:

The U.S. Govt was responsible for Sabra and Shatila Massacres

https://www.thenation.com/article/the-united-states-was-responsible-for-the-1982-massacre-of-palestinians-in-beirut/

A ‘gentleman’s agreement’: How Oslo worked out as planned for Israel

13 September 2018

Twenty-five years on, analysts say Oslo didn’t fail: it offered Israel a formula to block the emergence of a Palestinian state

Jonathan Cook, Middle East Eye – 13 September 2018

There will be no anniversary celebrations this week to mark the signing of the Oslo Accords in Washington 25 years ago. It is a silver jubilee for which there will be no street parties, no commemorative mugs, no specially minted coins.

Palestinians have all but ignored the landmark anniversary, while Israel’s commemoration has amounted to little more than a handful of doleful articles in the Israeli press about what went wrong.

The most significant event has been a documentary, The Oslo Diaries, aired on Israeli TV and scheduled for broadcast in the US this week. It charts the events surrounding the creation of the peace accords, signed by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in Washington on 13 September 1993.

The euphoria generated by the Norwegian-initiated peace process a quarter of a century ago now seems wildly misplaced to most observers. The promised, phased withdrawals by Israel from the occupied Palestinian territories got stuck at an early stage.

And the powers of the Palestinian Authority, a Palestinian government-in-waiting that came out of Oslo, never rose above managing healthcare and collecting garbage in densely populated Palestinian areas, while coordinating with Israel on security matters.

All the current efforts to draw lessons from these developments have reached the same conclusion: that Oslo was a missed opportunity for peace, that the accords were never properly implemented, and that the negotiations were killed off by Palestinian and Israeli extremists.

Occupation reorganised

But analysts Middle East Eye has spoken to take a very different view.

“It is wrong to think of Oslo being derailed, or trying to identify the moment the Oslo process died,” says Diana Buttu, a Palestinian lawyer and former adviser to the Palestinian Authority. “Oslo never died. It is still doing today exactly what it was set up to do.”

Michel Warschawski, an Israeli peace activist who developed strong ties with Palestinian leaders in the Oslo years, concurred.

“I and pretty much everyone else I knew at that time was taken in by the hype that the occupation was about to end. But in reality, Oslo was about reorganising the occupation, not ending it. It created a new division of labour.

“Rabin didn’t care much about whether the Palestinians got some indicators of sovereignty – a flag and maybe even a seat at the United Nations.

“But Israel was determined to continue controlling the borders, the Palestinians’ resources, the Palestinian economy. Oslo changed the division of labour by sub-contracting the hard part of Israel’s security to the Palestinians themselves.”

The accords were signed in the immediate aftermath of several years of a Palestinian uprising in the occupied territories – the First Intifada – that had proved costly to Israel, both in terms of casualties and treasure.

Under Oslo, Palestinian security forces patrolled the streets of Palestinian cities, overseen by and in close coordination with the Israeli military. The tab, meanwhile, was picked up by Europe and Washington.

In an interview with the Haaretz newspaper last week, Joel Singer, the Israeli government lawyer who helped to draft the accords, conceded as much. Rabin, he said, “thought it would enhance [Israeli] security to have the Palestinians as the ones fighting Hamas”.

That way, as Rabin once observed, the occupation would no longer be accountable to the “bleeding hearts” of the Israeli supreme court and Israel’s active human rights community.

Less than statehood

The widespread assumption that Oslo would lead to a Palestinian state was also mistaken, Buttu says.

She notes that nowhere in the accords was there mention of the occupation, a Palestinian state, or freedom for the Palestinians. And no action was specified against Israel’s illegal settlements – the chief obstacle to Palestinian statehood.

Instead, the stated goal of the Oslo process was implementation of two outstanding United Nations resolutions – 242 and 338. The first concerned the withdrawal of the Israeli army from “territories” occupied in the 1967 war, while the second urged negotiations leading to a “just and durable peace”.

