electronic intifada

UK “Labour anti-Semitism” probe finds only two “unlawful acts”
Asa Winstanley, Electronic Intifada, Oct 29 2020

The UK’s official equality watchdog has failed to find the Labour Party guilty of “institutional anti-Semitism,” after a 17-month investigation. But the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) made a veiled swipe at former party leader Jeremy Corbyn in a much-anticipated report on Thursday. It accuses the party of a “failure of leadership” during Corbyn’s tenure as well as “political interference” by his office over complaints of anti-Semitism. It also accused two Labour figures, including former mayor of London Ken Livingstone, of “unlawful harassment” against unspecified Jewish people. The report states:

Our investigation has identified serious failings in leadership and an inadequate process for handling anti-Semitism complaints across the Labour Party.

But it makes no recommendation of any disciplinary action against individuals. The current Labour leader, ‘Sir’ Keir Starmer, said months ago he would implement all its recommendations. The Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, one of the two pro-Israel lobby groups that referred Labour to the EHRC in the first place, demanded on Wednesday that heads should roll. Their chief executive told the Guardian:

Those responsible remain in the party and must be held to account.

The EHRC’s impartiality has been widely called into question. Its critics including Corbyn say it is too close to the ruling Conservatives and point to senior EHRC figures with close ties to the government and of the body’s refusal to act against anti-Black racism. Former Labour MP Chris Williamson told The Electronic Intifada that the report was “a major climb-down” and that he had been vindicated.

In its referral of Labour to the EHRC last year, pro-Israel group the Jewish Labour Movement had insisted that the body had a duty “to force the Labour Party to acknowledge that it has become institutionally anti-Semitic.” But the final report published today notably makes no mention of that key allegation, a common smear made by pro-Israel lobby groups in the years since Corbyn became leader in 2015. Williamson said:

The stitch-up had no legs. The serious accusations against me could not be sustained and the EHRC had to back down. I’ve been vindicated as a longstanding anti-racist campaigner.

Williamson was suspended from the party in 2019 over false anti-Semitism allegations and later resigned in protest. The Electronic Intifada understands that an earlier draft of the report contained findings against Williamson. But after representations from Williamson’s lawyers, the EHRC wrote back that they would subsequently remove the findings before publication.

The report claims that “the Labour Party committed unlawful harassment through the actions of its agent, Ken Livingstone” (at the time a member of the ruling National Executive Committee) because in Apr 2016 he pointed to a “smear campaign by ‘the Israel lobby’ to stigmatize critics of Israel as anti-Semitic, as well as being aimed at undermining and disrupting the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.” Livingstone did this, the report says, by defending Labour lawmaker Naz Shah, who had posted an image to Facebook “suggesting that Israel should be relocated to the US,” and a second post “in which she appeared to liken Israeli policies to those of Hitler.” Livingstone has always denied saying anything anti-Semitic. He told The Electronic Intifada that the draft EHRC report had not been sent to him before publication. In a fuller statement after the report was published on Thursday, he defended his record saying:

As a life-long anti-racist, I am deeply hurt by, and fully reject the accusations again being circulated across parts of the media.

Livingstone’s defense of Shah led to a subsequent BBC radio interview in which he (accurately) pointed out that in the early 1930s when he first came to power, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler “was supporting Zionism.” But the report does not mention the long-running controversy over this comment, which led to Livingstone twice being suspended by the party and ultimately forced to resign. Instead it asserts that Shah’s posts were “anti-Semitic social media posts” and that merely by denying they were anti-Semitic, Livingstone was guilty of “unwanted conduct related to Jewish ethnicity,” which “had the effect of harassing members of the Labour Party.” The EHRC has the power under British law to force a body such as the Labour Party to come up with an “action plan” to address its rulings. The report recommends Labour should comission an “independent process to handle and determine anti-Semitism complaints” for an unspecified period “until trust and confidence in the process is restored.” Long a demand of the Jewish Labour Movement, Starmer has already committed to establishing an independent complaints procedure for anti-Semitism. The EHRC does not have any power to sanction individuals. But James Libson, a lawyer acting for the Jewish Labour Movement, said during a JLM public meeting held on Zoom in June that an EHRC ruling naming individuals could open the way to legal action against them. Libson said:

There may be avenues for individual people to bring proceedings themselves, if the EHRC says that this person was subject to harassment, unlawful acts, or something of that nature.

Having already played a major part in removing him as leader, the manufactured “anti-Semitism crisis” campaign which has been seeking to remove Corbyn from Labour altogether may yet achieve its maximal goal.

