Between a virtual epidemic of chicken pox, topsy turvy house renovations, my other work, and sundry additional ‘first world problems’, I haven’t posted much here over the past few weeks. But events in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Israel and Gaza continue at a frenzied pace, as do generously-funded, high level efforts to smear Palestine activists and silence critics of Israel in the UK and elsewhere.

Indeed, US election season – with most candidates’ promiscuous hunt for cash from any patron who will write a cheque – has proved the perfect opportunity for redoubled hasbara efforts, settlement expansion, Palestinian house demolitions, and demands for even more Israeli military aid than the bloated sums eagerly offered at the expense of American roads, schools and bridges.

I sometimes wonder about my anxiety at neglecting the Palestine issue during these busy times when I find myself unable to write or even think much. Besides my own private neuroses (plural!) I think it has to do with the particular dynamics of this question: the erasure of a people, the eagerness of politicians to swap Palestinian rights for political favours and – most critically, perhaps – the vicious campaign to smear anyone who dares to defend them.

We live in a world where a US presidential candidate’s statement that Palestinians are human beings entitled to rights and dignity is deeply controversial, a ‘political suicide note’ as the saying goes. Think about that for a moment. I live in a country where the government deems the conviction that Israel ought to abide by international law a form of ‘non-violent extremism,’ and teachers are obliged to report to counter-terrorism authorities students expressing sympathy for Palestinians, a people who have lived under brutal military occupation for almost half a century.

Even amongst so-called ‘progressives’, the phenomenon of the PEP (Progressive Except Palestine) is well-known: the tireless, lifelong defenders of the environment, civil liberties, the rights of women, gays, people of colour, animals in war; in short, the oppressed and brutalised both animate and inanimate around the world. Except for the Palestinians.

Last week, I attended a lecture at Parliament about non-violent resistance in Palestine by the University of Coventry lecturer Marwan Darweish. An energetic fellow with an easy smile, Darweish shared the findings of a survey into what motivates Palestinian resistance. It turns out that it’s reasonably pragmatic: the determination to bring the world’s attention to their plight, to resist erasure, to exhibit the sumud or steadfastness that has nourished 50 years of resistance to occupation. But no one – Israeli and Palestinian alike – who participated in Darweish’s research believed that Palestinians alone can stop the expansion of Israeli settlements, end the Gaza siege, stop construction of the 26ft high apartheid wall, built mostly on Palestinian land. On the contrary, participants all agreed that international pressure is the only mechanism that will change the status quo.

When the BDS movement came up, there were encouraging nods around the room as parallels were drawn with South Africa, where apartheid ended largely because of efforts to isolate the country through boycotts. As I’ve written here before, I’m old enough to remember apartheid and its collapse, and I have no memory whatsoever of the force and power lined up to sustain and defend it, and to demonise its opponents, as those currently faced by Palestine supporters. Sure there were debates about whether boycotts ‘work’, but those who supported them were not smeared as Nazis, racists, ‘non-violent terrorists.’ And I am pretty confident that the likes of Labour’s Sadiq Khan and the Tories’ Zac Goldsmith would never have pledged a cultural celebration of Johannesburg or Cape Town on the banks of the River Thames as part of their mayoral campaigns, as both candidates have done about Tel Aviv.

For these reasons and many more, I feel a moral compulsion to keep my eyes wide open, to insist on the humanity I share with these people in the face of their relentless dehumanisation, and dogged efforts to whitewash the modus operandi of calculated brutality and systematic humiliation that saturate their daily lives. As the Jewish-American novelist Michael Chabon said last week in an interview with Forward after an eye-opening trip to the West Bank, ‘to dehumanize others dehumanizes you.’

In fact, the whitewash on Israel-Palestine is plain to see and hear.

On April 19, I was listening to Radio 4 in the car when I heard a news item about the murder conviction of Yishai Schlissel. You might recall that Schlissel is the man who stabbed to death a young woman at a Tel Aviv gay pride parade last July. The short piece – less than a minute long, I’m sure – was the first I’d heard from Israel/Palestine on the BBC in some time, and what did it tell us? That while Israel has its religious fanatics, it also has a reassuringly robust legal system to address their occasional criminal excesses.

