By Jean Shaoul
13 December, 2014
Ziad Abu Ein, Palestinian Authority minister of settlement affairs, was killed by Israeli security forces Wednesday, during a small, peaceful demonstration northeast of Ramallah.
Soldiers used tear gas and stun grenades to stop demonstrators reaching Adei Ad, an Israeli settlement outpost in the West Bank.
His death brings to 2,625 the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces since last June, at least 600 of whom were children.
Abu Ein was on his way with dozens of other Palestinians to plant olive trees to mark International Human Rights Day at the Israeli settlement outpost at Adei Ad. Close to the Israeli settlement of Shiloh, it is widely believed that the area will become a new settlement, especially as settlers had previously uprooted olive trees. Such outposts are considered illegal under Israeli law, but are defended by the security forces. Soldiers and border police stopped the demonstrators at a checkpoint and scuffles broke out.
According to eye witnesses and photos taken by news agencies, Abu Ein died after an Israeli border policeman hit him on the chest with a rifle butt and grabbed him by the throat, pushing him back before throwing tear gas and stun grenades. There were no indications that he responded violently towards the police. The Israeli forces clearly knew who he was, with one witness telling CNN, “The Israeli soldiers called Abu Ein by name and seemed to be focused on him.”
Within minutes, Abu Ein collapsed. He died on the way to hospital. Ramallah hospital director Dr Ahmed Bitawi said he died from asphyxiation after choking on vomit brought on by tear gas inhalation. Israeli authorities denied this, saying that Abu Ein had a history of heart disease and died as a result of a blockage of the coronary artery due to haemorrhaging.
A joint Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian team were present during the autopsy, which PA official Saeb Erekat said shows Abu Ein was “killed in cold blood”.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas denounced Abu Ein’s killing as “a barbaric act which we cannot be silent about or accept”. He called for three days of national mourning and said “necessary steps” would be taken after an investigation. There were calls for the PA to suspend all security collaboration with Israel.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman accused Abbas of inciting Palestinians against Israel by blaming the Israel Defence Force for Abu Ein’s death.
Thousands of Palestinians joined the procession from the PA’s headquarters in Ramallah to the cemetery, where Abu Ein was buried with full military honours. Acutely aware of the simmering tensions and the mounting anger at the PA’s collaboration with Israel in the West Bank, the Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon took the unusual step of sending condolences, saying “We are sorry about his [Abu Ein’s] death” and said Israel was investigating the incident.
He accompanied these weasel words with the despatch of troop reinforcements to the West Bank and extra security forces to the al-Aqsa mosque compound in East Jerusalem ahead of Friday prayers.
US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the Obama administration was “deeply concerned” by the incident and called for a “swift, fair and transparent” investigation of the circumstances. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement along similar lines.
This latest criminal act on Israel’s part takes place just days after Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu called an early general election for next March. The move is a bid to seek support from Israel’s far right amid a mounting political and social crisis within Israel and factional in-fighting within the coalition and his own Likud party.
Their tactical differences notwithstanding, the entire political establishment is determined to place the full cost of Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian and Syrian territory and its repeated wars against the Palestinians and Israel’s neighbours, including the war to topple the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad, onto the Israeli working class.
Netanyahu is banging the nationalist drum over the supposed threats Israel faces from terrorism, Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran, to throw dust in people’s eyes. Last week, Israeli fighter jets bombed targets near Damascus international airport, as well as the Dimas area near Syria’s border with Lebanon, apparently targeting the delivery of Russian anti-air missile systems destined for Syria and Hezbollah, the Shia-based movement in Lebanon.
He is consciously inciting the Palestinians. This has included: the expansion of settlements in the occupied West Bank—20,000 Israelis have moved there in the last year—restricting access to the al-Aqsa mosque compound in East Jerusalem; the approval of a Jewish nation-state bill that lays the constitutional and legal framework for an apartheid state; and collective punishment in the form of the seven-year blockade on Gaza, and demolition of the homes of families of suspected “terrorists”.
Netanyahu has also worked closely with the PA over the arrests of numerous Hamas members in the West Bank, and the closure of Islamic charities accused of links with Hamas and “terrorism”. He has given the green light to fascistic Jewish gangs to attack the property and take the lives of Palestinians, including most recently setting fire to a bi-lingual school in Jerusalem serving both Jewish and Palestinian children.
This has led to Israel becoming increasingly isolated internationally. On December 17, the Swiss government is to convene a short, low key meeting of those states party to the Fourth Geneva Convention to discuss the situation on the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem. Following the collapse of the talks between Israel and the Palestinians last April, the PA signed up to the 15 Geneva Conventions on behalf of Palestine. The Fourth Convention deals with the protection of civilian populations in war zones or occupied territories. It is expected that Israel, the US, Canada and Australia will boycott the conference.
This follows moves by the governments of Sweden and Belgium and the legislators of France, Britain, Ireland and Portugal to recognise Palestine, a symbolic move that will not immediately affect their diplomatic stance but demonstrates the growing European impatience with Israel.
Netanyahu’s Likud party is now utterly beholden to the settler movement. These far-right elements, who refuse even the smallest tactical concessions to the Palestinians, forced long-standing members such as former ministers Dan Meridor and Benny Begin off the Likud election list and caused several splits, including Ariel Sharon’s Kadima party and Tzipi Livni’s Hatenua party.
Moshe Kahlon, a former Likud minister of communications, is set to lead the latest factional split. His main claim to fame was the reform of the mobile-phone market, which drove down prices. Polls predict that if he runs, his party could win 10 to 12 seats.
