US Funding Cut for UNRWA Illuminates Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’

US Funding Cut for UNRWA Illuminates Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’

On August 31, the US government let the world know that it would not be releasing $60 million pledged to fund the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which is mandated to provide development and humanitarian services to Palestinian refugees, and that no further funding for the agency would be forthcoming unless it changes its definition of “refugee” to reduce their numbers by a target of 90 percent.

Days earlier, on August 24, the US had announced that it would not provide $200 million in aid that Congress had allotted this year for humanitarian and economic projects in the Israel-occupied Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

That announcement had come just days after US President Donald Trump had said that the Palestinians would “get something very good” since it was their “turn to get something” after he had shifted decades of US policy by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moving the State Department’s Israel embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The Palestinians are still waiting for their turn, it seems. While cutting funding intended to help the Palestinians survive, of course, there will be no cuts in the more than $3 billion in annual military aid that the US provides to Israel that helps sustain the oppressive occupation regime that keeps the Palestinians in need of international aid in the first place.

The purpose of the UNRWA funding cut is no secret. On August 28, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley intimated that the US was going to seek reform in the UN agency specifically to ensure that the vast majority of Palestinian refugees will never be able to exercise their right to return to their homeland.

While Haley accused the UN of having a “pathetic” bias against Israel, this pretext scarcely conceals the true motive; as the New York Times observed, the UNRWA cut is “part of a plan to compel Palestinian politicians to drop demands for most of the refugees to return to what they call their homeland”—meaning to what is today Israel.

Of course, it’s not that Palestinians merely “call” this land their homeland; it is their homeland, indisputably. The Times’ language simply serves to accommodate Israel’s rejection of their right to return to their homeland, despite the same article going on to acknowledge that the refugee problem indeed exists today because Palestinians were “displaced in the 1948 war that led to the creation of the state of Israel.”

That’s the Times’ way of saying that Israel was established in 1948 by ethnically cleansing most of the Arab population from their homes in Palestine and ensuring that these refugees could never return by systematically wiping several hundred of their villages off the map.

As Israeli historian Benny Morris put it in a 2004 interview for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, “A Jewish state would not have come into being without the uprooting of 700,000 Palestinians. Therefore it was necessary to uproot them.”

UNRWA was established by UN General Assembly Resolution 302 (IV) of December 8, 1949, and the organization’s mandate has been repeatedly renewed (presently until June 30, 2020), because of the world’s failure to obtain a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem.

The just solution is outlined in UN General Assembly Resolution 194 (III) of December 11, 1948, which resolved “that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible . . . .”

Of course, the reason this solution has not been implemented is because Israel continues to refuse to permit these rightful inhabitants to return to their homeland as it would mean the end of Israel’s existence as a “Jewish state”.

This demographic threat is why the Israeli legislature last month passed its Jewish Nation State Law, which explicitly declares that the right to self-determination in Israel is “unique to the Jewish people.” Far from being founded on democratic principles or through any kind of legitimate political process (the popular notion that the UN created Israel is a myth), Israel’s founding through war and ethnic cleansing was the ultimate manifestation of the rejection by the Zionists and their Western benefactors of the Arab Palestinians’ right to self-determination.

As a consequence of Israel’s refusal to permit Palestinian refugees to return to the land from which they were forcibly expelled, their numbers have swelled so that today about five million Palestinians are registered as refugees with UNRWA.

As the aforementioned Times article further noted, “The vast majority of the five million refugees are descendants of Palestinians displaced in the mid-20th century. The United Nations aid agency officially considers all of them refugees, consistent with international law and United Nations refugee protocols, said Peter Mulrean, director of the Unrwa office at the United Nations.”

The Trump administration wants UNRWA to deny refugee status to the descendants of those who lived through the ethnic cleansing, which would render it practically impossible for them to ever exercise their internationally recognized right to return to their familial homeland.

The US has been the biggest funder of UNRWA and on average has provided more than $350 annually to the agency since 2010. But in January, the Trump administration announced that it was withholding $65 million from a $125 million payment to UNRWA, the first of a number of payments pledged to the agency for the year. The total amount the US pledged to fund UNRWA this year was $350 million, of which that initial $60 payment was the only amount delivered.

While UN-run schools in the West Bank and Gaza opened on time and some countries have responded by increasing aid to UNRWA—including Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, who each pledged an additional $50 million, and Germany, which has so far this year provided about $95 million and pledged a “substantial” increase—the agency is still suffering a shortfall and has had to lay off dozens of teachers, as well as 100 workers in refugee camps in Jordan. Agency officials have expressed their fear that UNRWA will be too short funded to continue running its schools, lacking the funds to pay 22,000 teachers in schools located not only in Gaza and the West Bank, but also in refugee camps in Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon.

The initial withholding of UNRWA aid in January came just one month after Trump expressed his view that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and declared that the US would therefore move its Israel embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Not communicated to the public in media reporting about the embassy move, either then or since, is the fact that this move violates the UN Charter (and hence also the US Constitution). It is, in other words, illegal, a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 478 of August 20, 1980, which forbade UN member states from locating their embassies in Jerusalem due to the fact that Israel had implemented illegal measures to annex the city.

