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Israel’s machinery of dispossession has crushed the hopes of an inspirational family

The struggle of Jawad Siyam perfectly illustrates the relentless oppression faced by all Palestinians

By Jonathon Cook | The National | July 14, 2019

Israeli police forced out the Siyam family from their home in the heart of occupied East Jerusalem last week, the final chapter in their 25-year legal battle against a powerful settler organisation.

The family’s defeat represented much more than just another eviction. It was intended to land a crushing blow against the hopes of some 20,000 Palestinians living in the shadow of the Old City walls and Al Aqsa mosque.

Dozens of families in the Silwan neighbourhood have endured the same fate as the Siyams, and the Israeli courts have approved the imminent eviction of many hundreds more Palestinians from the area.

But, unlike those families, the Siyams’ predicament briefly caught public attention. That was because one of them, Jawad Siyam, has become a figurehead of Silwan’s resistance efforts.

Mr Siyam, a social worker, has led the fight against Elad, a wealthy settler group that since the early 1990s has been slowly erasing Silwan’s Palestinian identity, in order to remake it as the City of David archeological park.

Mr Siyam has served as a spokesman, drawing attention to Silwan’s plight. He has also helped to organise the community, setting up youth and cultural centres to fortify Silwan’s identity and sense of purpose in the face of Israel’s relentless oppression.

However, the settlers of Elad want Silwan dismembered, not strengthened.

Elad’s mission is to strip away the Palestinian community to reveal crumbling relics beneath, which it claims are proof that King David founded his Israelite kingdom there 3,000 years ago.

The history and archeological rationalisations may be murky, but the political vision is clear. The Palestinians of Silwan are to be forced out like unwelcome squatters.

An Israeli human rights group, Peace Now, refers to plans for the City of David as “the transformation of Silwan into a Disneyland of the messianic extreme right wing”.

It is the most unequal fight imaginable – a story of David and Goliath, in which the giant fools the world into believing he is the underdog.

It has pitted Mr Siyam and other residents against not only the settlers, but the US and Israeli governments, the police and courts, archaeologists, planning authorities, national parks officials and unwitting tourists.

And, adding to their woes, Silwan’s residents are being forced to fight both above and below ground at the same time.

The walls and foundations of dozens of houses are cracking and sinking because the Israeli authorities have licensed Elad to flout normal safety regulations and excavate immediately below the community’s homes. Several families have had to be evacuated.

Late last month Elad flexed its muscles again, this time as it put the finishing touches to its latest touristic project: a tunnel under Silwan that reaches to the foot of Al Aqsa.

On Elad’s behalf, the US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, and Donald Trump’s Middle East envoy, Jason Greenblatt, wielded a sledgehammer to smash down a symbolic wall inaugurating the tunnel, which has been renamed the Pilgrimage Road.

Elad claims – though many archaeologists doubt it – that in Roman times the tunnel was a street used by Jews to ascend to a temple on the site where today stands the Islamic holy site of Al Aqsa.

The participation of the two US envoys in the ceremony offered further proof that Washington is tearing up the peacemaking rulebook, destroying any hope the Palestinians might once have had of an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Mr Friedman called the City of David complex – at the core of occupied Palestinian Jerusalem – “an essential component of the national heritage of the State of Israel”. Ending the occupation there would be “akin to America returning the Statue of Liberty”.

While Israel, backed by the US, smashes Silwan’s foundations, it is also dominating the sky above it.

Last month Israel’s highest planning body approved a cable car from Israeli territory in West Jerusalem into the centre of Silwan.

It will connect with the City of David and a network of boardwalks, coffee shops and touristic tunnels, such as like the Pilgrimage Road, all run by Elad settlers, to slice apart Silwan.

And to signal how the neighbourhood is being reinvented, the Israeli municipality enforcing the occupation in East Jerusalem recently named several of Silwan’s main streets after famous Jewish rabbis.

Former mayor Nir Barkat has said the goal of all this development is to bring 10 million tourists a year to Silwan, so that they “understand who is really the landlord in this city”.

Few outsiders appear to object. This month, the tourism website TripAdvisor was taken to task by Amnesty International for recommending the City of David as a top attraction in Jerusalem.

And now, Elad has felled the family of Jawad Siyam in a bid to crush the community’s spirits and remaining sense of defiance.

As it has with so many of Silwan’s homeowners, Elad waged a decades-long legal battle against the family to drain them of funds and stamina.

The Siyams’ fate was finally sealed last month when the Israeli courts extended the use of a 70-year-old, draconian piece of legislation, the Absentee Property Law, to Silwan.

The law was crafted specifically to steal the lands and homes of 750,000 Palestinian refugees expelled in 1948 by the new state of Israel.

Ownership of the Siyams’ home is shared between Jawad’s uncles and aunts, some of them classified by Israel as “absentees” because they now live abroad.

As a result, an Israeli official with the title Custodian of Absentee Property claimed ownership of sections of the house belonging to these relatives, and then, in violation of his obligations under international law, sold them on to Elad. Police strong-armed the family out last week.

To add insult to injury, the court also approved Elad seizing money raised via crowdfunding by more than 200 Israeli peace activists, with the aim of helping the Siyams with their legal costs.

