palestine Liberation Organization.  A lot of hope and inspiration was placed in Yitzhak Rabin as if he was not the same crusher of the first Intifada and dispossessor of thousands of Palestinians from Lydda and Ramle. 

Just as in Lydda and Ramle, Rabin found no resistance in formulating a “peace process” that he knew himself would not produce peace, but an extension of Israel’s occupation. 

Rabin recalled how Ben-Gurion had first called him in to his office to discuss the fate of both Lydda and Ramle: “Yigal Alon asked: what is to be done with the population? 

Ben-Gurion waved his hand in a gesture that said: Drive them out!”  The man of peace did exactly that.

In the “Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine,” Israeli historian Ilan Pappe writes: “as recently as 1987, as minister of defence, he had ordered his troops to break the bones of Palestinians who confronted his tanks with stones in the first Intifada; he had deported hundreds of Palestinians as prime minister prior to the Oslo Agreement, and he had pushed for the 1994 Oslo B agreement that effectively caged the Palestinians in the West Bank into several Bantustans.”

Moreover, the illegal wall built by Israel to separate the West Bank from itself is not a post-Rabin era phenomenon. 

Rabin himself closed off the West Bank and Gaza from Israel proper in late March 1993.  His vision was effectuated less than a decade later.

Our media has reversed cause and effect, victim and perpetrator, occupier and occupied and have humanized one side while purposely dehumanizing the other. 

Such misrepresentations parallel that of the reporting on Lydda and Ramle. 

Two foreign journalists, Keith Wheeler of The Chicago Sun Times and Kenneth Bilby of The New York Herald Tribune, observed the sights of Lydda and Ramle. 

Apparently these Americans were invited by the Israeli forces to accompany them in the attack, what today we would call “embedded” correspondents.  Wheeler wrote: “practically everything in their [Israeli forces] way died. 

Riddled corpses lay by the roadside.”  Bilby reported seeing “the corpses of Arab men, women and even children strewn about in the wake of the ruthlessly brilliant charge.” 

Wheeler neglected to report the number of Palestinians killed and Bilby’s description alone evinces his view of the massacres (i.e. ruthlessly brilliant). 

The reporting was absolutely one-sided.  Sound familiar?  The reporting on the recent atrocities in Gaza is scarce to begin with, but blatant misreporting highlights the opacity with which our media operates

ABC’s Diane Sawyer illustrated the point quite emphatically by misleading the public into thinking Israeli society is on the verge of infrastructural and human collapse, when it is Palestinian society undergoing that experience.  Where is the outcry?

The Exodus of Palestinian Christians from the Holy Land

Israel has a long history of actions against its Christian minority. Israeli forces have desecrated churches, rabbis have endorsed killing non-Jewish civilians (including children), New Testaments have been burned. While there are many Israelis who have opposed these actions and respect Christians, the fact is that discrimination against Christians is endemic in the Israeli system. Like Muslims, Christians have been persecuted by Israel ever since it was established in 1948…

‘It is permitted to kill non-Jews, rape women, burn down churches’

The Holy Land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea contains some of the most sacred spaces for Muslims, Jews, and Christians alike. Jerusalem is the holiest site in Judaism, the home of Jewish patriarchs and prophets since the 10th century BCE.

On the same land, Muhammad both received revelation and ascended into heaven at the Dome of the Rock. For Christians, it is the birthplace of Jesus and the site of his crucifixion and ascension into heaven.

The Christian population in this area has long thrived among its Jewish and Muslim neighbors. However, the increasingly destructive Israeli occupation, endorsed by the current U.S. administration, has made the area essentially uninhabitable.

The result is a noticeable exodus of Christians from this territory. Before 1948, Palestinian Christians made up about 18 percent of the region’s population. Today they make up less than one percent.

The Exodus of Palestinian Christians from the Holy Land

If the current trend persists, pilgrims and tourists will likely be the only Christian representatives in the region in years to come.

Causes of Exodus

The Exodus of Palestinian Christians from the Holy Land

A dhimmi kneels before Muslim leaders 

Christian Zionist media, including the Christian Friends of Israel, presents the Palestinian Christian population as a recently-formed community of Arab migrants.

