Global civil society must coalesce to end Israeli apartheid

Palestine Update 516

Editorial comment

Global civil society must coalesce to end Israeli apartheid
Will 2022 ring in new changes in the political landscape for Palestinians? The optimist would hope for a dramatic political spectacle that brings release and liberation from what seems endless bondage. The realist will persist in the struggle adopting incremental approaches coupled by a vision of radical transformation.

In recent days, people have drawn lessons from the life and witness of Desmond Tutu- the revered South African dreamer and church leader. Archbishop Tutu was one of the defining architects in bringing an end to apartheid in South Africa. Tutu affirmed that “Israelis and Palestinians are equally entitled to dignity and peace”.

In 2014, Tutu wrote a piece in the Haaretz in which he called for a global boycott of Israel and urged Israelis and Palestinians to look beyond their leaders for a sustainable solution to the crisis in the Holy Land. Tutu led the church to the forefront of Black South Africans’ decades-long struggle for freedom. But there were the trade unions, student movements, everyday citizens in the townships and villages who also joined in. Equally important, there was a energetic international community who joined in lobbying with their governments, taking to the streets, and actively boycotting anything that had to do with South African interests- whether in trade, sports, academia, art and cultural exchange.

Tutu saw few options within the Palestinian and Israeli leadership of political leaders who would advocate and work towards a just and lasting settlement. It is plain to see that Israel is in cohorts with Western governments and business interests to liquidate the Palestinian claims and struggle. America and Europe pontificate about the values of democracy to countries that they regard as autocratic and in need for political transformation. There is not, in the same vein, a word by way of a sermon to Israel about its cruel violations of human rights and humanitarian standards.

Political oppression in Palestine has reached unprecedented proportions and is, perhaps, at the height of the most awful tenure of the occupation at this current moment. Politicians and diplomats have confined their role to that of status quoists. They refuse to search for ‘out-of-the-box solutions. Instead they are satisfied with passing resolutions in the United Nations which have no teeth.  Israel disregards and hurls abuse on the international consensus that emerges from these resolutions.

A Palestinian state, if it’s allowed to come into existence, will be in name only, stripped of all meaningful elements of sovereignty, and situated in an archipelago of ghettoized enclaves that resemble the Bantustans of apartheid-era South Africa. Israel would retain more than 30% of the West Bank, all its settlements, and the entirety of Jerusalem, as well as complete control over Palestine’s security, territorial air and waters, borders, and even treaties and alliances. So restricted is Palestinian autonomy that the new “state” would even have to ask Israeli permission to build a well because groundwater rights remain in Israel’s hands”. (Omar Rahman in an article: The real threat to Palestine is a crisis of leadership).

The onus of brokering a sustainable solution to the crisis in the Holy Land rests with civil society and the people of Israel and Palestine themselves. It must combine an alliance of religious leaders, human rights activists, political analysts, writers, poets, and artists. It must also have global civil society speak up and do everything to shut down the Israeli apartheid machinery including the threat of civil disobedience and economic actions that threaten Israel with bankruptcy. This is precisely what compelled the white rulers to succumb to the resistance in India during the struggle for freedom from colonial rule.

It should be our trust and optimism that the coming year to come will provide the impetus to push forward the lengthily deferred justice based on the Palestinian ‘sumud’. We can celebrate a New Year only when the oppressed of the world everywhere find their liberation. We cannot celebrate for ourselves.

Ranjan Solomon

Tutu stood up for the rights of Palestinians; he could not be ignored
Even amid the torrent of praise for the revered former archbishop Desmond Tutu in the days since his death, the anti-apartheid champion is not being universally mourned. Alan Dershowitz, the renowned US constitutional lawyer and ardent defender of Israel, took a moment to brand Tutu as “evil” and “the most influential anti-Semite of our time”. “The world is mourning Bishop Tutu, who just died the other day. I remind the world that although he did some good things, a lot of good things on apartheid, the man was a rampant anti-Semite and bigot?” he told Fox News. Dershowitz accused Tutu of minimising the Holocaust and of comparing Israel to Nazi Germany – an extreme interpretation of the former archbishop’s statements that takes some convolutions to reach.

