June 5 1967 was the day Israel launched an allegedly pre-emptive attack on Egypt, starting what came to be known as the ‘six-day war’.

I have no memory of the event, in which the Egyptians were swiftly routed by Israel, as I was only one year-old when it took place, but since that time, the pre-emption defence has been widely refuted. As James North reminds us on Mondoweiss, its many challengers include the American historian Norman Finkelstein.

In his book, Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, Finkelstein argues that the war was actually a land grab, a thesis he supports with a number of carefully documented facts. First, a planned meeting in Washington on June 7th between Egypt’s Vice-President, Zacharia Mohieddine, and officials in Lyndon Johnson’s administration aimed at defusing the crisis undermines Israel’s claim that Egypt was on the verge of attack. There is also Israel’s promise to do nothing until June 11th, which it promptly broke on June 5th.

‘We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.’

In addition, Finkelstein offers up this quote from Menachem Begin, the Irgun terrorist gang leader responsible for the King David Hotel bombing in 1946, who went on to become an Israeli Prime Minister:

‘Prime Minister Menachem Begin, former Minister without portfolio in PM Levi Eshkol’s cabinet, while addressing Israel’s National Defence College on 8 August 1982: “In June, 1967, we again had a choice. The Egyptian army concentrations in the Sinai did not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.” (New York Times, 21 August 1982)’

Writing in Haaretz, Amir Oren tells us that Moshe Dayan’s memoirs confirm Begin’s admission. ‘Right after the aerial attack, there will be a general announcement that won’t go into details and won’t say anything about who attacked first – something along the lines of “Hostilities broke out,” and then the background that made it necessary for Israel to break the noose,’ Dayan recounted.

‘Our actions should be depicted as a response to the Arabs’ attacks, and in the first 24 hours we should be “the ones in jeopardy”‘ Dayan wrote.

Surely Finkelstein’s land-grab thesis is best supported by the fact that this ostensibly short-lived conflict has spun into a vivid brutality that has lasted throughout my lifetime, in the longest military occupation in contemporary history. Its mechanics would be unspectacular were it not for their grotesque efficiency, honed over a generous half century during which the world has stood idly by, indulging the inevitably and increasingly vicious tantrums of a child to whom no one ever dared to say ‘no.’

Settlers armed with weapons and Teflon-coated entitlement

In those five decades, Israel has fine-tuned the oppression of millions of Palestinians, including trying Palestinian children in military courts who’ve signed confessions in a language they don’t understand in otherwise evidence-free trials, so that their parents can be shaken down for thousands of shekels which pay the court’s judges, while launching studiously random nighttime raids on Palestinians’ homes to ensure that they live in a state of permanent terror.

The current regime pushes through legislation to erase Arabic from the country’s streets and schools and to ‘normalise’ land-theft, while settlers armed with weapons and Teflon-coated entitlement roam the streets like jackals, mowing down Palestinian children and attacking Palestinian farmers, and occupation forces do their bit by harassing and intimidating Gaza fishermen.

This local campaign of bullying and state sanctioned criminality is supported by a well-funded and equally rigorous global PR operation, in which a double act of party donations and the threat of vicious and defamatory smears constitute the carrot and stick that keep Western governments supine. Meantime Israel normalises its colonialist ambitions with breathtaking chutzpah, daring FIFA, Eurovision and other ostensibly non-political organisations to exclude it thereby proving their own latent anti Semitism.

The result is a level of foreign influence that would make Russian hackers drool with envy.

Of course, in Israel the term ‘Occupation’ is used with a wink and a nudge these days. Recently the horror show Prime Minister, Bibi Netanyahu – by their own reckoning, a friend of Donald Trump, Theresa May and Justin Trudeau – admitted he has no intention of returning the West Bank to the Palestinians now or ever. And each of those leaders dutifully makes clear to their own rank and file that any diversion from the risible ‘two-state solution’ talking point that provides unassailable cover for relentless and unapologetic Israeli expansionism will cast them into the wilderness.

