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Israel has cracked down on Palestinian education, criminalising hundreds of students

By Megan Giovannetti | MEMO | November 15, 2019

Khaleel Shaheen is a senior at Birzeit University in Ramallah. When he heard that four close friends and fellow students were arrested by the Israeli authorities, he didn’t go to the campus for five days.

As a volunteer with Birzeit’s Right to Education Campaign — a student-led group which monitors Israeli violations against students — Shaheen is finding it difficult to continue his work as normally as possible while this latest crackdown against students unfolds.

“I feel so angry,” he told me. “I feel so helpless. “I cannot just go to school. I cannot focus. I cannot function to go to class.”

According to the Right to Education Campaign, 20 students have been detained by the Israeli authorities since the beginning of the current academic year. This is nothing new. Since 2004, more than 1,000 students enrolled at Birzeit have been arrested, 80 of whom are still in Israeli prisons. Seventeen of these are currently held under administrative detention, a process which Israel uses systematically to hold Palestinians indefinitely with neither charge nor trial.

Students are often denied access to a lawyer for up to 60 days and subjected to harsh interrogation and treatment in Israeli custody. Most are taken from their homes in the middle of the night or even kidnapped directly from campus.

Addameer, a Palestinian prisoner support and human rights association, told me that a total of 250 students across various Palestinian universities are currently in Israeli prisons. “There are also around 190 Palestinian children detained and imprisoned in Israeli jails, of whom 20 are under 16 years old,” Addameer’s advocacy officer pointed out. “Those children are all students in primary or secondary schools.”

In an exclusive statement to MEMO, Birzeit University described this escalation of arrests as an ongoing Israeli policy targeting students who have political affiliations and activism. “They are targeting students who are very active in the student movement in the university,” Shaheen explained. “They are not just going after people at random.”

Birzeit University is the only West Bank higher education institution which holds student body elections, with representation from all Palestinian political parties. In a society that has not held a General Election since 2007 — hence the deadlocked political system and a president whose own term ended 10 years ago — Birzeit University’s elections are one of the only ways to gauge public opinion.

“These elections are very, very important for both the [Palestinian] government and the [Israeli] occupation [because] it depicts the streets… and what the new generations are voting for,” said Shaheen. He confirmed that no particular political party’s members appear to be targeted; arrests occur across the spectrum of political affiliation.

Birzeit seems to be targeted because of its reputation for producing politically active students. “The students care so much about politics,” added Shaheen. “They care about what is happening on the streets.” He told me about the weekly demonstrations that students arrange in support of prisoners, refugees and martyrs; or simply demanding their right to education.

The student body council has the power to gather students together and give them a voice. “For the Israelis, this is dangerous. It’s dangerous for them [to have] active students who have a voice and opinions, and influence the opinions of others.”

Last year, a video went viral of undercover Israeli forces kidnapping the president of the student body council, Omar Kiswani, directly from Birzeit’s campus. The video and various reports show six plain-clothed officers beating Kiswani and firing their guns in broad daylight.

Birzeit University faculty member and Professor of Media Dr Widad Bargouthi was swept up in the latest round of Israeli arrests based on a military law of “incitement”. According to Addameer, the indictment was based on social media posts made by Dr Bargouthi, despite them being a part of a class regarding the basic journalistic principles of freedom of expression.

“I believe that most of those arrests [are carried out] to create an atmosphere of fear inside the university,” Shaheen said. This has drawn students away from making social media posts or even simply attending classes. “They want to make students fearful of everything.”

When asked for a comment, the office of the Israel Defence Forces spokesperson indicated that the cases are under investigation by Shin Bet, the internal security agency, and no information could be shared. “The students that are in custody have been suspected of terrorist attacks in which Israeli citizens were killed,” is all that the spokesperson would say. No details of the specific “terrorist attacks” in question were provided.

A public gag order on all student cases was issued on 10 September and has been renewed twice. The current order will expire on 7 December. This limits Addameer’s ability for advocacy. The order — requested by Shin Bet — was not issued by a military court, but a civil court in Jerusalem. “The session was one-sided, without the prisoners or their lawyers [present],” said Addameer’s advocacy officer.

Birzeit University told MEMO that Israel’s policy of arresting students and teachers is a “grave violation” of basic rights to education and academic freedom. “The reality now is turning higher education in Palestine from safe spaces where students can grow, excel and express themselves freely, into zones where students are in grave danger both on and off campus.”

Israel’s crackdown on Palestinian education is criminalising hundreds of young people. This is not the act of a genuine democracy.

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November 15, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | 2 Comments

Soldiers Force Palestinians Out Of Their Olive Orchards In Nablus

IMEMC | November 2, 2019

Israeli soldiers invaded Palestinian olive orchards between Burin and Huwwara towns, south of the northern West Bank city of Nablus, and forced the Palestinians out on Saturday, in addition to threatening them with “bringing the settlers to attack them.”

Eyewitnesses said the soldiers invaded the orchards near the illegal Yitzhar colony, which was built on private Palestinian lands, and attacked the families.

The soldiers even told the families that if they do not leave, they will bring the colonists from Yitzhar, known for constantly attacking the Palestinians and their lands, to assault them.

Olive harvest season in the occupied West Bank is always accompanied by dozens of Israeli violations by both the soldiers and the illegal colonists.

There have been numerous violations this olive harvest season alone, including twelve just recently in Qaryout village, south of Nablus.

The attacks include assaulting Palestinians, uprooting their trees, burning their lands and orchards, in addition to the military’s refusal in many cases to allow the Palestinians into their lands, isolated behind the illegal Annexation Wall.

It is worth mentioning that the Palestinians in Nablus governorate are not allowed to enter more than 3,500 Dunams of their olive orchards, except for a few days a year, after prior coordination and approval from the military.

Even when they receive the permits, the Palestinians and are forced to wait until the soldiers open the gate for them, and sometimes the soldiers do not open it at all or force them to wait for long periods.

On Friday morning, several colonists invaded a Palestinian orchard in Yasuf village, east of the central West Bank city of Salfit, and stole a donkey, blankets and olive picking tools.

Such attacks against Palestinian lands, especially olive orchards, including those carried out by soldiers, take place in various areas across the West Bank, always escalate during the olive harvest season, and include cutting, burning and uprooting trees, picking olive trees and stealing the produce, in addition to assaulting the Palestinians and forcing them out of their orchards.

November 2, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Israel re-arrests prominent Palestinian legislator Khalida Jarrar

Press TV – October 31, 2019

Israeli forces have re-arrested a prominent Palestinian legislator and senior member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) in an overnight raid into her home.

Khalida Jarrar, a 56-year-old member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, was arrested at 3 am local time (00:00 GMT) at her home in the central occupied West Bank city of Ramallah, located 10 kilometers north of Jerusalem al-Quds, and taken to an unknown area, local media reported on Thursday.

Her daughter Yara Jarrar said in a post on Twitter that the house was surrounded by more than 70 Israeli soldiers who arrived in 12 military vehicles.

“Mom and sister were asleep when they approached,” Yara said.