Palestinians such as Jawad Siyam exist all over the occupied territories – men and women who have given Palestinians a sense of hope, commitment and steadfastness in the face of Israel’s machinery of dispossession.

When Israel targets Jawad Siyam, crushes his spirits, it sends an unmistakeable message not only to other Palestinians, but to the international community itself, that peace is not on its agenda.

July 14, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Book of Palestine: National Liberation Vs Endless Negotiations

By Ramzy Baroud | Palestine Chronicle | July 10, 2019

Those who are still hoping that the new American agenda on Palestine and Israel is temporary, or reversible, should abandon this false hope. Washington’s complete adoption of Israel’s messianic, extremist policies regarding Occupied Palestine has been a long time in the making. And it is here to stay.

Despite the unmistakable clarity in the American political discourse regarding Palestine, the Palestinian Authority (PA) is still trapped in a 25-year long, ineffectual political paradigm. Unable to move past their disproportionate reliance on American validation, and lacking any real strategic vision of their own, PA President Mahmoud Abbas and his men are operating within a clichés-centered trajectory of a “negotiated peace” – a discourse that was, itself, invented and championed by Washington and its allies.

Newly-appointed (not elected) Palestinian Prime Minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh, conveyed this very sentiment in his  June 24 interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. “If you look at the literature, if you look at the statements, our president has been working by the book,” he said.

What book was Shtayyeh referring to? Certainly not the book of international and humanitarian law, which has devised a clear path aimed at achieving Palestinian freedom, rights and territorial sovereignty.

It is, rather, a book that is written by Washington, from which brazen pro-Israel agenda has preceded the Donald Trump administration by decades.

This is, in fact, the core ailment of Palestinian politics, as practiced by the PA. Throughout the years, the PA has received hundreds of millions in American funds, in exchange for sidelining the UN in favor of a complete American hegemony over the so-called “peace process”. Abbas’ recent attempts at reviving the role of the UN and its affiliated institutions is a belated attempt at correcting a historical mistake.

What will it take for Shtayyeh, and his boss in Ramallah, to abandon the American option and, instead, to develop a rounded strategy that is founded on national unity, democratic representation and international solidarity? Much precious time has been lost subscribing to the one-sided American book, which has no room for a Palestinian discourse of national liberation, unconditional freedom and basic human rights.

While Trump’s advisor and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, was referring to Palestinians as “hysterical and erratic”, following the two-day Bahrain economic conference  June 25-26), US Middle East ‘peace envoy’, Jason Greenblatt, was challenging the very terminology used by the entire  international community regarding the illegal Israeli Jewish colonies in Occupied Palestine.

“People (should) stop pretending (that) settlements, or what I prefer to call ‘neighborhoods and cities,’ are the reason for the lack of peace,” the American envoy told participants at the “Israel Hayom Forum for US-Israeli Relations”.

For the record, the widely-circulated right-wing Israeli newspaper, Israel Hayom which sponsored the conference, is financed by pro-Israel American casino mogul, Sheldon Adelson. The latter is known to be the primary advocate behind Trump’s misguided policies in Palestine, including Washington’s recognition of occupied Palestinian East Jerusalem as part of Israel’s capital.

Greenblatt is but one of several unabashedly pro-Israel American politicians, who have taken the already biased US foreign policy to a whole new low. This clique also includes former US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, and Washington’s Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman.

In an interview, also with Israel Hayom on June 11, Haley tried to assure Israelis that “Israel should not be worried,” about having to make any political concessions in exchange for Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital or of Israel’s sovereignty over the occupied Syrian Golan Heights.

“Through the Middle East plan [so-called ‘Deal of the Century’], one of the main goals that Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt focused on was to not hurt the national security interests of Israel,” Haley said. “They understand the importance of security; they understand the importance of keeping Israel safe.”

While Haley’s, Kushner’s and Greenblatt’s statements can be viewed as part of the ever-skewed, pro-Israel language emanating from Washington, one must not be too hasty. The fact is, Washington has now fully embraced the Zionist Israeli discourse without the slightest attempt at playing the role of the impartial arbitrator.

It is as if Haley et al are now members of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party.

But no one represents this blatant American realignment into the Israeli camp better than Ambassador Friedman, who has, in an interview with the New York Times, on June 8, backed any future Israeli annexation of parts of the Occupied West Bank.

A few weeks later, in a disturbing and highly symbolic gesture, the American ambassador carried a sledgehammer and broke open a tunnel that snakes underneath the East Jerusalem Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan. The tunnel, part of Israel’s expansionistic policy in Occupied Jerusalem, has already damaged the foundation of over 80 Palestinian homes.

The determined and gratified look on Friedman’s face spoke volumes about the “hysterical, erratic” and extremist US foreign policy under Trump.

So what hope is left for the PA in Ramallah, now that Washington has taken all the political, financial and every other practical step to sideline Palestinians, to marginalize their rights and push them into submission? And what good will appealing to American sensibilities through CNN and any other platform do, considering that Washington’s strategy is deeply entrenched and irrevocable?