On March 24, an Israeli soldier and medic, Elor Azaria, shot 21 year-old Abed al-Fattah Yusri al-Sharif in the head from a distance of three metres. When Azaria pulled his trigger, the Palestinian man had been lying incapacitated on the ground for 10 minutes since he’d been shot after stabbing a soldier at a settlement checkpoint in Hebron.

The BBC had not reported the murder, which came to light thanks to footage by a local man in possession of a camera from the besieged Israeli rights group B’Tselem. Instead, it reported Azaria’s indictment for manslaughter on its website on the same day it broadcast news of Schlissel’s conviction on the radio, underscoring the notion of a free and fair legal system.

Its news item on the indictment described Hebron as a city ‘which is divided between a Palestinian-ruled area and smaller Israeli enclave.’ What that means is that Hebron is a city of 200,000 Palestinians, whose main commercial thoroughfare is closed to Palestinian residents and businesses. The ‘smaller Israeli enclave’ they mention is an illegal settlement of 400 Israelis protected by some 2000 soldiers, riding their very own buses. Think Rosa Parks. As the Haaretz journalist Gideon Levy said recently, ‘I’ve never met an honest human being who went to Hebron and didn’t come back shocked.’ This inconvenient truth is precisely why US legislators (or Brits, or Canadians) are unlikely to take up Chabon’s call to visit Hebron before taking a proper view on the settlements.

What the BBC and others haven’t said is equally telling. The Guardian website turns up no search results on ‘Elor Azaria’, nor various other spellings. The BBC have made no mention of the threats to the life of the Palestinian man who shot the footage, nor can I find any reports about the ‘Death to the Arabs’ rally held last week in Tel Aviv in support of Azaria (see below), where attendees carried placards reading ‘Kill them All’ and ‘Neutralised = Dead.’ There’s not been a word about the fact that Azaria – a soldier filmed shooting dead a critically wounded man – was released from prison late last week so he can spend Passover with his family. The mainstream UK media has also neglected to mention another family reunion which occurred just two days after Azaria’s: that of a 12 year-old Palestinian girl who had been held in an Israeli prison for two and a half months for allegedly planning (but not attempting) a knife attack, an accusation she and her family deny.

I have worked in a 24/7 news room and spent hours scanning the wires on gruelling overnight shifts. There are countless stories, enough stories each day to fill a cavernous room or an empty heart. We chose the ones we ran.

Here are just a few items that have come across my wire over recent weeks, finishing with an excerpt from the ‘pretty good news story’ about Chabon:

Pregnant mother of two and teenage brother executed at Israeli checkpoint

Witnesses to an alleged stab attempt on Israeli border police at a military checkpoint in the occupied West Bank Wednesday said two siblings shot dead during the incident posed no threat at the time the Israeli officer killed them…

The witness accounts collected following the incident contradict Israeli police reports that the officer opened fire after Maram threw a knife in their direction.

Local sources said Maram was the mother of a six and four-year-old, and five months pregnant. She had reportedly obtained a permit from the Israeli authorities to enter Jerusalem for the first time when she was crossing on Wednesday.

‘Elor the Hero!’: Inside Tel Aviv’s ‘Death to the Arabs’ Rally

From across the country, Israelis descended upon Rabin Square, Tel Aviv’s premier venue for large public protests, to express their indignation over the army’s charges of manslaughter against the soldier, 19-year-old Sergeant Elor Azarya…

At another rally which we filmed in the soldier’s home town of Ramle, rally-goers voiced harsh criticism for those who do not support Azarya’s action and for those who helped expose his deed – especially the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.

Palestinian astrophysicist and researcher arrested and jailed for second time in 15 months

The 53-year-old professor of space physics at al-Quds University in East Jerusalem was arrested at an Israeli military checkpoint, near the village of Nabi Saleh in the central occupied West Bank…

Barghouti is a leading researcher, publishing frequently in academic astrophysics journals, and has previously worked for NASA.