EU ignores court ruling on right to boycott Israel
David Cronin, Electronic Intifada, Oct 29 2020

Donald Trump’s eagerness to please Israel has been obscene, yet entertaining. At times, it has been impossible not to watch in a combination of horror and amusement as a president smashed up the conventions of diplomacy. In 2017, Trump admitted that he did not care whether there would be a single or two-state solution, making the inane observation:

I like the one that both parties like.

The following year, he boasted that he had reduced the price of moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Never mind that Trump treats UNSCRs as toilet paper, he still has an eye for real estate bargains. And now Trump has questioned whether Joe Biden could have brokered a “normalization” pact between Israel and Sudan. As well as selling the deal as a triumph for peace, Trump sought (unsuccessfully, in this instance) to land a few punches on “Sleepy Joe.” For purely selfish reasons, I wish that EU policy-makers displayed some of Trump’s bravado. Whereas he makes me giggle, their conduct has turned me into an incorrigible grump. Last week, it was reported that Frontex, the EU’s border management agency, is teaming up with Israel’s weapons industry. Israel’s leading arms exporter Elbit Systems and a partnership involving Israel Aerospace Industries and the multinational Airbus have been awarded a combined total of around $118m from the agency. Warplanes tested on Palestinians will more than likely be used to help stop refugees reaching Europe’s shores, although that is a detail you would have missed if you read the Guardian’s story about these contracts. The manifest bias of authorities and the media towards Israel makes the case for a boycott of its goods and institutions even more pressing. The snag is that these authorities are actively trying to undermine the boycott.

During the summer I filed a complaint with Margaritis Schinas, a vice-president of the European Commission. My complaint focused on a little-noticed but significant 2019 speech made by Schinas in which he claimed:

Anti-Semitism has many forms, ranging from anti-Zionism to Holocaust denial and distortion; from a discriminatory comment towards a colleague in the workplace to severe threats to a person’s life.

I requested that Schinas explain why he was equating Zionism, a political ideology developed in the late 19th century, with Judaism, a much older religion. I reminded him that Zionism was used in the 1940s as a pretext for the mass dispossession of Palestinians and that, today, it underpins a system of racism against Palestinians. Moreover, I alerted Schinas to how, since his speech was made, an important ruling had been issued by the European Court of Human Rights. In its verdict, delivered during June this year, the court explicitly defended the rights of campaigners to call for a boycott of Israel. The court even asserted that speech relating to the boycott of Israel requires “a high level of protection.” I contended that if the court ruling is taken seriously, then criticism of Israel’s state ideology, Zionism, must be considered protected free speech. Schinas did not respond to my complaint himself. He tasked Katharina von Schnurbein, the EU’s coordinator against anti-Semitism, with doing so. Von Schnurbein, who has smeared campaigners for a boycott of Israel, did not actually address the points that I raised. Her letter made no mention whatsoever of the ruling from the European Court of Human Rights. Rather, she referred to how the EU is guided by a definition of anti-Semitism approved by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. She omitted that the definition was actually drafted by pro-Israel lobby groups and how they are using it to try and shield Israel from accountability. Von Schnurbein also pointed to a 2018 opinion poll published by the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency. In her words:

The“survey highlights that Israel-related anti-Semitism is the most common form of anti-Semitic discrimination and abuse experienced by Jewish Europeans.

Irrespective of what von Schnurbein thinks, opinion polls are not actually a substitute for court rulings. The EU is preparing to incorporate the European Convention of Human Rights into its own rulebook. The European Court of Human Rights, which is separate from the European Union, oversees compliance with that convention. If EU representatives really mean what they say about wishing to uphold a human rights convention, then they must respect rulings from the court. The findings of an opinion poll do not provide them with cover to disregard judgments that they don’t like. Besides, the objectivity of the team conducting the 2018 survey is in doubt. Its project director was Jonathan Boyd from the London-based Institute for Jewish Policy Research. Boyd is a strident pro-Israel advocate, who fails to draw distinctions between Zionism and Judaism. In his column with the Jewish Chronicle, Boyd has mused on how young Jews can be inculcated with a devotion to Israel. Ahead of Britain’s general election last year, he alleged that the Labour Party had a major problem with anti-Jewish bigotry, even though that problem had been invented to undermine the then leadership of Jeremy Corbyn. That said, the 2018 survey should not be dismissed. One of its findings was that 43%t of Jews who took part felt they were blamed for Israel’s actions either all the time or frequently. Another 36% felt they were occasionally blamed. There is a clear message here: Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians may also be harming Europe’s Jews. If the EU’s authorities were really as concerned about anti-Semitism as they purport to be, then they would be putting pressure on Israel so that it ends the oppression and everyone could breathe more easily. They could combine that work with raising awareness about how Jews around the world must not be held responsible for what Israel does. As it stands, the EU authorities are doing the exact opposite. By buying Israel’s weapons, as Frontex has just done, they are making oppression lucrative, thereby helping it to persist. And by treating Zionism as indistinguishable from Judaism, they are promoting ignorance.