Much can be said about Palestinian failure to change course when it became repeatedly clear since the signing of the Oslo Accord in 1993 that Washington has no interest in pressuring Israel to end illegal settlement construction and to respect international law. Worse, while Washington paid lip service to “peace”, it supported the Israeli war machine, military occupation and settlement construction with billions of dollars.

While it is good that the PA is finally waking up to the fact that subscribing to Washington’s foreign policy book is a historic mistake, mere awareness is simply not enough.

It is time for the Palestinians to write their own book, one that is guided by the concept of national liberation, not endless negotiations; one that is predicated on unity, not mortifying factionalism; one that appeals to the whole global community, not to American handouts.

– Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His last book is ‘The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story’ (Pluto Press, London).

July 10, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 3 Comments

Panama’s Open Wounds: Victims of US Invasion Demand Justice

Sputnik – July 9, 2019

Victims of the 1989 US invasion of Panama are calling for compliance with a ruling of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

In November 2018, the IACHR determined that the United States had violated the human rights of civilians during its invasion of Panama between December 1989 and January 1990.

The US Armed Forces conducted the military operation in order to overthrow governing General Manuel Antonio Noriega, who was accused by Washington of drug trafficking. According to the ruling, the United States should provide physical and psychological assistance to the victims, as well as provide them with material compensation.

According to Panamanian NGOs, about 5,000 people were killed. There have also been reports of disappearances and people buried in mass graves, in addition to the damage to property and forced displacement of families.

Gilma Camargo is a lawyer who represents the survivors and relatives of those who died during the US invasion of Panama.

“The IACHR has explained that the American Declaration of Human Rights is a fundamental document. The advantages we have in this matter imply an extraterritorial responsibility of the US”, Camargo said.

Prior to this international instance, the survivors have for years been appealing for justice for their country, albeit without success.

“Panama was occupied, and now thanks to declassification we know that because of ‘Operation Just Cause’ the country was under US occupation until 1994. There was no functioning judicial system”, the lawyer explained.

The “Frente Salas” was created in order to implement the recommendations and make the consequences of the invasion visible.

“We are working together with the survivors. They have accumulated some evidence; and now we are going to present it in the Frente Salas, which is supervised by the IACHR”, Camargo said.

“One of the most Machiavellian invasion plans was to displace the victims. There are 16 displaced communities in two parts of the country. But it seems that there are no victims here; the relatives of those missing don’t have any channels to present charges. The commission formed under the Varela government [Juan Carlos, the outgoing president] turned out to be a failure”, the lawyer concluded.

July 10, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment

Russia: Economic part of deal of the century contradicts UNSC resolutions

MEMO | July 4, 2019

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said yesterday that the economic part of the US deal of the century contradicts UN Security Council resolutions, TASS reported.

Following a meeting with the Secretary-General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Yousef Al-Othaimeen, he said: “Without seeing the comprehensive US vision of the settlement, it is very difficult to draw any conclusions.”

“But on a preliminary basis, I can say that the economic part proposes investing about $50 billion, half of the amount in Palestine, and the remaining $25 billion in the infrastructure of the countries where Palestinian refugees have lived for many years now.”

“If this is targeted at the refugees staying there for good and the countries will receive these financial injections to this end, then this alone contradicts the decisions of the UN Security Council, which among other things stipulate [establishing] such a Palestinian state.”

Lavrov stressed that the future Palestinian state “will be competent and will welcome refugees from the countries where they are hosted now, primarily, Lebanon, Egypt and a number of others.”

He concluded: “Therefore, we would like our American colleagues to finally explain their plan completely, instead of revealing their ideas piece by piece.”

July 4, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Trump Admin Dangles $50Bn Bribe for Palestinian Surrender

By Finian Cunningham | Strategic Culture Foundation | July 3, 2019

President Trump’s senior aide on Mideast affairs Jared Kushner tried last week to sell his much-vaunted “deal of the century” for a Palestinian-Israeli peace settlement. The core of it was a purported foreign investment plan worth $50 billion.

The sales pitch made at a conference in Bahrain amounted to a $50Bn bribe dangled at the Palestinians to accept permanent illegal occupation of their ancestral lands in exchange for foreign investment. Kushner rebranded it as the “opportunity of the century”.

He claimed that political peace depends on a viable economic plan. Others would see that formulation as back-to-front: economic development and prosperity depends on a political solution to decades of injustice against Palestinians.

American diplomacy has been an utter failure for decades with regard to settling this bitter dispute. It would therefore be impossibly naive to expect the Trump administration to succeed. More likely, its blundering and bias will only make this historic problem a whole lot worse.

That’s no doubt why so many regional players decided to give the Bahrain event this week a clunking big miss.

Like his father-in-law in the White House, Kushner comes from a real estate background before Trump appointed him as his top aide on the Palestinian-Israeli issue. For the past two years, Kushner has been working on a “master plan” to end the eight-decade-old conflict. That conflict has been at the center of most other disputes and tensions in the region. Trump has billed his son-in-law’s peace plan as the “deal of the century”.