The Palestinian lawmaker has been jailed multiple times. She was released last February after spending 20 months in “administrative detention” — an illegal practice under which an individual is held without a trail.

Jarrar, a staunch advocate of Palestinian prisoners’ rights, said after her release that she would continue to campaign for the release of all Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons and detention centers.

According to Samidoun, a Palestinian prisoner solidarity network, she played a leading role in supporting the education of the minor girls held there, organizing classes on human rights and in review for mandatory high school examinations when the prison authority denied the girls a teacher.

Jarrar was last arrested in July 2017, when a large number of Israeli troopers raided her home. Her husband, Ghassan, said Israeli forces also seized her computers during the raid.

Israel’s internal spy agency, Shin Bet, later announced in a statement that Jarrar was arrested along with a Palestinian activist for “promoting terror activities,” without providing any further information.

Jarrar is one of the most outspoken critics of the Israeli occupation and has repeatedly slammed the Tel Aviv regime’s atrocities against Palestinians.

The Israeli regime has been denying the lawmaker the right to travel outside the occupied Palestinian territories since 1988. She campaigned for months in 2010 before receiving the permission to travel to Jordan for medical treatment.

In August 2014, Jarrar received a “special supervision order” from the Israeli military, which ordered her to leave Ramallah to live in the West Bank city of Ariha, also known as Jericho.

However, Jarrar set up a protest tent outside the Palestinian Legislative Council in Ramallah, where she lived and worked, until the controversial order was overturned later in September that year.

According to reports, a total of 13 Palestinian lawmakers are currently held in Israeli detention facilities without any trial under the so-called administrative detention, which is a policy according to which Palestinian inmates are kept in Israeli detention facilities without trial or charge.

Some Palestinian prisoners have been held in administrative detention for up to 11 years.

Israel currently holds 495 Palestinian prisoners in administrative detention, according to ADDAMEER Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, an NGO that works to support Palestinian political prisoners.

October 31, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | 3 Comments

The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestinian Christians that nobody is talking about

Side view of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher which is opened to worship after the restoration in Jerusalem on 24 March 2017

Side view of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher which is opened to worship after the restoration in Jerusalem on 24 March 2017
MEMO | October 29, 2019

Palestine’s Christian population is dwindling at an alarming rate. The world’s most ancient Christian community is moving elsewhere. And the reason for this is Israel.

Christian leaders from Palestine and South Africa sounded the alarm at a conference in Johannesburg on October 15. Their gathering was titled: “The Holy Land: A Palestinian Christian Perspective”.

One major issue that highlighted itself at the meetings is the rapidly declining number of Palestinian Christians in Palestine.

There are various estimates on how many Palestinian Christians are still living in Palestine today, compared with the period before 1948 when the state of Israel was established atop Palestinian towns and villages. Regardless of the source of the various studies, there is a near consensus that the number of Christian inhabitants of Palestine has dropped by nearly ten-fold in the last 70 years.

A population census carried out by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics in 2017 concluded that 47,000 Palestinian Christians are living in Palestine – with reference to the Occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Ninety-eight per cent of Palestine’s Christians live in the West Bank – concentrated mostly in the cities of Ramallah, Bethlehem and Jerusalem – while the remainder, a tiny Christian community of merely 1,100 people, lives in the besieged Gaza Strip.

The demographic crisis that had afflicted the Christian community decades ago is now brewing.

For example, 70 years ago, Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus Christ, was 86 per cent Christian. The demographics of the city, however, have fundamentally shifted, especially after the Israeli occupation of the West Bank in June 1967, and the construction of the illegal Israeli apartheid wall, starting in 2002. Parts of the wall were meant to cut off Bethlehem from Jerusalem and to isolate the former from the rest of the West Bank.

“The Wall encircles Bethlehem by continuing south of East Jerusalem in both the east and west,” the ‘Open Bethlehem’ organisation said, describing the devastating impact of the wall on the Palestinian city. “With the land isolated by the Wall, annexed for settlements, and closed under various pretexts, only 13% of the Bethlehem district is available for Palestinian use.”

Increasingly beleaguered, Palestinian Christians in Bethlehem have been driven out from their historic city in large numbers. According to the city’s mayor, Vera Baboun, as of 2016, the Christian population of Bethlehem has dropped to 12 per cent, merely 11,000 people.

The most optimistic estimates place the overall number of Palestinian Christians in the whole of Occupied Palestine at less than two per cent.

The correlation between the shrinking Christian population in Palestine, and the Israeli occupation and apartheid should be unmistakable, as it is evident to Palestine’s Christian and Muslim community alike.

A study conducted by Dar al-Kalima University in the West Bank town of Beit Jala and published in December 2017, interviewed nearly 1,000 Palestinians, half of them Christian and the other half Muslim. One of the main goals of the research was to understand the reason behind the depleting Christian population in Palestine.

The study concluded that “the pressure of Israeli occupation, ongoing constraints, discriminatory policies, arbitrary arrests, confiscation of lands added to the general sense of hopelessness among Palestinian Christians,” who are finding themselves in “a despairing situation where they can no longer perceive a future for their offspring or for themselves”.

Unfounded claims that Palestinian Christians are leaving because of religious tensions between them and their Muslim brethren are, therefore, irrelevant.

Gaza is another case in point. Only 2 per cent of Palestine’s Christians live in the impoverished and besieged Gaza Strip. When Israel occupied Gaza along with the rest of historic Palestine in 1967, an estimated 2,300 Christians lived in the Strip. However, merely 1,100 Christians still live in Gaza today. Years of occupation, horrific wars and an unforgiving siege can do that to a community, whose historical roots date back to two millennia.

Like Gaza’s Muslims, these Christians are cut off from the rest of the world, including the holy sites in the West Bank. Every year, Gaza’s Christians apply for permits from the Israeli military to join Easter services in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Last April, only 200 Christians were granted permits, but on the condition that they must be 55 years of age or older and that they are not allowed to visit Jerusalem.

The Israeli rights group, Gisha, described the Israeli army decision as “a further violation of Palestinians’ fundamental rights to freedom of movement, religious freedom and family life”, and, rightly, accused Israel of attempting to “deepen the separation” between Gaza and the West Bank.

Israel aims at doing more than that. Separating Palestinian Christians from one another, and from their holy sites (as is the case for Muslims, as well), the Israeli government hopes to weaken the socio-cultural and spiritual connections that give Palestinians their collective identity.

Israel’s strategy is predicated on the idea that a combination of factors – immense economic hardships, permanent siege and apartheid, the severing of communal and spiritual bonds – will eventually drive all Christians out of their Palestinian homeland.

Read: Morocco insists that Palestine is one of its core principles

Israel is keen to present the ‘conflict’ in Palestine as a religious one so that it could, in turn, brand itself as a beleaguered Jewish state amid a massive Muslim population in the Middle East. The continued existence of Palestinian Christians does not factor nicely into this Israeli agenda.

Sadly, however, Israel has succeeded in misrepresenting the struggle in Palestine – from that of political and human rights struggle against settler colonialism – into a religious one. Equally disturbing, Israel’s most ardent supporters in the United States and elsewhere are devout Christians.

