Palestine Update 320
News from Palestine is usually like this. One bit of bad news is contrasted by peoples resistance- either from within Palestine or from individuals, civil society groups, social movements, faith-based communities, and those from outside who choose to be on the side of the Palestinians in the struggle for freedom and justice. In the last issue of Palestine Updates, we referred to hope built on defiance against Israeli injustices. Resistance is growing even as suppression continues. The only logical possibility is that truth will prevail because morally wrong politics can never stand the test of time. History has demonstrated that all dictators and oppressive regimes have fallen in disgrace.
As 2019 draws to a close, we must recall the many moments of resistance that has shaken Israel and its allies, notably the USA and UK. A powerful Israel is shaken by a seemingly powerless Palestine. But Palestine is not all alone. Quite unexpected sources are beginning to see just how brutal the occupation is. Simple tourists have turned into advocates because the brutality is obvious and pierces their conscience. How long will Israel hide the facts?
The justice and alternative tourism sector have paved the way for many thousands to see the ‘other side’ of the Israeli narrative. They have spotted the falsehood of Israel’s storyline and know that Israel’s version of history is mischievous misguidance. A single trip with the Alternative Tourism group or JAI and many similar groups that are part of the Network for Experiential Tourism organizations can transform minds and attitudes to Israel are fictional and counterfeit.
Alternative Tourism is now some three decades old and has its roots in the First Intifada when the international community were compelled to “Come and See” Palestine from the eyes of the Palestinians. It is not an industry as mainstream tourism is. It is a social movement that has bonded into a form of peaceful resistance, and global mobilization for justice. Those who join this movement at work are bound to be transformed in many ways. Visitors are not encouraged to hate the tyrant, but to shun the tyranny. They are called to humanize the situation and create the context for assertion of a State that cares for its entire people as people with equal rights through peaceful campaigns, lobbying, advocacy, and concrete measures such as BDS.
A letter from Canadian Friends of Sabeel describes the experience of visting Palestine succinctly when it observes: “For Canadians who’ve had the fortune of visiting Palestine, one of the characteristics that jumps out at us the most about Arab culture is its penchant for selfless hospitality.Over the two years I lived in Bethlehem I must have been subject to more free meals, free rides, and out-of-the-way acts of kindness from strangers than I had in my entire life in Canada”.
By contrast Israel subsidizes “Holy Land pilgrimages’ with tours that misguide tourists and plants hate against the Palestinians, projecting them as perilous “terrorists” who must be shunned.
To those who seek global justice, it is now time to spread the truth through multiple creative ways so that the world will know the truth. The wings of transformation are born of patience and struggle. Joining the “Come and See” initiatives is a wave that spreads the message as well as draws in more alternative-justice tourist and pilgrims.
Olive trees, markets, hikes: How the Palestinian West Bank welcomes tourists at Christmas
There are often marches and demonstrations in support of Palestine in cities around the world, but for those who want to visit the region, a thriving tourism industry has emerged in recent years. “Solidarity tourists” arrive at all times of year to help improve the lives of ordinary Palestinians, with events like olive tree planting in February and olive harvesting in October organized by local Palestinian initiatives such as the Alternative Tourism Group and Joint Advocacy Initiative
Given Palestine’s place in what is known as the Holy Land – the reputed birthplace of Jesus Christ – one of the busiest seasons for visiting is during the Christmas period. Despite the region’s troubled history, thousands make the trip each year. Christmas in Palestine is a season for neighbourly relations among the various communities, and a period to tell stories of the ancestors. During the first week of December, most Palestinian towns light a communal Christmas tree, while local bands and choirs perform, and international tourists are encouraged to take part.
Few visitors realize that three Christmases are actually celebrated in Palestine. The Latin church, which includes Catholic worshippers, recognize December 25 as Christmas Day. But the Greek Orthodox church, which represents the majority of Christians in Palestine and Israel, observes Christmas according to the old Julian calendar created during the time of Julius Caesar in 45 BC. For them, Christmas Day falls on January 7, while the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem marks Christmas and Epiphany together on January 19.
