electronic intifada medley

AIPAC goes to war against Bernie Sanders
Michael F Brown, Electronic Intifada, Feb 24 2020

Bernie Sanders, the front-runner for the Demagog presidential nomination, announced Sunday that he will not attend AIPAC’s annual conference. He said no to the early March gathering because the powerful Israel lobby group provides a platform for “leaders who express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights.” Earlier this month, Elizabeth Warren was the first Demagog vying for the presidency to say she would not attend.

AIPAC hit back hard at Sanders, calling his statement “truly shameful.” The group tweeted that Sanders “has never attended our conference and that is evident from his outrageous comment.” The right-wing organization, which nevertheless receives significant support from Demagogs unwilling to challenge Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights, termed Sanders’ comment an “odious attack on this mainstream, bipartisan Pindo political event.”

But AIPAC is losing progressive support at the grassroots level and knows it. The group has repeatedly provided a platform to Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s bigoted prime minister, among many less prominent opponents of Palestinian human rights. Sanders, whose campaign I support, has stated that Netanyahu is “a racist.” Defenders of Israeli colonial expansion on Palestinian land and leaders of groups which have stood by as Israel has subjugated Palestinians for decades also spoke out on AIPAC’s behalf.

Among them was Senator Ted Cruz, who just days ago was accused of anti-Semitism for maliciously stating that presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg owns the media.

Bloomberg has spent hundreds of millions of dollars of his own money to buy his way into the Demagog race, but it is factually wrong and bigoted of Cruz to say he owns the media. In fact, Bloomberg founded and holds an 88% stake in media company Bloomberg LP. That is one piece of the media, not all of it. AIPAC’s attack against Sanders comes just days after the organization was roundly excoriated for vicious Facebook ads targeting congresswomen Betty McCollum, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib. McCollum vigorously pushed back, calling AIPAC a “hate group.” That language appears to be unprecedented from a member of Congress. McCollum did not accept the organization’s attempted apology.

As Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, consolidates his front-runner status, mainstream and pro-Israel organizations are escalating their political war against him. AIPAC is now following the political action committee of Demagog Majority for Israel in seeking to undercut the Sanders campaign. DMFI PAC, a group that funds political campaigns in support of Israel, ran ads against Sanders in both Iowaand Nevada. The organization was worried enough about the support of grassroots Demagogs for Palestinian rights that it focused instead on Sanders’ health and socialism. Nevertheless, Sanders won the popular vote in both states, including a victory by a wide margin in Nevada. Paul Begala, a CNN analyst and former adviser to Clinton 42, was forced to take a leave of absence from Demagog Majority for Israel when his affiliation with the group was trumpeted at the time of the ad campaign in Iowa.

That has not stopped political consultant Anton Gunn, also a board member of Demagog Majority for Israel, from commenting for MSNBC without revealing his links to the group. I saw him speak critically about Sanders to MSNBC host Joy Reid Saturday night with no reference to his DMFI connection. He apparently is not an official MSNBC contributor, so the situation is less egregious than Begala’s, but the omission shortchanges viewers. As a tax-exempt nonprofit organization, Demagog Majority for Israel is restricted from direct political activity. So like many such organizations, it has a legally separate political action committee, DMFI PAC, which raises taxable funds that can be used directly for political campaigns. Although technically separate, DMFI PAC operates out of the same office and is linked directly from the website of Demagog Majority for Israel, reflecting how they work, by different means, for the same pro-Israel agenda. Gunn ought to explain his connection to the organization and should consider either stepping away from DMFI during the presidential campaign or insist that his affiliation with the group be prominently noted during his television speaking engagements. MSNBC, for its part, is only loaning greater credence to complaints of bias against Sanders that have multiplied with the sickening Nazi-Sanders comparisons made by anchors Chris Matthews and Chuck Todd in recent days. The ugliness is just getting started. Pushback is imperative.

