Mixed messages and ambiguity define the Palestine-Israel equation

Palestine Updates 45

For most part, reporting on the situation in Palestine does not change too much except that the locations change and the numbers shift as do names of people killed or injured. At the same time it must be said, that all too often, hopes are frequently dashed by Israeli actions, and international inaction. For example, US President Donald Trump has encouraged talks between the two parties based on the ambiguous call to innovation and creative options. But, Trump has been unequivocal- no settlement freeze. Some reductions, at best!

Meanwhile, even with such concessions, and with what seems business as usual, the Israeli right wing is furious with Trump for having backed down on some of his campaign promises, the chief of which was that he would shift the Israel Embassy to Jerusalem.

So now the peace process is tangled in mixed signals from all over. The bitterness grows . And even within Palestine, there seems very little hope that the PLO will change too much and that the Hamas-PA divisions will not narrow despite innumerable attempts at squaring them off. The great African saying goes: “When elephants fight, the grass is trampled over”. Indeed, Palestinians watch powerlessly at the political intrigues and arrangements under which their lives are managed remain intact. .

With Nakba 69 just completed, it is remarkable to see how the memory of 1948 has not faded. The young grow up with the consciousness of dispossession and dislodgment that their grandparents were compelled to face. The old who have survived hang on to the keys of the homes they dream of returning to. They have not given up the ‘right to return’.  Israel believes that they can lull the Palestinians through some form of political opium mixed into the occupation. But they are mistaken.

The new US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, has cast doubt over the creation of an independent Palestinian state, while dismissing the conventional wisdom that Israel will cease to remain a Jewish and democratic state if it annexes all of the occupied West Bank. Friedman argues without much rationale for what he claims that the complete annexation of the West Bank would still keep Jews, with 65 per cent of the population, as the majority within an enlarged Israeli state whose still undeclared borders would far exceed those recognized under international law and, indeed, the 1947 UN Partition Plan through which many Israelis claim their state’s legitimacy.

So, these are troubled and anxious times for the Palestinians with the prisoner’s strike having entered the 33rd day and no signs of any interventions that will bring the parties to the table. Families of the striking prisoners are staging fasting as a way of sharing the pain of their husbands/brothers/sisters. Meanwhile the world watches in anxiety and the international community, especially the UN, is numbed into silence.

Israel may care little or nothing if prisoners die for, after all, they know that there will be uproars for a short while. The uproars will descend into silence and be neutralized by western powers who would not want to call Israel into order. There are few signs that EU, or other influential political groupings or nations will take action to isolate Israel and force them to be just and sane.

This may not be the moment of optimism. Nor is it the time to give up hope and courage.  The creation of a coalition of around 300 Palestinians, Israelis and diaspora Jewish activists who staged a direct action in the village of Sarura in the south Hebron hills of the West Bank to build a protest camp on land from which Palestinians were evicted in the 1990s are the ones that ignite and sustain hope.

The news in this issue of Palestine Updates does the usual – reports, analyses, poses questions, and points to directions for solidarity and furthering public consciousness.

Ranjan Solomon

The Israeli occupation has a price in Israel too. Who pays for it?
Discussions of Israel’s military rule over the Palestinian territories conquered in 1967 — now marking 50 years — usually revolve around moral, military, diplomatic, and legal matters. The impact on the standard of living, economic growth, inter-ethnic and Arab-Jewish relations, and disparities between the center and the periphery – is rarely considered. A new report seeks to add a vital and missing dimension to the discussion by focusing on some of the critical social and economic repercussions of the occupation and of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

What emerges from this analysis is that the main losers of this reality are low-income Israelis, both Arab and Jewish. These citizens of Israel are harmed by the competition with cheap Palestinian labor, which also opened the door to cheap labor from other countries; by the fiscal austerity policies designed to convey to the international business community the message of fiscal stability, despite the frequent violent clashes; by the effect of the belt-tightening measures on the social safety net and the major social ministries — education, health, and welfare; and by the need to pour increasing amounts of money into security matters instead of social services.

The occupation adversely affects economic stability particularly during extended periods of violence, such as the two Intifadas and Protective Edge Operation in the Gaza Strip in 2014. This instability hurts not only low-income Israelis, but also large corporations and high income earners, the difference being that the governments of Israel have done everything in their power to shield the wealthy by lowering personal income and corporate taxes, reducing the cost of credit, and crafting policies that reduce labor costs. Inequality in Israel has escalated over the last three decades, and is today among the highest in the western world.
Read more from 972 Mag.com

Is the Israeli Right On A collision course with Trump?

