Israel's dark underbelly

Israeli occupation’s dark underbelly exposed

Jonathan Cook says the unanimous condemnation that has met the revelations by 43 Israeli intelligence veterans that much Israeli intelligence gathering targets “innocent people” shows how deeply dysfunctional Israeli society has become. More »

Zionist academic blackmail

Zionism and the US educational elites 

Lawrence Davidson argues that, having begun to lose the battle for public opinion, US Zionist organisations are resorting to blackmail, by leveraging their donor power to whip dependent institutions into supporting Israel. More »

Israeli genocidal policies

Israel’s policy of incremental genocide continues

Jamal Kanj reminds us that although Binyamin Netanyahu’s latest military adventure in the Gaza Strip has failed, Israel’s "starvation diet" and "incremental genocide" against the Strip’s 1.7 million human beings continues. More »

Anthony Reuben, BBC Head of Statistics

Anthony Reuben, BBC journalist serving Israel

Nureddin Sabir highlights the BBC Head of Statistics Anthony Reuben’s’ incredible twisting of numbers to support Israel’s claims that the Israeli Wehrmacht’s recent onslaught on Gaza had been targeted and not indiscriminate. More »

Disappointed pro-independence Scots

Scots kiss goodbye to independence

Stuart Littlewood explains why the promises made to the Scottish people by the ruling British elite to dissuade them from voting for independence, must be taken with a large pinch of salt. More »

Scottish and British flags

When Scots ruled chunks of England

As Scotland decides whether to break free or remain subservient to its southern neighbour, Stuart Littlewood looks back to a time when the relationship between Scotland and England was far less unequal. More »

US and international law

International law vs US democratic practice

Lawrence Davidson looks at the role of the “war on terror” and, more importantly, special interests, such as the myriad Zionist lobbies, in undermining the United States’s adherence to international law. More »

Islamic State and Israel allies

ISIS and Israel allies against a Palestinian state

Jonathan Cook says Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is using the fear of the jihadist group Islamic State to tarnish the reputation of the Palestinian resistance, even though the two are completely unrelated. More »

No exit

“I escaped from Israel and lost my children”

Rick Myers, a US citizen from the state of Oregon, describes in an interview with Marianne Azizi the pain and suffering caused by Israeli laws, which take hundreds of lives every year. More »

Free Andargachew Tsige

Suppression of the innocent inside Ethiopia

Graham Peebles argues that donor-country indifference to the Ethiopian regime’s human rights violations begs the question what price is too high for the illusion of stability in the Horn of Africa. More »

Daily Archives: January 14, 2013

Palestinians take the fight to their occupiers

How 20 tents rocked Israel

By Jonathan Cook in Nazareth

When the Palestinian leadership won their upgrade to non-member observer status at the United Nations in November, plenty of sceptics on both sides of the divide questioned what practical benefits would accrue to the Palestinians. The doubters have not been silenced yet.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has done little to capitalize on his diplomatic success. There have been vague threats to “isolate” Israel, hesitant talk of “not ruling out” a referral to the International Criminal Court, and a low-key declaration by the Palestinian Authority of the new “state of Palestine”.

At a time when Palestinians hoped for a watershed moment in their struggle for national liberation, the Fatah and Hamas leaderships look as mutually self-absorbed as ever. Last week they were again directing their energies into a new round of reconciliation talks, this time in Cairo, rather than keeping the spotlight on Israeli intransigence.

Direct action

So instead, it was left to a group of 250 ordinary Palestinians to show how the idea of a “state of Palestine” might be given practical meaning. On 11 January, they set up a tent encampment that they intended to convert into a new Palestinian village called Bab al-Shams, or Gate of the Sun.

On 13 January, in a sign of how disturbed Israel is by such acts of popular Palestinian resistance, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had the occupants removed in a dawn raid – despite the fact that his own courts had issued a six-day injunction against the government’s “evacuation” order.

Intriguingly, the Palestinian activists not only rejected their own leaders’ softly-softly approach but also chose to mirror the tactics of the hardcore Jewish settlers.