In Bahrain, the Trump administration gave the first-ever preview of its peace plans. Skeptics of Kushner’s ability to deliver a realistic, workable framework were not to be surprised. The boyish-looking Kushner looked way out of his depth as he presented his vision of business and investment as the supposed key to peace. He invited the audience to “imagine” Palestinian territories in the West Bank and Gaza bustling with enterprise and trade. That entrepreneurial “promised land” would arrive if the Palestinians accepted Kushner’s vision of a $50Bn foreign investor fund.

What that boils down to is Palestinians accepting the present status quo of illegal occupation by Israel and in effect surrendering their historic claims for sovereign statehood. Moreover, the $5oBn in investments that Kushner was swooning about are not existing funds. They are only promises of potential investment, which may never actually be delivered.

Nowhere in the Trump administration’s “deal of the century” is there any attempt to redress historical violations of Palestinian national rights. There is no mention of the right of return of millions of Palestinians displaced by the 1948 war that established the sate of Israel. Nor of returning land annexed during the 1967 war. Illegal occupation is merely a fact on the ground that needs to be officially recognized as Israeli territory, according to the Trump administration. In the same way that Trump earlier this year officially recognized the occupied Syrian Golan Heights as part of Israel.

Kushner’s bias in a supposedly peace mediator role is flagrant. He is Jewish and a family friend of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Kushner’s wife, Ivanka, Trump’s daughter, is a convert to Judaism. Last year, she personally unveiled the controversial new American embassy in Jerusalem, which Trump had promised to Netanyahu on his election in 2016 in recognition of the city as the capital of Israel. That move was seen by Palestinians as a betrayal of their historic claim to East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

During the past two years, the Trump administration has cut off development aid and diplomatic links with Palestinian authorities. Respected Palestinian negotiators like veteran envoy Hanan Ashrawi have been denied travel visas to the US. The consultation conducted by Kushner with the Palestinian side in formulating his peace plan has been minimal.

During a recent interview in the US, Kushner revealed his colonial-type mindset when he asserted that the “Palestinians were not ready yet for self-government”. In other words, in this supposed mediator’s view, he is saying that there will be no foreseeable state of Palestine. That is, the Palestinians must accept their inferior status as an occupied people while the state of Israel is permitted to continue annexing more and more of their ancestral land. Indeed, Kushner is believed to have personal business investments in the construction of new Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.

It’s no wonder then than his so-called “deal of the century” amounts to a shallow business plan bereft of any deep historical, political issues. Palestinians are expected to shut up and surrender their historic rights for statehood by accepting a quixotic vision of economic wonders descending on them while living under permanent marginalization and deprivation. A UN report last year found that Gaza will no longer be habitable in a few years due to water and power shortages.

The Trump-Kushner proposal is the sort of con job that real estate agents excel at. Everything is reduced to the value of money while prospects are talked up with the most ludicrous glamor. Unscrupulous real estate agents would have the temerity to sell a cardboard box as if it were a penthouse suite. Trump and his son-in-law would seem to be of that same wheeler-dealer ilk.

After two years of bragging about its big Middle East “vision”, what people saw this week was little more than a glossy brochure of hype over historical realities. Indeed, it would seem that the purpose of the hype is to bury the hard historical problems that underly the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The excessive emphasis on billions of dollars of investment by Kushner is an attempt to seduce Palestinians into relinquishing their political and moral rights.

This week, however, while the Trump administration was making its sales pitch in Bahrain, it was notable that there was no Palestinian delegation present. All across the West Bank and Gaza, Palestinians shut their businesses in protest and took to the streets to burn effigies of the “deal of the century”.

Israeli government representatives were also not in attendance. That was only after the White House belatedly pulled their invitations in the weeks before the Bahrain conference took place. No doubt that hasty move by the White House was meant to minimize the embarrassing spectacle of a Palestinian boycott by also not having an official Israeli delegation.

Russia and China also gave the Kushner presentation a miss. Some Arab countries, such as Iraq and Lebanon, did not attend either. Iran, a major regional player and supporter of the Palestinian cause, was not represented. The European Union sent only technical-level officials; EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini was not present.

The glaring absences reflect the lack of international credibility of this White House’s peace efforts for the Middle East. The “deal of the century” is more seen as the “con of the century”.

July 3, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , | 2 Comments

The international community is facilitating Palestine’s demise

By Ramona Wadi | MEMO | July 2, 2019

The UN has contributed another contradiction in its assessment of Palestinian prospects following the “Peace to Prosperity” summit. Instead of highlighting how and why the UN has failed Palestine, a recent statement from Michael Lynk, the Special Rapporteur on human rights in Palestine, emphasised the absence of an international law framework as the reason why peace plans have failed.

While reminding that the two-state compromise enjoys international consensus, Lynk stated: “Without the framework of international law, any peace plan, including the forthcoming proposal from the United States, will crash upon the shoals of political realism.”

Peace plans have failed, he declared, “because they did not seriously insist upon a rights-based approach to peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”

US President Donald Trump has clearly demonstrated he is concerned with Israeli supremacy, not Palestinians rights. Yet, the UN has also advocated and supported a similar outcome. The question, therefore, is not about the absence of an international law framework, but how that framework, when applied, has been used to divest Palestinians of their rights to land and return.