Palestinians battle Israel to bury their sons

To quell the unrest engulfing Jerusalem and much of the occupied West Bank last October, the Israeli security cabinet approved a series of repressive measures, including punitive home demolitions of families of suspected Palestinian assailants and the withholding of their bodies…

“When Israel withholds the body of a slain Palestinian, it kind of kills him twice,” Salwa Hammad, coordinator of the Palestinian National Campaign to Retrieve Martyrs’ Bodies, told Al Jazeera. “It is impossible to overestimate the psychological impact this [has] on the families, who are deprived of bidding their loved ones a final goodbye.”

Palestinian bus attacked by Israeli settlers near Qalqiliya

The driver of the bus Nasir Abu Taha told Ma’an a group of settlers standing on a hill threw rocks at the bus as it passed by, shattering the bus window, and causing panic among children who were riding the bus…

Israeli settlers living illegally in the occupied Palestinian territory frequently carry out attacks on Palestinians and their property, with the UN documenting over 200 such attacks last year.

Israel rabbi to paramedics: ‘Leave Palestinians to die’

In December the leaders of United Hatzalah, a settler ambulance service implicated in several cases in which Palestinians have been refused treatment, visited a leading ultra-Orthodox rabbi, Chaim Kanievsky, to receive instructions on what to do with Palestinians injured during attacks.

According to a report on the settlers’ website Israel National News, Kanievsky told them that if the injured Palestinian “was in a life-threatening condition, they should leave him or her to die”. Other rabbis have made similar calls.

Israel to Confiscate 1,250 Acres of Palestinian Land for Illegal Outposts

Israel’s High Court of Justice last year declared its intention to retroactively formalize the string of outposts, established in violation of both Israeli and international law, according to the UN.

Jalud officials told Ma’an that the notice delivered to the Nablus-area village was signed by Israeli army’s head of Central Command Roni Numa, who said he believed “certain steps are needed to prevent terror attacks” and he as a result gave orders to confiscate the land “for security reasons.”

Palestinian family demolishes part of own apartment in Jerusalem

A Palestinian family tore down part of its own apartment in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina on Wednesday to avoid paying the Jerusalem municipality’s demolition costs.

Brother of Riham Dawabsheh, killed with husband and son by settler firebomb, arrested by Israeli occupation forces

Five military jeeps entered Duma at 1:30 am early Monday, 4 April, and occupation soldiers raided the family home, taking Wissam with them. No explanation was given for his arrest by the occupation forces.

Israeli forces level Palestinian playground in ongoing Silwan demolitions

The Bedouin village about to be destroyed to make way for Jewish community

‘If implemented, the Supreme Court decision will result in the mass destruction of the entire village of Umm al-Hiran and the forced displacement of 500 people. Having been expelled from their ancestral lands in 1948 and moved to their current location in 1956, this would be the third time the Abu al-Qi’an tribe has been displaced from its homeland.

The absurdity of the situation is reinforced by the seemingly boundless, uninhabited desert landscape surrounding the village.

“They could build not only one Hiran, but [dozens] of Hirans in the vast, empty space surrounding our village,” said Raed Abu al-Qi’an, a resident of Umm al-Hiran and one of the leaders of the popular struggle to save the village.

Q&A – Michael Chabon Talks Occupation, Injustice and Literature After Visit to West Bank

Q: You have a large Jewish readership. Are you concerned about alienating them?

A: I’m not so worried about that. All I’m really doing is going to try to see for myself. Once you see for yourself, it is pretty obvious, I think, to any human being with a heart and a mind, it is pretty clear what to feel about it. It is the most grievous injustice I have ever seen in my life. I have seen bad things in my own country in America. There is plenty of horrifying injustice in the U.S. prison system, the “second Jim Crow” it is often called. Our drug laws in the United States are grotesquely unjust. I know to some degree what I am talking about. This is the worst thing I have ever seen, just purely in terms of injustice. If saying that is going to lose me readers, I don’t want those readers. They can go away and never come back.

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