Bethlehem as a tourist destination is a secure and safe place. We are showing to the world with the lighting of the Christmas Tree ceremony that Bethlehem is a safe place … Tourists can visit and they can have the experience together with Bethlehemites, ours is a welcoming, hospitable community. Tour guides also seem optimistic about demand from visitors. I have not seen such a busy November in a long time. Compared to the same months in 2018, the number of tourists has increased significantly. One tourist from the US praised the “amazing” hospitality of the local people. Even amid the turmoil and conflict, the friendly welcome of Palestine is an example to the world.
Read a full report in Jakarta Post
The decade the Bible replaced International Law in deciding Palestinians’ fate
As multiple legal efforts bear fruit, 2020 could be the year that international law supplants the nationalist and religious policies of Netanyahu and Trump in determining the outcome of the conflict
Just before the start of the decade that is now ending, in 2009, Benjamin Netanyahu reemerged from a political black hole to become prime minister of Israel again, and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) launched a strategy to internationalize a solution to the conflict. Today, Netanyahu remains prime minister, though he is hanging on to power by a thread, and the PLO just played their only card to leverage Israel back to negotiations—the International Criminal Court (ICC) has opened a war crimes complaint involving Israeli officials. The outcome of the ICC case could have serious ramifications for Netanyahu and his political rival for the premiership Benny Gantz, both of whom were central figures in the 2014 bombing of Gaza that is among the issues before the ICC.
Read full report in Haaretz
VIDEO: The Threat Facing Christianity in Jerusalem
“We have a genuine history in this city and we must keep going.”
Arab parties stand to gain from political chaos in Israel
Israel has set March 2 for its next legislative election, which will be its third in less than a year. The Knesset, Israel’s parliament, passed a bill Dec. 12 to dissolve itself, though it retains authority until a new election is held. Israel had held an election in April 2019, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was unable to gain a consensus to form his government, which prompted the Knesset to dissolve itself and head for a second election, on Sept. 17, 2019. The Blue and White party led by Benny Gantz, and Netanyahu’s Likud party, obtained almost the same number of seats in the September election and also failed to form a government. Netanyahu seeks to remain in office, though he was indicted last month on charges of bribery, breach of trust and fraud.
Meanwhile, Arab parties seem to be benefiting the most from the government formation crisis in Israel. The parties were divided in the April 2019 election and ran on two separate lists. In the September election, however, they fielded the united Joint List, winning 13 seats and becoming the third-largest force in the Knesset. In the election slated for March 2, 2020, the Joint List hopes to grab at least two more seats.
Read full report in Al Monitor
Israel to reinstitute ‘assassinations policy’
Israel’s foreign minister on Thursday said Tel Aviv would return to “the policy of assassinations” against Palestinian resistance figures in the Gaza Strip. In statements he made to Israel’s army radio, Yisrael Katz indicated that there was “an intelligence effort to identify the rockets’ launchers and work to eliminate them…Intelligence efforts are currently focused on determining who is responsible for ordering missile launch instructions in order to work to eliminate him.”
Israel’s iron dome anti-missile system intercepted a missile reportedly fired from the Gaza Strip towards the country’s south while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was attending an election rally in Ashkelon province. According to Israeli media, security forces transferred Netanyahu to a “protected area” while security forces responded by bombing several sites in the Gaza Strip without any casualties.
Read more in AA.Com
Palestinian Prisoner Barghouthi to run for Prime Minister
Prominent Fatah leader, and prisoner, Marwan Barghouthi, has decided to run for the presidential election in Palestine, Quds News Network reported. Hatem Abdel Qader, a member of Fatah’s Revolutionary Council, said that Barghouthi would be Fatah’s most likely candidate if Abbas decides not to run for the election. “We need to wait to know Abu Mazen’s (Mahmoud Abbas) position regarding being part of the presidential run,” he added “especially that he has already said before that he will not run for the next election despite statements by figures with close ties to him that he is Fatah’s sole candidate…We hope to have one candidate in Fatah,” he added. Barghouthi is highly regarded as a figurehead of the First and Second Intifadas or uprisings. He was arrested in Ramallah, in 2002, and sentenced to five life sentences.
Full report in International Middle east media centre