electronic intifada

Israel tightens noose on Gaza
Tamara Nassar, Electronic Intifada, Aug 13 2020

Israel has closed the Kerem Shalom crossing for goods and trade into Gaza, to punish 2m
Palestinians for the release of incendiary balloons. Photo: Ashraf Amra/APA

Israel is tightening its collective punishment of the Gaza Strip. Israel’s defense ministry announced on Monday it will be closing the Kerem Shalom checkpoint, the only place Israel allows goods in and out of Gaza, for all but “vital humanitarian aid” starting Tuesday. On Thursday, Israel said it would also halt shipments of fuel. Israel announced earlier in the week that it would be reducing the fishing zone from 15 to eight nautical miles off of Gaza’s coast. Israel has never allowed Palestinians access beyond 15 nautical miles, despite the 20-mile zone stipulated under the Oslo accords signed by Israel and the PLO in the 1990s.

The ministry said its decision was in response to “recurring acts of terrorism.” This comes after Palestinians in Gaza reportedly launched balloons carrying flammable materials towards southern Israel in recent weeks, causing fires. No injuries were reported as a result of these balloons. Deputy Prime Minister Benny Gantz, who also heads the defense ministry, echoed the ministry’s statement. he tweeted:

Hamas can continue to inflate incendiary balloons and explosive balloons into the State of Israel, we are not ready to accept that and we closed the Kerem Shalom crossing as a result.

Gantz blames Hamas for the launching of balloons, but suspending the delivery of fuel and the majority of imports and exports and restricting the permitted fishing zone targets Gaza’s economy and its two million inhabitants, half of them children. This constitutes collective punishment, a violation of article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and thus a war crime. Gaza has already been under a draconian blockade since 2007, and UN warnings that Israel’s siege would make the coastal enclave “unlivable” by this year are close to being realized. The Israeli rights group Gisha condemned Israel’s “acts of blatant collective punishment, which have absolutely no connection to concrete security needs.” Some 350 trucks were slated to be blocked for entrance on Tuesday, according to the Palestinian Coordination Committee for the Entry of Goods. They were carrying “items such as cement, wood, steel beams, gravel, tiles, glass and aluminum for the construction and industrial sectors in the Strip,” Gisha reported. Israel’s fuel ban will lead to severe electricity shortages in the Gaza Strip. Palestinians in Gaza already operate on just 10 hours of electricity per day. Those hours are expected to drop to eight to four hours of electricity per day, the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights warned.

At a time of scorching summer heat, this is a direct assault on people’s well-being, said PCHR. PCHR said:

This threatens to turn the lives of the two million residents of the Gaza Strip in their homes and workplaces into hell, and prevents them from practicing their lives normally in light of the high temperatures and humidity levels in the Gaza Strip.

The Salah al-Din gate, through which Egypt allows limited goods to enter Gaza, is operating as per usual. Earlier this week, the Israeli military also shelled observation posts controlled by Hamas, the resistance organization running the interior of the besieged Gaza Strip.

Israeli media speculated that incendiary balloons from Gaza could be a sign of frustration that Qatar is slated to halt its aid to Gaza in September. Since 2018, Qatar has poured millions of dollars into the Gaza Strip to help impoverished families and pay for the enclave’s power plant. Qatar was supposed to halt its aid to Gaza in March, but pledged $150m for an additional six months in light of the pandemic. Mossad chief Yossi Cohen is reportedly negotiating with Qatar to extend its aid shipments for an additional six months. While this aid may help in the short term, it also relieves Israel of its responsibility as the occupying power and keeps Palestinians in Gaza on a survival drip-feed allowing Israel to make no meaningful change in its blockade of the territory. Meanwhile, IOF have ramped up demolitions of Palestinian structures in the occupied West Bank. So far this month, they has demolished nearly 40 structures and forcibly displaced more than 100 Palestinians, according to UN OCHA. Most demolitions took place in occupied East Jerusalem and near Hebron.

Since the beginning of the year, Israel has demolished more than 400 Palestinian structures and displaced 500 people.

