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Rising above racism
Amjad Ayman Yaghi, Electronic Intifada, Oct 23 2020
(Amjad Ayman Yaghi is a journalist based in Gaza.)

Although he has stopped playing professional football, Khalid Khalaila (front) still receives racist messages
on his mobile phone. Photo: Ognen Teofilovski/Reuters

Bnei Sakhnin is by far the most successful football club mainly comprised of Palestinians living inside Israel. It has won Israel’s State Cup and competed in the UEFA Europa League. The team’s tenacity has earned it many admirers and even inspired a movie. The occasional triumphs it has enjoyed do not, however, erase a grim reality for the team: Its players and supporters are regularly subjected to racist abuse. Khalid Khalaila spent about 20 years as a midfielder with Bnei Sakhnin and was the team’s captain for a decade. He was also part of the side which won the State Cup in 2004. Despite having stopped playing professional football, he still receives hostile messages on his mobile phone. Almost certainly, the messages come from fans of Beitar Jerusalem. Typically, they call Khalid a “dirty Arab” and curse his family. Beitar’s supporters have hurled insults at Bnei Sakhnin whenever the two sides have played against each other. The insults have effectively been endorsed by top-level Israeli politicians. Miri Regev, then Israel’s minister for sports and culture, posted a video on Facebook in 2018 of her attending a match between Beitar and Bnei Sakhnin. In the video, Regev could be seen smiling broadly as Beitar’s supporters chanted “may your village be burned.” Beitar has been reprimanded and penalized by Israel’s football authorities over the conduct of its fans. Yet Khalid is skeptical about whether the authorities really want to kick racism out of football. He said:

We keep on hearing ‘death to the Arabs’ and other slogans being chanted. The Israel Football Association imposes sanctions but unfortunately the sanctions don’t prevent the abuse. They are just formalities.

Khalid remains among the best known players in the history of Bnei Sakhnin, which is based in the Galilee region. He said:

I played quite a strong, physical game. Some people called me a rough player. I drew a lot of attention and that may explain why I got a lot of racist abuse.

While Bnei Sakhnin mostly features Palestinian citizens of Israel, it also has a few Jewish Israelis and players from Colombia, Nigeria and Brazil. Ali Othman, 33, is the team’s current captain. The racist abuse he encounters can be so severe that he has taken steps to protect his safety. When the team is playing Beitar, he travels in a car separately from the rest of the squad, in an attempt to go unnoticed. In his experience, players with Bnei Sakhnin are more exposed to racism than Palestinians selected by other teams in Israel. Othman joined Bnei Sakhnin in 2006. Three years later, he was transferred to Maccabi Haifa. The transfer enabled him to play against some of Europe’s best teams. Othman stated that he was never subjected to racist abuse during his time with Maccabi Haifa. Yet when he returned to Bnei Sakhnin in 2012, Othman got another taste of how much the team is hated by some Israelis. He is nonetheless doing what he can to rise above the racism targeting him. He said:

I do my best to stay positive when we hear racist slogans being chanted. They chant nasty things about Arabs and the Prophet Muhammad. But the nastiness encourages me to try harder. It makes me more determined to win.

Saeed Hasanein, a sports writer with the newspaper Kul al-Arab, said:

Every Palestinian inside Israel is proud of Bnei Saknin, despite all the racism it is exposed to. I have witnessed many incidents of racism against Arab players from the 1980s until now. The Israel Football Association has never taken real action against this racism. We Arabs are a lower people as far as they are concerned. So they just turn a blind eye.

Munther Khalaila, a spokesperson for Bnei Sakhnin, noted that when its fans hear “death to the Arabs” being shouted at games against Beitar, they respond by chanting “Allahu akbar.” Bnei Sakhnin has kept going despite having financial difficulties recently. The support and sponsorship it has received from businesses has been inadequate. Players have accepted a salary cut and some of its management work on a voluntary basis. Relegated last year, the club is now back in Israel’s premier league, although it has not had a good season so far. Many Palestinian citizens of Israel identity with Bnei Sakhnin because they respect its spirit of defiance. The town of Sakhnin witnessed battles between Zionist and Arab forces in 1948, the year of Israel’s foundation. While many of its residents fled during the Nakba, a considerable number stayed put. Munther Khalaila said:

Younger generations were born as citizens of Israel. We have lived with racism since our childhood. A lot of Israel’s football supporters don’t want us here.