Labour Party leader Yitzhak Herzog and Livni’s Hatenua party have announced an electoral pact whereby if they win, Herzog will become prime minister for the first two years and Livni the second two years. Polls are predicting, in what is expected to be a low turnout, 23 seats for Labour-Hatenua and 21 for Likud. Herzog and Livni appear to have some support in the Obama administration, which has tactical differences with Netanyahu—with invitations to attend photo-ops at the White House next month.
Who Is Trapped?
By Alan Hart
14 December, 2014
It’s Israel’s Jews NOT the Palestinians who are trapped in their public narrative
In recent months nothing has made me more angry than an article written and posted on 11 December by Alon Ben-Meir with a headline that described the occupied and oppressed Palestinians as being Trapped In Their Public Narrative. It included this statement. “The Palestinians haven’t learned that they cannot have it both ways: demand a state of their own and threaten Israel’s very existence.”
My immediate response was this.
The only threat to Israel’s very existence is its on-going colonization of the occupied West Bank (ethnic cleansing slowly and by stealth) and the sickening Zionist self-righteousness that justifies it.
The anger provoked in me by Ben-Meir’s article was accompanied by surprise at what he wrote because this Baghdad-born, Jewish gentleman, currently a professor of international relations and Middle East studies at the Center for Global Affairs at New York University, is internationally respected and not without influence in the corridors of power. He is a passionate supporter of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative and an outspoken critic of Israel’s leaders for ignoring it. (His post before the one I am debunking here was headlined How Netanyahu Committed Political Suicide, and the following was its opening sentence. “Prime Minister Netanyahu’s insistence on passing a bill that will define Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people is as disgusting as his denial that Israel is an occupying power.”)
The main purpose of Trapped In Their Public Narrative was to convey this message.
“Not withstanding the growing support of the international community, the Palestinians will be mistaken to assume that the international community will solve their conflict with Israel… Neither the Europeans nor the U.S. who enjoy certain leverage with Israel will be able to force the hand of any hardcore right wing Israeli leader… Only the Palestinians themselves can change the Israeli public perception.”
The flesh Ben-Meir put on those bones included the following.
The Palestinians’ constant acrimonious public narrative against Israel has and continues to damage their credibility in the eyes of many Israelis…They are now increasingly focused on evoking international sympathy for their cause, but have failed time and again to appeal to the Israeli public, which matters the most to realize their stated objective of a Palestinian state.
The Palestinians appear to be trapped in their rancorous public narrative against Israel, even during the peace negotiations. Coupled with widespread anti-Israeli teaching in schools, regular media attacks and indoctrination in many public and private institutions, this is what Israelis see, hear, fear and believe.
The Palestinians fail to understand that they have nurtured persuasive anti-Israeli sentiment among the Palestinians and strong anti-Palestinian feeling among the Israelis, which is to the detriment of peace.
It is time for the Palestinians to re-examine the shifting political landscape in Israel and change course now, however incongruous that may be, because it is indispensable to their overall objective.
The Palestinians need to recognize that there is a psychological dimension to their conflict with Israel, traced back through decades of mutual hatred and mistrust. The frequent verbal attacks and the characterization of Israel as a racist and apartheid state only reinforce the Israelis’ resentment and distrust of the Palestinians.
The PA seems to ignore the fact that their constant anti-Israeli public sentiments play into the hands of the powerful right constituency while weakening the hands of the center and left-of-center, which represent the majority of Israelis.
The Israeli political parties from the center and left want to hear a language of reconciliation…The Palestinians cannot expect the Israelis to dismiss their public onslaught as empty rhetoric… Only the Palestinians themselves can change the Israeli public perception – not by mere political slogans but by demonstrating that they can be trusted and are a worthy negotiating partner.
The Palestinians must separate (draw a distinction) between the Israeli government and people. Every single Palestinian leader must carefully think about how his or her public utterances affect the Israeli electorate, especially during national elections. There is a steady shift to the right and maligning Israel during the campaign will only further strengthen the right and weaken the center and the left.
I am not naive to suggest that by merely changing their public narrative positively the Palestinians will instantly and dramatically alter the political map in Israel in favour of the left and center. But if the Palestinians want to realize statehood, they must change their rancorous narrative sooner rather than later, and the Israeli elections offer a unique opportunity to begin this shift.
I agree with Ben-Meir to the extent that between now and Israel’s election in March it would be a good idea for the Palestinians to remind Israel’s Jews, constantly and explicitly, that the ground on their side for peace on terms which a sane government of Israel would have accepted with relief was prepared 35 years ago by Yasser Arafat.
But also to be said is that the idea (implicit in Ben-Meir’s article) that only the occupied and oppressed Palestinians can bring Israel’s Jews to their senses and get them to understand the extent to which they have been brainwashed by their leaders is ridiculous.
In my view the most awesome flaw in Ben-Meir’s logic can be summarised as follows.
It assumes by obvious implication that Israel’s Jews are the victims in the story of Palestine that became Israel when, actually, and as the whole world is beginning to understand, they are the oppressors.
From that it follows, it seems to me, that it’s Israel’s Jews not the Palestinians who have got to make the first major move if there is ever to be peace based on justice for the Palestinians and security for all. And what does that first major move have to be?
AN ACKNOWLEDGEMENT THAT A TERRIBLE WRONG WAS DONE TO THE PALESTINIANS BY ZIONISM IN THE NAME OF ALL JEWS AND THAT THIS WRONG MUST BE RIGHTED.