In reality, Palestinian Christians are some of the most deeply-connected members of the faith, tracing their ancestry in the region back to Biblical times.

Pro-Israel sources report that the exodus of Palestinian Christians is caused by two factors.

Firstly, they suggest that many Christians convert and intermarry with Muslims as a result of declining Christian birthrates. Secondly, they argue that Palestinian migration is part of a larger, historical exodus of Christians from the Holy Land.

They believe that migration dates back to the Ottoman Empire when Christians sought jobs in North and Latin America. This exodus is largely blamed on Islamic Fundamentalism and the discord between Islam and Christianity. After the 2003 Iraq War, one theory posits, destabilization allowed extremist groups to gain power. The violence of ISIS in the region is frequently cited as evidence of this religious discord.

Some reference the ancient dhimmi system as evidence of discrimination within the Muslim faith.

This historical distinction, meaning “protection” or “protected person,” was used to distinguish and ensure the legal rights of non-Muslims living in an Islamic state. Its use today, however, is an outdated scapegoat for the real cause of the exodus.

The Exodus of Palestinian Christians from the Holy Land

While the claims of the religious-discord argument are not entirely false, the larger flaw of this position is its problematic revisionist narrative that erases the struggles of Palestinian people.

The exodus of Christians actually betrays the oppressive ethnic cleansing inflicted upon the people of Palestine by the Israeli government.

As the U.S. continues to extend a hand to the Israeli regime, Palestinians are increasingly more opposed to the U.S. than to their Muslim neighbors.

Arab America interviewed with Rateb Rabie, founder, and president of the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation (HCEF), he revealed the real reasons of the exodus, as well as his own predictions for future peace in the region.

While some point to the religious tension between Muslims and Christians, most Palestinian Christians report that it is Israeli oppression that pushes them from their native land. Rabie cites discrimination against Palestinians as the primary cause of the exodus.

2017 study by the Dar al-Kalima University in the West Bank has found that “the pressure of Israeli occupation, ongoing constraints, discriminatory policies, arbitrary arrests, confiscation of lands” has contributed to “the general sense of hopelessness among Palestinian Christians.” Only a two percent minority of Palestinian Christians cite Muslim violence and extremism as the reason for their departure.

The Exodus of Palestinian Christians from the Holy Land

While it is true that Christians face persecution and are not guaranteed the same rights as their Muslim counterparts, at its heart the conflict is political, not religious. It is a “landed conflict,” Rabie says, stemming from the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. “We are Palestinian first before we are Christian,” Rabie states.

The conflict (and subsequent exodus) is a question of identity and ownership above religious belief.

Aside from their minority status, the relative ease with which the Christian population is able to assimilate into the culture of Western host countries also accounts for their particular population decrease.

Rabie suggests that “Muslims would leave if possible,” or if the process of cultural assimilation was less draining and demeaning.

The discrimination and Islamophobia that many Muslims face is a major deterrent to immigration. Because of their shared faith, Western societies are more accepting of Palestinian Christians than Palestinian Muslims.

The Exodus of Palestinian Christians from the Holy Land

While the population of historical Palestinian (including Gaza, the West Bank, and Israel) today has increased to six million, Christians make up less than 1.7 percent. The majority of Palestinian Christians are Greek Orthodox.

Christianity itself began in Jerusalem, and the Palestinians living there were the original followers of Jesus. As Rateb Rabie says, Palestinians have been “saving the face” of the Christain faith for over 2,000 years. In spite of oppression and discrimination, they have nobly upheld their practice and traditions.

Today, the plight of Palestinians is intertwined with Islamophobia. Western Christian organizations are eager to offer charitable support, especially when their donation is inspired by a deep-seated Islamophobia that encourages them to selectively help Christian populations in Muslim-majority countries.

Other Christians in countries like Syria, Rabie points out, avoid getting directly involved to distance themselves from the Islamophobia of Western Christian donors.

Restrictions on Faith and Livelihood

The Exodus of Palestinian Christians from the Holy Land

On a fundamental level, the Israeli occupation has made it very difficult for Palestinian Christians to practice their faith.