It must be understood that Palestinian Christians are neither aliens nor bystanders in Palestine. They have been victimised equally as their Muslim brethren. They have also played a significant role in defining the modern Palestinian identity, through their resistance, spirituality, deep connection to the land, artistic contributions and burgeoning scholarship.

Israel must not be allowed to ostracise the world’s most ancient Christian community from their ancestral land so that it may score a few points in its fierce drive for racial supremacy.

Equally important, our understanding of the legendary Palestinian ‘soumoud’ – steadfastness – and solidarity cannot be complete without fully appreciating the centrality of Palestinian Christians to the modern Palestinian narrative and identity.

October 29, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Israel’s New Moves to airbrush the Occupation

 By Jonathan Cook – The National – October 28, 2019

The United Nations’ independent expert on human rights in the Palestinian territories issued a damning verdict last week on what he termed “the longest belligerent occupation in the modern world”.

Michael Lynk, a Canadian law professor, told the UN’s human rights council that only urgent international action could prevent Israel’s 52-year occupation of the West Bank transforming into de facto annexation.

He warned of a recent surge in violence against Palestinians from settlers, assisted by the Israeli army, and a record number of demolitions this year of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem – evidence of the ways Israel is further pressuring Palestinians to leave their lands.

He urged an international boycott of all settlement products as a necessary step to put pressure on Israel to change course. He also called on the UN itself to finally publish – as long promised – a database that it has been compiling since 2016 of Israeli and international companies doing business in the illegal settlements and normalising the occupation.

Israel and its supporters have stymied the release, fearing that such a database would bolster the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign that seeks to end Israel’s impunity.

Lynk sounded the alarm days after Israel’s most venerated judge, Meir Shamgar, died aged 94.

Shamgar was a reminder that the settlers have always been able to rely on the support of public figures from across Israel’s political spectrum. The settlements have always been viewed as a weapon to foil the emergence of a Palestinian state.

Perhaps not surprisingly, most obituaries overlooked the chicanery of Shamgar in building the legal architecture needed to establish the settlements after Israel occupied the Palestinian territories in 1967.

But in a tweeted tribute, Benjamin Netanyahu, the interim prime minister, noted Shamgar’s contribution to “legislation policy in Judea and Samaria”, using the Israeli government’s term for the West Bank.

It was Shamgar who swept aside the prohibition in international law on Israel as an occupying state, transferring its population into the territories. He thereby created a system of apartheid: illegal Jewish settlers enjoyed privileges under Israeli law while the local Palestinian population had to endure oppressive military orders.

Then, by a legal sleight of hand, Shamgar obscured the ugly reality he had inaugurated. He offered all those residing in the West Bank – Jews and Palestinians alike – access to arbitration from Israel’s supreme court.

It was, of course, an occupier’s form of justice – and a policy that treated the occupied territories as ultimately part of Israel, erasing any border. Ever since, the court has been deeply implicated in every war crime associated with the settlement enterprise.

As Israeli lawyer Michael Sfard noted, Shamgar “legalised almost every draconian measure taken by the defence establishment to crush Palestinian political and military organisations”, including detention without trial, house demolitions, land thefts, curfews and much more. All were needed to preserve the settlements.

Shamgar’s legal innovations – endorsing the systematic abuse of Palestinians and the entrenchment of the occupation – are now being expanded by a new generation of jurists.

Their latest proposal has been described as engineering a “revolution” in the occupation regime. It would let the settlers buy as private property the plots of occupied land their illegal homes currently stand on.

Disingenuously, Israeli officials argue that the policy would end “discrimination” against the settlers. An army legal adviser, Tzvi Mintz, noted recently: “A ban on making real-estate deals based on national origin raises a certain discomfort.”

Approving the privatisation of the settlements is a far more significant move than it might sound.

International law states that an occupier can take action in territories under occupation on only two possible grounds: out of military necessity or to benefit the local population. With the settlements obviously harming local Palestinians by depriving them of land and free movement, Israel disguised its first colonies as military installations.

It went on to seize huge swathes of the West Bank as “state lands” – meaning for Jews only – on the pretext of military needs. Civilians were transferred there with the claim that they bolstered Israel’s national security.

That is why no one has contemplated allowing the settlers to own the land they live on – until now. Instead it is awarded by military authorities, who administer the land on behalf of the Israeli state.

That is bad enough. But now defence ministry officials want to upend the definition in international law of the settlements as a war crime. Israel’s thinking is that, once the settlers become the formal owners of the land they were given illegally, they can be treated as the “local population”.

Israel will argue that the settlers are protected under international law just like the Palestinians. That would provide Israel with a legal pretext to annex the West Bank, saying it benefits the “local” settler population.

And by turning more than 600,000 illegal settlers into landowners, Israel can reinvent the occupation as an insoluble puzzle. Palestinians seeking redress from Israel for the settlements will instead have to fight an endless array of separate claims against individual settlers.

This proposal follows recent moves by Israel to legalise many dozens of so-called outposts, built by existing settlements to steal yet more Palestinian land. As well as violating international law, the outposts fall foul of Israeli law and undertakings made under the Oslo accords not to expand the settlements.

All of this is being done in the context of a highly sympathetic administration in Washington that, it is widely assumed, is preparing to approve annexation of the West Bank as part of a long-postponed peace plan.

The current delay has been caused by Netanyahu’s failure narrowly in two general elections this year to win enough seats to form a settler-led government. Israel might now be heading to a third election.

Officials and the settlers are itching to press ahead with formal annexation of nearly two-thirds of the West Bank. Netanyahu promised annexation in the run-up to both elections. Settler leaders, meanwhile, have praised the new army chief of staff, Aviv Kochavi, as sympathetic to their cause.

Expectations have soared among the settlers as a result. Their impatience has fuelled a spike in violence, including a spate of recent attacks on Israeli soldiers sent to protect them as the settlers confront and assault Palestinians beginning the annual olive harvest.

Lynk, the UN’s expert, has warned that the international community needs to act swiftly to stop the occupied territories becoming a permanent Israeli settler state. Sadly, there are few signs that foreign governments are listening.

October 28, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , | 2 Comments

Israeli occupation forces raid office of Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network | September 19, 2019

Israeli occupation forces raided today, Thursday, 19 September 2019 at around 2:00am the office of Addameer Prisoners Support and Human Rights Association in Ramallah.

The Israeli forces stole five laptops, memory cards, three laptop memories, one laptop card, several books and additionally searching through the belongings of the office.

This is the third incident where the Israeli soldiers have raided the office, the first was in 2002 and the second incident was in 2012.

Addameer reassures that those constant raids will not stand in the face of any duties the organization has for Palestinian political prisoners. The organization will continue to support Palestinian prisoners to flight all human rights violations they suffer from including torture, arbitrary detention and unfair trails.

Addameer sees this raid as a part of ongoing and systematic attacks against the Palestinian civil society organization. Those attacks are targeting the organizations that have a role in facing the occupation’s violations and claiming accountability for those violations. This is additionally a part of the occupation’s campaign to shrink space, delegitimize and de-fund those human rights and civil society organizations.