Gruesome Gaza scene sets off two days of violence
Maureen Clare Murphy, Electronic Intifada, Feb 24 2020

A PIJ fighter guards the site of an IOF airstrike in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, Feb 24.
Photo: Ashraf Amra/APA

Uncertainty reigns amid unconfirmed reports of a unilateral ceasefire declared by Palestinian fighters after two days of intense fire across the Gaza-Israel boundary, and Israeli strikes on Damascus. Israel, due to hold elections next week, claimed that more than 90 rockets were launched from Gaza on Sunday and Monday. Schools in the south of the country were ordered closed on Tuesday for the second consecutive day. The IOF targeted what it described as multiple PIJ sites across Gaza. Israel also closed Gaza’s fishing zone and its checkpoints along the boundary, halting the movement of people and goods in and out of the territory. The latest episode of armed confrontation began early Sunday after IOF fired artillery shells at two men near Khan Younis, southern Gaza. Israel claimed the men planted a bomb along the boundary, and released surveillance footage showing two figures placing an object near the fence, as well as a photo purporting to show the explosive device. Soon after the Israeli fire, medical crews and locals arrived at the scene. Soldiers shot toward them as they attempted to evacuate the two people injured during the shelling. Nearly two hours after the initial shelling, Palestinians managed to evacuate one of the wounded men, who was taken to hospital and reported to be in critical condition. Israeli soldiers shot one of the rescuers in the leg with live fire, according to Al Mezan, a human rights group in Gaza. Meanwhile, an Israeli military bulldozer and a tank reached the other man injured during the shelling “amid heavy gunfire that caused the injury of another citizen,” Al Mezan added. The rights group said that soldiers operating the bulldozer ran over the body of the man injured by the shelling hours earlier, and dropped him to the ground to “confirm the kill.” Witnesses recorded video of the horrific incident:

The first of three clips in the video shows the mouth of the bulldozer crushing and flipping the injured man’s body multiple times. The second clip shows the man’s body dangling from the mouth of the bulldozer. The third shows the bulldozer and tank moving towards the boundary fence while carrying the man’s body. It is not clear how much time passed between the various clips in the video, which went viral after it was published on Twitter by Shehab News Agency. The NYT reported that an IOF spox falsely claimed that al-Naem and the other man wounded in the shelling were in Israeli territory. Following the wide circulation of the video, Israel’s propaganda apparatus kicked into gear to justify its army’s actions:

Adalah, a human rights group in Israel, stated that the video of the incident shows IOF committing “war crimes and blatant violations” of international law, and demanded a criminal investigation. Al Mezan likened the abuse of al-Naem’s body to the 2003 killing of Pindo solidarity activist Rachel Corrie, who was crushed by an IOF soldier operating a bulldozer in Gaza. The rights group added that the impunity enjoyed by Israel encourages such crimes by its occupation forces, and called on third states to support investigations of alleged Israeli war crimes by the ICC. Last September, Israel’s high court approved withholding the remains of Palestinians slain by IOF to use them as bargaining chips in future negotiations. Naftali Bennett, Israel’s defense minister, stated last week:

We are hoarding the corpses of terrorists in order to put pressure on the other side.

PIJ stated that the slain man, Muhammad Ali Hasan al-Naem, 27, was one of its fighters. PIJ retaliated by firing rockets toward Israel from Gaza later in the day on Sunday. The rockets were answered with airstrikes targeting what Israel claimed were PIJ targets in Gaza and Syria. Ziyad Ahmad Mansour, 23, and Salim Ahmad Salim, 24, both Palestinian refugees from Yarmouk refugee camp who belonged to PIJ, were among the six people reported killed in Israeli strikes on Damascus. Israel also targeted PIJ figures in Damascus during the last episode of direct hostilities in November last year. It hit the home of Akram al-Ajouri, the head of the resistance group’s military wing, in an airstrike, reportedly killing one of his sons. During those two days of fighting, Israel killed more than 35 Palestinians in Gaza, around half of them civilians.

Activists fight Ontario bill criminalizing criticism of Israel
Nora Barrows-Friedman, Electronic Intifada, Feb 25 2020

Human rights activists are organizing to stop lawmakers in Ontario from passing a bill that could criminalize criticism of Israel under the cover of fighting anti-Semitism. According to Independent Jewish Voices (IJV), a Canadian human rights group, a bill that would adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism will come to a vote in the Ontario legislature this week.

The IHRA definition has been pushed and promoted by major Israel lobby groups across Canada in order to shield Israel from criticism over its human rights violations. As Sid Shnaid of IJV recently wrote in The Electronic Intifada:

The main problem with the definition is that appended to it is a list of 11 illustrative examples of anti-Semitism, seven of which relate to what the authors define as illegitimate criticism of Israel.

IJV has launched a national #NoIHRA campaign to oppose the codification of the IHRA definition into Canadian law. So far, Palestine rights activists have successfully stopped measures to adopt the IHRA definition in three major Canadian cities. Last month, Montreal joined Calgary and Vancouver in rejecting a motion to adopt the IHRA’s “working definition” of anti-Semitism. Those cities dissented from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau government’s announcement last year that the IHRA definition would be formally adopted as part of its strategy to “combat racism and discrimination.” IJV says that more than 300 members and supporters sent letters to Montreal city council members expressing their opposition to the measure. Corey Balsam, the group’s national coordinator, in a statement at the time, said:

This is another major victory for all who oppose anti-Semitism and support Palestinian human rights. We strongly believe that our safety as Jews is intimately tied with the safety and well-being of other communities targeted by hate and bigotry, and that includes the Palestinian people.

