Palestine Update 436
Seeking justice in the New Year
I pondered a bit before deciding that I would not start this newsletter with the much-clichéd “Happy New Year”. It simply does not feel that way in most parts of the world. Covid, conflicts, economic racism and oppression, battles of caste, colour, and ethnicity clearly tell us that we are still away from that day when we can celebrate. The time for celebration will arrive when the times of oppression have ended .
The conditions that Palestinians face are particularly painful. The last few years have been harsh in multiple ways for them with a malicious and disparaging Donald Trump staging political steps one after the other to inflict havoc. The year began with an announcement by Trump in which he made public his so-called vision for peace – stillborn and trivial, totally racist and discriminatory. That not a single Palestinian was there to join the unveiling of the plan evidenced its total rejection.
What of the future? How will Biden deal with it? Will he undo it in whatever way he knows? Will new negotiations begin and an out-of-the-box solution emerges? Or will it be more of the same under a different design?
But it’s not doomsday by any stretch of imagination. On 31st December, Palestine observed the 56th anniversary of the launch of the Palestinian resistance and national liberation movement against the Israeli occupation. As a WAFA report put it: “The popular resistance, the steadfastness of Palestinian people in the various areas threatened by settlements, and their achievements affirm the continuation of this revolution by the means available to thwart all settlement projects on the road to the implementation of the United Nations resolutions and the Palestinian national project”.
Various other forms of resistance either by direct Palestinian action or by solidarity from Israeli peace groups show signs of optimism and anticipation for justice. HaMoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual and seven other human rights organizations petitioned Israel’s High Court demanding that incarcerated Palestinians defined as “security” prisoners and detainees be allowed to maintain telephone contact with their families during the COVID-19 pandemic, today said a press release. Joined by the organizations Addameer, al-Mezan, Physicians for Human Rights Israel, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the Public Committee against Torture, Adalah and Parents Against Child Detention, these signs of solidarity add dimensions of hopefulness to the Palestinian aspiration.
COVID-19 pandemic, notwithstanding, 2020 was a successful year for the global Palestinian rights movement. A plethora of direct actions, court victories and significant calls to sanction Israel over its violations of international law accentuated hope. Activists, students, civil rights defenders and lawmakers fought back even as lawmakers, Israel lobby groups and the Israeli government itself attempted to derail, smear, attack and imprison organizers.
One thing is certain. The occupation may look like it is flourishing. But it is in a state of self-imposed siege. It has no just base. What seems to be an edifice of supremacy and success is certain to fall apart – sooner than later.
Dim prospects after turbulent year for peace (A synopsis)
As 2020 draws to a close, it is hard to think of a previous time when the Jewish expression of hope: “There ends a year and its maledictions and a new one begins with its blessings,” has resonated with most of humanity. Focusing on the relations between Israel and Palestine, things started to look somewhat more positive toward the end of the year, but mainly because, up to that point, we had only seen a steady exacerbation of already-worsening relations in the triangle of Israel, the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority (PA), and Hamas-controlled Gaza.
The end of 2020 also represents the end of the Trump administration, which has had a huge, mainly negative impact on Israeli-Palestinian affairs. The election of Joe Biden as US president gives rise to the hope that the new leadership in Washington will play a more constructive role in improving relations between these neighbors, even if a comprehensive peace doesn’t seem to be on the cards. Interactions between the Israelis and the Palestinians are heavily affected by domestic politics in this triangle of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, and the bilateral relations between each of the two.
The year started with the unveiling of Donald Trump’s “vision” for peace in the Middle East. Benjamin Netanyahu stood next to Trump as the US president announced a plan that was stillborn, and one that could be argued was designed to fail, while the Palestinians, who refused to participate in the charade, could be blamed for its failure. It was a short-sighted approach that sided almost entirely with the Israeli position. Even the optics of this event, with no Palestinian in sight, left no illusion of any imminent or genuine peace negotiations. Not that the plan was wholeheartedly supported by all Israelis, but, for the Palestinians, it included almost everything they couldn’t agree with, including recognition of the occupation of at least parts of the West Bank before negotiations would even begin, and being forced to accept the diktat of their state being defenseless and at the mercy of its more powerful neighbor. Yet, for those more hawkish Israeli politicians, the mere mention of a Palestinian state, regardless of the humiliating preconditions, was unacceptable, so they too rejected the plan.
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Palestine marks the 56th anniversary of the launch of the resistance against the Israeli occupation
On 31st December, Palestine marks tonight the 56th anniversary of the launch of the Palestinian resistance and national liberation movement against the Israeli occupation with the lighting of the torch in Ramallah, according to a senior leader.