Patients stranded in Gaza under Israel’s permit regime
Sarah Algherbawi, Electronic Intifada, Oct 23 2020
Sarah Algherbawi is a freelance writer and translator from Gaza.

Health workers in Gaza. Photo: Ashraf Amra/APA images

After nearly two months of curfew, authorities in Gaza are beginning to relax the lockdown here. Roadblocks have been removed and we can again move between governorates. During the day, with schools and universities reopening, and restaurants and hotels allowed to operate, it’s almost normal, at least until 8 pm when the curfew kicks back into force. Before then, Gaza had been ghostly. My neighborhood, for instance, was almost void of life and people after a neighbor living in the building opposite was diagnosed with Covid. In March, I wrote an article reflecting on my experience with my children after the COVID-19 outbreak forced us to stay quarantined at home. When I started interviews for this article, I quickly understood that my suffering is nothing compared to the suffering of those who have children needing medical treatment outside Gaza. Not only are they caught up in the anxiety of the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting restrictions, but they also face the Kafkaesque maze that is Israel’s military permit regime. And relaxing the lockdown has done little for them.

Nihad al-Dabba, 58, from the Shujayia neighborhood of eastern Gaza City has little to do but wait for her children to die. Both her children suffer a neuromuscular disease for which a combination of medicine and surgery is used as treatment, most of which is unavailable in Gaza. For three months, Nihad has been trying to find a way for her son Emad, 31, and her daughter Miasar, 38, to return to the Hadassah hospital in Ein Kerem, outside Jerusalem, for treatment. They receive dialysis in Gaza, which mitigates some symptoms, but too much could be fatal for the siblings whose veins and nerves have grown weak. The two were supposed to have traveled to Jerusalem at the end of May to have a tube implanted that would make dialysis treatment possible again. The May surgeries had to be canceled as a result of the suspension of civil and security coordination between the Palestinian Authority and Israel on 19 May that came in protest at Israel’s plans to annex large swaths of the occupied West Bank.

Palestinians in Gaza normally apply for medical referrals through the local office of the civil affairs committee, which is run by the PA in Ramallah. That office coordinates with the Israeli military which decides whether or not a permit will be granted. Nihad, who has three more healthy children, has already lost one son, Elian, who died in April while suffering complications from dialysis treatment given him at Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital for the same condition. Nihad told The Electronic Intifada:

In April I wasn’t able to travel because of COVID in Israel. Now I’m trapped because of COVID here and because of the suspension of security coordination. I fear I will lose my children at any moment.

Nihad has tried to reach out to various human rights organizations in Gaza, including Al Mezan, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, and the Independent Commission for Human Rights. Human rights organizations in Gaza have started an alternative coordination method with the Israeli side, by speaking directly with the Israeli military coordinator at the Erez checkpoint. Samir Zaqout, Al Mezan’s deputy director, told local media that this way, his and other organizations in Gaza manage to secure approval for an average of five cases per day for medical referrals. Since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, this is the first time there has been direct coordination with the Israeli side outside the Palestinian Authority. However, Zaqout said it cannot adequately cover for the official mechanism. Zaqout told The Electronic Intifada:

Our capacities as human rights organizations cannot compare with an official government body. Communication is clearer between official bodies.

Nihad has so far failed to secure any result and reached out instead to Physicians for Human Rights-Israel. But according to Ghada Majadle of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, the organization never knows if and when permits are granted. Majadle told The Electronic Intifada:

Al-Dabba submitted a request for her children a while back. We transferred her request, along with tens of others, to the Israeli authorities. But we never know if we can get permits. All we can do is wait.

Majadle said before the coronavirus crisis, between 2.2k and 2.5k people would leave Gaza every month for treatment in Israel or the West Bank. In April, this dropped to 159 people because of the COVID-19 restrictions. Nihad and her husband Taysir, 60, do what they can for their children. Mostly, this involves taking them three times a week to al-Shifa hospital to receive dialysis treatment. Al-Shifa is the main hospital in the Gaza Strip for patients to get dialysis treatment and the department now caters to 820 patients, according to the ministry of health in Gaza. Coronavirus restrictions have made life for these patients even more onerous. With some neighborhoods under lockdown at different times, just getting to the hospital has become arduous and painful for patients. The Dabbas have to push both their adult children in wheelchairs some 700 meters before they can get to a main road, where an ambulance can pick them up. With a shortage of medicine, every day is a test for the Dabba family. Overall, the ministry of health in Gaza estimates that the area’s hospitals have just over half the essential drugs they need. Taysir, who works as a night guard for a shop in the neighborhood and earns $200 a month, said:

It’s difficult to move or get medication. There is the constant worry about permits. Apart from COVID, my children are victims of a political decision that has no benefit to us.

