electronic intifada

AOC reversal on Yitzhak Rabin event deals blow to Israel lobby
Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada, Sep 28 2020

On Saturday, Americans for Peace Now confirmed that Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has pulled out of its event next month honoring Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli prime minister who was assassinated by a Jewish extremist 25 years ago. This came after a massive outcry from Palestinians and supporters of Palestinian rights.

The liberal Zionist group said it was “sorry to hear” that Ocasio-Cortez would no longer be speaking at its memorial event, but offered absolutely no introspection as to why so many people would object to her participation in the first place. On Friday, I spoke to Aaron Maté of The Grayzone. We talked about my article “Why is AOC honoring an Israeli war criminal?” which describes Rabin’s personal role in atrocities, including the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestine and the brutal crackdown against Palestinians protesting military occupation during the first intifada. Watch the video above. We discussed the history of the so-called peace process and how the effort to redeem Rabin as a martyred peacemaker is a gross distortion of reality. The uproar about Ocasio-Cortez’s participation and her quick announcement that she was reconsidering, and ultimately withdrawing, is a sign of change within American politics. We discussed how it shows that the Israel lobby is losing its influence among liberals and leftists.

Democratic Majority for Israel, a lobby group that aims to shore up support for Israel among liberals, on Sunday called Ocasio-Cortez’s decision to pull out of the Rabin memorial “wrong and deeply regrettable.” Ocasio-Cortez was also attacked by Zioness, a fake feminist group that purports to be progressive and pro-Israel.

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the ADL, called it “sad” and “wrong” for Ocasio-Cortez to withdraw from the Rabin event honoring “a heroic Israeli leader.”

Recently, some 100 anti-racist and social justice groups called on allies to end their relationships with the ADL because it is an Israel lobby group that masquerades as a civil rights organization while systematically undermining social justice movements and denouncing Black activists for expressing support for Palestinian liberation. Meanwhile, Batya Ungar-Sargon, the opinion editor of the liberal Jewish newspaper The Forward, drew a comparison between Ocasio-Cortez’s decision and last week’s actions by Zoom, YouTube and Facebook to ban San Francisco State University from using their platforms to host a seminar featuring Palestinian resistance icon Leila Khaled. Ungar-Sargon claimed:

Her effort to demonize Khaled and elevate Rabin belies the reality that while Khaled is notorious for taking part in two hijackings half a century ago, she never killed or injured anyone. The contrast with Rabin’s deadly record speaks for itself.

Ungar-Sargon has played a key role in inciting racial hatred against Congresswoman Ilhan Omar and has liedabout anti-Semitism among supporters of Palestinian rights. Israel and its lobby believe that cultivating support on the left is especially valuable in their effort to fight the Palestine solidarity movement, particularly the call for BDS. The loss of Ocasio-Cortez is a significant political blow to Israel’s propagandists.

Egyptian army kills two Palestinian brothers at sea
Tamara Nassar, Electronic Intifada, Sep 28 2020

Nawal al-Zazou mourns her sons Hasan and Mahmoud, who were killed by Egyptian fire as
they fished off Gaza’s coast, in Deir al-Balah, Sep 26. Their brother Yasser was wounded.
Photo: Ashraf Amra/APA

The Egyptian military fatally shot two Palestinian fishers and injured a third off the Gaza coast. Hasan Muhammad al-Zazou, 26, was sailing with his brothers Mahmoud, 20, and Yasser, 18, near the maritime boundary between the Gaza Strip and Egypt on Friday. Their boat is suspected to have crossed into Egyptian waters, according to Gaza-based human rights group Al Mezan. The Egyptian navy then opened fire at the boat, killing Hasan and Mahmoud, and injuring Yasser. Al Mezan is calling for an investigation and urging Egyptian authorities to review their open-fire regulations. The Egyptian navy has previously shot and killed Palestinian fishers even when they did not cross into Egyptian territory. On one occasion, Egyptian gunmen killed a mentally ill Palestinian man who walked into the sea near the Egyptian border even as Palestinian security officers signaled to the Egyptian military not to shoot. Hasan and Mahmoud’s bodies were handed over to Gaza authorities on Saturday through the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt. Yasser is still receiving medical treatment in Egypt. Local media criculated pictures of crowds carrying the bodies of Hasan and Mahmoud during their funeral in Deir al-Balah, central Gaza, where they are from, on Sunday.

Nawal al-Zazou, the men’s mother, told the Safa Palestinian Press Agency:

My children were martyred for trying to make a living. My sons did not go to fight the Egyptians, they went to fight hunger and poverty.