Genocide supporter may get top job at Israel Holocaust memorial
Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada, Oct 29 2020

Israeli General Effie Eitam minces no words about Palestinians. He told the New Yorker’s Jeffrey Goldberg in 2004:

These are creatures who came out of the depths of darkness. We will have to kill them all. I don’t mean all the Palestinians, but the ones with evil in their heads. Not only blood on their hands, but evil in their heads.

Eitam has been nominated to head Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem to which practically every foreign leader visiting Israel is brought to have their photo taken. It’s not a done deal. Israel’s higher education minister Ze’ev Elkin reportedly nominated Eitam, and an Israeli official told the AP that Netanyahu backs the appointment. Israel’s cabinet will make the final decision. Voices that ought to carry some weight are speaking out against Eitam. Shraga Milstein, the 87-year-old chair of the Israeli Association of Bergen-Belsen Survivors, told Haaretz:

He is not a man who regards everyone as equal, which is a basic assumption for anyone running an institution like Yad Vashem.

That is quite an understatement. Milstein added:

As we know, the Holocaust didn’t start with gas chambers. It started with differentiating between people and seeing some people as unequal to others.

Eitam’s genocidal views of Palestinians expressed to Goldberg in 2004 are no aberration. In 2009, The Electronic Intifada published a compendium of some of Eitam’s most violent and hateful acts and declarations, as he toured the US as a “special emissary” for Netanyahu. Amid a horrifying record, some things stand out. During the first intifada, Eitam was implicated in the killing of a young Palestinian in the occupied Gaza Strip. Several senior officers were convicted of telling their soldiers to break the arms and legs of Palestinian youths. Part of their defense was that they were just following orders from Israel’s defense minister Yitzhak Rabin and from their commander Effie Eitam. In 1988, Eitam, known at the time as Effie Fein, was a commander in Israel’s notorious Givati brigade in Gaza. As the JPost reported on May 9 1994, about the 1988 incident, Eitam “was heard over the military radio ordering his troops to use clubs to break the bones” of two Palestinian protesters. One of them, Ayyad Aqel, aged 21, died. Aqel, from al-Bureij refugee camp, was “handcuffed and blindfolded” during the fatal attack in an olive grove, the Guardian reported on Nov 2 1990. According to the same Guardian report, Eitam “was said to have used dogs and batons” against Palestinians, and on one occasion ordered that a Palestinian who defied a curfew “be bound in a public place.” Eitam reportedly said:

I want to see blood here, as a warning to others.

While Eitam received a slap on the wrist in the form of a reprimand, he was later promoted to brigadier-general. In 2002, as he launched into politics, Eitam called for Israel to embark on wars of aggression across the region as far afield as Iraq and Iran. Under their cover, he hoped:

The opportunity will be created to deal more deeply with the Palestinian issue.

Ultimately, Palestinians could have their state, but only in Egypt’s Sinai and in Jordan. Palestinians would eventually leave their homeland, but in the meantime, Eitam was generous enough to allow them to remain “residents without the right to vote.” Eitam attacked Ariel Sharon, Israel’s notoriously violent prime minister at the time, for being too soft on the Palestinians. He called for the murder of Yasir Arafat, then leader of the Palestinian Authority. Eitam said, according to the JPost on Jul 5 2002:

If I give the order now, he would be dead in 15 minutes, together with his whole gang.

He also called for the extra-judicial execution of Marwan Barghouti, a senior Fatah military leader who was at that time being interrogated by Israeli forces. Eitam suggested:

Take him out to an orchard and shoot him in the head.