Biden-Harris ticket a blow to Palestinian hopes
Michael F Brown, Electronic Intifada, Aug 12 2020

Biden and Harris heading the Demagog ticket is a tough blow to Palestinian
aspirations for freedom and equal rights. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/UPI

Kamala Harris is Biden’s choice to be the Demagog vice presidential candidate. Palestine solidarity activists feared this moment. So, too, did a wide range of progressives. The worst possible candidate for the top of the ticket will now be joined by perhaps the most anti-Palestinian of the vice presidential candidates. In a year of protest against racist police violence, it is also noteworthy that Harris upheld convictions secured through official misconduct and was often not the “progressive prosecutor” she claims to be. Harris twice received financial support from Donald Trump when running for state attorney general.

Yes, the selection of Harris highlights the diversity within the party, a powerful aspect of its strength and one that stands in stark contrast to the overwhelming whiteness of the Thug Party. Yet she is a strong supporter of Israel, an apartheid state, who has previously indicated to the NYT that Israel meets her human rights standards. Demagogs have been determined this year to put a woman of color in the White House. It is consequently painful to move closer to this goal with a candidate who has so little regard for the rights of Palestinians. Her trampling over Palestinians on the way up speaks volumes about her political principles. Biden holds similar views on Israel:

Perhaps the hardest-hitting moment of the 2020 presidential campaign came in 2019 when Harris turned to Biden in one of the presidential debates and recalled her childhood. She noted how as a child, “my sister and I had to deal with the neighbor who told us her parents said she couldn’t play with us because we were Black.” This carries moral weight with all those who attended newly-integrating schools and lived in newly-integrating neighborhoods around the country, especially at a time when President Trump is pushing policies to resegregate. Then, focusing on Biden, Harris said:

It was actually hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two senators who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country.

Going right at Biden on civil rights, she brought up his own history with busing and integration.

It was not only that, but you also worked with them to oppose busing. There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools. She was bused to school every day. That little girl was me.

Yet in her first public remarks after being chosen vice president, she tweeted:

That’s not at all what she believed last year when she called him out on civil rights during the debate. Back then she didn’t believe Biden had spent his life fighting for her and children like her. That 2019 version of Harris was right. Today’s version is the politician willing to reshape history to advance a more pleasing narrative about the Demagog presidential candidate. Similarly, Harris has reshaped reality frequently when discussing Israel. In a Jun 2016 Jewish News of Northern California questionnaire published before Harris won her Senate seat in November that year, she looked the other way on Israeli human rights abuses, just as she did last year with  the NYT. Whitewashing Israel’s anti-Palestinian judicial system, Harris stated:

Israel’s supreme court is a beautiful monument to a government founded on the highest of human ideals. The beauty of the architecture and spirit of design left a lasting impression. The straight lines in the building represent the immutable nature of truth, while the curved glass and walls were built to represent the fluid nature of finding justice.

There’s no justice for Palestinians in Israeli courts, and the “straight lines” of truth in Israel have bent reality, morality and history right out of shape. One of my earliest memories of Palestinian human rights lawyer Raji Sourani is his saying to me at some time in the 1990s that he was a fine lawyer, but then noting the pitifully low percentage of cases he’d won in Israeli courts on behalf of Palestinian clients. When the fix is in, whether in a Jim Crow court or an Israeli apartheid court, truth and justice are not part of the equation. Harris’ position on Israel, as I noted in 2017, puts her at odds with grassroots Democrats. She also appears to be unaware of what HRW has called the “separate and unequal” reality for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. That reality is based on a “two-tier” legal system. A two-tier legal system was unacceptable in Pindostan and South Africa. Likewise, Harris and Biden should view it as unacceptable with Israel. They don’t. The weak Demagog platform on Israel makes plain how much injustice they’re willing to accept.

Harris visited amiably with Netanyahu in 2017 with there being no track record of her asking him tough questions about Israeli human rights violations. Instead, they discussed water management, regarding which she claimed:

We could not have a better example than Israel.

Israel is known to steal water from Palestinians by extracting it from the aquifer under the occupied West Bank, in contradiction to international law, for its own use and for use in its illegal settlements. That same year she spoke to AIPAC and fondly recalled the JNF boxes she used to collect money for planting trees in Israel. She rejoiced in seeing such trees years later when she visited. Absent from the talk was any concern about the JNF’s anti-Palestinian racism or that these trees were planted over the ruins of Palestinian homes and villages destroyed by Israel during and after the Nakba of 1948. She merely repeated propaganda about Israel making the desert bloom.