Meantime, the siege of Gaza – a collective punishment meted out to its 1.8 million inhabitants for daring to elect the wrong government – grinds on with barely an eye brow raised.

‘We make music, not war.’

Yesterday evening, I attended a concert by the Galilee String Quartet, a young ensemble of siblings who are Druze Palestinians from Israel. The concert was terrific, spanning works from Beethoven to Fairouz to the musicians’ own compositions, but for me it began rather jarringly. Introducing the group, eldest brother Omar Sa’ad, whose viola studies have been punctuated by stints in Israeli prison for refusing to enlist, assured us half-jokingly that the family are not hate-filled terrorists. Indeed, ‘We make music, not war’ is the ensemble’s slogan.

Omar’s comment reminded me how every aspect of the Palestinian identity in the West has been saturated with the political by those who have sought to erase it entirely. It brought to mind the agonised faces of children being brutalised by Israeli soldiers, their jeans drenched with urine as their organs go into free-fall in the grip of such fear. That in turn made me think of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s powerful exposition of the materiality and vulnerability of the black body as a political canvas in Between the World and Me, which won the National Book Award in 2015.

It would break your heart if you have a heart to break, and a conscience not yet desiccated by cowardice and cynicism. It surely broke mine a little, but the damage might have been worse were it not for the music, joyful laughter and youthful jitters there to stitch it up. And so I listened, the Fairouz especially taking me back to the eight-track tape of hits by the exalted Lebanese singer which we used to listen to when I was a kid, loaded into our Country Squire station wagon headed for Dairy Queen.

But this morning I was inevitably pulled back to my desk and this mostly-written blog for which I’d already documented the horrors below, captured with headlines and excerpts, in what has turned into a never-ending wrong.

Video: Let Palestine be “wiped out,” sings Jerusalem Day mob

‘After militarized police units clear the parade route of Palestinians, even from the Muslim Quarter, thousands of Israelis assert their territorial and religious claims to the city with a massive march, dancing and singing victory songs…’

‘It has long been common for marchers to belt out racist songs, including “Zachreni Na,” with its call for ethnic cleansing: “Palestine – May their name be wiped out!”’

Jewish settlers write ‘death to Arabs’ in Jerusalem

At one of the Palestinian cars, the extremist Jewish settlers wrote: “Revenge. Binyamin Richter says hello.”…

One of the Palestinian owners of the vandalised vehicles, Amer abu-Hamed, posted pictures of the damage to his Facebook page but wrote he and his friends have no intention of filing a complaint as they have no faith in the police.

Israeli settlers release wild boars on Palestinian farms

‘Speaking to the PIC reporter, the farmers affirmed that hundreds of wild boars were deliberately released by Israeli settlers to destroy their fruit trees, leading to heavy losses.’

14-year-old girl joins dozens of Palestinian women in Israeli prison

Addameer [a Palestinian prisoner support and human rights group] has also reported on the treatment of Palestinian women prisoners by Israeli prison authorities, stating that the majority of Palestinian women detainees are subjected to “psychological torture” and “ill-treatment” by Israeli authorities, including “various forms of sexual violence that occur such as beatings, insults, threats, body searches, and sexually explicit harassment.”

“These techniques of torture and ill-treatment are used not only as means to intimidate Palestinian women detainees but also as tools to humiliate Palestinian women and coerce them into giving confessions,” the group stated.

Another patient in Gaza dies after being denied access to hospital

WHO figures have shown Israeli approvals of permits have declined year on year since 2012 and have fallen further in 2017, with almost half (46%) of patients applying to leave Gaza via the Erez Crossing in March being refused a permit by the Israeli authorities, or not receiving a response in time to attend their appointments. In February, 40% were delayed or denied.

Israeli police assault, detain Al-Aqsa guards as hundreds of Israelis take to holy site

Al-Aqsa compound director Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani told Ma’an that Israeli police forces assaulted a group of four of the mosque’s guards at Lion’s Gate, after the guards “objected to the provocative behaviors of Israeli settlers during their raid of Al-Aqsa”…

The incident occurred as dozens of right-wing Israelis and ultra-religious settlers marched through and toured Al-Aqsa under the protection of police forces in celebration of Jerusalem Day.