While the media habitually refer to East Jerusalem, as well as land where Israel has illegally constructed Jewish settlements, as “disputed” territory, the reality is that it is a completely uncontroversial point of fact under international law that all of Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are “occupied Palestinian territory”.

Resolution 478 is just one of seventeen UN Security Council Resolutions that have been passed since the June 1967 war condemning Israel for its measures to annex Jerusalem, which under international law are illegal, null and void.

It was during that war, which began with an Israeli surprise attack on Egypt, that Israel invaded and occupied the West Bank and Gaza. While Israeli military forces were withdrawn from Gaza in 2005, Israel remains legally the Occupying Power there due to its effective control over the territory, including control over Gaza’s territorial waters, airspace, and “borders” (neither Gaza nor the West Bank have legally defined borders with Israel; there are only the 1949 armistice lines, which also means Israel technically doesn’t meet the criteria for statehood under the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States).

In 2006, Hamas won legislative elections, which Israel and the US responded to by conspiring with rival party Fatah and the President of the Palestinian Authority (PA), Mahmoud Abbas, to overthrow the legitimate Hamas government. That plan was only partially successful. While Abbas still remains in power nearly a decade after his legal term expired, the coup failed in Gaza, where Hamas still remains in power.

Israel responded to the failed coup by escalating its existing blockade of Gaza into a full-scale siege in order to collectively punish the entire civilian population for having Hamas as governing authority. In the words of the US State Department in a November 2008 cable from the US embassy to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the purpose of Israel’s blockade was “to keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse.”

On July 19, members of the team appointed by Trump to revive the stalled “peace process” and negotiate what he once said would be the “deal of the century” published an op-ed in the Washington Post effectively declaring the Trump administration’s support for Israel’s illegal blockade policy.

As though to rub salt in the wound for the Palestinians, the date chosen for the official opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem was May 14, the 70th anniversary of the Zionist leadership’s unilateral declaration of the existence of the state of Israel in 1948.

While the New York Times typically explains the refugee problem as being the unfortunate consequence of a war started by the neighboring Arab states, the truth is that by the time the Arab states sent their armies into Palestine, 300,000 Arabs had already been ethnically cleansed from their homes by the Zionist forces, a number that would increase to more than 700,000 by the war’s end.

On May 15, Palestinians commemorate al-Nakba, or “the Catastrophe”, a reference to their mass expulsion from their homeland in order for the “Jewish state” to come into being.

This, then, is the nature of Trump’s “deal of the century”: throwing the weight of the US behind Israel’s illegal annexation of Jerusalem, supporting Israel’s policy of collectively punishing the civilian population of Gaza, and working to ensure that a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem can never be obtained, all the while continuing to finance Israel’s occupation and settlement regime.

While the details of the Trump administration’s supposed “peace” plan have not yet been forthcoming, it is clear that the idea is to coerce the Palestinians into agreeing to comply with Israel’s demands to surrender their internationally recognized rights. In short, Trump’s plan is to use the power he wields to help Israel ensure that the Palestinians cannot exercise their right to self-determination.

Instructively, while cutting $200 million in aid for humanitarian and economic projects in the West Bank and Gaza, the Trump administration made sure that the PA got its money. On August 2, the amount of $61 million was released for funding security cooperation between the PA and Israel.

This is because of the role the PA was created to fulfill under the Oslo “peace process”, which is to serve as Israeli’s collaborator in enforcing its occupation regime. If the PA were to collapse, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) would have to take over responsibility for ensuring the Palestinians are kept in line, which would be a far costlier and more politically unsustainable endeavor (which is why the PA was envisioned for this role in the first place).

While Abbas’s illegitimate regime got its funding, among the reasons cited for the $200 million cut in aid for humanitarian and economic projects were Hamas’s control of Gaza and, in the words of Nikki Haley, “most importantly” because “the Palestinians continue to bash America.”

Naturally, the Palestinians criticize the US government’s role as the party most responsible for enabling Israel’s oppression against them.

Nor is this some new role that the US has taken up only under the Trump administration.

In an editorial criticizing the Trump administration for believing he can compel the Palestinians into compliance with the US and Israel’s demands by slashing aid and attempting to strip them of their refugee status, the New York Times maintained that Trump has “effectively abandoned the critical role his predecessors have tried to fulfill as peace brokers”. Past administrations, the Times claimed, had “sought to resolve” the conflict “through diplomacy.”

In fact, as I document in my book Obstacle to Peace: The US Role in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, the goal of the US-led so-called “peace process” has always been to block implementation of the two-state solution, which is premised on the applicability of international law to resolving the conflict.