“I spoke to both Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas [his successor as Palestinian president] about this,” said Buttu. “Their view was that clearer language, on Palestinian statehood and independence, would never have got past Rabin’s coalition.

“So Arafat treated resolutions 242 and 338 as code words. The Palestinian leadership referred to Oslo as a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’. Their approach was beyond naïve; it was reckless. They behaved like amateurs.”

Asad Ghanem, a politics professor at Haifa University and expert on Palestinian nationalism, said the Palestinian leadership was aware from the outset that Israel was not offering real statehood.

“In his memoirs, Ahmed Qurei [one of the key architects of Oslo on the Palestinian side] admitted his shock when he started meetings with the Israeli team,” says Ghanem.

“Uri Savir [Israel’s chief negotiator] said outright that Israel did not favour a Palestinian state, and that something less was being offered. The Israelis’ attitude was ‘Take it or leave it’.”

Sympathy with settlers

All the analysts agreed that a lack of good faith on Israel’s part was starkly evident from the start, especially over the issue of the settlements.

Noticeably, rather than halt or reverse the expansion of the settlements during the supposed five-year transition period, Oslo allowed the settler population to grow at a dramatically accelerated rate.

The near-doubling of settler numbers in the West Bank and Gaza to 200,000 by the late 1990s was explained by Alan Baker, a legal adviser to Israel’s foreign ministry after 1996 and a settler himself, in an interview in 2003.

Most of the settlements were portrayed to the Israeli public as Israeli “blocs”, outside the control of the newly created PA. With the signing of the accords, Baker said, “we are no longer an occupying power, but we are instead present in the territories with their [the Palestinians’] consent and subject to the outcome of negotiations.”

Recent interviews with settler leaders by the Haaretz newspaper hint too at the ideological sympathy between Rabin’s supposedly leftist government and the settler movement.

Israel Harel, who then headed the Yesha Council, the settlers’ governing body, described Rabin as “very accessible”. He pointed out that Zeev Hever, another settler leader, sat with Israeli military planners as they created an “Oslo map”, carving up the West Bank into various areas of control.

Referring to settlements that most had assumed would be dismantled under the accords, Harel noted: “When [Hever] was accused [by other settlers] of cooperating, he would say he saved us from disaster. They [the Israeli army] marked areas that could have isolated settlements and made them disappear.”

Israel’s Oslo lawyer, Joel Singer, confirmed the Israeli leadership’s reluctance to address the issue of the settlements.

“We fought with the Palestinians, on Rabin and [Shimon] Peres’ orders, against a [settlement] freeze,” he told Haaretz. “It was a serious mistake to permit the settlements to continue to race ahead.”

Rabin’s refusal to act

Neve Gordon, a politics professor at Ben Gurion University in Israel’s south, said the critical test of Rabin’s will to tackle the settlements came less than a year into the Oslo process. It was then that Baruch Goldstein, a settler, killed and wounded more than 150 Palestinians at worship in the Palestinian city of Hebron.

“That gave Rabin the chance to remove the 400 extremist settlers who were embedded in the centre of Hebron,” Gordon said. “But he didn’t act. He let them stay.”

The lack of response from Israel fuelled a campaign of Hamas “revenge” suicide bombings that in turn were used by Israel to justify a refusal to withdraw from more of the occupied territories.

Warschawski said Rabin could have dismantled the settlements if he had acted quickly. “The settlers were in disarray in the early stages of Oslo, but he didn’t move against them.”

After Rabin’s assassination in late 1995, his successor Shimon Peres, also widely identified as an architect of the Oslo process, changed tactics, according to Warschawski. “Peres preferred to emphasise internal reconciliation [between Israelis] rather than reconciliation with the Palestinians. After that, the religious narrative of the extremist settlers came to dominate.”

That would lead a few months later to the electoral triumph of the right under Benjamin Netanyahu.