Restrictions imposed by the Israeli government prevent Christians from accessing their holy sites, as described in the 2011 State Department “Report on International Religious Freedom:”

“Strict closures and curfews imposed by the Israeli government negatively affected residents’ ability to practice their religion at holy sites, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, as well as the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.”

“The separation barrier significantly impeded Bethlehem-area Christians from reaching the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and made visits to Christian sites in Bethany and Bethlehem difficult for Palestinian Christians who live on the Jerusalem side of the barrier.”

The Exodus of Palestinian Christians from the Holy Land

Physical barriers and other limitations prevent a complete celebration of faith. In addition, non-Christian settlers in Israel take out their anger toward the Israeli government on the Palestinian population. These attacks often involve the desecration and vandalism of Christian and Muslim holy sites and the targeting of religious leaders.

The Exodus of Palestinian Christians from the Holy Land

The Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem has even admitted to this brand of ethnic cleansing, stating that:

“The government has been taking actions to increase the number of Jews, and reduce the number of Palestinians, living in the city”

Denied access to ancient holy sites, Palestinian Christians struggle to prove that their “center of life” rests in Jerusalem.

Without this confirmation, they are liable to have their residency rights and social benefits revoked. While the illegally-housed Jewish population has the right to move freely throughout the region, native Christian Palestinians are bombarded by arbitrary borders and restrictive permits.

It is very difficult for Palestinians to find jobs under the occupation. There is currently a 22 percent unemployment rate in the region, and many families struggle to support themselves financially.

The Exodus of Palestinian Christians from the Holy Land

Furthermore, the Israeli government protects Jewish extremists in their brutal, physically violent attacks on Palestinian Christians.

In March of this year, Israeli forces carried out attacks on Christian worshippers during a Palm Sunday procession in Jerusalem.

Bombs, guns, and knives have all been used against Palestinians, who may also be subject to arbitrary arrests.

Extremists burn farmland and destroy crops, making livelihood and sustenance impossible.

The Exodus of Palestinian Christians from the Holy Land

These attacks on Christian territory, as on the entire Palestinian population, are justified using religion. Zionists claim that the Jewish people have an inherent religious connection to the land.

This is a complete oversight of the religious ties of both Christians and Muslims. The brutality of the attacks contrast the sanctity and divinity of a religious appeal, and many wonder how faith can be used to so blatantly defend massacre.

False Narratives in Tourism

Even in tourism, an economic staple in the region, the narrative and perception of Palestinians, and Palestinian Christians is highly distortedby Israeli tour guides.

This false, damaging narrative reached nearly 3.5 million tourists in 2013. Christians taken to the Holy Land on educational tours are given a skewed version of the region’s history, one in which the role of Christianity is highly downplayed, if not entirely neglected.

 Palestinians are painted in a very negative light, and their persecution is glossed over entirely.

Israeli tour guides often completely avoid Christian holy sites on their tours, largely to prevent showcasing the abuses and destruction these areas have endured under the occupation.

Tourists have reported on the crude insensitivities of Isreali tour guides, describing how they were made to participate in role-playing simulations of Israeli soldiers attacking Palestinian “terrorists.”

U.S. Involvement: “Trump Handed Israel Policy to Evangelicals”

The Exodus of Palestinian Christians from the Holy Land

Vice President Mike Pence has been at the center of the controversy since Trump’s Jerusalem declaration last December. Pence’s Evangelical Christian faith aligns him with the Jewish Zionists. In his speech at the beginning of this year to the Knesset, the Israeli legislature, Pence stated:

“We stand with Israel because your cause is our cause, your values are our values, and your fight is our fight…we stand with Israel because we believe in right over wrong, in good over evil, and in liberty over tyranny.”

In an interview with Vox, American politics professor Elizabeth Oldmixon explains the American Christian Evangelical support of Israel. Evangelicals see the “gathering of Jews in exile” in the Holy Land as an indication of the highly awaited “end of times,” or Christ’s reign on Earth.

As strict followers of the Bible, Christian Zionists strictly abide by the passage in which God grants the Holy Land to the Jewish people.