Gaza’s fishing industry is vital to its economy with tens of thousands of families dependent on it for food and income. Despite that, Palestinian fishers have had little breathing room during the pandemic. Israel fired at fishing boats inside Gaza’s fishing zone more than 100 times in the first four months of the year. This number continued to go up amid the pandemic. The Oslo accords, signed by Israel and the PLO in the 1990s, stipulated that Palestinians be allowed to fish up to 20 nautical miles from Gaza’s shore. Israel has never allowed Palestinians to go beyond 15 nautical miles, and typically allows fishers to sail only six miles off the Gaza shore. Israel habitually reduces and restricts the fishing zone, sometimes completely barring Gaza fishers from sailing altogether, as it has done during the pandemic. This targets Gaza’s economy and its two million inhabitants, half of them children. It is collective punishment, a violation of article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and thus a war crime.

Israel’s war industry embraces Emirates with open arms
Tamara Nassar, Electronic Intifada, Sep 29 2020

Gaza City’s al-Tuffah neighborhood following Israel’s military offensive in 2014.
Photo: Basel Yazouri/ActiveStills

Palestinians are calling for a boycott of Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence in Abu Dhabi. Earlier this month, the newly established university, named after the crown prince of the UAE, held a virtual signing ceremony for a cooperation agreement with Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science. Collaboration between the two institutions will include student and staff exchanges, conferences, research and the establishment of a joint virtual institute for artificial intelligence. Alon Chen, president of the Weizmann Institute, and Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, the Emirati technology minister and chair of the university’s board of trustees, took part in the ceremony. The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) condemned this “normalizing” union, stating:

Israeli academic institutions play an important role in planning, implementing, justifying and reinforcing Israel’s ongoing military occupation and settler-colonial, apartheid regime against the Palestinian people.

The Weizmann Institute’s history of complicity is particularly grave. Formerly known as the Sieff Institute, it “officially joined” the ethnic-cleansing campaign led by David Ben-Gurion in Feb 1948, along with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The Israeli institutions provided military research and “assistance with security services” to the Zionist war effort. During the Nakba of 1948, some 800k Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes and villages by Zionist paramilitary forces and were never permitted to return because they were not Jewish. The Weizmann Institute was later renamed for Israel’s first president Chaim Weizmann, a leading figure in the Zionist movement. One of the Weizmann Institute’s first researchers, Israel Dostrovsky, led the military research wing of the Haganah, the pre-state Zionist militia that carried out much of the ethnic cleansing. The Weizmann Institute has undoubtedly been closely involved in Israel’s top secret nuclear weapons program, as well as research into CBW. As it has from its earliest days, the Weizmann Institute still maintains close ties with Israel’s military and its biggest arms manufacturers, including Israel Aerospace Industries and Elbit Systems, leading suppliers of weapons used in Israel’s attacks on Palestinians. Elbit has supplied white phosphorus munitions and drones that have been used during Israel’s attacks on Palestinians and on Lebanon. It also manufactures internationally banned cluster munitions for the Israeli army. Elbit markets its weapons as “battle-proven,” with the Israeli army’s successive attacks on civilians in Gaza as its showroom. During their 2014 assault on Gaza, Israeli forces killed more than 2,200 Palestinians, including 550 children, an average of 11 children per day.

The Weizmann Institute’s deep involvement in Israel’s arms industry is a perfect match for the Emirati university, which is closely tied to the government. At least one member of the Emirati university’s board of trustees has already been affiliated with Israel’s arms industry: Peng Xiao, CEO of Group 42, an Abu Dhabi-based artificial intelligence company that signed two agreements with Israeli weapons manufacturers Israel Aerospace Industries and Rafael in July. Previously, Xiao was CEO of Pegasus LLC, a former subsidiary of DarkMatter, a cybersecurity company with close ties to the Emirati government that recruits veterans of Unit 8200, a high-tech spy branch of the Israeli military. The UAE was collaborating with Israel’s cyberwarfare industry even before it signed an agreement to fully normalize relations with Israel. Yigal Unna, head of the Israel National Cyber Directorate, told his Emirati counterpart during an online conference on Thursday that the two countries “are threatened by the same threats.” Despite the two country’s mutual hostility towards Iran and the UAE’s alliance with Israel, Israel still refuses to give the green light for the US to sell advanced F-35 warplanes to the Emirates. It may be “six or seven years” before the Gulf state could get its hands on the American fighter jets, US ambassador to Israel David Friedman recently told Israeli media. Meanwhile, in an interview with Israeli business publication The Marker, the president of the University of Haifa revealed the historic relationship between Emirati and Israeli universities. Ron Robin helped New York University’s Abu Dhabi campus recruit faculty. Robin told The Marker:

I came to Abu Dhabi for the first time in 2007. I was flying between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv for eight years. It was my home during those eight years. The people who I dealt with understood I was Israeli.

Robin said he expects Israel to build relations with three Emirati academic institutions in particular: NYU Abu Dhabi, Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence and UAE University.