But Tutu’s real crime in the eyes of Israel’s most unrelenting supporters was to liken its rule over the Palestinians to apartheid and then refuse to back off in the face of an onslaught of abuse. On his visits to Israel and Palestine, Tutu would have immediately recognised echoes of his homeland in the forced removals, the house demolitions, the humiliations of checkpoints and systems of control on movement, the confiscation of land for Jewish settlements, and the confining of Palestinians to blobs of territory, reminiscent of the Bantustan black homelands. Above all he saw one people controlling another who, like black South Africans until 1994, had little say in their governance.
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Sheikh Salah lauds al-Quds residents for defending holy city and Aqsa
Sheikh Ra’ed Salah, head of the Islamic Movement in 1948 occupied Palestine, has expressed his belief that the Israeli occupation authority (IOA) systematically targets the al-Quds residents because of their role in defending and protecting their holy city and the Aqsa Mosque on a daily basis. Sheikh Salah accused the IOA of using many aggressive methods against the al-Quds residents through demolishing their homes, appropriating their lands, arresting them, depriving them of their livelihoods, fighting their educational institutions, etc.

He said that the IOA fantasizes about emptying al-Quds (Jerusalem) of its people or succeeding in Judaizing it, its homes and the names of its streets around the Aqsa Mosque, describing the Israeli attempts in this regard as “childish imagination” and “desperate dreams.” Sheikh Salah applauded the al-Quds residents for playing an important role in foiling Israel’s plans in the holy city through their presence in the Aqsa Mosque, their homes and markets.

Why Is Israel amending its Open-Fire Policy? Original

At the outset, the Israeli military decision to revise its open-fire policies in the occupied West Bank seems puzzling. What would be the logic of giving Israeli soldiers the space to shoot more Palestinians when existing army manuals had already granted them near-total immunity and little legal accountability? The military’s new rules now allow Israeli soldiers to shoot, even kill, fleeing Palestinian youngsters with live ammunition for allegedly throwing rocks at Israeli “civilian” cars. This also applies to situations where the alleged Palestinian “attackers” are not holding rocks at the time of the shooting.

The reference to “civilians” in the revised army manual applies to armed Israeli Jewish settlers who have colonized the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem in defiance of international law and Palestinian sovereignty. These settlers, who often operate as paramilitary forces in direct coordination with the Israeli army, endanger the lives of their own families by residing on occupied Palestinian land. Per Israel’s twisted standards, these violent Israelis, who have killed and wounded numerous Palestinians throughout the years, are “civilians” in need of protection from rock-throwing Palestinian “assailants.”
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Palestinian human rights groups warn against Israeli ‘Facebook bill’
The proposed Israeli “Face book law” bill poses a major threat to free speech for Palestinians and others, a collection of Palestinian human rights groups said on Wednesday.

The Palestinian Coalition for Digital Rights and the Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council warned on Wednesday that the bill, currently being discussed in the Israeli Knesset, “grants Israeli courts the power to demand the removal of user-generated content on social media content platforms that can be perceived as inflammatory or as harming  ‘the security of the state'”. This will effectively give Israeli authorities the power to remove any news and posts by Palestinians it wishes, posing “a threat to the rights to freedom of opinion and expression for Palestinians and others in the digital space”, the collective said.

In late November, Facebook removed the Palestinian news pages “Al-Qastal” and “Maydan Al-Quds” that cover events in Jerusalem. A report published by the Arab Journalists’ Support Committee last month revealed that Palestinian content online had been subject to around 220 incidents of censorship. “These are all reactions motivated by Israeli policy,” Iyad Refai said. “Censorship of Palestinian content has risen after the wave of protests against Israeli occupation last May, and the wave of international solidarity that accompanied it, where social media played a major role.”
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Tensions boil as Palestinian prisoners face collective punishment
Tensions have reached boiling point in several Israeli prisons holding Palestinian prisoners, with rights groups saying authorities are keeping a number of inmates, including several injured by Israeli forces, in unknown conditions. “The situation in the prisons is critical and very dangerous,” Milena Ansari, international advocacy officer for Addameer, a Ramallah-based prisoners rights group, told Al Jazeera, citing the continuing closure of Hamas prisoners’ sections amid recent collective punishment measures.

Tensions escalated on December 14 in the northern Damon prison, where three female prisoners and representatives of the other inmates refused to leave their cell during an evening raid due to the cold weather outside, according to the Ramallah-based Addameer prisoners’ rights group. The Israeli officers then cut off electricity in their section, beat them and transferred one of the prisoners, into isolation, Addameer said.

The other two, were placed in solitary confinement the next day after they protested by beating on the cell doors. Their rooms were also raided, and the three female prisoners refused their meals until they were all returned to their cells. During the raids, a number of other women were beaten by Israeli Special Forces, one to the point of unconsciousness, according to a statement by the Palestinian Prisoners Society (PPS) monitoring group. Some also had their headscarves forcibly removed.
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