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This statement in support of Palestinian self determination and UNRWA by the Hoping Foundation, and signed by celebrities including Hugh Grant, Gary Lineker, Mary McCartney, Olivia Wilde and many others was published last week and got virtually no coverage here in the UK. In fact, I came across it by accident on the Twitter timeline of Jewish Voice for Peace.

Anyone who follows this issue will recall the trolls hounding Gary Lineker a couple of months back, after he dared to object to Palestinian children being put in cages. Lineker’s objection was ‘anti Semitic.’ I’ll just leave that there. And no doubt the celebrities named below – including a clearly unapologetic Lineker – will take similar flak for daring to stick out their necks in defence of the Palestinians. Respect. Would that more public figures had their courage.

We wish to express our horror at the unprecedented attack on the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) by US President Donald Trump. This UN institution was set up almost 70 years ago specifically to protect, and provide urgently required humanitarian relief, to Palestinian refugees.

So the real target of this lethal attack is the Palestinian people themselves. It has been launched with the clear aim of dismantling their rights, by dismantling the institution that is charged with protecting them.

UNRWA was established in 1949 by the UN General Assembly, to safeguard the Palestinian victims of the 1948 war, after their country and society were destroyed, and the majority made refugees. The United Nations recognises the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people; the same rights afforded to all peoples of the world. We wish to highlight here the fact that Palestinians’ human rights include their internationally recognised rights as a people. These rights are inherent, so cannot be removed by brute force, or alienated from them.

2017 closed with the US President’s announcement of his intention to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, ripping up the internationally recognised rights of Palestinians to their land, while attempting to impose a ‘peace plan’ that destroys all hope for peace. 2018 opens with President Trump’s new attempt to force Palestinians to accept this grossly unfair ‘deal’, by threatening and endangering the international agency responsible for their basic needs as refugees.

It is repellent to us that such tactics are being used in the 21st century, in direct contradiction of international law, and to human decency. Demanding the surrender of basic human rights, and from a people without a country to protect them, is truly shocking to witness.

Directly threatened by this American funding cut are millions of Palestinian refugees: more than half a million children in over 700 UN schools; primary health care for mothers, infants, and the sick; those requiring urgent emergency food assistance especially in Gaza and Syria.

We stand for dignity for the most vulnerable, and we stand with Palestinian refugees who are facing a terrible moment. We call on the UN Secretary General to immediately convene a conference that can establish a stable funding system in order to protect UNRWA’s vital work. Peoples across the world have always supported the Palestinian struggle for freedom, and understand that Palestinian refugees – the most vulnerable – are the key to hope, and to any chance of a peaceful future.

Signatories:

Alfonso Cuarón; Andrew O’Hagan; Antony Gormley; Bella Freud; Brian Eno; Claire Foy; David Morrissey; Emma Thompson; Eric Cantona; Esther Freud; Gary Lineker; Gillian Anderson; Hanif Kureishi; Hugh Grant; James Fox; Jemima Khan; Karma Nabulsi; Ken Loach; Laura Bailey; Livia Firth; Mary McCartney; Olivia Wilde; Paul Laverty; Peter Gabriel; Peter Kosminsky; Robert Del Naja; Stephen Frears; Steve Coogan; Tilda Swinton; Tracey Emin; Vanessa Kirby; Viggo Mortensen; Will Self.

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Here’s a short blog from Jamie Stern-Weiner that turned up in my email this morning. In fact, I spotted this news yesterday evening in a tweet from RT – you know, the ‘Kremlin-backed’ Russia Today, which the UK media and politicians regard as a sinister propaganda outfit. We can only speculate why Vladimir Putin decided to report a public comment by the British Foreign Minister, Alistair Burt, which our own, balanced media judged irrelevant. Sowing the seeds of conflict, I guess, or perhaps just toying with us for his own perverse amusement.

Indeed, I did a quick search just now which confirmed that the UK press – from the rabidly anti-Palestinian Telegraph to the ‘Murdoch-backed’ Times to the smug Guardian and the pompous BBC – didn’t think Burt’s comments, or the House of Commons exchange about Ahed Tamimi in which they were made, were newsworthy at all.

I suppose this isn’t surprising given their collective silence on yesterday’s pronouncement by Israel’s Agriculture Minister that ‘The Time Has Come for Dead Palestinians.’ Nor for that matter did they bother reporting comments last month by the Labour MP Stephen Kinnock urging the UK government to ‘put a cost on Israeli violations of international law.’ ‘We in this House can no longer stand by and do nothing,’ Kinnock said. To be fair, they probably didn’t want to confuse their audience by mentioning Israel’s serial violations of international law which they hadn’t reported in the first place.

Here’s a quote from Burt:

‘The truth is that the soldiers should not be there and the young woman should not have needed to do what she did.’

And here’s the rest.

Two weeks ago a Palestinian teenager named Ahed Tamimi was arrested after slapping and kicking an Israeli soldier on her family’s property in Nabi Saleh in the West Bank.

Some of you might already be familiar with Ahed, whose image made the rounds on social media a couple of years ago when she fought off Israeli soldiers attempting to arrest her younger brother, whose broken arm was in a cast.

And here is a 2012 video of young Ahed demanding of Israeli soldiers, “where is my brother?”

As for the slapping incident, the Canadian activist David Kattenburg sums it up in a letter to his MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette:

“Ahed was arrested at her home on the night of December 19, without charge, following a now well-publicized incident in which she kicked and slapped an Israeli soldier who had entered her family’s property and refused to leave. The Tamimis — and the village of Nabi Saleh — are well known for their weekly popular protests against Israel’s apartheid regime, and specifically, in response to the seizure of their lands and ancestral spring by the unlawful Jewish settlement of Halamish.”

Kattenburg continues, “their protests (I attended one last May) are routinely greeted with tear gas grenades, high velocity teargas cannisters, “skunk” water (smells like sewage), rubber bullets and live rounds. Two members of Ahed’s family have been killed in the course of their protests. Days before the slapping incident, Ahed’s 15 year-old cousin received a rubber bullet in his face. He was placed in an induced coma prior to surgery, and may or may not be recovering.

“Ahed has now been charged with assaulting an Israeli soldier, among other crimes against Israel’s permanent military occupation, and stands to receive a hefty sentence. The vast majority [99.7% to be precise] of Palestinians charged under Israeli military law are convicted (in contrast, a Jewish settler who brutally assaulted Israeli pacifist Rabbi Arik Ascherman with a knife and his fists recently received a sentence of ‘community service’. Very typical).”

(It’s worth noting that Kattenburg, the son of holocaust survivors, is in the midst of a legal challenge against the Canadian Food Inspection Agency over its mislabelling of settlement wines as ‘Made in Israel’. Given that Justin Trudeau’s government has remained in lock step with the execrable Harper regime on Israel-Palestine, contradicting Canadian foreign policy by voting against Palestinian self-determination and rejecting condemnation of Israel’s illegal settlements at the UN, I’m doubtful Kattenburg’s letter will receive the meaningful response it deserves.)

Besides the context, the timing of Ahed’s arrest, which took place four days after the slapping incident itself, is significant. As Anshel Pfeffer wrote in Haaretz,

“The order to arrest Tamimi, four days after the incident and only after the video of her altercation with the officer had been broadcast on the nightly television shows, was an exercise in damage control and in satisfying the urge of the Israeli public to somehow expunge the humiliation. A Palestinian girl slapping an IDF officer was a national insult that could only be soothed by the pictures of her being taken from her home by female Border Police officers in full body armor.”

 

Since then, Israel’s education minister Naftali Bennett has urged the courts to jail Ahed for life, while the Israeli journalist Ben Caspit made the sinister suggestion that, ‘in the case of the girls, we should exact a price at some other opportunity, in the dark, without witnesses and cameras.’

Her fearlessness has earned Ahed the admiration of Palestinians and their supporters, and the profound hatred and contempt of most Israelis, who have dubbed her “Shirley Temple”. They accuse the Tamimi family of exploiting social media by manufacturing compelling images, as though they need making up. As Pfeffer wrote, ‘there simply is no way to stage manage a telegenic occupation.’ And in a textbook example of projection, they accuse the blonde blue-eyed teenager of not really being Palestinian (my Lebanese father has startling blue eyes and was white blonde as a child), thereby also exposing their own racism. After all, the Israeli claim to our loyalty resides in the colonialist argument that they are “like us”, as contrasted with the swarthy and barbaric natives who surround them. Clearly, Ahed Tamimi’s appearance threatens Israeli spin as much as her fists.

Since 19th December, much has been written about Ahed and Nabi Saleh, although naturally little critical commentary or contextual analysis has made its way into the mainstream press. Here are a few of the best pieces I’ve seen, with excerpts and links.

We Will Continue to Resist Israel’s Occupation as a Family by Bassem Tamimi (Newsweek)

“Earlier this year, a 20-year-old young man was shot in the stomach and killed during a demonstration in support of Palestinians on hunger strike inside Israeli prisons. Five years ago, my wife’s brother Rushdie was shot in the back and killed by a soldier during a demonstration against Israel’s bombing of Gaza. Two years later, on the anniversary of his death, my wife was shot in the leg. Nariman has also developed asthma as a result of breathing tear gas.

Ahed is a strong, fearless girl, and I am proud of my daughter’s steadfastness, but when I saw her sitting in the Israeli military court I felt helpless and scared for her. I am a parent and everything I do is to protect my children and to make sure they can live happily and freely one day. No matter what I believe about perseverance and pride, in the end, I’m a father and it pains me greatly to see my beautiful child imprisoned in a military court that sees and treats Palestinians as less than human.”

Ahed Tamimi Has Become the Symbol of a New Generation of Palestinian Resistancee by Ben Ehrenreich (The Nation)

“If you’ve seen the video that led to her arrest, you might have wondered why Ahed was so angry at the soldiers who entered her yard, why she yelled at them to leave, why she slapped them. That’s why. That and a thousand other reasons. Her uncle and her cousin killed. Her mother shot in the leg and on crutches for most of a year. Her parents and her brother taken from her for months at a time. And never a night’s rest without the possibility that she might wake, as she did early Tuesday morning, as she had so many times before, to soldiers at the door, in her house, in her room, there to take someone away…

Ahed Tamimi was not jailed for breaking the law—Israel, in its governance of the land it occupies, shows little regard for legality. She was arrested because she was all over the news, and the public and the politicians were demanding that she be punished.

They used words like “castrated” and “impotent” to describe how they felt when they looked at that soldier with his helmet and his body armor and his gun and at the kid in the pink T-shirt and blue windbreaker who put him to shame. For all their strength, power, wealth, and arrogance, she had put them all to shame.”

Nabi Saleh is where I lost my Zionism by Lisa Goldman (+972 Magazine)

“These are just a few of the things I saw in Nabi Saleh.

Once, I was standing on the roof of a home with three teenage girls who lived there. We were watching the demonstration from a bit of a distance — maybe 150 meters. Suddenly one of the soldiers standing down the road pivoted in our direction, raised his weapon, aimed, and shot tear gas canisters directly at us. He shot another couple of canisters at the house, shattering the living room window. The older girl told me that her family had stopped replacing it every time the soldiers broke it; the glass had become too expensive.

I also witnessed soldiers deliberately blanketing a small house in tear gas until its occupants, coughing and retching long streams of mucus, were forced to emerge. They were two elderly women, wrinkled and bent over, and a young woman in her twenties.

I’ve seen soldiers grab crying children and shove them into military vehicles, pushing aside their screaming mothers.

I’ve seen soldiers grab a young woman by her arms and drag her like a sack of potatoes for several meters along an asphalt road so hot that it melted the rubber soles of my running shoes, before tossing her into a military vehicle and driving away.

I’ve had my ankles singed black when a security officer looked me straight in the eyes and threw a stun grenade at my legs.

2018: The Year of Primary Sources by Marilyn Garson (Haaretz and Contrapuntal blog)

“Then a Gazan double amputee waved a flag before another wall. He was unarmed, far away from well-armed Israeli soldiers. When he was targeted, shot and killed by an IDF sniper, did your sense of justice join him on that field?

He was one of a dozen killed in these protests so far. Ahed Tamimi in military custody at the age of 16 years, and her 14-year-old cousin, comatose after being shot in the face; they are among an unconscionable number of child victims.

This violence is too debased. You are not immune to other suffering, so how can be a spectator at the suffering inflicted in your name? How can you not weigh in, with your numbers and your influence and your organizations, to arrest this accumulation of new pain, and bring a healing peace one step closer?

Or did you think you are not implicated?”

And if Ahed Tamimi were your daughter? by Gideon Levy (Haaretz)

“She could be your daughter, or your neighbor’s daughter, yet the abuse she suffers rouses no feelings of solidarity, compassion or basic humanity. After the outburst of anger over what she dared to do came the imperviousness. She’s a “terrorist.” She couldn’t have been our daughter; she’s a Palestinian…

If even Tamimi doesn’t manage to rouse feelings of solidarity, shock or guilt here, then the process of denial, concealment and repression – the occupation’s most important enterprise, after the settlements – is finally complete.”

“Never has there been such horrifying apathy here, never have the self-deception and the lies prevailed here so completely and never have there been so few moral qualms here in the face of injustice. Never has incitement won out so completely.”

Photo by Abdelrahman Younis / Reuters via @theIMEU

Since December 7th when the Trump administration announced its intention to move the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, despite the city’s legal status as a corpus separatum according to United Nations Resolution 181 not to mention the foreign policies of every nation on earth other than Israel itself, much has been said and written.

As several pundits have pointed out, the most pressing concern expressed by those who denounced Trump’s recklessness was not that the move constituted a violent rejection of international law and decades of foreign policy, but that it would unleash Palestinian violence. Thus even Trump’s detractors managed to reinforce the prevailing narrative of the Israel-Palestine story, in which the violence originates with the Palestinians, despite the fact that Palestinians have always been and remain overwhelmingly the victims of any violence here. Indeed, to call the disparity asymmetrical is to understate the point dramatically.

Trump’s move also unleashed a flood of anguished hand wringing from self-declared liberals who were wedded to the status quo because – as I wrote elsewhere – a fake peace process and commitment to an illusory ‘two state solution’ allowed them to believe in their own moral rectitude without needing to confront its shaky foundations. Trump’s announcement exposed their complacency for what it is, namely a salve for their own conscience, blessedly unburdened by the obligation to concede a Palestinian entitlement to the most basic human consideration. Indeed, the liberals who’d embraced this view seem alarmed to discover that Palestinians don’t exist simply to make them feel good about themselves.

Meanwhile amidst all of these words, both printed and spoken, Palestinians who have taken to the streets to protest yet another blow to their aspiration to self determination have been rounded up and jailed, shot dead while protesting (three on Friday alone), and smeared yet again as ‘terrorists’ for demanding respect for international law and their own liberty.

For what it’s worth, here’s a roundup of the best pieces I’ve found on the subject of Jerusalem, from the analytical to the polemical.

Photo: Wisam Hashlamoun/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images via @benabyad

After Jerusalem, the US Can No Longer Pretend to Be an Honest Broker of Peace by Rashid Khalidi (The Nation)

“If…Trump’s action drives a stake through the heart of the truly dreadful made-in-Israel plan that presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner is peddling, that would be an entirely good thing. The Kushner plan has been rumored to involve a noncontiguous Palestinian “state” in a fraction of the West Bank and Gaza, without its capital in Jerusalem, without real sovereignty, without control over its own borders or its security, and without any right of return for Palestinian refugees. Calling this travesty a Bantustan would be an insult to apartheid South Africa. No Palestinian leader can accept anything like this and retain a shred of self-respect or the support of his or her own people…

It is time to get away from the idea that Israel’s most fervently partisan supporter and supplier of money and arms can be a mediator. The United States is not neutral: It is a party to this conflict, fully on the side of Israel.

This is despite the fact that polls consistently show that a majority of Americans want the United States to be neutral and evenhanded in its dealings with Israelis and Palestinians, and that nearly half of all Americans, and a majority of Democrats, would go so far as to support sanctions or stronger action against Israel over settlement construction.”

It’s personal: How Trump betrayed both Abbas and Abdullah of Jordan by David Hearst (Middle East Eye)

“[The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)] now 57 nations strong, met in Istanbul on Wednesday. Just as it had 48 years ago, Al Aqsa galvanised them – once again – into action. Instead of being attacked by an Evangelical Christian from Australia, Al Aqsa was threatened by a US president pandering to similar messianic Christians in America…

A US president lecturing Muslim leaders on Islamic extremism was superseded by one in which Muslim leaders lectured him on his own fundamentalists.”

Trump’s Jerusalem Ploy by John Wight (Counterpunch)

“Decades spent existing under the brute heel of occupation in the West Bank – where Jewish only illegal settlements have expanded and continue to spread, where hundreds of checkpoints are a daily reminder of their subjugation and degradation, occupied land the natural resources of which have and continue to be expropriated – can only but leave a sour taste. Meanwhile, Gaza continues to exist under a siege that amounts to collective punishment, one that evinces no sign of abating anytime soon. Taken together, the ‘only democracy in the Middle East’ has been engaged in a mass experiment in human despair.”

Photo: MOHAMMED SALEM/REUTERS via @Haaretzcom

The Israeli Military First Took His Legs, Then His Life by Gideon Levy (Haaretz)

“The killing of the young disabled man passed almost without mention in Israel. He was one of three demonstrators killed Friday, just another humdrum day. One can easily imagine what would happen if Palestinians had killed an Israeli who used a wheelchair. What a furor would have erupted, with endless ink spilled on their cruelty and barbarism. How many arrests would have resulted, how much blood would have flowed in retaliation. But when soldiers behave barbarically, Israel is silent and shows no interest. No shock, no shame, no pity.”

Artists attack Trump over Jerusalem move by more than 100 international artists (Guardian Letters)

“We reject Trump’s collusion with such racist manipulation and his disregard for international law. We deplore his readiness to crown the Israeli military conquest of East Jerusalem and his indifference to Palestinian rights.

As artists and as citizens, we challenge the ignorance and inhumanity of these policies, and celebrate the resilience of Palestinians living under occupation.”

The Only Peace Process is Palestinian Freedom, Noura Erekat interview (The Real News)

“For anybody who still believes in the two-state solution, that’s fantastic as a theoretical matter, but it is no more realistic or possible than a one-state solution is. Both of them are almost impossible to achieve under the brunt and weight of an Israeli settler colonial project that is not being reined in by anybody and is acting with impunity…

The question really to ask is, “What does the international community want Palestinians to do, and why this is onus only on us in order to resist the 11th most powerful military in the world?” Every kind of strategy that we’ve come up with for our resistance has been criminalized, not because of its content, but because our protest. The mere idea that we can protest and insist that Palestinians exist is what is at stake.

That is what Palestinians are fighting for and continue to fight for, whether in the form of BDS, in the mass civil protests, in symbolic protest, in the form of art. The mere fact of Palestinian existence, the mere fact of remaining in their homes, is the ultimate form of protest and what scares Israel the most.”

In Jerusalem we have the latest chapter in a century of colonialism by Karma Nabulsi (The Guardian)

“At the time of the [British} military takeover [in 1917], Palestine was 90% Christian and Muslim, with 7-10% Palestinian Arab Jews and recent European settlers. By the time the British army left Palestine on 14 May 1948, the expulsion and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people was already under way. During their 30 years’ rule, the British army and police engineered a radical change to the population through the mass introduction of European settlers, against the express wishes of the indigenous population. They also suppressed Palestine’s Great Revolt of 1936-39, destroying any possibility of resistance to what lay ahead.

Once any individual episode is understood as part of a continuing structure of settler colonialism, the hitherto invisible daily evictions of Palestinians from their homes assume their devastating significance.”

Zionism in the Light of Jerusalem by Jim Kavanagh (Counterpunch)

“Israel’s relentless Judaization of East Jerusalem, consistent with its long-held declaration of sovereignty over the entire city, was proceeding swimmingly, with only the feeblest occasional murmurs of protest, accompanied by massive countervailing deliveries of arms and money, from the peace-process-loving governments of Europe and America.

Trump’s gratuitous, self-aggrandizing gesture, by unmasking that as the de facto acceptance of annexation that it is, only brings unwanted attention to the whole rotten game, and to the hypocrisy of those governments especially.”

The world should respond to Trump’s Jerusalem declaration with sanctions on Israel by Diana Buttu (The Washington Post)

“As someone who was involved in [bilateral] negotiations for several years, including at times when many claimed Palestinians and Israelis were close to reaching an agreement, I know the reality was much different.

In negotiations, Israel insisted that Palestinians give up our rights in order to accommodate Israeli wrongs. We were told that we would need to continue to allow Israeli settlers to remain on stolen Palestinian land while Palestinian refugees would never be allowed to return to their homes — all for the sake of peace. We were told that negotiations to have Jerusalem be a shared, open city were ‘off the table’ and that demands for equality were ‘non-starters.'”

These 2 NFL Players Stood Up for Palestine—and It Didn’t Kill Their Careers by Dave Zirin (The Nation)

“Remembering this moment is very important right now. It has long been assumed in sports—not to mention in media more broadly—that even recognizing the humanity of the Palestinian people, let alone criticizing the Israeli occupation, is a political third rail. This is especially the case in the NFL, where powerful owners like Bob Kraft of the Patriots are hard-line supporters of whatever Trump/Netanyahu agenda is being put forward, no matter how bloody. Yet here Bennett and Stills are: They stood up for the basic concept of Palestinian humanity in February, and then were nominated in December for one of the league’s greatest honors [the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award].”

How Canadian media obscures the occupation of Palestine by Azeezah Kanji (The Toronto Star)

“According to Bimkom, an organization of Israeli planners and architects, Israel’s “planning and development policy in [Jerusalem] aims at ensuring a Jewish majority in the city by designating the vast majority of available areas in East Jerusalem for the Jewish population.”

Israel has revoked the residency permits of more than 14,000 Palestinian Jerusalemites since 1967, expelling Palestinians from a city their families have inhabited for centuries. Only 13 per cent of land in East Jerusalem is allocated for Palestinian neighbourhoods; 35 per cent has been confiscated for Israeli settlements, which now house more than 200,000 settlers.

Since 2004, Israel has demolished more than 700 Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem, leaving more than 2,500 people homeless. At least 120 Palestinian institutions have been shut down by Israel in Jerusalem since 1967, including kindergartens, charities, and the Arab Studies Society.”

Photograph: Copyright Amos Trust / Mark Kensett

Some time ago I bonded with a woman on Twitter over a shared commitment to the struggle for Palestinian human rights and self determination. My memory is unreliable these days, but I’m quite sure we connected around the siege of Gaza in 2014, when more than 2,000 Palestinians were slaughtered during a 51-day Israeli blitz in which the most lethal and sophisticated weaponry in human history was unleashed on 1.8 million civilians trapped on the most densely populated piece of land on earth. She quit Twitter not long after, finding the atmosphere poisonous, but we’ve managed to keep in touch via email.

We’ve never met and she and I don’t swap much personal information, but from our exchanges I gather that she is an ordinary Brit, a regular churchgoer – earnest, compassionate and driven by a sense of moral clarity – with no personal connection to the region. Nonetheless, the dispossession of the Palestinians and their ongoing oppression, alongside the refusal of her own government to stand up for international law and condemn egregious human rights abuses, captured her attention and like me she is now a committed advocate.

We are only occasionally in touch but last week she made contact to share a video of the ‘Just Walk to Jerusalem’, a 147-day pilgrimage organised by the Amos Trust, in which she and dozens of others walked all the way from London to Jerusalem. (And yes, they really did walk.)

Readers of my blog might recall that the Amos Trust was the organisation that teamed up with Palmusic to present a concert I attended at St James’s Piccadilly, featuring a string quartet of Druze Palestinian siblings. Inspired by the event, I went on to support Palmusic by sponsoring two students in its Open Hebron music programme.

The ‘Just Walk’ was conceived to mark the centenary of the Balfour Declaration and press the UK government to ‘change the record’ on Palestine. But this morning it seems to have taken on a new meaning thanks to Donald Trump’s wrecking ball Middle East foreign policy, which reached its nadir with yesterday’s announcement that the US will move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. For those of you who don’t know, Jerusalem has been divided into (Arab) East and (Jewish) West since it was annexed by Israel in 1967, and its status has always been among the thorniest issues in already fraught ‘talks’.

I confess that while I woke up this morning still feeling the shock of Trump’s announcement, I remain uncertain what to think. Yesterday, many commentators – including those who should know better – performed last rites on the ‘Middle East peace process’ and the ‘two state solution’ both of which have in fact been sustained in a permanent vegetative state for decades. Indeed, this so-called process and its imagined solution exist now only in the minds of a few fantasists and the cynics who feed their delusion that some ‘status quo’ was being maintained. The briefest glance at a current map of the West Bank confirms the truth of the matter which is the aggressive daily expansion of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, enabled by the bloated budget of Israel’s Strategic Affairs Ministry which is tasked with stalking and smearing anyone who objects. In short, the ‘status quo’ was not static at all.

Others claimed that it finally exposed America as a dishonest broker in the conflict. For those wilful naifs, apparently Barack Obama’s $38-billion top up in military aid to Israel, the requirement that Texans seeking hurricane relief funding sign declarations against the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement, the well-funded war on Palestinian advocacy on US university campuses (as well as those in Canada, the UK and elsewhere), and countless other displays of America’s ‘Israel first’ policy hadn’t provided enough evidence that US affections were already spoken for. Besides, it’s not clear why the “Potemkin peace process” which Hillary Clinton promised her pro Israel donors according to the Podesta email leaks, served the cause of Palestinian equality and human rights any better. Curiously, the US media were more interested in skewering Julian Assange over the leaks than pondering the implications of Clinton’s cynicism, dishonesty and admission of bias.

So yes, today we know where we stand and it’s where we’ve stood for a long time: silent witnesses to the erasure of the Palestinian people, the colonisation of their history and culture, the theft of their land and resources and collusion in the ugly pretence that the Palestinian thirst for justice is actually a thirst for blood. In short, the threadbare but familiar colonialist narrative dressed up as ‘different’ this time, with anyone who disagrees being ruthlessly silenced.

In that sense, I suppose, the ‘Just Walk to Jerusalem’ means as much today as it did yesterday, and will tomorrow. Here is their video:

Just Walk to Jerusalem 2017 from Amos Trust on Vimeo.

And here is a more in depth look at their journey. Just Walk to Jerusalem 2017

Below is a comment piece I read yesterday in Haaretz. I came across it via Facebook, and was moved by its power and lyricism so I contacted the writer, Marilyn Garson, to tell her so. Writers on difficult topics need support, and those of us in whose bones and organs this issue is lodged need whatever scraps of hope and fellow-feeling and beauty we can find. Marilyn responded quickly, and very kindly invited me to share her piece on my blog.

Marilyn is Jewish Canadian who lived in Gaza four years, including throughout the 51 day Israeli siege in 2014; she left a year later. Here are some comments about life in Gaza:

“For four years, I led teams of young Gazan parents. They were all bilingual, with graduate degrees. We employed dozens of recent university graduates. We worked with aspiring, professional Gaza: businesses, job-seekers, artists, freelancers and start-ups. The walls of Gaza do not confine a single, undifferentiated enemy object. They conceal a life-loving, complex society that treasures education and family.”

“Resistance is Gaza’s unifying civic virtue, and under pressure, Gaza coheres like contact cement. But those walls press many forms of resistance into absurd proximity; those who sacrifice everything today, and those who protest by living each day meaningfully in inhuman conditions. The walls empower the violent factions, who monopolize force in a closed space.”

For more of Marilyn’s lovely writing visit her blog, Contrapuntal: Transforming Gaza. Meantime, here’s her piece from Haaretz.

“Netanyahu seals the gates of the West Bank and Gaza, confining millions of Palestinians, to enjoy the Sukkot festival. If anywhere or anyone else demanded a Jew-free holiday, would we shrug that off?”

My team in Gaza were especially fond of one brand of Israeli honey cookies. We gorged whenever we spotted them, a Hebrew label among the Arabic. I dawdled over that label one morning, imagining Hebron settlers sipping coffee with Gaza strawberries.

My colleague misunderstood my reverie, and helpfully reminded me, “It’s just a cookie. It’s not politics.” The settlers with the red-stained fingers vanished.

Living in Gaza, the rest of the world could look absurd.

Newt Gingrich, an American politician, disparaged Palestinians as “an invented people”. A Gazan colleague flounced into my office. Hands on hips, she demanded, “Isn’t everybody invented?”

Israelis and Gazans had such basic, human things in common. At funeral after funeral, they both said, “Those boys were everyone’s boys. I have lost one more son.”

Some people preferred the safe distance of binary distinctions. One Tel Aviv taxi driver insisted, “We can’t live together because we’re human beings and they’re not.”

When we cannot even imagine living together, we underestimate all the creativity, the money, the technology and infrastructure, and the hard work that has gone into keeping us apart.

We slip down the self-referential slope: it’s all about us. We see only our suffering and our reasons, and we brandish the license of our losses. History becomes a litany of gestures made to straw men, who inexplicably rejected each one because they only understand violence. How could we live with straw men like that?

So the leaders of two nations with long memories wait for the other to forget, or be punished enough, or just go away.

Israel insists on its good motives but cannot ascribe the same to Palestinians. Palestinians are judged by their actions, overlaid with malevolent intentions.

Israelis at home are civilians; Palestinians in their homes are human shields. Dead Israeli civilians are victims of terror, while dead Gazans can only be collateral damage, because the IDF has its purity of arms. An IDF poster from the 2014 war made it simple: Israel uses weapons to protect civilians, while Hamas uses civilians to protect its weapons. There’s no living with people like that.

These are not the first belligerents to lie, or to wilfully refuse to see the humanity of the other side. As a witness in Gaza from 2011 to 2015, I was outraged by the asymmetry and the tactics of this conflict, and the failure of imagination – but I’m not Israeli. And I’m hardly the first Jew who has waded through the fission-fusion-fission reaction of recognizing Israel as a state rather than as a religion.

I was left with the dismay I might feel if my sister erupted in repeated, violent road rage. I didn’t do it. However, she is a part of me. The name on the warrant is also mine.

So it is, when Israel’s elected government attaches Judaism to its apparently inalienable right to dominate. In the name of religion, they withhold from others precisely the human rights that we Jews claim for ourselves. Their religious appropriation makes us more than witnesses.

Netanyahu seals the gates of the West Bank and Gaza for eleven days, to enjoy Sukkot. How flagrant, to confine millions of people in the name of a holiday that celebrates the flimsy, temporary nature of our walls.

If Jews were herded behind concrete walls and locked away for eleven days, so that someone else might enjoy a Jew-free holiday, would we shrug that off?

We tolerate a nationalism which withholds from others precisely the political rights that we claim for ourselves. Have we forgotten that statelessness was the problem statement of Zionism? Jews felt vulnerable and voiceless in a world comprised of states – yet we avert our eyes from the stateless peril of others.

We accept the straw men they show us. If Jewish nationalism requires this domination, we assume that Palestinian aspirations must be as lopsided. Their rights would necessarily be realized at our expense, wouldn’t they? We leave every better possibility unexamined, because we have already decided that we cannot live together. We’ve been primed.

Naturally, Netanyahu is preventatively foreclosing on Palestinian reconciliation.

We’ve seen this. In 2014, this was one of the last way-stations before a calamitous and (according to Israel’s State Comptroller) avoidable war. First there was no Palestinian interlocutor who could deliver all of Palestine. Then, overnight, at the prospect of reconciliation, there was no acceptable Palestinian interlocutor because someone might represent all of Palestine. The risks of war are more tolerable than the risks of compromise.

Why do we permit it? Netanyahu invokes the spectre – they all want to kill us. They always, only, want to kill us. That’s why we can’t live together, because Israel’s strength is the only Jewish safety. Be very afraid. Build walls. Then build more walls.

The Global Militarization Index ranks Israel as the most militarized country on earth, a distinction it has held for 17 of the past 25 years (Israel was ranked second from 1999 – 2006). Israel has imprisoned itself, and still finds it necessary to spend another $800 million, on yet more walls, to hide itself from immiserated Gaza.

So, um, are we safe yet?

No. There is no separate safety in our entropic time. Jews, and everyone else, will become safe in a tolerant world, when Jews enjoy the same rights as those human beings behind the walls.

Call all this brick-laying ‘Israeli’, if that is what you want ‘Israeli’ to mean. But do not call it Jewish, because oppression is not the content of Judaism. Value life, and resist its waste. Seek justice – that is the content I understand. We are failing at it.

Marilyn Garson lived and worked in Gaza from 2011 – 2015, as the Economic Director of Mercy Corps and the Business and Livelihoods Consultant to UNRWA. She is a co-founder of the Gaza Gateway social enterprise. She now writes from New Zealand. Her blog is Transforming Gaza.

‘Israeli authorities are set to advance plans to triple the size of a settlement in the heart of occupied East Jerusalem, according to reports Thursday…

Peace Now’s Hagit Ofran told Channel 1: “The previous attempt to build apartments there, as if it were a regular real estate project, failed because there is no market of people who innocently want to live in the heart of a Palestinian neighbourhood. Only ideologues”.

According to Haaretz, “approval of the new units would take place as Netanyahu heads for a ten-day visit to Latin America and the UN General Assembly in New York”.’

The rest is here: Israeli authorities set to triple size of settlement in East Jerusalem

Meantime, instead of focusing on Israel’s daily violations of international law like this one, or its destruction last week of a Palestinian school, the thuggish and corrupt Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, is filling his days by arresting non-violent Palestinian activists like Issa Amro for their Facebook posts. File this under ‘you couldn’t make it up.’

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