Trump’s “deal of the century” and the two-state paradigm are all about enforcing Palestinian absence from the political process. The only difference is that the latter has been normalised and accepted by the international community to the point that legitimate anti-colonial resistance, which also falls under an international law framework, is eliminated.

It is not enough to insist that Israeli settlements are illegal under international law – another 2,000 settlements have recently been authorised by Israel in the occupied West Bank. The UN must take responsibility for allowing the creation of a colonial settlement enterprise, which means directing questions of illegality at Israel itself. It is the international community which facilitated the prevailing depletion of Palestinian territory by recognising Israel over Palestinian rights. If international law allows such violations, it is unreasonable to expect Palestinians to abide by legislation that has transformed them into a perpetual humanitarian project against their own will and determination.

US Envoy Jason Greenblatt has called settlements “neighbourhoods and cities”. Is this any different to the international community’s acceptance of Israel as a state, despite it being a colonial entity established through the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian population? Greenblatt’s comments are a misrepresentation that ties in directly to US policy when it comes to Israel, but the international community, as always, has laid the foundations for the Zionist narrative to thrive.

International law has failed Palestine – a look at the two-state hypothesis, declared obsolete but still considered the only purported solution by international consensus, is more than enough proof. It was also international consensus that decided the Palestinian people’s fate to be colonised in 1947 through the Partition Plan. Pointing fingers at the US, as abhorrent as its complicity with Israel is, will not be enough to undo the violence approved by the international community when it accommodated the Zionist colonial ideology. So far, international law has done nothing to stop the violations which the international community encouraged and supported. It has become a tool supporting the imposition that is the two-state compromise and any other framework that promises the continuation of Palestinian dispossession and displacement.

July 2, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

US Ambassador to Israel Participates in Israeli Underground Settlement Expansion

IMEMC | July 1, 2019

The US Ambassador to Israel, and longtime Israeli settlement financier, David Friedman, participated on Sunday in an underground excavation under the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan, in East Jerusalem, actively participating in the illegal settlement action by bashing with a hammer a section of ancient underground wall located beneath Palestinian homes.

In addition to Ambassador David Friedman, the US “Peace Envoy” Jason Greenblatt also participated in the controversial and illegal excavation, along with Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who recently narrowly avoided prison time by negotiating a plea agreement in which she pleaded guilty to corruption charge.

The presence of US officials at the incident marks the first time that the US, or any country, has decided to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Old City of Jerusalem. The Old City was declared an international space open to all during the declaration recognizing the state of Israel in 1948. But since 1967, Israeli forces have occupied the mainly Palestinian city and have used many measures, legal and illegal, to push out the Palestinian residents of the city.

This archaeological dig is to excavate a tunnel that Israeli state archaeologists claim was used by Jewish pilgrims thousands of years ago.

According to a statement by the Israeli non-profit Emek Shaveh, the group believes that this incident with the U.S. officials is “a further step in American support for the pro-settlement policy in Jerusalem, and particularly the touristic-settlement projects…. It is inexcusable to ignore the Palestinian residents of Silwan, carrying out extensive excavations of an underground city and to use such excavations as part of an effort to tell a historical story that is exclusively Jewish in a 4,000 year-old city with a rich and diverse cultural and religious past”.

In an editorial in the leading Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, the paper’s editors write, “The participation of American diplomats at an event sponsored by a right-wing group in East Jerusalem constitutes de facto recognition of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem’s historic basin. If anyone had any doubts about that, Friedman made clear in an interview with the Jerusalem Post that, ‘The City of David is an essential component of the national heritage of the State of Israel.” Giving it up, even in the context of a peace agreement, he said, “would be akin to America returning the Statue of Liberty.’”

The problem with this argument, according to the editors of Ha’aretz, is that, “This recognition doesn’t just put the American administration on the extreme right of the Israeli political map – thus undercutting the claim that American can be an unbiased broker between Israel and the Palestinians – but it also ignores the complicated reality in Silwan, East Jerusalem and the entire region. The tunnel, which was excavated using controversial methods from a scientific standpoint, harnesses archaeology to politics while ignoring the nuances of Jerusalem’s ancient past…. Anyone having even a passing familiarity with the Palestinian people knows that there’s no chance of arriving at any kind of agreement that will end the occupation so long as Israel continues to control East Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. Thus, by mere words and an event dripping with sweetness and smiles, the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has sentenced Israelis to a life of constant conflict, or to an apartheid state in which there are two types of residents, those with rights and those without them.”

Over 300,000 Palestinians live in the city of Jerusalem, at least 20,000 of whom live in Silwan. These Palestinians have no citizenship rights and are not granted freedom of movement by the Israeli authorities. They are frequently displaced from their ancestral homes by Israeli settlers, particularly in Silwan neighborhood, which has been targeted by Israeli right-wing settlers for colonization.

July 1, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , , | 2 Comments

European trade unions urge governments to ban trade with illegal Israel settlements

A campaign against Israeli settlement goods [Amnesty UK/Twitter]

MEMO | June 28, 2019

Dozens of European trade unions have urged authorities to ban trade with Israel’s illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt).

In a letter to the European Commission and European governments, the unions demand “effective action to bring an end to European complicity with human rights abuses associated with illegal Israeli settlements and to introduce a ban on economic activities with illegal Israeli settlements”.