Akram Atallah, a political analyst with al-Ayyam newspaper, said he didn’t expect the suspension of security coordination with Israel to last long, in part because of the situation with patients. He said:

When the PA took the decision of pausing coordination with Israel, they didn’t find an alternative plan to save the lives of patients, especially from Gaza.

Atallah was scathing in his commentary on the decision, which he said had put people’s lives at risk and would “not bring any political gains.” For all the criticism the PA comes in for, responsibility for the welfare of everyone in occupied territory ultimately lies with Israel, the occupying power. This is a point human rights and health organizations have made repeatedly in recent months, as fears that an uncontrolled outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic could bring Gaza’s healthcare sector to complete collapse. But none of that will be any comfort to the Dabba family. They will be aware, as everyone in Gaza is, that four people have already died due to delays in receiving travel permits. Among them were two infants, one of whom, Omar Yaghi, died in June at eight months, and just 72 hours before he was scheduled for surgery in Israel. That surgery had been delayed a month, after the collapse of coordination prevented him from traveling for his original appointment in May. Jivara Ghunaim, 26, was married in mid-April to Azhar, 22. After just one month, Jivara fell very ill and was diagnosed with blood cancer. The family tried to get their son a permit for treatment abroad. It was denied, then granted and then delayed. The delay was too long. On Aug 15, Israel granted a travel permit. A day after finally getting to the Augusta Victoria hospital in occupied East Jerusalem, Jivara died. Azhar was not in doubt who was to blame. She told The Electronic Intifada:

Doctors told us that it was too late when Jivara arrived. Israel and the PA killed him.

Israeli procrastination in allowing patients to travel from Gaza and Israel’s permit scheme in general has long been a source of criticism. In Gaza, it is seen as another Israeli weapon trained at people’s heads. In 2017, according to the WHO, 54 people from Gaza died as a result of being refused permission by the Israeli military to travel for treatment. Over a 10-year period, from 2008 to 2018, Israel prevented over 51k people from Gaza from traveling to Israel or the West Bank for medical treatment, according to statistics compiled by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights. In my last phone call with Nihad, her voice sounded different. There was hope in it. She told me that her friend’s son Amjad Lafy, 4, a cancer patient, got a travel permit in the first week of September. She is hoping this is a good portent for her own children. But as of mid-October, she has still not received any news. Like her children, young Amjad’s appointment was at Hadassah hospital in May. It too was a follow-up visit. His left eye had been removed in April. The permit was four months late. But it came. Amjad’s mother Khouloud, 32, told The Electronic Intifada:

What happened with Amjad was a miracle. We had given up hope that he would get a permit. Now, I feel that he has a chance of survival.

The cancer had spread. But doctors told the family that they might still be able to save Amjad’s right eye. That wouldn’t have been possible without travel. After 13 years of an Israeli blockade, Gaza’s healthcare sector is so decimated that clinics and hospitals there lack basic facilities, medicine and medical staff. The more care a patient needs, the less likely that it is available. But hope springs eternal. It’s how we survive. Nihad told me:

After Amjad’s permit, I’m hopeful my children will get theirs too soon.

The lost potential of Jenin
Ahmad Al-Bazz, Sarah Abu Alrob, Electronic Intifada, Oct 23 2020

Ahmad Al-Bazz is a multi-award-winning journalist, photographer and documentary filmmaker based in Palestine and a member of the Activestills Collective. Sarah Abu Alrob is a journalist and an audio producer and presenter living in the West Bank, Palestine.

A general view of Jenin’s Ottoman old town.