Combatants for Hate

Israel refuses to allow 225 Palestinians into the country to attend a joint Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day ceremony. ‘The Palestinians who sought to enter Israel wanted to sit in the same room with parents whose soldier sons had been killed, with bereaved families from the occupying nation.’

‘The devastation of losing a child is identical for all human beings simply because they are human beings. But this message isn’t allowed entry into Israel. The only Palestinians who are allowed to enter Israelis’ consciousness are terrorists, murderers and suicidal fanatics. The government has an interest in maintaining this outlook, which assumes that there is no partner and no Palestinian people, only terrorists. Anyone who dares think otherwise remains beyond the pale.’

Israeli forces fire tear gas, bullets at Palestinian hospital in Ramallah

“The assault caused panic and fear among children, women, and elderly patients at sections of the center,” [Palestinian Minister of Health Jawad] Awwad said. “This fear will never be erased from the memories of the children who came to the hospital to receive treatment, not to enter war.”

Israeli settlers write racist graffiti on walls and cars in Jerusalem

‘Local resident Morad Issa said that surveillance cameras captured the images of two Israeli settlers infiltrating into the neighborhood at about 3:15 am. The cameras showed the pair writing graffiti on the walls and on a car. But Israeli police say they have no suspects in the case, although Jerusalem District police say they have opened an investigation.’

Teenage Palestinian girl ‘executed in cold blood,’ witnesses say

‘However, shortly after the shooting, an eyewitness told Ma’an that Hjeiji had been standing near Damascus Gate, more than ten meters away from a group of Israeli border guard soldiers, before she was killed.’

“One of the soldiers started to shout ‘knife! knife!’ and moments after that, about five soldiers opened fire at her from every direction,” he said.’

Another witness said the girl was first hit in the chest and fell to the ground, “but Israeli soldiers continued to fire at her back.”

‘Pizza Hut’ and Israeli army radio join in grotesque attacks on Marwan Barghouti

[Note: this story is rather old but Noy’s comments resonated so I’ve included them here].

‘As Orly Noy wrote in the Hebrew version of her article in Local Call titled “When did we become so beastly” (my translation):’

‘“When did we become so beastly? How did we become this loser, this despicable nation which celebrates in glee that a human whose body is close to collapse after continuous starvation, has put some crumbs in his mouth? How did we become this nation that sets up a grill outside the prison walls so that the smell of the meat would reach the nostrils of the hunger strikers and exacerbate their tortures? How have we become this appalling and sickening thing?”’

Gaza health crisis deepens as 33 percent of medicines at ‘zero stock’

‘The UN has also stated that the number of patients being referred outside of Gaza is also increasing. Despite this, as MAP has highlighted in a recent briefing, patients are frequently denied permits to leave Gaza for treatment by the Israeli authorities, with 40 percent denied or delayed in February 2017. According to the UN, the percentage of denied or delayed permits has increased each year since 2012. In the last month, two patients, one a five-year-old girl, died after missing medical appointments in East Jerusalem while awaiting a response to their permit requests.

Note: the title of this blog comes from the Katherine Anne Porter story, about the trial for robbery and murder of the anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti.

It hasn’t taken long but I’m already fed up with the new line out of some factions of the ‘pro Palestine’ camp that posits the BDS movement as fatally divisive. The latest putative supporter of Palestinian rights to take up this theme is Norman Finkelstein, the tireless campaigner for Palestine, who spoke recently in Ottawa. His comments were summed up by Peter Larson on his blog, Canada Talks Israel Palestine.

Below you’ll find the response I posted on Peter’s blog, which offers some notes and observations about this disturbing trend. But before this gets too abstract for you, let’s look at a couple of basics. Here’s a shot of the Palestinian playground the Israelis levelled in East Jerusalem this week; it comes from the Ma’an News Agency story on this event, which was one of a series of demolitions the same day. They were not covered by a single mainstream media outlet I can find.