Before Trump declared his view that Jerusalem was Israel’s capital, Barack Obama had done so. As a Senator campaigning for the presidency, on July 23, 2008, Obama gave a speech in Sderot, Israel, professing his commitment to backing Israel and intimating that if he succeeded in becoming president, “Jerusalem will be the capital of Israel”. Unlike Trump, Obama just didn’t follow through on this campaign promise, although he had good reasons not to, which he was evidently educated about after winning the presidential election.

The Obama administration did, however, provide unprecedented support for Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians, which included opposing the Palestinians’ diplomatic efforts at the UN to resolve issues through the application of international law.

The whole “peace process” is premised on a fundamental rejection of the applicability of international law. Instead, the idea has always been to compel the Palestinians through violence and other means of coercion into accepting Israel’s demands that they surrender their rights.

Trump’s “deal of the century” is just more of the same. The only real difference between his policy and those of his predecessors is that he is trying to revive the “peace process” while failing to recognize the need for the US to maintain some semblance of credibility as a supposedly neutral mediator in the eyes of the world’s governments. (This is the thing Obama was evidently educated about after making it to the Oval Office, but which Trump seems to be incapable of comprending.)

In this sense, Trump’s prejudicial treatment of the Palestinians and support for Israel’s crimes against them are a positive development; by totally eliminating the US government’s credibility as a supposed peacemaker, it opens up the path politically for the Palestinian leadership to move forward with diplomatic efforts, opposed by the US, to seek legal remedy for Israel’s violations of international law and their human rights through institutions like the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and International Criminal Court (ICC).

Of course, the main obstacle there is the lack of solidarity between the Palestinian leadership in Gaza and the leadership in the West Bank. A round of Egyptian-mediated reconciliation efforts in July failed because Abbas demanded that Hamas completely surrender Gaza to his control. Abbas has furthermore joined in Israel in taking actions to collectively punish the civilian population of Gaza, including sanctions on Gaza’s banking system, salary cuts for government employees, and from April 2017 to January 2018 effectively cutting off Gaza’s the electricity supply.

Abbas has also opposed Egyptian-mediated efforts to reach a ceasefire agreement between Hamas and Israel, who have been exchanging blows with each other on and off since March, when Gazans began having weekly demonstrations along the armistice line fence to protest Israel’s rejection of refugees’ right to return and Israel responded with unlawful use force against unarmed demonstrators.

In mid-August, Abbas criticized the ceasefire efforts, demanding that the PA be involved and control any aid that reaches Gaza. The head of Hamas’s political bureau and former prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, responded by saying that Hamas was “on the way to ending the blockade on Gaza” and that “humanitarian aid to Gaza will not be made at a diplomatic price”.

He also described Trump’s “deal of the century” as “clinically dead”.

While Hamas in October 2017 signed an Egyptian-brokered reconciliation agreement with Fatah to hand over administrative control of Gaza to the PA, Haniyeh also insisted that Hamas would be continue to be responsible for maintaining security and that the PA must lift its sanctions on Gaza for reconciliation talks to resume.

Near the end of August, Abbas reportedly proclaimed that a ceasefire agreement would be reached between Hamas and Israel “over my dead body”—which may not be long in coming given reports of his deteriorating health.

According to senior Fatah member Hissein al-Sheikh, Abbas also said, “If the agreement is signed without the PA’s permission, it is illegal and constitutes treason”—strong words for a politician who remains in office nine years after the expiration of his legal term and eleven years after conspiring with Israel and the US to illegally overthrow the democratically elected Hamas government.

What can explain Abbas’s behavior? As Israeli journalist Shlomi Eldar has observed in Al-Monitor, “Abbas is not so naïve that he believes that Hamas would give over all security authority over to him at once, and even Israel and Egypt agree that it must happen gradually.” Hence, he must have other reasons.

As a consequence of his failing health, “senior members of the Fatah movement are readying for a battle over succession, and anyone who sees himself as a contender for his office is preparing for a violent struggle and recruiting armed forces who would stand on his side if needed.”

Their calculation is that “the entry of Palestinian Authority forces to the Gaza Strip in the framework of reconciliation with Hamas could harm their chances of being chosen to replace Abbas. Entering Gaza would change the rules of the game, and each candidate prefers to keep the status quo they know so well.”

Hence Abbas’s close advisors “are influencing him not to agree to reconciliation”. The fear is that if Hamas succeeds in achieving a ceasefire agreement that results in an easing of the blockade of Gaza, it would be a political victory for Hamas made at the expense of Fatah and the PA.

According to a reconciliation agreement reached in April 2014, there were supposed to have been presidential and parliamentary elections by that October, which never happened. The agreement reached in October 2017 also stipulated that general elections will be held by the end of 2018. But that seems unlikely to happen, given Fatah’s fear of losing to Hamas.

As Eldar notes, Fatah members scrambling to place themselves in a position to succeed Abbas fear that the election of a new party leader also “will likely lead to general Palestinian elections, and none of those who see themselves as candidates are prepared at this stage to change the rules of the game for fear that Hamas would win in these elections, if and when there’s an agreement to hold them.”