He added that senior PA politicians Ahmed Qurei, then the legislative council leader, and Mahmoud Abbas, currently PA leader, should all meet the same fate. They were in Eitam’s words all “impure animals.” Eitam’s brand of extremism proved popular enough to win his National Religious Party a place in the Knesset and in Sharon’s government. Eitam served as minister of housing and infrastructure (i.e settlement building) until he resigned over Sharon’s plan to withdraw Israeli settlers from the interior of Gaza. Palestinian leaders are not the only targets of Eitam’s violent hatred. He has habitually incited violence against Palestinian civilians individually and collectively. In 2005, Israel’s high court nominally banned the Israeli army’s practice of using Palestinian civilians as human shields, although it has continued. Under the practice, Israeli occupation forces send Palestinian civilians, including children, into dangerous situations so that the civilian rather than the soldiers would take any fire, a blatant war crime. The 2002 death of a Palestinian teenager in one such incident prompted the high court case. Eitam objected to the ruling, saying it would “expose IDF soldiers to more danger.” In 2006, Eitam incited the wholesale ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. Eitam said, using Zionist terminology for the occupied West Bank:

We will have to do three things: Expel most of the Judea and Samaria Arabs from here. Some of them may be able to stay under certain conditions, but most of them will have to go. They are a fifth column, a group of traitors of the first degree. We need to remove them from the political system.

Underlying his proposals is his view, expressed to Haaretz in 2002, that Palestinian citizens of Israel are a “cancer” eating away at the body of the state. In response to that, veteran Israeli journalist Akiva Eldar commented:

The fact that the Nazis were especially fond of this metaphor is probably not lost on him.

Israel’s propagandists recognize that putting Eitam at the head of Yad Vashem would be a major public relations headache, and that may yet sink the appointment. Collete Avital, a former Israeli diplomat, told AP:

There are enough people, whether it’s BDS or whether it’s people that deny the Holocaust and so on, who will say ‘Look, the guy, how can he speak on behalf of Holocaust survivors when this is what he says about the Arabs?’

Avital was referring to the BDS movement for Palestinian rights, which has absolutely no relationship whatsoever to Holocaust denial. But her concern is clear: Israel’s instrumentalization of the Holocaust to justify crimes against Palestinians would become much more difficult with a head of Yad Vashem who is so honest about his ethnic hared of Palestinians. The UN Genocide Convention defines genocide as any of a number of inhuman acts “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such.” Under the convention, the crime of genocide includes “direct and public incitement to commit genocide.” If anything fits this description it is Eitam’s record of dehumanizing Palestinians as “evil” and as “animals” and calling for their mass killing and expulsion from their homeland. Thus, we will soon find out if Israel will be putting a genocidaire in charge of its Holocaust memorial.

Twitter shuts down accounts following Israeli pressure
Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada, Oct 28 2020

Israeli soldier Hallel Silverman, right, the face of Israel’s latest anti-Palestinian campaign,
says she supports Joe Biden and Black Lives Matter. (via Instagram)

Israel’s strategic affairs ministry has launched a new campaign targeting online expressions of support for Palestinian rights. On Tuesday, 4IL, a propaganda outlet of the ministry, tweeted the handles of dozens of accounts it claimed were “anti-Israel bots and trolls who try to steer public opinion.” the Israeli government urged:

Report them right now.

The ministry also issued a report claiming it had “examined over 250 accounts, in which 70% of them (170) were found to be considered inauthentic.” The report claims that the accounts were trying to “stir anti-Israel sentiment online and manipulate discourse against Israel” by, among other activities, promoting calls for Israel to be held accountable for war crimes at the International Criminal Court. The report said strategic affairs minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen “called on Twitter in a letter to remove the problematic accounts.”

The ministry also posted a video of “activist” Hallel Silverman reading out the Twitter handles targeted for closure. Silverman’s Twitter bio indicates she is a supporter of Biden and Harris. Palestinians have been reporting that accounts are being shut down by Twitter.

One prominent account that appears to have been suspended, though it is unclear if it is related to the Israeli ministry’s effort, is that of Dr Basem Naim, a former health minister in Gaza. Even if Israel did identify some inauthentic accounts, the number it claims to have found, 170, is tiny, given the billions of people worldwide, including millions of Palestinians, who use social media. The ministry’s exaggerated claims painting this as a major coup against what it calls “delegitimization networks” smacks of desperation to smear all legitimate criticism of Israel as somehow contrived or inauthentic, when that is evidently not the case. Nonetheless, internet censorship spurred by Israel is a growing problem. In August, Facebook shut down pages belonging to the health ministry in Gaza, closing off a vital outlet for public information amid the coronavirus pandemic. Following inquiries by The Electronic Intifada, Facebook apologized and reversed the decision, claiming it was a mistake. But both Facebook and Twitter have long been censoring Palestinians. Twitter has previously closed the accounts of Palestinian journalists and publications. For years, Facebook has been waging a campaign in cahoots with Israeli occupation authorities to silence and censor Palestinian media. It has shut down the accounts and pages of dozens of Palestinian journalists and publications, on the Israeli-supplied pretext that criticism of Israel and its crimes against Palestinians constitute “incitement.” It has labeled Palestinian journalism as “hate speech.” Facebook has even appointed an Israeli government censor to its “oversight board,” which effectively determines what content to censor or permit. Meanwhile, Facebook has allowed covert Israel lobby influence campaigns to run freely on its platform.