Demographic differential

Although Netanyahu campaigned vociferously against the Oslo Accords, they proved perfect for his kind of rejectionist politics, said Gordon.

Under cover of vague promises about Palestinian statehood, “Israel was able to bolster the settlement project,” in Gordon’s view. “The statistics show that, when there are negotiations, the demographic growth of the settler population in the West Bank increases. The settlements get rapidly bigger. And when there is an intifada, they slow down.

“So Oslo was ideal for Israel’s colonial project.”

It was not only that, under the pressure of Oslo, religious settlers ran to “grab the hilltops”, as a famous army general and later prime minister, Ariel Sharon, put it. Gordon pointed to a strategy by the government of recruiting a new type of settler during the initial Oslo years.

In the early 1990s, after the fall of the Soviet Union, Sharon and others had tried to locate Russian-speaking new immigrants in large settlements like Ariel, in the central West Bank. “The problem was that many of the Russians had only one child,” Gordon said.

So instead, Israel began moving the ultra-Orthodox into the occupied territories. These fundamentalist religious Jews, Israel’s poorest community, typically have seven or eight children. They were desperate for housing solutions, noted Gordon, and the government readily provided incentives to lure them into two new ultra-Orthodox settlements, Modiin Ilit and Beitar Ilit.

“After that, Israel didn’t need to recruit lots of new settlers,” Gordon said. “It just needed to buy time with the Oslo process and the settler population would grow of its own accord.

“The ultra-Orthodox became Israel’s chief demographic weapon. In the West Bank, Jewish settlers have on average two more children than Palestinians – that demographic differential has an enormous impact over time.”

Palestinian dependency

Buttu pointed to another indicator of how Israel never intended the Oslo Accords to lead to a Palestinian state. Shortly before Oslo, from 1991 onwards, Israel introduced much more severe restrictions on movement, including an increasingly sophisticated permit system.

“Movement from Gaza to the West Bank became possible only in essential cases,” she said. “It stopped being a right.”

That process, Ghanem noted, has been entrenched over the past quarter century, and ultimately led to complete physical and ideological separation between Gaza and the West Bank, now ruled respectively by Hamas and Abbas’ Fatah.

Gordon observed that Oslo’s economic arrangements, governed by the 1995 Paris Protocol, stripped the Palestinians of financial autonomy too.

“The Palestinians did not get their own currency, they had to use the Israeli shekel. And a customs union made the Palestinians a dependent market for Israeli goods and empowered Israel to collect import duties on behalf of the PA. Refusing to transfer that money was a stick Israel has regularly wielded against the Palestinians.”

According to the analysts, those Palestinian leaders like Arafat who were allowed by the Oslo process to return from exile in Tunisia – sometimes referred to as the “outsiders” – were completely ignorant of the situation on the ground.

Gordon, who was at that time head of Israel’s branch of Physicians for Human Rights, recalled meeting young Palestinian-Americans and Canadians in Cairo to discuss the coming health arrangements the PA would be responsible for.

“They were bright and well-educated, but they were clueless about what was happening on the ground. They had no idea what demands to make of Israel,” he said.

“Israel, on the other hand, had experts who knew the situation intimately.”

Warschawski has similar recollections. He took a senior Palestinian recently arrived from Tunis on a tour of the settlements. The official sat in his car in stunned silence for the whole journey.

“They knew the numbers but they had no idea how deeply entrenched the settlements were, how integrated they were into Israeli society,” he said. “It was then that they started to understand the logic of the settlements for the first time, and appreciate what Israel’s real intentions were.”

Lured into a trap

Warschawski noted that the only person in his circle who rejected the hype around the Oslo Accords from the very beginning was Matti Peled, a general turned peace activist who knew Rabin well.

“When we met for discussions about the Oslo Accords, Matti laughed at us. He said there would be no Oslo, there would be no process that would lead to peace.”

Ghanem said the Palestinian leadership eventually realised that they had been lured into a trap.