The Trump administration, for its part, has said it strongly supports Egypt’s efforts to mediate a ceasefire agreement, with the caveat that such an agreement must “bring about the conditions for the Palestinian Authority to fully assume its responsibilities in Gaza”. Pressure from the US thus also helps to explain Abbas’s opposition to an agreement that would bring much-needed relief to the civilian population of Gaza.

However, the Trump administration’s actions will likely serve only to strengthen Hamas. As PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi told the New York Times with respect to the UNRWA funding cut, “If you deprive people of their education, their health—their future—this is extremely serious and dangerous . . . . Who is going to step in? If you want to hand them over to the religious schools, to Hamas, then you have to live with the consequences.”

In November 2012, the UN General Assembly recognized Palestine as a state, which opened the pathway to the Palestinian leadership seeking remedy for Israel’s violations of international law through the international legal mechanisms of the ICJ and ICC. By eliminating the last semblances of credibility of the US-led “peace process” and its sham so-called “negotiations”, the Trump administration has actually created an opportunity for the Palestinians to pursue this course of action in order to bring about an end to Israel’s occupation and settlement regime.

Whether a unified Palestinian leadership will emerge with the will and courage to do so is another question. Trump’s “deal of the century” could unintendedly help bring about an end to the status quo of occupation. But it seems that a prerequisite for this to occur is the dissolution of Israel’s collaboration regime ruling the West Bank and the establishment of a legitimate Palestinian government. And while such a government would have the support of most of the world, their present leadership is an obstacle the Palestinians alone must overcome.

This article was originally published at Foreign Policy Journal.

TGIF: A Glimmer of Hope in Bleak Palestine

TGIF: A Glimmer of Hope in Bleak Palestine

The Palestinians’ deteriorating conditions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip makes even long-term optimism difficult. Neither a one-liberal-state nor two-state resolution seems in the offing because (if for no other reason) either would seem to spell political suicide for any foreseeable Israeli government. The one-staters have a good argument against the two-staters and vice versa. Would it really be easier for an Israeli prime minister to evict 400,000 Israeli Jews from the West Bank (leaving aside the more than 200,000 in formally annexed East Jerusalem) than it would be to agree to one secular democratic state in which non-Jews would soon outnumber Jews if they don’t already? I don’t see it.

Pessimism is reinforced by the recently passed Nation-State law, according to which the Knesset made fully de jure what had long been true de facto: that Israel belongs to Jewish people only (whether religious believers or not and wherever in the world they may currently live) and that the minority of non-Jewish Israelis should think of themselves as little more than guests living there at the pleasure of the Jewish supermajority.

“The right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people,” the law states.  Another part says, “The state will be open for Jewish immigration and the ingathering of exiles.” Also: “The state shall act within the Diaspora to strengthen the affinity between the state and members of the Jewish people.” And: “The state views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation.”

And we thought laws that specified religious, ethnic, national, or racial groups for special treatment went the way of the dodo bird, at least in western-oriented countries. Israel is officially a throwback to an unenlightened age.

To add insult to injury, Arabic, the language of 20 percent of the population, was demoted from an “official” language to one having only a “special status.”

If most of this was already the reigning state of affairs, why was the law passed? It was passed to constrain Israel’s Supreme Court. Gone is the wiggle room that the sometimes independent-minded court once had.

The law is now part of Israel’s Basic Law, which functions more or less like a constitution. The new law says, “This Basic Law shall not be amended, unless by another Basic Law passed by a majority of Knesset members.” In other words, there’s no chance in hell of changing it unless Israel’s ruling elite want it changed.

With the case for pessimism so strong, we must take whatever good news we can find. Some of us have longed for the emergence of a charismatic Palestinian figure who, while opposing Israeli oppression and settler-colonialism in all its forms, would also defend individual property rights and free enterprise while condemning both outside donor aid as dependence-inducing and the corrupt, authoritarian, and unrepresentative Palestinian Authority (PA).

Such a person has indeed emerged: Khaled Al Sabawi. Al Sabawi has quite a story to tell. In 1948, during the Zionists’ violent ethnic cleansing of Palestine and establishment of the state of Israel, his father’s family was driven from their home and 50-acre farm in the village of Salama, east of Jaffa. The family fled to Gaza, along with many other refugees. Then in 1956, when Israel, Great Britain, and France launched a war against Egypt, the Israeli army invaded Gaza (30 years before Hamas was formed), ransacking and searching the refugees’ homes, including the home of Sabawi’s grandmother and father. When the soldiers found the grandmother’s deed to their home in Salama, they confiscated it and departed. Apparently, that is just what the soldiers were looking for.

When his father, Mohamed Al Sabawi, grew up and earned advanced university degrees, he moved to Canada to raise his family. But then he moved back to Palestine and established a large insurance company in the West Bank and Gaza. His son Khaled, who was born in Kuwait, has now done something similar, graduating from the University of Waterloo in Ontario. After switching from computer engineering to geothermal engineering, he embarked on two entrepreneurial ventures: geothermal energy for the Occupied Palestinians Territories and elsewhere in the Middle East and registration of individual property titles in the West Bank. The latter project is called TABO, the Arabic word for “title deed.”

