Palestine Update 477
Former Israeli envoys term Israeli occupation of West Bank as ‘apartheid’
In a damning indictment of Israel’s genocidal policies in the occupied West Bank, two former Israeli envoys have termed the regime’s occupation as “apartheid,” drawing parallels with pre-1994 South Africa where racial segregation was legalized.
In an article published in a South African news website, former ambassadors Ilan Baruch and Alon Liel said the situation between Palestine and the Israeli regime was one of “inherent inequality…For over half a century, Israel has ruled over the occupied Palestinian territories with a two-tiered legal system, in which, within the same tract of land in the West Bank, Israeli settlers live under Israeli civil law while Palestinians live under military law.” The former ambassadors said the Israeli regime has “worked to change both the geography and the demography” of the West Bank through the construction of illegal settlements. “This has happened alongside the expropriation and takeover of massive amounts of Palestinian land, including Palestinian home evictions and demolitions. That is, settlements are built and expanded at the expense of Palestinian communities, which are forced onto smaller and smaller tracts of land,” they noted in the scathing article. Referring to the then-minister of military affairs of the Israeli regime, Ariel Sharon, to South Africa in the early 1980s, when Sharon had “expressed great interest” in South Africa’s Bantustan project, the duo write that the map of West Bank “leaves little doubt regarding where Sharon received his inspiration.”
Pointing to illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, the duo emphasized that the regime in Tel Aviv was inspired by South Africa’s Bantustan project, which was a product of racial and class discrimination propounded by the white with contempt against the black. “The West Bank today consists of 165 ‘enclaves’ – that is, Palestinian communities encircled by territory taken over by the settlement enterprise.” The Bantustans of South Africa under the apartheid regime and the map of the occupied Palestinian territories today, they emphasized, are based on the same idea of “concentrating the ‘undesirable’ population in as small an area as possible, in a series of non-contiguous enclaves…By gradually driving these populations from their land and concentrating them into dense and fractured pockets, both South Africa then and Israel today worked to thwart political autonomy and true democracy,” wrote the former envoys.
‘Wake up, world’
Baruch and Liel argued that their time in post-apartheid South Africa had led them to learn firsthand about the “reality of apartheid and the horrors it inflicted,” calling on the world to stand up for Palestine as they did against apartheid in South Africa in the 1990s. “It is time for the world to recognize that what we saw in South Africa decades ago is happening in the occupied Palestinian territories too,” they wrote.
“It is time for the world to take decisive diplomatic action in our case as well and work towards building a future of equality, dignity, and security for Palestinians and Israelis alike,” they hastened to add. They also warn that the Israeli occupation was not temporary and that the Israeli regime had “no political will to end it.”
Liel, the Israeli regime’s envoy to South Africa during the transition from apartheid from 1992 to 1994, also served as the director-general of the regime’s foreign ministry between 2000 and 2001.
Baruch served as the ambassador to South Africa from 2005 to 2008. He also served as an envoy to Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe.
Marwan Barghouti is top of prisoner exchange list
Hamas has said that it will prioritize the release of senior Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti in any prisoner exchange deal with Israel. This was revealed after a meeting between the head of the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement’s political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, and Fadwa Barghouti, the wife of the 62-year-old who is entering his 20th year in an Israeli prison.
Haniyeh spoke with Barghouti’s wife in the presence of several prominent leaders of the movement earlier this month in Cairo. A senior Hamas source who was present at the meeting told Al-Monitor that Haniyeh has prioritised Barghouti’s release. Fadwa Barghouti received assurances that her husband will be at the top of the list in any future prisoner exchange deal with Israel. Haniyeh and Egyptian officials discussed the possibility of a new deal with Israel. The Egyptian mediators believe that the time is not yet ripe to make progress in talks with the Israelis, and suggested postponing the issue until the new government gets to work.
UN talks to bolster ceasefire going nowhere: Hamas
A meeting between Hamas and United Nations envoy to strengthen the ceasefire between Hamas and Israel went poorly, Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in Gaza, said. The UN official recently arrived in the Gaza Strip in an attempt to stabilize the fragile ceasefire between Israel and Gaza-based Palestinian terror groups.
Both sides have violated the truce in recent days: Palestinians have launched incendiary balloons into Israeli territory, torching swaths of open land, and Israel has responded with airstrikes against Hamas targets. “It was a bad meeting. It was not positive at all, and we clarified to the [United Nations] delegation that we would hold a meeting of Islamic and national factions in Gaza to decide our next steps,” Sinwar told reporters following the meeting. “It seems that the occupation did not get our people’s message,” added Sinwar, referring to Israel.
