The crackdown on Israeli dissidents

It is not sensible to have any hope that the Israeli public will ever support ending the occupation, let alone support equal rights for Arabs, or return of Palestinians refugees. All the polling data says as much.

During the 2014 Israeli war against the civilian population of Gaza more than 90 percent of Israeli Jews supported the war. That assault claimed the lives of more than 2,200 Palestinians, including over 500 children.

In 2012, one infamous poll showed that most Israelis support the systemic structural racism of the state, and in fact want it to go further.

Almost half of Israeli Jews wanted Palestinian citizens of Israel (who in reality are already not equal citizens in law and in practice) to be stripped of their citizenship. Some 58 percent supported use of the term “apartheid” applied to Israel – and not disapprovingly. More than 40 percent wanted to see separate housing and classes for Jews and Arabs.

Read more over at MEMO.

Why an Israeli newspaper wanted to ‘flatten’ a city of millions

Earlier this month Haaretz, Israel’s influential liberal daily, published a blood-curdling article. It openly argued for war crimes on a massive scale against the civilian population of a neighbouring Arab state.

“Should Israel Flatten Beirut to Destroy Hezbollah’s Missiles?” the article’s headline mused. It was written by Amitai Etzioni, a professor of international relations at George Washington University. He was also a member of the Palmach, a unit in one pre-state Zionist terrorist group, a forerunner of the Israeli military. He participated in the Nakba (or Catastrophe), Israel’s 1948 ethnic cleansing of some 750,000 Palestinians.

After criticism by the journalist Belén Fernández, Etzioni later got Haaretz to edit the online version of the story, so that it now has a slightly less aggressive headline (but not before copies of the original were made).

Read more over at MEMO.

Is Israel changing its strategy in Syria’s war?

An article in Haaretz this weekend laid out an analysis purporting to show that the Israeli government is changing its approach to the war in Syria.

Amos Harel, the liberal daily’s military correspondent, cited some of the reasons for Israel to want the conflict in Syria to continue. The war to date has worn the Syrian army down “to a shadow of its former capabilities,” Hizballah, “Israel’s main adversary in the north,” has had to divert a large proportion of its fighting manpower into shoring up its ally Assad, and has suffered significant casualties as a result.

He sums up that “the war in Syria has largely served Israel’s interests”. This again confirms what I have long argued, based on what Israeli officials have openly stated for years now. Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli diplomat, said in September 2013 they Israel wanted to let “both [sides] bleed, hemorrhage to death: that’s the strategic thinking here.”

Read the rest over at MEMO.

Tory moves to curb Israel boycotts will fail

Last week the government made an announcement intended to intimidate supporters of Palestinian rights. It was trailed in the media as a “ban” on boycotts of Israel, which The Independent claimed would now become a “criminal” offence for public bodies. The Palestine Solidarity Campaignsaid this amounted to “a gross attack on our democratic freedoms and the independence of public bodies from government interference.”

There is no doubt that the new measure is probably the biggest attack by the Tory government yet on the movement for Palestinian human rights. In the last 11 years, a key tactic of that movement has been boycott, divestment and sanctions, or BDS.

But the devil was in the detail, as so often.

Read the rest over at MEMO.

A tale of two journalists

This is the story of two journalists treated unjustly by Israeli occupation authorities. Yet they are not being equally treated by the media. Indeed, they should not be equally treated, because their plights are anything but equal.

But the media has its priorities upside down.

One journalist was detained for 40 minutes merely for conducing interviews. The other is being detained without charge or trial, deprived of all basic human rights.

Journalist number one was detained briefly on Tuesday. The response on Twitter was instant. Journalists around the world blasted the Israeli Border Police (who are in fact a heavily armed and paramilitary gang) for restricting his right to report freely in Jerusalem.

Read the rest over at MEMO.

The wild beast of Israeli racism

This week the prime minister of Israel slandered Arabs in disgustingly racist terms. This was nothing new for the man who, during the last election, warned the Israeli people that “the Arabs” were turning out to vote “in droves”. But the terminology he used was a notable new low, even for him.

Touring a new border fence between part of present-day Israel and Jordan, Benjamin Netanyahu said: “In our neighbourhood, we need to protect ourselves from wild beasts. At the end of the day as I see it, there will be a fence like this one surrounding Israel in its entirety. We will surround the entire state of Israel with a fence, a barrier.”

For Israel’s politicians use such dehumanising terminology about Palestinians and other Arabs is nothing new. Israeli leaders have a long history of such racism, stretching back to the pre-state Zionist settler-colonial era. It also draws on the long history of Western colonial racism.

Read the rest over at MEMO.

UK hacked drone feeds to watch as Israel bombed Gaza

The latest revelations from the documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden once again concern Israel.

Glenn Greenwald’s site The Intercept revealed last week that American and British spies have managed to hack into the visual feed of the Israeli drones and F16 fighter jets that regularly bomb the civilian population of Gaza.

The programme is based on the island of Cyprus, and its code name is “Anarchist”. It dates as far back as January 2008, at a time when Israel was bombing Gaza in an attack which killed and injured Palestinian civilians, including at least one child.

The GCHQ base on Cyprus intercepted Israeli drone feeds and sent the information back to the UK and to their allies in the NSA. Images published by The Intercept even show several video stills in which the wings of recognisable Israeli drone models are viewable, as well as radar maps of occupied Palestine.