Before the Nakba, the 1948 catastrophic ethnic cleansing and the 1967 conquest of the West Bank and Gaza, Palestinians proudly owned homes and land. But much of that land was not registered with the government because under Ottoman rule, that would have made the owners subject to taxation. Some individual parcels were registered in the name of absentee feudal landlords in Beirut and elsewhere, but the residents, that is, the actual Lockean owners, had to pay rent either in cash or kind. (James C. Scott’s book Seeing Like a State explains how governing elites have long used various forms of registration to facilitate taxation and conscription and generally to keep an eye on the people.)

The immediate problem with unregistered land in the West Bank is that Israel might decide to build Jewish settlements on it. The state has long claimed Palestinian properties in the name of the Jewish people. Israel has already built settlements for 400,000 Jews in Area C, which is the 60 percent of the West Bank it rules directly. (Areas A and B have some degree of internal rule by the PA, which polices the Palestinians on behalf of the Israeli government. International law forbids a country to move population into territory occupied during a war.)

An article about Sabawi in Forbes Middle East explained the situation:

In theory, the land [in the West Bank] is untouchable. After Oslo [the 1990s accords that created the PA], the Palestinian territories were divided into three areas: A, B and C, with just the latter falling under direct Israeli control. Al Sabawi works only in Area A, a zone officially under PA administration, but leaves nothing to chance. “If Israel tries to circumvent the agreement[, he says,] they’ll go after land without title deed, because once you have proof of ownership of your land it’s very difficult for anyone to put their hands on it.”

And Al Sabawi is out to keep it that way, securing proud Palestinian land with the papers to prove it.

So his TABO project has the admirable objective of preventing more Israeli settlements on land that Palestinians legitimately own. He and his team work to track down the last owners of properties or their heirs and to plot the boundaries. Forbes reports that “after identifying land for sale from Palestinians who possess inheritance documents but no official papers, Al Sabawi sets about obtaining approval from relevant family members, before determining the borders in a manner more accurate than the ‘this olive tree to that one’ approach.”

“We have to walk every corner of the land with a GPS machine, the head of the village council and every single neighbor,” Al Sabawi said. His work has ruffled feathers, and that may seem unsurprising until you learn that “the challenge did not come from Israel; it came from the Palestinian Authority.”

As he says in his TED Talk:

For our outspokenness [that is, his criticism of the PA], however, we paid a heavy price, one that I never imagined. For our criticism of their leadership, individuals within the Palestinian Authority abused their power and suspended all of the title deed transactions of TABO. Think about this for a moment. To punish us for our freedom of expression, powerful individuals within the Palestinian Authority went out of their way to stop and suspend the registration of Palestinian land, thereby preventing the protection of Palestinian land from Israeli settlement expansion.

In a testament to Al Sabawi’s determination, the project has made progress nevertheless. First, he and his team sued the PA for its abuse of power in the Palestinian High Judicial Council — and won. With that obstacle cleared, they moved ahead.

Forbes says:

Three years on from TABO’s launch, the initiative has enabled 250 families, both resident and in the Palestinian diaspora, to own 371 plots of land. Of TABO’s sales so far, 30% have been generated by the diaspora. And the cost falls far short of the million dollar price tag hanging from land just minutes away. TABO offers plots for between $13,900 and $32,000, with interest-free payment financed through the company for up to four years.

That was three years ago. The figures are higher now. Al Sabawi says that TABO has protected more than a million square meters of land, paved over 10,000 meters of roads, and helped more than 400 families to acquire 600 properties.

While the PA has obstructed TABO, so has the Israeli government, which harasses, interrogates, and detains Al Sabawi and his team when they try to travel to the West Bank.

Overcoming these hurdles has been an astonishing achievement. When Al Sabawi appeared on Al Jazeera’s television show The Cafe, host Medhi Hasan said, “Sabawi believes corruption is rife inside the Palestinian Authority and says foreign aid has stunted an independent Palestinian economy.” On the program, Sabawi noted:

The Palestinian Authority today has essentially become a subcontractor of the Israeli occupation. When Oslo was created in 1993, and Israel was bearing the economic burden of occupation. It was very expensive, but when the Palestinian Authority was created it essentially started policing the Palestinian cities. But who paid for the bill? All the donor states, the United States, Canada and the entire international community, but Israel fully maintained its occupation. Israel still controlled borders, airspace, water, and pretty much all aspects of life for the Palestinian people, but brought in the Palestinian Authority to manage these cities. So it’s been about 20 years of occupation management, and that’s taken us back significantly, and what it’s created is this entity that’s become, you know, focused more on its self-interest than the interests of the Palestinian people….

