electronic intifada

Watch “Killing Gaza”
Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada, May 16 2021

As Israel again subjects Gaza to savage bombardment, targeting and killing civilians and destroying their homes, journalists Max Blumenthal and Dan Cohen have made their important film Killing Gaza freely available on YouTube for everyone to see. You can watch it above. Killing Gaza tells stories of Palestinians in the aftermath of Israel’s 2014 assault which killed 2.2k people in Gaza, among them 550 children. Here’s part of what Blumenthal wrote about the film for The Electronic Intifada when it was first released in 2018:

The opening section of Killing Gaza documents sadistic Israeli violence that makes for undeniably difficult viewing. A five-day ceasefire had just taken effect and we had unfettered access to a stunned population returning to the border areas that had been blanketed with Israeli artillery and missiles. In the town of Khuzaa, in southeastern Gaza, we met Hani al-Najjar, who returned to his home after the Israeli military pulled back, only to find six corpses in his bathroom, all charred, bound and gagged, and blown to bits by an Israeli grenade. Outside the city of Rafah, in southern Gaza, we met 19-year-old Mahmoud Abu Said, who had been taken as a human shield by Israeli soldiers and held in front of a window in his own home while those soldiers sniped at his neighbors from over his shoulders. And in Gaza City, we encountered residents of Zafir 4 and the Italian Compound, residential towers that had been blasted to pieces by Israeli jets in the final days of the war for no other purpose than to teach Gaza’s educated middle class a lesson. Standing by the rubble of what was once his home outside Rafah, and next to a destroyed taxi that used to belong to his son who was shot in the head by an Israeli sniper, Suleiman al-Zugheibi delivered a testimony of trauma and defiance that was all too common among those we met. “We’ve suffered for the past 60 years because of Israel,” al-Zugheibi told us. “War after war after war. Bombing after bombing after bombing. You build a house, they destroy it. You raise a child, they kill him,” he said. “Whatever they do, the US, Israel, the whole world, we’ll keep resisting until the last one of us dies. Even if they turn all of Gaza into rubble like this, even if the rocks are all that’s left, we won’t surrender.”

Israel kills Gaza families in their homes on Nakba Day
Maureen Clare Murphy, Electronic Intifada, May 16 2021

Muhammad al-Hadidi comforts his infant child Omar, who survived the overnight Israeli attack that killed several members of his extended family,
most of them children, at Gaza City’s al-Shifa hospital on 15 May. Photo: Atia Darwish/APA

More than 17k Palestinians in Gaza are experiencing yet another episode of displacement as Israel escalated its attack on civilian infrastructure on Saturday, the 73rd annual commemoration of Nakba Day. At least 145 Palestinians in Gaza, including 41 children, have been killed since Israel began bombing it on Monday. Around 1,000 more have been injured.

As entire families were laid to rest on Saturday, Palestinians stressed that the Nakba had never ended and 1948 was only the beginning, as the human rights group Al-Haq observed. At least 70 massacres were carried out against Palestinians between 1947 and 1949, according to Al-Haq. More than 500 Palestinian towns and villages were depopulated and destroyed by Zionist forces around the time that the state of Israel was declared in 1948. Palestinians refer to those series of traumas as the Nakba or catastrophe. Not only have those wounds not yet healed, as Al-Haq says, but Israel is inflicting injury and death on Palestinians anew as Gaza’s population of 2m, two-thirds of whom are refugees, endure yet another terrifying full-scale Israeli military offensive. That is on top of the devastating air, land and sea blockade that Israel has imposed on Gaza since 2007. The goal of the pre-state militias that initiated the Nakba in 1948 and that of the contemporary state of Israel are the same. As Al-Haq states:

The Zionist dogma upon which the Nakba has been operating until today is that of the forcible transfer of the Palestinian people through the entrenchment of Israeli-Jewish domination, and their erasure and replacement with a foreign settler community.