“They couldn’t move forward towards statehood, because Israel blocked their way,” he said. “But equally, they couldn’t back away from the peace process either. They didn’t dare dismantle the PA, and so Israel came to control Palestinian politics.

“If Abbas leaves, someone else will take over the PA and its role will continue.”

Why did the Palestinian leadership enter the Oslo process without taking greater precautions?

According to Buttu, Arafat had reasons to feel insecure about being outside Palestine, along with other PLO leaders living in exile in Tunisia, in ways that he hoped Oslo would solve.

“He wanted a foot back in Palestine,” she said. “He felt very threatened by the ‘inside’ leadership, even though they were loyal to him. The First Intifada had shown they could lead an uprising and mobilise the people without him.

“He also craved international recognition and legitimacy.”

Trench warfare

According to Gordon, Arafat believed he would eventually be able to win concessions from Israel.

“He viewed it as trench warfare. Once he was in historic Palestine, he would move forward trench by trench.”

Warschawski noted that Arafat and other Palestinian leaders had told him they believed they would have significant leverage over Israel.

“Their view was that Israel would end the occupation in exchange for normalisation with the Arab world. Arafat saw himself as the bridge that would provide the recognition Israel wanted. His attitude was that Rabin would have to kiss his hand in return for such an important achievement.

“He was wrong.”

Gordon pointed to the early Oslo discourse about an economic dividend, in which it was assumed that peace would open up trade for Israel with the Arab world while turning Gaza into the Singapore of the Middle East.

The “peace dividend”, however, was challenged by an equally appealing “war dividend”.

“Even before 9/11, Israel’s expertise in the realms of security and technology proved profitable. Israel realised there was lots of money to be made in fighting terror.”

In fact, Israel managed to take advantage of both the peace and war dividends.

Buttu noted that more than 30 countries, including Morocco and Oman, developed diplomatic or economic relations with Israel as a result of the Oslo Accords. The Arab states relented on their boycott and anti-normalisation policies, and major foreign corporations no longer feared being penalised by the Arab world for trading with Israel.

“Israel’s peace treaty with Jordan [in 1994] could never have happened without Oslo,” she said.

“Instead of clear denunciations of the occupation, the Palestinians were saddled with the language of negotiations and compromises for peace.

“The Palestinians became a charity case, seeking handouts from the Arab world so that the PA could help with the maintenance of the occupation rather than leading the resistance.

“Thanks to Oslo, Israel became normalised in the region, while paradoxically the Palestinians found themselves transformed into the foreign object.”

Tatreez and Tea: Palestine Embroidery Workshop

This workshop will focus on the preservation of the indigenous, endangered art of Palestinian embroidery. The workshop is centered on Wafa Ghnaim’s book, Tatreez & Tea: Embroidery and Storytelling in the Palestinian Diaspora, which preserves the craft of embroidery as well as the art of storytelling that is encapsulated in each traditional Palestinian motif. This workshop is open to all genders and ages but reserved for the first 15 people who register and pay. No refunds are possible. Wafa will give a public presentation in the same location following the embroidery workshop from 7pm to 8pm that is free and open to the public.  Register for the workshop here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/tatreez-and-tea-palestine-embroidery-workshop-tickets-49793559878 

For generations, Palestinian women have gathered together with their daughters to work collectively on embroidery projects, bonding with one another over a cup of tea. Over time, and after the exodus of Palestinians from Palestine in 1948, embroidery has become an endangered art that has been subjected to decades of cultural appropriation. But embroidery represents more than just a village craft of old Palestine — it became the primary form of communication for Palestinian women who used needlework as a way to express their opinions, share their stories, and document their protest of occupation, war and violence.

To learn more about the project, please visit www.tatreezandtea.com.

