Saturday, December 01, 2012

Punishing Palestine


Punishing Palestine

by Stephen Lendman

Terror-bombing Gaza ended. Occupation harshness continues unabated.

Israel didn't wait long to violate memorandum of understanding truce terms. They went further. They exacted revenge. They punished Palestinians for getting overwhelming nonmember observer status UN support.

It bears repeating. That's how rogue states operate. Israel is one of the worst. Netanyahu and other Israeli hardliners are war criminals. So are Obama and complicit US officials multiple times over. They conspiratorially helped Israel terror bomb Gaza for eight days.

Washington and Israel planned Pillar of Cloud. They conducted joint war games in preparation. They're responsible for slaughter and mass destruction.

They bullied and pressured other nations to oppose Palestine's UN bid. They embarrassed themselves trying. They failed dismally.

Israel punishes Palestine viciously. In the week ending November 29, 42 Gazans were accosted, including seven children. Two were murdered in cold blood. Dozens were wounded.

Another died late Friday. Israeli soldiers opened fire on Gazan civilians. Eleven others were wounded.

Around two dozen fishermen were attacked at sea. On December 1, 13 more were accosted. West Bank residents didn't escape Israeli viciousness. Soldiers conducted 81 incursions into civilian communities (over 11 a day).

Around 100 Palestinians were arrested. They included nine children, six Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) members, and other political leaders affiliated with Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Settler violence continues. Israeli security forces do nothing to stop it. Vandalism and physical assaults occur regularly. Children are terrorized and attacked. 

Recent incidents occurred during Pillar of Cloud. Some now exact revenge for overwhelming General Assembly support.

Israeli Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom threatened greater military crackdowns. He blamed Palestinians for their UN upgrade.

Abbas showed which side he's on. "We now have the right to appeal to the ICC, but we are not going to do it now and will not do it except in the case of Israeli aggression," he said.

He was sidelined and largely silent throughout Pillar of Cloud. Evidence suggests he knew about it in advance and supported it. 

He had advance Cast Lead knowledge. He wanted Hamas destroyed. He said so privately. He likely feels the same way now. Reconciliation talk masks what he really has in mind.

If eight preemptive terror-bombing days isn't "aggression," what is? He has no intention of holding Israel responsible. His betrayal belies his rhetoric.

He's no friend of Palestine. He's well compensated for selling out. Treason pays well. Reports suggest he amassed considerable hidden wealth. A forthcoming article will discuss what's known.

He paid lip service alone to Netanyahu announcing 3,000 new West Bank and East Jerusalem settlement homes. "Why does (Israel) not stop" them, he asked?

Netanyahu timed his announcement with Palestine's UN success. It came while General Assembly Member States voted. He has lots of ways to exact revenge. 

Israeli and PA officials maintain the illusion of eventually establishing two states co-existing peacefully side-by-side. Each settler home constructed puts the prospect further out of reach.

Longstanding Israeli plans call for thousands of new E1 Ma'aleh Adumin settlement housing units. At issue is further encroaching on Palestinian East Jerusalem. 

It's also about separating the city from the West Bank. Israel wants wants it entirely Judaized as its exclusive capital. 

It wants Palestinian cities surrounded by settlements. It wants them isolated, impotent, and quiescent. It wants Palestinians deprived of all rights,

Netanyahu, Sharon, and Ehud Olmert promised no E1 construction. Plans were in place long ago. Now they're announced.

Yesh Din defends Palestinian human rights. It exposes Israeli abuses. It champions long denied accountability. Executive director Haim Erlich called Israel's decision "collective punishment that will also exacerbate the ongoing trampling of Palestinian human rights."

"Israel should have understood by now that such behavior, denying basic human rights of millions in contradiction to international law, will no longer be tolerated by the international community." 

"Expanding building in the West Bank will also implicate more Israelis in committing offenses to international law. Yesh Din calls on the Israeli government to retract this decision."

Former Abbas legal advisor, Diana Butto, said:

"Israel's announcement that it plans to colonize the E-1 area was expected. Israel has always punished Palestinians for demanding their rights." 

"This time, however, Israel's plans are also taking aim at the Europeans and the US, who for over a decade have pressed Israel not to colonize this land because it will mark the 'death of the two-state solution.' " 

"With Israel's latest announcement, the ball rests with the international community. Will it sanction Israel in an attempt to save the two-state solution, or will it revert to its usual lip service?"

On the one hand, Butto knows Netanyahu's announcement highlights Israel's commitment to continued occupation harshness. On the other, she pretends two states, side-by-side, remain possible. She knows otherwise but didn't say.

Yousef Munayyer serves as Jerusalem Fund and the Palestine Center executive director. He explained why two states aren't possible, saying:

Longstanding Israeli policy "made it clear that its intentions did not match its rhetoric (about) a two-state solution."

Expanding settlements in and around Jerusalem "cut it off from" the rest of the West Bank. Doing so makes a "just two-state solution impossible."

Netanyahu's announcement "further closes the noose around Jerusalem."

Former Israeli peace negotiator, Daniel Levy, agreed. Israel's settlement construction announcement "endorsed a one-state outcome," he said.

He suggested Netanyahu's plan is more "apartheidist" than democratic. He also accused of Obama of letting Netanyahu stare him down.

Electronic Intifada co-founder Ali Abunimah called Thursday's UN vote "a hollow gesture" of support. How will international leaders react to Netanyahu's announcement, he asked? Will "concrete action" with teeth follow?

Will Israeli settlement construction be forced to stop? Will sanctions be imposed otherwise? Will decades of lawless colonization be reversed? Expect nothing from international leaders beyond disingenuous rhetoric.