During the first years of the Nakba, 750k to 900k Palestinians “became refugees or internally displaced persons after having been forcibly transferred from their homes and lands,” according to Al-Haq. Of the more than 13 million Palestinians scattered around the world today, some 5 million live in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, 1.5m live in the area of Palestine on which the state of Israel was declared in 1948, and another 6.5m “live in exile and diaspora,” Al-Haq said on Saturday. For 73 years, Israel has denied Palestinians their right to return to the lands and properties from which they were expelled on the basis that they are not Jews.

All Palestinians living under Israel’s settler-colonial and apartheid rule, imposed throughout historic Palestine, are “at risk of forcible transfer,” Al-Haq added. This includes Palestinians in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where an Israeli court has approved the eviction of Palestinian families from the homes in which they’ve lived for decades to make way for Jewish settlers. The Sheikh Jarrah families facing forcible eviction have already experienced at least one episode of displacement.

Meanwhile, Palestinians in Lydd, many of whom are internally displaced, came under emergency rule this week for the first time since the two decades following Israel’s founding. Today they are being “violently repressed and arrested by Israel’s police during demonstrations” and have become the target of “racist incitement of violence and hate crimes,” as Al-Haq states.

Lydd, a city near Tel Aviv, is currently an epicenter of that racist incitement and violence. It was also the site of two massacres waged by the nascent Israeli army in 1948. On Jul 11 that year, a battalion led by Moshe Dayan stormed Lydd, killing dozens of Palestinians, “women, children and old people,” according to the Israeli journalist Ari Shavit, who wrote:

Within hours, the soldiers held key positions in the city center and had confined thousands of Palestinian civilians in the Great Mosque.

The following day, some 250 Palestinians were killed when an Israeli soldier fired an anti-tank shell at the mosque. Hours later, David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, ordered the deportation of Palestinians in Lydd, a command delivered by Yitzhak Rabin to the brigade that carried out the expulsion of 35k people from the city. In what has become known as the Lydd Death March, residents of the city and nearby Ramle were forced to make their way over the mountains in the summer heat, risking Israeli gunfire if they strayed from the path. Ali Abunimah recalls:

Over three days without food, water and in the heat, many would die until finally trucks came to transport the survivors to Ramallah.

The process of colonization is ongoing in present-day Lydd and mobs of Jewish Israelis chanting “death to the Arabs” isn’t a new phenomenon, though no less dangerous as Netanyahu has given them his implicit backing. Netanyahu described the upheaval in Palestinian communities in Israel, in addition to the offensive in Gaza, as “a campaign on two fronts” on Friday. The following day, Gantz warned against escalation in the West Bank as Palestinians throughout their homeland and beyond began to rise up against Israel’s settler-colony rule. The Israeli army and Jewish settlers have killed at least 14 Palestinians in the West Bank this week, 11 of them on Friday, including one child, as protests were held throughout the territory. B’Tselem said that it was the deadliest day in the West Bank since Israel’s military incursion into multiple cities in 2002. While Israel was bombing Gaza this week, its parliament “preliminarily approved a bill to legalize some 70 colonial settlement outposts in the West Bank,” according to Al-Haq, which added:

Israel’s blatant violations of international law and its suppression of the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination are the most conspicuous illustration that the Zionist project is a failed colonial enterprise.

Israel is unable and will never be able to obliterate Palestinians’ national identity and their will to throw off the yoke of colonial oppression. The latest escalation was triggered when Israeli police stormed Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque, a holy site that galvanizes Palestinian and Arab and Muslim identity – while it was filled with Ramadan worshippers, injuring hundreds. And with the capacity of the armed resistance only strengthened after each military offensive, Israel’s current campaign targeting residential buildings, media towers and other civilian infrastructure in Gaza can only be viewed as one of revenge and punishment.