According to the European Trade Union Initiative for Justice in Palestine, the 34 signatories represent millions of workers across Europe, including the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Belgium’s ACV/CSC Brussels and La Centrale Générale FGTB, as well as Britain’s Unison and Unite the Union.

Although the European Union (EU) views Israeli settlements as illegal under international law, Brussels still allows Israel to export large quantities of products produced or partly produced in such settlements to Europe, providing direct support to the settlement expansion.

Last week, the advocate general of the European Court of Justice said that European shops ought to label Israeli settler exports so that consumers can boycott them for “ethical reasons”.

“This opinion highlights the fact that European governments are falling short on their obligations under international law. To be consistent with its own legislation the EU and all European states should go further and end all economic relations with illegal Israeli settlements”, stated Koen Vanbrabandt, a chair of European Trade Union Network for Justice in Palestine.

The trade unions argue that the EU as a whole and its member states are obliged to withhold from trading with Israeli settlements as part of their duties of non-recognition and non-assistance to such grave violations of international law.

“The fundamental values of trade union internationalism mandate us to take concrete and effective action to facilitate the implementation of UN resolutions, international legal obligations, and a just and equitable peace for all”, state the signatories.

June 28, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , | Leave a comment

Israeli municipality in Jerusalem names Silwan streets after rabbis

Palestine Information Center | June 21, 2019

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM – The Israeli municipality in Occupied Jerusalem has decided to name some streets in the predominantly Arab Silwan neighborhood after Jewish rabbis.

According to Haaretz, the move was against the recommendation of a professional panel who said “It is inappropriate to give Jewish street names in neighborhoods overwhelmingly populated by Arabs.”

The naming committee in the municipality, headed by Mayor Moshe Leon, named five alleyways and narrow streets in the Baten Al-Hawa neighborhood of Silwan.

The neighborhood, which is currently the home of 12 Jewish families and hundreds of Palestinian families, is targeted by extremist settler groups, including Ateret Cohanim.

Settlers claim there was a small Jewish-Yemenite community in the neighborhood 80 years ago. The newly-approved street names are “Ezrat Nidhim,” after the charitable organization founded by Yisroel Dov Frumkin in the late 19th century which established the Yemenite community.

The other streets are named after Yemenite rabbis. The decision was taken by a majority of eight to two.

The committee made the decision despite the opinion of a professional panel, who warned that the move will “create unnecessary tension. The names will not be used by residents and will therefore be futile.” The committee recommended neutral street names which will benefit all residents.

The two committee members opposing the decision are city coalition members Laura Wharton and Yossi Havilio. Havilio said he firmly opposes as the move, adding that it provokes Arab residents and will inflame the atmosphere in the neighborhood.

June 21, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , | 2 Comments

US exceptionalism: Exploiting certain Syrians, ignoring others

Convoy of buses carrying displaced Syrians from Rukban camp to refugee shelters in government-secured Homs. © Eva Bartlett
By Eva Bartlett | RT | June 19, 2019

Syria and Russia have been evacuating civilians from yet another region starved by its Western-backed terrorists. But Western corporate media ignore this and instead continue spinning nightmarish war propaganda on Syria.

Predictably, copy-paste Syrian reports emanate from Western governments and corporate media feign concern for civilians in Idlib while negating to mention that the Idlib governorate is an Al-Qaeda hotbed.

Back in Syria again, over the ‘Eid holidays, I spoke with residents about life in Damascus now, and highlighted the peace which exists – having been absent for many years prior when terrorists’ mortars rained down on the city.

But I was also interested in highlighting another issue: the evacuation of southeastern Syria’s Rukban Camp which has been under way for months; civilians have been plucked from starvation and intolerable conditions, and delivered to safety with access to food and medical care.

In February, Russia and Syria set up humanitarian corridors to start evacuating civilians to safe areas where they could receive medical treatment and resettle in their home areas or elsewhere.

In June, 2019, I travelled to a point where I could interview evacuees of the Rukban, the unbearable camp near the US-occupied Al-Tanf base.

United States of hypocrisy occupies & places blame on others

Rukban also lies on the border with Jordan. Over the years, it has become a hell on earth, with residents starving due to a lack of accessible food. In November 2018, there were around 50,000 refugees in the camp.

Most Western reporting on the situation in Rukban has blamed Syria and Russia for the scarcity of food in the camp. Surprisingly, a June 2018 article by US think tank the Century Foundation highlighted US control over the camp and surrounding areas.

“The Tanf–Rukban zone is patrolled by Coalition forces and their chosen Syrian partner, Maghawir al-Thawra… Also present are the remnants of a formerly Pentagon-backed group called the Qaryatein Martyr Battalions and three factions formerly linked to the CIA’s covert war in Syria: the Army of the Eastern Lions, the Martyr Ahmed al-Abdo Forces, and the Shaam Liberation Army.”

The US stymied aid to Rukban, and was then only willing to provide security for aid convoys to a point 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) away from the camp, according to the UN’s own Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock.

So, by US administration logic, convoys should have dropped their Rukban-specific aid in areas controlled by terrorist groups and just hoped for the best.