Art Journaling at WESPAC

Susan Sheppard’s class at WESPAC has begun!
Quote from Roger: “I want to say: Today’s class was truly amazing, fun, healing, relaxing and a lot of other positive things!
I absolutely loved this and really suggest this to anyone that can make it. Susan was incredible! Thank you so much for guiding us today.”
It is not too late to sign up!  
Art Journaling Class at WESPAC every Wednesday with Susan Sheppard alternating start time 6pm or noon.  Next Wednesday, July 25th, the class starts at noon.  Please contact Susan with all questions and to register  [email protected]optonline.net .  $20 per class towards WESPAC – no one turned away:

From Susan: An art journal is a “visual diary.”  In addition to (or maybe in place of ) words, the journal keeper uses visual images to portray his/her thoughts and feelings.  During these very stressful times an art journal can serve as a little haven in a world of madness.
 
My vision of this class is having the participants create an art journal over a series of workshops with or without the guidance of prompts combined with a variety of art techniques.   For example, for the first class I would like to prepare the first few pages for future work and creating a self-portrait using collage.  The prompt would be “The Me Nobody Knows.”  The class would occur over several weeks depending on interest.   Each participant would have to provide a “journal”  (water color pad, composition book, or a hard cover book) , magazines and images that appeal to them, and writing tools of their choice.  I would provide other tools and materials. 
 
Some techniques are collage, printing, stenciling, drawing, painting, Zentangle, etc.  The prompts can be whole class , personal to the participants, or pulled from a jar.

Racial Impact of Marijuana Policing in Westchester County

Racial Impact of Marijuana Policing in Westchester County

Community Forum on the Racial Impact of Marijuana Policing
in Westchester County
Thursday, July 26th at 7pm
White Plains Library Auditorium
100 Martine Avenue in White Plains, NY 10601

In a state where racially biased policing is the norm, Westchester County stands out as one of the worst offenders.

Between 2013 and 2017, Black and Latino people were vastly overrepresented among those arrested for marijuana possession relative to their presence in Westchester’s population–despite data showing similar rates of use across populations. While only 14 percent of the County’s residents are Black, Black people comprised over half (52 percent) of those arrested for marijuana possession. Latinx people have also been disproportionately impacted, comprising just 17% of residents, but 34% of arrestees.

This massive increase of Westchester residents involved with the criminal justice system has had significant reverberations. A marijuana arrest creates a permanent criminal record that can easily be found by employers, landlords, schools, credit agencies and banks. 

This public discussion will examine the long-term costs and consequences of unequal enforcement of marijuana prohibition in Westchester, solutions to address the harms caused to communities, and efforts to legalize marijuana in New York State while creating a diverse and inclusive industry.

Sponsored by: Drug Policy Alliance, WESPAC Foundation, Westchester Coalition for Police Reform, NYCLU, VOCAL-NY, and more

RSVP here: https://www.facebook.com/events/2128989074044735/

NY State Senate passes prosecutorial misconduct bill 

This is huge news coming out of Albany. A big congratulations to Bill Bastuk and all those on the ITCHY team (It Could Happen to You):

State Senate passes prosecutorial misconduct bill 

By Bill Mahoney 

06/14/2018 03:14 PM EDT

ALBANY — After a lengthy and substantive debate that divided both parties Thursday, the Senate passed a bill to create a commission on prosecutorial misconduct, setting it up to potentially be one of the most significant bills to be passed by the Legislature at the end of this year’s session. 

The measure had become the top priority of Deputy Majority Leader John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse) in his final weeks before retirement. It would create a panel modeled after the State Commission on Judicial Conduct that would be tasked with investigating complaints made against prosecutors. 

“When a bad prosecutor does something that results in somebody losing their liberty, there has got to be a remedy,” DeFrancisco said. 

“There’s many cases where individuals are convicted of crimes as heinous as murder and spend 10, 20 years in jail, then found later because of DNA evidence that they weren’t the guilty party,” he added. “So then they go to the state of New York, the Court of Claims, and bring a lawsuit. And the state and our taxpayers have to pay millions of dollars for that misconduct — usually, it’s withholding exculpatory information, information that would help the defense.” 