Al-Mezan, a human rights group based in Gaza, said on Saturday that the “unwarranted shelling of civilian homes without prior warning at night … indicates a conscious decision to inflict the greatest number of casualties amongst civilians.” Nine people, two women and seven children aged 12 and younger, were killed when Israel fired three missiles at the home of Alaa Abu Hatab in Gaza City’s Beach refugee camp without warning early Saturday. Palestinian civil defense rescue crews were still working to recover the bodies of additional victims that remained under the rubble later that day.

Palestinians mourn members of the Abu Hatab family during their funeral in Gaza City on 15 May. Photo: Ashraf AmraAPA

Palestinians in Gaza, “notably children, have not recovered from the devastating ramifications of previous military escalations, including Operation Protective Edge in 2014,” Al-Mezan said. “Yet, they continue to be Israel’s regular target.” Israel has targeted more than 50 buildings and four residential towers, destroying some 220 residential units.

“In addition, seven schools, four mosques and hundreds of private properties and governmental sites have been significantly damaged since the escalation began,” according to Al-Mezan. “Airstrikes also led to the large-scale destruction of power and water networks, as well as thousands of square meters of paved roads.”

Israel bombed a tower housing the offices of Al Jazeera and the AP news agency on Saturday, saying that Hamas military intelligence were using the building, a claim for which Israel presented no evidence when pressed by international media.

Gary Pruitt, the head of AP, said the organization was “shocked and horrified” that the military would target and destroy the tower housing its offices. “We narrowly avoided a terrible loss of life. A dozen AP journalists and freelancers were inside the building and thankfully we were able to evacuate them in time,” Pruitt added. Israel bombed and destroyed two other buildings housing media outlets earlier in the week.

Joel Simon, director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, suggested that Israel may be “deliberately targeting media facilities in order to disrupt coverage of the human suffering in Gaza.”

Smoke billows after Israel bombs a tower that housed the offices of Al Jazeera and AP news agency, Gaza City, 15 May. Photo: Ashraf Amra/APA

Meanwhile, emergency fuel imported from Egypt will push back the expected shutdown of Gaza’s sole power plant until at least Tuesday, the UN OCHA said. “Power supply across Gaza has been reduced to six to eight hours per day on average,” OCHA added, “and to less than four in some areas, disrupting the provision of basic services, including water, sanitation and healthcare.” Palestinian resistance groups have fired more than 2,300 rockets from Gaza since Monday, killing 10 people in Israel, including one on-duty soldier and two children. Netanyahu said that a “few days” of fighting remained ahead while a military spokesperson warned of “an intense night” in Gaza before fresh terror was unleashed on the entirety of its population.

Netanyahu thanked Biden for his “clear and unequivocal support” after the two spoke earlier in the day. The White House stated that during their conversation, Biden “reaffirmed his strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket attacks from Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza, and condemned these indiscriminate attacks against Israel,” making no mention of the killing of dozens of civilians and the widespread destruction of civilian infrastructure. With Israel enjoying the full backing of its principal allies, the Nakba continues, as does Palestinian resistance to a regime that relentlessly and violently seeks their removal and replacement.

Labour’s Lisa Nandy is an enemy of Palestinian rights
Asa Winstanley, Electronic Intifada, May 16 2021

Lisa Nandy claims to be a “friend of Palestine” but also says she’s a Zionist. Photo: Pete Doherty/Retna

Britain’s Labour Party was condemned for its hypocrisy on Israel’s violent onslaught against Palestinians this week. As of Sunday morning, more than 170 Palestinians had been killed since Israel started bombing Gaza last Monday, including nearly 50 children. The massive escalation in violence began with Israel’s attacks on Palestinians in Jerusalem and its raids on the al-Aqsa mosque. But Labour’s shadow foreign affairs spokesperson Lisa Nandy is condemning “both sides.” She said she was “gravely concerned” by “violent scenes in Jerusalem.” Nandy has stated that she is a Zionist, a supporter of Israel’s racist official ideology. Nandy’s statements this week did not specify that Israel itself, and not merely settler extremists, is violently expelling Palestinians from their homes in Jerusalem, solely and exclusively because they are not Jewish. As usual from British politicians, even Nandy’s timid, qualified and artificially balanced condemnation of some Israeli actions was toothless. Nandy urged Israel to take unspecified “steps” to “defuse the growing tensions” in Jerusalem, as if the state were some sort of neutral arbiter between extremists on “both sides” instead of the violent oppressor that it is.

