[This is a roundup of news articles and other materials circulating on Palestine and reflects a wide variety of opinions. It does not reflect the views of the Palestine Page co-editors or of Jadaliyya.]
The Occupation Forces
Fears are mounting for the safety of people with health issues as already-strained hospitals are largely without power and the Palestinian territory faces a coronavirus outbreak. Two million residents are surviving on only four hours of electricity a day after Israel cut off the fuel supply, leading to the shut down of Gaza’s sole power plant last week. Israel made the move after the continuous launch of incendiary balloons from the coastal enclave towards Israeli communities surrounding the Gaza Strip by activists demanding the easing of the crippling 13-year blockade.
“[The report’s] findings are consistent with numerous previous studies that show Palestinians are experiencing collective trauma as a result of the ongoing occupation,” Milham adds. “The negative mental health consequences that result are among the highest in the world.” The damage caused by the raids are not incidental or a by-product of the army’s actions, but rather an integral part of them, the report notes. Taking everything out of closets and drawers, ripping up couches, and smashing plaster walls have become a routine part of IDF home searches. A sergeant who served in an elite army unit from 2014 to 2017 told Breaking the Silence about one of his soldiers’ anger at not finding any weapons during a search. “I remember him starting to toss things around just from the frustration. He walks around the living room, and everyone is sitting, and he starts smacking the TV really hard and gets angry that we couldn’t find [weapons].”
Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) critically injured at least four children with live ammunition and rubber-coated metal bullets in separate incidents across the West Bank in the past two weeks. All injuries resulted from the use of potentially lethal force by the IOF in circumstances where available information suggests the children did not pose a threat to life or serious injury of the soldiers or to anyone else. It thus appears the force used was not in accordance with international law.
Killing a Palestinian will soon be as easy as ordering a pizza. That repugnant message – albeit couched in less explicit terms – was delivered through a recent article published by the website IsraelDefense. It quotes Oren Matzliach, a colonel who is overseeing the use of a new app by the Israeli military. The app would allow a commander to type details about a target on a small electronic device and then troops would open fire on that target swiftly. Ordering an attack will be “like ordering a book on Amazon or a pizza in a pizzeria using your smartphone,” Matzliach said.
Today, Tuesday, 1/12/2020, the Ministry of Health in the Gaza Strip recorded an increase in the number of deaths from the Coronavirus, reaching 9 deaths, and (815) new infections were recorded and (132) severe cases. A total of 2,062 new cases in the West Bank and Gaza were recorded during the past 24 hours, hitting a new record in Palestine. According to the sources, it is the first time that 9 deaths have been recorded in the Gaza Strip, as it is estimated that injuries may increase.
The positions of the Palestinian factions, including that of Hamas, do not live up to the seriousness of the situation following the decision by the Mahmoud Abbas-led Palestinian Authority to resume security cooperation with Israel. The PA announced this move at the same time that the factions were meeting in Cairo with representatives of the Fatah movement as part of the farcical "reconciliation efforts". Condemnation and rejection of this crime, without forming a comprehensive national strategy to confront its dangers, means that these factions, including Hamas, will bear the consequences of what Abbas has done. Before getting into the details of what must be done in response to Abbas's miserable decision, though, it is of utmost importance to review how serious it is. The decision represents a clear statement that Arab normalisation with Israel, which helps the occupation state to damage the Palestinian cause, now enjoys the support of Abbas and his authority. The evidence for this is that soon after announcing the resumption of security coordination, Abbas sent his ambassadors back to both the UAE and Bahrain.
President Mahmoud Abbas tonight issued a decree extending the state of emergency in Palestine for 30 more days starting tomorrow amidst the coronavirus outbreak in the occupied territories. This the ninth month for the state of emergency in the West Bank since the outbreak of coronavirus in Palestine in early March. Meanwhile, in a televised speech to the Palestinian public urging them to take extra precautions to stop the high number of coronavirus, President Abbas said he has instructed the government to do what is necessary to contain the disease.
The cash-strapped Palestinian Authority (PA) finally accepted over $1 billion in tax revenues, transferred by Israel on Tuesday. The PA Minister of Civil Affairs Hussein al-Sheikh announced on Twitter that Israel had “transferred [to the PA] all the due tax revenues amounting to 3.76 billion shekels ($1.14 b).” Israel collects the tax revenues on all Palestinian imports and exports on behalf of the PA, and collected a 3% commission on the collected revenues, which account for more than 60% of the PA’s total annual budget. While Israel has refused to release the tax revenues to the PA in the past, the PA itself had been refusing to accept the money since May of this year, in protest of Israel’s annexation plans and US President Donald Trump’s “deal of the century.”
After Joe Biden’s victory in the US presidential elections in early November, the PA sent back its envoys to the two Gulf countries a couple weeks later, hopeful that Washington will soon return to more orthodox positions on the Palestinian question. Meanwhile, the PA also resumed its security coordination with Israel in the occupied territories, following a six-month suspension in response to Israel’s plans to annex more land in the West Bank in contravention of international law. The return to this controversial policy has triggered criticism from the Palestinian public, as well as from Hamas, the longtime political rival of the leading party in the PA, Fatah.
Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh, urged donor countries and international organizations to take serious measures towards boycotting Israeli settlements and to not only settle for labeling settlement products. He stressed that the status quo imposed by Israel is deteriorating; as the Palestinian land is shrinking, the settlers' violence is escalating, and access to resources is decreasing daily. This came during a virtual meeting with over 40 donor countries and international organizations, including the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Quartet office, presided by Norway, with the participation of finance minister Shukri Bishara.
On 29 November Starmer and his deputy leader, Angela Rayner, attended a conference organised by the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), and Labour Friends of Israel (LFI). Of all dates in the year, Starmer could not have chosen one more calculated to gratuitously insult the Palestinians. His appearance coincided with the UN International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people, a major event in the Palestinian calendar, held on 29 November each year since 1977. Its purpose is to remind the world that the question of Palestine remains unresolved. The "inalienable rights of the Palestinian people", defined in the 1975 UN General Assembly Resolution 3376, as self-determination and the right of refugee return, are still unfulfilled.
African diplomats yesterday called out the UN for its inaction on Palestine and its failure to end Israel's more than half-century occupation. According to the Afro-Palestine Newswire Service, South Africa's Deputy Minister of International Relations, Alvin Botes, said reforming the United Nations is paramount to achieving justice for the Palestinians. "Africa has a responsibility to use these positions to work for Palestine," Botes stressed. "While UN membership has expanded dramatically since 1945 from 51 to 193 nations, key decisions on the world's peace and security are the de-facto domain of just five countries: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States," Botes added, in reference to the countries with veto power at the UN Security Council.
It goes without saying that the removal of Donald Trump from the presidency is a major accomplishment, and indeed one that should be celebrated. However, this is not the time for complacency. The fight is different, but just as urgent under a Biden administration. It is vital that our movements for social justice resist Joe Biden’s pull to a status quo guided by corporate interests and imperialist calculations. Two interlocking realities must drive opposition to an administration which has already confirmed its repudiation of a progressive agenda. First, Biden and the Party establishment are actively working to undermine the Party’s left wing as progressive forces inside push for policies that center people at home and abroad, not business and defense contractor concerns. Second, we must resist a return to the centrism of the Democratic Party establishment because the only means to effectively advance Palestinian rights in the US are tied to the success of other progressive movements.
Before it recesses for the year, the US Congress is finalizing the text of a must-pass bill, the National Defense Authorization Act, which includes a slew of significant pro-Israel measures. Most notably, the Senate version of the bill contains the provisions of the United States-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2020, originally a separate bill which was tacked onto the NDAA in July. This bill would codify into law the Obama administration’s pledge of $3.8 billion per year in weapons to Israel. Additionally, it would set this level of assistance to Israel as a floor, not as a ceiling. The bill promises Israel “not less than” $3.3 billion per year in weapons grants in addition to $500 million in missile defense projects. This bill would enable Congress to appropriate weapons to Israel at a level beyond that envisioned by the Obama administration’s munificent 2016 memorandum of understanding.
According to Joseph Massad, the goal of the PA, as envisaged by the Oslo Accords, is not only to obliterate any remaining resistance to Israel, but also to quash the Palestinian people’s will to resist their insidious coloniser once and for all. That was the essence of the US "peace process" in the 1970s and 1980s, of the Oslo deal, of former US President Bill Clinton’s Camp David offer in 2000, and of Trump’s "deal of the century". It has always been the same deal, which is what Trump tried valiantly to impress upon the world. The much-awaited Biden, however, will be sure to indulge the PA. He will pretend, alongside the PA, that Palestinians will get a new and better deal next time.
Settlers and Illegal Settlements
Yesterday, Sunday, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected a petition filed by Palestinians against declaring 224 dunums as “state land,” which settlers seized from the “Kochav Yaqoub” settlement, located in the area ofKufur Aqab, north of occupied Jerusalem, according to Haaretz newspaper. The newspaper pointed out that the Supreme Court’s decision, issued by a panel of three judges, Yael Felner, Noam Solberg and Alex Stein, would lead to the legitimization of the two random outposts, “Nativ Ha’avot” and “Sdeh Bouaz” and buildings in more than 20 settlements.
Boycott, Divest, and Sanction Movement
Shimon Koffler Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs readily pointed out earlier this month that the IHRA definition notes that “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.” But who decides what criticism should be allowed or not? In Canada, it will now be Irwin Cotler, the man promoted by the Israeli media as “one of the staunchest defenders that Israel has around the world.” The man who PM Trudeau personally referenced when he publicly condemned the BDS movement. The man who sent his own submission to the International Criminal Court, arguing against an investigation into alleged Israeli war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz described him at the time this way: “Additional requests were submitted to the court by Irwin Cotler, a senior jurist and former justice minister of Canada who is considered very pro-Israel.”