September 19, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | Leave a comment

Apartheid Made Official: Deal of the Century is a Ploy and Annexation is the New Reality

By Ramzy Baroud | Palestine Chronicle | September 17, 2019

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is moving quickly to alter the political reality in Palestine, and facing little or no resistance.

On September 10, Netanyahu declared his intentions to annex swathes of Palestinian land adjacent to the Jordan River, an area that covers 2,400 square kilometers, or nearly a third of the Occupied West Bank. That region, which extends from Bisan in the north to Jericho in the south, is considered to be Palestine’s food basket, as it accounts for an estimated 60 percent of vegetables that are produced in the West Bank.

While Israel has already colonized nearly 88 percent of the entire Palestinian Ghoor (or Jordan Valley), dividing it between illegal agricultural settlements and military zones, it was always assumed that the militarily occupied region will be included within the border of a future Palestinian state.

Netanyahu’s announcement has been linked to Israel’s general elections of September 17. The Israeli leader is desperate, as he is facing “unprecedented alliances” that are all closing in to unseat him from his political throne. But this cannot be all. Not even power-hungry Netanyahu would alter the political and territorial landscape of Israel and Palestine indefinitely in exchange for a few votes.

Indeed, talks of annexation have been afoot for years and have long preceded the September elections or the previous ones in April.

A sense of euphoria has been felt among Israel’s rightwing officials since the advent of Donald Trump to the White House. The excitement was not directly linked to Trump but to his Middle East team, like-minded pro-Israel US officials whose support for Israel is predicated on more than personal interests, but religious and ideological beliefs as well.

White House senior adviser, Jared Kushner, selected his team very carefully: Jason Greenblatt as special envoy for Middle East peace, David Friedman as United States Ambassador to Israel, and layers of other second-tier officials whose mission was never aimed at resolving conflict or brokering peace, but supervising a process in which Israel finalizes its colonization of Palestine unhindered.

Kushner’s masterstroke is epitomized in the way he presented his objectives as part of a political process, later named “Deal of the Century”.

In all fairness, Kushner’s team hardly labored or even pretended to be, peacemakers, especially as they oversaw the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and of the occupied Golan Heights as Israeli territories. Indeed, none of these officials tried to hide their true motives. Just examine statements made by the just-resigned Greenblatt where he refused to name illegal Jewish settlements as such, but as “neighborhoods and cities”; and Friedman’s outright support for the annexation of parts of the Occupied West Bank, and much more.

The US political discourse seemed in complete alignment with that of Israel’s right-wing parties. When right-wing extremist politicians, the likes of Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, began floating the idea of annexing most or all of the Occupied West Bank, they no longer sounded like marginal and opportunistic voices vying for attention. They were at the center of Israeli politics, knowing full well that Washington no longer had a problem with Israel’s unilateral action.

It could be argued, then, that Netanyahu was merely catching up, as the center of gravity within his right-wing coalition was slipping away to younger, more daring politicians. In fact, Israel, as a whole, was changing. With the Labor Party becoming almost entirely irrelevant, the Center’s political ideology moved further to the right, simply because supporting an independent Palestinian state in Israel has become a form of political suicide.

Therefore, Netanyahu’s call for the annexation of Palestinian land east of the Jordan River must not be understood in isolation and only within the limited context of the Israeli elections. Israel is now set to annex large parts of the West Bank that it deems strategic. This is most likely to include all illegal settlement blocs and the Jordan Valley as well.

In fact, Netanyahu said on September 11 that he was ready to annex the Jordan Valley region even before the election date, but was blocked by the Attorney General’s office. Netanyahu would not have taken such a decision if it represented a political risk or if it faced pushback from Washington. It is, then, sadly, a matter of time.

Suspiciously absent in all of this are the Palestinian Authority (PA), the Arab League, the European Union and, of course, the United Nations and its many outlets and courts. Aside from a few shy statements – like that of the spokesperson of the UN, Stéphane Dujarric, decrying that “unilateral actions are not helpful in the peace process” – Israeli leaders are facing little or no hindrance whatsoever as they finalize their complete colonization of all Palestinian land.

Unable to stage any kind of meaningful resistance against Israel, the Palestinian leadership is so pathetically insisting on utilizing old terminologies. The official Palestinian response to Netanyahu’s annexation pledge, as communicated by Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh, came only to underscore the PA’s political bankruptcy.

“Netanyahu is the chief destroyer of the peace process,” Shtayyeh said, warning that annexing parts of the West Bank would have negative consequences.

For his part, the PA leader Mahmoud Abbas resorted, once more, to empty threats. Abbas said in a statement, “All agreements and their resulting obligations would end if the Israeli side annexes the Jordan Valley, the northern Dead Sea, and any part of the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967.”

Neither Abbas nor Shtayyeh seem troubled by the fact that a “peace process” does not exist, and that Israel has already violated all agreements.

While the PA is desperately hanging on to any reason to justify its continued existence, Netanyahu, with the full support of Washington, is moving forward in annexing the West Bank, thus making apartheid an official and undisputed reality.

The Palestinian leadership must understand that the nature of the conflict is now changing. Conventional methods and empty statements will not slow down the Israeli push for annexation nor Tel Aviv’s determination to expand its apartheid to all of Palestine. If Palestinians continue to ignore this reality altogether, Israel will continue to single-handedly shape the destiny of Palestine and its people.

– Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of The Palestine Chronicle. His last book is ‘The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story’, and his forthcoming book is ‘These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons’. Baroud has a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter and is a non-resident research fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA) at Zaim University in Istanbul. His website is www.ramzybaroud.net.

September 17, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , | 2 Comments

Moscow condemns Netanyahu’s annexation bid on eve of his visit to Russia

Press TV – September 11, 2019

Russia has strongly condemned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s election pledge to annex north of the Dead Sea and Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank on the eve of his visit to the Russian city of Sochi.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Russian Foreign Ministry warned that the implementation of Netanyahu’s plan may result in a “sharp escalation of tension in the region”.

It may also “undermine hopes for a long-awaited peace” in the region, the statement added, urging Tel Aviv to return to direct negotiations based on “relevant UN Security Council resolutions, the Madrid Principle and the Arab Peace Initiative.”

The condemnation came on the eve of Netanyahu’s visit to the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, where he is scheduled to hold talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday.

The visit, announced on Tuesday, will be held just five days before the Israeli snap legislative elections. The last time Putin and Netanyahu met was in Moscow on April 4, again five days before the last Israeli election.

Netanyahu has promised to go ahead with the annexation plan in case he emerges victorious in the forthcoming votes.

“Today I announce my intention to apply with the formation of the next government Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea,” Netanyahu said in a speech broadcast live on Israeli TV channels on Tuesday evening.

The 69-year-old Chairman of the Likud-National Liberal Movement also reiterated his intention to annex Israeli settlements throughout the occupied West Bank if re-elected, and in coordination with US President Donald Trump.

The plan has drawn sharp criticism from countries in the Middle East, including Jordan and Turkey, and international bodies like the UN and the Arab League.