On Saturday evening Nandy released a new letter to government, after hundreds of thousands of people marched in London and cities all over the UK against Israeli violence. But the letter only called for the government to “assess” the use of “exported arms and equipment in this conflict” and for a report to Parliament to examine arms licenses. There was no concrete demand to end the arms trade with Israel. In 2010, a review by the then Labour foreign minister David Miliband found that UK-made arms had “almost certainly” been used in Israel’s 2008-2009 “Cast Lead” bombing campaign against Gaza. But British military ties to Israel have only increased since then.

Nandy may also be feeling pressure as more than 275k people have in recent days signed a petition at the UK Parliament website calling for sanctions against Israel. In fact what has been happening in Jerusalem is nothing less than state-led ethnic cleansing to remove one community, Palestinians, while replacing them with another, Jewish Israelis. While it is true that the Israeli settlers taking over Palestinian homes in this manner can accurately be described as Jewish extremists, the more salient point is that their actions are supported by the Israeli government, courts, police and military. Neither Nandy nor her Wigan constituency office responded to The Electronic Intifada’s requests for comment.

Speaking to The Electronic Intifada on Friday, Palestine Solidarity Campaign director Ben Jamal responded to Nandy’s comments. He said:

You cannot be an honest broker between those practicing apartheid and their victims.

Last month in an interview with anti-Palestinian newspaper the Jewish News, Nandy claimed that “a future Labour government” could be an “honest broker role in the Middle East.” Jamal countered:

The moral responsibility is not to be complicit with apartheid. The Labour Party needs to commit itself clearly to ending the two-way arms trade.

Huda Ammori of Palestine Action told The Electronic Intifada:

Nandy’s statement was extremely misleading and it only serves to support Israel’s apartheid regime and not to support the Palestinian people. There has to be an immediate arms embargo. Israel has to be sanctioned.

Unlike when Lisa Nandy has condemned other states, her statements this week about Israeli crimes made no concrete demands on Israel and called for no consequences. The UK already sanctions the Palestinian “side.” It is already illegal for British citizens to arm or fund Palestinian or Lebanese resistance organizations. British law is so draconian that even to “express an opinion or belief that is supportive of a proscribed organization” can be a criminal offense. Even waving the Hizballah flag, the political party which is also the leader of Lebanon’s armed resistance to Israel, is now illegal in Britain.

Since becoming Labour’s shadow foreign minister under right-wing leader Keir Starmer last year, Nandy has vocally attacked countries considered official enemies by British and American political elites, especially China and Russia. Nandy has criticized Chinese government actions against separatist protesters in Hong Kong. She has echoed hardline anti-China positions promoted by US-backed propaganda organizations that are pushing for a new Cold War, including dubious and debunked claims regarding the treatment of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang province. She has promoted widely disseminated but unproven allegations that one million Uyghurs are incarcerated in re-education camps, or that many are subjected to forced sterilization. Nandy also spread disinformation about supposed Russian interference in British elections while she was trying to suppress criticism of the well-documented interference by Israel and its proxies in the British democratic process.