Religious faith translates directly into political belief. Fifty-three percent of Trump’s evangelical demographic supported the Jerusalem move.

Palestinian Christian is not evangelical, so they do not possess the same religious vision.

Israeli control, coupled with Mike Pence’s faith-based declaration of American support, has wreaked havoc on the Palestinian population and ostracized their faith.

Understandably, Palestinians are broadly opposed to the current administration.

With America’s damaging influence exacted through the Israeli government, many have chosen to flee their native land altogether, escaping oppression both locally and from the West.

The Exodus of Palestinian Christians from the Holy Land

Pence had originally planned a pilgrimage to the Holy Lands, including meetings with many regional Christian leaders, but travel plans were canceled following uproar and protest about the Jerusalem move. Many church leaders felt the move would increase hatred and violence in the region. Although the protests were more muted than expected, the oppression continues for the Palestinian population.

The Exodus of Palestinian Christians from the Holy Land

“To declare Jerusalem as the capital based on some biblical argument is a dangerous thing,” said Father Jamal Khader, the Catholic parish priest of Ramallah.

 “He’s wanting to separate Christians from the rest of the community. But we are part of the community.”

This sentiment resonates in the hearts of many Christians in the region for whom removal from their native land is an absolute last resort.

Iskander El Hinn, a Christian Palestinian who fled to Ramallah with his family in 1948, is emboldened by his Palestinian identity and connection to the land:

“As a Palestinian, I am living where I belong, everywhere I go here is Palestine to me and Jerusalem is its capital…we have been living here for thousands of years; no one can take us away from here.”

Future Hopes

In spite of the exodus and the immense suffering of the Palestinian people, Rabie is encouraged by the dramatic increase in media coverage of the conflict in the past 30 years. He sees the increased exposure of the human rights violations as indicative of the “beginning of the end of Zionist Israel.”

The public has come a long way in terms of its perception of Israel and support for Palestine, thanks to organizations like Rabie’s.

He says that Palestinians at home and abroad are hopeful for peace, but he emphasizes the need for continued education of American Christians on the severity of the conflict.

He recognizes that, even within Israel, much of the Jewish population and social media influencers are pro-peace. These incentives for peace, he argues, must be implemented.

Above all, Palestinians need justice. American Christians must commit themselves to this cause. Rabie discourages them from picking a side-Palestinian or Israeli.

Instead, he encourages Christians, Americans, and global activists to focus their energies and intentions on delivering justice where it is most needed to the long-suffering people of Palestine.

Perhaps then their land will become a home once more.

“israel” is an illusion

The uncomfortable truth is that Israel is an artificial country. It was created by decree by some very powerful imperial interests. When “isreal” becomes a liability the powers will step back and leave the “israeli” people on their own against the Arab world. THAT’S an uncomfortable prospect!

Israel is a disputatious political entity which is violently occupying land in violation of all naturalistic moral and humanistic values.

They have defended their occupation with the requisite violence that emanates from their very presence on forcefully expropriated land.

Both their actual presence and their understandable survivalist violent behavior used to secure their physical safety presents an existentially paradoxical condition that defines Israel as an undesirable pariah.

“israeli” police break into Palestinian house, steal children’s piggy banks

“After vandalizing my house and terrorizing my children, who were asleep at the time, they started stealing every single shekel and the Eidiyyahs that my children were saving.”

June 3, 2020

Occupied Jerusalem (QNN)– Israeli forces on Wednesday broke into the house of the former prisoner Majed Jo’beh in occupied Jerusalem and stole every single Shekel from the house, even his children’s piggy banks.

Jo’beh posted on his Facebook account that Israeli Shin Bet and border police officers broke into his house in the occupied city.

“They showed me a discriminatory order by the Israeli minister of war, Naftali Bennett, to confiscate all the money in my house under the pretext that I get money from the Palestinian Authority”, he wrote.

Occupation terrorists night raids

He noted that he is not getting any money from the PA although he had spent over six years in Israeli jails.

“After vandalizing my house and terrorizing my children, who were asleep at the time, they started stealing every single shekel and the Eidiyyahs that my children were saving.”