It’s unknown if this hacking is still ongoing. But these revelations are another sign of how fraught the military and intelligence relationship is between Israel and its ostensible Western allies.

Read the rest over at MEMO.

In Saudi Arabia, Britain arms a regime following ‘same thought’ as Islamic State

A Parliamentary debate on the war in Yemen Thursday resulted in ridiculous scenes. A Tory minister with the Foreign Office claimed of a vital UN report that he “hadn’t received it officially” even as he waved a copy in his hand. This resulted in mocking laughter from the opposition benches.

But of course the report is no laughing matter. A UN panel of experts, in a report leaked Wednesday, has found that the Saudi-led bombing campaign against Yemen has involved “widespread and systematic” attacks on civilian targets.

Saudi Arabia is one of the biggest buyers of British-made weapons, and successive Labour and Conservative governments have considered it as a top ally. So it’s no surprise to find a government minister defending alleged Saudi war crimes in this way.

Read the rest over at MEMO.

The PA’s “One Gun” belongs to Israel

In December the US weapons industry trade publication Defense News carried a telling interview with two top big-wigs in the Palestinian Authority. These were PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat and mukhabarat chief Major General Majid Faraj.

The magazine’s Israel bureau chief, who conducted the interviews, described them as “the top two advisers” to PA leader Mamoud Abbas. Abbas is now 80 years old, has no clear successor, and has claimed he will not stand again for elections to the presidency of the PA.

In fact, Abbas has only won a single election, way back in 2005. Fresh elections are years overdue, and have been blocked at every turn. Back in 2006 Hamas, Palestine’s Islamic resistance movement, won elections to the PA’s legislative body. After a months of civil war with forces loyal to Abbas, the elected Hamas-led PA government was overthrown in a coup in the West Bank. Hamas pre-empted a similar coup in Gaza and kicked out militias loyal to Mohammad Dahlan, who had been backed by the CIA, Israel and other Western forces in an attempt to overthrow the results of a fully democratic election.Since then there have been varying degrees of division between Hamas in the Gaza Strip and the forces of Fatah in the West Bank. Various “unity deals” have come and gone without being implemented.

The reality is that elections to the PA were always for show, so that the West could claim it was backing the forces of democracy in the region. When the democratic processes did not go the way that the imperial power and its allies insisted on, the results could be overthrown.

Continue reading over at MEMO.

Or read a French translation here (I can’t vouch for its accuracy).

Tangible achievements of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine

Ireland’s second-largest company announced earlier this month that it had entirely sold-off its 25 per cent stake in the holding corporation of Israel’s only cement-making firm. This withdrawal followed a decade-long campaign by Irish activists calling on the company, CRH, to divest from Israeli cement-maker, Nesher.

The Irish company had admitted “in all probability” that cement from the firm had been used to build Israel’s apartheid wall in the West Bank (which the World Court declared illegal in 2004). Nesher’s cement is also used in the construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank – which are build on land belonging to dispossessed and expelled Palestinians and are illegal under international law.

The sale was the largest of 13 divestments CRH made in 2015, totalling €260 million, according to a new report released by the company. While CRH denied that there was anything other than purely business motives behind their decision to divest, the sale of the huge stake in Nesher is part of a growing trend.

Israeli defence minister: “I choose the Islamic State”

At a “security” conference in Tel Aviv last week, top-level Israeli speakers argued the case for viewing Israel as being in the same trench as the so-called Islamic State.

It sounds like an unlikely thing for me to be reporting, but it happened all the same. “Islamic State”, a hideously violent extremist group, has made very few rhetorical statements against Israel. It has certainly engaged in anti-Semitic rhetoric, and terrorists linked to Islamic State have carried out anti-Semitic attacks in the West – but that is a very different thing from targeting Israel itself (and in fact anti-Semitic attacks in the West only fuel the false Zionist narrative about Israel being the only safe place for Jews).

But, aside from the odd stray missile, the group has never targeted Israel. Most of its attacks have been focused on those it considered infidels in the the Middle East. These include native Christians and non-Sunni Muslims in the Arab world, but the largest part of its victims have been ordinary Sunni Muslims.

Continue reading over at MEMO.

Israel’s ‘war’ against BDS is increasingly desperate

A fascinating article by a Jerusalem Post Knesset reporter earlier this month gives quite the insight into the increasingly desperate state of the Israeli “war” against BDS. The boycott, divestment and sanctions movement aims to hold Israel to account for its crimes against the Palestinian people.

At first ignored, and later derided, the BDS movement has by now become one of the top strategic threats to Israel’s ability carry on the business of occupation as usual. Formally founded in 2005, the movement aims to encourage people of conscious around the world to boycott Israel products, dis-invest from Israeli businesses and to put pressure on governments to implement sanctions against Israel.

And over the last 11 years, the movement has achieved some impressive results, despite an enormous and well-funded backlash by Israel’s powerful supporters in the West. Examples are too numerous to detail, but the most recent victory has been the move of the United Methodist Church in the US to divest its $20-billion pension fund of any stake in five Israeli banks – excluded for their involvement in illegal Israeli settlements built on confiscated Palestinian land in the West Bank.

Read more over at MEMO.