Israel’s strategic affairs ministry directs covert efforts to silence supporters of Palestinian rights all over the world. Al Jazeera’s undercover documentary The Lobby–USA exposed how the ministry works secretly with US organizations to spy on, smear and intimidate US citizens who support Palestinian human rights, especially BDS – the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. Al Jazeera suppressed the documentary, after Qatar, which funds the channel, came under major pressure from the Israel lobby. However, in 2018 The Electronic Intifada obtained and released the documentary in full.

Israeli government propagandist Hallel Silverman
claims to support Black Lives Matter. (via Instagram)

Hallel Silverman is an interesting choice as the face of Israel’s latest anti-Palestinian campaign. Born and raised in Massachusetts, Silverman moved to Israel when she was 11. Her Twitter bio says she is involved in “Branding and New Media.” Indeed she appears to be a branded product herself. Silverman has bragged about completing a course in “international diplomacy, politics and communications” taught by the Israeli foreign ministry. She is also a product of IDC Herzliya, an Israeli university that has long been a training ground for propagandists for Israel. IDC Herzliya even set up a “war room,” a troll farm with rows of people sitting at computers posting on Facebook to counter criticism of Israel’s abuses against Palestinians. Hallel Silverman is the niece of comedian Sarah Silverman.

In addition to promoting Biden and Harris, she also poses as a supporter of Black Lives Matter. This is almost certainly part of Israel’s efforts to gain credibility among progressives. Israel and its lobby, in fact, view Black Lives Matter as a major threat and have sought to co-opt or undermine the movement. But Silverman is no supporter of human rights and equality. At the height of Israel’s 2014 war on Gaza, she attended an event carrying a sign that she was “proud to be a soldier in the Israeli defense forces.” In the space of 51 days, Israel’s attack killed more than 2,200 Palestinians, including 550 children. Dozens of families were obliterated. Months before the attack, Silverman posted on Instagram that she was “so excited” to be drafted into the army that would go on to commit these atrocities, as it had so many before. Free speech advocates, including this writer, have long warned that calls for social media companies to suppress content under the banner of fighting “hate speech” or “disinformation” would lead to censorship of marginalized groups, particularly Palestinians. Veteran journalist Jonathan Cook observes in Middle East Eye this week that the kind of censorship faced by Palestinians due to Silicon Valley’s collusion with Israel should be seen as a warning to others. Cook writes:

The online fate of Palestinians points to a future in which the already powerful will gain ever greater control over what we know and what we are allowed to think, and over who is visible and who is erased from public life.

A request for comment has been sent to Twitter.

Israel seeks to demolish EU/British-funded school
Tamara Nassar, Electronic Intifada, Oct 28 2020

A Palestinian teacher giving a lesson in a classroom at the Ras al-Tin school,
near the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah on Oct 8. PMO/APA

Israel is threatening to demolish a Palestinian elementary school funded by the EU and the UK. The school enrolls some 50 Palestinian students in the occupied West Bank town of Ras al-Tin, northeast of Ramallah. Ras al-Tin is home to 280 Palestinians, half of them children and teens. They live on private Palestinian land owned by residents of nearby villages Kafr Malik and al-Mughayyir. They came to Ras al-Tin after Israel forcibly relocated them multiple times throughout the occupied West Bank. Ras al-Tin’s children were forced to walk two hours in both directions every day to get to a school three miles away at the village of al-Mughayyir. So the village built a school using funds from the EU, EU countries and the UK without acquiring an Israeli permit to do so, one they had “no chance of obtaining” in the first place, according to Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. Construction of the school remains incomplete and lacking windows, but classes have started with the beginning of the school year. Israeli occupation authorities have repeatedly confiscated school equipment and structures. On Aug 31, Israel’s Civil Administration, the bureaucratic arm of Israel’s military occupation, confiscated building materials meant for the building’s construction. On two other occasions, including while classes were in session, Israeli forces confiscated 60 classroom chairs, 24 desks, panels from the school’s roof and other building materials. B’Tselem said:

The students were forced to study under the scorching sun as they sat on the ground.