In the northern West Bank city of Jenin, there was once an airfield, a train station, three cinemas and two major roads connecting the town with the neighboring cities of Nazareth and Haifa. In 2020, only traces of these now exist and none are used for their original purpose. Instead, the city contains a refugee camp and is surrounded on three sides by a fence erected by Israel’s military as part of the separation wall it has built in and around the West Bank. Jenin is literally at a dead end. Once a small agricultural town, mentioned as far back as the 12th century BC Amarna letters, Jenin’s modern history has been marked by political upheaval that has determined its modern urban shape. Most important of these was the impact of the creation of Israel and the resulting dispossession and forced exile of Palestinians in 1948. Unlike cities in post-colonial nation-states that emerged across the world in the 1940s and 1950s and inherited pre-formed urban spaces and infrastructure, Jenin and other towns and cities in the West Bank were cut off from their natural hinterland, stunting their urbanization. Towns located in areas where Israel operates as a state today, including in East Jerusalem and the Golan after 1967, have been transformed and transfigured to serve the settler community. When Palestine’s urban loss of the 1948 Nakba is mentioned, Jaffa is usually highlighted. But Jaffa was a cultural center and a commercial gateway that served local agriculture and industry in a way those living in what is known today as the West Bank or the Gaza Strip, including refugees, were never able to recreate. In his book Jenin City (1964), the academic Kamal Jabarin writes that the town started to expand around its Ottoman center, which still operates as the heart of the city today. Jenin’s only surviving urban heritage dates from the Ottoman era and includes a marketplace, a government building, a mosque and other buildings. Jabarin told The Electronic Intifada:

The loss of Jenin took place in 1948. The establishment of Israel placed Jenin at the margin, isolating it from the cities and towns it was traditionally connected to and dependent on for trade and cultural and familial ties. The Haifa and Nazareth roads were vital arteries connecting Jenin with those two important cities and trading partners, but were abandoned after the 1948 Nakba. Many people from Jenin were killed for trying to visit their relatives there.

The Saray or the Ottoman government building which was established in 1882,
and became the center of Jenin, is now used as an elementary school.

The two roads came to life again after Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank. But these roads have again been closed. The Nazareth road is today blocked by an Israeli fence and a military checkpoint. The Haifa road, meanwhile, ends at the Salem military base some 9 km from the city center. Salem is an Israeli military court and detention center. Isam al-Amer opened a gas station in 1995 on the Haifa road. Today, it is located right in front of where Israel’s wall blocks passage. When the gas station opened, it served Palestinians from Jenin who would travel through the Salem military checkpoint here to Haifa and elsewhere. That checkpoint was closed after the second intifada began two decades ago. And where once 20 people worked, only two are left. He said:

We’re still working in the hope that the checkpoint will open again.

Until then, however, he is the owner of the gas station at the end of the road. The Nazareth road, meanwhile, leads only as far as the Jalama checkpoint just a few minutes from Jenin’s city center.

Muhammad Abufarha holds an old picture of the airfield that was once located in the Jenin area.
Today, Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip do not have any airport of their own.

The checkpoint is completely closed for Palestinian Authority-registered vehicles, so any residents who have obtained travel permits from the Israeli military will have to cross on foot. A few people still remember the airfield area here, which had been established at the end of the Ottoman era in 1917 by German engineers and was later developed by the British authorities to include several aircraft hangars, warehouses and shops. During WW2, the airport was used by both British and US air forces for their operations in the region. Muhammad Abufarha of the nearby al-Jalama village told The Electronic Intifada:

It could have been turned into a real airport for my town. Instead of having an airport, al-Jalama villagers take advantage of the checkpoint to provide services for those hoping to cross, with many offering their land as parking lots for those leaving their cars to cross.

After the 1948 Nakba, Jenin became a shelter for thousands of refugees who were expelled from their homes in Haifa and 54 villages in northern Palestine. In 1953, UNRWA established the Jenin camp. The refugee camp now has 12k residents. The camp is now the heart of a town that contains another 53k people. Abd’al-Jalil al-Noursi, who arrived at the Jenin camp in the early 1950s after fleeing Haifa, said:

Early refugees lived at evacuated British Army barracks, then at the abandoned Ottoman train station, then in UNRWA tents. After a few years, and with little idea whether they would ever be allowed to return to their homes, residents began replacing their UNRWA tents with mud houses. In the 1970s, the mud houses then became concrete houses.

At the camp’s main square lies the Ottoman train station, which was abandoned in 1948, as were the other railway stations of the West Bank in Nablus and Tulkarm.

Abd’al-Jalil al-Noursi holds an old picture of the Ottoman train station located today at the heart of Jenin camp.
The station was used as a shelter by early refugees. Since its abandonment,
refugees have been opening some small shops around the building.