The opposition to the bill was led by state Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), a former federal prosecutor in the Eastern District of New York.

“Prosecutors all the time have to make heart-wrenching decisions about what to do in car crashes where people die,” he said. “What will every family do when a decision is made that manslaughter shouldn’t be charged? They’re going to bring a prosecutor in front of this panel and say, ‘This is misconduct, I want this defendant charged for what they did to my family.’ So when you’re a prosecutor now, evaluating what to do, whether to do justice, which is the only directive, you are going to say, ‘Well, I’ve got this panel … so now we’re going to start charging a couple of vehicular manslaughters to keep us safe.'” 

He also argued that the panel, which would be appointed by state government officials, might keep prosecutors from investigating these same officials. 

“No prosecutor is going to want to bring a political corruption case when they know that a senator or assemblyperson or someone from the executive chamber is going to get hauled in front of a court, and then [take them] in front of a panel of somebody they appointed,” Kaminsky said. 

Nine Republicans voted against the measure, which passed 44-12, though they held their tongues. 

While some members were silent, the debate was more substantive than most are in Albany, and the partisan bickering that has defined the chamber in recent weeks never really surfaced. 

“This has been fantastic,” said Majority Leader John Flanagan in a rare moment in which he spoke on legislation from the floor. “It makes me proud to be in this room and actually deliberate.” 

“It’s probably one of the better debates I’ve seen on the floor in this house in the 16 years I’ve been here,” said state Sen. Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan).

The bill has yet to pass the Assembly, but Assemblyman Nick Perry (D-Brooklyn), the sponsor in that house, expects that to happen soon. 

“I expect it to be taken up shortly,” Perry said. “I don’t think today, but definitely one day next week.” 

To view online:
https://subscriber.politicopro.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2018/06/14/state-senate-passes-prosecutorial-misconduct-bill-468586

Art Journaling at WESPAC to Combat “Outrage Fatigue”

Based on Gayle Dunkelberger’s successful sketching and water colors at WESPAC, the board would like to continue this type of programming at our social justice center to compliment community forums and planning meetings.  Susan Sheppard spent her career with the Greenburgh Central School District as a teacher and has also taught art to teachers at Mercy College.  This class will take place once a week for a 90 minute session starting in July.  If you are interested, please RSVP to [email protected] by Monday, June 18th and I will then send out a doodle poll to all interested participants so that we can schedule the day and time of the week for this art series based on people’s availability.  $20 per class.  All contributions to support WESPAC and no one will be turned away for lack of funds:

From Susan: An art journal is a “visual diary.”  In addition to (or maybe in place of ) words, the journal keeper uses visual images to portray his/her thoughts and feelings.  During these very stressful times an art journal can serve as a little haven in a world of madness.

My vision of this class is having the participants create an art journal over a series of workshops with or without the guidance of prompts combined with a variety of art techniques.   For example, for the first class I would like to prepare the first few pages for future work and creating a self-portrait using collage.  The prompt would be “The Me Nobody Knows.”  The class would occur over several weeks depending on interest.   Each participant would have to provide a “journal”  (water color pad, composition book, or a hard cover book) , magazines and images that appeal to them, and writing tools of their choice.  I would provide other tools and materials. 

Some techniques are collage, printing, stenciling, drawing, painting, Zentangle, etc.  The prompts can be whole class , personal to the participants, or pulled from a jar.

Dear Nada,

Here are a few photos.  It is hard to see the “moving parts” from photos.  The first one is a cover, the others are pages.  There are pockets, niches, and pull outs to hold secret thoughts.

Is Westchester Ready for Police Accountability

Is Westchester Ready for Police Accountability?

Saturday, June 30th at 5pm (refreshments starting at 4:30pm)
The Rev. Shelton Doles Community Center Theater
250 South Sixth Avenue
Mount Vernon, NY 10550

Join Bridge to Africa 360, African Family Unity Forum and the Westchester Coalition for Police Reform for a community conversation about the value of civilian oversight of law enforcement as well as an update on the status of the Mount Vernon Civilian Review Board and the Right to Know Act that is gaining momentum around New York State.