Israeli settlers often harass students, despite it being an elementary school, the school’s principal Nura al-Azhari, told Safa Palestinian Press Agency. The community’s girls will be affected the most if Israel moves ahead with demolishing the school, as they depend on the school’s proximity to their homes, B’Tselem stated.

A general view of the Ras al-Tin school, near the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah,
which is under threat of demolition by the Israeli military, on Oct 8. PMO/APA

The Norwegian Refugee Council, a humanitarian body, said it was “deeply concerned” over the prospects of an imminent demolition. The Norweigian group’s regional director, Carsten Hansen, said:

These are some of the most vulnerable children, whose life is already extremely hard. Israel has a legal obligation as an occupying power to ensure Palestinians can access their right to an education. Instead, it uses its power to do the opposite, denying them their fundamental right to education and paving the way for illegal settlement expansion.

London-based Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights wrote to the UK Foreign Office demanding “urgent intervention” to stop the imminent demolition.

A delegation from the EU’s offices in the occupied West Bank and the British consulate in occupied Jerusalem visited Ras al-Tin’s school earlier this month. In a tweet, the EU called on Israel “to halt all such demolitions” in light of their spike during the pandemic, “including EU-funded structures.” The British consulate stated on Twitter:

In all but exceptional cases, demolitions violate international humanitarian law. We demand that Israel halt all demolitions immediately.

Apart from verbal opposition, however, the EU and the British consulate haven’t spelled out any clear consequences for Israel should it move ahead with demolishing structures they funded. The EU has done nothing to hold Israel accountable for destroying tens of millions of dollars of projects for Palestinians paid for by European taxpayers over the years. Instead, it continues to reward Israel with more partnerships, including with Israel’s cyber-warfare industry.

The town of Ras al-Tin lies in a so-called “firing zone” in Area C, the 60% of the occupied West Bank that remains under complete Israeli military rule. Israel designated neighboring areas “closed military zones” as well, “in order to limit the community’s pastureland,” according to B’Tselem. Israel designates certain West Bank areas as “firing zones” and “military zones” to forcibly displace indigenous Palestinian communities or prevent them from accessing the land. Area C was supposed to be gradually transferred to the Palestinian Authority’s jurisdiction within one and a half years following the signing of the Oslo accords in the 1990s. Israel controls all planning and construction in the area under its permit regime, where Palestinians are subjected to a regime of military orders while Israeli settlers living in Jewish-only colonies are subjected to civilian rule. All Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank are illegal under international law and constitute a war crime. Israel forbids virtually all Palestinian construction in Area C. This is part of Israel’s relentless efforts to change the demographics in the area to ensure a Jewish majority. Palestinians are forced to build on their own land without Israeli permits and live in constant fear that Israeli occupation forces would seize or destroy their structures. Israeli military also prevents Palestinians from connecting their homes to basic infrastructure, like water and electricity. Residents depend on donor-funded solar panels for electricity and purchase water from nearby villages. Israeli forces have fully or partially demolished three Palestinian schools since the beginning of the year, and 52 others are under threat of being demolished.

Israel lies after soldiers choke and kill Palestinian boy
Maureen Clare Murphy, Electronic Intifada, Oct 28 2020

Mourners carry the body of Amer Snobar during the boy’s funeral in the
West Bank village of Yatma on Oct 25. Photo: Shadi Jarar’ah/APA

The Israeli military claims that it is not responsible for the death of Amer Snobar, 16, in the central West Bank on Saturday night, claiming that the teen fell. Doctors say he died after being beaten and asphyxiated by soldiers. The teen was helping a friend move a broken-down car near the village of Turmusayya, north of Ramallah, when Israeli soldiers arrived, according to Defense for Children International Palestine. according to the rights group:

The friend managed to flee on foot to some nearby trees where he became an eyewitness to Snobar’s killing. Snobar was surrounded by Israeli forces and placed in a chokehold before being beaten and killed by Israeli forces, according to the eyewitness.

Snobar likely died from asphyxiation, doctors told Defense for Children International Palestine. The rights group added:

The initial autopsy report also noted substantial bruising and wounds on Snobar’s chest and abdominal area.