Today, there are no rail services available to Palestinians in the West Bank, except for those resident in East Jerusalem. However, remnants of the abandoned railway are still visible in parts of the West Bank. Five kilometers north of Jenin’s abandoned station, a dirt road marks where the railway used to run, connecting Jenin with Afula and Haifa. The dirt road is now cut by Israel’s separation wall. One of the major urbanization challenges in West Bank towns has been the ever-changing planning visions of the different rulers in the area over the last 100 years. The first structural plan for Jenin was British, said Dina Hamdan, an engineer who has worked with the Jenin municipality. The next plan didn’t come until 1992. Hamdan told The Electronic Intifada:

The Jordanian and Israeli authorities didn’t give urban sprawl serious attention. They were ruling temporarily. As a result, Jenin’s urban sprawl has been a rapid and random process. The presence of the PA has not helped much. PA planning has been based on what international development aid is available and for what. When we get funding to pave roads, we pave. When we get one for sanitary drainage, we do that. We are lost. I still feel a sense of belonging to Jenin, but it’s complicated. There is nothing attractive in the city. We had potential but we lost it.

In the city center, two shopping malls were recently built, both on the sites of demolished buildings. A third is under construction. One of them, Burj’al-Saa [Clock Tower] is located where Jenin’s last cinema stood before it was demolished in 2016. Cinema Jenin was one of three movie theaters in the city. None survive today. Indeed, there are no screening rooms anywhere in Tulkarm, Nablus or Bethlehem, cities that had several cinema halls just a few decades ago. Al-Hashimi Cinema, in Jenin’s Ottoman old town, still stands but has been closed since 2002. Hanan Sharif, the widow of al-Hashimi’s original owner, said:

Every new movie was shown. But political instability and two intifadas have affected the cultural sector acutely, in Jenin and across the West Bank. During the first intifada, we decided to shut down the cinema after my son Fuad was killed by Israeli soldiers. It opened years later as a wedding hall. But when my second son, Rashad, was killed during the second intifada, we decided to shut it down completely.

The Al-Hashimi cinema lies derelict. During the second intifada, Israeli soldiers
were based on the roof of the cinema, destroying parts of the ceiling.

Reem Arabi, 37, one of Hanan’s daughters, says:

I hope to rehabilitate the cinema in the future, but I am afraid that people are not interested in cinemas anymore. They prefer watching TV or surfing the internet.

Shatha Hanaysha, 27, is a recent journalism graduate who was always opposed to the closing of Jenin’s cinemas, especially Cinema Jenin. Today, she now finds herself in the position of running a cultural cafe with three friends on the fourth floor of the Clock Tower mall built on it. Hanaysha told The Electronic Intifada:

I was against renting a space in this capitalist mall that replaced the cinema. But the Kafka Cafe and Shop gave us an opportunity to promote cultural events in the city, a mission dear to us even if it is not lucrative. It’s not financially viable but it’s part of our vision. But I’m frustrated by the city, the lack of prospects for ambitious youth, and the dearth of public spaces. Jenin is tough and I feel sad for young people. There are no real cities anywhere in the West Bank.

The Israeli military gate that cuts the Jenin-Haifa historical road has been closed since the second intifada.
The Salem military court and detention center is seen in the background.

Jenin refugee camp houses over 12k people. During the 2002 Jenin massacre,
the Israeli military demolished more than 400 homes here.

“The camp is a temporary station until the return,” reads a text
placed at the entrance to Jenin refugee camp.

An Israeli military gate and fence cuts across a dirt road
where the Jenin-Afula railway used to run.

Palestinian shops at the new Jenin market center. The city attracts hundreds
of Palestinian citizens of Israel every Satuday who come to shop for bargains.

A general view of Jenin’s unplanned and sometimes random sprawl.

Yet another shopping mall is being built in the heart of Jenin. Engineer Dina Hamdan
argues that such construction in the city center is a ”big mistake.”

Young people at Kafka Cafe and its view of Jenin’s crowded center.

Sudan and Israel agree to tie the knot
Tamara Nassar, Electronic Intifada, Oct 23 2020

Trump signs the agreement to establish diplomatic ties between Israel and Sudan in the Oval Office, Oct 23 2020.
Photo: Leigh Vogel/ABACA

Sudan has agreed to fully normalize relations with Israel.