Army Invades Palestinian Farmlands In Gaza
Several Israeli military vehicles invaded, on Monday morning, Palestinian agricultural lands, east of Khan Younis, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. Media sources said six armored bulldozers and two Merkava vehicles advanced dozens of meters into the Palestinian farmlands east of the al-Fakhari town, east of Khan Younis. They added that the army bulldozed and uprooted the lands, especially the sections close to the perimeter fence, while military drones flew overhead. The attack is part of frequent Israeli violations against the Palestinians, especially the fishermen, farmers, shepherds, and workers in the besieged and impoverished Gaza Strip, and have led to dozens of casualties, including fatalities, in addition to serious property damage and the confiscation of many boats after abducting the fishermen.
Gaza antiquities among casualties of Israel-Hamas war
“During the recent offensive on the Gaza Strip, parishioners flocked to churches for refuge At the Holy Family Roman Catholic Latin Church, we would pray to God every day during the aggression for protection and safety,” Yousef Asaad, the assistant pastor at the Holy Family Church in Gaza, told Al-Monitor. “Everyone was targeted in Gaza during the aggression. Israel does not differentiate between Muslims or Christians. We were all at risk. The aggression did not spare places of worship. Although deemed part of Gaza’s historical heritage and of cultural value, these premises were targeted or damaged due to the bombing of surrounding areas. Prayers and rituals were interrupted by the intensity of the strikes. Worshipers were afraid to reach the church. We moved to other facilities affiliated with the church, such as the Rosary Sisters School or even to the homes of our parishioners to hold prayers,” Asaad continued.
The church is constantly working to provide support and assistance to affected and poor families in the area. “The Latin Church aims to serve the poor and needy people regardless of their religion. After the war, we started a program of entertainment and recreation for parishioners, especially children, to help them overcome fear and make them feel safe again. The Latin Patriarch in Jerusalem, Pierbattista Pizzaballa explained “The Great Omari Mosque, located in the heart of the old city of Gaza, was built about 2,000 years ago as a pagan temple, but it was converted to a church in 406 AD. In the seventh century AD, Muslims turned it into a mosque after the conquest of the city. It is the second largest mosque in Palestine after the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.” A Byzantine church that was discovered in 1998 near the northern Gaza Strip town of Jabalia was one of the heritage sites recently hit by Israeli artillery. The church was partially damaged during the Israeli invasion in 2003, and was severely damaged during the 2014 war.
Director-General of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage at the Ministry of Tourism in Gaza Jamal Abu Rid denounced Israel’s direct and indirect targeting of antiquities. He described these attacks as part of Israel’s plan to blur the identity of the Palestinian land to justify the idea that Palestine is a land without people and a people without a land. The Byzantine church site was severely damaged, saying, “This shows the severity of the airstrike and that Israel intended to inflict great damage to the archaeological site. The site has been undergoing restoration, maintenance and excavation since 2018, which has so far cost $2 million in external funding.”
Al-Zawiya market is one the oldest markets in the Gaza Strip. Built during the Mamluk era, it attests to the various past civilizations that existed in Gaza throughout the ages. Its shops attract large crowds of visitors, especially on occasions and holidays, with an assortment of products like leather goods, perfumes, food supplies, sweets and gold jewelry. Economists often cite the commercial activity in the market as an economic indicator.
Gazans from all over the Strip visit the market to see its antique historical features, which include domes and arches dating back to the medieval Islamic ages. Merchants and sellers stocked up on goods in anticipation of Eid al-Fitr, but the Eid festivities were halted by the Israeli offensive. Merchants ended with heavy losses as shops were forced to close down. Hiam Bitar, a researcher at the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities in Gaza, told Al-Monitor, “Israel is trying to destroy every ancient site it cannot control. In every aggression on Gaza, ancient sites are severely targeted. A large number of architectural monuments and sites were destroyed or damaged by Israel in the past years, such as Mahkamah Mosque and Al-Thafar Damri Mosque. This is in addition to the damage to ancient houses in the Zeitoun neighborhood, al-Balakhiya archaeological site, The Great Omari Mosque, the Tell el-Sakan archeological site, Tal Umm Amer, which contains the ruins of the St Hilarion monastery, and others. Israel has once again completely disregarded the international agreements and conventions that protect Palestinian antiquities and heritage sites.