The military, however, gave the improbable explanation that the boy lost consciousness and fell while being chased by soldiers who were called to the area following reports of stone-throwing. Haaretz cited an unnamed defense official who told the paper:

Soldiers did not come in contact with the suspect until they gave him first aid, nor did they fire at him.

Israel’s claim that Snobar died as a result of falling, rather than being beaten by soldiers, recalls the case of Muhammad Tamimi. The 15-year-old was shot in the head with a rubber-coated metal bullet at close range following protests in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh during Dec 2017. Muhammad was severely injured and detained by Israel. An Israeli general accused the Tamimi family of lying, writing on Facebook that the boy confessed, during an interrogation with neither his parents or lawyer present, that he had injured his skull when falling off of his bike. However, the teen’s medical records show that a bullet was removed from Muhammad’s head during emergency surgery. A journalist with the French news agency AFP reported that the frightened boy told his interrogators that he fell off his bike “to avoid jail for protesting.” Israel frequently lies about the circumstances in which Palestinian children are killed and seriously injured. Earlier this year, soldiers opened fire on a car full of Palestinian teenagers in the West Bank, claiming the youths had attempted to attack them with the vehicle. But an investigation by a human rights group found that there was no attempted attack before Israeli soldiers opened fire the evening of Feb 20. A boy sitting in the back seat was hit in the thigh and back and critically injured. Another teen was wounded, apparently by shrapnel. Two of the teens were beaten by soldiers. Palestinian children who are arrested by Israel are frequently subjected to physical violence. Israel prosecutes between 500 to 700 Palestinian children in its military courts each year, according to Defense for Children International Palestine. Five Palestinian children, including Amer Snobar, have been killed by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank so far this year.

Timid Democrats depict Gaza aid as vital for Israel
Michael F Brown, Electronic Intifada, Oct 27 2020

Members of Congress Pramila Jayapal, Mark Pocan and Ilhan Omar all signed a letter
to Pompeo seeking to release aid to Gaza. Photo: Jeremy Hogan/Polaris

US Congressional Democrats led by Mark Pocan, Jamie Raskin and Judy Chu last week wrote to Pompeo pressing the Trump administration to release already appropriated funds to assist Palestinians in Gaza. The letter states that in September Palestinians in Gaza saw their COVID-19 case count increase by 84%. The Democrat effort may be well-intentioned, but in typical Washington fashion the framing is dreadful. The 38 signers didn’t simply raise their concerns on the merits of making sure a (further) humanitarian catastrophe doesn’t befall Gaza. No, they made sure to note that what happens in Gaza is a “security” concern for Israel because apparently heading off hunger and COVID-19 in Gaza will not be taken seriously in Washington unless you establish how it intersects with Israel’s interests. They write:

This deteriorating situation is not just dangerous for the Palestinians living in Gaza. In 2018, Israeli officials warned that a humanitarian crisis in Gaza could quickly lead to a security crisis for Israel.

The anti-war group Codepink challenged the writers for failing to mention the broader context of the Israeli siege. Codepink tweeted:

Yes, Gaza does desperately need humanitarian aid, but it also needs and deserves to be freed from the brutal blockade that obstructs access to medicine, food, and other important supplies.

The Israeli siege on Gaza has now been in place since 2007. Children beginning kindergarten that year would have graduated high school by now. They would have spent every day of their lives under occupation, most of their lives under a harsh Israeli blockade and would have survived three major Israeli military assaults that killed and injured thousands of people. Israel’s siege has prevented countless educational opportunities for Gaza youth and cut Palestinians in Gaza off from their kith and kin in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Ramallah and just over the boundary line. Palestinians continue to suffer and die because Israel severely restricts exit permits for them to travel outside Gaza for medical treatment unavailable in the territory’s overburdened health-care system. Such limitations on Palestinian horizons are certainly not a concern of the Trump administration while the siege is no longer even getting a reference from friendly Democrats. This was not always the case. In 2018, Mark Pocan initiated another letter that noted:

Israel’s continuing control of Gaza’s air, sea, and northern, southern, and eastern borders, and its restrictions on the freedom of movement of people, legitimate goods and equipment in and out of Gaza.

That letter had 70 signers, almost double the current one. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar signed last week’s letter, but other key progressive representatives such as Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley did not. The Electronic Intifada has asked Tlaib’s office if she did not sign because of shortcomings in the letter or for other reasons, but has received no response. Congressional Democrats who want to address the devastating situation in Gaza must do more than urge humanitarian band-aid solutions. They must demand an end to dispossession, occupation and siege. That means they must treat respect for Palestinian rights as the central issue, not merely a byproduct of looking out for Israel’s “security.”