[T]he Palestinian leadership … hasn’t served to push Palestinian liberation forward whatsoever. As it stands today, the Palestinian Authority is completely anti-democratic. It has no mandate for the Palestinian people. The people that go and negotiate with Israel, the Palestinian leadership that goes to negotiate with Israel, has no mandate from the Palestinian people. They do not represent them….

Al Sabawi rejects the conventional wisdom that donor aid is indispensable to economic development:

As it stands today, about 40 percent of the GDP of the Palestinian territories is accounted for by donor aid. The Palestinian people, as a result of it, also in the Palestinian Authority, have become the highest recipients of foreign aid in the world per capita. In addition to that, there’s an enormous dependence on the Israeli occupation. Ninety-five percent of our energy comes from Israel; 80 percent of our imports come from Israel; 90 percent of our exports go towards Israel. The Palestinian economy is a sub-economy….

Sabawi clearly sees the perverse consequences of so-called aid:

It compromises the political and economic independence of the Palestinian people.  So if the Palestinian people take an independent road or elect their own government, as they eloquently did in 2006 [in Gaza], so the 80 percent voter turn out, then the donor aid was cut off and the Palestinian people were punished for exercising their democratic rights[,] for being democratic.  And just one small point, the situation now, economically, is far worse than it was before. The PA … is forcing Palestinian banks to give 50 percent of their deposits as loan facilities for the Palestinian people. Why?  Because OPIC, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, which is an American foreign policy organisation, came and provided loan guarantees for Palestinian banks, for a push to drive the Palestinian economy to be more debt-based. Now debt has accumulated to $3 billion, consumer debt for Palestinian people….  The Palestinian Authority has created further dependent victims of the Palestinian people as opposed to confront[ing] the Israeli occupation.

Champions of liberty can only hope that Al Sabawi inspires a new generation of Palestinian liberators, one that is dedicated to individual freedom and autonomy through private property and free enterprise.

Hasbara is Dead

Hasbara is Dead

Maybe it was when Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would respond to flaming kites from Gaza with an “iron fist.” Or maybe when 13 senators bucked the Israel lobby to call for an easing of the siege on Gaza. Or maybe when five young American Jewish women walked off their “Birthright” trip saying they needed to see the occupation.

Or maybe it was the election in a New York Democratic congressional primary of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez even after she described Israel’s actions in Gaza as a “massacre.” Or maybe it was the two Israeli government ministers who issued statements justifying the deportation of an American who supports boycott against Israel, with one minister saying, “This is a Jew who tried to abuse this fact.”

Hasbara has died. The Israeli effort to “explain” its actions to the world– that era is over. Israel has given up trying to explain itself to fair-minded people. Because the fair-minded have all made up their minds; the slaughter in Gaza has seen to that. And Israel doesn’t think they are fair anyway.

No, its explanations are reserved now for the hard-core supporters. The hasbara is pure propaganda, aimed at rallying the base. And everyone else is tuning out.

Read the rest at mondoweiss.net.

Israel Promises Probe After Gaza Medic Shot in the Back

Israel Promises Probe After Gaza Medic Shot in the Back

The death of 21-year-old Palestinian medic Razan Najjar on Friday has fueled a lot of anger across the region, particularly with news that she was shot in the back by Israeli snipers. The Israeli military has since promised an investigation into the killing.
Killing of civilian protesters in Gaza was already controversial, and the death of the photogenic young nurse who was treating the wounded protesters is even moreso. Her funeral drew a large following, and protests started afterwards.
Medics getting shot deliberately by Israeli snipers at the Gaza border has been a common occurrence during the crackdowns on demonstrations. 29 medics have been shot so far by Israeli forces, many of them gravely wounded. Najjar was the second one to be killed outright.
Israeli forces have been heavily using live ammunition against the protesters along the Gaza border, which has led to over 13,000 Palestinians getting wounded in the crackdown, quickly overwhelming the strip’s limited medical services.
Retrieved from antiwar.com.

Israel Promises Probe After Gaza Medic Shot in the Back

The Decent Must Weep

Razan al-Najjar, 21

 
Razan al-Najjar, 21, a paramedic helping injured protesters in the Gaza Strip, was murdered by what Benjamin Netanyahu insists the Palestinians recognize as the State of the Jewish People.

How, in these conditions, can individuals who are not religious believers but simply humanists, democrats and liberals, and endowed with a minimum of honesty, continue to define themselves as Jews?

–Shlomo Sand, How I Stopped Being a Jew

Let us not cast the blame on the murderers today. Why should we deplore their burning hatred for us? For eight years they have been sitting in the refugee camps in Gaza, and before their eyes we have been transforming the lands and the villages, where they and their fathers dwelt, into our estate.

. . .

Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you because geography books no longer exist, not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either. Nahlal arose in the place of Mahlul; Kibbutz Gvat in the place of Jibta; Kibbutz Sarid in the place of Huneifis; and Kefar Yehushu’a in the place of Tal al-Shuman. There is not one single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population.