The Israeli political right was briefly euphoric over President Trump’s unexpected election. The most prominent was the head of the religious-right Jewish Home party, Education Minister Naftali Bennett. The day after Trump’s election, Bennett declared, “The era of a Palestinian state is over.”

Bennett was wrong. It’s his euphoria that is over. With Trump’s outreach to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster’s recent statement that Trump supports “dignity and self-determination for the Palestinians”—which the Right sees as shorthand for a Palestinian state—Bennett has turned violently against the president.
Read analysis from The Federalist

Israel begins to confiscate 20% of asylum-seekers’ incomes
In an insightful interview documentary filmmaker Lia Tarachansky explains that the income garnishing measure targets African refugees is to discourage asylum in Israel.Use the picture on linkFrom the beginning of this month a new policy’s implemented in Israel. African asylum seekers who work in Israel have part of their wage income garnished by the state and placed into an account to which they have no access. According to a law, legislated in 2014,  and implemented recently,  20 percent of the wage of asylum seekers will be deposited into a special bank account. Employers will be required to deposit 16 percent of the wage which would normally be allotted to the worker’s pension and to the future of severance compensation into that same account. And the asylum seekers would theoretically gain access to the money saved, only upon leaving the country.The interview with Lia Tarachansky a Russian born Israeli offers an important analysis on the issue. Tarachansky grew up in a settlement in the occupied West Bank.
This is a must-see interview and can be seen in The Real News.com

Israel seizes water pumps, destroys Palestinian structures in Jordan Valley
Israeli forces stormed the Palestinian village of Khirbet al-Dir, located in the Tubas district of the northern occupied West Bank early last week and seized two water pumps. Both water pumps are used for drinking water and for irrigation. Israel claimed that the pipes were built without a permit. Israeli forces also raided the nearby Tayasir village and dismantled a fence surrounding a piece of land that belongs to a local resident, noting that the landowner had appealed the impending demolition of the fence to the Israeli Supreme Court, who had yet to rule on the case at the time of the demolition.
Read the full story of Israeli cruelty in Maaan News

Travel permits granted to Gazans by Israel declined sharply

Erez checkpoint, separating Gaza from Israel.
(Photo: Tamar Fleishman, Palestine Chronicle, file)

Gisha, Legal Center For Freedom of Movement, an Israeli organization that advocates for the freedom of movement of Palestinians in the Palestinian Territories, said the number of permits granted to Palestinians by Israel have declined at the same level as before the Israeli offensive launched on Gaza in 2014.“The number of exits by Palestinians through Erez Crossing during April was only 4,677, a drop of 23 percent compared to the low number recorded the previous month (only 6,078 exits), and a drop of 62 percent compared to the average monthly number of exits in 2016,” said Gisha.

Gisha noted that the Jewish holidays as well as Hamas’s temporary ban on travel following the assassination of one of its leaders in Gaza contributed to this decline. Yet, Gisha noted that the decline is part of an ongoing policy to tighten the Israeli siege; when comparing the same period of time with that of last year, where Jewish holidays also took place, statistics show a decline in the number of people who were granted permits.
Palestine Chronicle offers a narrative of actions by “Gisha”

Palestinians, Israelis and diaspora Jews build West Bank protest
Around 300 Palestinians, Israelis and diaspora Jewish activists staged a direct action in the village of Sarura in the south Hebron hills of the West Bank on Friday, building a protest camp on land from which Palestinians were evicted in the 1990s. The event was organized by a coalition of groups, including the Center for Jewish Nonviolence, local Palestinian committees, Youth Against Settlements, IfNotNow, the All That’s Left Collective and Combatants for Peace. Activists arrived in the morning and continued working through to the afternoon, when several activists — including Youth Against Settlements’ Issa Amro — spoke about the purpose and impact of the event. Activists taking part in the event updated from the ground, tweeting with the hashtag #WeAreSumud (“sumud” means “steadfastness” in Arabic, and is a central concept in Palestinian resistance to the occupation). Participants also noted that the outpost had been inspired by the Standing Rock protest camps in the United States, established to try and prevent the building of an oil pipeline through Native American land.

Comedian Harel’s derisive riff on ‘Marwan eats’ video !
Amos Harel delivers a sardonic and cutting commentary on the broadcasting of the secretly taken video of Marwan Barghouti apparently eating a bar of something sweet. He asks if Gilad Erdan really wants Barghouti to die. The consequences – Palestinian uprising – would be dire.
The video is amazing