UN envoy celebrates rewards for Israel as Gaza starves
Maureen Clare Murphy, Electronic Intifada, Oct 27 2020

Palestinians queue for soup during Ramadan in the Gaza City neighborhood
of Shujaiyeh. Photo: Mohammed Zaanoun/ActiveStills

Nickolay Mladenov, the UN Middle East peace envoy, called on the Palestinian Authority to resume coordination with Israel during a briefing to the UNSC on Monday. He pointed to the Palestinian refusal of tax revenue transfers from Israel as a factor exacerbating “an economic and fiscal crisis” that threatens the viability of the PA.

The Palestinian Authority began refusing tax revenues collected on its behalf by Israel in early 2019. The refusal is a protest of a law that allows Israel to deduct payments made to Palestinian prisoners and their families from Palestinian Authority tax revenue, which Israel controls. Israel’s withholding of Palestinian tax revenue is a violation of its obligations under the Oslo accords’ Paris Protocol. Mladenov displays his bias by calling on the PA to accept tax revenue transfers without asking Israel to change its behavior that prompted the Palestinian protest. It is part of his general tendency to badger Palestinians into accepting an unjust status quo while making little to no demands on Israel. During his UNSC briefing, Mladenov once again failed to unequivocally call on Israel to lift its 13-year siege on Gaza, where two million Palestinians have seen their economic situation go from worse to disastrous with the introduction of COVID-19 restrictions. Another UN official, Philippe Lazzarini, stated recently that Palestinians in Gaza are experiencing unprecedented poverty, with some forced to rummage through trash for food. Child malnutrition has increased, as have deaths by suicide, with young people in Gaza seeing no glimmers of hope on the horizon. Mladenov stated that understandings preventing a military confrontation between Israel and resistance groups in Gaza “have largely held.” Unfortunately, so has Israel’s siege of collective punishment on the territory.

Mladenov called on the PA to resume “civilian and security” coordination with Israel, which was suspended earlier this year in protest of the latter’s plans to formally annex occupied West Bank land. The suspension of civilian coordination has meant that patients in Gaza are unable to access medical treatmentin Israel and the West Bank, treatment that isn’t available in the besieged Strip. Human rights and health organizations have stressed that as the occupying power, Israel is ultimately responsible for Palestinians’ right to health. The demand should be on Israel to provide unfettered access to care, rather than normalizing its cruel permit regime. And while de jure annexation in the occupied West Bank has been put on hold following an international outcry, Israel’s de facto annexation proceeds apace. Mladenov rightly pointed out that Israeli moves to build more settlements in the West Bank are illegal under international law. Mladenov said:

Settlement-related activities should cease as they undermine the prospect of achieving a two-state solution.

However, he has not recommended any action that would hold Israel accountable for its violations of international law. Mladenov did finally speak out over Israel denying visas to UN staff members to punish them for the publication of a report on business activities in West Bank settlements. Mladenov said:

I am deeply concerned that critical mandated work on human rights by the United Nations is obstructed in this manner. I urge Israel to facilitate the return of international staff members.

While Israel obstructs the work of his UN colleagues, Mladenov welcomed the normalization of ties between the apartheid state and Sudan, saying that he hoped it would help “advance Israeli-Palestinian peace.”

The Sudan-Israel normalization deal, and the UAE and Bahrain agreements before it, are all about dictatorships shoring up favor with Washington. They have nothing to do with the Palestinians. If anything, they are rewards for Israel that further relieve what little international pressure already exists for it to end the very violations of international law that Mladenov regularly reports to the UNSC. On Saturday, AP reported that Israel had given its blessing for the US sale of F-35 fighter jets to the UAE. The Gulf country has played a prominent role in the ongoing conflict in Yemen, where an estimated 100,000 people have been killed since 2015. On Tuesday, UN agencies warned that almost 100,000 children under the age of 5 in Yemen are “at high risk of dying without urgent treatment for severe acute malnutrition.” Lisa Grande, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, said:

If the war doesn’t end now, we are nearing an irreversible situation and risk losing an entire generation of Yemen’s young children.

Instead of building peace, the UAE deal aims to “accelerate the militarization of the Middle East and the subjugation of its people,” the Palestinian BDS National Committee stated on Monday. The acceleration of militarization, and the entrenchment of Israeli impunity, are not the kinds of frameworks that a UN peace envoy should welcome or enforce.

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