Israel, Harris maintained, should never be a partisan issue. She stressed shared values between Pindostan and Israel and insisted she would uphold Israel’s right to self-defense, omitting reference to the terrible anti-Palestinian racism and human rights violations carried out by those Israeli forces at the direction of Israeli political leaders with funding from the Pindo government. As expected, she voiced support to AIPAC for the two-state solution and said a resolution could not be imposed, but must be agreed by the parties themselves. As an advocate for the dominant power in the region, this is in line with her effort against UNSCR 2334 condemning Israeli settlements as illegal. In fact, as Haaretz recalled this week:

She co-sponsored a Senate resolution in Jan 2017 criticizing Obama in his last week in office for abstaining in a vote on a UNSCR condemning Israel’s settlement policies.

It’s little wonder then that Biden, with his own weak policies regarding Palestinian rights, found a partner in Harris, though even Biden supported UNSCR 2334. Harris has also slammed the BDS movement. She argued that the “movement is based on the mistaken assumption that Israel is solely to blame for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Harris then added:

The BDS movement seeks to weaken Israel but it will only isolate the nation and steer Israelis against prerequisite compromises for peace. At a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise, especially in Europe, and the Middle East is growing increasingly unstable, I believe we should not isolate Israel, the only democracy in the region.

No Demagog candidate who made a similar argument today against boycotting apartheid South Africa or Jim Crow segregation in the Pindo South would stand a chance of contributing to a successful presidential campaign, or representing the state of California. Her commentary also completely disregards that the BDS movement has clearly expressed its opposition to all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism.

The rot and hypocrisy in the Demagog Party is crystal clear when comparing the candidates’ responses to apartheid in Israel and apartheid in South Africa and Pindostan. Harris believes:

Lasting peace can only be found through bilateral negotiations that protect Israel’s identity, ensure security for all people and include the recognition of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.

Israel’s “right to exist as a Jewish state” by definition reduces Palestinians to an inferior status as Harris would presumably recognize if asked a similar question regarding whether Pindostan should be a “white Christian state.” Additionally, “bilateral negotiations” is coded terminology for permitting Israel, the more powerful party, to continue to do what it wants regarding illegal settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. For many Pindos, the announcement of the first woman of color to become a vice presidential candidate for a major party is a powerful moment. Many will see themselves included as never before within the Pindo political fabric. The message her selection represents has the potential to change the political horizon of millions of Pindos pained and sometimes directly attacked by the racist and vicious politics practiced by Trump for the past few years. This has force and value. But substance on Palestine and settler-colonialism also matters and speaks volumes about a person. Biden and Harris will have to be pushed to uphold and protect Palestinian rights against the actions of the Israeli government and the lobbying of AIPAC. If they defeat Trump, many government leaders around the world will be less alarmed by their choice of words and policies regarding Israel, but the consequences could be every bit as dire for Palestinians. After all, for eight years, Obama enabled Israel to entrench the occupation though his rhetoric was far better than Trump’s. There’s no indication that Biden and Harris will do any better than Obama in standing up to Israeli apartheid, or have any real intention to do so. The only difference will be if grassroots Demagogs take action and demand they do better.

Social justice groups say drop the ADL
Nora Barrows-Friedman, Electronic Intifada, Aug 12 2020

Delegates from the Movement for Black Lives join Palestinian organizers and
activists in the West Bank village of Bilin during a weekly Friday protest
against Israel’s occupation and colonization, Jul 29 2016. (Facebook)

More than 100 leading anti-racist, social justice and civil rights groups are calling on allied organizations to end their relationships with the ADL. The groups state in an open letter:

Many organizations in our communities find themselves in spaces with the ADL, using its anti-bias education materials, or counting on the ADL to support our political goals. In light of a growing understanding of the ADL’s harmful practices, many progressive groups are rethinking those relationships.

The letter was published on Tuesday along with a 34-page primer, “The ADL is not an ally,” on the ADL’s history of advancing repressive practices and a racist agenda. A major Israel lobby organization, the ADL masquerades as a civil rights group while systematically undermining social justice movements and repeatedly denouncing Black activists for expressing support for the Palestinian liberation struggle. It regularly inserts itself into corporate and public school “anti-bias” trainings while mainstreaming Islamophobia and disparaging Palestinian, Muslim and Arab community organizations. At the same time attempting to portray itself as an ally of the Black Lives Matter movement, the ADL has long boasted that it has sent hundreds of Pindo “law enforcement executives” to be trained by Israeli forces in “intensive counter-terrorism” tactics. But its signature efforts have been to shield Israel from criticism and accountability for its human rights abuses.