IHRA definition of anti-Semitism silences solidarity
Rowan Gaudet, Electronic Intifada, Sep 29 2020

Global solidarity with Palestine is threatened by a definition of anti-Semitism
that conflates speech critical of Israel with bigotry against Jews.
Photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/ActiveStills

The recent use of the controversial IHRA definition of anti-Semitism< to silence political speech about Palestine shows what a dangerous weapon it is. Originally passed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance in 2016, the actual definition within the IHRA Working Definition of Anti-Semitism is vague but not particularly controversial. The threat to speech critical of Israel arises with the 11 examples which are instrumental to how the definition is meant to be applied. Many of these examples expand anti-Semitism to discussions of Israel, such as denying the Jewish people the right to self-determination. Any statements considered to be delegitimizing Israel, such as calling it a racist endeavor, are therefore deemed anti-Semitic by default. The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of anti-Semitism holds a clause that allows for criticism of Israel.

Despite this, Independent Jewish Voices Canada has documented more than two dozen instances of the IHRA definition being used to suppress Palestine rights advocacy in Europe and North America. In late 2019, Donald Trump signed an executive order conflating criticism of Israel with anti-Jewish bigotry, adopting the language of the IHRA definition. Soon after, the US Dept of Education began investigating UCLA for hosting the national conference of Students for Justice in Palestine the previous year. The complaint against UCLA, filed by a Zionist legal organization, alleges that Students for Justice in Palestine is a “terror front” and that the conference was an “attack on Jewish students.” Meanwhile, in the UK, law student Malaka Shwaikh faced attacks over comments she made about Israel after she was elected to the University of Exeter student union in Feb 2017. Newspapers were forced to make corrections, amend headlines and apologize for false claims made about Shwaikh, who had previously helped organize a march against anti-Semitism. She said:

The point of these attacks is to bully those who speak up for Palestinian rights, in order to scare others away from Palestinian activism.

Two years later, a London council refused space to The Big Ride for Palestine’s fundraiser for children’s sports equipment in Gaza. Freedom of information requests revealed that officials were fearful that the event could contravene the IHRA definition due to references on The Big Ride for Palestine’s website to apartheid and ethnic cleansing. The IHRA working definition has been used to target Black solidarity with Palestine as Zionist groups perceive intersectional struggle as a strategic threat. In 2018, Emory Douglas, the former Black Panther minister of culture, was accused of anti-Semitic hate speech for displaying an image portraying Netanyahu and Hitler along with the text “guilty of genocide” during a guest lecture at the University of Michigan. Meanwhile in Germany, the Cameroonian post-colonial philosopher Achille Mbembe faced accusations of anti-Semitism for drawing similarities between Israeli and South African apartheid, throwing Israel’s “legitimacy” into question.

Jewish solidarity with Palestine has not been spared from being smeared as anti-Semitic. Following the mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh and deadly Israeli bombing in Gaza in 2018, Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace chapters planned to hold a joint vigil at the University of California, Berkeley campus. The organizers faced backlash, including a complaint filed with the US Dept of Education claiming among other things that the vigil would portray Israel as a racist nation, speech that falls under the IHRA’s definition of anti-Semitism. The public mourning was canceled and the event was held privately off-campus in the face of this pressure. In Germany, the Bank for Social Economy investigated and ultimately closed the account of Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East, a group that backs the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement in support of Palestinian rights. The bank had come under pressure from the Israeli government and its local advocates, finding its name listed among the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s top 10 worst global anti-Semitic incidents for 2018 for initially maintaining Jewish Voice’s account. According to Iris Hefets of Jewish Voice, the bank relied on the IHRA definition in its decision to close the group’s account, the first closure of an account belonging to a Jewish organization in post-war Germany. Nearly 30 countries have adopted the IHRA definition, including France, Italy, Argentina, Greece and Canada. Many local governments have adopted it as well. The IHRA definition is a grave threat to the Palestinian solidarity movement the world over.

Palestinian puppeteers bring theater to Gaza
Electronic Intifada, Sep 28 2020

Puppet theater may be an old-fashioned performance art, but it is enjoying a revival in the Gaza Strip. With no professional puppeteers in Gaza, Mahdi Karira taught himself all he knows about puppetry. Karira, 41, tells The Electronic Intifada:

I was able to make a puppet and move it on my own. Then I made more puppets.

He then went on to form a troupe called Khuyut, Arabic for strings, in Gaza City in 2018. It includes more than a dozen puppeteers who have created at least 35 puppets. Karira says:

We create characters based on stories, scenes and social issues.

He says that puppetry allows performers to address difficult social issues that can be harder to address with live actors. The team has faced challenges due to a shortage of supplies, a result of Israel’s 13-year siege on the Gaza Strip, Karira explains. Israel bans so-called “dual-use” items from Gaza on the pretext that they may have military purposes. Those include medical supplies, fishing materials and other basic commodities. Israel bars materials including certain fabrics and chemicals that could be used in painting and making the dolls. Karira says:

We try to find alternatives. We recycle and extract materials from other things.

For example, the team extracts strings from fishing nets and substitutes ivory with certain cement mixtures. Nahla Lulu is one of 10 women on the team. Lulu told The Electronic Intifada:

We understood that puppets were moved by strings but we didn’t know the technique.

Now, Lulu leaves her mark on every puppet she makes and hopes to perform abroad.

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