Israel Promises Probe After Gaza Medic Shot in the Back

‘NYT’ columnist says killing Palestinian civilians is… good for Palestinians

The New York Times has always had a double standard on human rights, but they usually aren’t very open about it.  They condemn Russian bombing as horrible war crimes, but criticize similar US bombing as mistakes and pretty much ignore Israeli bombing of Gaza. But they don’t come right out and say that killing is good or that it is cruel to be kind and kind to be cruel and Palestinians need to be shot for their own good.

Until now.

Columnist Shmuel Rosner says essentially this, and the Times published him three days ago: “Israel Needs to Protect Its Borders. By Any Means Necessary.”

I will… declare coldly: Israel had a clear objective when it was shooting, sometimes to kill, well-organized “demonstrators” near the border. Israel was determined to prevent these people — some of whom are believed to have been armed, most apparently encouraged by their radical government — from crossing the fence separating Israel from Gaza. That objective was achieved…

This was not a peaceful act of protest. This was a provocation by an organization known to engage in acts of terrorism. Thus, Israel had no choice but to treat it as an attempt not just to violate its territorial integrity but also to attack it…

The worst is when Rosner justifies the killings as a good thing for Palestinians, and an act of kindness to what Rosner thinks are the enlightened Palestinians.

I believe Israel’s current policy toward Gaza ultimately benefits not only Israel but also the Palestinians.

Of course, it does not benefit the Palestinians who dream about “returning,” or in other words, about eliminating Israel. But it is the only way forward for those who have more realistic expectations. The people of Gaza are miserable. They deserve sympathy and pity. But looking for Israel to remedy their problems will only exacerbate their misery. Expecting Israel to solve their problem will only lead them to delay what they must do for themselves…

[O]nly an Israel that has the ability to feel secure about its borders could engage in any serious talks with the Palestinians..

The Jewish sages had a famous, if not necessarily pleasant, saying that went something like this: Those who are kind to the cruel end up being cruel to the kind…

Read the rest at mondoweiss.net.

Israel Promises Probe After Gaza Medic Shot in the Back

Killing Gaza: New documentary features Life Under Siege

On August 13, as a five-day ceasefire took hold in Israel’s 51 day war with Gaza, Max Blumenthal and I headed for the hyper-militarized border terminal at Erez crossing. We had no plans to make a documentary at that point. I brought along my camera and shotgun microphone to record interviews that I could transcribe for written articles. It quickly became clear to us that the harrowing testimony we were gathering in the miles and miles of rubble that spanned Gaza’s shattered border regions should be the basis for a documentary. So I returned to Gaza again and again over the course of the next two years, following up with the people I met during the war and encountering new people from all walks of life who told the story of life under siege and the systematic destruction of their society. Their voices comprise the narrative basis of our documentary feature, Killing Gaza.

This week, the Great March of Return will culminate on Nakba Day, the date marking the Palestinian observance of their systematic and ongoing ethnic cleansing by Israel. To crush the largely unarmed protests that have sent young men in waves towards the militarized walls that pen them into a giant cage, the Israeli military has waged its most violent and deadly campaign since the 51-day war. It was this demonstration of mass resistance that inspired the release of our documentary, Killing Gaza. You can view it here.

Killing Gaza from Dan Cohen on Vimeo.

Having spent extensive time in Gaza and familiarized myself with the warmth and creativity of its residents, I came to see it as the most misunderstood place on the planet. The warped Western picture of Gaza is the clear result of an intentional campaign by the Israeli government and a pliable media to demonize its two million inhabitants. With Killing Gaza, we aimed to challenge the view of the besieged coastal enclave as a nest of terror, or a cauldron of violent rage — a view put on display in the Vice News series on the 2014 war, “Rockets and Revenge.”

Read the rest at mondoweiss.net.

Israel Promises Probe After Gaza Medic Shot in the Back

Haley’s Embarrassing Defense of the Gaza Massacre

Nikki Haley’s response to yesterday’s massacre in Gaza is to engage in whataboutism:


The Trump administration’s Iran obsession would almost be comical if it didn’t have such a dangerous distorting effect on our foreign policy. Iran’s actions in the region were not the subject of the meeting where Haley said this, and talking incessantly about Iran to avoid addressing the issue at hand has become a typical maneuver for Haley whenever U.S. clients commit some outrage that she would rather ignore. Whether she is busy whitewashing Saudi coalition crimes in Yemen or running interference for Israel after it massacres over 60 people, Haley’s m.o. is to change the subject.
Read the rest at theamericanconservative.com.