Even if the US intentions were good, experience has shown that when terrorist groups occupying an area have access to aid, they keep it for themselves, civilians don’t see it unless they pay a high price.

When eastern areas of Aleppo were liberated in December 2016, even Reuters had to report that civilians blamed so-called ‘rebels’ for hoarding food they desperately needed.

When Madaya, heavily propagandized about in early 2016, was restored to safety in 2017, I travelled there and spoke to residents who again solely blamed terrorists for their starvation. Same in eastern Ghouta, where residents spoke of starvation and executions, by terrorists.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov noted that if Americans at al-Tanf could get supplies from Iraq and Jordan, they could have also brought in humanitarian aid for Rukban civilians, were they actually so concerned.

Unsurprisingly, in Syria’s and Russia’s eyes, the US is holding civilians in Rukban hostage. This became more apparent when America refused to shut down the camp, quite clearly preferring to have a raison d’être for continuing their illegal occupation of southeastern Syria.

Even the Middle East director for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Amin Awad, said that civilians in Rukban were being held against their will, as “human shields”“deprived of basic services,”according to Sputnik News.

Awad pointed the finger at traders in the camp bearing responsibility for the suffering of civilians in Rukban, but civilians I spoke to also included America in their blame.

Rukban’s displaced speak out

On a stretch of road between the Rukban camp and the Homs refugee centre they were headed to on June 12, I met some of the roughly 900 Syrians evacuated that day on 18 buses. Another convoy of trucks carried their tattered personal belongings.

I approached many with questions about life in the camp, moving from bus to bus to speak with them.

An old woman sitting on the floor of one bus said she’d been in the camp for four years, that everything was expensive and they were hungry all the time. She gave the example of being charged 1,000 Syrian pounds (around US$2) for five potatoes.

© Eva Bartlett

Mahmoud Saleh, a young man from Homs governorate, told me he’d fled home five years ago. When I asked who was in control in Rukban, he replied without hesitation: “The Americans.”

An older man from Palmyra, four years in the camp, spoke of “armed gangs,” paid in US dollars, being the only ones able to eat properly.

“The armed gangs were living while the rest of the people were dead. Those who wanted fruit had to pay in US dollars. The armed groups were the only ones who could do so.”

I asked about access to medical care.

“Medical services! There is no medicine at all.” He pointed to a young woman behind him who he said had lost two babies because she couldn’t get a C-section.

Older man from Palmyra, in Rukban four years, spoke of “armed gangs” paid in US dollars being the only ones able to eat properly. © Eva Bartlett

In another bus, a shepherd who had spent three years in Rukban blamed “terrorists” for not being able to leave. He also blamed the US. “Those controlling Tanf wouldn’t let us leave, the Americans wouldn’t let us leave.”

Shepherd who spent 3 years in Rukban © Eva Bartlett

Many others who I spoke to said they had wanted to leave before but believed the fearmongering from terrorists who told them they would be “slaughtered by the regime,” a claim floated in corporate media when Aleppo was being liberated.

The Russian Reconciliation Centre reports that some Rukban residents had to pay as much as US$1000 to “militants controlled by the US side” in order to leave.

As of June 13, Russia’s Ministry of Defence reports that 14,347 people, mostly children and women, have been evacuated from Rukban since February 23.

International media & their dubious sources

As evacuations of civilians from Rukban have unfolded, any Western corporate media that bothers to report on them has spun them as ‘forced displacement’ to ‘regime areas’ where civilians will be ‘imprisoned and tortured.’

Yeah, Syria and Russia are simply hell-bent on finding any way to torture Syrian civilians, to the extent that they will waste considerable amounts of money and time to do so, or at least, that’s what corporate media would have you believe.

And just as Western corporate media relied on the words of “media activists” and “unnamed sources” in their war propaganda prior to and during the liberation of eastern Aleppo and eastern Ghouta, hostile media are again relying on such sources for reporting on Rukban.

Canada’s Globe and Mail went as far as to cite the utterly non-credible, Qatar-based, Syrian Network for Human Rights in a recent article claiming that thousands of Syrians who have returned home have been arrested.

As journalist Max Blumenthal humorously pointed out in his investigation into this Qatar-influenced body, “citing the Syrian Network for Human Rights as an independent and credible source is the journalistic equivalent of sourcing statistics on head trauma to a research front created by the National Football League, or turning to tobacco industry lobbyists for information on the connection between smoking and lung cancer.”

Contrasting the claims, Syrian authorities have stated that UN representatives have permission to visit the refugee centres. The Russian Reconciliation Centre stated that UN bodies, including the UNHCR, visited the shelters.

As of June 16, the Russian Reconciliation Centre reports that “1,299,977 IDPs have returned back to their homes” in Syria since September 30, 2015, and that since July 2018, “175 medical and 863 educational organizations have been recovered.”

Those are some odd statistics given that Western media and politicians would have us believe that the Syrian and Russian governments are terrorizing civilians and gleefully destroying infrastructure in Syria.

Or perhaps what Western media, governments, and lobby groups are spouting is just more, unoriginal, war propaganda.