Iran on Wednesday said the Israeli prime minister seeks to stay in power through annexations and anti-Iran accusations.

“Netanyahu is after votes to stay in power and continue with expansionist policies and aggression one day through making accusations against the Islamic Republic of Iran and one day by announcing his malicious intention to annex certain parts of Palestine,” Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Mousavi said.

Ironically enough, Saudi Arabia that has been seeking to normalize ties with Israel also criticized Netanyahu for this “dangerous escalation against the Palestinian people” and called for an emergency meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

The OIC later announced on Wednesday it will call an emergency meeting soon at the level of foreign ministers to review the Israeli premier’s plan.

The OIC Secretary General Yousef bin Al-Othaimeen strongly condemned Netanyahu’s intention, emphasizing that the “dangerous announcement is another aggression against the Palestinian people’s rights.”

He said the OIC meeting will discuss the possible political and legal measures that could be taken to confront Israel’s new aggression.

September 11, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , , , , | 2 Comments

24 Palestinian journalists held in Israeli jails

An Israeli soldier attacks AFP'S photo journalist Jafer Eshtayah during a protest against building of illegal settlements and the separation wall at the Kafr Qaddum village of Nablus, West Bank on March 22, 2019 [Nedal Eshtayah / Anadolu Agency]

Israeli soldier attacks AFP journalist during protest against building illegal settlements and the separation wall at Kafr Qaddum village, Nablus, West Bank on March 22, 2019
Nedal Eshtayah / Anadolu Agency
MEMO – September 2, 2019

Israel’s military occupation authorities continue to target Palestinian journalists, the Journalist Support Committee (JSC) said on Sunday, Quds Press has reported. The JSC pointed out that the number of Palestinian journalists held in Israeli jails has risen to 24.

Information about the imprisoned journalists was included in a statement issued by the committee in the wake of Israel’s detention of Palestinian media Professor Widad Al-Barghouti. She is a media lecturer at Birzeit University.

According to the JSC, the Israelis arrested four journalists in August and extended the detention of two others. It also noted that five out of the 24 journalists in prison are being held by Israel under administrative detention with neither charges nor a trial. Seven have been sentenced and 12 are being held in custody pending prosecution.

The JSC reiterated its concern that the Israeli occupation authorities “insist on hindering the work of journalists” who carry out their national duty regarding the documentation of Israel’s crimes which amount to violations of international laws and conventions.

Highlighting the situation of Palestinian journalist Bassam Al-Sayeh, the committee explained that his health is deteriorating badly in prison. The JSC added that the Palestinian prisoners held by Israel face “intentional medical negligence”.

In conclusion, the Journalist Support Committee called for the international community to protect Palestinian journalists and compel Israel to adhere to the terms of UN Security Council Resolution 2222 regarding the protection of civilians in armed conflict.

See also:

Report: Israel’s targeting of Palestinian photojournalists increasing

September 2, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | 1 Comment

West Bank IED Attack Kills And Injures Israelis- A Closer Look

By Robert Inlakesh | 21st Century Wire | August 23, 2019

Earlier this Friday morning an IED attack, conducted inside the occupied West Bank, killed one Israeli and injured two others.

The incident has been blamed on unidentified Palestinians, who were said to have planted the IED the night prior to the incident, before detonating it upon the arrival of the Israeli settlers to the location.

The attack took place at the site of the Ein Buben Spring, located in between the Palestinian village of Deir Ibzi and the illegal Israeli settlement of Douleb.

A female Israeli has been confirmed dead, with two men injured, one currently on life support in critical condition and the other suffering moderate wounds. The three Israelis had originated from Lod – formerly the Palestinian towns of Lydda and Ramle – and had reportedly been visiting the spring, entering it from the ever expanding neighboring settlement.

As usual, the Israeli and Western press are treating this incident as if it has no link to anything occurring in the area prior to the attack.

Back in 2017 I lived in the occupied West Bank and visited the spring of Deir Ibzi many times. I remember being driven there with Palestinians friends to hang out. The first time I went I was confronted by Israeli soldiers who stopped our car and pointed guns in our faces and continued to linger in the area, watching us, for hours after the incident.

Another time I had visited, we had to quickly leave as armed settlers emerged over the hills and were heading in our direction.

I was told by people in the village of Deir Ibzi, that they fear the day when the Israelis will completely take the site for themselves.

The site, of course being home to a fresh water spring, has been a part the lives of those living in Deir Ibzi and the neighboring villages for generations. Until now, there has been no violent resistance like this recent attack, despite the illegal settlement expansion on the area and the violent forcing of the native population from their land.

Israel considers of all the West Bank as simply being part of Israel and call the land Judea and Sumaria. To Israel, there are no illegal settlers or illegal land grabs, they simply consider their actions as being reasonable expansion on God given Jewish land.

The eldest of the Israelis injured in the attack, currently being treated in Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, is a Rabbi and was reported to be a decorated occupation force veteran.

Due to the constant Israeli settler and occupation force attacks upon Palestinians, in the West Bank, as well as a rise in attacks upon the Al-Aqsa compound in Jerusalem, we now see a string of violent attacks against Israeli soldiers and settlers in the West Bank.

This year so far, approximately 100 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces and with the lack of action from the international community, to end the violations of international law, the siege, the occupation etc. Palestinians now have their backs to the wall.

No peace talks or peaceful demonstrations have worked. So now, due to the lack of action taken for the Palestinians, the Palestinian people are resulting to the last and only option left for them, violent resistance.

The mainstream media will paint these attacks as horrid terrorist incidents, but the reality is, this is what happens when a people have no other options.

Today, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, 152 Palestinians were injured in Gaza’s Great Return March protests, 60 were shot with live ammunition. Over 310 Palestinians have been killed in these marches since the 30th of March, 2018, with around 40,000 people being injured. So why aren’t these acts of mass murdered labelled terrorism? Are only Arabs and Muslims able to commit a terrorist act, should this perhaps be the new definition for the word?

Under international law, the Palestinian people reserve the right to armed resistance. So why is it always a terrorist attack, in the eyes of the so-called objective mainstream media, when a Palestinian decides to resist? And why isn’t Israeli settler terrorism reported as such, when 6 year old Palestinians are run down and murdered by Israeli religious fanatics?

***

Author Robert Inlakesh is a special contributor to 21WIRE and European correspondent for Press TV. He has reported from on the ground in occupied Palestine.

August 23, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , | 3 Comments

FCO Speeds Up Planning to Move UK Embassy to Jerusalem

By Craig Murray | August 18, 2019

Following US National Security Adviser John Bolton’s talks with Boris Johnson and his ministers in London last week, FCO officials have been asked to speed up contingency planning for the UK to move its Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, with an eye to an “early announcement” post Brexit.

The UK is currently bound by an EU common foreign policy position not to follow the United States in moving its Embassy to Jerusalem. As things stand, that prohibition will fall on 1 November. FCO officials had previously been asked to produce a contingency plan, but this involved the construction of a £14 million new Embassy and a four year timescale. They have now been asked to go back and look at a quick fix involving moving the Ambassador and immediate staff to Jerusalem and renaming the Consulate already there as the Embassy. This could be speedily announced, and then implemented in about a year.