Israel Promises Probe After Gaza Medic Shot in the Back

4/17/18 Danny Sjursen on America's support for Israeli and Saudi Arabian atrocities

Army major Danny Sjursen returns to the show to discuss his latest work for antiwar.com including “American Empathy Gap: Massacres in Gaza and US Silence.” Sjursen begins by breaking down the situation in Gaza and Palestine and makes the case that Israel-Palestine is the third rail in U.S. politics. Sjursen describes his experience on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan and the continual gripe against Israeli domination of Palestine. He then offers his solution that would allow Israel to maintain its 1967 borders and remain a democracy—so long as Israel gives up its desires for expansion. Scott and Sjursen then turn to Saudi Arabia and his article, “US Should Do the Opposite of What the Saudis Want.” According to Sjursen, you can pick any country in the world and the Saudi position will both align with the U.S. position and be contrary to the U.S. national interest.
Sjursen is a major in the U.S. army and former history instructor at West Point. He writes regularly for TomDispatch.com and he’s the author of “Ghost Riders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge.” Follow him on Twitter @SkepticalVet.
This episode of the Scott Horton Show is sponsored by: Zen CashThe War State, by Mike Swanson; WallStreetWindow.comRoberts and Roberts Brokerage Inc.LibertyStickers.comTheBumperSticker.com; and ExpandDesigns.com/Scott.
Check out Scott’s Patreon page.

Israel Promises Probe After Gaza Medic Shot in the Back

4/17/18 Danny Sjursen on America’s support for Israeli and Saudi Arabian atrocities

Army major Danny Sjursen returns to the show to discuss his latest work for antiwar.com including “American Empathy Gap: Massacres in Gaza and US Silence.” Sjursen begins by breaking down the situation in Gaza and Palestine and makes the case that Israel-Palestine is the third rail in U.S. politics. Sjursen describes his experience on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan and the continual gripe against Israeli domination of Palestine. He then offers his solution that would allow Israel to maintain its 1967 borders and remain a democracy—so long as Israel gives up its desires for expansion. Scott and Sjursen then turn to Saudi Arabia and his article, “US Should Do the Opposite of What the Saudis Want.” According to Sjursen, you can pick any country in the world and the Saudi position will both align with the U.S. position and be contrary to the U.S. national interest.

Sjursen is a major in the U.S. army and former history instructor at West Point. He writes regularly for TomDispatch.com and he’s the author of “Ghost Riders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge.” Follow him on Twitter @SkepticalVet.

This episode of the Scott Horton Show is sponsored by: Zen CashThe War State, by Mike Swanson; WallStreetWindow.comRoberts and Roberts Brokerage Inc.LibertyStickers.comTheBumperSticker.com; and ExpandDesigns.com/Scott.

Check out Scott’s Patreon page.

Israel Promises Probe After Gaza Medic Shot in the Back

4/17/18 Ramzy Baroud on his new book “The Last Earth” and the unbreakable spirit of the Palestinians

Editor-in-chief of the Palestine Chronicle Ramzy Baroud joins Scott to discuss his latest article “Why Israel Feels Threatened by Popular Resistance in Palestine,” and his new book, “The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story.” Baroud’s goal is to change the narrative about the Palestinian people, which has been divided only between the extremes of terrorist and victim—but in reality the Palestinian people existed long before the birth of Zionism, and they’ll exist long after as well, Baroud says. Despite the popular resistance and the unwavering spirit of the Palestinian people, the on-going challenge remains to solidify leadership and a popular plan to secure freedom and a lasting peace.

Ramzy Baroud is a US-Arab journalist and is the editor-in-chief of the Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of “My Father Was A Freedom Fighter: The Untold Story of Gaza.” His new book is “The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story.” Follow Ramzy on Twitter @RamzyBaroud and read his work at RamzyBaroud.net.

This episode of the Scott Horton Show is sponsored by: Zen CashThe War State, by Mike Swanson; WallStreetWindow.comRoberts and Roberts Brokerage Inc.LibertyStickers.comTheBumperSticker.com; and ExpandDesigns.com/Scott.

Check out Scott’s Patreon page.

Israel Promises Probe After Gaza Medic Shot in the Back

4/17/18 Ramzy Baroud on his new book "The Last Earth" and the unbreakable spirit of the Palestinians

Editor-in-chief of the Palestine Chronicle Ramzy Baroud joins Scott to discuss his latest article “Why Israel Feels Threatened by Popular Resistance in Palestine,” and his new book, “The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story.” Baroud’s goal is to change the narrative about the Palestinian people, which has been divided only between the extremes of terrorist and victim—but in reality the Palestinian people existed long before the birth of Zionism, and they’ll exist long after as well, Baroud says. Despite the popular resistance and the unwavering spirit of the Palestinian people, the on-going challenge remains to solidify leadership and a popular plan to secure freedom and a lasting peace.
Ramzy Baroud is a US-Arab journalist and is the editor-in-chief of the Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of “My Father Was A Freedom Fighter: The Untold Story of Gaza.” His new book is “The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story.” Follow Ramzy on Twitter @RamzyBaroud and read his work at RamzyBaroud.net.
This episode of the Scott Horton Show is sponsored by: Zen CashThe War State, by Mike Swanson; WallStreetWindow.comRoberts and Roberts Brokerage Inc.LibertyStickers.comTheBumperSticker.com; and ExpandDesigns.com/Scott.
Check out Scott’s Patreon page.

Pin It on Pinterest