The groups calling for ending partnerships with the ADL include Jewish Voice for Peace, Dream Defenders, Palestine Legal, the Arab Resource and Organizing Center, the Movement for Black Lives, Pindo Friends Service Committee, the Red Nation, Friends of Sabeel North America and the Democratic Socialists of Pindostan. They say that even when their work benefits from “access to some resources or participation from the ADL,” its destructive role betrays social movements and their core visions for justice and equality. The primer states:

In short, the ADL has sought to portray itself as the authority on rights and justice, at the great expense of Black, immigrant, queer, Arab, Muslim, Jewish, and many other communities.

Highlighting its history of repressive practices on US campuses, the primer details the ADL’s targeting of student organizations and efforts to censor discussions of Palestinian rights “by falsely portraying it as a violation of Jewish students’ rights.” The primer also notes the ADL’s ability to use its credibility to gatekeep and censor content on social media. In addition to filtering speech for Twitter, Facebook and Microsoft, the ADL “vets content for YouTube/Google, where videos about the ADL’s police training exchanges with Israel have been censored as ‘hate speech,’” the primer explains. It also points out the ADL’s support for actual anti-Semites, including Donald Trump and other right-wing figures. Throughout its history, the ADL has consistently opposed left-wing movements while purporting to champion civil rights. Whether it is its documented record of spying on human rights defenders, Palestine solidarity and other leftist activists, or its collaboration with the apartheid government of South Africa, the ADL’s “opposition to the left” has framed its work, the primer says.

Activists are hoping that the primer will encourage social justice groups to drop the ADL and seek out alternative organizations to help further their work. the primer states:

We who are committed to a vision of collective liberation cannot aid the ADL in projecting a false badge of progressivism that helps advance a racist agenda.

EU “closely following” Israel’s detention of BDS coordinator
Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada, Aug 12 2020

Aws, 7, left, and Amr, 9, hold posters of their father, Mahmoud Nawajaa, during a protest
in front of the German mission in Ramallah, Aug 11. Photo: Nasser Nasser/AP

After 13 days of interrogation, Israel finally allowed Mahmoud Nawajaa to see his lawyer on Wednesday. This is the first time Nawajaa, the general coordinator of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights, has been allowed to see a lawyer since Israeli occupation forces seized him from his home near Ramallah in a night raid on Jul 30. He has not been allowed to see his family. Nawajaa told the lawyer from the prisoners rights group Addameer that he “has been subjected to ill-treatment and degrading detention conditions but not torture.” This has been a major concern as Israel’s Shin Bet secret police, which is behind his detention and interrogation, systematically uses torture against Palestinians. On Sunday, an Israeli military court prolonged Nawajaa’s detention for a further eight days, the second such extension since his arrest. On Tuesday, dozens of people rallied outside Germany’s diplomatic office in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah. Majida Masri, coordinator of the Palestinian Women’s Campaign for Boycotting Israeli Products, said:

We are rallying here to demand that the EU end its complicity of silence and apply concrete pressure on Israel to release Mahmoud Nawajaa and respect the rights of Palestinian human rights defenders.

That message appears to be getting through, despite the EU’s close alliance with Israel and general reluctance to criticize its abuses. EU foreign affairs spox Peter Stano told The Electronic Intifada on Wednesday:

In view of the current situation, the office of the EU Representative in Jerusalem is closely following the case. The EU has repeatedly called upon the Israeli authorities to respect the human rights of prisoners including their right to a fair trial and access to legal counsel. The EU strongly advocates for minimizing the usage of administrative detention and ensuring that it is carried out in accordance with international human rights standards. The EU also uses informal contacts to voice concerns regarding such cases, in particular those of extensive and disproportionate use of administrative detention. The EU stands firm in supporting freedom of expression and freedom of association, including the space for civil society organizations. Measures touching upon the role and functioning of civil society organizations should not have the effect of imposing arbitrary or disproportionate restrictions on the enjoyment of their rights, in line with international human rights standards.