Johnson heads the most radically pro-Israel cabinet in UK history and the symbolic gesture of rejection of Palestinian rights is naturally appealing to his major ministers Patel, Javid and Raab. They also see three other political benefits. Firstly, they anticipate that Labour opposition to the move can be used to yet again raise accusations of “anti-semitism” against Jeremy Corbyn. Secondly, it provides good “red meat” to Brexiteer support in marking a clear and, they believe, popular break from EU foreign policy, at no economic cost. Thirdly, it seals the special link between the Trump and Johnson administrations and sets the UK apart from other NATO allies.

Bolton also discussed the possibility of UK support for Israeli annexation of areas of the West Bank to “solve” the illegality of Israeli settlements on occupied territory. My FCO sources believe this is going to be much more difficult politically for the Cabinet to agree than simply moving the Embassy, due to lack of support on their own backbenches.

This is an insight into the future of British foreign policy if the Johnson government, and the UK, both survive. In the massive defeat of the UK at the UN General Assembly two months ago over the illegal occupation of the Chagos Islands, the UK was in a voting block with only the USA, Israel, Australia, Hungary and the Maldives, against the rest of the world. The Maldives had a particular maritime interest there, but the leadership of the others – Donald Trump, Viktor Orban, Scott Morrison, Benjamin Netanyahu and now Boris Johnson – constitute a distinct and extreme right wing bloc. These are very worrying times indeed.

August 18, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kashmir Caged: A Fact-Finding Report

Army patrol on the road | Image courtesy Kavita Krishnan
By Jean Drèze, Kavita Krishnan, Maimoona Mollah and Vimal Bhai | Indian Cultural Forum | August 14, 2019

We spent five days (9-13 August 2019) traveling extensively in Kashmir. Our visit began on 9 August 2019 – four days after the Indian government abrogated Articles 370 and 35A, dissolved the state of Jammu and Kashmir, and bifurcated it into two Union Territories.

When we arrived in Srinagar on 9 August, we found the city silenced and desolated by curfew, and bristling with Indian military and paramilitary presence. The curfew was total, as it had been since 5th August. The streets of Srinagar were empty and all institutions and establishments were closed (shops, schools, libraries, petrol pumps, government offices, banks). Only some ATMs and chemists’ shops – and all police stations – were open. People were moving about in ones and twos here and there, but not in groups.

We travelled widely, inside and outside Srinagar – far beyond the small enclave (in the centre of Srinagar) where the Indian media operates. In that small enclave, a semblance of normalcy returns from time to time, and this has enabled the Indian media to claim that life in Kashmir is back to normal. Nothing could be further from the truth.

We spent five days moving around and talking to hundreds of ordinary people in Srinagar city, as well as villages and small towns of Kashmir. We spoke to women, school and college students, shopkeepers, journalists, people who run small businesses, daily wage labourers, workers and migrants from UP, West Bengal and other states. We spoke to Kashmiri Pandits and Sikhs who live in the Valley, as well as Kashmiri Muslims.

Everywhere, we were cordially received, even by people who were very angry about the situation or sceptical of our purpose. Even as people expressed their pain, anger, and sense of betrayal against the Government of India, they extended warmth and unstinting hospitality to us. We are deeply moved by this.

Except for the BJP spokesperson on Kashmir Affairs, we did not meet a single person who supported the Indian government’s decision to abrogate Article 370. On the contrary, most people were extremely angry, both at the abrogation of Article 370 (and 35A) and at the manner in which it had been done.

Anger and fear were the dominant emotions we encountered everywhere. People expressed their anger freely in informal conversation, but no-one was willing to speak on camera. Anyone who speaks up is at risk of persecution from the government.

Many told us that they expected massive protests to erupt sooner or later (after restrictions were relaxed, after Eid, after 15 August, or even later), and anticipated violent repression even if the protests were peaceful.

A summary of our observations

  • There is intense and virtually unanimous anger in Kashmir against the Indian government’s decision to abrogate Articles 370 and 35A, and also about the way this has been done.

  • To control this anger, the government has imposed curfew-like conditions in Kashmir. Except for some ATMs, chemists’ shops and police stations, most establishments are closed for now.

  • The clampdown on public life and effective imposition of curfew have also crippled economic life in Kashmir, that too at a time of the BakrEid festival that is meant for abundance and celebration.

  • People live in fear of harassment from the government, army or police. People expressed their anger freely in informal conversation, but no-one was willing to speak on camera.

  • The Indian media’s claims of a rapid return to normalcy in Kashmir are grossly misleading. They are based on selective reports from a small enclave in the centre of Srinagar.

  • As things stand, there is no space in Kashmir for any sort of protest, however peaceful. However, mass protests are likely to erupt sooner or later.

Reactions To The Government’s Treatment of J&K

  • When our flight landed, and the airlines staff announced that passengers could switch on our mobiles, the entire flight (with mostly Kashmiris in it) burst into mocking laughter. “What a joke”, we could hear people say – since mobile and landline phones and internet have all been blocked since 5 August!

  • As soon as we set foot in Srinagar, we came across a few small children playacting in a park. We could hear them say ‘Iblees Modi’. ‘Iblees’ means ‘Satan’.

  • The words we heard over and over from people about the Government decisions on J&K were ‘zulm’ (oppression), ‘zyadti’ (excess/cruelty), and ‘dhokha’ (betrayal). As one man in Safakadal (downtown Srinagar) put it, “The Government has treated us Kashmiris like slaves, taking decisions about our lives and our future while we are captive. It’s like forcing something down our throats while keeping us bound and gagged, with a gun to our heads.”

  • In every lane of Srinagar city, every town, every village, that we visited, we received an extensive schooling from ordinary people, including school kids, on the history of the Kashmir dispute. They were angry and appalled at the manner in which the Indian media was whitewashing this history. Many said: “Article 370 was the contract between Kashmir’s leadership and India’s. Had that contract not been signed, Kashmir would never have acceded to India. With Article 370 gone, India no longer has any basis for its claim over Kashmir.” One man in the Jahangir Chowk area near Lal Chowk, described Article 370 as a ‘mangalsutra’ (sacred necklace worn by married women) symbolising a contract (analogous to the marital contract) between Kashmir and India. (More on people’s reactions to the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A below)

  • There is widespread anger against the Indian media. People are imprisoned in their homes, unable to communicate with each other, express themselves on social media, or make their voices heard in any way. In their homes, they watch Indian TV claim that Kashmir welcomes the Government decisions. They seethe with rage at the erasure of their voices. As one young man in Safakadal put it, “Kiski shaadi hai, aur kaun naach raha hai?! (It’s supposed to be our wedding, but it’s only others who are dancing!) If this move is supposed to be for our benefit and development, why not ask what we ourselves think about it?”

Reactions To The Abrogation Of Article 370 and 35A

  • A man in Guree village (Anantnag district) said: “Hamara unse rishta Article 370 aur 35A se tha. Ab unhone apne hi paer par kulhadi mar di hai. In Articles ko khatm kar diya hai. Ab to ham azad ho gaye hain.” (Our relation with them (India) was through Article 370 and Article 35A. Now they have themselves committed the folly of dissolving these Articles. So now we are free.” The same man raised slogans of “We want freedom” followed by slogans of “Restore Articles 370 and 35A.”