The agreement, which came as no surprise, was sealed in a phone call on Friday between Trump, Netanyahu, Sudan’s transitional government leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. The call was held in the presence of reporters in the Oval Office. Trump made no secret that he hoped the deal would secure him a political advantage in the final stretch of the US election campaign, in which polls show him trailing badly. Trump asked the Israeli prime minister:

Do you think Sleepy Joe could have made this deal, Bibi?

Netanyahu replied:

Mr President, one thing I can tell you is we appreciate the help for peace from anyone in America, and we appreciate what you’ve done enormously.

With an audible stress on the word ‘anyone,’ Netanyahu gave a cautious answer that showed he was already looking ahead to the very real possibility that Israel will be dealing with a new occupant in the White House come January.

Officials from the three countries will meet in coming weeks to discuss cooperation agreements on agriculture, technology, aviation and migration, according to a joint statement from the US, Israel and Sudan. The normalization appears to be part of a larger deal to remove Sudan from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism and bring it firmly into the American fold. Trump announced on Monday that he would remove Sudan from the list in exchange for $335m in compensation for American casualties of al-Qaeda attacks:

Sudan deposited the money on Thursday, and Trump notified Congress of his intention to remove Sudan from the list.

Sudan has been on the list since 1993, and the only other countries now on it are Syria, North Korea and Iran. In a tweet on Friday, Hamdok thanked Trump for moving to remove Sudan from the list, but made no direct mention of the agreement with Israel.

Sudan attempted to downplay what is almost certainly a very unpopular step among the Sudanese population, which has a strong tradition of solidarity with Palestinians. The Sudanese foreign minister reportedly said:

What happened today was an agreement to normalize and not normalization, which will happen after the formation of a legislative council and new government.

Palestinians across the political spectrum condemned the agreement. Trump said that more countries will conclude deals with Israel, adding that he expects Saudi Arabia to be among them. In a recent interview with Saudi-owned television channel Al Arabiya, Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud, a former intelligence chief who previously spent decades as the Saudi ambassador in Washington, slammed the Palestinian leadership for its “failures,” saying:

The Palestinian cause is a just cause, but its advocates are failures and the Israeli cause is unjust, but its advocates have proven to be successful.

Prince Bandar’s covert collusion with Israel, including supporting Israel’s 2006 war on Lebanon, goes back years. Earlier this week, an American-Israeli delegation flew from Tel Aviv to Khartoum to discuss ending “the state of belligerence” between the two countries, Barak Ravid reported Thursday, citing unnamed sources. Sudanese officials later confirmed the trip.

Those aboard the plane included Ronen Peretz, D-G of Netanyahu’s PMO, and US ambassador to Israel David Friedman, according to Ravid. Officials from Mossad were also part of the delegation according to Israel ha-Yom. In August, Pompeo flew on the first known direct flight between Israel and Sudan. Pompeo was there to “express support for deepening the Sudan-Israel relationship,” the US State Dept said. US, Emirati and Sudanese officials reportedly met in Abu Dhabi in September to discuss Khartoum forming diplomatic relations with Israel in exchange for US economic aid to Sudan. It looks like such a deal is coming together. A Sudanese diplomat also attended the White House signing ceremony in September when Emirati and Bahraini ministers signed normalization agreements with Netanyahu.

Formal diplomatic relations between Israel and Sudan come as no surprise. Covert relations between the two countries trace back to the 1950s, as Columbia University professor Joseph Massad has written. In recent years, Israel lobbied the US to improve its ties to Sudan, even while Sudan’s president at the time Omar al-Bashir was wanted for genocide by the International Criminal Court. Israel reportedly saw Sudan as a potential ally against Iran. The removal of al-Bashir following popular protests last year paved the way for Sudan and Israel to consummate their ties. Al-Burhan and Netanyahu already met earlier this year. Netanyahu said during the Oval Office press conference on Friday:

When I met chairman Burhan in Uganda in Africa eight months ago, I hoped we could reach this day.

Netanyahu added that it took Trump’s team as well as “the courage of the leaders of Sudan” for this to be achieved. In a video addressed to Israelis on Friday, Netanyahu said:

Sudanese airspace is now open to Israel, making for shorter, direct flights between Israel, Africa and South America.

But Sudan had reportedly already agreed to this earlier this year, following the Uganda meeting. Netanyahu’s warm words for Sudanese leaders contrast with the virulent anti-Black racism in Israel, especially directed at Sudanese asylum-seekers. Likud lawmaker and minister of transportation, Miri Regev, has previously said that the “Sudanese are a cancer in our body” and “we will do everything to bring them back to their place of origin.” Regev later apologized to cancer victims for comparing them to Africans. This was an example of regular racist incitement, mob rampages and racist government policies against refugees and migrants from African states in Israel. Netanyahu also previously boasted of his efforts to deport African refugees.

Israel lobby spreads more lies about Palestine groups at NYU
Nora Barrows-Friedman, Electronic Intifada, Oct 23 2020

Students at NYU. (NYU SJP)

New York University has agreed to settle with the US Dept of Education over allegations that the university had not appropriately responded to claims of anti-Semitism. Two attorneys filed the complaint last year on behalf of a student who alleged that she faced “two years of extreme anti-Semitism on the NYU campus which has created an intolerable and unlawful hostile atmosphere for Jewish students.” Echoing previous attempts by Israel advocates to silence Palestinian rights activists on campuses, the complaint accused Students for Justice in Palestine of creating the “hostile” climate due to the group’s criticism of Israel and its state ideology Zionism. The attorneys who filed the complaint are affiliated with the Louis D Brandeis Center for Human Rights, an Israel lobby and lawfare organization separate from Brandeis University. In 2019 Donald Trump issued an executive order which conflates criticism of Israel with anti-Jewish bigotry. The executive order is based on the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) so-called definition of anti-Semitism and has boosted the aims of Israel lobby groups to file baseless complaints against universities over Palestinian rights activism. The complaint against NYU was filed with the Dept of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR). At the time, the OCR was led by Kenneth Marcus, who had been head of the Brandeis Center before he was appointed to the federal position by the Trump administration. At the Brandeis Center, Marcus pioneered the strategy of filing complaints to the OCR under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, alleging that universities fail to protect Jewish students by allowing Palestinian rights activity to take place. Marcus resigned in July amid likely violations of federal law in prioritizing complaints at the OCR. Radhika Sainath, senior attorney with the organization Palestine Legal, told The Electronic Intifada:

Anti-Palestinian groups had everything going for them.

But in the end, Israel lobby groups seeking censorship and punishment of Palestinian rights advocates barely got what they came for. The NYU settlement acknowledges that the university had not violated any civil rights laws as Marcus’ colleagues asserted. Under the agreement, the university has committed to tackling bigotry against Jews, but notably it has not explicitly conceded any undertaking to prevent criticism of Israel. NYU’s president was also required to issue a statement to all students, faculty and staff reiterating that the university “does not tolerate acts of discrimination or harassment on the basis of shared ancestry and ethnic characteristics, including anti-Semitism.” Nevertheless, anti-Palestinian organizations touted the settlement as a victory.

Roz Rothstein, CEO of StandWithUs, an Israel lobby group, spuriously claimed that NYU had violated civil rights laws. She has not issued a correction. Radhika Sainath told The Electronic Intifada:

We wish the university had fought this and had not agreed to settle. We hope that other universities fight these types of harassing, completely meritless complaints and don’t give into these settlements. Universities are understandably afraid of Trump’s executive order and possible investigations by the Office for Civil Rights and would want to find an easy way out. But legal experts saw many of these kinds of complaints being filed during the Obama administration. Universities fought them and refused to settle on free speech and academic freedom grounds. By settling with the federal government, universities may think this can make the problem go away. But it won’t. Once you open the door to these types of anti-Palestinian attacks, these groups are going to keep coming back and demanding censorship.

Over the past several years, the NYU chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace, together with supportive professors, have built a strong and resilient Palestinian rights activism community on campus. Anti-Palestinian groups have long attempted to smear NYU’s Students for Justice in Palestine and their allied groups as anti-Semites in order to protect Israel from criticism. Palestine Legal tweeted:

Meanwhile, the Trump administration is planning to release a report labeling Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Oxfam as “anti-Semitic” over their work on Palestine. The State Dept is using the IHRA definition to smear such institutions, with information reportedly provided by NGO Monitor, a group that works with the Israeli government to attack human rights defenders. Part of the State Dept’s plan would be to target the international groups’ “alleged or perceived” support of the BDS campaign against Israel, reported Politico. Though the groups have vehemently rejected the accusations of anti-Semitism, some of their personnel appear to be playing into the hands of their attackers by impugning the non-violent boycott movement. Noah Gottschalk of Oxfam America disavowed the BDS campaign, saying:

Oxfam does not support BDS or call for the boycott of Israel or any other country.

However, grassroots human rights advocates and civil rights groups are pushing back and defending the right to boycott.

This “double standard” trope is commonly used by Israel advocates to deflect criticism of Israel’s violations of human rights and shield Israel from any and all accountability. In July, Zachor asked the US Justice Dept to investigate ties between the Black Lives Matter movement and “terrorist” groups. The Israeli government, along with lobby groups like Zachor and the ADL, have long seen Black Lives Matter as a major strategic threat. Israel and its supporters are clearly agitated by the growing and solidifying solidarity between Palestinian rights campaigners and anti-racist activists in the US.

Dutch reject Wilders’ smears against Gaza rights group
Maureen Clare Murphy, Electronic Intifada, Oct 23 2020

NGO Monitor attacks Palestinian human rights groups to undermine their work
towards ending Israeli impunity. Photo: Ahmad Al-Bazz/ActiveStills

A campaign to undermine the work of Palestinian human rights organizations by conflating them with “terrorist” groups has suffered a significant blow. The government of the Netherlands said earlier this month that “there is no reason to assume” that there are links between Al Mezan, a human rights group in Gaza, and the left-wing PFLP. Dutch funding of Al Mezan had come under question by Geert Wilders, leader of the Freedom Party, and two other members of parliament belonging to the far-right group. The lawmakers raised accusations of “Dutch aid money for Palestinian terrorists” after the publication of a document smearing Al Mezan authored by NGO Monitor, an anti-Palestinian group with close ties to the Israeli government and settler movement. The document rehashes formulaic smears long used by organizations close to Israel against Palestinian human rights groups working towards accountability at global bodies such as the International Criminal Court. NGO Monitor describes Al Mezan as “highly active in anti-Israel lawfare campaigns,” and criticizes it for making “attempts to secure arrest warrants for Israeli officials for alleged ‘war crimes.’” The Jerusalem-based group asserts that photos and posts published on social media demonstrate links between Al Mezan board and staff members and the PFLP and Hamas, which are designated as “terror” groups by the European Union. In its seven-page response, the Dutch government states that it “takes such allegations seriously” but declares NGO Monitor’s claims to be unfounded. The Dutch government affirms that raising alleged violations to international bodies are “legitimate” and standard activities for human rights groups. It added that it objects to social media posts concerning armed resistance made by Al Mezan staff members in their personal capacity. It adds that these posts were raised with Al Mezan, which it said would see to their removal. However, international consensus recognizes that occupied and colonized peoples have the right to armed resistance against foreign domination. And while it places onerous conditions on funding to Palestinian NGOs, the EU rewards Israel for its crimes. The result is an increasingly “shrinking civic space” in which Palestinian human rights groups may operate, as intended by the Israeli government and its proxies. While welcoming the Dutch government’s response to the claims made by NGO Monitor, Al Mezan called for the unequivocal rejection of “malicious incitement” intended to shield Israel from accountability.

NGO Monitor, which presents itself as a charity watchdog, has fostered alliances with far-right figures and parties in Europe as part of its efforts to shore up unconditional support for Israel. It is part of a general trend of groups closely aligned with Israel finding common cause with extremists in Europe, including Holocaust deniers.

Wilders’ anti-Muslim views were extensively cited with approval in the manifesto of Anders Brevik, who massacred dozens of people in Norway in 2011. The Dutch politician has also thrown his support behind Israeli efforts to annex West Bank land in violation of international law. Ten years ago, NGO Monitor targeted a Dutch aid group for its financial support to The Electronic Intifada, relying on the scurrilous and defamatory claims that are characteristic of its smear campaigns. Now the US State Dept is relying on NGO Monitor’s claims as it is reportedly moving to declare prominent international organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Oxfam as “anti-Semitic.” The State Dept is singling out those groups because of their advocacy for Palestinian rights. Massive resources have been deployed to stifle the work of organizations challenging Israeli impunity. But despite this bullying, accountability may be nearing as the International Criminal Court inches closer towards opening a full investigation into war crimes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Earlier this year, Israeli media reported that the government is compiling “a secret list of military and intelligence officials who might be subject to arrest abroad” should an ICC investigation proceed.

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