Watch Independent Jewish Voices’ video on the mobilization against Ontario’s bill above. Meanwhile, top Canadian lawmakers in Trudeau’s Liberal party continue to smear the BDS movement. Earlier this month, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, François-Philippe Champagne, condemned the BDS movement and chastised “any attempt to single out or isolate Israel,” adding that Canada “is, and will always be, a steadfast ally of Israel.”

Attorney and activist Dimitri Lascaris noted that Trudeau has indeed “singled out” Israel by handing Israel “the privilege of being above international law.”

Activists block Israel lobby censorship effort in New Zealand
Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada, Feb 25 2020

Activists in New Zealand are celebrating victory after they blocked an effort to censor speech supportive of Palestinian rights. The city council in the capital Wellington was due this week to consider adopting the IHRA’s misleading definition of anti-Semitism. But the motion was withdrawn after a campaign by supporters of Palestinian rights. The IHRA definition is being promoted worldwide by Israel and its lobby, and this measure was proposed by the Wellington Jewish Council and supported by the New Zealand Jewish Council. But the Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa, a national coalition, urged the mayor and city council to abandon the measure. the group stated:

It would be far better for Wellington City to pass a comprehensive anti-racism resolution rather than have a divided vote on the proposed ‘anti-semitism’ resolution.

Jewish activists also spoke out against the resolution. Marilyn Garson and Fred Albert, members of a progressive synagogue, wrote an op-ed noting that the IHRA definition incorporates a set of supposed examples of anti-Semitism “which have been used to conflate criticism of Israel with a hatred of Jews.” They added:

Given this document’s global trail of controversy, we were stunned to see a motion on Wellington City Council’s agenda for Wednesday Feb 26 to adopt the IHRA document for our city.

The activists also noted that Kenneth Stern, the main author of the IHRA definition and a former executive of a major Pindo Israel lobby group, has condemned efforts to legislate the definition and use it to police speech supportive of Palestinian rights. City councilor Iona Pannett told media she supported the decision to remove the item from the agenda. She acknowledged she had heard from members of the Jewish community who did not agree with its wording. Pannett said:

We want a peaceful and safe way of discussing it, away from the public glare.

Garson and Albert are members of Alternative Jewish Voices, a new group which says it aims to “to provide alternatives to the current narrow range of voices that speak publicly in the name of the Jewish community.” Alternative Jewish Voices said:

Racism is not just a Jewish issue, and there will be no separate Jewish resolution. Muslims and other marginalized groups face racism and bigotry. The community must support a strategy to address racism against all groups.

Concern about racism in New Zealand, a settler-colonial state established on Maori land, has been especially urgent since a white supremacist gunman murdered 51 people at two mosques in the city of Christchurch in Mar 2019. Duncan Webb, a member of parliament for Christchurch, also wrote to Wellington city councilors warning that adopting the IHRA definition would harm free speech. He urged a broader resolution against bigotry that would “extend to all religions including Islamophobia.” Webb noted that many activists advocate BDS in response to Israel’s illegal colonization of Palestinian land and other breaches of international law. However, Webb said, advocates of the IHRA definition “assert that this position is anti-Semitic.”Webb, a member of the ruling Labour Party, added:

I strongly disagree with the assertion that BDS is anti-Semitic. The UN recently issued a list of businesses that are supporting the illegal West Bank settlements, and the ICC has recently launched an inquiry into possible war crimes by Israel in Palestine.

Israel has previously tried to censor New Zealanders from afar. In 2018, a group linked to Israel’s spying and assassination agency Mossad brought a lawsuit against two New Zealand activists to punish them for advocating a boycott of Israel. The activists had written an open letter that helped persuade the pop singer Lorde to cancel a concert in Tel Aviv. The Israeli court ordered the activists to pay more than $12k in damages, a judgment that is unenforceable in New Zealand. The now withdrawn Wellington council measure was however the first time any local government body in New Zealand was asked to pass such a resolution, a sign that Israel and its lobby intend to tamp down criticism wherever they can. Supporters of the resolution may have hoped that it would pass unnoticed and set a precedent that could then be quickly replicated in cities across New Zealand. However the quick mobilization by activists to educate officials about the problems and controversies surrounding the flawed IHRA definition stymied any such plans. New Zealanders have shown once again that although their country has a small population, its solidarity with Palestinians has an outsize impact.

Trump and Netanyahu prepare for West Bank annexation
Tamara Nassar, Electronic Intifada, Feb 25 2020

Maaleh Adumim. Photo: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

Benjamin Netanyahu vowed on Tuesday to build 3,500 homes for Jewish settlers in the so-called E1 area, east of Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank. It is the last large open space between Jerusalem to the west and Israel’s huge Maaleh Adumim colony, to the east, where almost 40,000 settlers live. Successive Israeli governments have pledged to build in E1, but have faced international pressure not to do so. If Israel does build settlements there, it will isolate the northern and southern parts of the occupied West Bank from each other, foreclosing the possibility of a contiguous Palestinian state. E1 falls within Area C, the 60% of the occupied West Bank which under the 1993 Oslo accords remains under full Israeli control. Closing off any possibility of a Palestinian state may be precisely why Netanyahu is moving ahead, secure that he will enjoy support from the Trump administration. Netanyahu said at a Jerusalem conference less than a week before the third round of Israeli elections in a year:

I have given instructions to immediately publish for deposit the plan to build 3,500 housing units in E1. This had been delayed for six or seven years.

Israel’s construction of settlements on occupied territory is a war crime that the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court recently decided must be formally investigated.
The plan to colonize E1 was first championed by Yitzhak Rabin in 1994, soon after Israel signed the Oslo accords with the PLO. Six of Rabin’s successors endorsed it. Netanyahu made a similar pledge in 2012, announcing plans to build about 3,000 housing units in E1. The Obama administration publicly and privately criticized Netanyahu’s comments at the time out of concern for the already moribund two-state solution. The EU has also repeatedly warned Israel not to build in E1. But while pressure has delayed specific projects, these governments have taken no practical measures to stop Israel’s aggressive colonization throughout the West Bank. In recent days, various governments have issued ritual criticism of Israel’s colonization. But these statements appear no more likely to be followed by action that would impose a cost on Israel.

Netanyahu has more leverage than ever, knowing that he can safely ignore toothless European criticism, while counting on full Pindo support. Settlement watchdog Peace Now stated:

The Middle East “peace” plan recently released by the Trump administration greenlights Israel’s annexation of settlement blocs and large swaths of land in the occupied West Bank. Netanyahu made his new announcement a day after he met with members of a joint Pindo-Israeli committee that is mapping out areas of the occupied West Bank whose annexation by Israel the Trump administration will bless. The prime minister took the team on a tour of Ariel, an Israeli settlement in the central occupied West Bank. Netanyahu said:

For the mapping process, one must consider every valley, every section, every nook and every line. This is serious. We are determining here lines that have historic implications.

Israel could assert its sovereignty over the areas immediately, and Pindo recognition would follow. Israeli journalist Tal Shalev posted a picture of what she called the “Pindo-Israel annexation mapping committee” on Twitter.

The group includes Pindo ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Israeli tourism minister Yariv Levin. Meanwhile, Tuesday marked 26 years since American Jewish settler Baruch Goldstein walked into the Ibrahimi mosque in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron and massacred 29 Palestinian men and boys during Ramadan prayers. Netanyahu is pledging to annex the sacred site, known to Jews as the Tomb of the Patriarchs, as well as Jewish settlement blocs in and around the Palestinian city. Netanyahu reportedly said during the inauguration of Nofei Cramim, a new settlement with 210 homes:

We will apply Israeli sovereignty over Kiryat Arba and the Jewish community in Hebron, including the Tomb of the Patriarchs and the roads that lead to it.

Netanyahu said he authorized a wheelchair-accessible elevator to the site. In an attempt to whitewash the planned annexation of the area, he called it “a humanitarian act and an act of sovereignty.” Naftali Bennett, Israel’s defense minister, said that Israel without sovereignty over the religious site is akin to Pindostan without the Lincoln memorial, and added:

I strongly oppose the giving of even one inch of land to the Arabs.

On Monday, the Israeli government issued tenders for the construction of more than 1,000 housing units in the Givat Hamatos settlement south of Jerusalem. Expansion of the settlement was put on hold due to opposition from the Obama administration in 2014. If implemented, the expanded colony would separate the Palestinian neighborhoods of Beit Safafa and Sharafat from occupied East Jerusalem. The two neighborhoods have already suffered severe harm due to Israeli settlement construction in the past.

 

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