Panelists include:

  • Mount Vernon City Council member Delia Farquharson
  • Mount Vernon Police Commissioner Shawn Harris (invited)
  • Panel moderator is Mount Vernon CCRB Steering Cte member Geoff Munroe

This event is free and open to the public and is co-sponsored by the Mount Vernon Recreation Department.

Honoring the Summer Solstice through Intercultural Community Ceremony

At this year’s Summer Solstice, Nathalie “BioDame” Reynoso will lead us in ceremony as we open the space to check in on our milestones. How have our baby-steps added up? What have we mulled over? We’ll press pause and resume for health, happiness, equilibrium, and equity’s sake.

Join us for a healing evening at “Honoring the Summer Solstice through Intercultural Community Ceremony.” The space will facilitate us in honoring our paths and realigning ourselves with what is and is not serving us during this time in which we have the most daylight

..so if you can, allow yourself this time to simply be and charge yourself up with that Community Solstice Sun 
(. ❛ ᴗ ❛.)

•Mantra and Manifest Actualization•

•Sun Shrine•

•Mindful Movement•

•Group Meditation•

Free and Open to the Public

Tuesday June 19, 2018  Led by Local Ceremonialist

6:30pm  Nathalie “BioDame” Reynoso

WESPAC Foundation  of the Westchester-based

77 Tarrytown Rd,  Suite 2W grassroots organization

White Plains, NY 10607  Ceremony Cerebellum

On-site Parking Available  cer[email protected]

*Bring items you’d like to add to the shrine  ~ love ~

There is a life behind every statistic

‘There is a life behind

every statistic’

 

The real threat to Israel lies not in acts of

Palestinian violence, but in understanding

that those acts are a response to

occupation and oppression, to injustice

and dehumanisation. 

 

 

 

Sara Roy 

LRB Blog

June 4, 2018

 

Gaza appears sporadically as front-page news in the context of violence and terrorism, as it has with the murder on Friday, 1 June, of Razan Ashraf al-Najjar, a 21-year-old paramedic who was fatally shot by Israeli snipers as she was treating wounded protesters along the fence that separates Gaza from Israel. After a day or two of attention, usually marked by the disproportionate deaths of Palestinians, Gaza recedes from view until the next assault. Israel is part of the story but all too often cast as responding to Hamas aggression, acting in self-defence. Without excusing Hamas for its misdeeds, Gaza’s misery, isolation and hopelessness are primarily a product of Israeli policy. The form of occupation may have changed since Israel’s ‘disengagement’ in 2005, but the fact of occupation has not. One result is the dehumanisation of the men, women and children who live in Gaza, the denial of their innocence and the resultant loss of their rights.

 

I spoke to a friend in Gaza after Israel killed 60 Palestinians on 14 May. He was uncharacteristically subdued, almost inaudible. There were many silences, unusual for our conversations; some of them seemed interminable but I spoke only when spoken to. I had many questions and most remained unasked. The only time my friend became animate was when he told stories about some of the people who had been killed, people he either distantly knew or who were close friends. ‘There is a life behind every statistic,’ he said. He didn’t want to talk about politics; he only spoke about people.

 

One of the people killed on 14 May was the father of a boy whose birthday it was. Another was a 14-year-old boy, whose mother had long suffered with infertility and finally became pregnant with him after nine years of trying. The birth of their son seemed miraculous to his parents. My friend did not say so directly, and I did not ask, but he implied and I inferred that the boy was their only child. ‘He was shot in the head and died instantly. The father collapsed on him. Can you imagine these parents now, having lost their precious boy?’

 

I cannot imagine enduring the loss of a child, especially in such a monstrous way (because he wasn’t Jewish). But the story also speaks to my parent’s story. My mother had a miscarriage in the ghettos of Poland (because she was Jewish) and spent years after the Holocaust trying to get pregnant. My parents always told me that they survived in order to have me.