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In addition, I’ve just spotted the news that an Israeli court has found the shooting in the head at point blank range of a seriously wounded and prone Palestinian man by an IDF soldier in Hebron ‘inconclusive.’ The video of the fatal shooting was widely seen across social media. As you might know, Hebron is where the Israeli government has welded shut the doors of all Palestinian homes and businesses on Shuhada Stret, the main commercial thoroughfare. Palestinians are required to access their properties via alleyways and back windows.

Here is my response to Finkelstein:

‘While I appreciate that Norman Finkelstein takes a lot of flak for his views, I agree with the contributors here who find his criticism of BDS deeply troubling. There are several reasons:

1. I do not know of a single manifestation of Palestinian resistance that has ever been deemed ‘acceptable’ by the international community, which on the contrary has unrelentingly resisted holding Israel to account for its repeated and brazen violations of international law.

2. Do the anti-BDS crowd deny that the decisions of Veolia, Ahava, Sodastream and G4S to shut down or move their OPT operations, along with Artists Against Palestine, the Brazilian musician Gaetano Veloso and many others who refuse to perform there, would have occurred without pressure from BDS activists? And can they name another strategy that can boast these successes?

3. The BDS movement originated from frustration with global obstructionism on Palestinian rights, while Israel lays facts on the ground in the OPT and pulverises Gaza every couple of years. As such, it seems perverse rather than ‘provocative’ to claim that BDS is causing the inaction it arose in response to.

More importantly, do those making these claims seriously believe that if BDS were stopped some miraculous progress on Palestinian rights would occur? And do they think it’s a coincidence that the fiercest opponents of BDS are also the fiercest opponents of Palestinian rights?

4. It is not just hot-headed undergraduates who support BDS. It is mainstream churches, labour unions, cultural organisations and many other groups and individuals. Here in the UK the Quakers made a powerful submission to the government’s consultation on plans to stop local councils from boycotting settlement related companies. As I wrote on my own blog, the World Association for Infant Mental Health moved its late May congress from Tel Aviv to Prague in response to concerns from its membership about whether Israel was an appropriate location for this event. Israeli and Palestinian mental health groups are still supporting the congress, just not in Israel.

In fact, the anti-BDS line being spun by Palestine supporters serves to uphold a dangerous and longstanding narrative which marginalises those who act on their concern for Palestinian rights with widely-accepted tools of non-violent resistance as ‘anti Semites’ and radicals, while decontaminating those who are content with an endless debate about it, bolstered by the odd letter to their MP. We’ve been here before; this road leads nowhere.

5. The anti-BDS vote in Canadian parliament, which allegedly arose from concerns about the movement’s ‘anti-Israel’ underpinnings, cannot be seen in a vacuum. During Operation Protective Edge, there was barely a peep of concern out of a single Canadian politician about attacks on UNWRA schools, the 12 hour siege of the densely populated Shujaiya neighbourhood where Palestinian civilians were stripped naked and used as human shields, or countless other incidents. These have been amply documented by numerous human rights groups, from Amnesty and Human Rights Watch to B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence. Further, just a few months ago, Justin Trudeau’s government joined the US, Israel, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands to vote against a UN resolution supporting Palestinian sovereignty over their own natural resources. In the meantime, it has not reinstated funding for UNRWA which was axed under Harper’s toxic leadership. If these are not clear indicators of Canadian politicians’ disregard for Palestinian rights and self determination, which actually underpinned support for the anti-BDS vote, I’m not sure what is.

For me, the eagerness of supposed supporters of Palestinian rights to join hands with the likes of Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, Trudeau and others in Italy, France, Greece and the UK who have pledged total impunity for Israel on their watch even if it means flouting their own countries’ laws and constitutions, is a tribute to the dazzling success of the hasbara operation where this talking point was incubated, nurtured and financed. It also provides chilling evidence of the anti-Arab racism that fuels anti-BDS activism, in which a commitment to Palestinian rights can be imagined exclusively as a stick to beat Israel with, rather than a compelling and worthwhile goal unto itself.’