Administrative detention is a British colonial practice continued by Israel of holding Palestinians for indefinite periods without charge or trial to punish them for political activities. Unlike Amnesty International, which has declared Nawajaa a prisoner of conscience, the EU has stopped short of demanding his immediate release. The EU opposes the BDS movement, which seeks to put pressure on Israel similar to the international boycott campaigns that helped end South Africa’s white supremacist apartheid regime. But the EU has affirmed that such campaigning is protected political speech. That position was confirmed in a landmark ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in June, overturning the criminal convictions of a dozen activists in France for calling on supermarket shoppers not to buy Israeli products. While Nawajaa remains under interrogation, boycott campaigner Majida Masri said “the initial indicators reveal that Shin Bet has no case.” Israel has for years waged a global smear and sabotage campaign against the non-violent BDS movement, including falsely trying to associate activists with what it calls “terrorism.” Through Addameer’s lawyer, Nawajaa said he is “in good health and spirits and determined to continue his BDS work for Palestinian rights.” He also expressed “deep gratitude” for solidarity efforts around the world.

Update, Aug 13: On Thursday, Israel extended Mahmoud Nawajaa’s detention for a third time, adding at least another five days to his imprisonment without charge or trial. The boycott movement’s Majida Masri said:

We need to intensify our campaign to #FreeMahmoud. Israel is fabricating false allegations against him as retribution for the BDS movement’s impressive growth and impact in the last few years.

Progressive Squad remains intact, but racist wins in Georgia
Michael F Brown, Electronic Intifada, Aug 12 2020

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar handily defeated Antone Melton-Meaux, a favorite of the Israel lobby,
in a Minnesota primary matchup on Tuesday. Photo: Sue Dorfman/ZUMA

Marjorie Taylor Greene, a QAnon conspiracy theorist, gun fanatic, racist, Islamophobe and anti-Semite who loves Israel, has won her run-off against John Cowan for Georgia’s conservative 14th congressional district. President Donald Trump promptly called her a “future Thug Star” and “a real WINNER.”

In the midst of a pandemic to which the Pindo response has been abysmal, Thug north-west Georgia voters sent a clear signal that they support white supremacy, guns and off-the-wall QAnon tales of Satanic pedophiles in the Demagog Party. Unsurprisingly, Trump is standing with the conspiracy theorists. The outcome was expected. Yet it speaks volumes about the disregard for science and a fact-based approach to addressing an enormous public health crisis in Pindostan. That this view of the world was advanced by a pro-Israel and pro-Trump fanatic is indicative of the direction of the Republican Party as it continues to drive the country into a national health crisis most have not seen in their lifetimes. Greene pursued her bigoted positions right through the final days of her campaign, even pushing to take away the Pindo citizenship of George Soros.

The Georgia Thug is likely to replace the recently defeated Congressman Steve King as the leading racist in the Thug ranks. The Thug Party, as reported by Politico, did little to block her rise. Greene is expected to win easily against her Demagog opponent in November in the strongly conservative district. More than 1,000 miles to the north-west, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar fended off Demagog primary challenger Antone Melton-Meaux. This was no mean feat against a well-funded candidate who nearly matched the incumbent Omar in funding.  The NYT reported his campaign had raised more than $4m. The NYT noted:

Ms Omar supports an effort to divest from Israel over its treatment of Palestinians, while Mr Melton-Meaux has the backing of several pro-Israel groups.

Details were not provided. But Tom Perkins at Mondoweiss asserts that the Israel lobby spent some $2m to defeat Omar. CNN cited “several hundred thousand dollars” that had been “bundled by a pair of pro-Israel political action committees.” Politico noted, vaguely:

A top-spending super-PAC, with ties to a pro-Israel group, kicked in $1.5m on TV ads to boost Omar.

Nonetheless, the funders’ rage at Omar and her support for Palestinian freedom went down in defeat Tuesday evening. Omar appears to have won by a convincing margin of nearly 20%. It’s quite a victory against her opponents in an Israel lobby that continues to reject freedom and human rights for Palestinians. The progressive Squad of Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley is now well on its way to returning in full to Faschingstein. Progressives Cori Bush and Jamaal Bowman are expected to be among those joining them in January. As ugly as the turn of events in north-west Georgia is, these progressives provide reason to hope that politicians holding more sensible positions on everything from Medicare for All to freedom for Palestinians will be bringing much needed change to Faschingstein.

Their new ideas are essential in providing a corrective to the obscene policies of Trump and Pence. They also provide a counterpoint to the ossified views of Biden, Harris and the Demagog Party platform when it comes to Palestinian rights.

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