He added that they also stole his family’s household expenses, stealing a total of 8400 NIS (nearly $2500).

The Mavi Marmara Gaza flotilla massacre: laptops, cameras and memory cards belonging to passengers or the İHH were missing. Passengers in June also complained that Israeli officers had used their seized credit cards.

Excuse Me, But “israel” Has No Right To Exist

The Zionist entity called Israel is a spurious state planted on the soil of Palestine by the British in 1948 through the illegal settlement between the two world wars of hundreds of thousands of East European Khazar Jews, who had no connection, whatsoever, to the ancient Israelite tribes.

“Monopoly Capitalism, Zionism, Communism, Nazism & Fascism: ALL came out of the Rothschild Offices in Frankfurt, Germany.”
Eustace Clarence Mullins

The claim that “israel” has a ‘right to exist’ is a contrived myth. In fact, apartheid states are crimes against humanity and must be dismantled. The pertinent question, addressed by this paper, is what are the future prospects for a democratic Palestine?

The paper begins by reviewing the foundations of the Israeli state, including its racial ideology, the character of the Palestinian resistance, the ‘moral equivalence’ and false reformist arguments of ‘left Zionism’; and then the prospects for a democratic Palestine.

The analysis identifies the key challenges of zionist military occupation, powerful western allies, a fanatical zionist mission and disunity amongst Palestinian factions and their allies.

On the other hand the strengths are ongoing Palestinian resistance, the growing legitimacy of Palestine, the commitment of regional allies and the vulnerability of Israel’s allies to exposure of zionist crimes. In sum the future of Palestine is clouded with divisions, paid and sacrifice but remains far from hopeless.’

READ PDF HERE

By Sharmine Narwani

The phrase “right to exist” entered my consciousness in the 1990s just as the concept of the two-state solution became part of our collective lexicon. In any debate at university, when a Zionist was out of arguments, those three magic words were invoked to shut down the conversation with an outraged, “are you saying Israel doesn’t have the right to exist??”

Of course you couldn’t challenge Israel’s right to exist – that was like saying you were negating a fundamental Jewish right to have…rights, with all manner of Holocaust guilt thrown in for effect.

Except of course the Holocaust is not my fault – or that of Palestinians. The cold-blooded program of ethnically cleansing Europe of its Jewish population has been so callously and opportunistically utilized to justify the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian Arab nation, that it leaves me utterly unmoved.

I have even caught myself – shock – rolling my eyes when I hear Holocaust and Israel in the same sentence.

What moves me instead in this post-two-state era, is the sheer audacity of Israel even existing.

What a fantastical idea, this notion that a bunch of rank outsiders from another continent could appropriate an existing, populated nation for themselves – and convince the “global community” that it was the moral thing to do. I’d laugh at the chutzpah if this wasn’t so serious.

Even more brazen is the mass ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinian population by persecuted Jews, newly arrived from their own experience of being ethnically cleansed.

But what is truly frightening is the psychological manipulation of the masses into believing that Palestinians are somehow dangerous – “terrorists” intent on “driving Jews into the sea.”

As someone who makes a living through words, I find the use of language in creating perceptions to be intriguing. This practice – often termed “public diplomacy” has become an essential tool in the world of geopolitics. Words, after all, are the building blocks of our psychology.

Take, for example, the way we have come to view the Palestinian-Israeli “dispute” and any resolution of this enduring conflict. And here I borrow liberally from a previous article of mine…

The United States and Israel have created the global discourse on this issue, setting stringent parameters that grow increasingly narrow regarding the content and direction of this debate. Anything discussed outside the set parameters has, until recently, widely been viewed as unrealistic, unproductive and even subversive.

Participation in the debate is limited only to those who prescribe to its main tenets: the acceptance of Israel, its regional hegemony and its qualitative military edge; acceptance of the shaky logic upon which the Jewish state’s claim to Palestine is based; and acceptance of the inclusion and exclusion of certain regional parties, movements and governments in any solution to the conflict.