… the encampment indicates that ordinary Palestinians are better placed to find inventive ways to embarrass Israel than the hidebound Palestinian leadership.

First, they declared they were creating “facts on the ground”, having understood, it seems, that this is the only language Israel speaks or understands. Then, they selected the most contentious spot imaginable for Israel: the centre of the so-called E-1 corridor, 13 square-kilometres of undeveloped land between East Jerusalem and Israel’s strategic city-settlement of Maale Adumim in the West Bank.

For more than a decade, Israel has been planning to build its own settlement in E-1, though on a vastly bigger scale, to finish the encirclement of East Jerusalem, cutting off the future capital of a Palestinian state from the West Bank.

The US had stayed Israel’s hand, understanding that completion in E-1 would signal to the world and the Palestinians the end of a two-state solution. But following the UN vote, Netanyahu announced plans to build an additional 4,000 settler homes there as punishment for the Palestinians’ impertinence.

The comparison between the Bab al-Shams activists and the settlers should not be extended too far. One obvious difference is that the Palestinians were building on their own land, whereas Israel is breaking international law in allowing hundreds of thousands of settlers to move into the West Bank.

Another is that Israel’s response towards the two groups was preordained to be different. This is especially clear in relation to what Israel itself calls the “illegal outposts” – more than 100 micro-settlements, similar to Bab al-Shams, set up by hardcore Jewish settlers since the mid-1990s, after Israel promised the US it would not authorize any new settlements.

Despite an obligation to dismantle the outposts, successive Israeli governments have allowed them to flourish. In practice, within days of the first Jewish caravans appearing on a West Bank hilltop officials hook up the “outposts” to electricity and water, build them access roads and redirect bus routes to include them. The spread of the settlements and outposts has been leading inexorably to Israel’s de facto annexation of most of the West Bank.

In stark contrast, all access to Bab al-Shams was blocked within hours of the tents going up and the next day Netanyahu had the site declared a closed military zone. As soon as the Jewish Sabbath was over, troops massed around the camp. Early on the morning of 13 January they stormed in.

In establishing Bab al-Shams, we declare that we have had enough of demanding our rights from the occupier – from now on we shall seize them ourselves. (Mohammed Khatib, encampment organizer)

Netanyahu was clearly afraid to allow any delay. Palestinians started using social media over the weekend to plan mass rallies at road-blocks leading to the camp site.

However futile the activists’ efforts prove to be on this occasion, the encampment indicates that ordinary Palestinians are better placed to find inventive ways to embarrass Israel than the hidebound Palestinian leadership.

Senior Palestine Liberation Organization official Hanan Ashrawi extolled the activists for their “highly creative and legitimate non-violent tool” to protect Palestinian land. But the failure of PA officials, including Saeb Erekat, to make it to the site before it was cordoned off by Israel only heightened the impression of a leadership too slow and unimaginative to respond to events.

Netanyahu’s fear

By establishing Bab al-Shams, the activists visibly demonstrated the apartheid nature of Israel’s rule in the occupied territories. Although one brief encampment is unlikely by itself to change the dynamics of the conflict, it does show Palestinians that there are ways they themselves can take the struggle to Israel.

Following the Israeli raid, that point was made eloquently by Mohammed Khatib, one of the organizers. “In establishing Bab al-Shams, we declare that we have had enough of demanding our rights from the occupier – from now on we shall seize them ourselves.”

That, of course, is also Netanyahu’s great fear. The scenario his officials are reported to be most concerned about is that this kind of popular mode of struggle becomes infectious. If Palestinians see popular non-violent resistance, unlike endless diplomacy, helping to awaken the world to their plight, there may be more Bab al-Shamses –  and other surprises for Israel – around the corner.

It was precisely such thinking that led Israel’s attorney-general, Yehuda Weinstein, to justify Netanyahu’s violation of the injunction on the grounds that the camp would “bring protests and riots with national and international implications”.

What Bab al-Shams shows is that ordinary Palestinians can take the fight for the “state of Palestine” to Israel – and even turn Israel’s own methods against it.