The lighting of the torch will take place at the grave of the late leader of the Palestinian resistance movement, Yasser Arafat, at the presidential headquarters in Ramallah in the presence of members of the PLO’s Executive Committee, Fatah’s Central Committee, and members of the Fatah Revolutionary Council.
The revolution restored the national identity and recognition of the State of Palestine by those who have denied the Palestinian existence. It succeeded in thwarting all the conspiracies that were being schemed to liquidate the Palestinian issue, the latest of which was the so-called deal of the century. The popular resistance, the steadfastness of Palestinian people in the various areas threatened by settlements, and their achievements affirm the continuation of this revolution by the means available to thwart all settlement projects on the road to the implementation of the United Nations resolutions and the Palestinian national project.
Rights groups to High Court: Palestinian prisoners must have phone contact with their families during COVID-19
HaMoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual and seven other human rights organizations petitioned Israel’s High Court demanding that incarcerated Palestinians defined as “security” prisoners and detainees be allowed to maintain telephone contact with their families during the COVID-19 pandemic, today said a press release. The petition comes in light of the prolonged isolation of thousands of people from their families following the cancellation of all prison visits due to Coronavirus restrictions. The petition is joined by the organizations Addameer, al-Mezan, Physicians for Human Rights Israel, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the Public Committee Against Torture, Adalah and Parents Against Child Detention.
The petition details how, since the outbreak of the pandemic in late February, the IPS has restricted visits to its facilities, leaving the over 4,000 Palestinian prisoners and inmates completely cut off from the outside world. Among the cases described is that of a prisoner in Shatta Prison who, without visits or phone calls, learned through radio broadcasts that his sister was pregnant, that one of his grandmothers had contracted COVID-19 and his other grandmother’s health had deteriorated.
The petition also demands access to phone calls for detainees who have contracted the Coronavirus or need to quarantine due to contact with confirmed patients. Families of prisoners and detainees gave similar testimonies, also noting that the IPS did not even inform them of their loved one’s health condition while they were isolated in prison Coronavirus quarantine.
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What were the top BDS victories of 2020?
2020 was surely a year like no other. Yet despite the COVID-19 pandemic, it was a successful year for the global Palestinian rights movement. There were plenty of direct actions, court victories and significant calls to sanction Israel over its violations of international law. This year saw achievements by activists, students, civil rights defenders and lawmakers to uphold the right to boycott Israel – even as lawmakers, Israel lobby groups and the Israeli government itself attempted to derail, smear, attack and imprison organizers.
“Despite its massive investment of financial, political, diplomatic, propaganda and intelligence resources in its war against the BDS movement, Israel has failed, as some of its own lobby groups today admit,” says the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), the steering group for the Palestinian-led BDS campaign. What a fitting way to mark 15 years of the BDS campaign. At the beginning of the year, the United Nations published its long-awaited list of corporations that profit from Israel’s war crimes.
The report released by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights lists 112 companies involved in certain activities in the settlements, including the supply of equipment and materials for construction or home demolitions, surveillance and security, transport and maintenance, pollution and dumping of waste, and use of natural resources including water and land. The BNC welcomed the release of the database, which came “despite bullying by [President Donald] Trump and Israel’s far-right government.”
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The US Money Tree – The Untold Story of American Aid to Israel
It is no secret that Israel is the world’s leading recipient of US aid since World War II. According to data provided by the US Congressional Research Service, Israel has received $146 billion of US taxpayers’ money as of November 2020.
On December 21, the United States Congress passed the COVID-19 Relief Package, as part of a larger $2.3 trillion bill meant to cover spending for the rest of the fiscal year. As usual, US representatives allocated a massive sum of money for Israel. While unemployment, thus poverty, in the US is skyrocketing as a result of repeated lockdowns, the US found it essential to provide Israel with $3.3 billion in ‘security assistance’ and $500 million for US-Israel missile defence cooperation.
Although a meager $600 dollar payment to help struggling American families was the subject of several months of intense debate, there was little discussion among American politicians over the large funds handed out to Israel, for which there are no returns. Support for Israel is considered a bipartisan priority and has, for decades, been perceived as the most stable item in the US foreign policy agenda. The mere questioning of how Israel uses the funds – whether the military aid is being actively used to sustain Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine, finance Jewish settlements, fund annexation of Palestinian land or violate Palestinian human rights – is a major taboo.
Bernie Sanders, of Vermont differed. “We cannot give it carte blanche to the Israeli government … We have the right to demand respect for human rights and democracy”. From 1971 up to 2007, a bulk of these funds proved fundamental in helping Israel establish a strong economic base. Since then, most of the money has been allotted for military purposes, including the security of Israel’s illegal Jewish settlement enterprise.
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