Words like dove, hawk, militant, extremist, moderates, terrorists, Islamo-fascists, rejectionists, existential threat, holocaust-denier, mad mullah determine the participation of solution partners — and are capable of instantly excluding others.

Then there is the language that preserves “Israel’s Right To Exist” unquestioningly: anything that invokes the Holocaust, anti-Semitism and the myths about historic Jewish rights to the land bequeathed to them by the Almighty – as though God was in the real-estate business. This language seeks not only to ensure that a Jewish connection to Palestine remains unquestioned, but importantly, seeks to punish and marginalize those who tackle the legitimacy of this modern colonial-settler experiment.

Coming from Europe

But this group-think has led us nowhere. It has obfuscated, distracted, deflected, ducked, and diminished, and we are no closer to a satisfactory conclusion…because the premise is wrong.

There is no fixing this problem. This is the kind of crisis in which you cut your losses, realize the error of your ways and reverse course. Israel is the problem. It is the last modern-day colonial-settler experiment, conducted at a time when these projects were being unraveled globally.

There is no “Palestinian-Israeli conflict” – that suggests some sort of equality in power, suffering, and negotiable tangibles, and there is no symmetry whatsoever in this equation. Israel is the Occupier and Oppressor; Palestinians are the Occupied and Oppressed. What is there to negotiate? Israel holds all the chips.

They can give back some land, property, rights, but even that is an absurdity – what about everything else? What about ALL the land, property and rights? Why do they get to keep anything – how is the appropriation of land and property prior to 1948 fundamentally different from the appropriation of land and property on this arbitrary 1967 date?

Why are the colonial-settlers prior to 1948 any different from those who colonized and settled after 1967?

Let me correct myself. Palestinians do hold one chip that Israel salivates over – the one big demand at the negotiating table that seems to hold up everything else. Israel craves recognition of its “right to exist.”

But you do exist – don’t you, Israel?

Rothschild Imperialism

Israel fears “delegitimization” more than anything else. Behind the velvet curtain lies a state built on myths and narratives, protected only by a military behemoth, billions of dollars in US assistance and a lone UN Security Council veto. Nothing else stands between the state and its dismantlement. Without these three things, Israelis would not live in an entity that has come to be known as the “least safe place for Jews in the world.”

Strip away the spin and the gloss, and you quickly realize that Israel doesn’t even have the basics of a normal state. After 64 years, it doesn’t have borders. After six decades, it has never been more isolated. Over half a century later, and it needs a gargantuan military just to stop Palestinians from walking home.

Israel is a failed experiment. It is on life-support – pull those three plugs and it is a cadaver, living only in the minds of some seriously deluded foreigners who thought they could pull off the heist of the century.

The most important thing we can do as we hover on the horizon of One State is to shed the old language rapidly. None of it was real anyway – it was just the parlance of that particular “game.” Grow a new vocabulary of possibilities – the new state will be the dawn of humanity’s great reconciliation. Muslims, Christians and Jews living together in Palestine as they once did.

Naysayers can take a hike. Our patience is wearing thinner than the walls of the hovels that Palestinian refugees have called “home” for three generations in their purgatory camps.

These universally exploited refugees are entitled to the nice apartments – the ones that have pools downstairs and a grove of palm trees outside the lobby. Because the kind of compensation owed for this failed western experiment will never be enough.

And no, nobody hates Jews. That is the fallback argument screeched in our ears – the one “firewall” remaining to protect this Israeli Frankenstein. I don’t even care enough to insert the caveats that are supposed to prove I don’t hate Jews. It is not a provable point, and frankly, it is a straw man of an argument. If Jews who didn’t live through the Holocaust still feel the pain of it, then take that up with the Germans. Demand a sizeable plot of land in Germany – and good luck to you.

For anti-Semites salivating over an article that slams Israel, ply your trade elsewhere – you are part of the reason this problem exists.

Israelis who don’t want to share Palestine as equal citizens with the indigenous Palestinian population – the ones who don’t want to relinquish that which they demanded Palestinians relinquish 64 years ago – can take their second passports and go back home. Those remaining had better find a positive attitude – Palestinians have shown themselves to be a forgiving lot. The amount of carnage they have experienced at the hands of their oppressors – without proportional response – shows remarkable restraint and faith.