Eva Bartlett is a freelance journalist and rights activist with extensive experience in the Gaza Strip and Syria. Her writings can be found on her blog, In Gaza.

June 19, 2019 Posted by | Fake News, Illegal Occupation, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | | Leave a comment

Ecuador: Galapagos Islands Will Now Serve US Military as Airfield

teleSUR | June 12, 2019

Ecuador’s right-wing government has agreed for the United States (U.S.) to use the airport of San Cristobal, in the Galapagos Islands, as an airfield for U.S. air force and navy Pacific ocean operations, according to the Minister of Defense Oswaldo Jarrin.

“Galapagos is Ecuador’s natural aircraft carrier because it ensures permanence, replenishment, interception facilities and is 1,000 kilometers from our coasts,” he assured, explaining that now U.S. military planes will also have access to it based on “cooperation” agreements signed under Lenin Moreno’s administration to “fight drug trafficking.”

On September 2018, a Lockheed P-3 Orion intelligence-gathering plane from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency began to operate from Ecuador. While a Boeing 707 aircraft from the U.S. air force, carrying a long-range radar surveillance and control center (AWAC), will now also be “patrolling” the Pacific. Both operations are reminiscent of those made by the U.S. government from the Base in Manta from 1999 to 2009.

“A base means permanence, there will be no permanence of anyone, the P3 and Awac will meet periods no longer than a week,” Jarrin argued. Yet he himself said on Aug. 27, 2018, that “the important thing is to recognize that everything that the base did in its time, can now be done by just one plane, because of the advance of technology.”

Despite the technicalities of such “cooperation” any presence of foreign armies in Ecuadorean territory is unconstitutional. According to article five of the 2008 Constitution, Ecuador declares itself as a territory of peace, where “the establishment of foreign military bases or foreign installations for military purposes will not be allowed. In addition, it is prohibited to cede national military bases to foreign armed or security forces.”

No, Mr. Minister. Galapagos is not an “aircraft carrier” for the gringos to use. It is an Ecuadorean province, world heritage, patriotic ground.

In what seems like an attempt to appease critics, the defense official, emphasized that the readjustments to the airfield will be paid by the U.S. Yet once again history warns that this is no sort of “assurance.”

In 1942, as the U.S. was just entering World War II both in the Pacific as the western front, another right-wing government in Ecuador allowed the U.S. army and navy to use the Island of Baltra, in the Galapagos, as an airfield. An airstrip was constructed, houses, barracks, movie theaters and dining halls for the armed personnel and families, all paid by the U.S.

However, in 1946 as the U.S. left they bombed and destroyed everything leaving nothing behind for the Ecuadorans.

June 15, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , | 1 Comment

Okinawa Governor Warns of Civil Unrest if US Doesn’t Give Up Local Marine Base

Sputnik – May 30, 2019

Should the US prolong its military use of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in the Japanese prefecture of Okinawa, it could see civil unrest in the region, Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki recently wrote in a letter to US officials.

“If the US continues to use [MCAS Futenma], it may give rise to anti-base protests against all US military bases in Okinawa, or even an overall anti-US movement like what was seen in the past,” Tamaki noted, recalling the turbulent days of the early 1970s when Japanese demonstrators unified under an anti-American stance.

“If that happens, such movements would have a significant impact on the Japan-US Security Arrangements as well as the Japan-US Alliance including operation of Kadena Air Base and White Beach Naval Facility.”

Tamaki further noted in the letter that US Marine air operations should be removed completely from the island, since the US has the capability to handle any possible threats from China or North Korea with its Air Force and Navy.

Most notably, in December 1970, tensions came to a boil in Okinawa after an intoxicated American driver struck an Okinawan pedestrian, triggering one of the largest anti-US demonstrations. That incident, later known as the Koza Riots, saw thousands of Okinawans protest against the American presence on the island.

According to the Japan Times, local residents pulled American drivers from their cars, beat them and set their vehicles ablaze. More than 80 cars were left burning, and dozens of Americans were hospitalized.

Bruce Lieber, a veteran once assigned to the 20th Military Police Company in Okinawa, told the Times that he had been one of the first individuals on the scene. “It was really frightening. The crowd surrounded us, then they flipped our car and set it on fire,” he recalled.

Despite the years since the Koza Riots, tensions have continued to simmer. Locals have repeatedly called for US officials to close down the Futenma base due to environmental concerns, repeated aerial mishaps and violent incidents perpetrated by US servicemembers.

In 2017, a helicopter window from a CH-53E Super Stallion became detached and landed on the sports field of an elementary school, where dozens of students were playing at the time. Sputnik reported that one student suffered a minor injury as a result.

Over the last several years, US and Japanese officials have drawn up various plans to relocate the service’s base to Henoko Bay in the Okinawan city of Nago. However, the project has been repeatedly postponed due to opposition from local officials and residents who want the base removed from the prefecture.

According to Stars & Stripes, the relocation plan was expected to be completed by 2014. Landfill work for the base was recently resumed in December 2018 — a decision which was made before an island-wide referendum saw 70% of Okinawans vote against the relocation.

Updated estimates for the project suggest the base could be completed sometime between 2025 and 2026, if not later, the military website reported.

May 30, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | | 2 Comments