"Cold, hard reality (shows there's) no 'two-state solution.' "

"There is one geopolitical entity in historic Palestine. Israel must not be allowed to continue to entrench its apartheid, racist and colonial rule throughout that land."

Jerusalem lawyer/peace activist Dani Seidemann called E1 "the fatal heart attack of a two-state solution." Netanyahu's announcement was a "doomsday weapon."

Former US Israeli and Egyptian envoy Daniel Kurtzer called E1 development "not just another few houses in Jerusalem or another hilltop in the West Bank."

"This is one of the most sensitive areas of territory, and I would hope (Washington) will lay down the law."

He knows nothing beyond meaningless rhetoric ever follows. America lets Israel get away with mass murder. It'll do nothing to stop colonization of all parts of Judea and Sumaria Israel wishes.

Obama knew about Netanyahu's announcement hours in advance. He said nothing until it came. His disapproval rang hollow. The same goes for Clinton and National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor.

They and other US officials speak with forked tongues. Washington marches in lockstep with virtually all Israeli policies. Little separates what both states pursue. 

They're rogue imperial partners. They're irresponsible, lawless and menacing. They spurn peace and nonviolence. They prioritize unchallenged dominance. They never gave a damn about Palestinian rights and don't now.

A Final Comment

Silwan is a predominantly Palestinian village. It's adjacent to Jerusalem's Old City. It extends along the Kidron Valley alongside the eastern slopes of Jabal al-Mukaber.

It's home to about 45,000 people. It's one of 28 Palestinian villages incorporated into East Jerusalem. For years, settler encroachment fueled controversy and conflict. 

Israel is systematically destroying Silwan's historical importance, archeology, and culture. It wants Jews replacing Arabs. 

Excavations claimed large tracts of Silwan land. The militant right-wing settler group Elad controls them. Its web site tells its own version of history. It also conducts tours to convince visitors of its Jewish origin.

Palestinians complain about growing Jewish presence. Heavy-handed police tactics support them. Palestinian homes are demolished for planned parks, open spaces, restaurants, boutique hotels, and Jewish-only housing.

Ethnic cleansing is official Israeli policy. Silwan is one of many affected areas. At issue is total Judaization. Jerusalem and surrounding areas are most valued.

Silwan is in the eye of the storm. A new play reflects what's happening. "The Peacock of Silwan" web site says the following:

"Three thousand years separate the Kingdom of David from the old building in the village of Silwan." 

"One day, Naama, an Israeli young woman who comes to see the building in which her grandmother had lived as a girl, and for years now inhabited by a Palestinian family: two sisters, Iman and Yasmin, who operate a beauty parlor, 'The Peacock of Silwan.' "

"Iman does everything she can to nurture the family business, while Yasmin has a dream: to travel to Jordan and develop a singing career there."

"Naama intends no harm to anyone - but Yoram, director of the 'Kingdom of David' Foundation, swiftly realizes the potential inherent in Naama’s family connection to the building, and he gets into gear."

"We meet a series of figures - among them an enamored security guard, a mute boy, an ambitious archaeologist, a Jewish settler building a tunnel in her room, and a peacock - who will witness what occurs between the walls of the house in contention."

"A group of Jewish and Palestinian actors are creative artists bringing more than one story to life, in tandem on a stage at the heart of a building in Old Akko."

Sinai Peter co-directed the play during the recent Akko (Acco) Festival for Alternative Theater. Jewish and Arab actors collaborated. The production reflects the lives of Silwan Palestinian families and Jewish settlers.

Home demolitions and City of David archeological park excavations cause enormous harm to longtime Palestinian residents. They're systematically forced out to make way for Jews.

A routine morning reflects the lives of Palestinians and Jews living in the same house. Amal calls out for her runaway son, Tamer. A settler woman, Shosh, enters.

She's no ordinary neighbor. She spies on Palestinians and reports what they say and do. Yoram is the fictional King David Foundation head. He wants Palestinians out to make way for settlers, excavations, and tourism.

Palestinians Yasmin and Iman operate the Peacock of Silwan beauty parlor. Living among encroaching settlers and protective security guards, they struggle best they can.

Their father, Jamil, knows what's at stake. Jews want him out. Throughout the play, fact and fiction merge. Audience members find what's portrayed chilling.

Yoram stands on the porch of a Silwan home. "Come back in a year," he says. "You won't recognize this place. Instead of this house, there will be the great Jewish Museum. You will see all our history unfolding, rock by rock."

The play ends tragically. Tamer shows up unexpectedly. A security guard shoots him. His mother hugs her dead son. A suffocating silence fills the room. Tension pervades it. Audience members are deeply moved.

Inbal Avnaim plays Shosh. "In Israel," she says, "we often forget the story of Palestinian suffering. No one want to see the other side. But it is important."

Jewish and Palestinian actors said they were shocked when the witnessed events in Silwan firsthand. "Most people from Tel Aviv have no idea. They don't know what is going on there, and also don't care," said Ortal Avnaim.

They live in a different world. They can't imagine what Palestinians endure. They focus solely on their own lives.

Theatrical fiction and fact reflect life in Occupied Palestine. Audience members see it portrayed.

Mohammed Awaida is a leading Silwan activist. He calls the village "a refugee camp."

"We have one theater, no playgrounds, and not enough classrooms. Ninety, if not 99, percent of what you see in this play is reality."

After one performance, a Jew in the audience commented. He was deeply moved. His understanding deepened. 

"I saw myself in the mirror," he said. He's a Gush Etzion settler. His settlement comes at the expense of displaced Palestinians. 

Their rights also matter. They're systematically spurned. Most Israelis don't know or care. Palestinians suffer out of sight and mind. When it ends, who knows.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 

His new book is titled "How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War"

http://www.claritypress.com/Lendman.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

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