Law & Prisons
It is now 20 years since the killing of Muhammad al-Dura was caught on camera. And the footage of the 12-year-old boy, crouching behind his father’s desperate but ultimately futile attempts to protect him, provided some of the defining images of the second intifada. The images still resonate today, not least in Gaza, isolated and besieged as it. Those pictures serve as painful symbolic reminders that – even as the UN calls, yet again, for an end to an Israeli blockade on Gaza that has seen over half the population there fall below the poverty line – Palestinians are without protection against an Israeli occupation that is brutal and relentless.
Israeli prison guards assaulted and severely beat up a Palestinian minor detainee after he complained of feeling unwell and needed to go to the clinic, today said the Detainees and ex-Detainees Affairs Commission in a statement. It said that 17-year-old Hani Irmailat, from Jenin refugee camp, was taken to al-Jalama interrogation center near Haifa after his arrest last October, where he felt sick and when he complained of feeling unwell the prison guards severally beat him up, causing him injuries in the head and bleeding. He was then transferred to a hospital for treatment. Irmailat was subjected to over 20 days of harsh interrogation, and was later taken to Israeli Megiddo prison, said the commission.
The Israeli Prisons Administration today transferred the minor detainee, Muhammad Munir Moqbel (16 years) from Al-Arroub camp north of Hebron to Hadassah Hospital, after he was severely beaten by the occupation forces during his arrest two days ago. According to the Palestinian Prisoner Soceity, the family reported that their son was severely assaulted, where he sustained a fracture in his left lower jaw and broken teeth, and he is supposed to undergo surgery today.
Environment, Economy, and Other
Being from Gaza means that good news and opportunities never come easy. If you are admitted into a university or receive a job abroad, you have to be prepared to take on all the possible risks and face all the possible obstacles: from the call letting you know whether you can travel, to the countless checkpoints along the way. Through all that, you learn patience and acquire resilience till those traits become most of what you are. You must produce the power to wait. And most importantly, you must not take it personally when, while traveling, you get treated like a prisoner charged with multiple crimes. The only crime we have committed, however, is being born in Gaza.
“A report by the Ynet website claimed Germany used its influence in the EU to bend the rule that a European-produced vaccination would be given first to European countries,” the JTA news agency reported in October. “Germany justified the decision in part through its historical commitment to supporting Israel.” Martin Konečný, a Brussels-based policy analyst, has raised the question of whether residents of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank will be “entitled to the European vaccine while the Palestinians living in enclaves surrounded by them won’t?” The German embassy in Tel Aviv did not respond to a request from The Electronic Intifada for an answer to this question. But it is a safe assumption Palestinians will indeed be denied the vaccine while Israeli settlers living illegally on their land gain privileged access.
On the third of December, all countries around the world celebrate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, and on this occasion, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) said in a report today that more than 15% of Palestinian children under the age of 18 have some sort of disability. It said that 2.4% of children in the age group of 2 to4 years suffer from at least one type of disability. This percentage reached about 3% in the Gaza Strip compared to 2% in the West Bank. The percentage of disabilities was about 15% among children in the age group of 5 to 17 years, about 17% in the West Bank, and about 13% in Gaza Strip.
Females are taking jobs traditionally held by men and dealing with ‘bullying’ in the process. Azza Qassem, a human rights activist and consultant, told Al Jazeera it may be difficult for some Palestinians to accept women doing non-traditional work and said change will be gradual. “In general, the community in Gaza has started to accept the change of women’s roles because of economic reasons, as many women are heading their families and their husbands or children feel frustrated for not finding job opportunities,” Qassem said. “The community in Gaza faces harsh political, social and economic situations so the bullying has increased in recent years on many topics, especially these issues related to women.”
Gaza's red gold season is in full swing, with strawberries being picked and prepared for export and sale, however farmers are still waiting for the necessary approvals to allow the fruit to be sent to Europe. The fruits are undergoing laboratory tests to ensure quality and require Israeli approval for export. For farmers, this is another period of unease as during previous seasons strawberries were only allowed to be sold in the West Bank, reducing the value of the crop. It costs $5,000 to harvest one dunam (0.01 square kilometres) of strawberries and produce three tonnes of the fruit. The process takes five months.
The block has more than 20 floors and is owned by a Brazilian bank. There are no offices inside, but there are plenty of people. In fact, a number of families have lived in it illegally for nearly six years, dividing the floors into rooms with wooden panels that are not entirely adequate but do provide at least some privacy. Apparently, they cannot be made to leave the building against their will. I was told about this by the three people who make up the administration team for the building. They are from Brazil's "People Without Land" movement, which defends homeless people in the courts. There are families from Brazil, Bolivia, Syria, Algeria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Egypt in the building. Most of the residents, though, are Palestinians, at least 15 families. They came to Brazil from Sbeineh Refugee Camp in Syria when the conflict there started in 2011. Each family has an average of four or five members, and there is a single Palestinian man from Iraq. They all pay around $50 per month towards the building management, electricity, and water charges.
Culture & Art
A monthly roundup of photographs documenting Palestine, Palestinian life, politics and culture, and international solidarity with Palestine.