 

Yet for many Israelis there are ‘no innocents in Gaza’, as the defence minister, Avigdor Lieberman, said in response to the Great March of Return. His colleague Eli Hazan, a spokesman for Netanyahu’s Likud Party, said that all 30,000 men, women and children who gathered at the Gaza border to protest (the overwhelming majority, non-violently) ‘are legitimate targets’. For too many Israelis and Jews, there are no fathers or mothers or children in Gaza; no homes or nursery schools or playgrounds; no hospitals, museums or parks; no restaurants or hotels. Rather, Gaza is where the grass grows wild and must be ‘mown’from time to time, as some Israeli analysts have put it.

 

How is the rest of the world to think about Gaza, about Palestinians? I ask because the deliberate ruination of Palestine – seen most painfully in Gaza – has been well documented. Yet Israel’s actions have been met, more often than not, with serene indifference and lack of remorse, reflecting, in the historian Gabriel Kolko’s words, the ‘absence of a greater sense of abhorrence’ – or, I would say after 14 May, with little if any abhorrence at all. One need only look at the language used in the American media to describe Palestinians and their deaths. Israeli propaganda dehumanising Palestinians has been enormously successful.

 

Why are so many among us unmoved by the contamination of a water supply that will soon lead to life-threatening epidemics among a population of nearly two million people; by the shattering of a once functioning economy through closure and blockade, depriving at least 45 per cent of the labour force (and more than 60 per cent of young workers) of the right to work – forcing most of them into dependence on food handouts and desperate young women into prostitution? The deprivation is deliberate. What purpose does Gaza’s suffering serve?

 

The real threat to Israel lies not in acts of Palestinian violence, but in understanding that those acts are a response to occupation and oppression, to injustice and dehumanisation. As an Israeli friend of mine once said, the threat to Israel lies ‘in making Palestinians intimate, in seeing the world through their eyes’. Why are we so afraid of humanising Palestinians?

 

The decision to relocate the US embassy to Jerusalem, which was driven by Israel and its supporters, should be understood as an attempt to maintain and enforce what Israel sees as its historical right to deny rights to Palestinians. The right to demand rights, which is, fundamentally, what the Palestinians at the Gaza border were claiming, is more threatening than any particular right because it speaks to the agency that makes Palestinians present and irreducible, which Israel has worked so long to regulate and annul. It is the inability to unthink rightlessness among Palestinians that must be maintained as a form of control. The ascription of rightlessness to the other is – and must remain – uncontestable, a clearly established rule that is not restrained by justice. Declaring Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital not only purges Palestinians from the political equation and disendows them of any claims based on justice, but also ensures their continued absence in Israeli eyes.

 

In the immediate aftermath of 14 May, with 117 dead (the number has since risen to 123) and more than 13,000 injured, my friend in Gaza told me that shopkeepers went online to invite people to take whatever goods they wanted for free. Banks announced that they would forgive certain loans.

 

Gaza will not disappear. It will not ‘sink into the sea’, as the late Yitzhak Rabin once wished it would. Gaza is a human rights catastrophe and an ecologic disaster. ‘In a few years,’ Thomas Friedman wrote recently in the New York Times, ‘the next protest from Gaza will not be organised by Hamas, but by mothers because typhoid and cholera will have spread through the fetid water and Gazans will all have had to stop drinking it.’

 

Will Gaza’s mothers then be shot dead for protesting, or will they simply be allowed to die, together with their children, from typhoid and cholera? Or will their protests be heard? The answer will determine our humanity, not theirs.

 

 

Sara M. Roy is an American political economist and scholar. She is a Senior Research Scholar at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University. (Wikipedia)

 

 

Article source: 

https://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2018/06/04/sara-roy/there-is-a-life-behind-every-statistic/ 

© LRB Limited 2018 

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