  • Many described Article 370 and 35A as Kashmir’s “pehchan” (identity). They felt that the abrogation of these Articles is a humiliating attack on Kashmir’s self-respect and identity.

  • Not all demanded restoration of Article 370. Many said that it was only the parliamentary parties who had asked people to have faith that India would honour the contract that was Article 370. The abrogation of Article 370 only discredited those “pro-India parties”, and vindicated those who argued for Kashmir’s “azaadi” (independence) from India, they felt. One man in Batamaloo said: “Jo india ke geet gate hain, apne bande hain, ve bhi band hain! (Those who sang praises of India, India’s own agents, they too are imprisoned!” A Kashmiri journalist observed, “Many people are happy about the treatment the mainstream parties are getting. These parties batted for the Indian State and are being humiliated now.”

  • “Modi has destroyed India’s own law, its own Constitution” was another common refrain. Those who said this, felt that Article 370 was more important to India (to legitimise its claim to Kashmir) than it was to Kashmir. But the Modi Government had not only sought to destroy Kashmir, it had destroyed a law and Constitution that was India’s own.

  • A hosiery businessman in Jahangir Chowk, Srinagar said, “Congress ne peeth mein choora bhonka tha, BJP ne saamne se choora bhonka hai.” (Congress had stabbed us from the back, BJP is stabbing us up front). He added, “They strangled their own Constitution. It’s first step towards Hindu Rashtra.”

  • In some ways, people were more concerned about the effects of the abrogation of 35A than that of 370. It is widely recognised that Article 370 retained only nominal, symbolic autonomy and had already been diluted. With 35A gone, though, people fear that “State land will be sold cheap to investors. Ambani, Patanjali etc can come in easily. Kashmir’s resources and land will be grabbed. In Kashmir as it stands now, education and employment levels are better than in the mainland. But tomorrow Kashmiris will have to compete for Government jobs with those from other states. After one generation, most Kashmiris won’t have jobs or be forced to move to the mainland.”

“Normalcy” – Or “Peace Of The Graveyard”?

Is the situation in Kashmir “normal” and “peaceful”? The answer is an emphatic NO.

  • One young man in Sopore said: “This is bandook ki khamoshi (the silence at gunpoint), kabristan ki khamoshi (the peace of the graveyard).”

  • The newspaper Greater Kashmir had one (front) page of news and a sports page at the back: the two inside pages were full of cancellation announcements of weddings or receptions!

Invitations cancelled I Image courtesy Kavita Krishnan
  • Between 5-9 August, people had suffered for lack of food, milk, and basic needs. People had been prevented even from going to hospitals in case of sickness.

  • The Government claim is that only Section 144 has been imposed, not “curfew”. But in reality, police vans keep patrolling Srinagar warning people to “stay safe at home and not venture out during the curfew”, and tell shops to close their shutters. They demand that people display “curfew passes” to be allowed to move about.

  • All of Kashmir is under curfew. Even on Eid, the roads and bazaars were silent and desolate. All over Srinagar, mobility is restricted by concertina wires on streets, and massive paramilitary deployment. Even on Eid, this was the case. In many villages, azaan was prohibited by the paramilitary and people were forced to do namaaz prayers at home rather than collectively at the mosque as it usual on Eid.

  • In Anantnag, Shopian and Pampore (South Kashmir) on the day of Eid, we only saw very small kids dressed in Eid finery. Everyone else was in mourning. “We feel like we’re in jail”, said a woman in Guree (Anantnag). Girls in Nagbal (Shopian) said, “With our brothers in police or army custody, how can we celebrate Eid?”

  • On 11 August, on the eve of Eid, a woman at Sopore told us she had come to the bazaar during a brief respite in the curfew, to buy a few supplies for Eid. She said: “We were prisoners in our own homes for 7 days. Even today, shops are closed in my village Langet, so I came to Sopore town to shop for Eid and to check on my daughter who is a nursing student here.”

Eid in Pulwama | Image courtesy Kavita Krishnan
  • “It’s Army rule not Modi rule. There are more soldiers here than people”, said a young baker at Watpura near Bandipora. His friend added, “We’re afraid, because the army camp nearby keeps imposing impossible rules. They insist we have to return within half an hour if we leave home. If my kid isn’t well, and I have to take her to the hospital, it may take more than half an hour. If someone visits their daughter who lives in next village, they may take more than half hour to return. But if there’s any delay, they will harass us.” The CRPF paramilitary is everywhere, outside nearly every home in Kashmir. These are clearly not there to provide “security” to Kashmiris – on the contrary, their presence creates fear for the people.

  • Sheep traders and herders could be seen with unsold sheep and goats. Animals they had been rearing all year long, would not be sold. This meant they would incur a huge loss. With people unable to earn, many could not afford to buy animals for the Eid sacrifice.

  • A shopkeeper from Bijnore (UP) showed us the stacks of unsold sweets and delicacies going waste, since people could not buy them. Shops and bakeries wore a deserted look on the eve of Eid, with their perishable food items lying unsold.

  • An asthmatic auto driver in Srinagar, showed us his last remaining dose of salbutamol and asthalin. He had been trying for the past several days to buy more – but the chemists’ shops and hospitals in his area had run out of stocks. He could go to other, bigger hospitals – but CRPF would prevent him. He showed us the empty, crushed cover of one asthalin inhaler – when he told a CRPF man he needed to go further to get the medicine, the man stamped on the cover with his boot. “Why stamp on it? He hates us, that’s why”, said the auto driver.

Protests, Repression, and Brutality

  • Some 10,000 people protested in Soura (Srinagar) on 9 August. The forces responded with pellet gun fire, injuring several. We attempted to go to Soura on 10 August, but were stopped by a CRPF barricade. We did see young protestors on the road that day as well, blockading the road.

  • We met two victims of pellet gun injuries in SMHS hospital in Srinagar. The two young men (Waqar Ahmad and Wahid) had faces, arms and torso full of pellets. Their eyes were bloodshot and blinded. Waqar had a catheter in which the urine, red with blood from internal bleeding, could be seen. Their family members, weeping with grief and rage, told us that the two men had not been pelting stones. They had been peacefully protesting.

Pellet gun victim | Image courtesy Vimal Bhai
  • On 6 August, a graphic designer for the Rising Kashmir newspaper, Samir Ahmad, (in his early 20s) had remonstrated with a CRPF man near his home in the Manderbag area of Srinagar, asking him to allow an old man to pass. Later the same day, when Samir opened the door to his house, CRPF fired at him with a pellet gun, unprovoked. He got 172 pellets in his arm and face near the eyes, but his eyesight is safe. It is clear that the pellet guns are deliberately aimed at the face and eyes, and unarmed, peaceful civilians standing at their own front doors can be targets.

  • At least 600 political leaders and civil society activists are under arrest. There is no clear information on what laws are invoked to arrest them, or where they are being held.

