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“The death toll from today’s demonstrations is at least 43, with more than 1,700 injured. The health system is, according to Red Cross doctors working on the ground, ‘on the verge of collapse‘.

One thing, however, is certain: as Gazans attempt to break free of their prison camp, their only protection, their only armour, their only defence against the wall of Israeli snipers, is us.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign has called an EMERGENCY DEMONSTRATION in solidarity with the people of Gaza tomorrow (15 May), 5.30pm, Downing Street, London.”

via GAZA’S MOMENT OF TRUTH — AND OURS

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As we approach the anniversary of the Nakba, when three-quarters of a million Palestinians were terrorised from their homes and their villages destroyed, I thought I’d share three things that have crossed my radar over the past few days.

Of course I write this short post against the backdrop of a month’s worth of protests – known as the Great March of Return, by residents of Gaza, in which thousands of Palestinians have been injured by live ammunition and dozens have been killed, including several journalists. It was week two, I think, when the Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman, defended Israel’s brutal response to this peaceful protest on the grounds that ‘there are no innocents in Gaza.’ The governments of the UK, Canada, the US and the EU have responded to these grotesque remarks and the events surrounding them with the usual chilling silence, confirming Israel’s smug certainty that it will face no consequences for this brutality.

First, there’s ‘Slouching Towards Salem’, a powerful piece by the psychoanalyst Martin Kemp who I know personally. It’s about the ferocious anti Semitism witch hunt currently assailing the UK’s Parliamentary Labour Party. Martin is a founder of the UK Palestine Mental Health Network and a longstanding advocate of Palestinian human rights. Here’s an excerpt from his essay, which appeared on the Psychoanalytic Activist:

“During that trip [to Palestine] I grasped, experientially, the meaning of ‘secondary trauma’[x]. It was not only the encounter with preventable suffering: it was coming to terms with the totality of a system consciously designed to inflict maximum fear and insecurity, distress and humiliation, grief and pain.

It seemed that no opportunity, no matter how petty or trivial, was let by to impress upon the Palestinians their status as non-humans.

What was and is happening there goes beyond any rationale that could be considered acceptable or sane. It had nothing to do with enhancing security – if that was the intention, one could hardly imagine a more self-defeating approach[xi]. What aggravated the difficulty in containing one’s outrage was the knowledge that Western politicians and journalists knew what was going on, or had made a conscious choice not to know.”

And here is a Tedx talk by the bold and brave Jewish American activist Anna Baltzer, on The Danger of Neutrality.

Finally, a short piece by Derek Summerfield on ‘The Maiming Fields of Gaza’ which appeared in the British Medical Journal.

“Medical personnel have been working on reduced salaries. Gazan health professionals find it almost impossible to get Israeli permission to travel abroad to further their training.The regular episodic military assaults on Gaza and the current targeting of unarmed demonstrators are part of a pattern of periodically induced emergencies arising from Israeli policy. The cumulative effects of the impact on healthcare provision for the general population have been documented in multiple reports by NGOs, UN agencies and the WHO.

This appears to be a strategy for the de-development of health and social services impinging on all the population of Gaza…

Whilst various UN and WHO agencies have condemned Israeli actions, Western governments have not uttered a murmur and thus bolster the impunity Israel seems always to have enjoyed in its treatment of Palestinian society. Others who seek to document and to draw attention to events like this, including in medical journals, are often subject to vilifying ad hominem attacks, as have journal editors. These are matters of international shame.”

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.

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.

Against a backdrop of aggressive Israeli settlement expansion and the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes, yesterday evening I slipped into a deep, jet lagged sleep to the news that the Knesset has voted to support the death penalty for so called ‘terrorists’, and has decided to annex parts of the West Bank outright. I also spotted this tweet:

This morning, it was this:

And this:

And in the post, I received the quarterly report from Christian Peacemaker Teams, an organisation I support which accompanies Palestinian children to school, often past bullying settlers and Israeli occupation forces lobbing tear gas at them. Its report reads in part:

Over the next two hours twelve more [boys] would be added to [the four already detained and handcuffed]: ten children and two young adults. Eventually they would all be shoved into the small metal cage at the end of the checkpoint, most of them forced to sit on the ground while soldiers kicked and laughed at them. They would be taken, without a parent or guardian present, to the police station for several hours, where they would be interrogated, beaten, threatened by soldiers and settlers, and eventually released.’

You might recall that this is the behaviour the former England footballer Gary Lineker called ‘sickening’ only to be rounded upon by pro Israel trolls. In retrospect, though, his treatment was gentle compared with the vile attacks on the singer Lorde who last month cancelled her upcoming Tel Aviv concert, in solidarity with Palestinians. For her support of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Kiwi pop star was smeared as a ‘bigot.’

In short, it remains open season on Palestinian protestors and their rights, thanks to Donald Trump, a rampaging, entitled and heavily armed colonialist project calling itself democracy while behaving like apartheid, and the wilfully blind, deaf and dumb EU and Arab ‘leadership’ whose guaranteed silence provides moral cover for these obscenities. For Palestine, 2018 isn’t looking so good.

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.”

“One of the most boring refrains of liberals on the rare occasions they talk about Palestine is, ‘Where is the Palestinian Gandhi?’…

In reality, Palestinians are in a constant state of using unarmed and peaceful protest against Israel. Non-violent forms of Palestinian resistance are as old as Zionism itself. It could not be any other way – although it may receive the support of popular sentiment (as it does in Palestine) armed resistance is by definition the act of a vanguard minority.

The 1936 Palestinian uprising against British occupation and Zionist colonialism, for example, began as a general strike. It was only later that it developed into an armed guerrilla insurgency, in response to the brutality of the British and their allies in the Zionist movement.

Even after the majority of the Palestinian population was expelled by Zionist militias in 1948, in the aftermath of this Nakba, the first acts of resistance were spontaneous, simple acts of defiance – and they were entirely peaceful.”

More here: Stars of Oscar-nominated Palestinian documentary imprisoned by Israel

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