Israel and its lobby groups have played a leading role in the “Labour anti-Semitism” smear campaign which successfully targeted former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. She has called for sanctions on China over both Hong Kong and Xinjiang. Yet the Labour “opposition” still cannot bring itself to demand even the mildest sanctions against Israel. Nandy’s posturing about alleged crimes on “both sides” is just the latest example of that. Nandy’s position represents a step backwards from Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, under which the Labour Party’s 2019 election manifesto, despite incessant smears about “anti-Semitism,” finally promised to suspend arms sales to Israel. Most of the responses on Twitter to Nandy’s embarrassingly equivocal posts were highly critical. They called her out for suggesting an equivalence between the oppressed and the oppressor, between the Palestinians resisting expulsion and destruction on one hand, and on the other, the Israeli state demanding the “right” to expel people for being the “wrong” religion or ethnicity. And several commentators also accused her of hypocrisy, reposting a clip of her talking to a BBC news program early last year when she was running in the contest to replace Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Party leader. In the clip she stated that it is “anti-Semitic” to call on Israel lobby group the Board of Deputies of British Jews to “condemn all Israeli military atrocities in the West Bank.” By her own standards, her critics say, she is therefore guilty of “anti-Semitism,” even for her equivocal condemnation of “both sides.” Nandy’s BBC questioner in the clip was attacking Rachel Cousins, the pro-Jeremy Corbyn activist behind the popular @Rachel_Swindon Twitter account. Cousins told The Electronic Intifada that Nandy’s smear targeting her on national television had led to a sustained harassment campaign against her online last year, forcing her to mute her Twitter mentions for two days. Cousins said:

Nandy has proven to be an utter hypocrite. She went on television and declared it was anti-Semitic to criticize Israeli atrocities, yet did exactly the same thing herself, although let’s be honest, it was hardly a blistering criticism.

Nandy did not reply to requests for comment. Nandy is the former leader of a seemingly moribund group called Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East, or LFPME. Yet she was one of former leader Jeremy Corbyn’s most ardent critics, and enthusiastically took part in the “Labour anti-Semitism” smear campaign targeting him. Speaking to The Electronic Intifada soon after the group appointed Nandy as chair, LFPME spokesperson Shazia Arshad defended the Labour lawmaker, claiming she was “a long standing champion of Palestinian rights and campaigns.” This is despite how Nandy has vocally opposed BDS. Arshad said:

We want to focus on the Palestinian conversation and voices and that’s what we will continue to do.

Nandy is not Palestinian. BDS is a minimal ask, which demands that governments and institutions end their involvement with Israeli occupation, apartheid and war crimes. Yet speaking at an event organized last year by Israel lobby group the Jewish Labour Movement, Nandy said she had “never” been a supporter of BDS as it “pushes people away instead of bringing people together.” During the leadership election campaign to replace Corbyn last year, Nandy told an event jointly organized by Labour Friends of Israel and the Jewish Labour Movement that Corbyn had made an “anti-Semitic” statement by defending Palestinians. In 2018, Corbyn had stated that it should not be “regarded as anti-Semitic to describe Israel, its policies or the circumstances around its foundation as racist because of their discriminatory impact” on Palestinians.

Labour’s leadership candidates were grilled by the Israel lobby. Photo: Vickie Flores/ London News Pictures

All four leadership candidates at the Feb 2020 Israel lobby event agreed that the blandly factual statement was anti-Semitic, but Nandy had appeared most eager to smear Corbyn. After she was appointed shadow foreign secretary under Keir Starmer’s new right-wing Labour leadership, Labour Friends of Palestine quietly dropped her as its chair, replacing her with Julie Elliott, an obscure Labour MP. During Nandy’s tenure, the group withered. Aside from the announcement of Elliott’s appointment and a single blog post arguing for the recognition of the Israeli-backed PA as the “state of Palestine,” its website appears not to have been updated since 2018, when Nandy was first appointed. Arshad defended the group’s record, claiming:

We continue to work with MPs, attempting to raise awareness of the situation on the ground in Palestine. We’re run entirely by volunteers.

Meanwhile Jeremy Corbyn, now exiled from the Labour benches in Parliament by Starmer, returned to the role he had before he became Labour leader: spearheading protests against Israeli war crimes.

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