This is less the death of a Jewish state than it is the demise of the last remnants of modern-day colonialism. It is a rite of passage – we will get through it just fine. At this particular precipice in the 21st century, we are all, universally, Palestinian – undoing this wrong is a test of our collective humanity, and nobody has the right to sit this one out.

Israel has no right to exist. Break that mental barrier and just say it: “Israel has no right to exist.” Roll it around your tongue, tweet it, post it as your Facebook status update – do it before you think twice. Delegitimization is here – have no fear. Palestine will be less painful than Israel ever was.

This article was first published on Al Akhbar English on May 17, 2012. It can be read here in French, Spanish, German, Turkish and Polish.

Amnesty board member asks why Germany hasn’t banned “israel” for ‘eliminating’ Palestine

Germany’s ban on Hezbollah is a perfect illustration of how terrorist lists are tools of power politics.

Hezbollah fighting the good fight

May 6, 2020

A Finnish board member of Amnesty International has hit out at Germany’s decision to ban the political wing of Hezbollah by suggesting that the ideology of the Shia movement is no different to the racist views of political parties in Israel, including those in the current government.

Physicist Syksy Räsänen took to twitter following the news of Berlin’s ban of the Lebanese group to say that, “Germany’s ban on Hezbollah is a perfect illustration of how terrorist lists are tools of power politics.”

Explaining why he believes that the decision was politically motivated, Räsänen appeared to suggest that Israel is in fact guilty of having successfully implemented the very policy which Hezbollah is banned for merely promoting.

“Hezbollah is banned because it “calls for the violent elimination of the State of “israel” and questions the right of the State of “israel to exist.”

Substitute Palestine for Israel, he said, and this describes most Israeli parties.

“Admittedly, there is the difference that most Israeli parties have been implementing the elimination of Palestine, not just calling for it,” he continued.

Despite the very clear “elimination of Palestine”, he pointed out, Germany has remained a close partner of the Likud, Shas, Labour and every one of Israel’s major parties.

His comments triggered a predictable backlash, including accusations of anti-Semitism.

“The comments (many of them vulgar) on this post are an example of targeted insult campaigns from supporters of Israeli apartheid,” concluded the Amnesty official.

“Israel”- The West’s Ugly Enterprise in Palestine

Most of the dogs in the unit are Belgian shepherds or German shepherds, typically imported from Europe as puppies.

What a coincidence

Israel was created through violence and terror, which it continues to heap on Palestinians to this day, as it works to fulfill the dream of Zionism – a Jewish state from the river to the sea. 

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.

Total impunity

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.”

Israeli soldiers photographed beating Palestinian in West Bank (Reuters)

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
Richard Silverstein

Read More »

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. 

Arab League foreign ministers reject Trump peace plan

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.”

source

From Ukraine to Palestine

“One of the best-trained, best-equipped, best fed terrorist organizations in the world. Their entire purpose is terrorism” ~ Miko Peled, son of an Israeli general

‘We are living by the sword’: The regrets of an Israel founder’s son

Yaakov Sharett

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.” 

1946

A kibbutz in the northern Negev in the summer of 1946 (AFP)

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.

Moshe Sharett seen seated to the left of first Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion with the first Israeli government in 1949 (Wikicommons)

Moshe Sharett seen seated to the left of first Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion with the first Israeli government in 1949 (Wikicommons)

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.”

Becoming mukhtar

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.

Yaacov Sharett, 22, in Hatserim (Courtesy Yaacov Sharett)

Yaakov Sharett, 22, in Hatzerim (Courtesy Yaakov Sharett)

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.

Moshe Dayan delivers a eulogy for Roi Rotberg in Kibbutz Nahal Oz in April 1956 (Twitter/@ProvMagazine)

Moshe Dayan delivers a eulogy for Roi Rotberg in Kibbutz Nahal Oz in April 1956 (Twitter/@ProvMagazine)

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 [92]-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.

Moshe Sharett (Courtesy Moshe Sharett)

Yaakov Sharett today (Courtesy Yaakov Sharett)

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)