  • A very large number of political leaders are under house arrest – it is impossible to ascertain how many. We tried to meet CPIM MLA Mohd Yusuf Tarigami – but were refused entry into his home in Srinagar, where he is being under house arrest.

  • In every village we visited, as well as in downtown Srinagar, there were very young schoolboys and teenagers who had been arbitrarily picked up by police or army/paramilitary and held in illegal detention. We met a 11-year-old boy in Pampore who had been held in a police station between 5 August and 11 August. He had been beaten up, and he said there were boys even younger than him in custody, from nearby villages.

  • Hundreds of boys and teens are being picked up from their beds in midnight raids. The only purpose of these raids is to create fear. Women and girls told us of molestation by armed forces during these raids. Parents feared meeting us and telling us about the “arrests” (abductions) of their boys. They are afraid of Public Security Act cases being filed. The other fear is that the boys may be “disappeared” – i.e killed in custody and dumped in mass graves of which Kashmir has a grim history. As one neighbour of an arrested boy said, “There is no record of these arrests. It is illegal detention. So if the boy “disappears” – i.e is killed in custody – the police/army can just say they never had him in custody in the first place.”

  • But the protests are not likely to stop. A young man at Sopore said: “Jitna zulm karenge, utna ham ubharenge” (The more you oppress us, the more we will rise up) A familiar refrain we heard at many places was: “Never mind if leaders are arrested. We don’t need leaders. As long as even a single Kashmiri baby is alive, we will struggle.”

The Gag On Media

  • A journalist told us: “Newspapers are printing in spite of everything. Without the internet, we do not get any feed from agencies. We were reduced to reporting the J&K related developments in Parliament, from NDTV! This is undeclared censorship. If Govt is giving internet and phone connectivity to police but not to media houses what does it mean? We had some people come to our offices, speaking on behalf of Army and CRPF, asking “Why are you publishing photos of the curfew-affected streets?”

  • Kashmiri TV channels are completely closed and unable to function.

  • Kashmiri newspapers that carry the barest mention of protests (such as the one on Soura) are made to feel the heat from the authorities.

  • Foreign press reporters told us that they are facing restrictions on their movement by the authorities. Also, because of the lack of internet, they are unable to communicate with their own main offices.

  • When we visited Press Enclave in Srinagar on 13 August, we found the newspaper offices closed and the area deserted except for a few stray journalists, and some CID men. One of the journalists told us that papers could not be printed till at least 17 August, because they have run out of newsprint which comes from Delhi.

  • As mentioned above, one graphic designer working with a newspaper suffered pellet gun injuries, during a completely unprovoked attack by CRPF

A checkpoint in Srinagar | Image courtesy Vimal Bhai

Does Kashmir Lack Development?

In an op-ed in the Times Of India (August 9, 2019), former Foreign Secretary and Ambassador Nirupama Rao wrote: “A young Kashmiri told this writer a few months ago her birthplace was in the “stone age”; that in terms of economic development, Kashmir was two hundred years behind the rest of India.”

We struggled to find this “backward”, “stone age” Kashmir anywhere at all.

  • It is striking how in every Kashmiri village, we found young men and women who go to college or University; speak Kashmiri, Hindi and English fluently; and are able to argue points of Constitutional and international law in relation to the Kashmir conflict with factual accuracy and erudition. All four of the team members are familiar with villages in North Indian states. This high level of education is extremely rare in any village in, say, Bihar, UP, MP, or Jharkhand.

  • The homes in rural Kashmir are all pucca constructions. We saw no shacks like the ones that are common in rural Bihar, UP, Jharkhand.

  • There are poor people in Kashmir, certainly. But the levels of destitution, starvation and abject poverty seen in many North Indian states, is simply absent in rural Kashmir.

  • We met migrant labourers from North India and West Bengal at many places. They told us that they feel safe and free from xenophobic violence that they face in, say, Maharashtra or Gujarat. Daily wage migrant labourers told us “Kashmir is our Dubai. We earn Rs 600 to Rs 800 per day here – that is three or four times what we earn in other states.”

  • We found Kashmir refreshingly free of communal tension or mob lynchings. We met Kashmiri pandits who told us they felt safe in Kashmir, and that the Kashmiris always celebrate their festivals together. “We celebrate Eid, Holi, Diwali together. That is our Kashmiriyat. It is something different, special,” said one Kashmiri Pandit young man.

  • The myth of the “backward” Kashmiri woman is perhaps the biggest lie. Kashmiri girls enjoy a high level of education. They are articulate and assertive. Of course, they face and resist patriarchy and gender discrimination in their societies. But does BJP, whose Haryana CM and Muzaffarnagar MLA speak of “getting Kashmiri brides” as though Kashmiri women are property to be looted, have any right to preach feminism to Kashmir? Kashmiri girls and women told us, “We are capable of fighting our own battles. We don’t want our oppressors to claim to liberate us!”

The BJP Spokesperson’s “Warning”

We met BJP spokesperson on Kashmir affairs, Ashwani Kumar Chrungoo at the office of Rising Kashmir, a Kashmir newspaper. The conversation was initially cordial. He told us he had come to Kashmir from Jammu to persuade people to support the abrogation of Article 370. His main argument was that since the BJP had won a 46% vote share in J&K and had won an unprecedented majority in Parliament, they had not only a right but a duty to keep their promise of scrapping Article 370. “46% vote share – that’s a license”, he said.

He refused to acknowledge that this 46% vote share while winning only three Lok Sabha seats (Jammu, Udhampur and Ladakh) was possible only because the voter turnout in the three other LS seats (Srinagar, Anantnag and Baramulla) was the lowest in the whole country.

Should a Government impose an unpopular decision on people of Kashmir who have not voted for that decision, at gunpoint? Chrungoo said, “In Bihar when Nitish Kumar imposed prohibition, he didn’t ask the alcoholics for their permission or consent. It’s the same here.” His contempt for the people of Kashmir was evident from this analogy.

Towards the end of the conversation, he became increasingly edgy when confronted by facts and arguments by us. He got up and wagged a finger at Jean Dreze, saying “We won’t let anti-nationals like you do your work here. I am warning you.”

Conclusion

The whole of Kashmir is, at the moment, a prison, under military control. The decisions taken by the Modi Government on J&K are immoral, unconstitutional and illegal. The means being adopted by the Modi Government to hold Kashmiris captive and suppress potential protests are also immoral, unconstitutional, and illegal.

  • We demand the immediate restoration of Articles 370 and 35A.

  • We assert that no decision about the status or future of J&K should be taken without the will of its people.

  • We demand that communications – including landline telephones, mobile phones and internet be restored with immediate effect.

  • We demand that the gags on the freedom of speech, expression and protest be lifted from J&K with immediate effect. The people of J&K are anguished – and they must be allowed to express their protest through media, social media, public gatherings and other peaceful means.

  • We demand that the gags on journalists in J&K be lifted immediately.

Jean Drèze, economist
Kavita Krishnan, Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) and AIPWA
Maimoona Mollah, All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA)
Vimal Bhai, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM)

August 17, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment